London Metropolitan Archives holds land tax assessments for the City of London, the county of Middlesex (including most Westminster parishes), and certain parishes in Kent and Surrey now in inner London.
The first assessments of 1692-3 were made under the terms of "An Act for granting to their Majesties an aid of four shillings in the pound for one year for carrying on a vigorous war against France" [4 William & Mary c.1,1692/3]. The Act specified that real estate and personal property, that is buildings and moveable goods as well as land, were to be taxed. The tax was voted annually, usually in the spring, until 1798 when it was transformed into a permanent tax but was redeemable on payment of a lump sum. It was levied on a number of different bases: as a pound rate between 1693 & 1696, as a 4 shillings assessment supplemented by a poll tax in 1697 and from 1698- 1798 on the system whereby each county or borough was given a fixed sum to collect.
INFORMATION RECORDED IN THE ASSESSMENTS
The only information recorded consistently is:
- the name of the owner and/or occupier of each premises;
- the amount at which each person was assessed in respect of his/her property, personal and real.
In addition the following details may or may not be included:
- the name of the parish, street or precinct (a subdivision of a City of London ward) in which the real property is located;
- street numbers;
- a description of the real property, e.g. house, stable, warehouse;
- annual rental value of the real property;
- a breakdown of the assessment on real and personal property.
PROBLEMS IN THE USE OF ASSESSMENTS
The main difficulties stem from the inconsistent way in which the assessments were compiled.
- Only heads of households, as either landlord or tenant, are listed in the assessments.
- There are no personal name indexes to assessments.
- For much of the period street and precinct names are not recorded in any systematic way.
- Some numbers which look like street numbers are in fact assessment numbers.
- The order of entries depended on the route taken by the assessor which varied as he moved from main street to side street to alley and back to main street. This means that entries for a single street are often spread over two or three pages.
- Few descriptions are included of the real property being assessed before the mid 19th century.
- Before the advent of printed returns in c.1815, the layout and content of assessments is highly idiosyncratic. Clerks occasionally failed to put a heading to, or reversed the usual order of, the columns of names and figures. It is not always clear whether landlord or tenant is named as the "inhabitant" and this information is sometimes out of date.
THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN SEARCHING
Entries have been indexed exactly as they appear in the original register. In many of the early Land Tax assessments first names would have been abbreviated, therefore if you are searching for Thomas Baker, you might actually find that he is recorded as Thos Baker. You may also find that if the head of the household is a female and a widow then she might well be recorded as Widd Baker.
Similarly many of the early land tax assessments simply recorded an individual as Mr rather than actually giving the first name of the person. Therefore when searching for an individual you might also need to search just by surname if your initial search has proved unsuccessful.