London Hearth Tax Mapping: A ‘Charles Booth’ for the Seventeenth Century?

Soon after the Centre for Hearth Tax Research started working on the 1666 London hearth tax, I had an idea in the back of my mind to compare and contrast an analysis of wealth and poverty derived from the hearth tax with the work and findings of the nineteenth century social analyst Charles Booth. First things first, why did I think this was a good or plausible idea?

For those unfamiliar with the work of Charles Booth, between 1886 and 1903 he researched and published a seventeen-volume study of wealth and poverty in London entitled Life and Labour of the People of London. Booth’s study was pioneering in many ways but probably his most notable achievement (and the one that has endured longest in the minds of the public) were his ‘Maps Descriptive of London Poverty’ in which he brought together socio-economic analyses and geographical locations to produce maps of wealth and poverty. As you can see in this example, Booth maps his data down to street level and uses a series of colours to denote levels of wealth and poverty; broadly speaking, the pinks and reds indicate prosperity and the blues and blacks identify poverty and (for Booth) criminality.

Booth Map

An example Booth Map from 1891

It has, for many years, struck me that the maps produced by Booth, and the rationale behind them, are not that different to those produced by the Centre (see below an example map from Essex).

Essex Hearth Tax Map

Essex Hearth Tax Map of Wealth and Poverty

When we first began analysing the 1666 London hearth tax it was exciting to realise the extent to which the administrators and collectors of the tax had recorded the names of streets, alleys and courts in great detail, as you can see in this example from book 3 (see below). This led me to suppose that mapping the hearth tax data down to street level might be possible, thus finally facilitating a comparison with Booth. However, it quickly became apparent that this would be problematic for a number of reasons. The most fundamental problem with comparing the hearth tax with Booth is that the hearth tax documents which contain the most detailed street-level information are predominantly those recording City of London parishes, whereas Booth excluded the City of London from his study because, by his time, he believed that far fewer people resided there.

Book 3 of the London Hearth Tax with locations highlighted

Book 3 of the 1666 London hearth tax with locations highlighted

The second problem with mapping the hearth tax to street level, is that the closest suitable street-level maps for London in sufficient detail to equate with the 1666 hearth tax are the ward and parish maps published in John Strype’s 1720 updated version of John Stow’s Survey of London. So, although very detailed for the time, the Strype maps document a post-fire London while much of the hearth tax data is pre-fire. It quickly became disappointingly clear that any systematic, large scale street-level comparison of the 1666 hearth tax with the data and maps of Charles Booth was not going to be feasible. But what about opportunities for smaller and more focussed comparative case studies?

Maps of London produced for John Strype's 1720 Survey of London

Maps of London produced for John Strype’s 1720 Survey of London

A quick analysis of the London and Middlesex hearth tax database revealed that, outside of the City parishes, one area for which a good amount of street-level information was recorded in the 1666 hearth tax records was the hamlet of Ratcliff in the parish of St Dunstan Stepney. This area also initially offered exciting potential for mapping the hearth tax data to street level. Not only had it been documented in good detail on Strype’s 1720 map, but the map itself even provided a very useful table of streets, courts and alleys in the district. However, more disappointment was to follow. Comparing the locations listed in the 1666 hearth tax records for St Dunstan Stepney with those recorded on Strype’s map revealed a far from perfect match and there was not enough similarity between the map and the records to equate them to street level.

Ratcliffe hamlet on the 1720 map complete with table listing streets, courts and alleys

Ratcliff hamlet on the 1720 map complete with a table listing streets, courts and alleys

On the plus side, though, there was just enough apparent connection between the two sources to more broadly equate portions of the households listed on the manuscript with the wider areas demarcated by letters on the table given on the map. Although not ideal and by no means a street by street demarcation, this was, at least, something to work with and so I located and outlined those alphabetical zones onto Strype’s 1720 map.

Alphabetical zones based on the areas demarcated on Strype's map

Alphabetical zones based on the areas demarcated on Strype’s map

Alphabetical zones based on the areas demarcated on Strype's map

Alphabetical zones based on the areas demarcated on Strype’s map

I then analysed and tabulated the hearth tax data for each zone and mapped it into the corresponding area on a series of maps maintaining the percentage bands used by the Centre for Hearth Tax Research for the maps produced for our Hearth Tax Project series of volumes. So, having gone to all this trouble to map the data from the 1666 hearth tax records into something as close as possible to street level, what could be learned from the results?

The first thing to say is that Ratcliff Hamlet appears to be a relatively prosperous place, and significantly wealthier than the mean average map for St Dunstan Stepney would suggest. 61% of the households recorded in the hamlet had three or more hearths and in some zones it was as high as 75%.

Households in the Ratcliff hamlet with three or more hearths

Households in the Ratcliff hamlet with three or more hearths

The level of prosperity is also indicated by the relatively low percentage of households which did not pay the tax; just 34% across the hamlet but as low as 18% is some zones. This is in marked contrast to parishes such as Hammersmith, Whitton, Teddington, Hampton and Shepperton which occupied similar riverside positions in the west of London. It might be expected that those parishes in the west would be wealthier than those in the east, but those mentioned all had far higher percentages of unpaid households that Ratcliff.

Percentage of non-paying households in Ratcliff hamlet

Percentage of non-paying households in Ratcliff hamlet

If we look at the zoning of the prosperity and poverty in the hamlet, we can see something of an east/west division, with the larger houses and merchant classes occupying an area which follows White Horse Street down through Butchers Row and past Ratcliff Cross to the river. To the west of this, there appear to be a higher concentration of smaller properties and higher percentages of non-payment.

East / west division in the zoning of prosperity and poverty in Ratcliff hamlet

East / west division in the zoning of prosperity and poverty in Ratcliff hamlet

Now, turning our attention to Charles Booth’s survey of the area, undertaken around 1886/7, we find a very interesting point of comparison. When seeking to classify the people he was surveying, Booth created eight classes ranging from A for the ‘very poor’ up to H for the ‘well to do’. Essentially, classes A, B, C and D were the very poor and the poor, while classes E, F, G, and H were the comfortable and the well to do. Booth estimated that in Stepney in 1886/7, 38.1% of households fell into the category of poor and 61.9% of households were comfortable or well off.

Charles Booth's figures for wealth and poverty in Stepney

Charles Booth’s figures for wealth and poverty in Stepney

It can be argued that this division between the poor and the better off is roughly equivalent, in hearth tax terms, to the division between households with less than three hearths and households with three hearths and more. Comparing this with Booth reveals a startling similarity. For Ratcliff in 1666, the figure for households with less than three hearths was 39% and 61% for households with three or more hearths; remarkably close to Booth’s figures for the same area over 200 years later. This would appear to suggest that, overall, the socio-economic make-up of the Ratcliff / Stepney area had not altered that much in the intervening period.

Charles Booth's figures for wealth and poverty in Stepney compared with hearth tax figures for Ratcliff in 1666

Charles Booth’s figures for wealth and poverty in Stepney compared with hearth tax figures for Ratcliff in 1666

Another interesting comparison can be made if we look at Booth’s map for the area and consider it in relation to the alphabetical zones created for applying the hearth tax data. In 1666, the pattern of prosperity and poverty appeared to be an east/west divide centered along the main north/south route through the hamlet. However, in the late nineteenth century, it appears to have been more of a north/south split between prosperity and poverty. The main arterial east/west routes through the area, the Commercial Road and the London and Blackwall railway, seem to have been acting as a dividing line, separating the well to do to living to the north from the poorer households to the south and along the dockside.

Comparison of zoning; east/west divide in 1666, north/south divide in 1890s

Comparison of zoning; east/west divide in 1666, north/south divide in 1890s

So, attempting to map the 1666 hearth tax down to street level in any sort of systematic fashion presents many problems in itself, although it might be much more fruitfully pursued in some of City parishes were streets are more systematically recorded in detail. These parishes cannot, though, be compared with Charles Booth’s data and maps, so it would appear that large-scale street-level comparisons between Booth’s work and hearth tax data are, frustratingly, something of a non-starter.

However, with some creativity and persistence, smaller and more focused studies can be undertaken and even the very rudimentary attempt outlined here has revealed interesting insights about enduring longer-term levels and patterns of prosperity and poverty in particular areas of metropolitan London. Who knows what else might be discovered with more time and resources!

Dr John Price is the Research Officer and Project Manager for the Centre for Hearth Tax Research at the University of Roehampton. He is also Senior Lecturer in Modern British History at Goldsmiths, University of London.

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Remembering John Ffloyd, Citizen of London and Comb Maker

“This Bible was my Great Grandfather’s, John Ffloyd, citizen of London, and comb maker by Trade, who lived in one of his houses on the North Side of Ludgate Hill in the parish of St Brides and having given his son (Enoch) and daughter (Elizabeth) a fortune and being in good circumstances he left off the Trade and Retired to Wandsworth in the County of Surrey where he dyed. And it is my Desire when it shall please God to take me out of this World that this Bible may be the property of my son Ffloyd, and I request him to preserve, and at his death to give it to his son if he has one, with an injuction for him to keep it and dispose of it at his Death if he has a son, in the same manner, and so on to go from father to son. In witness whereof I have this the fifth day of December 1754 Subscribed by name of it. George Peck.”

This transcription was written into a Peck family Bible, which became an heirloom, passing down the generations of a branch of the Peck family (of Samford, Essex, and Wood Dalling and Methwold, Norfolk). John Ffloyd (d. 1701) married Alice and they had two children, Elizabeth (b. 1652 m 1674 Josiah Peck) and Enoch (b 1657). With the help of the 1666 Lady Day hearth tax return a bit more can be said about his circumstances of this family on the eve of the Great Fire. The 1666 return has four references to a head of household named John Ffloyd in properties with three or four hearths. Three of these properties can be discounted as the family home of John Ffloyd since none were located in the Ludgate Hill part of St Bride’s parish, but a fourth entry to John Ffloyd living in a three-hearth property in Fleet Street probably refers to the home of George Peck’s great-grandfather.

The National Archives (TNA) E179/252/32, book 8, f.31

The National Archives (TNA) E179/252/32, book 8, f.31

Not only was the home located within the correct area of St Bride’s parish, but the hearth tax was paid in contrast to the other references to the homes of John Ffloyd from which the tax was not collected. Ffloyd’s neighbours in Fleet Street included Andrew Newman who had recently moved into a four-hearth property and the widow of George Wright. Here was a group of neighbours who by paying the hearth tax demonstrated their sense of probity (and perhaps also their support for the later Stuart monarchy) in contrast to their wealthy neighbour, the squire Robert Hix, who refused to pay the charge due on a 13-hearth property. Further research might be able to identify whether any of the unpaid properties listed under the name of John Ffloyd were his rental properties which were either temporarily abandoned or had valuable possessions removed by tenants before being searched by the collectors, who were fobbed off with the name of the landlord in the event of a move to collect arrears.   Be that as it may, it is clear that the home in which John Ffloyd lived with his wife and two children on Fleet Street was comfortable if not a wealthy home, and that the “chimney men” had no difficulty in collecting the 3 shillings due at Lady Day from this home to fill the private purse of King Charles II.

Although John Ffloyd in later life moved away to the more congenial area of Wansworth and was buried at Stanmore in Middlesex the family retained a strong connection with Fleet Street and the City of London. George Peck in 1718 had been bound as an apprentice to John Steger, Linen Draper in the Poultry, who worked from the King’s Arms on Fleet Street, and on the same day as George II was proclaimed king, he married Mary Clay, daughter of Richard Clay, Citizen and Draper of London and by trade an Oylman.

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Merry Christmas and a ‘Hearthy’ New Year!!

animated-fireplace-scene

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas

and a ‘Hearthy’ New Year!

From everyone at Hearth Tax Online

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Re-launch of Hearth Tax Online newsletter

Some time ago, we started sending out an e-mail newsletter to keep people informed and updated about Hearth Tax Online and many people signed up to receive it. Unfortunately, we had a few technical problems and some other issues which meant we couldn’t send out as many newsletters as we would have liked or send them out as regularly as we expected. Apologies to those of you who signed up and haven’t, as yet, received anything

The great news is that this is all set to change and we now have a new system for sending out regular newsletters to all our mailing list subscribers. The newsletter will appear in your e-mail inbox twice a year, one edition for spring/summer (despatched around April) and one for autumn/winter (sent out just before Christmas). It will contain all the latest news about Hearth Tax Online and information about other related  projects and resources.

If you are already a mailing list subscriber, the first edition of the new newsletter will be with you in the next day or so and we’d love your feedback on it. You can add your comments and suggestions to this post.

If you are not already on the mailing list, you can sign up here and your first edition of the newsletter will arrive in spring 2015.

Remember, you can also subscribe to this blog or follow us on Twitter for all the very latest news as it happens!

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Twelve ‘Days’ of Christmas – final part

Here are the final 3 of our ‘Twelve “Days” of Christmas’ – different people with the surname ‘Day’ who featured in the records of the hearth tax!

Raphe Day of Houghton le Spring Township in the North division of Easington Ward in County Durham, not chargeable for 1 hearth in the 1666L collection

Margery Day Widow of Rous Lench parish in Worcestershire, chargeable for 1 hearth in the 1665M collection

Thomas Day of Epsom parish in Surrey, chargeable for 5 hearths in the 1664L collection

Merry Christmas from everyone at Hearth Tax Online!

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Funded opportunities to study early modern history!

The University of Roehampton, as part of the TECHNE AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership, is currently welcoming applications for PhD studentships in the Humanities, including early modern history. The Department of Humanities has a particular research specialism in early modern British history with one professor, two readers, one principal lecturer and one senior lecturer working in the field. This research hub provides an unrivalled opportunity to study for higher degrees in British history c.1500-1800.

At the core of this hub is the Centre for Hearth Tax Research which has an international reputation for its work on late seventeenth century economic and social history. The hearth tax is also a key resource for a range of social and cultural topics, including poverty and welfare; migration and demography; cities, hinterlands and urbanisation; housing, architecture and the built environment; everyday life and material culture; employment; crime; religion; and health.

The Centre for Hearth Tax Research can offer a range of support to postgraduate students. We provide unrivalled access to a complete collection of all microfilmed hearth tax manuscripts held by the National Archives, while the archives themselves and the research resources of London are close by. We have a team of academic experts who can provide specialist knowledge and support in areas including: hearth tax records and administration; palaeography; statistical analysis, GIS mapping; and vernacular architecture. We are also developing a national hearth tax database that will allow students to construct entirely original analyses and pursue a range of new research questions.

If you would like to informally discuss opportunities for utilising the hearth tax as part of a PhD project, please contact Andrew Wareham, Director of the Centre for Hearth Tax Research.

If you would like to discuss other early modern PhD projects or other aspects of the TECHNE AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership, please contact Ted Vallance, Reader in early modern history.

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Twelve ‘Days’ of Christmas – part 3

Here are numbers 7 to 9 in our ‘Twelve “Days” of Christmas’ – different people with the surname ‘Day’ who featured in the records of the hearth tax!

Widow Day of St Bartholomew the Great parish in the City of London, unpaid on 3 hearths in the 1666L collection

Stephen Day of Wymondham parish in Norfolk, chargeable for 10 hearths in the 1672M collection

Saphir Day of Sutton Valence borough in Eyhorne Hundred in Kent, chargeable for 2 hearths in the 1664L collection

Just three more ‘days’ to go!

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