This blog is the fourth  blog written by Anne Cripps, Anne Foster and Anne M Thomas, three University of the Third Age (U3A) researchers working on the Shared Learning Project on the Restoration hearth tax and early modern history. The work was undertaken at the Warwick Record Office, following training provided by the members of the Centre for Hearth Tax Research. It will be followed by a blog looking at the great fire in Warwick in the 1690s and one on the administrative background. The Centre for Hearth Tax Research is grateful for the opportunity to publish this research. 

This research started with the expectation of unearthing great secrets about the small Warwickshire village of Budbrooke, which, dates back to the time of the Domesday book.  In 1086 Ralph de Limesi held Budebroc and the church of St Michaels which still stands today.  The Victoria County History says that before that the parish was held by Earl Eadwine of Mercia.  The village is to west the Warwick and century the manor passed through various hands, until the early seventeenth when it was granted to Sir Robert Dormer, whose family who still own much of the land today, in the manor known as Grove Park.  The county of Warwickshire was divided into 4 hundreds, Budbrooke was in the hundred of Barlichway. 

At the time of the hearth tax between 40 and 60 properties are recorded in Budbrooke but not all of them paying hearth tax.  There is no trace of this village, beyond the map that shows an unexcavated medieval village in one of the fields near the church. This is clearly shown on the Ordnance Survey map South East of the church, between the church and the modern village of Hampton Magna. 

An extract from OS221 showing site of medieval village, the church and the later railway, canal and major roads.

There are also properties listed in the tax returns for Hampton-on-the-Hill and Lower Norton, Hampton-on-the-Hill is still part of the modern parish, but there is no specific area known as Lower Norton. It was expected that a comparison with Henley Street, Stratford-on-Avon might highlight the poverty of the countryside, however that does not appear to be true.  In the 1663-4 return for Henley Street 35 properties were listed as having only 1 hearth, from a total of 67 entries and in most cases, there seems to have been no tax collected.  What follows is a summary of the findings with some comparisons with data for Henley Street in Stratford. 

Appendix 4.Budbrooke Hearth Tax return for 1663, the original is available in the Warwick Records Office.  In comparison to some it is fairly easy to read.

Warwickshire is fortunate to have some of the most complete records of hearth tax return, photos of the original returns for Budbrooke are in appendix 4. In Warwick Records Office there is also a set of index cards summarising the records for each parish in Warwickshire, it is believed that these were the index cards painstakingly compiled by John Styles in 1930s and 40s and cross referencing with the original suggest that they are accurate.  The data in the appendix tables is drawn from these cards as well as the original records.

  • Hearth Tax and its records
  • Why study the hearth tax in Restoration England, in particular in Warwickshire?  The tax records are the closest there is to a census, though as this study will show it is not always easy to judge how accurate the records are.  Warwickshire, unlike other counties has an almost complete collection of hearth tax returns.  The tax was levied after the Restoration of 1660, and all money collected was for the crown; various methods were used to collect the tax including receivers and tax farmers.  Budbrooke was a very small community, but one notable local was Francis Dormer who was the receiver in 1664 until his death which is recorded in the parish records in 1664. 

    • Budbrooke in 1662

    Nothing remains of the village, except the church and the ruins of the medieval village shown on the Ordnance Survey map. Most of the houses would have been small. 

    Another building from Grove Park, no longer in existence.  It is likely to be similar in character to the many one hearth homes recorded in Budbrooke, whose inhabitants, as the records show often did not pay the hearth tax. (Photo from History of Budbrooke 1122-1968)

    This cottage has been pulled down and may not have been in the original village, however one chimney suggests one hearth and it may well have been typical of the type of dwellings that were in Budbrooke at the time the hearth tax was collected. The returns show that at least 20 houses had only one hearth houses. Of the remainder it is interesting to note how the number of their hearths varied between tax collections.  There was debate about whether forges and ovens should be taxed, and this could account for some of the variation.  In Budbrooke the few larger properties were however consistent, for instances the Dormers paid for 16 hearths in each return.  Thomas Horne in Henley Street paid for 4 hearths in 1662, 6 in 1668, but only 5 in 172, and 6 for the remaining collections.  Sometimes claims were made that hearths and been pulled down or boarded over. 

    It is worth noting that tax collectors had the right to enter properties to check the number of hearths.  Arkell in an article in Warwickshire Histories volume V1(p193) suggests that in the 1669-70 returns were perhaps up to 8% lower than the actual number of houses, he suggests hardly surprising as those collecting the tax were essentially amateurs, and the non-paying households not necessarily recorded accurately.

    In contrast to parts of Coventry and Warwick Henley Street in Stratford does not boast many large properties or houses.  The largest seem to be two Inns, The White Lion and the Swan, neither of which are still standing.  Henley Street was considered as at first glance it has many half-timbered houses and is home to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.  Closer inspection reveals that the current half-timbered houses are 19th and 20th Century rebuilds. Henley Street now as then is at the heart of Stratford on Avon, the labourers, maltsters, glovers and skinners having been replaced with shops, restaurants, and more coffee shops

    • The people

    Initially Sheriffs were charged with collecting the hearth tax, by spring 1664 it had become clear that they were failing to collect more than 1/3 of the expected £300, 000.  The king had demanded dedicated tax collectors acting under his control.  In 1664 the second Revising Act was passed appointing receivers with responsibility for all aspects of the tax administration in their areas, who appointed their own deputies, or ‘chimney men’, who when accompanied by a constable were empowered to enter a property and check the number of hearths.  The receiver for Warwickshire was a resident of Budbrooke, Francis Dormer, who lived at Grove Park.  He died in September 1663 and his death is recorded in the church records.  Francis Dormer’s family had owned land in Grove Park for over 50 years, his family had been and would become again prominent Catholics, but they do not appear to have been recusants.  The Dormer family were created Baronets by Charles I and one of Francis’s relations was the Earl of Caernarvon, who was killed at the Battle of Newbury in 1643 whilst fighting on the side of the king. The Catholic Church of St Charles Borromeo in modern day Hampton on the Hill was the bequest of the Dormer family.  

    In Budbrooke 10 properties had 3 or more hearths and it has been possible to find out very little about them.  The Dormers paying for 16 hearths, even after the death of Francis had the largest property.  It has also been possible to identify the two clergymen who served the parish Thomas Spencer and Samuel Hawes; they each paid for 3 hearths, so it would seem to have been a modest vicarage, but not the one occupied by the current incumbent.  In the church there is a list of all the ‘Incumbents and Vicars’, both Hawes and Spencer names are on the list.  Warwick Records Office also holds a small amount of hand-written information from the Grove Park estate, included in this are notes about a dispute between the church wardens of St Michaels and a builder who was employed to carry out repairs to the church.  The builder Stephen Bolton sued the church wardens, one of whom was Ralph Blick, churchwarden.  He appears in the hearth tax records and paid for one hearth in Hampton on the Hill. 

    As this research was being carried out, I met someone who was tracing her family tree.   Whilst from Coventry herself she had records of ancestors living in Budbrooke in the mid-17th century, one of whom was William Edwards and quite possibly the William Edwards in all the returns.

    One reason for the comparison with Henley Street was the expectation that there may have been more wealthy residents.  This was not true, in 1663-64 returns of 67 entries, 35 had only one hearth and the tax was not collected, perhaps reinforcing the need for a more efficient method of collection.  The new receiver does not seem to have made much difference as there were still many small dwellings where no hearth tax was levied.  There were a few notable residents.  The street boasted two inns, neither of which remain, the Swan and the White Lion.  The owner of the Swan, Thomas Horne was also mayor and is shown as paying tax for between 4 and 6 hearths, though not in 1663-64.  Another notable, if rather poorer resident was the widow Hart who is recorded as a ‘not levied’ for her one hearth, so why is she important?  It is likely that the house that she occupied is now part of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and that she was a descendant of Shakespeare’s sister Joan, who is recorded as living in the property until 1646.  Shakespeare left no male heirs, so the name had died out in Stratford by the time of the hearth tax.

    • Earning a Living

    Men’s work

    There do not appear to be any records of occupations of the people of Budbrooke, the table in the appendix includes 2 yeomen, several widows and the previously mentioned clerics.  As the village is rural it is likely that work was agricultural; there is one gentleman, who lived in an area known as Lower Norton, who paid for 4 hearths in the first return, the payment was continued by his widow.  James Masters and Edward Hopkins are listed as yeomen, one in Lower Norton, the other in Hampton on the Hill.  It has not been possible to find out any more about the work of the people of Budbrooke

     On the other hand, Styles’s record cards give occupations of more of the residents of Henley Street, though it has not been possible to identify the source of this information.  There were two glovers, William Hall and Nicholas Olney; Shakespeare’s father was a glover and there were still glovers working in Henley Street long after John Shakespeare died.  There were also tailors and shoemakers.  There were four maltsters, that is they malted barley before it was turned into beer.  Were they malting the barley for the beer to be served in the two inns of Henley Street? Alternatively, they may have been brewing the small beer that was drunk in preference to water, before the days of tea and coffee.  Richard Browne is listed as an ‘agricola’, perhaps a farmer or farm worker, from the Latin ‘agricola’ for farmer or cultivator.  Richard and John Hornbee are identified as smiths and at one point 2 hearths are exempt as forges.  There appears to have been debate and a lack of consistency regarding forges and whether they were exempt or counted as hearths.  An inconsistency which is all too common in collection of the hearth tax.

    Women’s work

    Women appear in the returns, only as widows, with no apparent occupations; for instance, the widow of Francis Dormer at Grove Park, or the widow of John Woodward who continued to pay for 4 hearths after his death.  This is true in both Henley Street and Budbrooke, showing that many women outlived their husbands and remained in the family home.

    Were the communities isolated?

    Whilst Stratford on Avon does not seem to have been as affluent or its residents as influential as those  of Coventry and Warwick, the community was not isolated, as the thriving inns would suggest, Henry Herbrige innkeeper increased the number of hearths from 7 to 11 during the time the hearth tax was levied and Henley Street was the site of a thriving market.

    Budbrooke was rural but had at least two regularly used tracks going through the village, or rather one passed across the north and another to the south, going into Warwick and out into the surrounding countryside. The tracks may well date back to pre-history and more definitely Roman times as there may have been a route to a Roman villa at Shrewley (Warwickshire History XV1 p 108).  Very different from today’s village which is bounded by 2 major roads (A46 and M40), a rail link to London and the Grand Union Canal, but in mid-17th century all this was still to come.  The routes of the two A roads are visible on the earlier map – Birmingham Road is the modern A 4177 and Henley Waie is now the Henley Road

    • The Houses

    One reason for choosing to look at Henley Street as well as Budbrooke was in the hope of finding more evidence of buildings from 17th Century.  At first glance there appear to be many half-timbered houses in Henley Street, there are, but on closer inspection they lack the traditional Tudor overhang and are relatively straight and upright; they were rebuilt during the 19th century.  One exception to this is the Shakespeare Birthplace.  The entrance is clearly modern late 20th Century.  However, part of the site is a cottage with one hearth occupied by Shakespeare’s sister Joan Hart until her death in 1646.  A cottage in Henley Street, occupied by George Hart and then his widow, is listed in the hearth tax returns except for 1662. 

    An example of a house in Henley Street Stratford-on-Avon.  Like most of the half-timbered houses in Henley St this one was built in the 19th century.  It is similar in style to earlier buildings, but it lacks the overhang of the original buildings.  (author’s own photograph)

    In these post are two photographs of properties in Budbrooke. The one below is a picture of the house at Grove Park, it looks as if it may have been the house with 16 hearths that belonged to the Dormers, however Victoria County History explains that this is a nineteenth century property rebuilt around the older house and retaining a few of its earlier features. 

    Grove Park, home of the Dormer family.  The photo below shows the last house on the site, a rebuilding of the 17thcentury house, rebuilt in the 19th century and knocked down in the mid-20th century.  It gives some idea of the scale of the 16-hearth house that the Dormer family paid the hearth tax for. (photo from A History of Budbrooke 1122-1968).

     The other is a picture of a cottage with one hearth (one chimney), whilst it is impossible to date the property the style may well have been similar to those listed in the returns with one hearth. (posted above ).

    Inns and Alehouses

    The community of Budbrooke is not shown to have any inns or alehouses, nor apparently did it have until mid-20thcentury.

    Henley Street in Stratford has two listed, the White Lion and the Swan, neither of which still exist.  In nearby Rother Street there is a White Swan that would have been there in 17th century but is not the one in the list of tax returns.  There is a White Swan still in Stratford, in nearby Rother Street there is a White Swan, which dates back to 1450, though in the 1660s it was known as the King’s Head.

    Office Holding

    Budbrooke as a rural parish does not have records of office holders.  However as mentioned above it has been possible to identify the vicars and at least one church warden who paid hearth tax.  Briefly, until his death Francis Dormer was the receiver for Warwickshire (Arkell p 16)

    Papers in the Warwickshire Record Office also give a picture of life in the 1660s, then as now builders fell out with their clients.  Stephen Bolton, the builder brought an action against Ralph Blick, and other church wardens.  The dispute went on until 1666 when a countersuit was brought.  The repairs were eventually completed, and a plaque marks the repairs in the church.  Whilst Stephen Bolton was not a Budbrooke resident, Ralph Blick’s name does appear on the list.

    Whilst London was enduring plague and fire it seems that the rural towns and villages, well parts of Stratford-on-Avon and Budbrooke continued life as it had been for many years. It is sad to note that whilst the hearth tax roles give names and details of hearth tax payers, little remains to show where they lived and worked, particularly in Budbrooke.  There is much information about other villages in Warwickshire and it would be interesting to compare this work with other villages in Warwickshire.

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