At the time of the Hearth Tax Hillmorton was a parish in the Rugby District of the Knightlow Hundred in the County of Warwickshire.
Hearth Tax returns were photographed by The Mormons in 1959 from original documents and the resulting microfilm is available from the CRO and also online. The period from 1662 – 1684 is covered but not equally for each place or year. There are returns for six years from Hillmorton.
Warwick County Record Office holds the originals and both sources were used when carrying out this research. The Record Office also has a collection of index cards for Hearth Tax returns for parishes in the county and the Hillmorton cards record who paid how much tax for the years 1662, 1670, 1673 and 1674.
“Warwickshire Hearth Tax Returns: Michaelmas 1670” edited by Tom Arkell with Nat Alcock was the main source of information about the purpose and administration of the tax and it’s interpretation. This publication also gave transcribed returns for 1670 which provided a basis from which to proceed in this research.
Ways of Recording the Hearth Tax
This varied throughout the period in which the tax was collected. The core year of this research, 1670, divided properties into just two groups, “ch” – chargeable and “C” certified, ie having a certificate of exemption.
Table 1, below, is based on Table 8 in Arkell’s book showing his total Hearth Tax entries for Hillmorton. He makes use of returns for the years 1665 and 1666 which were not found for this research. It does not include 1662 or 1672 which were.
The drop in numbers of returns for 1666 was noted and the appropriate burial register for St. John the Baptist Church, Hillmorton was looked at to see if plague was responsible. There was no mention of plague in the register at all and the difference in the number of burials for 1666 and adjacent years was little different to other years around then. The column for entering the age of the deceased however was left empty which precluded other possible lines of enquiry.
The 1670 returns when looked at more closely, show that 35% of the hearths were exempt from tax and, of those that did pay, 48% did so for only one hearth. Only 3% of the village –i.e. three houses – had five or six hearths. This is not a description of a wealthy village and is partly accounted for by its situation on Dunsmore Heath. The church was built on a slight rise to keep it above the boggy area and even today in 2018 the surrounding fields are severely waterlogged in winter and during periods of heavy rain. There is a hill raising up from that area to where the main part of Hillmorton is situated.
Despite this the Sessions Order Book for Epiphany 1666 records the town of Rugby as including Hillmorton in the list of twenty five surrounding villages which it asked to contribute to the upkeep of the Rugby poor as the town council had difficulty doing so.
A numbered list of households as they were recorded in the 1670 record shows that between list numbers 95 and 107 there are five of the twelve houses with the highest number of hearths. No maps or plans were found in the course of this research to confirm if they formed a cluster in the centre of the village, or, were on higher, better drained ground. No addresses were given for the village either.
He was in place for forty two years, from 1652 – 1694, according to the list of vicars in the parish church. In 1662 he was taxed on one hearth but in later records on two. The Hearth tax returns gave no indication if this was possibily due to promotion from curate to vicar but the online Church of England clerical list provided an answer.
Thomas Norton was ordained in 1656 and appointed vicar of St John’s Hillmorton immediately. According to the same source he was ”instituted by the Triers”. The Commission of Triers was appointed by Oliver Cromwell in 1654 to approve those who preached in public and lectured before their admission to office in the church. Politics also influenced clergy appointments under Charles II and in 1665 Mr. Norton’s record stated that “he had subscribed and was also a licensed preacher” This referred to his subscription to the Act of Uniformity while already being in office. He had had to show his allegiance to the king as he had been appointed during The Commonwealth. He was never given the title of Reverend.
Other than the minister only three people were given any title. Mr. Rich Pettipher and Mr. Thomas Marriott who paid for 4 hearths and Mr.Edward Bromidge who paid for 6 hearths which was the highest recorded number.
William Bustard & Richard Robins were recorded in The Court Rolls during the period of the Hearth Tax as being allowed settlement in Hillmorton. Allowing settlement was a process granted as part of the poor relief programme at the time.
Groups of parishioners were referred to in other court rolls but without any individuals being named. They were usually petitioning for a reduction of rents or taxes.
13 women are named in the record for 1670 including 7 widows. Only three ladies paid hearth tax, Widdow Hambleton and Widdow Walton each paid for one hearth and Elizabeth Harrison for two. Widow Hambleton’s property was recorded as empty in 1672, the other two lady’s returns were the same. None of them appeared in any other reports.
The church registers for the period are available but did not provide sufficient, accurate, personal information which would have allowed for biographies to be compiled.
The paucity of corroborative information prompted a change from investigating a small village to the nearby city of Coventry where Little Park Street Ward was selected. That had a wide range of premises from those with one hearth to one of eighteen and six having over ten.