For all economic and social historians of Britain in the early modern period, the hearth tax is a remarkable source. Between 1662 and 1689 central government imposed a levy on all householders across England, Wales and Ireland measured in terms of the number of hearths in each property. The surviving accounts of the hearth tax are substantial, and provide one of the most detailed, comprehensive and instructive sources of information that we possess on the people of Britain and Ireland before the first National Census (1801). The Centre benefits from the continuing support of the British Academy for the Hearth Tax Project through its Academy Research Projects scheme. This is a signal of the national importance of the work of the Centre & Project. We make the hearth tax returns available to the research and teaching community and to a range of general users interested in a number of themes, ranging from family history to historical demography. This is achieved in two main ways:
The British Academy Hearth Tax Project in patnership with the British Record Society (and local record societies) publishes the hard-copy editions. A new edition is published around every 18 months and there has been particularly extensive coverage of the south-east and northern England in recent years.
Hearth Tax Digital (https://gams.uni-graz.at/context:htx), developed in partnership with the Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities at the University of Graz, provides online access to assessments and returns, which can be read in the order they were originally written and fully searched. As more records are transcribed the site will be added to.
The Centre benefits from numerous partnerships with academic and non-academic organizations at national and local levels, and runs outreach activities in cities and towns across the whole of England.
Hearth Tax Digital is a Digital Humanities research project funded by the British Academy. The website has been developed by the British Academy Hearth Tax Project (& Centre for Hearth Tax Research) at the University of Roehampton in partnership with the Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities at the University of Graz, and it will be added to as new transcripts become available.
Hearth Tax Digital is of great interest to historians, genealogists and all those interested in the social, economic and cultural history of Britain and its people in the early modern period. The records pages allow users to analyse the records in the order which they were originally written, thereby following in the footsteps of the hearth tax collectors, sometimes called chimney men. In addition to the ability to search by personal name, location and hearth numbers, the advanced search tool means that users can, for the first time, search the records for extraneous comments written in the marginal notes in the original documents, including descriptions of status (e.g. widow), occupations (e.g. goldsmith), personal circumstances (e.g. blind) and titles (e.g. Lady).