AHRC London Hearth Tax Project

In June 2007 the London Hearth Tax project was awarded c. £87,700 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (Ref: AH/E008445/1) to undertake work involving collaboration between the research community, professional consultants and volunteer members of the public. The project united the expertise of the British Academy Hearth Tax Project, the Centre for Hearth Tax Research (University of Roehampton), Birkbeck College (University of London), and the Centre for Metropolitan History (Institute of Historical Research). This collaboration, which involved the analysis of the taxation returns of more than 44,000 London households, has resulted in new discoveries and perspectives about London on the eve of the Great Fire in 1666. The project has revealed much about links between wealth and poverty as well as the built environment and urban topography, thereby making a major contribution to the fields of urban, environmental and economic history. 

The London Hearth Tax project is of great interest to historians, genealogists and all of those interested in London and its people at a time when the metropolis was experiencing an unprecedented degree of expansion on its way to becoming one of the most dynamic modern Global cities.This project was the first occasion in which a hearth tax return and related non-payment sources were subject to systematic and innovative analysis through the application of ICT and, as a result, it has produced two exciting digital resources. In 2011, the full transcript of the 1666 London and Middlesex Hearth Tax, along with portions of the 1663 and 1664 documents, was published electronically via British History Online. The data can also be searched in a national context via Hearth Tax Digital. This allows users to search by surname and/or parish name as well as targeting their search on specific regions if desired. The London Project pages of Hearth Tax Online also contain a wealth of information about Londoners at work and opposition to the tax through using the keyword search. 

Publication of London and Middlesex 1666 Lady Day Hearth Tax Return

The research from the London Hearth Tax Project has also been published as part of the British Record Society's Hearth Tax Series. This ground-breaking two-volume critical edition was published in June 2014 and officially launched at a reception held at the British Academy on 26 June 2014. Over 70 guests, including volunteer transcribers and contributors to the volume, enjoyed an introduction from Dame Glynne Evans, DBE, CMG, PhD as well as an opportunity to discuss and celebrate the Project over a glass of champagne. 

The two-volumes contain a full transcript of the 1666 return, materials extracted from the 1663 and 1664 returns, essays written by international experts including Peter Guillery, Vanessa Harding and David Hey, statistical analyses of data, full colour maps and illustrations and personal name and place name indexes. 

The image at the top of this page shows the page of the hearth tax return which refers to the household and shop of the baker, Thomas Farynor, at Pudding Lane with its five fireplaces and an oven, which he forgot to douse on the evening of the 1st September 1666, with catastrophic consequences for the City of London (reproduced with permission from the National Archives).

The AHRC funds postgraduate training and research in the arts and humanities, from archaeology and English literature to design and dance. The quality and range of research supported not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. Further information can be found on the AHRC website.


Dr Andrew Wareham, Director, Centre for Hearth Tax Research, Roehampton University London

E-mail: a.wareham@roehampton.ac.uk

Prof. Matthew Davies, Director of the CMH & Professor of Urban History, Institute of Historical Research

E-mail: Matthew.Davies@sas.ac.uk

Prof. Vanessa Harding, Birkbeck College, University of London.

E-mail: v.harding@bbk.ac.uk


Arts and Humanities Research Council

Birkbeck College, University of London

Centre for Hearth Tax Research, the University of Roehampton London

Centre for Metropolitan History, Institute of Historical Research