London Marriage Duty Assessment 1695. Originally published by Centre for Metropolitan History, London, 2011.
This free content was born digital. All rights reserved.
The Marriage Duty Act: an introduction
Marriage duty assessments were the product of a form of taxation on the event of births, marriages and burials, and of annual payments by bachelors aged over 25 and childless widowers. The tax was in force from 1695 to 1706, and imposed a standard charge for vital events and annual payments, and additionally enforced a graduated system of surcharges based on wealth and social status. (fn. 1) By the provisions of the Marriage Duty Act, assessors were to obtain 'the names sirnames estates degrees titles and qualifications of all and every the persons dwelling or residing within the limits' of an area, with servants and lodgers to be taxed where they lived. Lists were therefore compiled of all the inhabitants within a specific locale, indicating the duties for which they were or would become liable (with those in receipt of alms exempt from the financial provisions of the act). (fn. 2) The result was a series of parish assessments that resembles census-like lists of inhabitants. Unfortunately, the survival of these lists is extremely patchy nationwide, and the only extant assessment returns for London are those for 1695. There is also some variety in the nature of the assessments, attributable perhaps to the different decisions individual enumerators made in their compilation. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the returns group people together in distinct blocks of names, taken to indicate all those inhabiting the same house, and often describe the nature of the relationship between individuals. In addition, they frequently provide indicators of personal social and marital status, economic standing and, in some instances, age. (fn. 3)