Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Scottish Window Tax Roll

ScotlandsPlaces has put online the 218 volumes of surviving Scottish window tax rolls. These rolls date from 1747 to 1851. They were essentially a tax on any house that had 10 or more windows (the threshold was later reduced to houses with 7 or more windows). Windows were a luxury at the time. The idea of the tax was to allow the government to raise revenue from the comforts enjoyed by the propertied classes. Thus, these tax rolls generally cover better-off people during this people (most people were not liable for the tax). The money raised from the window taxes were mainly used to pay for various wars. A similar tax had been levied in England since 1696. Some people believe the term “daylight robbery” originates from the window tax as it encouraged people to minimize the number of windows in their houses.

As an interesting side-note, some wealthy property holders may have tried to avoid the tax by blocking up any unused windows, but this tactic rarely worked with the tax collector. The going rate by 1766 was two pence per window, but if the house had 25 or more windows (which is more than most houses today have), the rate rose to two shillings per window. By the time the windows tax was abolished in 1851, Victorian health campaigners successfully argued that it was a tax on “light and air”.

Access to these records is by subscription. The link provides a complete list of the resources available on the ScotlandsPlaces website. [Scottish Window Tax Rolls]

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