Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section
Leaflet Guides to Records:
LAND TAX ASSESSMENTS FOR THE CITY OF LONDON AT GUILDHALL LIBRARY
Guildhall Library holds land tax
assessments for all the wards of the City of London for 1692-4
and from 1703 to 1930.
INFORMATION RECORDED IN THE
The only information recorded
consistently for each ward is:
- the name of the owner or occupier
of each premises;
- the amount at which each person was
assessed in respect of his/her property, personal and
In addition the following details may
or may not be included:
- the name of the parish, street or
precinct ( a subdivision of the ward ) in which the real
property is located;
- street numbers;
- a description of the real property,
eg. house, stable, warehouse;
- annual rental value of the real
- a breakdown of the assessment on
real and personal property.
PROBLEMS IN THE USE OF ASSESSMENTS
The main difficulties stem from the
inconsistent way in which the assessments were compiled.
- The assessment of a tax on personal
income soon disappeared from the estimates. By the early
18th century most tax collected related to land, hence
its popular title, the "Land Tax". However,
where assessments are recorded as a single column of
undifferentiated figures, it is worth remembering that an
assessment of moveable property continued to be an
element in the amount until 1833.
- Before the advent of printed
returns in c.1815, the layout and content of assessments
is highly idiosyncratic. Clerks occasionally failed to
put a heading to, or reversed the usual order of, the
columns of names and figures. It is not always clear
whether landlord or tenant is named as the
"inhabitant" and this information is sometimes
out of date.
- For much of the period street
and precinct names are not recorded in any systematic
- The order of entries depended on
the route taken by the assessor which varied as he moved
from main street to side street to alley and back to main
street. This means that entries for a single street are
often spread over 2 or 3 pages.
- Some numbers which look like street
numbers are in fact assessment numbers.
- Few descriptions are included of
the real property being assessed before the mid 19th
- Only heads of households, as
either landlord or tenant, are listed in the assessments.
- There are no street or personal
name indexes to assessments.
- In the assessments the boundaries
of the precincts usually correspond to the portions
of the different parishes in each ward. There are however
numerous exceptions - for clarification, see John Smart's
A short account of the several wards...1741,
(available in the Printed Books Section of Guildhall
- In most cases no revaluation of the
property was made after 1698. Thereafter both rentals and
assessments become increasingly inaccurate as guides to
the actual value of the property.
- After 1798 it was possible to avoid
further yearly instalments of Land Tax by paying a lump
sum. From 1798 therefore the returns tend to become
less reliable as registers of local inhabitants as
the assessors lost interest in the owners of
The first assessments of 1692-3 were
made under the terms of "An Act for granting to their
Majesties an aid of four shillings in the pound for one year for
carrying on a vigorous war against France" [4W. &
M.c.1,1692/3]. The Act specified that real estate and personal
property, that is buildings & moveable goods as well as land,
were to be taxed. It nominated for each borough and county in
England and Wales the local commissioners who were to supervise
the assessments & local collection. The tax was voted
annually, usually in the spring, until 1798 when it was
transformed into a permanent tax but was redeemable on payment of
a lump sum. It was levied on a number of different bases : as a
pound rate between 1693 & 1696, as a 4 shillings assessment
supplemented by a poll tax in 1697 and from 1698-1798 on the
system whereby each county or borough was given a fixed sum to
collect. In 1949 redemption became compulsory on property
changing hands and in 1963 all unredeemed land tax was abolished.
HOW TO CONSULT THE ASSESSMENTS
The assessments have been bound
alphabetically by ward, and for each ward they are grouped by
parish, precinct or liberty. Within this grouping they are
arranged chronologically. An index to streets and wards is
available at the enquiry desk but Guildhall Library has no
comprehensive map of ward precincts.
The catalogue description of the land
tax assessments (Guildhall Library Ms 11316) is available at the
enquiry desk and in the land tax folder in the microfilm area. It
should be noted that between 1703 and 1838 each year's
assessments occupy three volumes.
Ms 11316 volumes 1 to 398, covering
1692-1831, must be consulted on microfilm; volumes 399 to
522, covering 1832 to 1930, should be ordered in the original
from the Manuscripts enquiry desk. N.B. Volumes 491-522,
covering 1901 to 1930, are stored in a separate building and
those wishing to consult them must give at least 24 hours notice.
Last updated April 2002
Leaflet Guides to Records
Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section