Ancestors paying the window tax

A large number of Scottish 18th century tax records survive, and are gradually being digitised. The latest to go online are the window tax records. Sadly the equivalent records for England were mostly thrown away and destroyed.

In early years the window tax was only payable on properties with 10 windows or more. Later it was changed until properties with 7 windows or more became liable. Still it was a tax generally only paid by the wealthy, as well as those with other reasons for many windows, such as innkeepers. Manses also seem to have had large numbers of windows.

I am going to transcribe some of the window tax records for Melrose and Coldingham parishes, my two one-place study parishes. But before doing that I looked for ancestors. Firstly I looked for those in the tax year 1797/8, the last surviving year for these records. Generally the people I found are ancestors of my ggg-grandfather John Usher Somner (1829-1879) whose illegitimate daughter was Catherine Irvine, Mrs Dodds at Melrose. Here are the ancestors I spotted in that year. A lot of the people below were farmers. Some were minor gentry.

  • part of Galashiels parish (Roxburghshire): Geo. Anderson, Bridgeheugh, 8 windows
  • Melrose parish (Roxburghshire): Jas Blaikie, Langhaugh, 7 windows
  • Melrose parish (Roxburghshire): James Usher, Toftfield, 7 windows
  • Wilton parish (Roxburghshire): Thos Usher, Burnhead, 20 windows
  • Haddington burgh (East Lothian): Willm Veitch, watch maker, 11 windows
  • Haddington burgh (East Lothian): Dr Geo Somner, 18 windows
  • Stow parish (Midlothian): John Usher at Pirn, 9 windows
  • Garvald parish (East Lothian): Dr Somner, Castlemains, 13 windows
  • North Berwick parish (East Lothian): James Seton, Redside, 11 windows
  • Gifford parish (East Lothian): Richd Somner, Townhead, 8 windows
  • Cockburnspath parish (Berwickshire): George Hood, Bowshiel, 8 windows
  • Edrom parish (Berwickshire): George Logan, Edrom, 14 windows

I also checked earlier years, looking for other interesting ancestors who should show up, but were long gone by 1797/8. Here’s what I found. James Veitch below (father of William earlier) sold Bowhill to the Duke of Buccleuch. The house he had has been largely replaced by later building work, but it clearly had an awful lot of windows.

  • 1748, Humbie parish (East Lothian): Mr John Henderson, Leiston, 36 windows
  • 1748, Lochrutton parish (Kirkcudbrightshire): Edwd McCulloch Esqr, Hills, 20 windows
  • 1753, Selkirk parish (Selkirkshire): Mr James Veitch, Bowhill, 43 windows
  • 1760, Hutton parish (Berwickshire): George Logan, Fishwick, 16 windows

About vivdunstan

Academic historian, genealogist, former computer scientist, and Doctor Who fan.
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