Rate books are records of the owners or occupiers of a property and the amount of rates they paid. Rates were collected three times a year and were based on the value of the property. Rates were a form of local tax and the majority of rates were introduced by The Poor Law Act of 1601 which required the registration of all property. Rates were also used for other local services such as maintenance of churches, sewer maintenance and water supply, hospitals, roads and gaols. From 1894, the collection of rates was transferred to the newly established local authorities.
Rate books can typically tell you the names of occupiers and owners, a description of the property, with its location and size, the amount of rates collected, and occasionally, additional comments on the owners. As rate books are arranged by street, they can also give you a great overview of a whole street, or community, meaning they are an invaluable resource for researching the development of a specific area. The names of those too poor to pay are also listed. As rates were collected yearly, rate books can be a great resource for filling in the gaps between censuses as they allow you to trace the occupiers and owners of a house over a number of years.
An inventory is a complete list of the contents and goods within a particular property. Many inventories were made for legal purposes in order to easily resolve any disputes over the deceased’s will, and in this case, we are told that the inventory has been made as result of Thomas Ramsden’s death. Between 1530 and 1782, every executor had to have a valuation carried out of the deceased’s personal property in order to provide the probate court with a full inventory. They are typically set up room by room, with a description of each item within and its value. This helps to paint a picture of the layout of the house, for example, rooms mentioned in this inventory include the ‘chamber over the hall’ and the ‘parlour beyond the kitchen’. The contents can also give an idea of what each room was used for. The type, quantity and quality of the objects within the inventory can indicate a person’s social status and give clues as to their lifestyle and occupation. The inclusion of ‘one hay spade, forks and all other implements of husbandry’ along with livestock and acres of wheat and barley suggest that Thomas Ramsden earnt his living from farming.
This collection of tenant’s rent cards give a picture of this tenant’s residency on a council estate over the course of 35 years. At the start of their residency, the Fishers are paying £17.10 for the year, by 1994 they are paying around £1,660.
These cards also reflect changing attitudes as evidenced in the regulations and conditions of the tenancy on the back. For example, whilst the earlier cards only highlights the responsibilities of the tenant regarding the upkeep of the property, the 1993-1994 rent card emphasises that the Council will not tolerate racial harassment.
As this collection demonstrates, the records in our collection can bring your house history research right up to the present day, and we continue to take in records which may be useful to those researching their home in the future.
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