Preston Poor Tax Survey

Fig 1. The title page of the Preston Poor Tax Book. Image courtesy of Lancashire Archives (CNP/3/1/11)

In the summer of 1732 a new assessment was carried out of the value of the properties of those liable to pay the poor tax for Preston. The task occupied the assessors on eleven days from the end of June until the beginning of August, by which time they would appear to have exhausted their energies when they simply made use of the older records to complete their work. Their results were published in book form as the Preston Poor Tax Book. The assessors clearly found the assignment taxing as they tried to make sense of the structure of property ownership in the borough. Nearly 300 years later it is even more difficult to interpret their findings, despite the fact that they provided four pages of detailed discussion of the scope, purpose and content of those findings. Fortunately, interpretation is facilitated by the work of a former pupil of Preston Park School, Dorothy Marshall. She attended the school from 1913 to 1918 before going to Cambridge to study history. Her PhD thesis was published as The English Poor in the Eighteenth Century and a very useful chapter in that book sets out in detail how the poor tax was assessed. [1]

The links below follow the assessors day by day as they travel round the borough assigning values to individual properties and fields, until they run out of steam and have recourse to the old borough records. The ‘Personalities’ link provides information about persons who owned neither land nor housing in the borough but whose personal worth was assessed for taxation purposes. In total, the records seem to supply the names of the owners, occupiers and value of every house, barn, stable, workshop and field in the borough, with a wealth of additional information.

I have the transcript with additional information available as a spreadsheet allowing for analysis if anybody is interested. Simply email me at the Preston History email and I’ll send a copy.

Preston Poor Tax Book – background

Preston Poor Tax Survey – opening pages

Preston Poor Tax Survey – 28 June 1732
South side of Church Street from the present Stanley Street to the present Manchester Road.

Section of plan of Preston based on 1732 Poor Book

Preston Poor Tax Survey – 29 June 1732
South side of Church Street west of the present Manchester Road, properties round the churchyard, Stoneygate, Platford Dale field, east side of St John’s Weind, Mainsprit Weind and Dunkirk, Syke Hill, south side of Fishergate (and the north side beyond the barrs). Properties identified: Dog, Coffee House, White Bull, Black Bull, Flying Horse.

Preston Poor Tax Survey – 30 June 1732
Ropers Croft, north side of Fishergate, west sides of Cheapside, Market Square and Friargate, Chapel Yard. Properties identified: White Horse and 7 Stars, Swan with 2 Necks, Anchor, White Horse, Boars Head.

Preston Poor Tax Survey – 5 July 1732
West side of Friargate, Fryers Weind (present Marsh Lane), Spittle Moss, Moor Lane, Anchor Weind, Back Weind. Properties identified: George Inn, former Customs House and a Catholic chapel.

Preston Poor Tax Survey – 6 July 1732
St John’s Weind, Needy Street, Feeble Street, lane leading to Salter lane, Whittaker Row, New Street, north and east sides of Market Place, Gin Bow Entry, west side of Shambles, Molyneux Square. Properties identified: Dog House, Mitre, Ward’s End

Preston Poor Tax Survey – 7 July 1732
New Shambles, east side of Market Place, Town Hall properties, Old Narrow Shambles, Old Shambles, east side of Cheapside, north side of Fishergate and Church Street, St John’s Weind, Clark Yard, south end of Whittakers, Peel Moor. Properties identified: Kings Arms & Wool-pack, Red Lyon, White Lyon, Sun, Quaker meeting house, Butter Cross

Preston Poor Tax Survey – 27 July 1732
Churchgate Moorside, Holme Slack, Ribbleton Lane, Acregate Lane, New Hall Lane. Places identified: Hatch Mill, Dickson’s, Intacks, Intacks & Holme, Hodgkinson’s Estate, Coles Estate, Raw Moor, half-mile stone, New Hall barn, Brook Meadow.

Preston Poor Tax Survey – 28 July 1732
This day was spent surveying the fields south of Church Street and Fishergate, and around South Meadow Lane. Places identified: Richard Bray’s Garden, Great Avenham, Avenham Walk, Avenham House, the several parts of the Common Field, Walker’s, Toad Croft, Water Willows, Albin Heys, Brow Field, Brow Field, Bury Field, Bull Field, Mill Field, Square Field, Croft, Wheat Field, Swill Brook, Corner Cap, Brow Field, Brow Field, Little Avenham, Aram Bank, Sikes, Broad Meadow, Owler Field, Brow Field ab[ove?] Lemon Bank, Shaw Bain, Narrow Sikes, Rushey Croft, Little Dock Acre, Green Dock Acre, Bridge Meadow at Broadgate end, Pasture Head [Mead?], Haddocks Acre, Lukeasses, Marsh Ground, Round Cliff, Long Cliff, Great Cliff, Marrow Bone, Bank Head, Hollow Meadow, Sikes.

Preston Poor Tax Survey – 31 July 1732
This was another day recording fields and their owners and occupiers. The surveyors seem to have set off on Fishergate by the barrs, listing the fields to the north of Fishergate as far as Fryer Lane (the present Marsh Lane). Their perambulation took them to the oddly named Standprick Lane, Broadgate (the present Fishergate Hill), North Meadow Lane, the marsh, Alley Lane, Maudlin Lane and Friargate Town End. Places identified: Ropers Croft, Sikes, Brick Hill Field, Habitarsall Field, Hep-grave, Ratcliff Hey, Sadler’s Croft, Washing pond Field, Crooked Acres, Head Grave, Goldsmiths Bank, Lancaster Meadow, Dub’d Hedge, Golden Hill, Little Meadow, Wood-holm, Davel or Dayfield Meadow, Walshman Brow, possibly Little Sikes, Bugmire Hole, Santer’s Croft, Bell Founder, Maudlin Field.

Preston Poor Tax Survey – 1 August 1732
By this time the surveyors seem to have been running out of steam. Their inspections numbered only 38, mainly to the north of Marsh Lane and west of Moor Lane but with trips back to South Meadow Lane and Church Street. Places identified: Windmill Field, Balshaw Crofts, Farting Hill, Ox Heys, Bullen’s Crofts and House, Birkets Field, Moorside , Pye’s Field, Bogmoor Hole, Orchan Park, Hole House.

Preston Poor Tax Survey – 2 August 1732
This was the final day of the surveyors’ perambulation. This day’s visit took in the fields to either side of Salter Lane, from Friargate in the west to Peel Moor in the east. Places identified: Patten Field, Symkin Croft, Had Field, Platford Dale, Crown, Steven hey, Banister Barn Estates, Roe Moors, Broom Field, Shaw Barnes, Causey Meadow, Causey Field, Little Whittaker, Green Croft.
By now they seem to have had enough of trying to update the records, and for the remaining properties relied on the old records, writing:

Here Ends the Survey of the eleven Days by the Six Persons menton’d upon the Title Page of this Book; What follows from No. 816 to the last Number 897 is collected from the Rentalls (which was Examined) and other the best Inteligence that could be obtained

Preston Poor Tax Survey – Old Records
This sections is made up of a miscellany of properties from all around the town, including many owned by the borough. Places identified: Cargreaves, Moorside, Nether Bank and Riding, Goose Well, Bugmire Holes, Bears hill, Sikes, Tomlinson’s House, Tomlinson’s House, Rivington Field, South Meadow Lane Acre, Hep-grave, Great Doe Bank, Little Doe Bank, Crow Hill, Vicaridge, Intacks, Red & White Lion, Head Lands, Guild Houses, Graystock’s House, James Fishwick’s House, Horridge Land, Broom Field. Other records detail Sir Henry Hoghton’s tithes. Individual values are also given for the vicar’s Easter Offerings, &c, Surplice Dues, ‘Potatoes’ and ‘Piggs’.

Poor Tax Survey – ‘Personalities’
Some individuals, who appear to have been fairly prosperous, carried on business or trade in the town, but had no property on which they could be assessed for a poor rate. These individuals were assessed on their ‘personalities’, that is such things as goods and chattels that could not be accounted as real estate. Trades and professions listed included: apothecary, attorney (5), baker, barber (4), blacksmith, bookseller (2), brasier (2), butcher (4), chandler (2), clockmaker, cooper (2), doctor, draper, farrier, grocer (9), gunsmith, haberdasher of Hats, innkeeper (9), linen draper (3), maltster (2), merchant, milliner (4), milliner & saddler, plasterer (2), prothonotary, saddler (2), silversmith, slater, stocking weaver, stockinger (2), tinman (2), upholsterer (2), victualler (4), weaver.

The above links, together with the 1685 and 1774 surveys of the town, should supply enough information to prepare a detailed plan of Preston in 1732 showing the owners, lessees, occupants and value of every individual property and field in the borough. This is the next stage of this project and will be followed by an analysis of the data to compare the surveys of 1685, 1732 and 1774.

[1] Dorothy Marshall, The English Poor in the Eighteenth Century: A Study in Social and Administrative History from 1662 to 1782, Studies in Social History (London: Routledge, 2007).

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