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Kent Online Parish Clerks

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photo of St. Mary the Virgin Parish Church at Downe, Kent, England Copyright 2005 Philip Talmage licensed via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License
St. Mary the Virgin, Downe
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Downe Parish, Introduction to Land Tax Assessments

Prepared by Henry Mantell.

The Land Tax was first regularly imposed in in 1697, (based on a 1692 assessment) the first records from 1698 were early and defective attempts at compiling records and few survive nationally; the Kent collection held at Kent Archives illustrates this in isolated places. Anomalies arose, leaving rural areas too heavily taxed compared with the new industrial districts. In 1772, the returns were altered to incorporate a list of all occupiers of land in each parish.

In 1780, duplicates had to be lodged with the Clerk of the peace, in order to establish the qualification to vote in parliamentary elections. This has lead to better preservation of the Kent Quarter Sessions of the Peace records for the entire county.

In 1782, a further column was added to show the proprietor of each building. These deposited records continue until 1832.

In 1826, until abolition of the tax in 1832 a further column was added to describe the property on which the tax was levied.

Documents consist of Assessments and Returns; the former show assessed value of the land, the latter the amounts actually collected. The clerks are known to reverse columns so the record can be misleading because columns for proprietors and tenants can be reversed and it is therefore advisable to search previous and subsequent years for comparison and to detect such errors in compilation.

In 1798, landowners were allowed to buy themselves out of liability by a lump sum of 15 years purchase, but until 1832 "exonerated" owners appear in the lists; "Exonerated holdings" from 1798 until about 1815 are found in a column which includes exonerated property in this parish return.

The records from 1780 were stored in the county record office, usually in annual volumes or 'bundles'; for conservation reasons the original pages are now kept in conservation grade paper in volumes in the Archive and show signs of less careful handling in their earlier preservation.

The Downe Land Tax Records

The Court of Quarter Sessions of the Peace records are at Kent Archives and Library at Maidstone and have been preserved and conserved. The originals are in some years folded and the content can be obscured by this and the general fragility of the record. In order to aid conservation in 1987 The Genealogical Society of Utah in collaboration with the Kent Archives undertook microfilming of the county.

The Downe Land Tax 1780-1831 under reference Q/RPL/109 was microfilmed and is available as an item on LDS microfilm FHL BRITISH Film 1469943 Item 4 The film has duplicate images and has some years filmed out of chronological sequence.

The Kent OPC Transcript

In 2009/2010 the Downe transcript was prepared at the Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone by volunteers. In case of difficulty with some pages the original manuscript was consulted with permission of the Archive.

The microfilm contains several sets of duplicate images to try to capture problematic orginals where ink from the second page has bled into a column of names on the first page or page folds or fading has obscured entries. The parish is for most years spelled Down but in other years Downe. As one examines the entries from 1780 it is immediately apparent that spellings of place and surnames by the same person were not fixed even in the later years of the Land Tax records. The local assessors are also variable in the treatment of names and titles of nobility who owned land.

Unfortunately for the family historian the inconsistency of entries does not lend itself to computerisation of an index and the local assessors leave blank the column on the printed form which describes the land use! Prior to the introduction of a printed form in 1798 Assessors did not include titles consistently with the exception of the Right Honourable William Pitt ( who lived in Downe) From 1798 the inclusions of various abbreviations indicate that Sir William Geary ( a member of Parliament) owned land and from 1807 2 baronets John William Lubbock 1st baronet Avebury and Sir Thomas Dyke begin to build their estates in Downe.

The abbreviation for "Ditto" may mean different things according to which assessor makes use of it and appears inconsistently as Do, Do. or Ditto and may indicate a a line entry to the side or above the line on which entered.

Downe has a high level of exonerated land and given the extent of the Avebury estate and later house built at High Elms with 3,000 acres it is perhaps not surprising that many landowners were exonerated.

The transcript has been prepared for Kent OPC on a "Type what you see" basis. Please email if you wish to point out a correction to the transcript. Some superscript name abbreviations are rendered as close as QWERTY keyboard allows and following debate with archivists in examining the original manuscript.

Research tips

The entry annually is often a reliable indicator of a death over the 50 years of records of property. "The late" or "Heirs of" [abbreviated Hrs by one Assessor] or "Widow Durling" indicates a Will search and burial entry may be fruitful and identify to one calendar year the year of death. Probate for land ownership may be a protracted affair in the "proprietor" column entry.

Most titled persons pedigrees referred to may be readily traced either online or in the various sources for peerages like Burkes.

Online Images

In February 2012 FamilySearch in partnership with Kent Archives published images derived from the 1987 microfilm for the county on A restriction on rights to view the images is in place. FamilySearch Centres (Family History Centres) and Affiliated Libraries worldwide who operate the FHC Portal permit users of their computers to view the images freely online. Members of the LDS church who funded the microfilming are permitted to sign in and view images under the contractual agreement in place.

The digital images are direct microfilm conversion although the digital processing may have enhanced some images (compared to a microfilm reader lamp illumination) and is several cases entries are obscured. For this reason the transribers have offered their best interpretation of entries and indicated problems by use of square bracket indicators [page fold] or explained ink bleeding through paper.