William Darby was for a short time Chairman of the Dulwich Society until his sudden and premature death in June 1968 - a year and a day after the successful Dulwich Millennium celebrations he helped to organise. In addition to his two published works on Dulwich history - ‘Dulwich Discovered’ and ‘Dulwich- A Place in History’* - he left behind two much longer unpublished typescripts written between 1962 and 1965 which have been transcribed by his son Patrick. An extract is reproduced below.

Taxation and Inflation in 17th century Dulwich

The Register Book of Accounts recorded in 1652:

10 Aug. “for an ordinance of parliament wich fred [sic] the Colledge from taxes … 00.00.6”

That was sixpence well spent, one might suppose, for up to that time it had usually been the College, not the village that had been called on to foot the bill in times of national emergency.

Less than fifteen months after the Founder’s death the Warden paid out 4/- towards an expedition to the island of Rhé under the Duke of Buckingham, and 5/- for two months’ billeting of soldiers. Ship Money - 30/- in 1635 and 20/- two years later - was paid to Richard Crane, who also received 5/- for singing in the Chapel; in 1640 the collector was John Bodger.

In 1637 the College was required to pay 1/6d towards “repaier of Chersey bridg”; whether Chelsea or Chertsey was intended, the bridge in question had little discernible connection with the people of Dulwich.

The year 1646 saw the beginnings of the impact on Dulwich of the Civil War, when assessments (variously rendered “ses”, “assesement”, “a sees” and “a sese”!) were paid to Sir Thomas Fairfax (twice), the Scots, and “basinge howse”. A year later 1/8d was paid “to a ses for the bretesh forces”.

The expenditure for 1647 included 7/3d for 3 bushels of oats “for the soulderes horses vnder the comande of Captaine Nelthorpe”, 5/6d for “a legge, breast and neck of mutton for the souldieres”, and 6d for Goodwife Wells “for lodginge of soulderes for the Colledge”, which suggests that the College wisely found billets in the village for some at least of the Commonwealth army. On numerous occasions the College had to supply men and horses, and on October 26th 1648 “paid for lodginge our 2 dvch (Dutch) soldiers and for _ a peck of beanes they had … 1/-” suggests that a little clandestine feeding of Royalist allies was going on behind the scenes.

In the following year there was an “assesement” of 3/7d “for the Countey troopes”, and a payment of 34/7d to Mr. Francis Lenthall “for one yeares quit rent to the vse of the Common wealth”.

No further payments are recorded before the parliamentary ordinance quoted above, but four years after it the College paid 1/8d “for the 3 months tax for our land”, and in February 1660 - a sure sign that the War was over - it was required to subscribe 1/6d “for an Act of Parliament for the 6 months tax”. Here was the shape of things to come! Before the end of the year there were two “asseassments” totalling 4/8d “to pay armey and navey”, and the goldsmith charged 2/- in 1662 “to change parliament money”.

But any sighs of relief that accompanied that gesture were soon seen to be premature. The restored Monarchy chose to assess taxworthiness by the physical warmth of its subjects, and as the College boasted no fewer than 33 hearths - even though 24 of them were for the benefit of the Pensioners - its contribution towards the new Hearth Tax was 33/-, as compared with 125/- from the rest of Dulwich.

William of Orange replaced the Hearth Tax with a Window Tax - a splendid example of Dutch practicability, since windows are not only more numerous than hearths, but have the advantage of being countable from outside the house! On the other hand, windows could be walled up - or perhaps the rate was lower - for the College share was only 5/-, which was £1 less than the “rate or assessment for ye King” a few months after his accession in 1689. (That event too cost the College a shilling “given to ye Soldiers towards a Bonefire for ye King”. The College appears to have celebrated privately a fortnight later with “2 bottles of Sherry, 3/4d”! And seven months later they sported a shilling for “Beer and ale at the Bonfire for the King’s return”. In those troublous times they evidently had a keen nose for changes in the political wind, for in June 1688 they gave 2/- towards “ale and beere at ye bone fire when the young Prince was born” (the Old Pretender as he was dubbed later), and a week later 6 “Bookes of Prayers for the young Prince” were purchased at a penny each. This was at the time that James II was making his last desperate attempt to regain the confidence of his people, and convince Parliament that he really had a legitimate son and heir. He failed, but many a clergyman refused to recant the oath of allegiance made to him on his accession, and James Allen’s stepfather was among those who were beheaded for this refusal.

With cucumbers at 9d for half a hundred and mousetraps going up from 5d to 6d in a generation, not to mention brandy at 2d a quartern, fat pigs at 2/6d and 10d for a pair of pig’s petty toes, a certain degree of inflation was inevit-able, and in 1699 the Warden was allowed 13/9d “for loss by the fall of guinies, 27 guinies and a _ at 6d [per shilling, i.e. 50%] upon each guiny”.

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