From Duncan's History of Guernsey, 1841, pp. 270 ff. From Ferdinand Brock Tupper.

See also Taxation and parish meetings, 1840


[Information provided by F B Tupper.] The first tax list existing in the constables' office is dated in 1715, the constables and douzainiers of the parish of St. Peter-Port, duly authorized by the chief pleas, having, on the 8th March, proceeded to raise 500 livres tournois (£35 14s 3d sterling), to purchase powder, matches, and other ammunitions of war, required for the magazine of the said parish. The inhabitants were then assessed at 16,531 quarters, on which 71/3 deniers (about one half-penny) were levied per quarter. The highest rates were those of Thomas Le Marchant, Peter Etienne (Stephens), and John De Sausmarez, bailiff, assessed at 500 quarters each, a large property in those days, and the lowest rate was five quarters. This tax list is signed by John Bouillon and Daniel Painsec, constables, Richard De Jersey, Nicholas Carey, John Mauger, Abraham Monamy, James De Havilland, John Dobrée, A. Le Messurier, Nicholas Dobrée, Joshua Gosselin, John Tupper, Thomas Gosselin, Henry De Jersey, James Perchard, and John Bowden, douzainiers. The next tax list also bears date in 1715, the inhabitants having, on the 21st March, been duly assessed for 700 livres tournois, to pursue the cause against Mr. William Le Marchant, relative to l'Hyvreuse, before king in council.

The third tax list is dated in 1720, when 1000 livres tournois were levied for the repair of the guard house at Fermain, the rent of the guard house at Belgreve, the purchase of powder, and other parochial wants. The inhabitants were this year assessed at 17,648 quarters, Thomas Le Marchant, sen., paying on 600 quarters, the highest rate.

The fourth tax list is dated in 1724, the constables and douzainiers having, on the 14th December, proceeded to raise 4,000 livres tournois (£285 14s 3d) for the relief of the poor. The inhabitants were now assessed at 23,200 quarters, and the rate was 3 sous 6 deniers (three pence sterling) per quarter. The highest amounts were Nicholas Dobrée, Thomas Le Marchant, and Peter Carey (de la Brasserie), rated at 600 quarters each. This is not stated as being the first tax raised for the poor, but, having made reference to the account books in the hospital, we find that it was so, as will appear by the following extract from the account current of the collectors for that year, viz. 'Pour la première taxe levée sur les habitans de la dite paroisse, le 14 Decembre, 1724, pour la subsistance des dits pauvres.' The oldest account of the collectors, now existing in the hospital, is dated in 1634, when, and previously to 1724, the poor were relieved by rents and money bequeathed for that purpose by charitable individuals, contributions at the communion table and church door, and fines exacted by the royal court. They appear also to have been relieved as the pauvres honteux [i.e. out-door poor] now are, as the hospital was not built till 1742. [The individuals who had charge of the poor, were the Diacres or deacons, so styled until 1663, when they became known as 'les Collecteurs des pauvres.']

From 1724, the inhabitants of St. Peter-Port appear, by the books in the constables' office, to have been annually assessed, with occasional intermissions, as at present, for the various parochial wants; and we now proceed to give details of the assessments, every ten years, commencing with 1730.

In 1730, the inhabitants raised 4000 livres tournois on 20,878 quarters, charged at 3 sous 10 deniers per quarter, and payable in four instalments. The highest amount paid was by Peter Stephens and son, rated at 600 quarters.

In 1740, the assessment for the poor was also 4000 livres tournois on 21,894 quarters, at 3 sous 6 deniers per quarter. The highest tax was that of Thomas Le Marchant, rated at 600 quarters—the lowest tax was 5 quarters.

For 1750, there is no record, but in 1751 I find that 4000 livres tournois, payable in two instalments, were again raised for the poor 'in the hospital' on 25,278 quarters, at 3 sous 2 deniers each. Thomas Le Marchant was taxed at 800 quarters, the highest rate, and the lowest was still 5 quarters.

In 1760, two taxes were raised, viz. 4000 livres tournois for the soldiers' quarters, cleaning muskets and bayonets, a new pump, &c., and 5000 livres tournois for the hospital, both on 33,312 quarters, rated at 2 sous 6 deniers for the former, and 3 sous for the latter. This is the first year in which we observe any taxes of four figures, James and John Le Ray being rated at 1200 quarters, and William Brock and his sons at 1000 quarters. Of single individuals, the highest assessments are Thomas Le Marchant and James Le Marchant, rated at 700 quarters each. No inhabitant was rated this year under 10 quarters, as is the case at present.

In 1770, the inhabitants were assessed 6000 livres tournois for the poor, on 44,155 quarters, at 2 sous 9 deniers per quarter, and payable in two instalments. The entries of four figures this year, in one line, are as follow, viz. John Carey, and widow John Le Ray, 1600 quarters; William Brock, sen., 1350 quarters; heirs of William Brock, jun., 1300 quarters; widow and son of Peter Stephens, 1260 quarters; John Brock, jun., 1100 quarters, and Thomas Carey and children, 1000 quarters.

In 1780, three assessments were made, viz. 1st March, 10,000 livres tournois on 61,930 quarters, at 3 sous 3 deniers each, for parochial debts and other public expenses; 1st December, 8000 livres tournois, on 61,925 quarters, at 2 sous 9 deniers each, for the same purpose; and 1st December, 6000 livres tournois for the poor, also on 61,925 quarters at 2 sous each, together 24,000 livres tournois (£1714 5s 8d sterling), and the rate 8 sous (nearly seven pence) per quarter. The individuals highest rated on the 1st December, were John Carey, 1950 quarters; ElishaTupper, 1850 quarters; Nicholas Maingy, sen., 1650 quarters; heirs of John Brock, 1420 quarters; Peter Mourant, 1400 quarters; and Richard De Beauvoir, 1020 quarters. In the tax of the 1st March, this year, £30 a year interest in the English funds were estimated at 40 quarters, and £1000 capital at 50 quarters, as at this moment, being the first notice of the kind in the tax books.

In 1790, the assessment was 7000 livres tournois on 77,100 quarters, at 2 sous each, for the hospital. There were seven individuals rated at four figures, of whom two at 2000 quarters and above, viz. Elisha Tupper, at 2300 quarters, and John Carey, son of John, at 2030 quarters.

In 1800, two taxes were levied, both on 22d May, viz. 10,000 livres tournois on 94,455 quarters, at 2 sous 2 deniers each, for poor strangers, pumps, lamps, rents due, &c., and 14,000 livres tournois on 94,400 quarters, at 3 sous each, for the poor, and repairs of hospital, together 24,000 livres tournois, or nearly 4½d. per quarter. This year we find fourteen persons rated at four figures, of whom only one at 2000 quarters or above, viz. Elisha Tupper, rated at 2400 quarters.

In 1810, five taxes were raised, viz. 28th June, two sums of £800 sterling each, on 98,955 quarters, at 4d. each, for the hospital and constables; 5th October, £1901 3s 1d sterling, on 101,395 quarters, at 4½d. each, towards the high roads to Vason and Rocquaine; and 28th December, £1600 for the constables, and £1200 for the hospital, on 96,075 quarters, 7d. each, making together this year £6301 3s 1d sterling, and the rates 15½d. per quarter. There were twelve rated at four figures, of whom two of 2000 quarters or above, viz. Sir James Saumarez, 2800 quarters, and James Carey, 2000 quarters. It was in 1804 and 1805 that the calculations were first made in sterling, and that those in livres tournois were discontinued.

In 1820, three taxes were also raised, the whole on 137,760 quarters, viz. £1600 sterling, for pumps, lamps, &c., and £1600 for hospital, both at 23/4d. per quarter, and £600 for the pauvres honteux, or external poor, at 1¼d. per quarter, together £3800, collected at 6¾d. per quarter. Twenty-six persons were now rated at four figures, of whom seven at 2000 quarters or above, viz. Sir James Saumarez 5000 quarters; John Allaire, 4900 quarters; Thomas Priaulx, 4500 quarters; Carteret Priaulx, 4200 quarters; Peter Stephens, 2500 quarters; Anthony Priaulx, 2150 quarters, and widow and children of Daniel Tupper, 2050 quarters.—On the 10th February, this year, the royal court decided that the taxes should be raised, for the present, on income as heretofore, and not on capital, as sought by some of the parishioners, who urged the injustice of their income, and not their capital, in the French and other foreign funds, being taxed, those funds being then considerably under par, and yielding 7 to 8 per cent, on the capital invested. But, by an entry in 1824, we find that the system was then changed, and capital became, as it now is, the basis of parochial taxation, property of any kind, worth £1000, being assessed at 50 quarters. Although this system is analogous to that established in 1780, as already cited, yet it bears hard on those whose income is derived from the English funds—for instance, this year (1840), the 3 per cent, consols were assessed at 88, and an individual possessing £1000 consols was charged for 44 quarters, although the interest was only £30. It is, however, manifestly impossible to establish any system of taxation which will not press unequally on some individuals, and we think the present mode as equitable as will ever be attained, while the property of the parishioners is invested in so many channels quite unknown to our ancestors.

It may be well here to observe, that the immense increase of 38,800 quarters between 1810 and 1820, was owing in a great measure to the fortunate investments of many of the parishioners in the French funds, after the peace of 1814, large sums having been transferred from the English funds and other sources into the French 0 per cents, under 60 and 70, by which means the incomes of many were increased by at least one-third, and a proportionate increase in the number of quarters naturally followed, income and not capital being then, as we have already observed, the rule of taxation.

In 1830, three taxes were raised simultaneously on 152,930 quarters, viz. £1400, at 23/8d. per quarter, for the hospital; £700, at 11/8d., for the pauvres honteux; and £1500, at 25/8d. for other parochial purposes; together £3600 or 61/8d. per quarter. In this year we find twenty-two individuals possessing incomes of 1000 quarters and above, of whom five were assessed at 2000 quarters and above, viz. John Allaire, 5500 quarters; Thomas Priaulx, 4200 quarters; John Carey, son of John, 2120 quarters; Hilary Rougier, 2075 quarters, and Joseph Collings, 2000 quarters.

In 1836, the following taxes were raised on 152,930 quarters, representing a capital of £3,058,600 sterling, viz. £1400 sterling for pumps, lamps, improvements, &c.; £1400 for the hospital; £1000 for external poor; and £100 for the parish church, together £4300 sterling, collected by a tax of 7d. per quarter. It is well to mention now that the douzaine, to avoid fractions and to allow for the reductions on individuals over-taxed, usually fix the rate a little higher than the amounts actually required. In this year we find twenty-one individuals of four figures, of whom eight of 2000 quarters or above, viz. John Allaire, 6200; Thomas Priaulx, 3300; John Carey, son of John, 2270; John Collings, 2265; William Collings, 2230; Hilary Rougier, 2225; Joseph Collings, 2015; Mary Le Marchant, 2000.

Our task approaches its termination, and we hasten to conclude it by a few general observations. It has already been shown that, in the space of one hundred and twenty-one years, the wealth of the parish has augmented nearly tenfold, the annual average being 1161 quarters, although, considering the difference in the value of money and the mode of living, it is probable that 500 quarters income in 1715 were fully equal to 1500 quarters at this day. In 1715, and for many years subsequently, the greater part of the property of the higher ranks, which was taxed, consisted in rentes foncières, or perpetual mortgages on the insular estates and houses; now, it is chiefly invested in public securities, and partially in shipping, trade, houses, and furniture. It is of course very difficult to predict the future course of the property of the town parish, but with the present gloomy commercial prospects, and the more expensive habits and wants of the existing generation, it is not probable that the annual increase will continue, at least in any thing like the same ratio. On the other hand, as long as the British and French governments keep faith with their creditors, no serious diminution is to be apprehended, unless indeed the division by degrees of the laree fortunes now existing have that tendency. But should these two governments become either unable or unwilling to pay the interest of their debts, it is to be hoped that the reduction will be gradual, as any sudden stoppage would be attended in this parish with effects too disastrous to dwell upon or contemplate.

For the information of strangers, it may be well to add, that a quarter of rent is estimated at £20 capital, or £1 annual income; this has always been a general rule, but the income has occasionally varied, as now, with the price of the funds. A livre tournois is divided into 20 sous of 12 deniers each, and is worth Is. 0 l-7d., 14 livres tournois being equal to one pound sterling. F. B. T. [pp. 270 ff.]