Hearth tax

In 2002 as part of my taught postgraduate MPhil degree in Cultural and Urban Histories 1650-1850 I looked at the 1694 hearth tax records for Melrose parish. For my dissertation I was studying the court records of Melrose regality court between 1657 and 1676, and it made sense to estimate the population in the parish around then.

Fairly reliable population counts for Scotland only date from 1755 onwards. Before then it’s very much a case of guesswork. But records like the hearth tax can be used, and population historians like Flinn (Scottish population history from the seventeenth century to the 1930s, published Cambridge, 1977) and Whyte (‘Urbanization in Early-Modern Scotland: a Preliminary Analysis’ in Scottish Economic and Social History, vol 9. 1989, pp. 21-37) have used a formula based on the number of hearths to estimate populations.

Start with the number of paid hearths. Add 20% to this number, to allow for unpaid hearths and the poor. Divide the result by 1.6 to convert into number of households. Multiply that by 4.5 to give a population estimate.

Doing this for Melrose parish gives a very rough parish population estimate in 1694 of about 1400. Arguably more interesting, though, is an estimate of different places in the parish, possible because hearths are listed by area/place. For example this suggests that Melrose burgh’s population was only approximately 275, not that much bigger than Gattonside at approximately 230. Likewise Newstead probably had around 135 residents in it, Darnick 90, and Blainslie 115.

Any population estimates based on the number of hearths in Melrose itself are probably inflated by large properties such as the 10-hearth Earl’s House. But what is surprising is how populous nearby villages of Gattonside, Newstead, Darnick and Dingleton seem to have been compared with Melrose – many of these villages just 1/2 a mile away from Melrose which they ringed. Why wasn’t Melrose bigger? The conventional view is that it was an ancient medieval town but it only received burgh status in the early 1600s and these figures, together with a comparison of Melrose’s hearth count against other burghs (see Atlas of Scottish History to 1707 p.321) suggest that perhaps it only developed after the Reformation in 1560 removed the power of the local abbey’s Cistercian monks. There is early 16th century evidence that Melrose monks encouraged settlement at villages such as Gattonside and Darnick.

Looking down the list of names in the hearth tax (reproduced below) a couple jump out based on what I found out in the court records. For example I see that Thomas Wilkieson clerk of the regality court (from at least 1663) was still there. When the court was taken over by a new regime in 1682 he refused to hand over the registers of the court, and continued to act as a clerk, recording deeds and issuing copies for a fee, leading the new clerk to complain that Wilkieson was making his job unprofitable.

Another name that jumps out is ‘Andrew Haliuell donator’ in Gattonside. Andrew Halliwell had acted as surety, or donator or donatory, for John Halliwell, weaver in Gattonside, who was accused of murdering his wife Alison Boston in July 1673. Before he could be tried John Halliwell escaped from the Melrose prison on horseback, following the incompetence of a local court officer letting him out to help him go up and down the streets to sell ale. Andrew Halliwell was then sued in court by numerous people owed money by the accused man. Clearly the donator term stuck, because it was still being used for Andrew Halliwell in the hearth tax listing over 20 years later.

I’m sure that I’ll recognise more names as I study the list more closely. I have a detailed database of people involved in the court’s proceedings, so can easily look people up there.

List of people recorded in the hearth tax for Melrose parish, listing them place by place, with number of hearths recorded:
(National Records of Scotland, E69/21/1/129)


Melrose Town:

Rot Faa for ye Earles hous 10
Mr Mark Duncansone for ??? hous 5
Mr Rot Wilsone minister yr 4
John Ker yr 1
John Bell yr 4
Jannett Mein yr 3
Andrew Tunno yr 2
James Bouie yr 1
Andrew Merton yr 1
Wm Broun yr 2
John Neuman yr 1
John Gibsone yr 1
Wm Cook yr 1
James Neuman yr 2
James Eiles Elder yr 1
David Cook yr 1
John Sheill yr 1
John Mabin yr 1
James Wallace yr 1
Wm Hopkirk yr 1
James Gray yr 1
George Blackie yr 3
Helen Sheill yr 1
Michall Wallace yr 1
James Merser yr 1
Tho: Crinstoun yr 1
Bessie Broun yr 1
George Sheill yr 1
John Mar yr 1
Marion Currie yr 1
Marion Sheill yr 1
Margrat Lithgow 5
Agnes Fischer yr 2
Isobell Eillies yr 1
John Lithgow yr 3
John Wallace cotar 1
George Proffit yr 1
Adam Davidsone yr 1
James Bouie yr 1
Tho: Wilkisone Clark yr 3
The House of Langshaw 12


John Bunzie yr 1
John Heitone yr 1
Richard Mein yr 1
James Bouar Elder 1
Nicoll Bouar wt an kilne 2
John Drumond yr 1
John Bouar yr 1
Wm Sybald yr 1
Alexr Mein yr 1
John Turnbull yr 1
Rot Lourie yr 1
John Sclaitter yr 1
An kilne of his 1
Rot Lithane yr 1
Tho: Mein herd yr 1
Tho: Hitton yr 1
James Caldwell yr 1


Andrew Heiton wt an kilne 2
Nicoll Cochran yr 1
John Wintrop yr 1
James Steuart yr 1
Agnes Fisher wt an kilne 2
Wm Milne yr 1
Tho: Milne Smith wt an oven 3
John Riddell yr 1
Andrew Riddell yr 1
Wm Ker wt an kilne 2
John Gill yr 1
Tho: Stenhous yr 2
John Milne younger yr 1
James Vair yr 1
James Laidlaw yr 1
Jennett Sclaiter yr 1
Tho: Cochran yr 1
Alexr Mein yr 1
John Mylne Elder yr 2
Nicoll Ker yr 1


Rot Bunzen yr 1
Tho: Bunzen yr 1
Andrew Sclaiter yr 1
Wm Sclaitter walt 1
Andrew Mein yr 1
Margarett Mein yr 1
Wm Fisher yr 1
John Bunzie yr 1
Bernard Mein yr 1
George Graimslaw yr 1
Rot Riddell yr 1
Andrew Bunzie yr 1
James Mein yr 1
Andrew Mein wt an kilne 2
John Mein yr 1
Rot Mein yr 1
David Mein yr 1
James Mein wind 1
Wm Riddell yr 1
Agnes Mar yr 1
George Mein wind yr 1
John Merser yr 1
Andrew Wilsone yr 1
Alison Bunzie yr 1
George Mein yr 1
Wm Mein yr 1
John Mein yr 1
Wm Mein Smith yr 2
James Bunzie yr 1
John Mein Glover yr 2
Tho: Bunzie yr 1
John Mein in Old melrose 4
Rot Bunyen in Neusteid 2
John Mein maltman wt an malt kilne & an corn kilne at Melrose 3
John Mein his sone in law yr 2
Agnes Cochran relict of Andrew Mein Mason Elder yr 2
James Purvis in Comislie 1
Margaret Turner in overlangshaw 1
James Dicksone yr 1

Northside of Comislie:

Simon Waderstoune 2
George Halliday yr 1
James Merton yr 1


Tho: Laidlaw yr 2
Tho: Watsone yr 1
John Sandiland yr 1

The Bridgend of Melrose:

George Hunam yr 1
George Martone yr 1
Wm Messer yr 1
Andrew Boustoune yr 1
Wallay Boustoune yr 1
Andrew Turnbull yr 1
Isobell Turnbull yr 1
John Messer yr 1
John Hunam yr 1
Wm Drumant yr 1


Buckhols house 5
James ????? Yr 1


Andrew Mair 4
Wm Wright yr 3
James Mathisone yr 1
James Freir yr 2
Wm Bell yr 2
John Wright yr 1
John Thomsone yr 1
George Freir yr 1
Wm Fisher yr 1
Tho: Mylds yr 1
Tho: Halliwell yr 1
George Bartone yr 1
George Pringle yr 1
Rot Clerke yr 1
Tho: Boustoun wynd yr 4
Rot Mean measone yr 1
Rot Merton yr 1
Rot Bouston vicker yr 2
James Lithane yr 1
John D???? yr 1
John Bartone yr 1
Walter Helliburton Smith yr 2
Wm Mertone yr 1
Rot Ormistone yr 1
Wm Hay yr 1
Rot Freir yr 1
John Mein yr 1
Rot Mein Tounhead yr 1
Jannett Halliuell yr 1
Tho: Moffet yr 1
John Moffett yr 2
Wm Merton Tylyeour yr 1
Andrew Wright yr 1
Rot Scott yr 1
John Helliuell tounhead yr 1
Tho: Boustoun Burnbraehead 1
Jannett Halliuell yr 1
James Lindsay yr 1
Rot Phillip yr 1
Walter Veatche yr 1
Margarett Phillip yr 1
Tho: Boustoune eistcoat yr 1
Wm Boustoun Whisler yr 1
Tho: Boustoun yr 1
George Freir yr 1
Tho: Mathisone yr 1
Wm ????? 1
Tho: Halliuell mike yr 1
John Halliuell muck yr 1
John Hoy yr 1
Archbald Freir yr 1
Tho: Boustoun duck dub yr 1
Rot Halliuell yr 1
Andrew Haliuell donator yr 1
James Mylds yr 1


Adam Darling yr 1
Tho: Wileamsone yr 1
Andrew Pringle yr 1
Tho: Forest yr 1
James Fisher in Sorlasfeild 3
Rot Fisher in Cleckmae 2


James Patersone yr 1
John Dasone yr 1
Wm Gill yr 1
Tho: Merton yr 1
Helen Wallace yr 1
Wm Luckup yr 2
Walter Mabane yr 1
Tho: Drumane yr 1


Andrew Knox yr 1
George Frain yr 1


Rot Halliuall yr 1
John Neutoune weaver yr 1
Andrew Renallsone yr 1
Nicoll Messer yr 1
George Hunam yr 1
John Drument yr 1
Wm Chisholme yr 1
Andrew Huname yr 1
George Usher yr 1
Wm Merser yr 1
Hew Boustoune yr 1
Walter Dalgleish yr 1
Wm Gristone yr 1
Andrew Mesere yr 1
James Fisher yr 1
Nicoll Milne yr 1
Wm Walker yr 1
John Moss yr 1
Wm Smith yr 1
Andrew Smith yr 1
John Usher yr 1
Steven Mertone yr 1
John Mudie yr 1
Andrew Kenidie yr 1
Alexr Trotter in Eisterhousbyres 1
Isobell Lithgow yr 1
Walter Cairncorce of Hilslop 8
Nickell Cairncorse yr 1
Tho: Turner in Calfhill 1
Andrew Richie herd yr 1
Tho: Hardie in Alanshaws 1
Rot Suden herd yr 1
Wm Cairncorse of wester langlie at westhouse comprehending the mylne 5
Andrew Merser in westerlanglie 1
Archbald Freir in westerboathous 1
Wm Wilsone in Langhaugh 5
George Hoge in Hayburne 1
Hew Wilsone in Langhaugh 1
Rot Wilsone wright yr 1


George Turner yr 1
John Scott herd yr 1
Isobell Scott cottar yr 1
John Davidsone herd in Oupslaw 1


Andrew Fisher yr 3
John Merser yr 1
An wast hous in Dernick perteining to ye sd Andrew Fisher 2

The Blainslies:

Tho: Laidlaw yr 1
Tho: Darling yr 1
James Robisone yr 1
Rot Stirling yr 1
John Thine yr 1
Tho: Sclaiter yr 1
Mark Greive yr 1
George Darling yr 1
Wm Broun yr 1
Elizabeth Merton yr 1
Tho: Darling yr 1
John Darling yr 1
Barbarie Darling yr 1
George Romanouse yr 1
John Little yr 1
Alexr Dicksone yr 1
Alexr Scott yr 1
James Watsone yr 1
John Darling yr 1
James Pringle yr 1
George Moffit yr 1
Wm Darling yr 1
Wm Davidsone yr 1
John Drumont yr 1
Wm Romanouss yr 1
John Stirling yr 1
John Moffit yr 1
John Romanouse yr 1
James Salmons yr 1
John Wallace Smith yr 2
Wm Ker of Brooduoodsheill 3


George Frater yr 1
Peter Frater yr 1
Catharen Cleghorne yr 1
George Pringle yr 1
Charles Turner yr 1
Sir Harie Gutreis hous in Witlaw blank
Alexr Thomsone yr 1
Rot Lies yr 1
Geo: Chisholme in Coumslihill 2


Wm Darling yr 1
Jennett Fletcher yr 1


John Naper yr 1
Andrew Notman yr 1
John Moffit yr 1
John Foord yr 1
Rot Merser yr 1
Rot Merser in Wileamlaw 1
Michall Persone yr 1


Peter Moffat yr 1
John Mudie yr 1
Archb. Moffit yr 1
Tho: Moffit yr 1
Andrew Lithgow yr 1
Archbald Moffitt younger yr 1
George Muddie yr 1
Margaret Notman yr 1
James Smith yr 1
Andrew Moffit yr 1
Wm Fairlaw herd yr 1
Tho: Wood in Mairhouses 1
Isobell Stodart yr 1
Margaret Robsone yr 1

payed in melrose parioch 424


Melrose toun:

John Quarie yr 1
James Trotter yr 2
Michaell Gibsone yr 1
Andrew Olipher yr 1


Wm Fairgrive yr 1
James Bouar yr 1
Helen Foullar yr 1


Mr Andrew Mein Waste 3
Rot Forsan Waste 1
John Rodgers Waste 1
Alexr Meine waste 2
Margrat Sheill 1
Rot Trottar waste 1
James Merser waste 1
Tho: Souden herd in overlangshaw 1
James Forsan in Northsid of Coumslie 1
John Symington herd yr 1
Andrew Beatie Bridgend of Melrose 1


Mungo Dalgleish por 1
Tho: Lithane 1
Harie Pringle yr 1


Archbald Freir 1
Andrew Ritchard 1
Alexr Mikfadkine 1
Rot Mertone yr 1


Tho: Blackie yr 1
Tho: Merser yr 1


John Thomsone yr 1
John Heitone yr 2
George Messere yr 1
James Claperton yr 1
Wm Mudie yr 1


John Steill yr 1
John Hardie herd yr 1
James Tayt in Westerlanglie 1


James Fisher yr 1
John F??? Yr 1
Isobel Thomsone yr 1
Wm Mertone yr 1
John Merton in Apeltreeleives 1
John Purvis in Langhaugh 1

Deficients in Melrose pario 46

The hearth tax records are subject to Crown Copyright and a transcription is presented here under the terms of Crown Copyright Policy Guidance issued by HMSO.

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