The Hearth Tax
The following explanation of the Hearth Tax is taken from the Borthwick Papers (No 102) Yorkshire Surnames and the Hearth Tax Returns of 1672-73 by David Hey and George Redmonds:
The tax on hearths was the chief source of revenue for Charles II's government. Between 1662 and 1688 it raised about 200,000 pounds a year. Each hearth was taxed at the rate of 2 schillings per annum, payable in two instalments at Lady day and Michaelmus. The tax collectors, assisted by the local constables, recorded the name of each householder, together with the number of hearths that he or she possessed. Those people who were too poor to pay church and poor rates, or who occupied premises worth less than 20 schillings a year, or who possessed property not above 10 pounds, were exempt from the tax. Over the nation as a whole, the exempted poor amounted to about a third of the population. In some townships their names were recorded, but in most cases the lists are incomplete.
The returns for each county were arranged in wapentakes or hundreds, which in turn were divided into townships. They give a general indication of wealth and they have been used to good effect by historians for the analysis of social structure and for estimating total population at township and county level.
The returns for Lady Day 1672 report the following Feathers / Fethers, their locations and hearth numbers. The list also provides an insight to where the surname was most prevalant.
- Edward Fether 2
- Mr Joseph Feather 8
- Nathanll Feather 2
- Thomas Feather 1
- Edward Feather 1
- John Feather Jun 1
- John Feather 3
- Anne Feather 1
- Widow Feather 3
- John Feather 1
- Margret Feather 1
- John Feather 2
There has been much debate over the origin of the surname "Feather".
Although I don't profess to answer the question, the following are just some suggestions that have been made over the years.
The Yorkshire Evening Post (or News) Newspaper, by Charles Hughes. Date unknown.
What's Your Name number 49. - Feather. The Feathers turn out to be all over the place, but it seems to be a North Country name. Featherstone is in Yorkshire and Featherstonehaugh is an immemorial name in Northumberland. Featherstonehaugh is also one of the longest surnames we possess, if we omit the coupling up of names on the Blantagenet-Smith principle.
Who was the first Mr. Feather? One might suppose that he was someone who feathered arrows, when one remembers how many of our surnames do derive from the craft of Archery, but it is not likely. He probably held the Anglo-Scandinavian personal name of Feador, which is a form of father in the Northern dialects.
Why this should be so centered in the Haworth District is guesswork.
Collections relating to the surname of Feather by George W. Marshall L.L.D. Worksop, 1887. (Page 24)
"All the Feathers of England sprang from Haworth"; So we were informed years ago, and certainly Haworth figures amongst the earliest of several Yorkshire places given in Dr. Marshall's valuable pamphlet.
Amongst the wills recorded from Yorkshire Registry of members of this peculiarly named and comparatively small family, William Feather of Darton 1541, and James Feather of Woulley 1517, precede the mention of Robert Feather of Oxenhope, in Haworth, 1590, but nearly all the rest of the wills are those of the Airedale branch.
The Yorkshire Bibliographer Volume 1. pages 134 and 225 Edited by J. Horesfall Turner, Idle, Bradford 1888.
Feathers of Haworth.
Dr. G. W. Marshall has printed (4 pages) of the Monumental Inscriptions in the Churchyard at Haworth, respecting the family of Feather, as a supplementary note to the pamphlet we previously announced. During the holiday or seaside session, an hour might be well spent in copying the tablets in our Churches, or the brasses, or the Churchyard gravestones, and probably many would be pleased to do this if their labours would not be wasted.
"May the Feathers keep flying and may they feather their nests too".
English: from Middle English fether ‘feather’, applied as a metonymic occupational name for a trader in feathers and down, a maker of quilts, or possibly a maker of pens. Feathermongers are recorded from the 13th century onwards. In some cases the surname may have arisen from a nickname denoting a very light person or perhaps a person of no account.Americanized form of German Feder.
A small number of Police records have been located showing the employment histories of various Feathers within the West Yorkshire Police Force.
Click on the individuals links to view the histories. More records will be added as and when they are available.
A small number of Prison records have been located showing the darker side of various Feathers around the West Yorkshire area.
Click on the individuals links to view the information. More records will be added as and when they are available.