Pity the poor double glazing salesman who tries to convince the owners of Bloomsbury House to install windows in the bricked in recesses of their house. They are the result of tax-dodging the precursor to today’s Council Tax and in so doing have made a lasting mark on London’s architecture.
It is 1696 and King William III has squandered money fighting in Ireland and Europe.
[A]t the time it was thought, quite reasonably, inappropriate for the State to interfere in the private matter of one’s earnings – hence no income tax.
The imposition of a property tax was blamed on the practice of clipping coins, but the outcome was the same, it was just a sneaky way to raise revenue.
Every house with more than 6 windows had to pay a flat rate of 2/- a year [equivalent to £12.11 at today’s prices], those with 10-20 windows 4/- [£24.22] and mansions with above 21 windows 8/- [£48.44].
Overnight a cottage industry bricking up additional windows over 9 developed. Even houses which were built after the imposition of the window tax were constructed with blocked up windows come the day the tax was repealed. Here at Bloomsbury House its owner had builders install 18 windows but then block up 9 of them (to the side of Southampton Place). This was just enough to avoid the tax, but left available the option of glazing them should the tax regime change. Or could he have foreseen that Southampton Place in modern times would become a busy one-way thoroughfare.
With builders busy blocking up windows King William changed the Act to include a charge on just 7 windows, it’s about this time the term daylight robbery is thought to have been coined.
The tax lasted for 150 years until 1851 when it was conveniently abolished just in time for the erection of a building made entirely of wind