Who was living at Preston in 1837? What was their status? Who were the owners of
property in the village? Who had died or left the village by 1841? The Preston Rate
Book of 1837 answers these questions.
Each year parishioners paid rates - or were excused from payment on the grounds of
The rates provided a central fund which was used to provide for the poor, build and
maintain prisons and bridges (from 1531) and highways (from 1654) and contribute
towards the upkeep of the parish. Rates were levied three times a year – at Michaelmas
(June), Lady Day (October) and Christmas (January).
The rates were based on the value of the property – the higher the value, the greater
Parish rates were calculated and collected by the parish Vestry which comprised the
vicar, the Overseer of the Poor and other local worthies.
Following the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, the Rate Books contained more detail.
They showed the occupier of a property, the owner, the rateable value of the home
or land, the rates collected and any arrears which were owed.
The research value
of Rate Books
Rate Books are therefore valuable when researching a community because:
1) They indicate who was living there in a given year. If a new name appears,
householder had recently moved in. Similarly if a name disappears,
the occupant has
moved away – or died. Thus, when used in conjunction with censuses,
rate books provide
information about the mobility of the population.
2) The level of the levy reveals the status of the occupants.
3) From 1834, the owners of the property are described and changes in ownership
may be pinpointed.
4) By comparing the details in the Rate Book with other sources such as
censuses and manorial documents it is sometimes possible to establish
in which house
a family was living.
The Poor Rate Book for
Preston - 1837
This relates to the part of the village which was in the parish of Hitchin which
constitutes about 80% of the population. The details of the rate can be found at
this link: Preston Rates 1837.
Comparing the details from the 1837 Rates Book and the 1841 census reveals that during
the four years there had been little change in the village. True, six male heads
of household died during this time, but their widows remained in the village. Most
of the few families who moved away remained in the vicinity - Langley, Kings Walden
and in the Ippollitts part of Preston.
The newcomers at Preston in 1841 were: John Wilshere, George Bottoms, Thomas Ward,
George Freeman, Robert Thrussell, Joseph Sharpe, William Andrews, Joseph Saunderson
and Thomas English. It is likely that most of these men were living within five
miles of Preston before their move and most already had ties with the village - they
or their wives had family who had lived there.