“A case of tax avoidance in Churchill” – a new exhibition is now on until September, at the Churchill Heritage Centre. Curated by local historian Christine Gowing, the exhibition tells the story of one particular individual’s plan to avoid the Hearth Tax of 1662. The disastrous consequences were, and are, a salutary tale.
The hearth tax imposed in 1662 by Charles II’s government, which was always looking to raise revenue. had put pressure on the villagers of Churchill, just as it was putting pressure on the nation. But for one woman in 1684, the temptation to avoid the tax in order to light her fire to bake bread became just too strong.
At some stage she had made a funnel to join chimneys with that of her neighbour and on Wednesday 30th July 1684, she was found out when her house was set ablaze and fire spread throughout the village. It resulted in the loss of four Churchill lives and twenty dwellings. And the event led to the creation of the village we now know – with the rebuilding of stone houses at the top of the hill.
This was not her first offence, and the exhibition tells what happened to this serial tax evader and how the local communities at the time reacted and supported the ravaged village of Churchill.
The story of our feckless baker and the devastating result of her irresponsible actions is the central theme of exhibition in the Centre.
The exhibition is on now until September 30th. The centre is open Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays from 2.00 pm- 4.30 pm.
More about Churchill Heritage Centre here