At Michaelmas 1664, Mistress (or was it Master?) Ezard Muddle was living at Powerstock near Bridport, in a property with three hearths. The name appears on the 1664 list for Powerstock that has survived. There is an earlier example of ‘Ezard’ as a woman’s first name in Dorset, but there is nothing in this record to indicate the sex of the nameholder. (I am guessing that she was a woman, perhaps a widow(?), but to date I have not found any further records that relate to this person.)
The Hearth Tax was levied in England between 1662 and 1689. Householders were assessed on the number of hearths in their dwelling and taxed accordingly. In January 1663, there seem to have been 71 households in Powerstock, a village about four miles north-east of Bridport. A plea was made for some householders to be exempted because they were “…of meane condition who pay not ye Church & poore [rates]…”. The exemption must have been granted because, in 1664, the tax was levied on 61 households.
The number of hearths gives a picture of the prosperity of the place. These figures have been aggregated from the exemption list and the levy list:
1 Hearth: 32 householders, including two paupers. [Plus 8 exempted.]
2 Hearths: 16 householders. [Plus 2 exempted.]
3 Hearths: 10 householders.
4 Hearths: 1 householder.
5 Hearths: 1 householder.
6 Hearths: No one.
7 Hearths: 1 householder. [The vicar.]
So Ezard Muddle, with three hearths, was in the middling-to-top bit of the population – much better off than most folk, but some way behind the three top families.
Dorset Online Parish Clerk. Names from the return for 1664 were extracted by Tony Higgins: http://www.opcdorset.org/PowerstockFiles/Powerstock.Hearth.Protestation.htm
‘Thank you,’ Tony.
And for background information about the Hearth Tax and the ongoing project to make information available online, please consult: http://www.hearthtax.org.uk/about/