Wig, Powder and Windows

Excise men on the lookout for smugglers

When Phoebe Merrick told her audience that she was going to talk about tax, there was a good natured groan from the audience. Who loves taxation? – although we all recognise its necessity for good government, and of course it has a history.

Phoebe worked for most of her career as an excise officer and opened by explaining the difference between customs and excise – customs is the collection of customary duties on imports and exports, whereas excise duty is a later invention which assessed charges against products at the point of manufacture.

Excise duties made their first appearance in England during Cromwell’s government in the 17th century. They were naturally focussed popular products such as alcohol and were unpopular in equal measure. The tax was paid at the point of manufacture and was relatively easy to administer and hard to evade. It is, as Phoebe pointed out, a tax on quantity rather than quality. Even today, a vintage bottle of Mouton Rothschild will attract the same amount of tax as a bottle of cheap plonk.

After some success with new taxes governments extended the range, but not always with good results. A hearth tax, which appeared at first glance to be a reasonable tax on property, was difficult to enforce as inspection required access to the house. It was abandoned and followed by a window tax which only required external inspection. This tax persisted until the 19th century and even today some blocked-up windows are visible reminders of attempts to avoid the tax.

The job of an excise officer in the 17th and 18th centuries could be hazardous. Some citizens were inclined to act violently to the idea of being taxed and the excise officer often had to call for help from the military and later the police. Not least of their issues was the delivery of the money collected, mostly in coin, to safety in London. In an age before bank notes and more sophisticated means of transferring money, revenue officers had to transport the money on slow-moving pack horses on uncertain roads. Attack and potential robbery was always a danger.

The talk was informative and delivered with wit and style. Whether or not any one in the audience will feel better about paying taxes in future is an open question, but one thing is certain, we are all better informed about the history and development of excise taxes.

Excise men raiding an illegal warehouse at London Docks

Titchfield Emblem and the New Entry Signs

Residents in Titchfield wanted to freshen up the first impression on entering the historic village of Titchfield. The old entry signs were a bit battered and did not do the historic village any justice. The first challenge was how to best summarise Titchfield as a historic village, so in 2017 Sean Searight took the lead in chairing a team of local enthusiasts who decided an emblem was the best way to pack the key historic places and moments into a colourful emblem.  Designs started over some beers in the Queens Head pub and became more colourful as the evenings progressed! 

The design was finally completed in 2018 and was then presented through consultation processes at village fetes and other media channels. Once endorsement had been secured earlier this year, it was agreed that the signs should be up and ready for July’s Village in Bloom Competition. Look out for the new fresh signs as you drive through: Saint Margaret’s Lane, East Street and Posbrook Lane. Many thanks must go to those locals who helped to organise the purchase and fitting of the new entry signs: Mark Rowe, Kevin Fraser, Phil Burner and Joe Folland (from the Traffic Department in Hampshire Highways). 

More recently residents have proudly raised their emblem in the form of banners, flags and bunting erected in their Christmas tree stands and across the frontages of their homes and businesses. Saint Peters church started the celebrations off on Saturday 13 July with emblem bunting fluttering across the entrance for a wonderful wedding! The village emblem colours are out in force complimenting the wonderful flowers planted by enthusiastic locals ready for an amazing Village in Bloom in July. 

Speakers for the coming season

Speakers for the 2019 – 2020 programme have now been confirmed.

Dates and speakers are:

September 17th 2019

Wig, Powder & Windows ~ Phoebe Merrick

October 15th

Mills & Milling ~ Martin Gregory

November 19th

Harlots, Dung & Glory Pt II ~ Andrew Negus

December 17th

George Watts Memorial Lecture ~The Restoration of the Market Hall 

January 21st 2020

William Cobbett ~ Richard Aldous

February 18th

Slavery ~ Amanda Richardson

March 17th

History of Coinage ~ Dave Walton

April 21st

Strangers & Aliens ~ Cheryl Butler


Following a visit to Titchfield by the Bishops Waltham Society earlier this year, members of the History Society were invited to a reciprocal visit to The Palace at Bishops Waltham for a Summer picnic.  We gathered in the magnificent grounds for our picnic, where we dodged an early shower and went on to enjoy a tour of the museum and Palace buildings.  Our historical knowledge of Hampshire was also tested with a quiz which we enjoyed, and I believe we did not disgrace ourselves.  We are hoping to build on this relationship as both places have so much in common.



St Cross Hospital
Living quarter for the hospital residents, 13 places created in the 12th century and a further 12 in the 15th century.

It was the hottest day of the year for our outing this year, luckily, we had chosen to visit venues which were mainly indoors. 

Our morning took us to the Hospital of St Cross in Winchester, which was founded by Henry de Blois.  After morning refreshments of coffee and homemade cakes we were given a tour by one on the brothers.  This took us into their beautiful gardens, their magnificent private chapel, the ancient medieval hall and old kitchen after which we received the Wayfarers Dole of bread and ale.  Apparently if you are over 60 have no criminal record and do not own a property you can apply for residence in these beautiful surroundings. I believe the only other stipulation is that you attend church on a Sunday, what is there not to like?

Brother John introduces the hospital.
The hospital kitchen
Lily pond in the hospital garden.

Off to the local pub for lunch, back on the coach and a short journey around to Winchester College.  Again, a guided tour was given, although some parts were out of bounds due to works being carried out.  By this time, we were hot and tired, so back on the coach for a short journey home.  A thoroughly enjoyable and interesting day.

Marilyn Wilton Smith