1664, Francis Roper asks for a warrant to collect the poll tax for Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire

Transcription from ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1660s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, Francis Roper, esquire. SP 29/91 f. 13 (1664).

To the Kings most excellent majestie

The humble peticion of Francis Roper esquier

Sheweth that your peticioner is credibly informed, that there is due and oweing to your majestie for pole money the somme of 200 and odd poundes, by John Jenkins esquier late sheriffe of the countyes of Cambridge and Hunttington.

Your peticioner therefore humbly prayes your majestie wilbee gratiously pleased to graunt to your peticioner a warrant for a privy seale for receiveing of the said monyes due by the said late sheriffe.

And your peticioner shall ever pray.

Report by Judy Warner

In this petition, Francis Roper esquire asked to be granted a warrant under the Privy Seal to collect some £200 of poll tax which had been collected by John Jenkinson, Sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire.


In 1660 a poll tax was levied with the express intention that the money raised would be used to defray the expenses of disbanding the New Model Army, for instance the payment of due wages. The New Model Army was the army of the Commonwealth and was officially disbanded in 1661. Two of its regiments were in fact incorporated into the army of Charles II as regiments of Foot Guards and Horse Guards. Other demobilised soldiers were sent to Portugal to support the Portuguese Restoration War in which Portugal was fighting for its independence from Spain.[1] It is therefore unclear what the costs of the disbandment were.

The poll tax was a tax that had been used to help fund wars and was based on the amount of movable property an individual owned. First used in the 13th century, it was used again in the 14thcentury and then again in the 17th century.

The 1660 poll tax was set at the following rates: Dukes £100, Earls £60, Knights £20, Esquires £10. In addition, eldest sons paid two thirds of their father’s rate, and widows one third of their husband’s rate. Members of Livery Companies were charged according to the rank of the company. Professions had their own rates: Physicians £10, Judges £20, Advocates £5 and Attorneys £3. Anyone who owned property paid 40 shillings per £100 earned (2%). Anyone over 16 who was unmarried paid 12d and anyone else over 16 paid 6d. From this, one can see that the tax was weighted against the wealthier members of society and as such was not an unpopular tax amongst the population as a whole. However, it was apparently inefficiently collected and thus tended to bring in far less revenue than expected. This led to its abandonment at the end of the 17th century.[2]

The Petition

The inefficiency of the collection could lie behind this petition, or it could be that the sheriff in question had not paid the money over for other reasons. Sheriffs held office for a year only. In Cambridgeshire in 1658 a John Jenkinson held the office.[3] Uniquely, the adjacent counties of Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire and the Isle of Ely appointed a sheriff in rotation from each county to act for all three counties at a time. Puzzlingly therefore Jenkinson was not sheriff at the time of the poll tax. The sum of £200 is a considerable amount and must represent money collected from a number of people.

The position of Francis Roper in the matter is unclear as records are scant. His (possible) wife Anne Roper is recorded as receiving in 1679-80 a sum of £2,000 from the Privy Seal as a royal bounty “without account”.[4] From this, one could surmise that the Ropers were well connected to the court. A Francis Roper is recorded in 1686-90 as a B.D. and he is recorded as performing religious duties in church, but by 1690 he is also recorded as being deprived as a juror, which meant he had been unwilling to take an oath of allegiance as a member of the Church of England to William and Mary, though this may well be another Francis Roper altogether.[5]


[1]  ‘The New Model Army’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Model_Army

[2] ‘History of the Poll tax’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poll_tax

[3] ‘Sheriff of Cambridgeshire’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheriff_of_Cambridgeshire_and_Huntingdonshire.

[4] ‘Entry Book: September 1683’, in Calendar of Treasury Books, Volume 7, 1681-1685, ed. William A Shaw (London, 1916), pp. 909-920. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-treasury-books/vol7/pp909-920.

[5] ‘Canons: Sixth prebend’, in Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541-1857: Volume 7, Ely, Norwich, Westminster and Worcester Dioceses, ed. Joyce M Horn (London, 1992), pp. 24-25. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/fasti-ecclesiae/1541-1847/vol7/pp24-25.

This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reign of Charles II, 1660-1685’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.