Edinburgh Housemails Taxation Book, 1634-1636

Aaron Allen (Editor), Cathryn Spence (Editor)

Research output: Book/ReportScholarly edition


The Edinburgh Housemails Taxation Book, 1634-6, is a unique record, offering unprecedented insight into the fabric of a seventeenth-century European capital city. This one-off tax on house rent, or ‘mail’, was intended to pay the stipends for Edinburgh’s ministers. At the request of Charles I, full power and commission was given, ‘for passing through the whole city and trying of what mail every tenement, dwelling house, low tavern, cellar or chamber.’ An inventory was taken, which survives in manuscript form in the Edinburgh City Archives, though it seems the tax was never actually collected. While the housemails tax may have been a failure in terms of municipal fund-raising, it left an incredibly detailed record of the socio-economic and political structures of the Scottish capital.
Recording landlords, tenants, rental and annuity for over 900 businesses and 3,900 houses, the record enables us to reconstruct the topographies of Edinburgh down to house-by-house level. Whilst Cardinal Beaton’s Lodgings, or the Pudding Market, no longer survive, details from the tax record shed important light on these missing structures and enable us to interpret surviving buildings, such as Mary King’s Close, or Gladstone’s Land. Now published in its entirety for the first time, this valuable record gives us an exceptional view of an early modern capital, illuminating those sections of society so often hidden from history, and giving us a rare window into the people and property of Edinburgh on the eve of revolution.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationWoodbridge
PublisherScottish History Society
Number of pages628
ISBN (Print)978-0-906245-39-2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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