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This Sceptred Isle

Window Taxes & Highway Robbery
At the start of the 1700s the Government was taking £4.3million a year in taxes. By the end of the century it was nearly £32million. National Debt was rising. In 1700 it was about £14million by the end of George III's first decade, it was £129million. By the end of the century it would be £456million. The interest alone was £9million a year and taxation had doubled.

Highway robbery was widespread. A police force was desperately required though debated with suspicion. Henry Fielding, a magistrate working from Bow Street, organized freelance thief takers. These became known as Bow Street Runners and are the forerunners of the police force which was not formed until the early part of the 19th Century. Up until 1750 if the law needed enforcing soldiers had to be called.

Henry Fielding
Henry Fielding
HENRY FIELDING (1707-1754)

  • Magistrate, dramatist and novelist and popularly remembered as the author of The History Of Tom Jones, A Foundling and The Adventures Of Joseph Andrews And His Friend
  • A prolific writer of comedies and farces with a political edge
  • Helped provoke Walpole's Government into passing the 1737 licensing act
  • Produced his masterpiece Tom Jones in 1749
  • Political connections led to his appointment as a Westminster magistrate in 1748
  • Became chairman in 1749 and, with his brother John, helped set up the Bow Street Runners

did you know?
The Bow Street Runners investigated crimes and arrested offenders under Henry Fielding's direction. They were eventually integrated into the Metropolitan Police.


  • For and upon every dwelling house inhabited which now is, or hereafter shall be erected within that part of Great Britain called England, the yearly sum of two shillings.
  • And for every window or light, in every dwelling house within and throughout the whole kingdom of Great Britain, which shall contain ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, or fourteen windows or lights, the yearly sum of six pence for every window or light in such house.
  • And for every window or light, in every dwelling house as aforesaid, which shall contain fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, or nineteen windows or lights, the yearly sum of nine pence for each window or light in such house.
  • And for every window or light, in every such dwelling house as aforesaid, which shall contain twenty windows or lights and upwards, the yearly sum of one shilling for each window or light in such house as aforesaid.
  • The said rates and duties shall be paid quarterly, at the four most usual feasts or days of payment in the year; that is to say, the feasts of nativity of Saint John the Baptist, Saint Michael the Archangel, the birth of our Lord Christ, the annunciation of the blessed Virgin Mary, by even and equal portions.
Select historical period

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1756 Pitt the Elder becomes Secretary at War
Seven Years' War starts
Black Hole of Calcutta
1757Militia Act
Calcutta recaptured
1760 George II dies
George III becomes king
Wolfe dies at Quebec
1761Pitt the Elder falls from power
1762Newcastle resigns
Bute becomes Prime Minister
1763 Bute resigns
Grenville becomes Prime Minister
1765 Rockingham becomes Prime Minister
Hargreaves invents the spinning jenny
1766Grafton becomes nominal Prime Minister
1768 Royal Academy of Arts founded
1769 Captain Cook lands at Tahiti
1770 Lord North becomes Prime Minister

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