History of the City of London coal duties

Government duty


The ecclesiastical portion of the duties (1s. 6d. per ton or chaldron) was extended to 1700 by an Act of 1685 and devoted to the rebuilding of St. Paul's. An Act of 1696 extended the duty until 1700 but reduced it to 12d. and provided for some of the money to be used to pay for the rebuilding of Westminster Abbey and Greenwich Hospital. An Act of 1702 increased the duty to 3s.

In the eighteenth century the 3s. duty was extended by various acts to pay for the construction of new churches in London. An Act of 1710 extended the duty to 1724 and set up a Commission for Building Fifty New Churches. An Act of 1714 extended the duties to 1725. Acts of 1711, 1712 and two in 1717 applied the duties to the building or rebuilding of a number of specific churches: St Mary, Woolnoth, St Mary le Strand, St Michael, Cornhill, and St Giles in the Fields. Considerably fewer than the fifty churches originally envisaged were actually constructed, but these include masterpieces by Hawksmoor and others (See Colvin's article "Fifty new churches").

In 1718 an Act converted the duty was into a general government duty, though some money continued to be used for new churches, for example for the rector of Christchurch, Spitalfields under an Act of 1728, and the rebuilding of Gravesend church under an Act of 1730. The 1718 Act extended the duty till 1751, but an Act of the next year made it perpetual.

From 1695 onwards additional customs duties were levied on coal traded coastwise between ports in Britain, mainly to finance wars. In London these were in addition to the existing government and City duties. In the late eighteenth and during the Napoleonic Wars they were increased several times and the government London duty (but not the City duties) was increased by the same percentages. The London duty and the national coastwise duty were later consolidated together so that there was in effect a national tax with a higher rate for London. These duties are described in detail in Bunning's An account of the duties on coal. Government duty on coal was abolished in 1831 by an Act to discontinue or alter the duties of customs upon coals.

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