A Taxing issue for Sir Nigel

Sir Nigel Bowyer Gresley (1753-1808) was similar to many a rich or powerful person in the modern era – he got into trouble with the Tax Man. In 1800, he was accused by the Board of Taxes of entering a false tax return for the year April 1798- April 1799.

The above tax return relates to a tax on male servants, horses, dogs and carriages. Now it seems very odd for servants to be listed almost as objects themselves who can be taxed. The tax covered only male servants deemed as ‘luxury’, such as gamekeepers and butlers.

Nigel Bowyer Gresley was accused of not including three or four servants on this tax return, including his butler of many years service. Despite his claims that these servants no longer lived or were employed at his ancestral home of Drakelowe Hall, he was found guilty. This meant he had to pay £50 per undisclosed item. The fine eventually amounted to around £250-300. Thankfully, his daughters, Wilmot Maria and Emma Sophia, appear to have been better with their money, as can be seen in their marriage settlements and further documents that show they brought up tithes for grain.

For more information on the court case for incorrect tax returns please visit the Derbyshire Record Office quoting the reference number D770/C/EZ/169-184. The marriage settlements are also to be found at the Record Office with the references D3155/7166 and D3155/7167. Estate and personal papers of Sir Nigel can also be found upon request. Alternatively, feel free to come and visit us at the Measham Car Boot (postcode DE12 7HA) on Sunday the 25th of June between 8 am and 1pm, where we will be ‘popping up’ with these and other items from the Record Office’s collections.

Danielle Burton, University of Derby Intern for the Amazing Pop Up Archives Project.


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