Friday, August 27, 2010

Daylight Robbery


In Melbourne recently, I heard a story about the origins of the term daylight robbery. During the 17th and 18th centuries in Britain, households were taxed based on the number of windows their house contained. As richer people were more likely to live in larger houses with a greater number of windows, it was introduced as an early method of progressive taxation. In times past, it was seen as an invasion of privacy for income to be declared.

To reduce their tax, some families embarked on enclosing some of their windows by bricking or sealing over some of the window spaces (such as the photographed examples in Derbyshire). Protesters claimed it the technique to be a tax on daylight; hence daylight robbery.

So next time you protest at an airline's surcharges or hotel's room rate, you are probably utilising a term borne of an old tax system.

9 comments:

planetgermany said...

Ah yes, the window tax of 1697... I grew up in Derbyshire and there are many old houses with bricked up windows.

Daylight robbery indeed!

Heather on her travels said...

If you look at many Georgian houses in the UK you'll see they've got some of their windows bricked up for this reason - it never occurred to me that it was where the term daylight robbery came from though

Marina K. Villatoro said...

How interesting, I had never heard of that. It’s good to learn a fun fact like that.

Heather Dugan (Footsteps) said...

Interesting! That's the first I've heard the term origin explained. It was kind of like paying extra for "oceanview"(if "oceanview" were any view at all!), I guess.

Barbara Weibel said...

Fascinating bit of trivia! It always amazes me the stories behind those old sayings that we take for granted.

Mark H said...

@planetgermany: I saw others in Southampton but never heard the story until recently.

@heather: I love the origin of the term.

@marina: It is a good origin.

Mark H said...

@heather: I don't think people cared about ocean views until recently.

@barbara: A good guide can add well with such stories.

Anonymous said...

Just traveling in Ireland and i have come across this term twice, once on a tour of the cliffs of Moher and The Burren where we passed some houses with no windows and our tour driver mentioned this and then again on a walking tour in Dublin, where the large Bank of Ireland building which use to be the house of parliament in the 1700's have no windows for this very reason.

Mark H said...

@anonymous: Amazing to see it in a building like the Houses of Parliament - you'd think they could afford their taxes...

 
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