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Occupation - ExciseI hope the following information will help anyone who finds their ancestor worked in Excise.
What did the Excise Service do?The Customs and Excise Service was formerly two separate bodies until merger in 1909. The Excise Office was responsible for collecting duty on goods manufactured or processed in the UK (whereas the Customs Office was responsible for collecting duty on imported goods).
An 1813 an Instruction was sent from the Excise Office, London (CUST 43/7) describing changes in excise duty. This gives a snapshot of what Excise work involved at the time:
Excise Officers were based around the whole of the UK and there was also a Head or Chief Office on Old Broad Street, London. There are images of the interior and exterior of the Head Office on the Internet.
Sources used to prepare this web pageThis page has been prepared from
Structure of the Excise Service (1840 and 1852)The service had a hierarchical structure, starting at the top:
Getting into the Excise Service
The Bateman books describe in detail what qualities a person needed to get an initial post and how to progress within the service.
In 1840: 'The first appointment of a person intended for the surveying department of the excise is called an Order for instructions. These orders are given on the nomination either of the Lords of the Treasury or of the commissioners of excise the patronage being divided between them.
The commissioners set apart a number of appointments for the sons of officers with very large families &c and the rest are disposed of by the individual commissioners'.
In 1840 a candidate had to be aged 19-30, and if married have no more than two children.
In 1852 a candidate had to be aged 19-25, unmarried and with 'no family' (ie no children).
In 1840 other qualities required of a candidate: ' healthy, active and free from debt, with a good knowledge of vulgar and decimal arithmetic. In 1852 he also needed 'a competent knowledge of double entry book keeping'.Top
Career path and salaries in 1852A candidate had to go through various examinations before being accepted into the service as an 'Expectant'. The following summary of the career path is taken from the 'Excise officers manual' .
Records at TNA - Royal KalendarThese annual volumes list people in senior public office, including the Excise Service. As they are available on the open shelves they can be quickly checked. They cover dates from the late 1700s to the current day. Most useful to those whose ancestors were in senior positions (eg Collector) or in a post in the Old Broad Street Excise Office, London.
Records at TNA - Excise Minute BooksTNA holds the Excise Minute Books (references starting CUST 47) which describe all changes in personnel in the Excise Service between 1695 and 1874 and so are invaluable to anyone with an ancestor who was an Excise officer. If minute books are searched for the whole career of an Excise man it should be possible to trace all the areas he lived in to carry out his duties and find out when he was promoted. Key points:
Sometimes a promotion required the Excise man to move a considerable distance and it must have taken weeks or months to arrange the move, particularly if a number of children were involved (not forgetting the horse!). Occasionally a plan to move an Excise man did not go ahead, due to a change of plan - this will appear in the minutes.
Where a Collector dies or retires, this can trigger a lot of personnel changes. Whether all the moves happened at once or whether they took place in top down sequence - I am not sure.
The Bateman books show an Examiner or Surveying General Examiner might be temporarily transferred from the Chief Office in London to provide cover at a country office and there will be a minute ordering this arrangement. Upon the return to work of the recovered officer from my experience there is generally not a minute describing the ending of the cover arrangement.Top
Example of Excise Minute Book EntryWilliam TODHUNTER, Collector of Surrey Collection, being through Age and Infirmities rendered incapable of performing the Duty of that Station, as appears by his Letter of the 2nd of June Ordered that he relinquish; that Nathan WOODROOFE, Collector of Wales Middle Collection, succeed him at his own Request and that John SYKES, Collector of Inverness Collection, Scotland, succeed WOODROOFE at his own request. (CUST 47/568 Minute dated Thursday 5th June 1828)
Records at TNA - Other Excise DocumentsThe CUST 43 series includes indexed instructions received from the Excise Office London at each District. For example Brentford District letters 1713-1863 are included in CUST 43/1 to 43/16. Only useful if your ancestor was in a senior post and signed letters. Quarterly salary lists, T 44/49. These appear to list quarterly salaries due to Excise men and provides names, grades and amounts, but (apparently) just for the London-based posts. It also includes a list of 'periodical augmentation of salary to officers who have worked more than 10 years in their respective offices'. It takes 15 - 20 minutes to look through the details for one quarter. Top
Records at local archivesYou may find a Sacrament Certificate for your ancestor at local archives dating from around the time he joined the Excise Service. These are witnessed certificates stating the individual had taken Holy Communion.
For example, there is a Sacrament Certificate dated 21 October 1810 at the Isle of Wight Archives for Abraham COTTON, who was 23 at the time, and who became an excise man shortly after. He married Elizabeth BONIFACE on 12 January 1811, shortly after starting in his first Excise position.
Online sources for Excise ancestorsGoogle Books includes full views of the Royal Kalendar for 1797, 1817 and 1866 and snippet views for 1818, 1840 and a few other years (search for 'Royal Kalendar' and a surname). (free)
Google Books contains two full view Excise Manuals by Joseph Bateman, which describes the service and career structure, details the entry requirements, training and examination processes - for 1840 and 1852. Search for ' "joseph bateman" excise '. (free)
Historical Directories (see Web links) includes trade directories from the early 1800s through to the 1910s. These can be searched by surname or 'Excise' using the keyword facility. (free)
London Gazette Archives (see Web links), searches are sophisticated, covers 1760s onwards. (free)
FindMyPast includes censuses, some of which can be searched by occupation.
Ancestry.co.uk includes trade directories and copies of The Times newspaper to 1835.Top
Page published August 2010