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A Case of Tax Avoidance in Churchill: The story of the abandoned village of Churchill (2021)

Curated by local historian, Christine Gowing

A new exhibition curated by local historian, Christine Gowing

There is nothing new. The hearth tax imposed in 1662 by Charles II’s government (always short of funds) put pressure on the villagers of Churchill, just as taxation vexes us now. But for one woman in 1684, the temptation to avoid the tax in order to light her fire to bake bread became just too strong.

At some stage she had made a funnel to join chimneys with that of her neighbour and on Wednesday 30th July 1684, she was found out when her house was set ablaze and fire spread throughout the village. It resulted in the loss of four Churchill lives and twenty dwellings. And the event led to the creation of the village we now know - with the rebuilding of stone houses at the top of the hill.

The exhibition revealed what happened to the serial tax evader (this was not her first offence) and how the local communities at the time reacted and supported the ravaged village of Churchill.

From Our Guest Book

  • "A fascinating visit. William Smith was a wonderful man! "

  • "Beautiful setting, very peaceful & informative"

  • "A little gem I didn't know existed."

  • "Such a wonderful enterprise. The locality should be proud of it."

  • "Very good new interactive displays, very comprehensive."

  • "Excellent to have this centre as a focus for Churchill's history - especially in relation to William Smith."

  • "Fantastic, absolutely first class. Most interesting and informative."

  • "Lovely spot, so grateful this part of the old church was saved."

  • "A fine chance discovery"

  • "A fascinating display in a very beautiful setting."

  • "Beautiful restoration, very nicely done! Unexpected hive of information."

  • "Why haven't we been here earlier? We shall certainly return!"

  • "Great building, well restored. Charming!"

  • "What a lovely treat to stumble upon. Thank you for preserving a part of our Heritage"

  • "Congratulations to all on this initiative.  So well-organised and user-friendly."