Daylight Robbery

In the 1690s English monarch William III was short of money, which he attempted to rectify by the introduction of a Window Tax. As the name suggests, this was a tax levied on the windows of a property. The upper classes, having the largest houses, paid the most. Some wealthy individuals used their ability to pay as a mark of status and demonstrated their wealth by ostentatiouslybuilding homes with many windows.

However, people generally went to great pains to avoid paying the tax and many windows were bricked up for that very reason.

Irish cottagers used their own unique and innovative approach to avoid paying the tax by using the half-door. It was possible to leave the bottom half closed, thus keeping children in and chickens and other animals out; while leaving the top half open thus maximizing the amount of light coming in. Because the light coming through was from a door, rather than a window, they avoided paying the tax, and in the process became daylight robbers!

Photo: Cong, Co Mayo, credit: Frank Fullard

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