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Quit Rents are payments made by tenants to their Lord to excuse them from the customary manor services.
Under feudal law, the payment of quit rent freed the tenant of a holding (such as those in the High Street and Bridge Street) from the obligation to perform such other services as were obligatory under feudal tenure, or freed the occupier of the land from the burden of having others use their own distinct rights that affected the land (e.g., hunting rights which would have impaired farming).
As such, it was a rental of distinct things that were not parcelled up in the ownership of the land itself, although connected with the full enjoyment of the land, and formally it was a sort of buy back rather than a tax. Where a true tax can be varied by the taxer, and must be paid on pain of penalties that can be varied by the taxer without formal limit, the only sanction for not paying a feudal quit rent was that the alternative burdens would return - which imposed a ceiling on how much could be demanded in payment of a quit rent in practice. Where the sanctions for non-compliance are limited in this way, a quit rent is a rent in fact as well as in form and name, and not a tax.
In Hungerford, the Quit Rent Rolls are extant covering a great span of time. Many of these have now been transcribed, and are available on-line. The Quit Rent records are largely recorded in the same sequence from roll to roll, and along with the almost unchanging value of the actual rent, normally 8d for a full burgage plot, 4d for a half-width plot and so on, they have greatly helped our investigation of the early owners and tenants of key properties in the High Street and Bridge Street.
The original rolls are available at the Berkshire Record Office (1676 H/FR1; others MF/152)
Transcriptions of Quit Rent Rolls are available (as pdf) for the following years:
The 1932 Quit Rent is particularly interesting, as it included historical information on past owners.