What’s In A Name? Daylight Robbery

Photo of bricked up windows in York to avoid the window tax (Photo Credit: Laura Waldie)

Photo of bricked up windows in York to avoid the window tax (Photo Credit: Laura Waldie)

Have you ever wondered where certain phrases come from that we use literally for granted today? Today’s installment is of “What’s In A Name” is: Daylight Robbery!

The term Daylight Robbery does have a specific meaning that dates back to England during the reign of William III (1689-1702). Under William III’s rule, a flat tax rate per household was imposed, plus an additional tax per window above 10 windows, regardless of house size. Over the years, the flat rate was changed to a variable rate, depending upon house value over the years. Some people could not simply afford the tax due to a number of reasons or personal hardships. As a result, many people “bricked up” their windows. A number of houses all over England stand as examples to the opposition of the window tax. People called it the “light and air tax” and argued that because they could not afford to keep some of their windows, they viewed the government as stealing their daylight. By the 1730s, the phrase became universally became known as “Daylight Robbery”. It now refers to someone who is overcharged for something so basic and necessary. The window tax was finally abolished by the late nineteenth century. The above photo, taken in York, North Yorkshire, shows a example of bricked up windows to avoid the window tax.

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