Nobody likes paying local taxes, but the fact that the system has been in operation for several centuries has one useful spin-off for anyone interested in local history – and that is the records that it generated. The rate books record at annual or six-monthly intervals the names of the owners and occupiers of each property and its rateable value.
Chiswick Library is fortunate enough to have an almost complete set from 1836 up to 1960. However, until now, there has been one big problem in using them: until 1928 (when typed entries and alphabetical order of streets was introduced) the streets were arranged in an order which probably made perfect sense to the rate collectors but which was a nightmare for researchers to find their way around. But this invaluable source of information has now been made accessible by the sustained efforts of two people in creating an annual street index.
The credit for beginning this mammoth task goes to John Gauss, whom some may remember working in the Reference Library in the 1970s. As the area grew, so the volumes increased in size (up to 20 by 27 inches!) and the last 100 volumes have been indexed by a member of this Society, Shirley Seaton, working in her spare time over a period of seven years. As well as street names, Shirley has also included house names, a unique and very useful record. So now with easy access to the volumes it is possible to find out when a house or street was first built, who lived there and whether they owned or rented the properties.
All future users of these volumes will be indebted to the work of these two indexers.
Brentford and Chiswick Local History Journal 10 (2001)