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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Taxes, Lists, Business, Electoral and Insurance Records  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).


A licence was required by many of our ancestors in order to conduct their business or trade, and two kinds of records were usually kept:

w A register of licences issued with names, dates, any fees paid, any oaths or agreements signed, and perhaps occupations and addresses.
w Paper licences issued to the applicant. These are less likely to have survived.

Some of these licences are listed examples transcribed below.
Chart: Licenses
Alehouses 1552 
Appraisers Abolished 1949
Auctioneers Abolished 1949
Badgers, Higglers & Hucksters 1552-1772
Barges 1795-1871
Butchers 17th century
Carriages c 1868 until at least 1875
Corn (wheat) dealers
Dissenters Meeting Houses 1688 
Game Duty During the period 1784 to 1807 all persons qualified to kill or sell game had to register with the Clerk of the Peace, where they paid a fee for a certificate to do so. Deputed gamekeepers paid £1.5.0 and all others £3.13.6. Anyone killing game without a certificate was fined £20).
House agents Abolished 1949
Licensed Victuallers 1752-1828, 1871 A victualler is one who provides food or provisions, whilst a licensed victualler is one who possesses a license to provide alcoholic beverages. The publican would appear annually to renew his license and signed a recognizance to keep an orderly house and not allow whatever games were illegal at the time (see chart 45).
Licences to Pass Beyond the Seas An early form of passport issued from late 16th century until 1677
Literary & Scientific Societies 1799 
Lying-In Hospitals 1773 
Midwives 1530s 
Music & Dancing Establishments
Physicians & Surgeons 1530s
Plate dealers Abolished 1949
Printing Presses 1799-1869
Racecourses 1879 
Retail Liquor Excise Licenses 1957-1967
Schoolmasters 1530s 
Slaughterhouses 1786 

Chart: Register of Ale House Licences 1828 Harlow Hundred, Essex (Markwell & Saul)
Latton Thomas Tarling Bull & Horse Shoes James Smith
Matching Elizabeth Foster Fox John Church
Metterwell Jonathan Palmer
John Trimmer Greyhound
Chequers John Hutchin
James Clark
Parndon, Great Thomas Markwell Three Horse Shoes Isaac Collins
Roydon Town William Rodwell
Thomas Vines White Hart
New Inn Thomas Pavely
Matthew Roe
Sheering James Bright
William Smith Crown Cock Thomas Chapman
Charles Threader
Thornwood Hamlet Philip Law Blacksmiths Arms Makepeace Freshwater

Chart: Licensed Badgers & Hucksters from Michaelma Quater Sessions 1759 Canterbury, Kent
The like Licence to John SCOT of Milsted Labourer
The like Licence to Peter BANN of Linsted Labourer
The like Licence to James BEDWELL of Borden Labourer
The like Licence to Elizabeth DAWSON of Bapchild Widow

Chart: Registration of a Barge 1795 Cheshire (Markwell & Saul)
I, Wm Worthington of Northwich in the County of Chester, being the owner of the flats here undermentioned do hereby require the Clerk of the Peace of the County of Chester, or his deputy, to register the same and to grant certificates thereof, pursuant to an Act of Parliament passed in the 35th year of the reign of his present Majesty King George the Third intituled An Act for requiring all Boats, Barges and other Vessels, of certain descriptions used on navigable rivers, and on Inland Navigations in Great Britain to be registered.
Name & Sort of Vessel Burthen by Admeasurement Master’s Name Number of men employed Capacities
The Ann Flat 51 ¾ tons James Vernon, Northwich One Master assistant
The Willy Flat 56 ¾ tons Jno Vernon of Northwich One Master assistant
And I do declare that the line and extent of the Navigation which the said Flats have been usually navigated upon is from Northwich to Liverpool extending Thirty Miles, from Liverpool to Ravenhead extending Thirty two Miles, and from Ravenhead to Northwich extending Thirty Miles, or Thereabouts.
Dated this 31st Day of August 1795.
For Wm Worthington
Rd Oldham

Chart: Carriage Licence 1875 (Illustrated in Wood 2004)
[Royal Coat of Arms] No 333-3
32 & 33 Vict., cap. 14
No 850 Salisbury Collection
Marlboro’ Div. or Ride
Mr. John Fall of Burbage Wharf in the parish of Burbage in the County of Wilts is hereby authorized to keep ONE CARRIAGE with less than four wheels only, or if with four or more wheels, of less weight than four hundred-weight, from the day of the date hereof until the 31st day of December next following; he having paid the sum of FIFTEEN SHILLINGS for this Licence.
Date at Marlboro’ this 27 day of Jany 1875.
Granted by Thomas Brissell

Chart: Corndealer’s Licence 1813
I, Richard Bradfeld [sic] of Abingdon in the County of Berks, miller do hereby declare, that the Returns of the Quantities and Prices of Wheat and Wheat Flour bought or sold by me, which I shall hereafter make, shall, to the best of my knowledge and belief, be true and just, and, to the best of my judgment, conformable to the directions of an Act passed in the fifty-third year of the reign of King George the Third, intituled. “An Act to alter and amend two Acts of the thirty-first year of King George the Second, and the thirteenth year of his present Majesty, so far as relates to the Price and Assize of Bread to be sold out of the City of London, and the Liberties thereof, and beyond the weekly Bills of Mortality and Ten Miles of the Royal Exchange.”
Dated the 26th day of August in the year of our Lord 1813.
[signed] Rich Bradfield
I certify to the Town Clerk of the Borough of Abingdon that the above Declaration was made and signed before me by the above names Richard Bradfield the day and year above mentioned.
[signed] W. Wright (?)

Chart: Licensed Victualler’s Recognizance 1821 (Film 88,184)
[Royal Coat of Arms]
Borough of Abingdon to wit:
Be it recognized, That on the Twenty Eighth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one Thousand Eight Hundred and twenty one, Jonathan Britten of the Parish of Saint Helen, James Leverett of the Parish of Saint Nicholas and William Staniland of the Parish of Saint Helen personally came before Us, three of His Majesty’s Justices of the Peace in and for the said Borough and severally acknowledge to owe our Sovereign Lord the King by the said Jonathan Britten the sum of Ten Pounds, and the said James leveret and William Staniland the sum of five POUNDS apiece, to be levied on their several Goods and Chattels, Lands and Tenements, by Way of Recognizance to the Use of His Majesty, his Heirs and Successors.
UPON CONDITION, that whereas the above-named Jonathan Britten is this Day authorized to keep a common Ale-house or Victualling-house , at the sign of the Lord Nelson in the Parish of Saint Helen aforesaid, for the Term of One Year only, from the Twenty-ninth Day of September Instant.
If therefore he shall keep good Order and Government, and suffer no Disorder to be committed, or unlawful Games used, in his said House, Yards, Gardens, or Backsides thereto belonging, during the Continuance of the said License, hen this Recognizance to be void, or else to remain in full Force and Virtue. [signed] W. Wright (?)
Jas Cole
Geo: Shepherd

Early records, such as the licences required by midwives, schoolmasters, physicians and surgeons after the Reformation, may be found in diocesan archives. Others were issued by local authorities such as boroughs or county quarter sessions and will be found with their records. A few were nationally administered, such as the licences to pass beyond the seas and surviving records will be at TNA. Many are filmed, particularly in collections of local material, so a detailed search of the FHLC for contents of each film for your area at parish and county levels will be fruitful.

Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Taxes, Lists, Business, Electoral and Insurance Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.