HM Excise

The Excise Office, Broad Street, London: headquarters of the Excise from 1769-1852 (pictured in 1810).

His or Her Majesty's Excise refers to 'inland' duties levied on articles at the time of their manufacture. Excise duty was first raised in England in 1643. Like HM Customs (a far older branch of the revenue services), the Excise was administered by a Board of Commissioners who were accountable to the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury. While 'HM Revenue of Excise' was a phrase used in early legislation to refer to this form of duty, the body tasked with its collection and general administration was usually known as the Excise Office.

In 1849 the Board of Excise was merged with the Board of Stamps and Taxes to form a new department: the Inland Revenue. Sixty years later the Excise department was demerged from the Inland Revenue and amalgamated with HM Customs to form HM Customs and Excise (which was itself amalgamated with the Inland Revenue in 2005 to create HM Revenue and Customs).[1]


Wadsworth Brewery: office provided for the use of HM Customs and Excise, such as every brewery was obliged to provide up until 1994.

Following the example of HM Customs, the Board of Excise set up a network of administrative areas called 'Collections'. Unlike HM Customs, the Excise operated inland as well as on the coast: initially it had 39 Collections in England (mostly corresponding with the English Counties) and 4 in Wales; later its remit was extended to cover Scotland and Ireland as well. Each Excise Collector was required to tour his Collection eight times a year, visiting each Market Town in turn in order to hold 'sittings' and receive revenue payments. In the intervening time, locally-based Excise Officers (known as gaugers) would make regular visits to the manufacturers and retailers in order to assess the duty payable on relevant items and to issue 'vouchers' summarizing the duty owed.[2]

This pattern of work remained the norm through the 18th and 19th centuries. In the 1820s, an excise officer wrote a detailed description of his daily routine, spent visiting a series of different manufacturers and retailers: chandlers, brewers, innkeepers, tanners, maltsters, distillers and tea and tobacco merchants (with substantial amounts of administrative work to be done in the intervening moments). The excise officer carried various specialist items of equipment for testing and measuring different dutiable products; for example the Sikes hydrometer (invented by an officer of Excise, Benjamin Sikes, in the 18th century and used by Excise officers from 1816 until 1980 for measuring the alcohol proof of spirits).


Initially, in 1643, the Excise Office had a headquarters in Broad Street in the City of London. Thereafter, as it expanded, it leased successively larger properties in and around the City; the Office returned to Broad Street in the 1670s but moved out again in the early 1700s, only to return once more (to a new purpose-built headquarters) in 1769. The Excise remained there until 1852, when its staff moved to join the other departments of the newly-formed Inland Revenue in Somerset House.[2]

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