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Loseley and the lottery

The Loseley manuscripts contain records relating to Elizabeth I's Lottery, as Sir William More was treasurer in Surrey for the money raised. Sixteenth century warfare was a hugely costly undertaking demanding large armies and new weapons. Elizabeth I's government was in constant need of money, either through taxes voted by a (frequently grudging) Parliament or through loans from those deemed to be wealthy.

One of the most famous expedients for raising money was the lottery of 1567, intended to raise money for the 'reparation of the havens and strength of the Realm and towards further public works'. 400,000 tickets were available at 10s each from 24 August 1567. Syndicates were encouraged and all subscribers were supposed to submit mottos or 'poesies'. Prizes comprised money, plate or merchandise (the minimum prize was 2s 6d).

Sir William More was appointed treasurer for the money raised in Surrey but it appears to have been a somewhat thankless task. More's correspondence refers to the collection of monies in the eastern part of the county being 'very slender', even though the date of the launch of the lottery was brought forward by Elizabeth from February 1568 to November 1567, 'for the benefit of the realm and subjects of the same'. Far from spurring the officers responsible to greater efforts it was observed by the Queen's treasurers that 'we find such lack in you and some others as is sufficient to disappoint the Queen's Majesty of her said good meanings'. More was ordered to immediately deliver all books, writings and bills to Lottery House, Cheapside, and was warned 'Fail you not hereof as you tender herein the honour of the Queen's Majesty and will answer to the contrary at your peril'.

Although one William Hammond of Guildford wrote to More in 1568 to say he had received 'the first fruit' for the lottery of £85, people do not seem to have been convinced of the good faith of the government and suspected (probably rightly) that this was taxation by the back door. Increasingly heavy handed efforts were made to encourage subscribers and the Council attributed popular reluctance to the 'negligence' of those appointed to oversee the lottery and to the 'sinister dissuasions of some not well disposed persons'. The prizes were finally drawn in February 1569 but the experiment was not repeated in Elizabeth's reign.

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