Calendar Reform in England, 1752

It is widely known that in September 1752, Great Britain switched from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar. In order to achieve the change, 11 days were 'omitted' from the calendar - i.e. the day after 2 September 1752 was 14 September 1752.

This change was as a result of an Act of Parliament - the "Calendar Act" of 1751 An Act for Regulating the Commencement of the Year; and for Correcting the Calendar now in Use.

What isn't so widely known is a second change which the Act introduced - as named in the first part of the Act's title. The Act changed the first day of the year (or, if you want to impress your friends with a new word, the Supputation of the Year).

Prior to 1752 in England, the year began on 25 March (Lady Day). Lady Day is one of the Quarter Days, which are still used in legal circles. The Quarter Days divide the year in quarters (hence the name :-), and the Quarter Days are: Lady Day (25 March), Midsummers Day (24 June), Michaelmas Day (29 September), and Christmas Day (25 December).

So, in England, the day after 24 March 1642 was 25 March 1643. The Act changed this, so that the day after 31 December 1751 was 1 January 1752. As a consequence, 1751 was a short year - it ran only from 25 March to 31 December.
To throw some more confusion on the issue, Scotland had changed the first day of the year to 1 January in 1600 (in 1600, Scotland was a separate kingdom). When King James VI of Scotland became also King James I of England in 1603, the possibilities of date confusion must have been very large.

Historians have to be on their toes with dates prior to 1752. For example, in The Tower of London there is some graffiti scratched into a cell wall by someone imprisoned in January 1642 for his role in the Battle of Edgehill (which took place on 23 October 1642).

Some unanswered questions

Leap Years in the Julian Calendar

In the Julian Calendar, leap years occurred every 4 years, and in leap years the 29 February was added.

But remember that 29 February was in the last quarter of the year by the old reckoning.

It appears that leap years were those where the year number was one less than an exact multiple of 4! The House of Commons Journal for Wednesday, February 29th, 1659 would seem to bear this out - remembering that this date is otherwise expressed as 29 February 1659/60, and appears in Samuel Pepys's diary as 29 February 1660 (just to add to the confusion).
House of Commons Journal for Thursday, 29 February 1643 (otherwise 29 February 1643/4) and House of Commons Journal for Tuesday, 29 February 1647 (otherwise 29 February 1647/8) confirm this, although note the Latin form of the dates which was presumably dropped in the Commonwealth/Protectorate.

The Tax Year

Lady Day was one of the days when rents were traditionally due. In fact, this practice must have continued will beyond the 18th century as I've seen paintings of large meals for farm workers on Lady Day. Taxes were also due on Lady Day. With the 'loss' of 11 days in September 1752 and the stories of riots on the street, people weren't impressed with having to pay their taxes in March 1753 like nothing had happened (in fact, as 25 March 1753 was a Sunday the taxes were due on Monday 26 March 1753 ) - so the taxman skipped the 11 days and decreed that taxes were due on 6 April 1753. And, to this day, the UK tax year starts on 6 April.
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