Two Tudor Subsidy Rolls for the City of London, 1541 and 1582. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1993.
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The documents published in this volume are the assessment rolls for the City of London of 1541, (fn. 1) for the second payment of a lay subsidy granted by parliament in 1540, (fn. 2) and of 1582, (fn. 3) for the second payment of a lay subsidy granted in 1581. (fn. 4) They are the earliest and latest of only six complete surviving assessments for the subsidy in Tudor London, the others being the assessments of 1547, 1549, 1564, and 1577. (fn. 5) These two documents give the names of 3,433 residents of London valued and assessed for the subsidy in 1541 and 5,900 in 1582, listed by ward and parish. They give the names of a further 652 aliens and denizens taxed per poll in 1541 and 1,358 in 1582; these were 'strangers' above a certain age whose wealth fell below the threshold for assessment. (fn. 6) The subsidy acts required valuation and assessment of companies as well as individuals, and 35 companies in 1541 and 40 in 1582 paid toward the subsidy in London. (fn. 7) Finally, in 1541, but not in 1582, the estates of orphans of citizens of London were liable to the subsidy. These orphans' estates were valued and assessed in a separate, single, city-wide assessment certificate that is included in this volume following the 1582 assessment roll.
The depth of the stratum of the population liable to assessment (other than strangers taxed per poll) and, therefore, the number of people and companies whose names appear in the subsidy rolls, was determined first of all by the exemption levels set in each subsidy act. These exemption levels varied from one Tudor subsidy to another up to 1563; thereafter they remained constant. The number of persons assessed depended secondly on the quality of the administration of the subsidy. There is much contemporary comment and circumstantial evidence to indicate that by the later sixteenth century the administration of the subsidy had become routine and negligent, two consequences of which were a progressive undervaluation of movables and income and a decline in the proportion of the population assessed for the subsidy (even at constant exemption levels).
Partial and fragmentary survival of the subsidy rolls, exemption levels that may provide a view of only a shallow, top stratum of society, and valuations of dubious reliability are obvious problems that anyone using these documents has to be concerned with. There are other less obvious problems. These records have a formal simplicity that can mislead. They do not always mean what they seem to tell us. But because they list large numbers of people in a way that seems to be meaningful and because of the scarcity of comparable sixteenth century records providing such broad and yet detailed and quantifiable data, the subsidy rolls will continue to have an enticing charm to historians of the social and economic structure of communities as well as to those who want to locate individuals in their social and economic milieu.
The purpose of this introduction is to assist scholars in the interpretation of these records of subsidy assessment for the City of London. The subsidy rolls are not records of collection, and collection will be considered only when it bears on the record of assessment. Questions of the subsidies' yield and the place of the subsidy in government finance are not treated.
The subsidy was a relatively new tax in 1541. The principal and normal form of parliamentary taxation from 1334 to the sixteenth century was the fifteenth and tenth. The crown and parliament developed and brought to maturity a new form of parliamentary subsidy in legislation of 1512–15 and 1523. (fn. 8) The 1512 act for a subsidy levied in 1513 (4 Hen. VIII c.19) was a graduated poll tax assessed on the basis of rank and wealth. It did, however, introduce several of the principles of the Tudor subsidy: an open yield; assessments on valuations of two distinct forms of wealth — movable goods and annual income— and then charging taxpayers according to whichever assessment yielded the most; and administration of assessment and collection by local commissions with supervisory powers over local assessors and collectors. The 1514 act (5 Hen. VIII c.17) for a subsidy to be levied in that year revived the principle of a directly assessed tax. Instead of a graduated poll tax as in 1513, the assessments for the 1514 levy were based directly on the valuations of individuals' wealth in goods and annual income. The 1514 act also provided, as subsequent subsidy statutes did, for the resolution of uncertainty that would arise if a person were assessed in more than one place; a certificate of assessment obtained from the commissioners in one place and presented to the commissioners in another would serve to exonerate that person from payment in the second place. If, however, of two or more assessments one was higher than the other(s), the person was liable to payment of the higher assessment. The crown and commons intended the 1514 tax to raise £160,000. The valuations and the rates set on them produced a yield that fell nearly £110,000 short. Parliament passed the first 1515 subsidy act (6 Hen. VIII c.26) to make up the shortfall and when that levy also failed, passed the second 1515 act (7 Hen. VIII c.9) for a subsidy and a fifteenth and tenth to be levied in 1516. The second subsidy act of 1515 removed overriding control of the administration of the subsidy that the acts of 1514 and the first of 1515 (and to a lesser extent the act of 1512) vested in the commons (or a committee of the commons) and royal officials, and placed control of the subsidy commissioners in the exchequer. The 1523 act (14 & 15 Hen. VIII c.16) introduced one last, fundamental feature of the subsidy, the separate assessment of peers and commons, by taking the assessment of peers out of the hands of the subsidy commissioners and putting it under the supervision of the lord chancellor and other senior officers of the crown. From 1512 to the death of Elizabeth parliament enacted 26 subsidy statutes providing for 58 separate payments, each based, ostensibly (except for the payment of 1516 under the second act of 1515) on fresh valuations and assessments. The Stuart parliaments passed nine subsidy acts, the last in 1663. (fn. 9) Parliament continued to grant fifteenths and tenths to the crown after the introduction of the subsidy (the last three were voted in 1624), but always, from 1512, in the company of one or more subsidies.
THE TERMS OF THE SUBSIDY ACTS
The assessment of every subsidy rested on a specific subsidy act. Most of the clauses of these exceptionally long statutes (around 15,000 words in their mature form) were drafted before the beginning of the parliamentary session in which a subsidy bill was introduced. The administrative sections of the bill were fashioned closely on previous statutes. Although some of the additions and deletions of administrative provisions in the subsidy acts of 1548 to 1563 were of considerable consequence, most of the differences between one subsidy act and another from 1515 to the end of Mary's reign are related to the exemption levels, tax rates, number of payments, and the timetable for valuation and collection. The Henrician and Edwardian acts show royal officials and parliaments shifting the exemption levels from one subsidy to the next, changing the rates, varying the ratios between rates applied to valuations of goods on the one hand and annual income on the other, experimenting with progressive rate structures (as in 1523, 1543, 1545, and 1553), and treating in various ways the liability to a poll tax of aliens and denizens not otherwise charged. This ad hoc approach to drafting the variable terms of a subsidy gave way in the acts of 1558 and later to the application of a fairly consistent view of what a 'subsidy' was. From the last subsidy act of Mary's reign (4 & 5 Phil. & Mar. c.11) to the last of Elizabeth's (43 Eliz. c.18) a subsidy normally was, in respect to rates, a tax on native subjects of 2s. 8d. in the £ on the value of goods and 4s. in the £ on annual income from lands, fees, etc., and a tax on aliens and denizens at double those rates. (fn. 10) The exemption levels or thresholds of liability were £5 (1558 and 1559) and then £3 (from 1563 on) in goods or £1 in income from lands, etc. for native subjects, and for aliens and denizens £1 in goods or £1 income. Aliens not otherwise liable were subject to a poll tax. (fn. 11) The subsidy could be levied in a single payment or it could be spread over two payments. The notion of a subsidy was so firm by the 1580s that neither declining levels of valuation nor huge expenditures on defence could alter it. When bigger tax revenues were needed they were not achieved by higher rates or lower exemption levels (nor by tighter administration of the subsidy acts), but by voting multiple subsidies. The subsidy in London did not become settled in the manner of the fifteenth and tenth, however; the nominal yield from the divisions of assessment and collection did not become fixed, nor did the obligation to pay the subsidy come to rest upon the community of the city, ward or parish.
The subsidy act of 1540
The subsidy act of 1540, under which the 1541 assessment certificates were drafted, followed the standard language of the Tudor subsidy statutes in levying a tax on 'everye person of what estate or degree he be of, according to the tenor of this Act'. (fn. 12) That is, peers, clergy, women, and children as such were not exempted from the lay subsidy; anyone who owned property, real (in lay fee) or personal, could be liable. While the assessments of peers are in separate rolls, spiritual persons who held lay fees of substantial income could appear in the lay subsidy rolls as well as in the clerical subsidy rolls produced under the concurrent acts of the convocations of Canterbury and York as confirmed by parliamentary statutes. How many clergy appear in the lay subsidy rolls as holders of real property by descent or purchase cannot be determined from the subsidy rolls and related documents alone, but there are certainly some as the subsidy acts anticipate there should be. (fn. 13) Only problem cases come to light. John Leyland, for example, was valued at £100 in goods in Cornhill Ward in 1541 (80) without any indication that he was a member of the clergy, rector of a parish church in Guisnes in the Marches of Calais and prebendary of Newington in the diocese of Salisbury. It is only because of his successful suit to the barons of the exchequer for disallowance of the assessment of 50s. in London that we know of his clerical status and spiritual promotions. His discharge rested, apparently, on the argument that his benefices were subject to the clerical disme, subject also, therefore, to the clerical subsidy, and that he had no land, tenements or other lay hereditaments whereby he could be taxed as a lay person. (fn. 14) The statute law, contained in the clerical as well as lay subsidy acts, governing the liability of clergy in 1540 and 1581 to the lay subsidy may be simply summarized: any spiritual person possessing real property held in lay fee yielding an income at or above the exemption level set down in the lay subsidy act was liable to an assessment on that income for the lay subsidy; no person holding an ecclesiastical promotion subject to the clerical disme and assessed for the clerical subsidy on the income from that promotion or preferment should be liable to assessment on that income for the concurrent lay subsidy; and no person chargeable for the clerical subsidy should be made contributory to the concurrent lay subsidy by an assessment on movables. (fn. 15) Married women, if English, were not assessed for the subsidy it would appear; (fn. 16) probably all of the English women assessed in London were widows or spinsters. Infants, who could acquire and own property under common law, were not exempted by any specific provisions of the subsidy acts, but in practice children with living fathers do not seem to have been liable and only the estates of orphans were assessed. (fn. 17)
The 1540 act provided for a subsidy to be paid in two payments, one to be assessed in 1540 and the second in 1541. In standard form, it set rates and exemption levels for two sorts of people: those born under the king's 'obeysance' (native subjects) and those not (strangers who had been granted letters of denization and aliens). The London subsidy commissioners commonly identified these two groups as 'English' and 'strangers' or 'aliens'. The statute set the tax threshold, or exemption level: English who had to their use any 'Honours, Castells, Manors, Landes, Tenementes, Rentes, Servyce Hereditamentes, Annuities, Fees, Corrodies, profites of the true juste and clere yerelye value of xxli or above . . . (Landes and Tenementes chargeable to the Disme with the Clergye onelye except)' were to be taxed at the rate of 12d. in the £ for each of the two payments of the subsidy. The commissioners abbreviated these sources of annual income as 'lands' or 'fees', or 'lands and fees'. English who had goods to the value of £20 and upward were to pay at the rate of 6d. in the £. Goods liable to valuation for assessment included coin, plate, stocks of merchandise, harvested crops, household goods, 'all other goods movable' whether in England or not, and all sperate debts. Apparel (other than gold, silver, and jewels) were excluded from the valuation for assessment, and debts owing could be deducted. As it applied to native born English, this subsidy of 1540 and 1541 was a tax on the relatively rich. The exemption levels for Englishmen's goods and lands were never again set so high. Strangers were assessed on the same bases— 'lands and fees' and 'goods'— but the threshold of liability was set at an annual income of £1 from lands and fees and a valuation of £1 in goods. The rates at which the annual income and goods were taxed were double those applied to English. Moreover, all strangers 12 years of age and above and not otherwise taxable were liable to a poll tax of 4d. at both of the two yearly payments. Oddly, and apparently incorrectly, 33 strangers in five wards were assessed in 1541 on the yearly value of their wages. (fn. 18) The last subsidy act to make wages explicitly a basis for assessment was the statute of 1523.
Corporations and non-corporate religious fraternities, gilds, and mysteries were also assessed. They were taxed at the same rates as strangers, but only above the English thresholds for the value of goods or income (£20). Goods of churches and chapels, or goods otherwise dedicated to the service of God, were exempted.
The subsidy act of 1581
The 1581 act also granted a subsidy in two payments. The rates were higher for the first payment (1581) than for the second (1582). For the first payment (1581) the rates were 1s.8d. in the £ on the valuations of Englishmen's goods and 2s.8d. on annual income from lands, etc., 3s.4d. on strangers' goods and 5s.4d. on strangers' lands. For the second payment, the assessment certificates of which are published here, the rates were 1s. in the £ on valuations of Englishmen's goods, 1s.4d. in the £ on annual income from land, etc., 2s. in the £ on strangers' goods, and 2s.8d. in the £ on strangers' lands. The liability threshold had by this time been settled at a valuation of £3 for Englishmen's goods and £1 for Englishmen's annual income from lands and fees and valuations of £1 of strangers' goods and lands. Under the 1581 act, all strangers of the age of seven or above and not otherwise assessed were subject to a poll tax of 4d. at each payment of the subsidy. The estates of orphans were specifically exempted from the subsidy as they had been since the act of 1548 (2 & 3 Edw.VI c.36). Companies were taxed at the same rates as individual Englishmen as they had been since 1548. (fn. 19)
THE SUBSIDY COMMISSION: APPOINTMENT AND COMPOSITION
The levying of every subsidy payment began with the appointment of the subsidy commissioners for each county and for specified cities, boroughs, towns, and royal households. The commissioners had direction of the entire administration of the subsidy from the appointment of assessors to payment into the exchequer; and not direction only, for the commissioners bore ultimate responsibility for the payment or discharge in exchequer of the tax assessed in their divisions. If collectors defaulted in payment and the crown could not make good its loss through distraint or attachment on the collectors themselves, the Lord Treasurer could, and did, initiate process against the commissioners who appointed them. (fn. 20)
The subsidy acts of 1512 and 1514, the first act of 1515, and the act of 1523 empowered members of the House of Commons to appoint the commissioners. Cromwell's subsidy act of 1534 gave the king power to appoint commissioners 'at his pleasure'. From 1540 the Tudor subsidy acts usually assigned appointment to the lord chancellor (or lord keeper of the Great Seal), the lord treasurer, the lord president of the council and the lord privy seal or two of them, the lord chancellor (or lord keeper) to be one. (fn. 21)
The subsidy assessment rolls appear to give the names of the commissioners, but the lists they give are commonly incomplete. In the post-Henrician years, particularly, the names of many of the commissioners are not included in the indented certificates of assessment —the subsidy rolls. The names of all the London commissioners do appear in the 1541 subsidy roll, but in 1582 fewer than a third of the commissioners were party to the indentures. For complete lists of commissioners one must look elsewhere.
The subsidy commissioners received their appointment and charge under letters patent, relatively few enrolments of which survive. The commissions were generally entered in the Fine Rolls and copies were sent to the exchequer by means of the Originalia Rolls. Taken together, these sources still do not provide a complete record of the subsidy commissions, (fn. 22) and in sets of commissions that appear otherwise to be complete the commissions for London are sometimes omitted.
From about the beginning of Edward VI's reign the Fine Roll copies of the subsidy commissions were entered on rolls separate from the main Fine Roll series. Some of the surviving separate rolls of subsidy commissions continue to be classed as Fine Rolls through Mary's reign; others, and all of the Elizabethan survivals that have been located, are classed as Chancery Petty Bag Office Miscellaneous Rolls (C.212). (fn. 23)
In terms of membership, there appear to have been three distinct, successive types of subsidy commissions for London in the period 1512 to 1603. The commissions that the commons named in 1512, 1514, and 1515 had as their members the mayor, aldermen, and recorder of London, giving a direct civic control over the levying of the subsidy. The commons provided for the same civic control in the commissions of 1523 and 1524. The crown continued to appoint commissions comprised of aldermen in 1535 and 1536. (fn. 24)
Complete civic control gave way in 1540 and 1541 to government control, or, more exactly, control by the privy council. Cromwell had complained of under-valuation for the subsidy granted in 1534. In fact, he reassessed the City of London himself at two and a half times the assessment returned by the commissioners. (fn. 25) When the commission for the first payment of the grant of 1540 was issued in the autumn of that year, the privy council directed the chancellor to hold back on the schedule of aldermen's names that had previously been delivered to him and to name to the commission instead Robert earl of Sussex, great chamberlain (the member of the commission to whom the chancellor was to deliver the letters patent); John Lord Russell, lord admiral; Cuthbert Tunstall, bishop of Durham; Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester; Edmund Bonner, bishop of London; Sir Richard Rich, chancellor of augmentations; Sir John Baker, chancellor of first fruits and tenths; and the mayor of London. Ultimately, the recorder of London, Sir Roger Cholmely, was added to the commission. The council decided that aldermen other than the mayor were to be merely assessors. (fn. 26) The larger commission of 1541, for the second payment of the same subsidy, shows at least an equal determination to keep the administration of the subsidy under government control; it included the archbishop of Canterbury and two other bishops, ten officers of state and royal officials, the mayor of London and the recorder of London. (fn. 27) This placement of control of the London subsidy commission in the hands of royal officials came shortly after the crown had intruded its nominees into the mayoralty in at least three successive years: 1535, 1536, and 1537, and possibly in 1538. (fn. 28) The membership of these commissions of 1540 and 1541 was not entirely consistent with the intention of the 1540 act, which gave two qualifications for commissioners: that they be 'persons as ... shalbe thoughte suffycyent for the sessyng and leving [sic] of the same Subsidie' and that they be inhabitants of the places where they were put in commission. (fn. 29) While the commissioners were all 'sufficient' within the meaning of the act, they were not all residents of London; one may note specifically Sir Ralph Sadler, Sir Edward Northe, and William Whorewood as lay commoners in the commission in 1541 who were not assessed for the subsidy in London. The privy council's intervention, although possibly pushing aside some legal niceties, had the desired effect; the level of subsidy valuations in London peaked in 1541.
As though to emphasize the change in control, the mayor was removed in 1540 and 1541 from his usual place at the head of the commission and given precedence over the other commoners only. When the lord chancellor, Sir Thomas Audley, repeated this affront to civic pride in the commission of 1544 the court of aldermen reacted sharply. 'Not contentyd for that my lorde mayer was not fyrste named in the seid commyssyon', the aldermen ordered the town clerk to name the mayor first in the public reading of the commission. Subsequently, the court minutes note with satisfaction, 'all the seid lordes [of the commission] with one assente att all their severall sessyons ... causyd hym [the mayor] to sytt & kepe the chief place'. (fn. 30)
The appointment of the commission for the first payment of the first subsidy of Mary's reign restored a significant aldermanic element to the panel. (fn. 31) From this time until 1603 or after, the London commission had a substantial numerical preponderance of councillors, officials, judges and law officers of the crown to whom were joined the lord mayor and a number of the senior aldermen. Mary's first London commission included four alderman who had passed the mayoralty among its 27 members. The commission that administered the subsidy in London in 1582 was essentially the same as the commission of 1555. It had 29 members: the lord mayor, 15 councillors and royal officials, the bishop of London, three judges, the two principal law officers of the crown, six aldermen who had passed the chair, and the recorder of London. (fn. 32) Only the mayor, five of the aldermen, and the recorder were party to the certificates of assessments returned into the exchequer. (fn. 33) Possibly the actual administration of the subsidy was as much in the control of the aldermen in 1582 as it had been before 1540, but we know far too little about the operation of the commissions to be sure of that.
THE SUBSIDY COMMISSION: DUTIES
The short and formal letters patent appointing a subsidy commission merely required those named in the commission to levy the subsidy according to the provisions of the statute. They could divide themselves, as they considered expedient, into smaller groups for the execution of the act, but the London commissions did not. However, most of the actions required of the commission could legally be performed by as few as two of its members.
The statutory procedures for administering the subsidy were basically the same in 1540–41 and 1581–82. The 1540 act required the commissioners for each payment first to summon a number of 'substauncyall, discrete and hon est... inhabitants' and constables and other local officials to a meeting where they were to be sworn as presenters, or assessors, of the various places within the limits of the commission. The assessors were to return at a second meeting to present to the commissioners in writing the names and values of the residents and fraternities, guilds, and corporations of those places. The commissioners were then to begin work on the compilation of the certificates, or subsidy assessment rolls. They were to examine on oath those whom they suspected of being of greater wealth than reported by the assessors; to examine on oath, also, those who claimed to be of less wealth than the assessors had set down; and to assess each other. This done, they were to put the certificates of assessment in final form as indentures on parchment between themselves and the collectors whom they appointed for each of the divisions within the limits of their commission; to deliver signed and sealed estreats or copies of the certificates to the collectors; and to deliver other signed and sealed copies—the subsidy assessment rolls—into the receipt of the exchequer. The few changes made in these basic steps between 1540 and 1581 related mostly to the oaths for obtaining true valuations.
THE TIMETABLE FOR ASSESSMENT AND COLLECTION
The subsidy acts set a series of deadlines for the commissioners that established the basic timetable for assessment and collection of each subsidy payment. The timetable for the two payments of 1540 and 1541 under the 1540 act were the same. The commissioners were to appoint assessors between 1 September and 20 October, presumably early rather than late in the period, for the assessors were to complete their task by 20 October. The London commissioners in 1541 apparently assembled the assessors, took oaths of them, and gave them their charge on 5 October. On 2 October, 13 of the commissioners ordered the alderman of each ward to summon two of the 'most honest, substancyall and dyscrete' citizens of the ward to appear with the aldermen before the commissioners at Guildhall on 5 October to receive directions for the taxation and assessment of the subsidy. (fn. 34) Although the precept of 2 October does not mention 'assessors' or 'presenters' it contains language that seems to mark it as an order requiring attendance of prospective assessors. If the two citizens from each ward were, indeed, to serve as assessors, they did not comprise the whole body of assessors. This is evident from the 1541 assessment certificate for Queenhithe Ward, where six taxpayers are identified as the 'presenters' or assessors of the ward (below, 146). Possibly the commissioners themselves nominated some of the assessors for each ward while requiring the aldermen to nominate two. At this meeting on 5 October the assessors from each ward presumably took the statutory oath to enquire of and certify the values of the inhabitants of their wards; listened while the commissioners read to them the tax rates on English, strangers, lands and goods; and received instructions on the form in which they were to make their returns to the commissioners. This business concluded, the commissioners set another day and time when the assessors, or 'presenters' as the statute terms them, were to attend with their written returns of valuations and tax assessments. The commissioners could at this time examine the assessors on their valuations. (fn. 35) Because the commissioners' final certificate of assessment superseded the assessors' returns, the latter have not been found to survive, at least for the Henrician subsidies. (fn. 36) We lack, therefore, the evidence they may have given on methods of valuation and on the extent of the commissioners' contribution to the final assessment certificate. Just when this second gathering of assessors before the commissioners took place in 1541 is not known, but it should have been on or by 20 October, which was not only the deadline for completion of the assessment, but also the deadline (within three weeks of the Feast of St. Michael, according to the statute) by which the commissioners were to appoint collectors for each of the wards (the petty collectors) and give them copies of the final, revised version of the assessments. (fn. 37)
There probably was, then, a legal maximum of 16 days (5 to 20 October) for the assessors to do their valuing and assessing, for the commissioners to hear appeals from those who claimed to be overvalued, and for the estreats for the petty collectors to be drafted. The indentures between the commissioners and the petty collectors were actually dated 24 October 1541, (fn. 38) which may have extended the entire assessment procedure to a maximum of 20 days.
The commissioners next appointed high collectors, as required by statute, probably two for each of four groups of wards into which the city was divided for collection purposes. Their division into pairs to collect from four groups of wards seems probable from known practice on other occasions— in 1544, 1547, and 1582, for example. (fn. 39) The high collectors were bound by indentures with the commissioners to receive the ward collections from the petty collectors (two for each ward) and to pay the sum collectable in each ward into the receipt of the exchequer by 6 February 1542. Copies of the indentures between the London commissioners and the high collectors do not survive for 1541, but the names of the eight high collectors are given in the indentures between the commissioners and the petty collectors and in the Exchequer Enrolled Accounts. (fn. 40)
Finally, before 16 November, the commissioners were to return into exchequer estreats of their indentures with the petty collectors and the high collectors, that is, the subsidy assessment rolls as we have them.
The statutory timetable and basic procedures for administering the two payments under the 1581 act were similar to those for 1540–41. In 1582, the commissioners were to appoint assessors by 28 August, the assessment was to be completed and certified into exchequer by 20 September, and payment was to be made into exchequer by 20 November. The main difference from 1541 was the much shorter time allowed for collection. Most of the adminis trative procedures set down in the 1581 act were essentially the same as those of 1540. Some significant changes—the elimination of oaths for obtaining true valuations and changes in the clauses governing the resolution of multiple assessments of the same person —are discusssed below. (fn. 41)
HIGH ASSESSORS AND PETTY ASSESSORS IN LONDON: AN ELABORATION OF THE STATUTORY ASSESSMENT PROCEDURES
The assessment procedures actually followed in London from the mid-sixteenth century on were somewhat more elaborate than those set out in the statute. They involved valuation and assessment at two levels. By the middle of the sixteenth century it was the practice for the London commissioners to appoint two groups of assessors: a panel of high assessors for the entire city (customarily six aldermen and six commoners by the second half of the century) and panels of low assessors or petty assessors for each of the twentyfive wards. The high assessors valued the city's richest inhabitants on the basis of returns from the aldermen and the petty assessors in each ward valued the rest. The two panels of assessors presented to the commissioners two separate books of valuation and assessment, the 'high book' and the 'low book'. There may have been two groups of assessors as early as the payments of 1540 and 1541.
The earliest clear evidence for this two-tiered method of assessment is a precept of 1549 that the mayor issued as subsidy commissioner. In it, he commanded the aldermen to 'sesse all the inhabitauntes within your said warde beinge of the valewe of x li in gooddes & upward unto the some of L li and to certyfie the high Sessors of the said Relief within the said Citie thereof in writinge at the Guyldhall betwixt this & Wednesdaye next comming'. (fn. 42) References to high assessors follow in precepts of 1555 (the aldermen required to certify to the high assessors the names of inhabitants of their wards worth £40 and upwards in goods), 1557 (the aldermen required to certify the names of inhabitants worth £50 and upwards in goods), 1559 (the aldermen required to do the same and also to certify the names of inhabitants worth £5 to £50), 1563 (the aldermen required to certify to the high assessors the names of inhabitants worth £30 and upwards in goods and £20 and upwards in lands), and 1571 (the aldermen required to furnish the high assessors with a book of the names of the inhabitants of every ward and to order the petty assessors to give their last indentures to the high assessors). (fn. 43)
Circumstantial evidence strongly suggests that some kind of two-tiered assessment system existed in London in 1540 and 1541. It has already been observed that the council ordered in 1540 that aldermen other than the mayor be removed from the subsidy commission and serve instead as assessors. There is a recorded precept of October 12, 1540, from the commissioners for the first payment (1540) under the act of 32 Hen. VIII c.50 ordering five aldermen and five commoners to appear before the commissioners the following day to be told what they were to do concerning the 'taxation and assessing' of the subsidy. (fn. 44) The later panels of high assessors we know also to have comprised equal numbers of aldermen and commoners, and it is hard to imagine what role these ten men were to perform in the taxation and assessing of the subsidy if it were not closely comparable to that of the high assessors. At the same time, however, we are aware of the existence of 'presenters' or ward-level assessors for the second payment in 1541, and there were, presumably, such ward assessors in 1540 also. It seems likely, then, that there was a two-tiered system of assessment in London as early as 1540.
Copies of precepts concerning the subsidy that were entered into the Journals of the Common Council constitute much the largest body of evidence on the peculiarities of assessment in London, but their brevity and the irregularity of their entry make it impossible to draw from them alone a coherent account of assessment procedures. Two documents of the early seventeenth century, however, do provide descriptions of the assessment process and a key to interpreting the terse and scattered precepts in the sixteenth-century journals: one is a short, general account of the administrative framework for assessing a subsidy in London, the other is a formulary of 1621 for assessing the subsidy in Bassishaw ward. (fn. 45)
The commissioners in 1621 first summoned all the aldermen, their deputies, the common councilmen and others of chief rank to the number of about 200 to a meeting before the commissioners sitting at the Guildhall. There the commission was read and the commissioners appointed 12 men, six aldermen and six commoners, to be high assessors. (fn. 46) An analogous meeting appears to have been held in 1550, when the sheriffs directed the aldermen, 14 persons named, and the most substantial inhabitants from every ward to gather before the commissioners. (fn. 47) The commissioners, through the sheriffs, summoned a similar meeting for the single-payment subsidy voted in 1558, when six aldermen and six commoners named, the rest of the aldermen, and the most substantial persons from every ward were required to appear before them. (fn. 48)
Second, in 1621 the mayor as commissioner issued a precept to the aldermen requiring them to give to the high assessors at at Guildhall a list of the inhabitants of their wards and a copy of the last assessment list. (fn. 49) In 1550, the commissioners issued an apparently analogous precept to the aldermen requiring that they deliver in writing the names of persons deceased or departed who had been assessed for the previous payment and those of like value who had moved into the ward. (fn. 50) Similar precepts of 1555, 1557, 1559, 1563, and 1571 are noted above, all of them requiring the aldermen to furnish the high assessors with lists of potential taxpayers in their wards. (fn. 51)
At this point, the high assessors could begin their work, which was to assess all inhabitants of the city whose goods or annual income from lands, etc. were above a specified level and to deliver their presentment of valuations and assessments to the commissioners 'in a booke fayre wrytten, subscribed withe their owne handes'. (fn. 52) The earliest known high assessors' book is one of 1559 compiled for the first payment of the subsidy granted that year. (fn. 53) It contains about 1,029 assessments of people valued at £50 or more in goods or in lands and fees, grouped by ward and by parish within the ward, and the assessments of 44 companies. It was signed by six aldermen and six commoners— the high assessors. A high assessors' book of 1572 also survives. (fn. 54) The high assessors on this occasion appear to have dealt with Englishmen and strangers valued at £20 and above in goods or lands, giving a total of about 1,074 assessments. Again the book was signed by the 12 high assessors. Neither of these surviving high books of assessments, unfortunately, is for a subsidy payment for which the exchequer copies of the subsidy assessment rolls are extant; one cannot, therefore, compare the high books with the final certificates returned by the commissioners. There are extant what may be copies of other Elizabethan high assessors' books for London, but as they are not explicitly identified as such, and lack the high assessors' signatures, they could be merely compilations of the names and values of wealthy taxpayers extracted for other purposes from the subsidy certificates. One of these has been published as a London subsidy assessment roll of 1589. (fn. 55)
When the high assessors had completed their valuation and assessment of the rich, the commissioners appointed petty assessors in each ward to value the rest of the inhabitants. (fn. 56) In 1621, the mayor, as commissioner, issued precepts commanding the aldermen to appear before the commissioners at Guildhall with ten or more of the most substantial inhabitants of each ward, all of them persons (if there were enough) who had been assessed in the high book. At least four of them were to be persons who had served as petty assessors or petty collectors for the last subsidy payment. The commissioner apppointed some or all of these people to be petty assessors. (fn. 57) A similar precept had been issued in 1550. (fn. 58) Often the commissioners themselves named the petty assessors in the precepts of summons sent to the aldermen; (fn. 59) less frequently they instructed the aldermen to nominate persons to be appointed. (fn. 60) The commissioners charged the petty assessors with the valuation and assessment of the inhabitants of their wards whose goods or income from lands, etc. were below the high assessors' threshold and of inhabitants whom the high assessors had 'omytted, forgotten or left out of their bookes'. (fn. 61) All of the low books that have been found are of the early seventeenth century; there are low books of 1610 and 1621 for Bassishaw ward, (fn. 62) and 1626, 1629, and 1641 for Aldersgate ward. (fn. 63) A curious case of double assessment in London in 1582 was that of William Gosnold or Gosnall who was assessed twice in the same ward: by the low assessors on a valuation of £5 in goods, yielding an assessment of 5s. (320) and by the high assessors on a valuation of £20 in lands, yielding an assessment of 26s.8d. (316). He paid the higher assessment. (fn. 64)
Vestiges of both high and low books are conspicuous in some of the completed assessment certificates. In 1582, the high assessors made presentments of English valued at £50 or more in goods and £10 per annum or more in lands, etc. and of strangers valued at £10 or more in goods or lands. In Aldgate ward, for example, the assessments in each parish are given first for the English and strangers valued by the high assessors and then for the English and strangers valued by the petty assessors (185–196). The certificate for Broad Street ward has generally the same arrangement, as does that for Tower ward, where, however, there is no breakdown of taxpayers by parish (233–240, 373–387). The petty assessors in Aldgate and in Coleman Street wards, gave taxpayers occupational identifications that were retained in the commissioners' certificates while the high assessors did not (186–196, 261– 265). So consistently are valuations within the respective ranges of the high and petty assessors bunched separately, those of the high assessors always coming first, that one may fairly confidently go through the certificates and draw a line between the last name on the high assessors' presentment and the first name of the low book. There are a few outliers that may represent commissioners' adjustments of assessors' valuations.
Another artefact of this two-tiered system of valuations and assessments is a bi-modal distribution of valuations in London for the later sixteenth-century subsidies. This needs to be taken into account in any use of the subsidy rolls for analyzing distribution of wealth. In 1582, for example, the petty assessors valued 319 English residents at £20 to £49 in goods, while the high assessors valued 348 at exactly £50 in goods, the threshold for valuation and assessment by the high assessors. In the absence of any extensive revision by the commissioners, this system resulted in valuations and assessments that possess integrity only within the two separate ranges of the petty and high assessors.
Contemporaries came to see the two-tiered system of valuation and assessment as a reason for the decline in the number and level of subsidy assessments in London. One critic observed early in James I's reign that the assessors seldom advanced anyone whose wealth had greatly increased from the low book to the high book. (fn. 65) The numbers assessed at or above the threshold of the high assessors thereby diminished over time.
The further steps in the assessment procedure in London apparently corresponded to the administrative clauses of the subsidy acts, and they were the same in 1582 (and 1621) as they had been in 1541 (except that in 1582 the commissioners valued and assessed the assessors, as they had done since 1548). The commissioners made their revisions in the assessors' presentments, appointed petty collectors for each ward and two high collectors for each of the four groups of wards, drafted the estreats of the indentures between themselves and both sets of collectors, and returned their signed and sealed copies of those indentures into the receipt of the exchequer. The exchequer copies of the indentures with the high collectors happen to have survived for 1582, making the record of the commissioners' certification of assessment complete.
THE WARD AND PARISH AS DIVISIONS OF ASSESSMENT
The commissioners returned into the exchequer in 1541 and 1582, as on other occasions, assessment certificates for 25 wards. Bridge Ward Without, the twenty-sixth ward, created in 1550, was included in Surrey for tax purposes. In 1541, the commissioners also submitted a separate city-wide certificate of the assessments of the estates of orphans. Beginning with the act of 1548 orphans' estates were exempted from the subsidy. The only London 'orphans' books' apparently extant, however, are those for the payments of 1541 and 1544. (fn. 66)
The ward was the basic division of assessment and collection, but within the ward the assessments of individuals were usually listed under subheadings of parish or part-parish. Only in Cornhill, Lime Street and Tower wards in 1541 and in Lime Street and Tower wards in 1582 did the assessors not present their returns with some sort of parochial subdivision.
The parochial subdivision of the subsidy certificates was probably a practice carried over from the manner of levying fifteenths and tenths in the city. The sum owing from each ward for the fifteenth and tenth (commonly called the 'fifteenth') was fixed, and this sum was itself the total of what had become fixed payments from each parish or part-parish within a ward. (fn. 67) The sum actually levied in the the parish could differ from the sum owed, for parishes might aim at a surplus in the assessment in order to relieve the poorest inhabitants from payment. (fn. 68) In some entire wards charity provided relief from the fifteenth. (fn. 69) In general, however, parochial assessment and collection was basic to the levying of a fifteenth in the city. Ordinarily, when a fifteenth was levied the commissioners for the fifteenth or the mayor commanded the alderman of each ward to call together the inhabitants of the ward and at that time to oversee the election of assessors from the parishes of the ward and appoint parochial collectors. (fn. 70) The parochial collectors of the fifteenth (the fifteenth's petty collectors) paid the sum owing from the parish or part-parish directly to the high collectors, who, like the high collectors for the subsidy, had responsibility for the sums owing from groups of wards. Although it made no difference to the officials of the exchequer how much came from one parish and how much from another, so long as the ward totals were accounted for, within the city itself parochial accounting was essential to levying a fifteenth and tenth in the customary manner.
In assessing a subsidy, the listing of the taxpayers by parish in the commissioners' certificates conformed in a familiar way, but only superficially, to the parochial assessments for the fifteenth. Because the parish was not an essential administrative unit for the subsidy it could be treated with frustrating casualness.
Just over half of the city's parishes (55 of 108 in 1582) lay in more than one ward: forty-one in two wards, nine in three wards, and five in four wards. (fn. 71) The subsidymen in two or more part-parishes in a ward are often listed together under a single heading, making it practically impossible to distinguish the parishioners of one part-parish from those of another. When this is the case, one cannot combine the assessment lists from the parts of parishes lying in two or more wards to make up an assessment list of subsidymen for the whole parish.
Adding to the difficulty of parish-level analysis of the subsidy assessments rolls is the fact that some parishes are simply not mentioned in the subsidy certificates. For example, in 1541 there were strangers but no English listed as of the parish of St. Mary Mounthaw, which lay entirely in Queenhithe ward. It is possible, of course, that no English in that parish met the high threshold for assessment. St. Mary Mounthaw does not appear at all, however, in the assessment roll of 1582. Altogether there were 23 other parishes in 1541 and 24 in 1582 (all of them lying in more than one ward) that were not designated in the assessment certificates for one or more of the wards in which they lay. Either there were no residents of these part-parishes liable for the subsidy, or they were included with the residents of other parishes under incomplete headings. In 1541, for example, the subsidymen in the part of Allhallows Staining in Aldgate ward were subsumed under other parochial headings. The householders of the parish are known from the assessment for the parish clerk's wages for 1541–42. (fn. 72) At least three of the householders of this part-parish were listed under the heading of St. Olave Hart Street, three others were listed under St. Katherine Coleman, and probably two can be identified with subsidymen listed under St. Katherine Creeechurch. Allhallows Staining is again missing from the Aldgate ward subsidy assess ments in 1582. On that occasion, all of the subsidymen of the part-parish in Aldgate ward were listed under the double heading of St. Andrew Undershaft and Allhallows London Wall. (fn. 73)
There was at least one case in 1582 of a large number of subsidymen being shifted in the final compilation of the assessment roll from the listing of the parish in which they were actually resident to that of a neighbouring parish. In Bishopsgate ward, those householders in the parish of St. Helen Bishopsgate who were assessed by the high assessors were placed under the heading of St. Ethelburga. (fn. 74) The indifference of the assessors and commissioners to accuracy in the parochial headings means that parochial designations must be accepted with caution. Uncertain or disputed parish boundaries may compound the problem.
One cannot be certain that a person was resident even in the ward in which his or her name was entered for the subsidy. Ward boundaries could be unclear or the subject of controversy. The aldermen appointed a commission in 1533, for example, to determine whether dwellers within the precincts of the Blackfriars ought to be treated as residents of the ward of Farringdon Within or of Castle Baynard ward. (fn. 75) In 1543 the inhabitants of Castle Baynard and Queenhithe wards both claimed contributions toward the fifteenth from the house of Hughe Loft. (fn. 76) Whether the Smiths' hall and adjoining houses were in Queenhithe or Castle Baynard ward and whether the long shop in the Poultry was in Cheap or Broad Street were at issue in 1558. (fn. 77) In 1559 the aldermen had to order an inquest to determine whether the Haberdashers' hall was in Aldersgate ward or Cripplegate. (fn. 78) Such uncertainty may explain some of the double assessments for the subsidy that occurred. In 1541 Hugh Loft was assessed in Castle Baynard ward (par. of St. Benet Paul's Wharf, below, 54) and in Queenhithe ward, adjoining (par. of St. Peter Paul's Wharf, below, 146). William Pettyngall and John Bendles were assessed in Cordwainer ward (parishes of Holy Trinity the Less and St. Thomas Apostle, below, 78) and in Vintry ward (par. St. Thomas Apostle, below, 161). Anthony Coley (or Coole) was assessed in St. Leonard Eastcheap in Bridge ward and in the same parish in Candlewick ward (below, 46, 64); Sebastian Bony was assessed in the adjoining wards of Billingsgate (St. Margaret Pattens, below, 28) and Langbourn (St. Gabriel Fenchurch, below, 136); Robert Byrkham or Byrcham was assessed in Aldersgate (St. Botolph without Aldersgate, below, 5) and in Cripplegate (St. Giles Cripplegate, below, 88); and Roger Nowyes or Newys was assessed in Castle Baynard (St. Gregory by St. Paul's, below 59) and in Farringdon ward Within (St. Michael le Querne, below, 103). It is probable, of course, that the premises of some of these men did cross parish and ward boundaries. (fn. 79)
One cannot place complete confidence even in the assessors' and commissioners' treatment of the city's boundaries with Middlesex. The most obvious case of confusion in either 1541 or 1582 occurred in Farringdon ward Without in 1582 when the petty assessors of the ward carried their assessment up Chancery Lane 'above the field gates and in the Fields' (below, 319). While this area was part of the parish of St. Dunstan in the West, it was not within the liberties of the city. In the event, none of the 20 people valued and assessed in this neighbourhood paid the subsidy as residents of Farringdon Without. Twelve of them paid as residents of Ossulstone hundred, four paid in other counties where they were also resident and were discharged in Middlesex as well as in the city, where one paid is uncertain (but it was not in Farringdon Without), and three others were reported by affidavits from the collectors to have no distrainable property in Farringdon Without. (fn. 80)
THE NUMBERS OF ASSESSMENTS IN 1541 AND 1582: ENGLISH, STRANGERS, ORPHANS, AND COMPANIES
In 1541 the commissioners' certificates presented 2,762 valuations and assessments of English, 671 of strangers, and 35 of companies. There were, in addition, 652 strangers assessed per poll. Not all of these assessments signified actual liability, as we shall see. In 1582, with the lower threshold of liability and a bigger population, the number of valuations of English was almost twice as large: 5,418. These totals do not include those few people in both years whose names were listed without any valuation and assessment: notably, in 1582, the earl of Northumberland (175), who would have been assessed with the peers, Sir Christopher Wray (178), Sir Francis Walsingham (193), Sir Walter Mildmay (330), and Sir Christopher Hatton (342). In 1541, 157 (5.7% of the assessments of English) were of women; 229 English women were assessed in 1582 (4.2% of all assessments of English). In both years, the certificates identify well over half of the women assessed as widows.
The number of strangers assessed on valuations was lower in 1582 than in 1541, despite identical thresholds of liability for strangers. This probably indicates a reduction in the size of the alien merchant communities whose members accounted for a large proportion of the strangers liable to valuation for the subsidy in 1541. The number of aliens taxed per poll, on the other hand, was in 1582 twice what it had been in 1541 (see Tables IA and IB). This was partly a consequence of the lower age threshold for the poll tax (7 years instead of 12), but it also reflects the larger number of alien craftsmen, artisans, and small traders resident in the city in the later sixteenth century, many of them religious refugees. The 1582 subsidy certificates record altogether 1840 aliens aged seven and above in the 25 wards, a total that is reasonably consistent with figures in the April 1583 return of aliens. (fn. 81)
The certificate of assessment of the estates of orphans in 1541 contains the names of at least 160 deceased citizen fathers and possibly as many as 175. The 206 mostly legible entries in the certificate give the names of 160 fathers. The names of the fathers in another 15 entries are illegible. By the custom of London the orphans of deceased citizens were entitled to one-third of their fathers' estates in goods, and for enforcement of this custom city officials acting as the court of orphans inventoried and divided estates and took recognizances of sureties nominated by the executors for payment to the orphans of their portions when they came of age. The entries in the certificates of assessment of orphans' estates give the names of the recognitors, the names of the deceased and the sums payable by the recognitors to the orphans. These sums are the values on which the tax assessments were calculated (at the rate for Englishmen's goods). Because the total of the portions of a single family of orphans was often spread among several groups of sureties, the number of entries in the orphans' book is larger than the number of estates they represent. (fn. 82) Many of the orphans' fathers had, by 1541, been dead for several years. Some of their children, in some cases, had been advanced before their deaths, others had since come of age and received their portions, and other children not yet of age had been partially advanced by their guardians—through payment of apprenticeship premiums for example. Therefore, even if the valuations of these citizens' personal estates at the time of death were accurate, the total of the sums in 1541 still payable to the orphans of a late citizen by the sureties do not in themselves provide a basis for the calculation of the wealth of the deceased.
Religious fraternities (in 1541) and city companies or guilds (in 1541 and 1582) were the only companies assessed for the subsidy. Although other corporations and non-corporate companies possessing movables or lands would seem by the terms of the subsidy acts to have been liable to assessment they were not, in fact, assessed. Except for Jesus College —a college for priests with lodgings and library in Dowgate ward—neither was any other sort of corporate body taxed in the more comprehensive (because of the low exemption level) subsidy assessment roll of 1544. (fn. 83)
The number of active parish fraternities in 1541 is unknown. The chantry certificates of 1546 and 1548 describe about 20, but this includes only those with landed endowments. Others financed themselves from quarterage pay ments. (fn. 84) Most of them were undoubtedly too poor to be assessed given the high threshold of the 1540 act. The three wealthy enough to be assessed in 1541 were the brotherhood of the Trinity in the parish of St. Botolph Aldersgate and the two parochial brotherhoods of St. Dunstan in the West and St. Bride (below, 11, 114, 117). Only five more fraternities, eight in all, were taxed in 1544, however, for the second payment under the 1543 act, when the exemption level was £1 in goods or lands. (fn. 85)
The guilds or city companies assessed in 1541 and 1582 are listed in Table II. The total number of companies that the city recognized in either year is unknown. In 1540, the city assessed 68 companies for cressets for the midsummer night watch. (fn. 86) Sixty-eight may actually represent what at least one city official took to be the total number, for four of the poorest (the Turners, Glaziers, Tapissers, and Longbowstringmakers) were included without any cressets being required of them, suggesting a desire for completeness. (fn. 87) Also, the number of companies furnishing cressets for the 1540 midsummer watch was larger than the number (60) attending the lord mayor's feast at Guildhall in 1531 (fn. 88) and the number (61) rated for payment of 500 marks for the poor of St. Bartholomew's Hospital in 1548, (fn. 89) which are the other two most extensive lists of city companies of the 1530s and 1540s. Thirty-two, about half, of the city companies were assessed for the subsidy in 1541. Forty, or about threequarters of the city companies, were assessed in 1582. (fn. 90) In 1580 and in 1585 the city assessed 52 companies for furnishing soldiers and in 1586 the same 52 for providing gunpowder. (fn. 91) There were 26 occasions between 1570 and 1590 when lists of companies assessed for furnishing men, military harness, grain, or gunpowder were entered into the Journals of the Common Council and only in 1572 and 1587 were more than 52 companies assessed: 60 in 1572 to furnish men and arms to make a show before the Queen at Greenwich (fn. 92) and 55 in 1587 to raise money for the purchase of 10,000 quarters of wheat. (fn. 93)
In 1541 several companies appeared twice in the assessment certificates. An entry at the end of the Tower ward certificate is headed 'Corporacions & felyshippes whiche were not presentyd this yere ne assessyd at the Ingrossing of the bookes, and therfor writen heere in this warde bycause of most rome for the wryten of them' (157). There follow the names of seven companies– Ironmongers (crossed out), Merchant Taylors (livery and bachelors listed separately), Scriveners, Woolpackers, Carpenters, Butchers, and Leathersellers—all but the Butchers actually entered and assessed identically in their proper wards. The double assessment of these companies obliged the commissioners to submit into exchequer certificates of payment in one place in order to secure discharge in the other. (fn. 94) The Scriveners paid in Cripplegate and were discharged in Tower. The others paid in Tower ward. The Woolpackers were discharged in Coleman Street and the Merchant Taylors, Carpenters, and Leathersellers were discharged in Broad Street ward.
It is notable that in both 1541 and 1582 there were 'lesser' companies that paid more toward the subsidy than a number of the twelve 'greater' or 'principal' companies. In 1541, the Brewers, Barbers, Leathersellers, Saddlers and Carpenters all paid more than the Salters, Haberdashers, Clothworkers, and Ironmongers. In 1582, the Cutlers and Brewers paid more than the Haberdashers and Vintners, while these and 12 other lesser companies paid more than the Ironmongers.
Only a few hundred of the people assessed for the subsidy in either 1541 or 1582 are identified in the subsidy rolls by their occupations or company memberships. The entries of such information in 1541 are so infrequent and irregular (except in the orphans' book) that they are probably not susceptible to any significant analysis. In 1541 about 30 aliens and 25 English taxpayers were identified by craft or trade. In most cases this information was probably given to help the collectors in distinguishing between like-named people in the same neighbourhood. For example, two persons named John Marten (both aliens) were assessed for the subsidy in the precinct of St. Martin le Grand; one was identified as a shoemaker, the other as a leather dyer (9,10). No one else in the precinct was identified by occupation. The three Robert Clerks assessed in the part parish of St. Sepulchre in the ward of Farringdon Without were distinguished as a woodmonger, a haberdasher, and a joiner (120,122). Again, these were the only people in this part parish identified by trade. The two John Johnsons in Tower ward were distinguished as a brewer and a cooper (150, 154). Why all of the assessed residents of Mugwell Street in the detached part of Farringdon ward Within (101, 102), or all of the strangers in the parish of St. Ann Blackfriars (110) should have been identified by occupation (or as servants) is a puzzle.
In 1582 as in 1541, craft and trade designations were scattered through the certificates, probably to provide distinguishing identifications, but in a few areas of the city the petty assessors' returns to the commissioners gave occupational identifications of taxpayers that were retained in the commissioners' certificates for the exchequer. In Aldersgate ward, occupations are given for nearly all of the strangers assessed by the petty assessors (171–174, 176, 183); in Aldgate ward the petty assessors gave occupations of nearly all Englishmen and nearly all strangers whose estates were valued, but not of those assessed per poll (185–186); in Coleman Street ward the occupations of nearly all English people valued by the petty assessors are given, but not of strangers (261–265); in the parish of St. Ann Blackfriars in Farringdon ward Within strangers taxed per poll are identified by occupation, but not those who were assessed on a valuation (313–314); and in the parishes of St. Bartholomew the Less and St. Bartholomew the Great in Farringdon Without occupations are given for most of the low book English. Significant analysis of the occupational structure of even these limited areas is difficult without knowing the occupations of the taxpayers in the high book and of those English not included in the subsidy at all.
The title 'doctor' distinguishes the leading members of the professions of civil law and medicine in the subsidy certificates; unfortunately it is almost always used with a surname only. There were in 1541 probably six doctors of law and nine doctors of physic assessed for the subsidy in London. There was one 'doctor' whose profession has not been ascertained. (fn. 95) In 1582, at least 23 doctors of law and 19 doctors of medicine were assessed. There were four unidentified 'doctors'. (fn. 96) Most of the civilians lived in or near Doctors' Commons and in the neighbourhood of the courts in which they practiced, close to St. Paul's. By 1582, Doctors' Commons having moved from Paternoster Row to Mountjoy House in Knightrider Street in 1568, the civil lawyers comprised the parochial elite in St. Benet Paul's Wharf and St. Gregory by St. Paul's in Castle Baynard ward. (fn. 97) The residences of the doctors of medicine were more dispersed, as was the practice of medicine, although only five of the doctor physicians in 1582 lived east of Walbrook. The front part of Stone House in Knightrider Street, which Thomas Linacre had conveyed to the Royal College of Physicians, provided accomodatiori for meetings and a library (and an anatomical theatre from 1584), but no lodging or commons for the college's members. (fn. 98)
THE PROPORTION OF HOUSEHOLDERS ASSESSED FOR THE SUBSIDY
In general, heads of households comprised the population at risk in assessment for the subsidy based on valuations of wealth. The exceptions to this were the companies and (prior to 1548) the estates of orphans. However encompassing the language of the statutes may have been, it is clear that servants, wives, and children were not subject to valuation for assessment, though the servants, wives and children of strangers could be liable to a poll tax.
Rappaport has estimated that about 25 per cent of the heads of households in London were assessed in 1582. (fn. 99) In 1541, the threshold of liability to assessment was, as we have seen, exceptionally high; although strangers valued at £1 or more in goods or income were taxable, only English valued at £20 or more in goods or in income from lands, etc. were assessed. Even with this high threshold, perhaps as large a proportion of the heads of households was assessed in 1541 as in 1582. (fn. 100)
The proportion of heads of household assessed varied considerably from one neighbourhood to another. While there are no ward lists or counts of householders for this period, there are parochial lists of occupiers around 1582 in the form of assessments for the fifteenth and tenth and for parish clerks' wages from which one can make rough calculations of the proportion of householders assessed in a number of parishes.
Wherever there is evidence for the levying of a fifteenth or for assessing parish clerks' wages in the city, it points to a general practice of imposing a charge on the occupier of every property in a sum associated with the property. The same practice seems to have held in the levying of beadles' wages, scavengers' bills and tithes. It can be illustrated from the vestry minutes of several parishes. (fn. 101)
From parochial assessments of around the year 1582 one can calculate roughly the proportion of householders assessed for the 1582 subsidy payment in 12 parishes. The results are set out in Table III. The proportion of householders assessed varied from a high of about 90% of all householders in St. Mary Magdalen Milk Street (mostly in Cripplegate ward) to about 40% of the householders in St. Ethelburga the Virgin (Bishopsgate ward). This sample is surely biased in favour of wealthier parishes. All 12 were among the 70 parishes considered able in 1598 to take care of their own poor and beyond that to contribute to poor relief in other parishes. (fn. 102) No parish in the city stands out as likely to rank much above St. Mary Magdalen Milk Street in its proportion of subsidy-paying householders, but if there were data available making it possible to include in the sample the large extramural parishes and some of the poorer parishes along the riverfront, we should probably find in them a smaller proportion of subsidymen than in St. Ethelburga.
There was in the second half of the century, a time in which London's population doubled, a continuous decline in the proportion of London householders assessed for the subsidy, and a decline in the actual number of assessments, even though the threshold of liability remained the same from 1563. Excluding aliens taxed per poll there were 7,123 residents assessed for the subsidy in 1564 for the first payment under 5 Eliz. c.31 (only a year after Elizabethan England's deadliest outbreak of plague), 6,463 in 1577 for the second payment under 18 Eliz. c.23, 5,900 in 1582 in the assessment roll published here, and 4,968 in 1606 for the first payment under 3 Jac. I c.26. (fn. 103)
By the end of the sixteenth century to be taxed at all for the subsidy was a mark of substance. So, for example, when Richard James, a London brewer, sought to put up five or six houses contrary to restraints on building, he argued that they would be dwellings for 'honest persons of competent wealthe able to pay subsidie to hir majestic'. (fn. 104) The poor law of 1597 required that appointment of overseers of the poor should go first to 'substan tiall Howsholders ... beinge Subsidy men'. (fn. 105) In Westward Ho, Monopoly, when arrested for debt, complained that it was 'a most treacherous part to arrest a man in the night, and when he is almost drunk, when he hath not his wits about him to remember which of his friends is in the Subsedy'. (fn. 106) In Michaelmas Term, Shortyard, disguised as a sergeant, said to Master Easy, who had been arrested for defaulting on a bond: 'what say you to us, if we procure you two substantial subsidy citizens to bail you...?' (fn. 107)
THE ASSESSMENT FIGURES: APPARENT AND ACTUAL LIABILITY TO PAYMENT
The sums in the assessment certificates do not represent what the collectors were obliged to pay into the receipt of the exchequer, nor do the individual assessments present an accurate statement of what every taxpayer was obliged to pay to the collectors. The subsidy acts allowed the high collectors a discharge of 6d. in the £ for pains taken in administering and collecting the subsidy payment: 2d. in the £ to go to the high collectors, 2d. to the petty collectors, and 2d. to the commissioners according to their actual involvement in the business of administering the subsidy and with particular regard to their clerical expenses. (fn. 108) Most users of the subsidy assessment rolls will be more interested in the discrepancy between the apparent and the actual liability of individual taxpayers.
In order to get a complete picture of the tax liability of individuals one must use the Exchequer Enrolled Accounts: Subsidies, P.R.O. Class E.359. (fn. 109) There one will find the entries of exonerations of the collectors for specific assessments: exonerations for the assessments on people who received discharge in a London ward because of an assessment in another place for which they remained liable; exonerations for the assessments on people who successfully contested their liability before the barons of the exchequer; for assessments on individuals who received exoneration by writ of privy seal directed to the treasurer and barons of the exchequer; and for assessments on people who were declared by the collectors to have no distrainable goods within the limits of their collection divisions (which may signify either default or non-residence).
A significant feature of the 1582 London assessment roll is the presence in its margins of marks and notations that, when examined in conjunction with the Exchequer Enrolled Accounts, are seen to distinguish those entries of assessments for which the collectors received exoneration from payment into exchequer. These marginalia are listed and explained in the section on editor ial practice, below. (fn. 110) The 1541 assessment roll lacks such distinguishing marks and notations, but from the Exchequer Enrolled Accounts one can still identify the individual assessments for which the collectors received exoneration.
Apparent and Actual Liability in 1541
The subsidy acts made elaborate and sometimes confusing provision for discharging individuals assessed in more than one place from all but one assessment. And when people received such discharges, the collectors had to be exonerated for the sums rendered uncollectable.
The 1540 act required, as earlier subsidy acts had done, that every person liable to be taxed for the subsidy should be assessed 'in such place where he at the tyme of the said certyfycathe to be made shall kepe his house or dwelling, or where he then shalbe most conversant abiding or resiant, or shall have his most resort, and shalbe best knowen at the tyme of the certificathe to be made, and no where elles'. No person was to be 'doble charged for the said subside nether set or taxed at several places'. (fn. 111) The act goes on to provide for those who were assessed in two or more places, generally persons who had two or more places of residence or who were members of a royal or noble household and who also had separate places of residence. Those who were double charged could present certificates under the hands of two or more of the commissioners in one place declaring their assessment and liability to payment in that place. This certificate would serve to discharge them against the collectors in the other place. This certificate would serve also to discharge the petty collectors of payment to the high collectors, and to exonerate the high collectors when they settled their accounts in exchequer.
Prior to the subsidy act of 1558, people assessed in more than one place had no choice as to which of two or more assessments they would pay; they had to pay the highest assessment. (fn. 112) Usually, therefore, they presented certificates from the commissioners in the place of higher assessment to the collectors in the place of lower assessment. To proceed in the opposite direction, which sometimes happened, complicated matters by compelling the taxpayer to make partial payments of assessments to the collectors in two places. The sum of the two payments equalled the higher assessment. The early Tudor certificates testifying to assessment or payment should be distinguished from the certificates of residence made under the Elizabethan subsidy acts of 1563 and after, which are discussed below.
None of the certificates of assessment or payment presented to the London collectors in 1541 has been located, but a record of them and of all other exchequer exonerations of collectors from payment exists in the exchequer Enrolled Accounts: Subsidies (E.359). These accounts, filed by subsidy payment and grouped by place within each file, record the name and assessment of every person or company of whose payment collectors were discharged and the sum and place of the assessment for which every such person or company remained answerable.
In 1541/42, the London high collectors received complete discharge of 120 assessments of individuals and 6 assessments of city companies on the basis of certificates of assessment or payment. Most (67) of the London assessments entirely discharged were those of officers or servants in one of the royal households who were liable for payment there: 52 in the king's household or chamber (but only 51 assessments, for two people were assessed jointly), 10 in the queen's household (one of them the widow of a member of that household), 5 in the prince's household, and one in the household of Anne of Cleves. Thirty-one of these 120 people and the 6 city companies were actually assessed twice in London itself. Twenty-two of the 120 putative London taxpayers of 1541/42 received discharges because they were liable for payment of a higher assessment in some other county, city, or borough.
A further 16 people assessed in London presented certificates of assessment or payment from the commissioners in a place where they had a lower assessment that only partially discharged them from payment in the city: 6 of the king's household, 1 of the queen's household, and 9 assessed in other counties, cities, or boroughs. These were people who had made payment of assessments that were lower than those for which they were chargeable in one of the city wards. They received discharge in London only for what they had already paid elsewhere, and they had to pay the London collectors the difference between the high and low assessments.
There were, then, 142 exonerations of payment in London wards in 1541/42 based on certificates of assessment or payment under the hands and seals of commissioners in other places. (fn. 113)
This is not the sum total of multiple assessments among those appearing in the London subsidy roll of 1541. A further 41 people paid their assessments in London and presented certificates from the London commissioners to collectors in other places for their discharge—37 in the country and 4 in one of the royal households. (fn. 114)
Twelve of the 1541 London assessments were wholly or partially remitted by process before the barons of the exchequer, resulting in further exonerations of the collectors for payment. John Leyland, as we have seen, was taxed as a spiritual person and argued successfully that he had no lay estate whereby he could be taxed in the lay subsidy. John Lucas, esq. (110), Sir Christopher More (110), Sir John Raynefford (12), and Sir Brian Tuke (52) all protested assessment in London on the ground that they were commissioners for the subsidy payment in other places (Kent, Surrey, Essex, and Essex respectively) and that by the terms of the subsidy act anyone appointed a commissioner should be assessed within the limits of his commission by his fellow commissioners. (fn. 115) John Wellesborne (109) also argued that he should not be assessed in London on the ground that as a gentleman of the privy chamber he was assessed in the king's household and, more to the point, that he had no residence in the city. (fn. 116) The barons discharged the collectors of an assessment on Alen Haute (32), whose goods and chattels were all in the hands of Sir Brian Tuke, and of an assessment on Dame Katherine Edgecombe (114), who paid part of her tax in Cornwall and part in London. (fn. 117) The barons also discharged in part or entirely assessments on three aliens; the three had presented a writ from the king commanding the treasurer and barons of the exchequer to allow the said aliens to appear before them to certify by oath the value of their goods and merchandise. The aliens were then to be assessed on the value so certified. Except by such exercise of the king's grace one was essentially without remedy in getting an assessment revised once the commissioners had returned the assessment certificate into exchequer. These three, Anthony James (49), John Reconger (62), and Roger de Prate (165), swore that their goods and chattels were worth less than their valuations in the subsidy certificates; their assessments were reduced and the collectors discharged accordingly. (fn. 118) The enrolled accounts also record the barons' judgement discharging the collectors of a joint assessment on Laurence Burlyns and Matthew Bowe, aliens, in Langbourn ward, but their names do not appear in the assessment roll. (fn. 119)
There were a further 61 uncollectable assessments in 1541/42 for which the collectors were exonerated. These were cases in which the petty collectors swore before the commissioners that at the time they first received their copies of the assessment certificates certain subsidymen had no property in the ward from which the tax could be recovered by distress. The commissioners then drew a certificate addressed to the barons of the exchequer testifying to that oath, which the petty collectors used for their discharge with the high collectors and the high collectors for their discharge in the receipt of the exchequer. The language in the exchequer enrolled accounts implies that 60 of the 61 defaults in 1541 resulted from people having moved from the city before the beginning of the collection, (fn. 120) and that may actually have been the case. Few of the commissioners' certificates of the petty collectors' oaths for the Henrician subsidies seem to survive. One of 29 May 1546 for Farringdon ward Without for the third payment of the subsidy granted under 34 & 35 Hen. VIII c.27 distinguishes between the seven people who had departed 'into other places' and the three who remained in the ward but had no distrainable goods and chattels. (fn. 121) The threshold of liability for this subsidy was low, however, (£1 in goods or income from lands, etc.) and there would have been more subsidymen of marginal ability. London certificates of uncollectable assessments for the Edwardian and Marian subsidies, however, state in more general terms only that the petty collectors have deposed on oath that defaulters 'have not nor at any time since the coming of their estreats to their hands for the said collection have had ... any manner of lands or tenements goods or chattels within their said limits whereby they might have received or levied by distress the several sums ... to them severally estreated'. (fn. 122)
Apparent and Actual Liability in 1582
The subsidy assessment rolls in 1582 represented actual liability even less closely than in 1541/42. There are three main explanations for this. First, by 1582 the subsidy acts provided a new way of dealing with multiple assessments that enabled many people who were assessed in more than one place to pay the lower assessment, and that was commonly an assessment outside London. Secondly, the crown came to exercise more generously its prerogative to free individuals and classes of people from being taxed for the subsidy. Finally, the proportion of uncollectable assessments had increased.
The subsidy act of 1558 eliminated a feature of the subsidy that had been fundamental since the act of 1514: that if people were valued and assessed in two places at different figures they should remain liable to payment of the higher assessment and be discharged of the lower. (fn. 123) The subsidy act of 1548 first compromised the principle of payment of the higher assessment by providing that subsidy commissioners be taxed only where they were commissioners. (fn. 124) This gave statutory force to earlier decisions of the barons of the exchequer in favour of persons who claimed that their being commissioners in one place was ground for discharge anywhere else. The tacit exemption of commissioners in the 1548 act from the general obligation to pay the highest assessment was made explicit in 1553. (fn. 125) Then, in 1558, the commons dropped the entire clause requiring payment of the higher assessment. (fn. 126)
The provision for payment of the higher assessment, originating in the 1514 act and dropped in 1558, had never set well with the provision included in all subsidy acts from 1512 on that people should be taxed for the subsidy in the place where they were most resident, (fn. 127) for the drafters took inadequate account of the possibility that the higher of the two assessments might not be in the place where a person was most resident. With the elimination of the requirement that people pay the higher assessment, the principle that governed in cases of multiple assessment was that one pay the assessment made in the place where one was most resident. The 1563 act gave administrative clarity to the determination of place of most residence by providing for certificates of residence. These certificates were to be obtained from the subsidy commissioners in the place where one claimed to be most resident and presented in the place where one sought discharge.
'And that every person taxed in anny Countie or Place other then where he is moste ressyaunt or hath his Famylye, or in anny Countie or Place other then where he is a Commyssioner for this Subsedie, yf he be a Commyssioner, upon certificate made to the sayde Corte of Excheaquer, under thandes and Seales of Three Commyssioners for the Subsedye in the same Countie or Place where suche persone is moste ressiaunt or hath his Famylye, or where he is a Commyssioner . . . testifyinge suche his most Ressyancy, havinge of Famyly or beinge a Commyssioner, shalbe a sufficient Dyscharge for the Taxaccion of that persone in all other Places . . . ; And that suche Certificate withoute any Plee or other Cyrcymstance shalbe a sufficient Warraunt, aswell to the Barrons and Awdytors of the saide Corte of Escheaquer as to all and every other Officers to whome the Allowances therof shall apparteyne; payinge for suche Discharge and Allowance only iis. and no more.' (fn. 128)
An effect of these changes was to make payment on the lower of two assessments common.
Of the 5900 assessments on valuations in the London subsidy roll of 1582, 385 were discharged by certificate of payment or assessment (the older way of dealing with assessment in more than one place) or by certificate of residence (the newer way of handling multiple assessment): 73 of these were discharges for people who paid in the queen's household or chamber, 16 were discharges for people who paid a second assessment in London itself, and the remaining 296 were discharges in London for people who paid in the country. (fn. 129) A further 88 people assessed in two or more places paid their London assessments and received discharge by presenting certificates from London commissioners to collectors in the country. Altogether, 473 (6.5%) of the people assessed for the subsidy in London in 1582 were assessed in a second place. A few of those were assessed in three places.
While all of the Londoners assessed in two or more places in 1541 remained answerable for the higher assessment or one of two or more identical assessments (except for those who could use their appointments as commissioners in one place to get the barons to vacate a higher assessment in another), in 1582 over half of those in London with multiple assessments (264 of 473) arranged that they should be liable for payment of the lower assessment. (fn. 130) It was even easier to obtain a certificate of residence in 1581– 82 than it had been in 1563; only two commissioners instead of three were required to sign it and it cost only 6d. instead of 2s. (fn. 131) Sixpence was a small price for alderman Sir Nicholas Woodroffe, lord mayor 1579–80, to pay to be discharged of £13 10s. in Lime Street ward (362) on payment of £5 in Ratcliffe, Middlesex; for alderman Sir John Branche, lord mayor 1580–81, to pay for discharge of £13 in Candlewick ward (241) on payment of £3 6s. 8d. in Ongar, Essex; or for Mr. John Barker for discharge of £15 in Tower ward (373) on payment of £3 6s. 8d. in Ipswich. (fn. 132) Woodroffe, incidentally, was a subsidy commissioner in London at the time. However, 117 of the London subsidymen who were assessed in two or more places do appear to have remained answerable for the higher assessment.
It was not long before the widespread use of these new-fangled certificates of residence came to be seen, no doubt correctly, as one important cause of the decline in the yield of the subsidy in London. (fn. 133) Burghley apparently hoped, in 1593, to reintroduce a statutory provision for payment on the highest assessment, but the act that parliament passed (35 Eliz. c.13) contained no such remedy. (fn. 134) Many of these certificates of residence survive in the P.R.O. class E.115, but as their archival integrity has been lost through rearrangement according to the initial of the surname of the person assessed, an examination of the certificates pertaining to a particular subsidy payment from a particular division of collection is impracticable. There are in the 462 bundles in this collection, besides certificates of residence, many certificates of the earlier form, testifying to assessment or payment.
Writs of privy seal granting exemption from payment of the subsidy and directed to the treasurer and barons of the exchequer further eroded apparent obligation. Such writs were unknown in 1541, but common in 1582. By 1582, the classes of persons who could expect to receive exoneration from payment of the subsidy by privy seal included the musicians and trumpeters of the queen's household, the yeomen of the queen's chamber, the grooms and riders of the queen's stable, the gentleman porter and yeomen waiters of the Tower of London, the officials of the mint, the officers of the College of Arms, and alien merchants who were born as subjects of the king of Spain in Antwerp and the Low Countries. In addition, aliens and denizens who held positions in the queen's household and chamber were exonerated from payment at the rate for strangers and charged as English. Sometimes writs granting exoneration from payment were issued in favour of individuals: ambassadors or military commanders resident abroad, for example. (fn. 135)
Forty-six alien merchants born in Antwerp and other places in the Low Countries as subjects of the king of Spain were exonerated of both payments under the 1581 act by writ of privy seal dated 16 October 1581. The writ itself did not name the eligible merchants, but required that a certificate of their names be prepared by the lord mayor or the governor of the Company of Merchant Adventurers and be directed to the lord treasurer, the chancellor, and the barons of the exchequer. The certificate for the first payment of the 1581 subsidy (that for the second payment has not been found) is actually under the hands of the lord mayor and the governor and deputy governor of the Merchants Adventurers, who state that the list was compiled after consultation with 'diverse substancial and credible merchauntes of the saide Companye'. Merchants from Antwerp had enjoyed regular exoneration from payment since 1556, at least, in reciprocation for the freedom of English merchants from any similar tax in the Low Countries. (fn. 136) French and Italian merchants had received privy seals exempting them from the subsidy in 1556, but that exoneration may have been exceptional; certainly they had to pay in 1581 and 1582. (fn. 137) Merchants of the Hanse, who seem to have been exempted from valuation and assessment for the subsidy early in the sixteenth century without royal writ, under the conditions of their privileged status in the Steelyard, do not seem to have retained their uniquely favoured position after the revocation of their privileges in 1552, 1555, and 1556. (fn. 138)
Officers of the College of Arms also benefitted from a privilege of exemption from payment of the subsidy under the terms of Edward VI's grant of letters patent to the heralds. (fn. 139) A writ of privy seal to the treasurer and barons of the exchequer at the time of each subsidy payment listed the officers of arms and, citing the patent of 1549, ordered their discharge. (fn. 140) Ten of the 13 officers were assessed and discharged in London in 1582. (fn. 141) The officials of the mint, by their office, similarly received exoneration of payment effected by writs of privy seal based on letters patent; four of them were discharged in London in 1582. (fn. 142) Finally, Balthesar Sanches (the queen's comfit maker), an alien assessed in Walbrook ward (395), was one of nine strangers, all personal servants of the queen, who benefitted from a writ granting them the privilege of paying the subsidy at the rates for English. (fn. 143) Strangers who were servants of the monarch had received such partial exemptions from at least the first subsidy of Mary's reign. (fn. 144)
Uncollectable assessments for which the collectors swore that the persons assessed had no distrainable property within their collection divisions numbered 426 in London in 1582, 212 of them assessments on strangers taxed per poll. That is 5.9% of all individual assessments—by number, not by value. Sixty-one, 1.5%, had been uncollectable in 1541/42.
There were fewer discharges on process before the barons of the exchequer in 1582 than there had been in 1541/42. Two doctors of civil law, Dr. William Mowse and Dr. Edward Stanhope (246), were discharged upon process on the ground that Mowse, as rector of East Dereham in the diocese of Norwich, and Stanhope, as prebendary of Botevant in the diocese of York, were liable to payments for the clerical subsidy that exceeded their assessment for the lay subsidy and, therefore, exonerated by the terms of the subsidy act. (fn. 145) A claim to discharge on similar grounds by another civilian, Dr. Henry Jones (246), who occupied two rectories in the diocese of St. Asaph, failed. Also rejected were the claims of Lionel Duckett (283) and William Patten (279) to exoneration from payment on the ground of their being founder shareholders of the Company of Mines Royal. (fn. 146) Finally, Thomas Herdson (373) received discharge in 1582 as a resident of Folkestone, a member of the port of Dover, whose inhabitants enjoyed the exemption from payment of the subsidy that the statute granted to all residents of the Cinque Ports. (fn. 147)
In sum, the London collectors received entire or partial discharges for 209 (5%) of the 4085 assessments in the 1541 subsidy roll and for 874 (12%) of the 7258 assessments in 1582 on the basis of certificates of assessment or payment, certificates of residence, writs of privy seal, certificates of default, and decisions of the barons upon process in the court of exchequer. All of these kinds of exoneration or discharge that the collectors received resulted in an actual yield for the subsidy that was less, and by the end of Elizabeth's reign much less, than what contemporaries called the 'first charge', that is the totals of the assessments for each ward in the subsidy rolls. (fn. 148) Very few people in London with high assessments on annual income from lands or fees actually paid their London assessments. Of the 31 people valued in London at £100 a year or more in lands and fees in 1582, only one, John Roche, gent. (216), paid in London. The collectors received discharges for the assessments on all the rest: 26 discharges on the basis of tax liability elsewhere (either by certificate of assessment or certificate of residence) and 4 on the basis of the collectors' affidavits that the person assessed had no distrainable property in their collection divisions. The subsidy rolls are seen to be a record of assessment, not a final record of tax liability, still less of what individuals actually paid.
SUBSIDY VALUATIONS AND ACTUAL WEALTH
There is no time at which London valuations for the subsidy can be taken as representing actual worth in goods or income, or even as an index of actual wealth. They can probably be taken as an indication of wealth rank order as that was widely perceived to be within a particular assessment division and within the distinct groups of high book and low book taxpayers.
Some historians who have worked with the subsidy rolls have suggested that assessment certificates of the 1520s to 1540s may have presented valuations that approximated the actual worth of taxpayers. It is doubtful that valuations were realistic even in Henry's reign. Dr. Schofield, by comparing a small sample of subsidy valuations with independent and more nearly realistic valuations made for other purposes (feodaries' surveys and probate inventories) found that in Henry VIII's reign subsidy assessments based on annual income from land were 'tolerably realistic' while those based on valuations of goods were less so. In a sample of 39 cases the subsidy valuations based on annual income from land averaged 68 per cent of the valuations of annual income in the feodaries' surveys. In a sample of 20 cases in the period 1524– 42, subsidy valuations based on goods averaged 48.7 per cent of probate valuations. The gap between subsidy and probate valuations widened thereafter. (fn. 149)
London is not represented in Schofield's samples, but as he showed in his earlier work, there is strong circumstantial evidence of undervaluation in London in Henry VIII's reign. There was probably undervaluation in 1516, for there was a drop from the 1515 subsidy yield that can most simply be explained by undervaluation. Wolsey was so concerned with undervaluation of the rich, at least, that he summoned the mayor and seven aldermen before the council in Star Chamber, and threatened that if they did not pay on the difference between their assessments in 1515 and those of 1516 he would assess them on oath 'upon the true value of their substance within the sum of C markes'. They paid the difference rather than submit to assessment on oath. (fn. 150) There is also evidence of undervaluation for the subsidy granted in 1523; it appears from a comparison of the valuations of the aldermen for the city's £20,000 loan to the crown in 1522–23 with their valuations for the Anticipation of the first payment of the 1523 subsidy. The valuations of 19 aldermen were lower for the subsidy than for the loan, one remained the same, and two rose. Setting aside Sir Lawrence Aylmer, who, at the time of the loan, 'his debtes payd is skant worth xlli', the average valuation of the goods of 21 aldermen for the loan was £1,815; the average valuation of the goods of the same twenty-one aldermen for the Anticipation was £869, a drop of over 50 per cent. (fn. 151) This evidence bears on undervaluation of the rich, however, and one of the strongest conclusions reached by Schofield's statistical analysis is that the rich were on the average much more undervalued than the poor. (fn. 152) There was probably widespread undervaluation, though, for the subsidy granted in 1534. Cromwell's complaints of undervaluation in London appear well-grounded in view of the great increases in the 1541 valuations. In Cornhill ward, 21 people were assessed in 1537 for the second payment under the 1534 act and again in 1541 for the second payment under the 1540 act. Nineteen of their valuations were higher in 1541, one was lower, and one remained the same. The valuations of 13 of these 21 residents had more than trebled while five others had doubled. (fn. 153) Increases of this magnitude in five years can scarcely be attributed to individual prosperity or inflation; they are more likely the consequence of the wholesale replacement of aldermen by royal officials in the subsidy commissions for London in 1540 and 1541. (fn. 154)
Valuations in London probably peaked in 1540 or 1541, as suggested in Table IV by the distribution of the valuations of English residents assessed on goods in all of the extant subsidy certificates of three wards—Bassishaw, Coleman Street, and Cornhill—from 1536 to 1582. The number of people valued at £20 and above in these wards was greater in 1541 than for any other subsidy payment for which the assessment certificates have survived.
Valuations at the top of the scale fell markedly after 1541, despite the fact that the years 1542–51 saw a currency debasement, a price rise in London of more than 75 per cent, and an increase in wages of 50 per cent or more. (fn. 155) There were 65 Londoners assessed for the subsidy in both 1541 and 1544 who were valued at £1000 or more in one of those years. The valuations of 4 of the 65 were higher in 1544 than in 1541, the valuations of 15 stayed the same, and the valuations of 46 fell. (See Table V.) In 1544, the total of the valuations of this group of London's richest inhabitants was 16% below what it had been in 1541. (fn. 156) It is unreasonable to suppose that valuations in 1541 were unrealistically high, for it was a simple matter to get an excessive valuation reduced upon oath before the commissioners prior to the return of the certificates into exchequer.
While valuations were higher in London in 1541 than for any other subsidy payment for which there are certificates, and higher probably than for any payment with the possible exception of 1540, one cannot conclude that individual valuations were reasonably accurate even then. What makes one doubt their accuracy is the differences between the valuations of individuals who were assessed in more than one place. In 1541, 171 residents of London were assessed for the subsidy in a second place, and, as shown in Table VI, valuations often differed. The valuations that are relevant to this issue are those that the assessors in the two or more places made independently of each other, without the taxpayer as the common source. So, we can exclude from consideration valuations that differed by only a pound of so, resulting in assessments that varied by only six pence or so. Twenty-six of the taxpayers had such proximate valuations and assessments. In these cases the difference between the valuations seems generally to have been contrived by the taxpayer in order to ensure liability for payment in one place rather than another. Members of royal households, in particular, seem to have been willing to pay the extra six pence in order to avoid payment as residents of London. For example, the movables of John Alelye were valued at £400 in Broad Street ward (51) and at £401 in the king's household. The higher valuation increased his assessment by six pence, and exonerated him in London. Similarly, the goods of John Dale were valued at £300 in Farringdon Without (119) and at £301 in the king's household; those of John Heathe at £100 in Bishopsgate ward (34) and at £101 in the king's household. We can discount these 26 multiple assessments as not having been made independently.
We can probably exclude another 43 cases from consideration. These were persons whose valuations in two or more places were identical. It is extremely improbable that assessors in two places would independently arrive at identical valuations.
This leaves 102 cases in which the assessors probably made independent valuations. In almost two-thirds of those cases (66 out of 102) the higher valuation was more than 1.5 times the lower valuation. In almost one-third of the cases (33 of 102) the valuations were at least twice as high in one place as in the other. The differences between valuations were sometimes extreme. Thomas Taylor was valued at £40 in goods in Southwark ('country' in Table VI) and at £250 in goods in adjoining Bridge ward (43). He paid the higher assessment, as the law required, and received discharge on the lower. Even within London there could be great differences in valuations. John James was thought by the assessors of Farringdon Within to be worth £30 in goods (110), while the assessors of Farringdon Without valued him at £100 (111). Hugh Loft was assessed in three places, two of them in London. The assessors in Willesden, Middlesex, valued him at £100, the assessors in Queenhithe ward at £200 (146), and the assessors in adjoining Castle Baynard ward at £300 (54). Assessors valued William Munday at £20 in Cripplegate (84) and at £66 13s. 4d. in neighbouring Aldersgate (5).
It is fairly certain that in cases of double assessment the higher assessment reflects a more accurate valuation than the lower, for an excessive valuation could easily be reduced upon oath. But the differences between valuations in the cases of double assessments cast into doubt the ability of the assessors to evaluate. The valuation of worth in goods may have been particularly difficult.
How the assessors and commissioners valued a person's estate is uncertain. The subsidy acts are almost silent on the procedures to be followed in valuation, but the general methods stipulated and implied are direct enquiry of the person being valued (sometimes on oath, sometimes not) and estimation. There is no hint in the statutes, in the exchequer records, in the council's orders, or in correspondence relating to valuations for the subsidy (or for any other Tudor assessments) of reliance upon direct inspection or the examination of rentals or inventories (except indirectly in valuing orphans' estates). In the middle decades of the century there appears to have been a shift of emphasis from valuation by direct enquiry to valuation by estimation and a concurrent change in the object of valuation from obtaining realistic appraisals of goods and income to obtaining valuations that were equitable in relation to other valuations in the same community.
The assessors and the commissioners both had responsibility for valuations; the assessors made the initial valuations of everyone except the commissioners and the commissioners valued each other and revised the assessors' valuations. The statutes gave little positive direction to the assessors. The acts of 1512 (4 Hen. VIII c.19) and 1514 (5 Hen. VIII c.17), simply required the 'presenters' or assessors to present to the commissioners the names and values of taxable persons. The commissioners could examine the assessors on oath and call before them for examination on oath as many other persons as they deemed expedient. From 1515 to 1559, the acts required the presenters or assessors to take an oath before the commissioners to 'inquire with my fellows that shall be charged with me...of the best and most value of the substance of every person dwelling or abiding within the limits of the places that I and my fellows shall be charged with' (fn. 157). How they were to enquire is not specified. Although the commissioners continued in 1563, and after, to charge the assessors in these same terms, the subsidy act of 1563 dropped the requirement of the assessors' oath before the commissioners and it was never restored. More tellingly, the subsidy act of 1563 also began the proscription against assessors using corporal oaths in their enquiries into values. (fn. 158) This would seem to imply that assessors in the past had, at least occasionally, examined on oath.
The commissioners also made valuations of wealth—of fellow commissioners, of the assessors (from the act of 1548 on), of persons whom they suspected of being undervalued in the assessors' presentments (except under the act of 1534, which contained no such provision), and of persons who claimed that they had been overvalued by the assessors—and the acts are more specific on the methods the commissioners were to follow.
The acts of 1512 to 1515 required that each commissioner be valued upon his oath, certificate, or 'otherwise' by at least two other commissioners. (fn. 159) Subsequent acts dropped the oath, but maintained the method of direct enquiry. From 1523 to the 1545 act commissioners were 'valued and rated...by examynacion' of at least two fellow commissioners, (fn. 160) and under the 1548 act by a majority of their fellow commissioners. (fn. 161) From the act of 1552–53 on, the statutes dropped the provision for examination and stated simply that the commissioners should 'sett taxe and sesse every other Commyssyoner joyned withe them in every suche Commyssion'. (fn. 162) This represents an early and significant shift from valuation on direct enquiry to valuation on estimation by social peers.
Those whom the commissioners suspected of being undervalued in the assessors' returns they could summon, and, from 1515, examine upon a prescribed oath. If for good reason a person summoned could not appear, the commissioners examined on oath people acquainted with that person's affairs. (fn. 163) Until 1543, the statements on oath of people suspected of being undervalued were decisive; they were 'rated and charged accordyng to the value and substaunce shewed by his or their disposicyon or his or ther oathes made and none otherwyse'. (fn. 164) This language, which would appear to bind the commissioners to accept the word of such deponents, was dropped from the act of 1543. How the commissioners were to proceed thereafter is not clear. This language binding commissioners to accept statements of worth on oath applied also to those who appeared before the commissioners to complain of overvaluation. From 1514, persons who considered themselves overvalued by the assessors could, prior to the return of the assessment certificates into exchequer, appear before the commissioners for revaluation on oath. (fn. 165) Up to 1543, they could count on this determination of taxable value by oath. The 1543 statute, however, gave the commissioners great latitude in the cases of those claiming to be overvalued; 'upon the othe of the saide persone so complayning', the commissioners 'maie abate defalke increase or enlarge the same Assessment according as it shall appeare to them juste upon the same examinacion'. (fn. 166) It is not clear that they had such leeway with the undervalued, but as the statute did not require the commissioners to administer the oath, they may have proceeded by direct enquiry without oath in cases of suspected undervaluation. These provisions remained in effect until the act of 1558, which dropped all reference to the set oath for persons suspected of being undervalued. (fn. 167) The 1559 act introduced an actual proscription, included in all subsequent subsidy acts, against the commissioners' use of any corporal oaths in their examination of underassessment. (fn. 168)
In the rejection of the oath as a tool for getting at 'the best and most value of the substance' of taxpayers there appears to have been an implicit acknowledgement of the fictitious nature of the valuations. This was a significant consideration in the drafting of the 1563 act, which dropped the oath that the assessors had previously taken and proscribed the use of oaths by assessors in setting valuations. Robert Atkinson, in a 1563 speech in the commons against a bill to widen the obligation to take the oath of supremacy, referred to the deletion of the assessors' oaths: 'In the bill of conveyinge over [exporting] of horses there was a clause that whosoever should convey over any horse and would sweare that it was for his necessarie travaile, it was lawful; and because that men sticked not at such a trifle to forsweare themselves that clause was repealed, and upon like consideracion by the grave advice of this House was the oathe left out of the subsedie book.' (fn. 169)
The deliberate prohibition, beginning in 1559, against commissioners examining under oath those whom they suspected of being undervalued, the deletion from the 1563 statute and all subsequent subsidy acts of the oath formerly administered to the assessors, and the prohibition, beginning in 1563, against assessors using examinations under oath in making valuations not only point to the awareness of the decline in subsidy valuations, they indicate that neither the council nor parliament expected that assessors and commissioners should any longer try to discover the best and most value of the substance of every person. (fn. 170) As Sir Ralph Sadler put it in 1566, the ideal in assessing the subsidy was that people should contribute 'according to our porcions, according to our liabilities'. (fn. 171) In this spirit, the council instructed the subsidy commissioners in 1576: 'Where heretofore persons of very great possessions and wealthe have ben assessed at very meane sommes, and persons of the meanest sorte have ben enhanced to paye after the rate of the uttermost value of their substaunces, you shall now have good regarde to order the said taxacions more indifferentlie, so as the greatest burden beinge laid upon the most welthie, the poorer sorte maie in propocion be the more easied.' (fn. 172)
The government did not give up trying to ascertain true values for various purposes, but recognized from the beginning of Elizabeth's reign the uselessness of the subsidy books in doing so. In enforcing the Marian statute for maintaining horses and furnishing armour and weapons, the queen and council regularly instructed the lieutenants or the county commissions for musters that they were to base the statutory military assessment not on wealth as set in the subsidy books but as it was in deed. (fn. 173) The government also sought to obtain true valuations of the worth of recusants, and when the council in 1577 ordered the bishops to certify the names and worth of recusants, it stipulated that their lands and goods should be valued as 'you thinck they are in deed and not as they be valewed in the subsidye booke'. (fn. 174) The commissioners for piracy in the coastal counties received letters in 1578 requiring them to make returns of the values of offenders, 'not after the rates that they have ben set in subsedie, but according as, in dede, they maie spend in landes and be worth in goodes'. (fn. 175) Except for the musters in 1569, when the council ordered commissioners to be severe in trying the value of goods and lands on oath, (fn. 176) the government largely left local officials to their own devices in making valuations. In practice, this meant relying on estimation or common opinion. The council in 1574 instructed the lieutenants of the counties to determine for the purpose of furnishing horses, armour and weapons, 'the trewe & most probable value ether in landes or goodes of every person (as ether by their open doynges in the world, or by other probable meanes shall appeare likely)'. (fn. 177) For valuing the estates of recusants in 1577, the council sent to the bishops the names of gentlemen in each county 'who, we thinck, can well informe your lordship of their [recusants'] partyculer valewes'. (fn. 178) The diocesan returns to Westminster explain the valuations in such phrases as these: 'by common reporte of publique fame', 'we do esteme to be worthe', 'as they are thought to be in the common opynion of men', 'accordinge to ... Common fame and beleef of neighbours adjoynauntes', 'our opinions for the value of their landes & goodes', and values of lands and goods 'as they are taken'. (fn. 179) Lord North and other commissioners for musters in Cambridgeshire summed up the matter of valuation when they informed the council in 1580 that 'wee have non other meane to knowe the truth of mens' habilities but by the Creditt we give to the gentlemen themselves'. (fn. 180)
Whether estimation or common opinion could produce realistic valuations is questionable, but the distinction that the council constantly made between real worth and the subsidy valuations in the context of other valuations implies its resigned acceptance of consistently low assessments for the subsidy. Undervaluation for the subsidy was, as Sir Walter Mildmay said in 1575, 'a matter now drawn to be so usual that it is hard to be reformed'. (fn. 181)
There were efforts to reform the subsidy, but they were aimed at more equitable assessments, as in 1576, or at improved rather than realistic valuations. Proclamations of 1559, 1574, and 1580 linked the enforcement of the statutes of apparel of 24 Henry VIII and 1 & 2 Philip and Mary to valuations for the subsidy in an effort to raise them without attempting to bring them up to realistic levels. The contrivance that the government employed was simple; either people should dress according to their subsidy valuations or their subsidy valuations should be raised to meet their level of apparel. But in so using vanity to squeeze out tax yield, the government cannot have intended to get realistic valuations. People needed to prove only £200 in goods or £200 per annum in lands in 1559 and £500 in goods or £200 per annum in lands in 1580 to enjoy all clothing and fashion to which wealth (as distinct from status) could give licence. (fn. 182) If this scheme was implemented, it seems to have had limited success. No one was valued in the London subsidy rolls at £500 in goods in 1582, and only three people (John Cowper, Sir William Damsell, and Sir Rowland Hayward) were valued at £400. There were only four valuations of £200 per annum in lands or fees (Dame Anne Gresham, Sir Thomas Kitson, Sir John Peter, and Sir Thomas Ryvet) and two of them paid on valuations under £200 per annum outside London (Peter in Essex and Ryvet in Cambridgeshire).
By the middle years of Elizabeth's reign, the object of valuation for the subsidy was not to obtain true values but to ensure that when a subsidy was levied people paid according to their relative ability as their communities commonly perceived that to be. What was aimed at, Lord North wrote as a subsidy commissioner for Cambridgeshire in 1589, was the contentment of all men, not accurate assessments, not even assessments that bore some fixed relation to wealth. In a letter often cited, he informed Burghley that 'There is no man assessed before me but is known to be worth at the least in goods 10 times as much as he is set at, and 6 times more in lands than his assessment; and many be 20 times, some 30, and some much more worth than they be set at, which the commissioner cannot without oath help.' (fn. 183) That the community perception of assessment according to ability was a central concern of subsidy commissioners is evident from the outcome of Sir Horatio Palavicino's appeal to the subsidy commissioners in Cambridgeshire in 1598 for a reduction in his valuation. It was twice that of any other gentleman in the county, and that, he said, gave a false and inconvenient impression of his relative wealth. The commissioners in the end defended their valuation, according to Palavicino, on the ground that it was consistent with common opinion. (fn. 184)
One might think common opinion a poor guide to ability to contribute to the public charge when it could lead to some being valued in the subsidy certificates at one-tenth and others at one-thirtieth or less their real worth. Aside from the problem of finding a better alternative, this is not necessarily the case. Common opinion could redress a basic structural flaw in the subsidy — the payment of an assessment on the value of goods or on income from land, etc., but not on both. This feature of the subsidy favoured those who possessed a balanced estate in real and personal property. (fn. 185) Common opinion could also redress the probable inequity, favouring landowners, of the relationship between rates on goods and rates on lands; indeed, this may be why Lord North and the other commissioners in Cambridgeshire apparently thought it desirable to undervalue goods more than lands. (fn. 186) No doubt common opinion was informed by impressions rather than evidence of wealth systematically gathered —observations of the size of house and household, the quality of entertainment and public appearance—so 'he that had a cup of red wine to his oysters was hoisted in the Queen's subsidy book', (fn. 187) and the only virtue of a well-dressed wife was 'to improve my credit in the subsidy book'. (fn. 188)
THE FORMATION OF THE COMMON OPINION OF WORTH IN ELIZABETHAN LONDON
In London, the common opinion of a person's wealth was formed in the close communities of ward, parish and precinct where there was by 1582 a tradition of taking stock of neighbours' abilities. Frequent and various enquiries into the numbers and affairs of all or large classes of the city's inhabitants, wide participation in the assessment and collection of several kinds of local taxes, and the public scrutiny given these assessments in popular meetings all contributed to making the evaluation of one's neighbours a habit of mind. (fn. 189)
In the parishes and precincts neighbours assessed each other for the wages of the parish clerks, beadles, scavengers, rakers; for city and parliamentary fifteenths and tenths; and for a wide range of occasional levies. The mayor and aldermen and the privy council commanded many city-wide surveys of inhabitants, with increasing frequency after 1558. There were surveys of those who possessed military harness or who were able for military service; enquiries, usually at the instigation of the privy council, into the number and condition of the foreign born; censuses of 'foreigns', Englishmen resident in but not free of the city, often because of government concern with the number of gentlemen residing in the city; censuses of the poor made in response to increasing vagrancy and almost as a matter of course in the administration of the poor law; searches of houses converted into tenements or lodgings; searches to find out how many lodgers there were in the city (including their names and occupations); and in 1573 an extensive census to produce a record of the names, trades, and occupations of the inhabitants of every parish, together with the names of the owners of every tenement.
Large numbers of people were involved in this frequent, officially sponsored scrutiny of their neighbours' condition. Parishioners in vestry commonly elected assessors for fifteenths and tenths; for the bills for the clerk's, scavenger's, and raker's wages; and for levies to meet occasional parochial charges. In the parish of St. Bartholomew by the Exchange at least 13 parishioners had experience as assessors for parochial levies in the fifteen years preceding the assessment of the subsidy payment of 1582. (fn. 190) St. Bartholomew by the Exchange is probably exceptional only in the fullness of its vestry minutes and their survival from an early date. In St. Alban Wood Street, the vestry elected nine parishioners during the years 1585 to 1588 to serve as assessors. (fn. 191) St. Margaret Lothbury favoured larger panels of assessors: eight in 1578 to assess the parish for repairs to the church and for defacing windows with images, eight in 1581 to increase the levy for the clerk's wages, and eight in the same year to make a new assessment for the fifteenth. (fn. 192)
The people chosen in the parishes to assess their neighbours represented a limited range in the social spectrum — householders of the sort whom their fellows also chose to serve as constable, churchwarden, member of the wardmote inquest, and common councilman — but the wider group of substantial parishioners who attended vestry meetings could, and did, approve and disapprove the work of the assessors or even make the assessments then and there. (fn. 193) After six parishioners of St. Mary Aldermary, elected by a general vestry, had assessed a fifteenth and tenth, the assessment was 'openlye read and published and by the hole Assemblye ther gethered ratified and allowed to continewe as a perpetual president'. (fn. 194) Assessors did not always perform their tasks to such general satisfaction. In St. Margaret Lothbury in 1591, a small group of six or eight parishioners who disapproved the existing assessment for the poor of Christ's Hospital made their own assessment of the parish and apparently tried to enforce it, to the great confusion of parochial taxpayers. In vestry, 'The question beinge moved which of the asseasments they would have to stand in effect yt was agreed by erectinge of hands that the fyrst asseasment... should stande.' (fn. 195) The majority of the parishioners of St. Martin Ludgate became so incensed with assessors for the fifteenth and tenth who had 'raised and pulled down at their discrecions' the assessments of divers parishioners that they appointed 22 people to reassess the parish and to produce an assessment list that 'should remaine for ever as a president'. (fn. 196) Sometimes the parishioners in vestry constituted themselves assessors. In assessing a fifteenth and tenth in St. Bartholomew by the Exchange in 1594, all of the 18 parishioners in attendance at the vestry meeting joined in the valuation and together set down what everyone should pay. (fn. 197) In St. Botolph Billingsgate in 1593, 'The common counsell of this parish..., the churchwardens, and most of the parishe dyd mete and assemble themselves together not only for the ceasing of every man, but also to apoynt collectors for the gathering therof.' (fn. 198)
The subsidy differed in principle from most parochial and ward levies in being assessed on valuations of wealth rather than on the occupation of property. The only more or less regular local levies in London based on valuations of wealth were those for poor relief. The subsidy also differed in its administration in having assessors formally appointed by commissioners who were not responsible to the wardmote, vestry, or whole body of parishioners. Still, the assessors for the subsidy were people who had been assessors in their parishes; people who knew the occupations, number of servants, quality of dwellings, and rents paid by their neighbours; and people who were likely in turn to be assessed by their fellow parishioners on another occasion.
The number of assessors at work for most payments of the subsidy is uncertain. We need not accept the statement of the author of the 'Notes for Taxacion of Subsidye' that the number of high assessors had always been 12, (fn. 199) but it does appear that their number was settled at 12 by the early subsidies of Elizabeth's reign. Little is known about the petty assessors, but their numbers probably varied from one subsidy to another and from ward to ward. In Queenhithe ward in 1541, a ward that had 57 English and 18 stranger subsidymen, there were six 'presenters' or assessors, mostly from the middle ranks of the ward's taxpayers. Only in the assessment certificate for this one ward are they identified (146). In 1546, 1568, and 1572 the commissioners would seem to have ordered four men from each ward to appear before them to be charged as assessors. (fn. 200) In 1550 and 1558 some account seems to have been taken of ward size, for there were six persons summoned from the wards of Farringdon Without and Cripplegate; two each from Lime Street, Bassishaw, Portsoken and Aldgate; and four men from all of the rest. (fn. 201) In 1555 and 1571, the commissioners summoned eight men from Tower ward in what seem to have been exemplars for precepts to all of the aldermen requiring them to have men in attendance to be charged as assessors, but there is no way of knowing whether there were to be eight from every ward. (fn. 202) More certain is the evidence for Bassishaw ward in 1610 and 1621. The eight petty assessors appointed in 1610 assessed only 34 inhabitants; the eleven petty assessors in 1621 assessed 33. (fn. 203)
In 1582, a precept in the form of one for appointment of assessors required the aldermen to have 16 people from Farringdon Without and Cripplegate wards and 12 from all of the rest appear before the commissioners. If all of those summoned were actually appointed, the panels of petty assessors would probably have been larger in 1582 than for any other sixteenth-century subsidy payment, and would have given the city as a whole 308 petty assessors. (fn. 204)
There is likely to have been the same level of community concern for the equity of subsidy assessments as there was for the equity of parochial and ward levies, and if it seems that something like the common opinion of the parish eventually prevailed in assessing clerk's wages it is not too much to expect that common opinion should have been satisfied in assessing the subsidy. The two-tiered system of valuation and the large number of petty assessors would have contributed to this outcome.
The likelihood that the subsidy assessments were widely accepted as reasonably equitable within the local community gains support from the use that the mayor and aldermen and the common council made of the subsidy valuations in imposing civic levies. The city of London seems to have first used the subsidy valuations for the purpose of rating other levies in 1578 at the instigation of the central government. The privy council ordered the city to equip and train 2,000 soldiers for the queen's service. Along with its detailed instructions on the selection, mustering and training of the troops, the council sent its recommendation on the way to finance the soldiers: 'It is thought mete that the charge to be levied within the Cittie ... shalbe onely extended and levied upon such of thinhabitantes as are taxed in the subside booke, everie one pro rata, and the reast not to be any waie burdened therwith.' (fn. 205) Customarily, the mayor, aldermen, and common council had allocated the burden of raising and furnishing men among the livery companies and city fellowships, and for the greater part of the charge in 1578 they did so again. When the charge was borne by the companies, however, it was borne only by citizens, freemen of London, and not by the residents of the city in general. To extend the burden broadly among substantial residents the corporation followed the privy council's recommendation in part by levying a tax, based on valuations for the subsidy, on all foreigns (non-citizen native English), strangers born, and denizens. (fn. 206) The privy council, in fact, enjoined the use of subsidy assessments on a national scale at this time for a variety of purposes while clearly dismissing the valuations as statements of actual worth. In 1577, the council made rates on the valuations in the last subsidy book the basis for local levies for the furnishing and training of shot. (fn. 207) In 1580, the council made copies of the subsidy assessments available to the county-wide commissions for muster to give them better knowledge of how to direct particular commissioners in the rating of men in their localities. (fn. 208) The government itself used subsidy assessments in deciding on the acceptability of sureties nominated by prospective customs farmers. (fn. 209)
Although the city raised soldiers on a number of occasions in the decade from 1578, (fn. 210) the corporation did not use the subsidy valuations again for a city levy until the spring of 1588. The city did tax non-freemen to raise money toward the cost of large-scale musters twice during that decade (in February 1580 and in April 1585), but in neither instance did the Common Council make the subsidy valuations the basis of the tax. (fn. 211) There were no fresh subsidy valuations available for either of these occasions.
In the ten years from 1588 to 1597, during which time there were new valuations and assessments for a subsidy payment in every year except 1597, the city used the parliamentary subsidy valuations ten times to raise money: on nine occasions to furnish men or ships for the war against Spain and once to secure a supply of grain for the city. Three times in 1588 the common council imposed a levy based on valuations for the subsidy: in March to raise and furnish ten thousand men, (fn. 212) to furnish sixteen ships and four pinnaces, (fn. 213) and in August 1588 for equipping the ships and pinnaces and training the soldiers. (fn. 214) Again in 1589, 1591 (twice), 1594, 1596, and 1597 the city imposed levies based on the subsidy valuations, at varying rates, to raise money for the finance of soldiers and shipping. (fn. 215) In January 1597 the city used the subsidy valuations for a local purpose for the first time; in order to keep grain in the city from being sold in the country, the officers of each ward were to call before them the subsidymen to persuade them to buy one bushel of wheat or rye for each pound at which they were valued. (fn. 216) In Cripplegate ward, at least, the actual assessment, although based on valuations for the subsidy, devolved upon the parishioners in vestry. (fn. 217)
The valuations for the subsidy constituted a tax base particularly appropriate to these years of frequent local taxation, so frequent that in 1596 the common council enacted that a register book of all city subsidies, 15ths and 10ths, and other impositions be maintained in the city chamber to serve as a current record of who had and had not paid toward any particular levy. (fn. 218) There were at this time fresh subsidy books frequently at hand, and they had the advantage of spreading the tax burden among foreigns and aliens as well as citizens and of sparing those least able to contribute. There were, however, alternative means of finance available to the city that continued in use in furnishing soldiers, fitting out and victualling ships, buying gunpowder and grain, rebuild ing the city's gates and walls, acquiring civic firefighting equipment, or relieving the city's hospitals. The common council could rate the city companies and limit the use of subsidy valuations to foreigns and aliens, levy multiple 15ths and 10ths on the wards and parishes, raise forced loans on bond, or make rated assessments on wealth valued independently of the subsidy. Had the subsidy certificates not embodied the common opinion of relative ability to pay the city need not have used them.
The frequent use made of the subsidy assessments for levying taxes other than the parliamentary subsidy suggests that within the limits of the local community people regarded the subsidy valuations as tolerably equitable. Moreover, given the large number of assessors and their close ties to their localities it is likely that valuations represent the common opinion of the relative position of householders in respect to wealth. Within their different local contexts, Sir Nicholas Woodroffe's £270 valuation by the high assessors in London and £100 valuation by the assessors of Ratcliffe in Middlesex may both have been consistent with the common opinion of relative wealth. But the differences between the two valuations caution against comparisons across assessment divisions and stand as a clear warning against taking the subsidy valuations as an index of wealth.
NOTE ON EDITORIAL PRACTICE
The subsidy roll for 1541, E.179/144/120, consists of 26 rotulets of no uniform size, some of two or more membranes, filed exchequer-wise and numbered in a modern hand. There is one rotulet for each of the 25 wards and one for the assessments on orphans' estates. Each rotulet is an indenture between the London subsidy commissioners and the collectors for the wards and for the orphans' estates. There is no obvious order to the arrangement of the file.
The roll for 1582, E.179/251/16, consists of 121 single-membrane rotulets. The first four are indentures between the commissioners and the high collectors for each of the four groups of wards into which the 25 were divided. They bear the signatures of the high collectors. Each of the remaining 117 membranes is part of an estreat of indentures between the commissioners and the petty collectors for one of the wards, signed by the petty collectors or bearing their marks. The membranes for the wards within each of the four collection groups are filed together, but within the four groups there is, again, no obvious order to the arrangement of the wards.
This edition of the 1541 and 1582 London subsidy assessment rolls aims to include all of the information of the originals that relates to valuation and assessment, but the form of the presentation departs from the originals in several respects. The wards are here arranged alphabetically. The beginning of each rotulet in the original documents is marked in the printed text by the rotulet number in square brackets. In 1541 and again in 1582, the language of the indentures between the commissioners and the petty collectors is the same for all wards. It is given in full for only the first ward in both years — Aldersgate ward. In the originals, entries of assessments are set down in two or three columns on each rotulet. Omitted here are the parochial or other headings repeated at the heads of the second and third columns when lists of subsidymen from the same parish are carried over. In the originals, the individual assessment is entered in three secondary columns, one each for name, valuation, and assessment. These three columns are here reduced to two: name (with valuation in round brackets) and assessment. (fn. 219)
In the originals, language specifying the basis for valuation follows the name: 'in goods', 'in lands', 'in fees', 'in lands and fees'. Most Londoners taxed for the subsidy were assessed on valuations of goods. Here, only if the assessment derived from a valuation of some form of annual income is the language specifying the basis for valuation given. In all other cases it may be taken that the valuation was of goods and chattels. All valuations and assessments (in Roman numerals in the original rolls) are here given in Arabic.
Pound, shilling, and pence signs, omitted from individual entries of assessments, are given here at the head of the pound, shilling, and pence columns into which the assessments have been arranged.
Names and English words abbreviated and contracted in the originals are extended. The extensions follow modem spelling. Latin words are usually extended when there is no doubt about the intended ending. In some cases an apostrophe is given in place of a terminal extension. The original spelling has been retained except that i, j and u, v have been transcribed to conform to modem usage when it is known what that is. There may be errors in the rendering of more unusual surnames. There is also opportunity for error in deciding whether a letter is a u or an n. Some punctuation has been added, mostly commas to distinguish names in series.
The sums of assessments for wards that appear to be incorrect in the originals and discrepancies between valuations and assessments have not been corrected, though attention has been called to the latter by the use of 'sic' in square brackets. The few words or names that the editor has added are in square brackets, and any words in square brackets are added words. Names are supplied (nearly all of them forenames) only when they have been derived from exchequer records directly related to one or the other of the two subsidy payments represented here, principally the Exchequer Enrolled Accounts: Subsidies (E.359). In every case, the source is noted. The first names of doctors of law and of medicine are given in the Introduction, notes 95 and 96.
The original documents are, generally, in good condition, and their hands are legible. At some points, however, the editor admits uncertainty, even defeat. A question mark in square brackets, [?], means that the reading of the preceding word or name is questionable. Empty square brackets, [ ], common in the printed text of the badly faded 1541 orphans' book, take the place of illegible letters, names, words, or numbers. Square brackets around the word 'blank', [blank], indicate that a name, surname, valuation, or assessment was omitted in the original.
The subsidy roll for 1582 has a variety of marginal marks and notations relating to the actual tax obligation of persons assessed and the actual accountability of the collectors for particular assessments. In one way or another, these notations all concerned exonerations from payment. (fn. 220)
Per bre', per privat sigill', per bre' de privat sigill': of identical significance, any one of these notations to the left of a taxpayer's name in the original document indicates that the taxpayer received exoneration from payment by the queen's writ of privy seal directed to the treasurer and barons of the exchequer.
Aff' or per affid': this notation to the left of a person's name in the original document indicates that the commissioners had declared by certificate or affidavit to the treasurer and barons that the assessment was uncollectable because, as the petty collectors had sworn before the commissioners, the person taxed had no distrainable goods or chattels within the collection division (the ward) at the time the estreats were delivered into the hands of the collectors. This exoneration of the collectors did not extend to the taxpayers.
+ or x: a cross placed to the left of a taxpayer's name in the original document signifies an exoneration, usually because the taxpayer was answerable for an assessment in another place. Sometimes, however, this mark signifies an exoneration by writ of privy seal, an exoneration upon process before the barons of the exchequer, or an exoneration of the collectors by the commissioners' affidavit. Occasionally, but not regularly, the following phrase accompanies it.
Exoneratur hic quia oneratur in com' -: this notation, entered to the right of the assessment figure, means that the taxpayer was exonerated because of an assessment elsewhere for which the taxpayer remained answerable. Not all such exonerations are so noted in the original.
O a [oneratur]: written always in the abbreviated form, usually next to the assessment but occasionally to the left of the name, this notation indicates that the taxpayer had also been assessed in another place, had been exonerated in that place, and remained answerable for the present assessment.
These notations point to more specific information contained in the Exchequer Enrolled Accounts: Subsidies — that is, the ground for exoneration by writ of privy seal; the place and amount of the answerable assessment of persons exonerated by reason of having been assessed also in another place; and the amount and place of assessments exonerated elsewhere. This information is supplied here in an abbreviated form in square brackets following the valuation. The enrolled accounts give evidence in a very few instances of exonerations that are not noted in the 1582 assessment roll. In these cases, the editorial abbreviations of exoneration and specific information are supplied in square brackets as though the subsidy roll did have the appropriate marginal notations. (fn. 221) The full statements of place in the enrolled accounts are here reduced to the county or city in order to save space.
Although the 1541 assessment roll does not have such notations bearing on the actual accountability of taxpayers or collectors, there were then, as in 1582, uncollectable assessments of which collectors were discharged and multiple assessments requiring taxpayers' exonerations. As for 1582, the specific details of these exonerations can be found in the enrolled accounts. The information contained there is supplied in the edited 1541 subsidy roll as for the 1582 roll — in square brackets after the valuations, using the abbreviations that follow.
[a] The collectors were discharged of the assessment upon the commissioners' affidavit that the collectors had sworn that the person assessed had no distrainable goods in the collection division. These entries were denoted by the marginal notation aff or per qffid' in the 1582 assessment roll.
[ass.] [followed by assessment and place] The taxpayer was assessed and exonerated in another place, remaining answerable for the present assessment. These entries were denoted by the marginal notation O a in the 1582 assessment roll.
[b] The taxpayer and the London collectors were exonerated by writ of privy seal directed to the treasurer and barons of the exchequer. These entries are denoted in the 1582 original by the marginal notation per bre', per privat sigill', or per bre' de privat sigill'.
[b —Antwerp mer.] The taxpayer was a merchant of the Low Countries and subject of the King of Spain. He and the collectors were exonerated by writ of privy seal.
[x] [followed by place and assessment] This signifies that the taxpayer and collectors were exonerated of the present assessment, and that the taxpayer remained answerable in the named county, city or other London ward for the assessment in that place. In 1541, the x is sometimes followed by an editorial note in the form 'owes—amount in the ward of —' when the taxpayer had already paid on a lower assessment in another place and had to make up the difference between that and the higher assessment. A marginal cross, variably + or x, distinguishes such entries in the 1582 original. The marginal notation exoneratur hic quia oneratur in com' — sometimes accompanied it. If either the other place or other assessment is not given in the enrolled accounts a question mark follows the x.
[x-K] Exonerated, remaining answerable for an assessment in the household of the king.
[x-Q] Exonerated, remaining answerable for an assessment in the queen's household.
[x-P] Exonerated, remaining answerable for an assessment in the household of the prince.
[x-AC] Exonerated, remaining answerable for an assessment in the household of Anne of Cleves.
[x-Process] The taxpayer was exonerated of the assessment upon process before the barons of the exchequer.
|tax assessed||tax assessed|
|Goldsmiths||15||4.||8. L||Fishmongers||6||8.||0. L|
|Merchant Taylors||13||3.||8. (fn. 222) L||Clothworkers||4||14.||8. L|
|Fishmongers||10||13.||8. L||Salters||4||14.||8. L|
|Brewers||8||11.||2½||Merchant Taylors||3||5.||4. L|
|Mercers||7||10.||0. L||Drapers||3||1.||4. L|
|Saddlers||4||2.||4. L||Haberdashers||1||8.||0. L|
|Salters||3||3.||8½ L||Vintners||1||6.||8. L|
|Haberdashers||2||14.||2. L||Cordwainers||1||0.||0. L|
|Tallowchandlers||1||5.||6. L||Girdlers||13.||4. L|
|Ironmongers||1||1.||8. L||Waxchandlers||10.||8. L|
|Tylers & Bricklayers||5.||4. L|
L = assessment on valuation of annual income from lands.
These twelve parishes are the only ones for which there appears to be reasonably tractable evidence of the numbers of households in about 1582 and in which the number of persons assessed for the subsidy can also be determined. The approximate numbers of heads of households are drawn from the following parochial records (all G.L. MSS): 1., MS 2596/1, f. 180, assessment for a fifteenth, 1585; 2., MS 5022, f. 123, assessment for a fifteenth, 1581; 3., MS 1046/1, f. 15, assessment for parish clerk's wages, 1581–2; 4., MS 645/1, ff. 111v–112, collection list for parish clerk's wages, 1583; 5., MS 4415/1, f. 9v, assessment for a fifteenth, 1582; 6., MS 4352/1, ff. 53–4, assessment for a fifteenth, 1585; 7., MS 2500A/1, 'The booke of the Parson and Clerkes wages de Anno domini 1577...', erroneously catalogued as St. Michael Bassishaw; 8., MS 4384/1, assessment for a fifteenth, 1582; 9., MS 819/1, pp. 405–10, assessment for clerk's wages, 1586; 10., MS 4241/1, pp. 67–8, collection list for clerk's wages, 1581–2; 11., MS 4423/1, f.14, collection list for clerk's wages, 1581–2; 12., MS 4958/2, ff. 40–2, assessment for clerk's wages, 1582–3;
The number of heads of households in column 1, which includes those dwelling in rents and chambers, is only an approximation. Some of the properties in most if not all parishes were shops, cellars, stables, or warehouses occupied separately from dwellings. In three of the parish lists cited above, such non-residential property is clearly distinguished: in Allhallows Honey Lane it accounted for about 8.5% of the total number of assessments for the fifteenth, in St. Olave Jewry for about 12% of assessments, and in St. Bartholomew by the Exchange for about 8.5%. In the remaining nine parishes, all people the nature of whose property is uncertain have been counted as occupiers of dwellings and heads of households; the figures in column 1 for those nine parishes may therefore be slightly exaggerated. Where one person was charged for two or more houses in one parish, it has been assumed that each of those houses was occupied by a separate household, and counted accordingly.
Inhabitants of the last two parishes listed, St. Christopher le Stocks and Allhallows Staining, were assessed for the subsidy along with people from other parishes or part parishes, so it is not possible to arrive at an exact total for either parish. The figures in column 2 in these cases represent those persons who were listed in the parochial assessment and also, by the same name, assessed for the subsidy. Fortunately the parochial assessments in these two parishes were made within months of the subsidy assessment. In the other ten parishes, no attempt has been made to match names from one assessment to another: the figures in column 2 are simple totals. There was evidently a rapid turnover of householders: in St. Bartholomew by the Exchange, 86 persons were assessed for clerk's wages in July 1579, but only 65 (76%) of them appeared on the next clerk's wages roll in February 1581, 19 months later. The 21 individuals who had disappeared had been replaced by 22 new names (G.L. MS 4384/1, pp. 47–9, 60).
|Number assessed at:||1536 (fn. 223)||1541 (fn. 224)||1544 (fn. 225)||1547 (fn. 226)||1549 (fn. 227)||1564 (fn. 228)||1577 (fn. 229)||1582 (fn. 230)|
|£500 and above||0||13||10||4||4||1||0||0|
|£200 and above||8||27||22||16||13||14||6||3|
|£100 and above||18||44||40||43||39||25||18||19|
|£50 and above||33||64||58||54||82||55||65||61|
|£20 and above||129||168||140||(92) (fn. 231)||112||82||75||82|
|£10 and above||189||(155)||171||135||122||132|
|£4 and above||267||(223)||195||201||221|
|£3 and above||298||255||273||312|
|£2 and above||372|
|£1 and above||473|
|1541 (fn. 232)||1544 (fn. 233)|
|Cholmley, Sir Roger||1000||666||13.||4.|
|Forman, Sir William||1333||6.||8.||1000|
|Gresham, Sir John||5000||3333||6.||8.|
|Gresham, Sir Richard||2666||13.||4.||1333||6.||8.|
|May [Mery], William||1333||6.||8.||1000|
|Pargetter, Anne Lady||2000||1700|
|Roche, Sir William||1333||6.||8.||1200||6.||8.|
|Spencer, Sir James||2000||1200|
|Symondes, Mistress, widow||2666||13.||4.||1200|
|Waren, Sir Ralph||4000||2666||13.||4.|
|Number of valuations raised: 4|
|Number lowered: 46|
|Number unchanged: 15|
|Overall drop in total valuation, 1541–1544: 16%|
P.R.O. E. 359/44, second payment of subsidy granted 32 Henry VIII, rotulets 1–19: Exchequer record of discharge of collectors and taxpayers of liability for all but one assessment.