Two Early London Subsidy Rolls. Originally published by [s.n.], [s.l.], 1951.
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III. Assessments in the Subsidy of 1319.
(a) Amounts of assessments.
The number of assessments is 1,816. Adam and William de Rokesle (Dowg 42 f.) and Maud Sterre and her son (Cand 19) had a joint assessment. A very few of the assessments are illegible or doubtful, and for this reason the exact number of the various amounts cannot always be ascertained, but errors due to this fact are negligible.
The assessments vary greatly as regards amount, the highest being £40, the lowest 6½d. The various sums are no less than 100 or 101. All sorts of figures are represented. We may mention among higher taxes 46s. 8d. (the tax on £28), 44s. 5½d. (a tax on £26 13s. 6d.), 44s. 5d. (a tax on £26 13s.), 23s. 4d. (a tax on £14), 22s. 3d. (a tax on £13 7s.), 22s. 2½d. (a tax on £13 6s. 6d.), 16s. 8d., 16s. 1½d., 16s. 1d., 16s., among medium and small taxes 11s. 8d., 11s. 1½d., 11s. 1d., 11s., 3s. 6d., 3s. 4d., 3s. 2d., 3s. 1½d., 3s., 14d., 13¾d., 13½d., 13¼d., 13d., 12d. These figures give the impression that the sub-taxers did their work with great care. However, most of the specialised sums occur only occasionally, many only once or twice. The return for Cheap has several very uneven sums, as 63s. 4d., 44s. 5½d., 27s. 9½d., 22s. 3d., 16s. 1½d., 10s. 4½d. The great majority of assessments reveal certain "round" or what may be called standard sums, e. g. £10, 2 marks, £1, 6s. 8d., 40d., 20d., 13½d., 6¾d. It is evident that in most cases the taxers cannot have made a very exact valuation of goods, but were content with a rough, probably more or less conventional estimate. A tax of 20d. represents goods to the value of 20s.; it is hardly possible that 266 taxpayers can have had goods of exactly that value. Likewise it may be doubted if 186 taxpayers can have had goods worth 40s., the tax on which was 40d.
The sums most frequently found are 20d. (266 times), 40d. (186), 10d. (c. 172), 5s. (124), 6¾d. (121), 6s. 8d. (104), 2s. (88), 2s. 6d. (82), 12d. (78), 10s. (70), 13½d. (65), £1 (46), 1 mark (42), £2 (28), 16s. 8d. (16), 3s. (16), 4s. (11). All other sums occur less than ten times.
The tax of 6¾d. represents the minimum value of taxable goods, or half a mark (6s. 8d.). A twelfth part of this is 62/3d., which was generally rounded off upwards to 6¾d., in two cases downwards to 6½d. Similarly 13½d. is the tax on one mark, which should really have been 13⅓d. The rare taxes of 13¼d. and 13¾d. are variants of the tax on 1 mark. The tax of 6s. 8d. represents a value of goods of £4, that of 16s. 8d. a value of goods of £10.
The majority of assessments are below 5s. (c. 1,215), those between 5s. (inclusive) and 13s. being 371, and those from one mark upwards 229. Of these 229 assessments 79 are of £2 or more, 150 of less than £2. 29 taxpayers had taxes of £5 or more; they account between them for no less than £337 odd out of a total sum of about £950.
(b) Some notes on the assessments.
The highest assessment, £40, was that of John de Triple (Walbr). He was probably a pepperer (fn. 1) and of Italian origin. It may be noted here that at his death in 1324 he was in arrears for tallages etc. to the amount of £53 16s. 8d., of which sum his executors paid £20 (LBE 198). He was exempted for life from tallages in 1310, but the exemption was withdrawn on his becoming a freeman in 1312—13 (LBE 16). His exceptionally high tax may be partly accounted for by the fact that he was apparently assessed also for goods outside the City (cf. p. 92).
Three had an assessment of £20, Simon de Swanlonde, draper (Dowg), John de Wengraue (BroadSt) and Robert de Kelleseye (CripI). The last two were clerks and lawyers in the service of the City. John de Wengraue was Recorder, and it does not seem that he did other than legal work. Robert de Kelleseye was a Pleader at the Courts of the Guildhall, but it appears he was also engaged in business. He was the creditor of a mercer for £4 in 1301 (LBB 110), and he acknowledged debts for considerable amounts to various merchants, thus in 1303 one to Aubrey de Dynaunt, merchant (ib. 129), in 1304 one of £100 to Nicholas Pycot and Peter de Sparham, mercers (ib. 137), in 1305–6 one of £5 to two Lucca merchants (ib. 168). The fact that he was licensed to crenellate his house on the northern side of Westcheap in 1315 (Pat) indicates that he was a man of wealth. More will be said on these two lawyers later on in this chapter. The high tax of John de Wengraue is remarkable, since he can hardly have had any merchandise to be taxed, and his goods would have consisted of household furniture, plate, robes and the like. That he was a wealthy man is indicated by the fact that he too was licensed to crenellate his house (a chamber in Broad St; see 1314 Pat).
Seven persons had a tax of £10: Richard de Gloucestre, draper (Cornh), Hamo Godchep, mercer (Langb), Simon Corp, pepperer (Cordw), Hugh de Gartone, mercer (Cordw), Wymond Brother, woolmonger (Bill), Simon de Hakeneye, woolmonger (Bill), William de Braye, woolmonger (Tower).
The six taxpayers assessed at 10 marks were Richard Constantin, draper (CripI), Geoffrey de Meldeburne, mercer (Cordw), Simon de Parys, mercer (Cheap), William de Caustone, mercer (FarrI), Richard de Hakeneye, woolmonger (Bill), and Thomas de Roqeswelle (Tower), doubtless a merchant.
Seven taxpayers were assessed at £5. Two were drapers, Stephen de Abyndone and Henry Nasard (both Dowg), one a cordwainer (leather-merchant), John Poyntel (BroadSt), one a woolmonger, Robert Motoun (Langb), one a fishmonger, William Prodhom (Qu), one a merchant, John atte Crouche (BreadSt), and one a clerk, John de la Chaumbre (Cordw).
The 29 highest taxpayers were all merchants, except for three clerks (lawyers). Six were drapers, five mercers, four pepperers and five woolmongers, some merchants (not specified). The group includes only one skinner, one cordwainer, one fishmonger.
50 persons had taxes of from £4 to £2. Among those assessed at £4 we find one mercer, one salt-merchant, one stockfishmonger, one goldsmith (Roger de Frowyk of Tower). Two pepperers had a tax of 70s. and one a tax of 63s. 5d. One mercer, one draper and one corder had a tax of 5 marks, one woolmonger a tax of £3 and Nicholas de Yernemuthe (Walbr) with the same tax was perhaps a skinner. Four had a tax of 50s., one draper, two woolmongers and one cornmonger; one mercer and one cornmonger a tax of 46s. 8d.; one mercer a tax of 44s. 5½d. Roger le Polter (Walbr), with a tax of 44s. 5d., may have been a poulterer. One stockfishmonger was assessed at 43s. 4d. Henry le Mareschal (Langb), who was ultimately exempted, appears to have had an assessment of 42s. 8d.
There remain the 28 taxpayers with an assessment of £2. Here we note 7 fishmongers, two woolmongers, two or three skinners, one draper, one mercer, two pepperers, one corder, one goldsmith, one moneyer, three cornmongers, one bureller's widow, three merchants (two, John le Luter and Reyner Piggesfles, very likely vintners). No doubt John Belamy and John Sok (both Castle) were merchants of some kind.
In this group we have so far found only persons of the merchant class, apart from the goldsmiths. But some merchants not met with before make their appearance, as cornmongers, vintners, one salt-merchant, one stockfishmonger, and perhaps one poulterer.
Taxpayers assessed at from 2½ marks to £1, 85 in number, on the whole belonged to the merchant class, but a few handicraftsmen are to be noted. Among those with a tax of 2½ marks we find one mercer, one cordwainer, one a draper's, one a bureller's widow, while the occupation of William de Soudele (FarrI) is unknown. One stockfishmonger had an assessment of 31s. 8d. Among those who paid 30s. we note one pepperer, four woolmongers, three fishmongers, one cornmonger, two vintners. Assessed at two marks were one mercer, one draper, one woolmonger, one pepperer, one pepperer's widow, one cordwainer (leather-merchant), one cornmonger, and one paternostrer (John de Pykenham of FarrI, who by the way had a tax of £6 13s. 4d. in 1332). 27s. 9½d. was the tax of one mercer, 25s. that of one draper, two spicers, one goldsmith, and one girdler, 24s. that of a fishmonger's widow, 23s. 4d. that of one cornmonger, one woolmonger, and one chandler, 22s. 3d. that of one fishmonger and one vintner, 22s. 2½d. that of one chandler (ointer). The trades of chandler, girdler and paternostrer first turn up in this sub-group.
There are then the 46 taxpayers with an assessment of £1. Among these were two mercers, two drapers, two woolmongers, two cornmongers, three hosiers, two skinners, one salt-merchant, one corder, 9 fishmongers and four stockfishmongers, three merchants, one bureller, one woodmonger, one ironmonger, one poulterer, but also one shipwright (?), one cutler, one hatter, one currier, one dyer, one mason, and two saddlers. The remaining ones are of doubtful occupation. John le Mareschal (Cordw) may have been a skinner, John le Caller (Tower), perhaps a maker of cauls or caps. In this subgroup handicraftsmen appear in an increasing number.
The last sub-group is formed by taxpayers assessed at from 16s. 8d. to 1 mark, 65 in number, 16 with an assessment of 16s. 8d. and 42 with one of 1 mark. The sub-group includes several merchants, such as pepperers, skinners, fishmongers (several), cornmongers, vintners, mercers, etc. Four burellers had a tax of 16s. 8d., one a tax of 1 mark. But there were several handicraftsmen, with a tax of 16s. 8d. for instance one coffrer and one dyer, with a tax of 16s. 1d. one plumber, with a tax of 1 mark representatives of the trades of gold-beater, armourer, barber, chandler, saddler, probably one moneyer. The merchants still form the majority.
The third main group may be taken to embrace taxpayers with assessments ranging from 13s. to 40d. These may generally be said to have been citizens of good middle class. The group comprises 585 taxpayers. The 22 persons with taxes of from 13s. to 10s. 4½d. hold an intermediate position between this and the preceding group. The largest sub-groups are formed by taxpayers with assessments of 10s. (70), half a mark (104), 5s. (124) and 40d. (186).
There are in this main group (and also in the fourth) many who are styled mercer, cordwainer, skinner, woolmonger and the like, and doubtless several of these were merchants in the proper sense, though for particular reasons they had small assessments. But the majority of these people were probably shopkeepers or handicraftsmen rather than merchants. A mercer was in the first instance an importer of silks, velvets and other costly materials; mercers of this kind were merchants and generally high taxpayers. But there were also mercers who kept shops and sold mercery, buttons, ribbons, hats and other small ware. Most mercers in this group were probably shopkeepers. A cordwainer might be a leather-merchant, an importer of cordwain, and would then be a merchant, but the word cordwainer was also used of a shoemaker, and most cordwainers in this group were probably of the latter type. There were, of course, butchers, fishmongers and the like in a small way of business.
The majority of taxpayers in this group were handicraftsmen and dealers. We may note here with a tax of 6s. 8d. one bookbinder and one seal-engraver, further cheesemongers, fruiterers, fusters, painters, plumbers, spurriers, with a tax of 40d. armourers, batours, cappers, cooks, glovers, lorimers, sackers, tailors, tanners, tapicers.
The fourth and last group consists of taxpayers with assessments of from 3s. 2d. to 6½d, altogether about 1,000. All sorts of occupations are represented here, but particularly common are handicraftsmen such as curriers and tanners, fusters, spurriers, weavers. The occupation of many people in this group is unknown.
There can hardly be any doubt that on the whole the taxes paid in 1292 and 1319 give an indication of the relative economic and to some extent the social position of people in London. But the figures must be used with caution. The following examples are significant.
Nicholas de Farndon, goldsmith, alderman and Mayor, had a tax of 11s. 1½d. in 1319. From his will it can be seen that he was a man of considerable wealth, at least as regards land. His tax must be looked upon as very moderate, and not in keeping with his real economic position. Richer de Refham, mercer, alderman and Mayor, had a tax of 8s. 4d. He was a considerable landowner in the City and outside it, and to judge by his will (of 1328) he must have been a wealthy man. Benedict de Fulsham, pepperer and alderman, had a tax of 16s. 8d. William de Elsing, mercer, had a tax of one mark. He founded Elsing Spittle in 1329, which shows that he must have been a man of wealth. In all these cases we have to do with citizens of the highest standing, the very City aristocracy, whose taxes fell below £1. We may add here that though aldermen generally had high taxes in 1319 (from 40 marks to £2), yet three, Henry de Secheford, Robert Sely and Elias de Suffolk, paid only 1 mark and Nicholas de Farndon, as just stated, only 11s. 1½d. Even so low a tax as 5s. was paid in 1319 by two persons who were elected aldermen in 1319–20: Edmund Lambyn and Roger le Palmer.
A few remarks may be added on the lowest taxpayers. It should not be concluded that people with the very lowest taxes were on the brink of poverty. Gilot Belebouche, horse-dealer, whose tax was 6¾d. in 1319, left a will enrolled in 1325–6, which shows that he owned a tenement. Persons with the lowest taxes are found to have held positions of trust; thus William de Porkesle, whose tax was 6¾d. in 1319, was a warden of painters in 1328. William de Brekendene, stockfishmonger, whose tax was 13¼d., and Nicholas Ponge, taverner, whose tax was 13½d., contributed to the City's loan to the king in 1316. John de Kileworthe, hosier, whose tax was 13½d., was a warden of hosiers in 1328 and contributed largely to the City loans in 1339–40, etc. He had evidently recently started in business in 1319. Adam Hunteman, woolmonger (tax in 1319 12d.), was executor of the will of Peter de Blakeneye, sheriff, in 1311, contributed to the City's loan in 1316 and appears as a juror in an important case in 1318 (LBE 86); he was evidently a man of some position. Merchants were taxed for merchandize in their possession on a certain day. Apparently, if they had no merchandize on the day specified, they could only be taxed for household goods and the like. This being so, there must have been a good deal of fluctuation in the taxation of merchants, and it may well be that many persons with quite small taxes in 1319 were in reality considerable merchants.
It is remarkable that goldsmiths in 1319 have relatively low assessments. There is only one goldsmith among the highest taxpayers, Roger de Frowyk (tax £4). One, Henry atte More, has a tax of £2, and one, Thomas Rys, a tax of 25s. The remainder have lower taxes, 1 mark (four, inclusive of one gold-beater), 10s. (five), 40d. (five) and so on. Many have taxes of 20d., 13½d., 10d., 6¾d. Altogether some 50 taxpayers can be shown to have been goldsmiths, but several persons of unknown occupation should probably be added to this number. It might have been expected that goldsmiths had valuable stocks of precious metal and stones, which would yield high taxes. The explanation of the low taxes is evidently that goldsmiths to a great extent worked with material supplied by the customer. A certain instance of this is Alan de Corboyl, who in 1292 undertook to make a chalice for a preaching friar, using silver and gold delivered to him (LBA 145). See also Unwin, Finance and Trade, p. 26.
Tailors have relatively low assessments. In 1292 Walter de Wenlok paid £5, but in 1319 the highest sum noted is 8s. 4d. (John de Colkirk). The usual sums are 4s., 40d., 3s., 2s., but even lower sums occur, as 7d., 6¾d., 6½d.
Two surgeons can be identified with certainty in 1319, Master William de Oteswiche (tax 40d.) and Master William le Surigien (tax 20d.), but probably Master John de London (tax 10s.), placed immediately before Wiliam de Oteswiche, was a surgeon, and Stephen de Paris (Walbr) may be identical with Stephen le Surgian (Walbr) in 1292 S (tax in both subsidies 40d.). In the Subsidy of 1292 are also found Gilbert le Surgien (tax 10s.), William le Surgien (tax 40d.), and Master W. le Myre (tax 2s.). We may add from 1319 S Alice la Leche (tax 20d.) and Felicia la Leche (tax 5s.).
(c) The value of money in the early 14th century.
It is generally impossible to judge what the high assessments really meant for the taxpayers, but in the case of John de Wengraue and Robert de Kelleseye we have some facts to go on. John de Wengraue as Recorder had a salary of £15 a year and moreover 20d. for all deeds and wills enrolled in the Husting (LBC 132 f., LBD 233). We cannot tell what he may have made over and above his salary. Very likely his income from enrolments was not less than his regular fee, and he may have had an income from private practice and presents. However this may be, the tax in 1319 swallowed £5 over and above his official salary and must have been a stiff tax. Robert de Kelleseye, a pleader, received yearly for his service £2, but the fee was raised to £5 in 1313 (LBD 314). If the fee was not further raised after 1313, he would have had to pay four times the amount of his fee by way of tax. He may have had a good income from private practice, and, as pointed out p. 106, he seems to have had business activities by the side of his legal work. His case may thus be different from that of John de Wengraue. Yet it is clear that £20 was a heavy tax.
It would be interesting to know what taxes generally amounted to if compared with the amounts they would represent in the money of our times. But it is hardly possible to establish a definite ratio between medieval and modern prices and the value of money then and now. Some things were extraordinarily expensive in medieval times, as spices or silk fabrics, and the high assessments of pepperers and mercers are easy to understand. Other things were cheap in comparison with modern times, as the cost of labour. It is often stated that the value of money about 1300 was 10 to 15 times higher than in our days. With the fall in the value of money in the last few decades 20 to 25 times would be more likely figures. It is doubtful if an equation of this kind is really of any value, but if we reckon with such a deterioration of the value of money, if prices are about 20 times higher now, it follows that taxes of £40 and £20 must have been severe.
A certain indication of the value of money is offered by the currency of the time. The chief coin, the penny, was a silver coin of the size of about a modern shilling, but its silver value about 1300 is stated to have been 3.02 shillings (Encyclopedia Britannica, under Penny). In 1343 was issued a gold coin, the florin of Edward III, whose value was 6s. Its weight was between four and five times that of an American gold dollar, i. e. 10 dollars (Warren and Pearson, Prices, p. 70, Enc. Brit., Florin). A gold florin would then have been worth about £10 in modern times. The value of gold and silver was probably not the same in the 14th century and nowadays, but yet the facts referred to give some idea of the value of money in the period under discussion.
If the taxes were very heavy for large taxpayers, they were very mild for small taxpayers, especially for those with the lowest amounts. The tax of the lowest taxpayer was about the value of a pair of shoes. One gets the impression that the standard of living of the small handicraftsman or shopkeeper was very modest. His movables generally had the value of half a mark or 10 shillings, after the customary deductions had been made. Even with the value of money of that period such sums would not give room for any luxuries in the way of furniture or household implements.
(d) Opposition to the taxation.
The taxation of 1319 caused a good deal of discontent in the City, no doubt particularly among the people with the highest assessments. In Annales Paulini (Chronicles of Edward I. and Edward II., I, p. 287) is this entry: "Eodem anno , die Sancti Edmundi archiepiscopi [Nov. 16], sæva contentio orta est in gialda Londoniis inter communitatem civitatis et quosdam alios, super incremento tallagii occulte facto. Unde directi sunt nuntii per communitatem ad dominum regem Eboraci." A petition was sent to the King from the citizens complaining of the exactions of John de Everdone and his fellow-commissioners appointed to assess the tax of a twelfth of all movables in the City, and praying for redress and for the maintenance of the City's franchises (LBE 111). As a consequence of this petition, the King in a writ addressed to the chief taxers, dated Jan. 28, 1319—20, wrote as follows: "Whereas it had been ordained among other articles contained in the King's recent letters patent regarding tallages and aids that assessments made by men elected for the purpose from the Wards should not be raised except by the common consent of the Mayor and citizens, complaint had been made that such assessments had been raised by certain emulous citizens to the no small detriment of the rest. They (the chief taxers) are hereby instructed to correct the evil in such a manner that the citizens be not unduly burdened" (LBE 124). There is nothing in the roll to suggest definitely that this writ led to a reduction of assessments, but some changes in assessments indicated by erasures (cf. p. 15, foot-note) might conceivably be examples of such reduction.
The passages quoted are not altogether clear, and it is difficult to form an opinion on what had really happened. But some of the "emulous citizens" referred to in the King's writ can be identified with a good deal of probability.
In May 1320 Michael Mynot, a vintner, was questioned as to his having been an adherent of Robert de Keleseie and others, enemies of the City since the Feast of Purification last [Feb. 2], and endeavouring to annul the liberty of the City (LBE 121 f.). In a footnote to this passage the editor of LBE conjectures that Robert de Keleseie was one of the people who sought to curry favour with the King by illicitly raising the assessment for the twelfth after it had been fixed by those duly appointed for the purpose from each ward. A different view was taken by Riley, Memorials, p. xiii, who states that Robert de Kelleseye was deprived of his aldermanry in 1320 for resisting an oppressive assessment. It is true we might well assume him to have objected to his assessment, which was no less than £20, but by so doing he could not have endeavoured to annul the liberty of the City. No doubt the suggestion in LBE is correct. It is pretty obvious that what Robert de Kelleseye had done to incur the displeasure of the City had been in connection with the clandestine raising of assessments which had caused so much discontent recently, and that he was one of those responsible for that measure. The words in the text about annulling the liberty of the City echo those in the petition to the King about the maintenance of the City's franchises.
The last known appearance of Robert de Kelleseye as an alderman was on Nov. 4, 1319, and his successor was elected on Jan. 13, 1319—20. He was doubtless deposed in Jan. 1319—20. He never became an alderman again, but he must have been pardoned, for in 1327 he was elected to go to Lincoln with Benedict de Fulsham to attend the King's Council (LBE 222).
Three other aldermen were replaced in Jan. 1319—20, and there is good reason to suppose that they were deposed and for the same reason as Robert de Kelleseye. John de la Chaumbre appears last as an alderman on Jan. 7, 1319—20, and his successor, Geoffrey de Hertpol, was elected on Jan. 16. William de Leyre was succeeded by Roger le Palmer, elected on Jan. 18 (LBE 11). John de Wengraue appears as an alderman on Jan. 14, 1319—20, but his successor, Simon de Paris, was elected two days later, and Geoffrey de Hertpol was elected Recorder towards the end of the same month (LBE 11 f.). He was clearly deposed not only from his Aldermanry, but also from his Recordership. He was living in 1324. According to an entry in Abbreviatio Placitorum, p. 349, he had been indicted with serious misdemeanours during his Mayoralty, such as accepting presents from both litigants in a suit, and had to pay a fine of £40. He has not been met with in later records, and his will is not extant. According to the French Chronicle, p. 40, he was elected Mayor in 1318 at the desire of the King and against the wish of the City, and did much harm (mult mal) to the Commonalty in his time (as Mayor).
A fifth alderman seems to have been replaced about the same time, John Lambyn of Bridge. He was living in 1319, when the assessment was made, but on Feb. 1, 1319—20 Edmund Lambyn acted as alderman (LBE 114). It is not known when the latter was elected, and John Lambyn may have died before the end of 1319.