Introduction chapter VI: assessments, 2, assessments in the subsidy of 1292

Pages 98-104

Two Early London Subsidy Rolls. Originally published by [s.n.], [s.l.], 1951.

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Table of contents

II. Assessments in the Subsidy of 1292.

(a) Amounts of assessments.

The total number of assessments is 794, or 799, if the missing ones of the first five taxpayers in Bishopsgate E are counted. The number of assessments is somewhat below that of the taxpayers, because in a few cases two partners or brothers have a joint assessment, as William Gylemouche and Thonchelin his partner (BishI 3 f.), Richard Toterich and Richard de Weleford (Cordw 44 f.), Robert and Stephen de Prestone (Dowg 29), Marc le Draper and Roger his valet (Dowg 84).

The amounts range from 2s. (the lowest sum) to £8. 26 different sums are represented, if the 25s. 8d. of William Lambin (Bridge 10) is miswritten for 26s. 8d., as seems indubitable. Some of these sums occur only occasionally, not only some higher ones, but also some of the lower, as 16s. 8d., 16s. and 12s. (once each), 8s. (4 times), 4s. (9 times). The majority of assessments show certain round sums, and a very exact valuation of each taxpayer's goods can hardly have been undertaken. The sum most often met with is 40d. (176 times), followed by 2s. (151), half a mark (109), 1 mark (59), £1 (57), 10s. (48), 5s. (37), £2 (34), 2 marks (32), 30s. (18), 3s. (15), £3 (14). Uneven sums like 11s. 1d., 5s. 4d., 4s. 2d., not seldom met with in 1319, do not occur.

There is much inconsistency as regards the way in which the assessments are indicated. There is much vacillation between counting by pounds and by marks or multiples or fractions of them. One pound is regularly 20s., 3 pounds is 60s., 2 pound ten 50s. Two pounds is usually 40s., but twice 3 marks. Five pounds is twice 100s. Instead of 1 mark we often find 13s. 4d., and likewise 26s. 8d. instead of 2 marks, 6s. 8d. instead of di.m. (half a mark). 40d. is sometimes replaced by 3s. 4d. Similar vacillation is found also in the Subsidy of 1319, though to a less extent.

(b) Some notes on the assessments.

The highest tax was £8, exactly the same as in the Subsidy of 1332, the taxpayer being Sire Bonruncyn (Walbr), often called Bonruncin Walteri, a merchant of Lucca origin. Next comes William de Wolcherhawe (likewise of Walbr), a woolmonger, with a tax of 10 m., followed by William Tedmar with partner (Dowg), doubtless merchants, and Richard de Chigewelle (Qu), a fishmonger, with a tax of £6.

Out of the 10 (or 11) taxpayers with an assessment of £5 two were pepperers, William de Storteford and Thomas Romeyn (both Cordw), one a draper, Thomas de Basing (Dowg), one a corder, Luke de Hauering (Dowg), one a bureller, Foulke de St. Edmund (Walbr), three merchants, William de Ware (Qu), Donne Lumbard and Jacolin Hugelin (both Cordw), one a tailor, Walter de Wenlok (BroadSt). There remain William Gylemouche and Thonchelin his partner (BishI) with a joint tax of £5. They were doubtless Italians (Lombards) and very likely horse-merchants.

There were six taxpayers with an assessment of £4, two skinners, Peter de Bosenham and Thomas de Suffolk (both Walbr), one fishmonger, Henry de Fingrie (Qu), one pepperer, William de Leyre (Dowg), one goldsmith, Robert Burdeyn (CripI), and probably one corder, Hamo Box (Dowg).

No less than 14 taxpayers had an assessment of £3. Among these were three drapers, Paul le Botiller, Matthew Darraz and John Dabindone (all Dowg), 4 or 5 corders of Dowg, Adam and William de Rokesle, John atte Gate, Richard de Wendlesworthe, probably William Peuerel, two fishmongers, Thomas Cros (Bill) and Robert Lambin (Bridge), one pepperer, John de Burford (Cordw), one merchant, Henry Box (Bill), one cornmonger, John Wade (Vi), one vintner's widow (Sabine wife of Philip le Tailur, Vi).

William de Lewes, draper (Bridge) had a tax of 4 m., Stephen Hauteyn, mercer (CripI), and John de Hertford (BroadSt), doubtless a merchant, taxes of 50s.

34 taxpayers had an assessment of £2. Among them we note two woolmongers, two drapers, two mercers, 5 fishmongers, 3 stockfishmongers (one a widow), 3 pepperers, one or two corders, two or three skinners, three or four vintners or taverners (one a widow), one bureller, one cornmonger, one horse-merchant, one merchant, one goldsmith, two ironmongers, and one dyer.

Down to £2 the taxpayers belong almost exclusively to the merchant class. The majority were drapers, woolmongers, mercers, pepperers, fishmongers, vintners or the like. To this group belong the corders and the ironmongers. The goldsmiths were not merchants, but they had a high standing comparable to that of the merchants. The only real exception to the general rule is William Bernard, dyer (Qu), with a tax of £2, but the dyers show some high assessments also in the Subsidy of 1319. Woolmongers were comparatively few among high taxpayers, but most of them probably lived in Tower ward.

The group of taxpayers (71 in number) dealt with so far is that of the high taxpayers.

The next group, 112 in number, may be said to embrace taxpayers with assessments below £2, but above one mark. In this group merchants form the majority, but not a few handicraftsmen make their appearance.

Of the three taxpayers with an assessment of 2½ m. one was a stockfishmonger, one a skinner, one a fripperer (Godwin le Pheliper, later also called Godwin le Hodere). Of the 32 with an assessment of 2 m. 9 were fishmongers, one a stockfishmonger, one a draper, one a cordwainer, one a skinner, two hosiers (in one case two partners with a joint assessment), one or two mercers, one a fripperer. But we find one quilter, one dyer, one coffrer, one batour, one cutler, one glover's widow, one clerk.

Among the 18 taxpayers with an assessment of 30s. there were several merchants, but also one cutler, one cheesemonger, one potter, one tanner. The last three trades make their first appearance here.

The majority of the 57 taxpayers with an assessment of £1 were merchants, the rest being handicraftsmen or of unknown occupation. We find representatives of the trades of butcher, carpenter, coffrer, dyer, hatter, lorimer, chandler.

The only taxpayers with assessments of 16s. 8d. and 16s. were one mercer (probably) and one cordwainer (shoemaker).

As a third group are taken taxpayers with assessments between 1 mark and 6s., altogether 223.

A little more than half the number of the 59 taxpayers with an assessment of 1 mark were merchants, while the remainder were handicraftsmen or of unknown occupation. Trades represented are those of armourer (two), baker, butcher, chandler, coffrer, currier, furbisher, girdler, glover, hatter, hostel-keeper, saddler, shoemaker. A vintner had a tax of 12s.

48 persons were assessed at 10s. In this group we find two cutlers, one dyer, two tailors, also the first representatives of the trades of brewer, cooper, surgeon.

109 persons had an assessment of half a mark (6s. 8d.). The occupation of about a third of the number is unknown. The majority of the remainder were handicraftsmen or small dealers. Among trades represented may be mentioned those of baker (4), batour, clerk (3), embroiderer, farrier, fruiterer, hafter, hostel-keeper, mason, painter, potter, poulterer, saddler, shearman, surgeon, tailor.

One baker and one potter had a tax of 6s.

It is hardly necessary to specify the occupations of the 388 taxpayers of the fourth group, those with assessments of between 5s. and 2s. In this group are occasionally found drapers, fishmongers, skinners and the like, but the majority of the taxpayers, so far as their occupation can be established, were handicraftsmen or small dealers. We may note among the 176 persons with a tax of 40d. the trades of baker (5), barber, brewer (two), cook, dubber, founder, furbisher, fuster, girdler, hatter, joiner, kisser, lorimer, nail-smith, painter (3), plumber, smith, surgeon, tiler, water-leader, wine-drawer. The same or similar occupations were followed by the majority of taxpayers with the lowest assessment. We may add the trades of boat-builder, burnisher, cornmeter, mustarder, porter, purser, physician, pigdealer, waferer wire-drawer.

The Subsidy of 1292 was a heavy one, far heavier than that of 1319. It is true there are no such heavy taxes as the highest ones of 1319, but the minimum tax was 2s. in 1292, as against 6½d. in 1319, and assessments such as £2, £1, one mark were far more numerous in the earlier subsidy than in the later one. It must be remembered that the number of taxpayers in the wards represented in 1292 was probably less than half that of 1319. Yet we find 34 taxpayers with an assessment of £2 in 1292, as against 28 in 1319. The corresponding figures for the assessments of £1 are 57 and 46, for those of 1 mark 59 and 42. No less than 14 taxpayers had an assessment of £3 in 1292, only two in 1319.

(c) The rate of assessment.

If the Subsidy of 1292 is really identical with that of 1290, which was a fifteenth, it is difficult to account for the assessments indicated. The minimum value of taxable goods must then have been 30s., the lowest assessment being 2s. Even if we assume that the subsidy of 1290 was a tenth in London, as that of 1319 was a twelfth in London, but an eighteenth in country districts, the difficulty is not overcome, for the minimum value of goods taxed would then have been 20s., an unparalleled amount. Besides, with a high minimum we should expect the taxpayers of 1292 to have been considerably fewer in number than those of 1319, but this is not the case. Some wards actually have higher figures in the earlier roll, as Bridge (100 taxpayers, 82 in 1319), Walbrook (88 in 1292, 76 in 1319), Dowgate (83 in 1292, 57 in 1319). It seems we have to assume that the Subsidy of 1292 was a fifth, the minimum value of goods taxed being 10s. and the minimum assessment 2s.

The aggregate of the assessments of the 12 wards in the Subsidy of 1292 is £512 8d. Since the aggregate for the corresponding wards in the Subsidy of 1319 is just over £616 out of a total of about £950, it is improbable that the aggregate of the missing wards in the Subsidy of 1292 can have exceeded that of the wards for which the returns are extant. It was probably smaller, and the total for all the wards will hardly have reached £1,000. To this sum should probably be added the taxes of the aldermen, which in 1319 were over £150 (inclusive of those of Anketin and John de Gisors, who were of Vintry ward), and the aggregate of assessments in 1292 may possibly have been some £1,000. This leaves a sum of about £1,800 unaccounted for, if the subsidy of 1292 is identical with that of 1290. However, the subsidy of 1290 was levied on the goods both of laymen and clerics. This would account for part of the balance, but it may be questioned if the clerics of London could have paid £1,800. If the subsidy of 1292 is identical with that of 1290, there may have been some other categories of taxpayers than those in the subsidy roll of 1292 and the clergy, whose contributions might help to account for the sum total of £2,860 odd.

In any case the Subsidy of 1292 cannot have been a fifteenth, so far as London is concerned. If it is really that of 1290, we should have to assume that London agreed to pay so high a tax as a fifth in exchange for a deferment of the assessment and collection. The expulsion of the Jews may also have been felt to be a particular advantage to London people and made them willing to pay an exceptionally high tax.

The problems here raised must be left to more competent hands than those of the present writer.

If the Subsidy of 1292 was a fifth, it follows that the taxes paid in that year represent quite different values of taxable goods from those paid in 1319. A man who paid 1 mark in 1292 only had taxable goods worth 5 marks, while in 1319 1 mark represented goods to the value of 12 marks. A sum of 2s. in 1292 was the tax on 10s., in 1319 on 24s. A man with a tax of 1 mark was a medium taxpayer in 1292, a relatively high taxpayer in 1319.