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
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
(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).
Two taxpayers were assessed at 40 marks, Thomas Cok, draper
(Dowg), and William de Leyre, pepperer (CripI). The tax of the
latter was £4 in 1292.
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).
A tax of 25 marks (or £16 13s. 4d.) was paid by Henry Norman,
merchant (Bridge), and Robert Personn, skinner (Dowg). The
latter paid £2 in 1292.
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.
Ralph le Balauncer, pepperer (Cordw) had a tax of £6.
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.
Our next group comprises the taxpayers with assessments
ranging from £4 to 1 mark, altogether 200. For considerations of
space the names of taxpayers are omitted.
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
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.
A few notes on the assessments of persons with some special
occupations may be of interest.
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.
Armourers and cross-bowmakers do not rise above 1 mark. Sums
such as 10s., 6s. 8d., and even lower ones have been noted.
Paternostrers, three or four of whom can be identified, have
assessments of 2 marks, 8s. 4d., 40d., 10d.
Two seal-engravers occur in the Subsidy of 1319, their assessments
being respectively 6s. 8d. and 20d.
One bookbinder's widow paid 6s. 8d., one bookbinder 10d.
One parchment-maker is among taxpayers of 1319, his tax
being 20d. An image-maker (sculptor) in the same roll paid
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
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.