Introduction chapter I: manuscripts

Pages 1-8

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

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I. Exchequer, K. R., Subsidy Roll, 144/2.

The roll consists of six membranes of various size, the text being written in two columns, with one exception on the recto side.

Mem. 1 begins with Bridge ward, which occupies col. 1 and part of col. 2. The remainder of col. 2 is filled by Queenhithe ward, which is continued on the verso side, col. 1.

Mem. 2: Cripplegate Infra (col. 1) and Cripplegate Extra (col. 2).

Mem. 3: Dowgate (col. 1) and Walbrook (col. 2).

Mem. 4: Cordwainer (col. 1) and Vintry (col. 2).

Mem. 5: Bishopsgate Infra (col. 1, upper half) and Extra (col. 2, upper half). Bassishaw (col. 1, lower half) and Portsoken (col. 2, lower half).

Mem. 6: Billingsgate (col. 1) and Broad St (col. 2).

Before the names of most of the wards and of each taxpayer and also before the sum total at the end of wards is placed a paragraph mark in the form of two long s's, which has not been reproduced in the reprint.

Two main hands can be distinguished. Hand 1 wrote the greater part of the text, viz. Mem.s 1, 2, 3, and 6 entire, Mem. 4, col. 2, and of Mem. 5 the last 11 entries and the sum total under Bas and the last 12 entries and the sum total under Ports. Hand 2 wrote Mem. 4, col. 1 (Cordw) and of Mem. 5 the upper part of both columns (Bish and the first three entries under Bas and the first 11 entries under Ports, also the headings of these two wards).

There seems to be no reason to doubt that the sums total at the end of wards are in the same hand as the preceding text. The S of Summa is of one type in the parts written by hand 1, of another type in those written by hand 2.

Only one more hand can be distinguished in the roll. The original sum total in Cripplegate ward has been cancelled as erroneous and a fresh sum added, apparently in a third hand. The abbreviation for solidus (s.) is formed by a flourish going from the top of the s towards the left in this entry, while hands 1 and 2 place a small semicircle on top of the s.

Below the sums total the number of "heads" (taxpayers (fn. 1) ) of some wards is indicated in the form "Capit' Cj" or "Cap' Liiij" (presumably Capita). Under Queenhithe the "heads" are given separately at the bottom of Mem. 1 r., col. 2, and at the end of the ward on Mem. 1 v., col. 1. The number of "heads" is not given for BroadSt, Dowg, Vintry, Walbr. The number of heads under Bridge is given as 101, but is really 100. That for Crip (127) is one short. Doubtless Gilbert de Pelham [CripI 40], inserted between the lines, was overlooked or had not been added when the calculation was made. These entries appear to be all in hand 2, since the C of Capita agrees with that used by hand 2, not so well with that of hand 1.

Hand 1 is fluent and rather careless. Small letters are frequently used as initials in names, even font-names, and there are not a few obvious errors. (fn. 2) The scribe uses a peculiar sort of a, which may often be mistaken for an o at first sight, though it is generally distinct from it. His C has the form of a C with a flourish inside. Hand 2 is more careful, more pointed, even elegant. Capital letters are used more regularly and are generally well executed. The a is often pointed at the top and can never be mistaken for an o. The C has the form of a C with one or two vertical strokes inside. The portions found on Mem. 5 are in a smaller hand than those on Mem. 4, doubtless owing to exigencies of space.

It is curious that there is a change of hands in Bas and Ports. The fresh hand (hand 1) sets in higher up in col. 1 than in col. 2. But there can be no doubt that there is a change of hand at the places indicated. The forms of the paragraph-mark in front of entries used by the two scribes are not identical, and the last 11 (12) entries in both columns have the form used by hand 1 and also have it placed slightly farther left than in the preceding entries. Under Ports Billirica [no. 11] has the typical form of a used by hand 2, while Walter [no. 12] has the a of hand 1.

The extant roll is a copy of the original returns, which we may suppose to have been drawn up by different scribes for the various wards. In this way it differs from the roll for the subsidy of 1319. There are some indications that the various original returns had certain characteristics of their own.

The Anglo-Saxon letter p (wynn) is found only in the returns for BroadSt, Crip, Ports, Vintry and Walbr, th, y being solely used in the other wards. The p usually denotes p (pwrgode BroadSt 22, in pe hyrne Ports 23, reperhepe Vintry 59, pele Walbr 63). In brimperd BroadSt 14, 15 it stands for y. pork CripI 17 probably denotes York. Further Walbr has z, Z for p in mareworze 33, Zindene 68.

The return for Crip is characterized by frequent loss of initial h and addition of an inorganic h: Al(l)ingbery, -biry CripI 15, 61, hodiam 29, harnald 37, handreu le hirreys 38, Akonnby CripE 31. Inorganic h is found also in Bridge (helis 16, heure 59, hivn 67) and once in Walbr (heynesham 5), loss of h in affeld Walbr 34.

In the return for Bridge there is a predilection for Rec' instead of Ric' (Richard), Rec' being found under nos. 3, 11, 14, 26, 42, while Ric' occurs under nos. 71, 89. It is possible that the original return had a form of i that could be mistaken for e.

In the return for Vintry whole French phrases or sentences, such as ke maint en sa shope "who lives in his workshop", form a prominent feature, which has no parallel in the other returns.

In the return for Dowgate the e of the preposition de is regularly elided before names beginning in a vowel: darraz (bis), darmenters, dabindone, doffintone. In the returns for other wards only such forms as de Arras (Arraz, Araz), de orlyenes are found.

In the font-names various wards show differences as regards the use of Latinized and French forms.

The roll is on the whole in a fair state of preservation, though the writing is sometimes a little faint. The upper right-hand corner of Mem. 5 has been torn away, the assessments for the first five taxpayers of BishE being lost, apart from the d. of no. 4 and the s. of no. 5. There are a few holes in Mem. 2, but the readings can be supplied with practical certainty. M . . . . burne [CripI 57] is obviously for Meldeburne. The tax of Thomas de Oxon' [Walbr 3] may be xl d. or xl s. The writing is so blurred that it is impossible to be certain which is right, though s. seems the more probable. However, since the sum total of the ward obtained agrees exactly with that of the return, if the assessment was 40s., the correct reading is obviously xl s.

II. Exchequer, K. R., Subsidy Roll, 144/3.

The roll consists of 24 membranes of various size. One membrane is generally set aside for each ward, and those used for the smaller wards are naturally small, while those used for the larger wards are of considerable size. Farringdon Infra and Extra occupy one membrane each, both the recto and the verso side being used. Cripplegate Extra is on the verso side of the membrane for Cripplegate Infra. The last 19 entries for BreadSt are on the verso side, and the return for Cheap fills the greater part of both sides of the skin. The return for Vintry is missing.

The roll is indented, the skins being cut vertically. The extant Exchequer copy is the left-hand half of the original membranes.

The membranes are ruled in the returns for BreadSt, Cand, ColemSt, CripI, FarrI (the recto side), and Tower. On vertical rules found in some returns, see p. 13. A line is regularly drawn from the name of the taxpayer to his assessment. The same is the case in the earlier roll.

A great number of different hands can be distinguished. The main text of the returns for the various wards, comprising the headings and the names of the taxpayers, was doubtless written by the clerks of the sub-taxers, presumably the clerk of the respective ward. Since the return for Vintry is missing, 23 different hands can probably be distinguished for this part of the roll, supposing the same scribe for FarrI and FarrE; these may be called the main hands. Though some of these main hands show a certain similarity to each other, there is hardly anything to suggest that any scribe wrote more than one return. (fn. 1) Some of these hands are very characteristic, while others are of a more conventional type. Some of the returns are very fine specimens of penmanship, as those for Dowgate and Candlewick, which show very similar hands. It is clear that the hands are those of professional scribes. It would be improfitable to discuss the characteristics of these hands in detail. In the main hands are occasional notes such as "Respice in tergo" or the like. It is doubtful if these hands can be traced anywhere else in the returns.

Besides the 23 main hands, several other hands can be distinguished, but in this place it will be enough to say that the Ingress, found on the membrane for Walbrook, the "Colophon" at the end of CripE, the assessments, the sums total (often detailed) at the end of wards, and the marginalia are not in the main hands, and it will hardly be possible to establish with certainty how many different persons took part in finishing the roll. This question will be dealt with in some detail in the next chapter. An analysis of the various subsidiary hands may throw some light on the way in which the roll reached its actual form.

The roll is on the whole in a good state of preservation, but the upper part of the return for Billingsgate is badly damaged by damp. Also the last few entries under Queenhithe are very faint, and there is a hole in the skin just here. Holes in some other skins have made a name or an assessment or two illegible or partly so. Minor defects are not gone into here.

The roll must be the exemplar sent in to the chief taxers and used by them for the final assessment. The other half of the indenture, which was kept by the City authorities, is not preserved, but on it may have been founded the "Schedule of the amount levied in each ward" in connection with the Subsidy, which is printed in LBE, p. 124 f. The amounts in the Schedule show some interesting differences from the definitive ones in the Roll; see further Chap. VI, iv, (e).


  • 1. Or rather persons in the lists, since the figures for Bas and Bish include persons without assessments.
  • 2. For instance blung for blund or lung Bridge 11, Kisaundr' for Lisaundr' CripI 2, saharp for scharp CripI 5, cheuelmong' CripE 23 (cf. cheuerel- 37), Strerteford CripE 30, knarerborg Dowg 11, bysser (for kysser) BroadSt 48.
  • 3. The editor has taken it for granted that the lists of taxpayers were written by the clerks of the sub-taxers, but a few remarks had perhaps better be added in support of this view. It is impossible, without a very detailed special investigation, to establish how many hands are represented in these lists. But even a more cursory examination permits us to distinguish at least a dozen different characteristic hands. It is pretty obvious that the lists of names in the 12 wards of Walbr, Bridge, Dowg, BroadSt, Bish, Ports, ColemSt, BreadSt, Cheap, Farr, Queenh, Tower were written by as many different scribes. Those for Cand, Aldg and Langb are in hands similar to that of Dowg, but it is doubtful if any two of these hands can be identified. The hand of Cordw is similar to that of ColemSt, but less careful and elegant. It is significant, for instance. that in the return for ColemSt (58 taxpayers) font-names are written in full 28 times (Johanne 12 times, as against one Joh'e), while in that for Cordw (74 taxpayers) font-names are written in full 19 times (Johanne twice, Joh'e, Joh'ne 18 times). The hands in the remaining lists do not seem to be very characteristic, but there is hardly any reason to identify any two among them. If the chief taxers had had the returns of the sub-taxers copied into the extant roll, we should expect this work to have been done by a limited number of scribes, say three or four. The natural explanation of the great variety of hands is that the lists were written by the clerks of the sub-taxers. If so, the probability is that there were as many scribes as there were wards. But it is, of course, theoretically possible that the sub-taxers of two smaller wards might have employed the same scribe. It should be noticed, however, that the lists of the three neighbouring wards of Aldg, Bish and LimeSt are in different hands, as are those of, for instance, Bas and ColemSt. In this connection it may be noted that in several returns one or more taxpayers were evidently added after the main list of names had been drawn up, and in some cases after the sub-taxers' names had been entered. These entries generally appear to be in another hand than the main list. They are at any rate in a very similar hand, and it may well be the same scribe entered most of these additional names. If so, the scribe may have been one of the clerks of the chief taxers. In all these entries, except for Bill 57, BroadSt 70 and 74, the De before the names has the form regular only in the return for Walbr, in the reprint rendered by "De". The taxpayers are the last one in BreadSt, Castle, Cornh, Dowg, the last two in Cand and Walbr, the last five in Bish, the last six in BroadSt. The name of Bill 57, placed after the subtaxers, may be in the main hand of the ward. The names of taxpayers inserted between the lines (cf. p. 24) are apparently in hands different from those in the main text, certainly CripI 84 and 100, probably CripI 63, BroadSt 3, FarrE 7, and ColemSt 28. In the last-mentioned case the De before the name has the form "De".