Introduction chapter VII: notes on the Text and the commentary

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

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, 'Introduction chapter VII: notes on the Text and the commentary', in Two Early London Subsidy Rolls, ([s.l.], 1951) pp. 127-136. British History Online [accessed 23 May 2024].

. "Introduction chapter VII: notes on the Text and the commentary", in Two Early London Subsidy Rolls, ([s.l.], 1951) 127-136. British History Online, accessed May 23, 2024,

. "Introduction chapter VII: notes on the Text and the commentary", Two Early London Subsidy Rolls, ([s.l.], 1951). 127-136. British History Online. Web. 23 May 2024,

In this section


Notes on the Texts and the Commentary.

I. The Texts.

The editions do not claim to be diplomatic reprints. No distinction has been made, for instance, between the long and the ordinary s, and it would have been impossible to reproduce the variant forms of r or of capital letters. The J generally used in the MSS. as the capital of i and j has been rendered in names by J when denoting a consonant, by I in the few cases where it stands for a vowel, but is retained when used as a figure. Apart from details of this nature the aim has been to present, within the limits indicated in the sequel, as exact a text as possible, and the greatest care has been taken to ascertain the correct readings. This task is not always quite easy, because the writing in the MSS. is in some places rather faded or damaged by damp or the like, and also because, though the scribes, especially those of the Subsidy of 1319, were generally very careful, malformed letters occur here and there, which are sometimes difficult to judge. A number of readings are for these reasons open to some doubt or may be differently interpreted.

In the return for the Subsidy of 1292 the narrow space available sometimes rendered it necessary to insert parts of longer entries above the line; this has not been noticed in the edition. A few corrections made by the scribe, chiefly in the Subsidy of 1292, have been tacitly introduced into the text. Missing letters have in a few cases been added between round brackets. Illegible parts of names have sometimes been supplied between square brackets, but only where the correct reading seems to be beyond doubt. Otherwise illegible letters have been replaced by a dot (full stop). A few clerical errors, chiefly in the names of taxpayers, have been corrected, the substituted letter or letters and the MS. form being placed between square brackets. Additions, generally in small type, made by the editor in the margins or elsewhere, are likewise placed between square brackets, the only exception being the figures put in front of entries to indicate the number of the taxpayer in the list.

Abbreviations have been extended when there seems to be no doubt as regards the full form, the letters supplied being italicized. Superscribed letters have likewise been italicized, as "-ham" when the MS. has "-hm" with a superscribed a. Abbreviated font-names have nearly always been extended in the reprint of the Subsidy of 1319, because the Latin ablative ending generally shows that the full name was Latinized. In the earlier Subsidy, where the names are in the nominative, it is generally impossible to determine if a French (English) or a Latin form is at the back of the abbreviation, and the abbreviated form is mostly retained, though an apostrophe has been substituted for the various abbreviation-marks in the MS. An exception has been made for some such cases as Ad', Th', Wat', which are printed Adam, Thomas, Water.

Especially in the return for the Subsidy of 1319 the final letter of surnames is often provided with a mark or flourish, which sometimes doubtless indicates abbreviation. Thus a short stroke through the stem of a letter or above an n is generally a sign of abbreviation for -e. Local surnames ending in -feld, -ford, -heth, -ton, -worth and the like are frequently written with a final -e, as Canefelde, Stebenhuthe, Prestone, Wandlesworthe, and the second member of these names was evidently dissyllabic. No doubt a form Canefeld with a stroke through the d was meant for Canefelde. More difficult to judge are cases where this mark is used in other kinds of surnames. Hosebond is from earlier Husbonde, and Husebonde actually occurs in the text (Tower 41). Here an extension of Hosebond with a stroke through the d is obviously justified. The same may be said of a name like le Freynsh (Cheap 154) with a stroke through the h. But the mark is also found occasionally in surnames such as Nasard (Dowg), Lombard (Bish), Edward (Cand), Huberd (BreadSt), Reynald (Cheap), Smyth (Cheap), Hereward (FarrE). It is possible that the mark is here a mere flourish, and it has been replaced by an apostrophe. Yet there are not a few similar names where a final -e is actually written: Hoseberne (LimeSt), Kynge (ColemSt), Jurdane, Redhode (FarrI), Crosse (Bill, Tower), Hoode, Barette (Castle). It might be suggested that the -e in these cases is "inorganic" and indicates that final -e had begun to be dropped. But it is equally possible that the -e is an English dative ending due to the preceding De and the ablative form of the font-name. Also the -e in local surnames such as (de) Canefelde, (de) Wandlesworthe may quite well be looked upon as a living ME dative ending.

Another common sign is the loop sometimes used as an abbreviation-mark for -es, -is. In the Subsidy of 1292 it seems to be used only after -k and chiefly in the portions written by hand 2. In the Subsidy of 1319 it frequently occurs, but is used more often by some scribes than by others. It is found only after final f (here regularly), g, k (c), r, s, t. After r it occurs only in the returns for Bas, Bill, Crip, Aldersg, FarrI and Tower, chiefly in English occupational surnames like Nailer. In the majority of cases the sign is apparently a mere flourish, which might be disregarded. But it represents Lat -is in saccis Cand 25 (marginal note) and in Pontis in the heading of the return for Bridge. It has been taken to represent -es in Paskes (CripE 11), since that is the form of the surname in another source. In some cases it is probably meant as an abbreviation-mark for -e, as very likely in Nailer' and the like. But since it is impossible to decide what the mark stands for in each case, it has been thought best to indicate it by an apostrophe. It is to be noticed that an apostrophe represents this mark always in 1319 S after f, g, k (c), t, and after r (in surnames) except in a few names in -bur' (-bir') and Cauntebr' Cornh 37, which have not been extended because the form of the full name is doubtful. Local surnames in -ing are nearly always provided with this mark, which may denote -e or -es or be a flourish simply. There are in the Subsidies no examples of the ending -inges, but that of 1292 has Dorkinge Qu 62, Haueringge CripE 1, and that of 1319 Rothingge, Rothynge Cornh 60, Langb 30, also Berkyng Qu 6, Dorkyngg Castle 51.

In the reprint of 1319 S the common abbreviation for ur is extended to -our in names like Pestour, since this is the normal form in this text.

In the Subsidy of 1292 the chief difficulty is to determine whether the initial letter of names (font- and surnames) were intended to be capitals or small letters. The scribe referred to in Chap. I as hand 1 is very careless about initials. He makes no obvious distinction between W and w, and in the reprint W is normally used as an initial of names. For some letters he has clearly distinguishable capitals and small letters, as for a, b, c, d, e, g, m, n, r, t. Capitals are on the whole more frequently used in font-names than in surnames, but there is a good deal of difference in the use of the various letters. Thus D, E, N, J, R alone are used in font-names (D 4 times, E 9 times, N 7 times, J and R about 150 times each), while in surnames there are 6 J, one i, 20 R, 4 r, 5 D, 15 d, 9 E, 3 e, 6 N, 8 n. There are in font-names 37 A, 8 a, in surnames 4 A, 13 a; in font-names 9 M, 5 m, in surnames 15 M, 23 m; in font-names 21 T, 13 t, in surnames 5 T, some 30 t.

But C only once occurs in font-names (4 c), while in surnames there are 25 C, over 75 c. B is found once in font-names, 2 or 3 times in surnames (fn. 1), while there are 6 b in font-names, over 80 in surnames. G occurs 14 times in font-names, once or twice in surnames, g 23 times in font-names, 21 in surnames.

But there are pairs of letters where the distinction between capital and small letter is often slight and it is difficult to say which is meant. These letters are especially f, h, k, l, p, s. There are hardly any indubitable examples of F or K, but a somewhat big form of f and an f with a looped lower half may have been meant as capitals and have been so rendered, and in one or two cases a somewhat big k has been taken to be a capital. There is only one indubitable case of P (Bill 17), but there are examples of a p with a looped lower half, which has been rendered as P. There are several indubitable cases of H in font-names, but also some where it is difficult to say if H or h is meant. The capital has been preferred here.

Most difficult are L(l) and S(s). Both L and l are used, but there are intermediate variants which are difficult to judge; these have been rendered by L. An L and intermediate variants between L and l are found also in the French definite article (le, la). Here l has been preferred in doubtful cases. There are two indubitable examples of S (Dowg 8, 79), where special capital types are used. It may be noted that the S of Dowg 79 is often found in the word Summa in sums total. The ordinary s shows some variation in size and has been rendered by S when written comparatively big. The long s is sometimes looped at the bottom; this form is found also in the interior of words, possibly somewhat smaller in size, but when used as an initial it has been rendered by S.

The second scribe (hand 2) generally makes a clear distinction between capitals and small letters and has capitals regularly in font-names, while surnames not rarely have small initials. The article is always le, la.

It might seem the simplest way would have been to have used capitals as initials of names, at least font-names, throughout, and this has been done in the Index of taxpayers and generally when names are discussed in the Introduction. But after all the initials form a characteristic, primitive feature of the Subsidy of 1292.

In the Subsidy of 1319 initials rarely give rise to doubt. As a rule the initial of names was doubtless meant to be a capital. The De placed before entries in the return for Walbrook is a sort of ligature of D and e or a D with an abbreviation-mark for e, and this form is met with occasionally in other returns (see p. 7, foot-note). In the reprint it is rendered by "De".

The abbreviations for solidus, denarius, obolus, and quadrans have been somewhat simplified, "s.", "d." (or "den."), "o." (or "ob."), "q." being used instead of the forms in the originals (an s with a small semicircle or a flourish on top for solidus, a q with a superscript a for quadrans, etc.). The abbreviation for marca in 1292 S is an m with a short stroke above (in the reprint "m."), in 1319 S mr with a superscript a (in the reprint "mar."). Libra is li. or lj. in the MSS. This distinction has been retained in the reprint.

II. The Commentary.

The chief aim of the Commentary is not to discuss MS. readings or spellings and the like, though it has been used for that purpose when necessary. The main object in view has been to identify, as far as possible, the taxpayers and collect material calculated to throw light on their occupation, social position, residence, and the like, and further, to explain their names, especially their surnames. The returns only rarely indicate the occupation of taxpayers and still more rarely give other information on them. But it is often possible by the help of contemporary material to identify them with certainty or a great deal of probability, and so determine their occupation and not rarely their residence. Naturally it is impossible to find information on many taxpayers, especially small ones, but for most wards it may be said that the majority can be identified.

For many taxpayers a great deal of information can be collected from contemporary records, especially the Letter-Books, the Calendar of Wills, the Coroners and the Mayor's Rolls, and owing to considerations of space it is only possible to include a small part of the material collected. The principle in such cases has been to give the earliest and the latest references and such as throw light on occupation, residence and the like. In the cases where taxpayers of 1319 (or occasionally of 1292) are found also in the Subsidy of 1332, a reference to the latter is regularly given, and since it is of interest to compare the assessments of 1319 and 1332, those of 1332 are indicated. If the ward of such a taxpayer is not stated he belonged to the same ward as in 1319. In each case it is pointed out, for instance, if the taxpayer held important civic offices, as those of sheriff, alderman or Mayor (fn. 2), or, in the case of smaller taxpayers, positions of trust, such as wardenships of crafts or the like. If a taxpayer can be shown to have been the son or descendant of an earlier London citizen, this has been indicated, and frequently earlier bearers of a surname have been pointed out, because this may have a bearing on the question if a taxpayer came of an old London family or may have derived his surname from an earlier London citizen. Information of this nature is of importance for problems discussed in Chap. V.

For many taxpayers the available illustrative material is scanty. Not rarely other sources provide only further instances of the name. Thus many taxpayers can be identified with persons mentioned in the Coroners Rolls, where the occupation is only occasionally stated, and it may seem nothing much is gained by adducing one or two further examples of the name. But even illustrative material of such a kind is valuable as corroborating the readings of the Subsidies, which are not always sufficiently clear. To take an example, in the Subsidy of 1319 the surname of taxpayer no. 16 under Portsoken is partly illegible, so that only L . . el can be seen clearly. In Coroners Rolls a person with the same font-name and the surname Ladyl appears as a juror for Portsoken, and it is obvious that he is to be identified with the taxpayer in Portsoken. whose name was thus Ladel.

A definite identification can generally be made if a taxpayer had a surname of a fairly unusual kind and a not too common fontname. Some surnames are so peculiar that they are sufficient for an identification, even if the font-name is an ordinary one. It cannot be doubted, for instance, that Richard Galopin [1292 S, Cordw 5] is identical with Richard Galopyn 1302 Ann Lond. But many surnames are of an extremely common kind, as occupational ones like Barber; Cordewaner, Mareschal, or some local ones like de Kent, de Waltham. If the font-name was John or William or the like, a safe identification with contemporary namesakes is often impossible, but many persons even with such names can be identified with a good deal of probability or even certainty, if there is agreement as regards wards or the like.

In this connection it is to be noticed that in the period we are concerned with surnames had not yet acquired a perfectly fixed character. The font-name was still the chief name, and the surname might show variation. We are therefore often justified in identifying taxpayers in the rolls with persons who have different surnames in other records.

It was quite common for a person with a real surname to be referred to occasionally by a designation for his trade or calling. Richer de Refham, the later alderman and Mayor, is in the earliest references called Richer le Botoner or le Mercer. This was practical in his case, because there was also a Richer de Refham taverner, recorded between 1300 and 1314. William le Teynturer [1292 S] is clearly identical with W. de Medelane, dyer, in other records. Nigel de Whatele [Aldersg 3] is often found in records, but his occupation is never stated. All we are told is that he was entrusted with the keys of Aldersgate in 1321. Now a Nigel le Avener was sworn to guard the gate of Aldersgate in 1310, and obviously he is identical with N. de Whatele. There is only one other Nigel among taxpayers, and he was a carpenter of Castle Baynard ward. Nigel de Whatele was thus an oatmonger. Edward was a rare name, there being only two persons so called in 1319 S. One was Edward de Nortffolk [Langb 44], whose occupation is not indicated. It is probable that he should be identified with Edward le Cordewaner, who was a juror for Langb in 1336 ff. Many examples of this kind are noticed in the commentary.

It was common in this period for an apprentice to be given the surname of his master, but the original surname sometimes continued to be used alternatively or even in combination with the master's surname. A good deal of material of this kind is collected in the editor's paper Variation in Surnames (Lund, 1945). Thus Adam Bekenisfeld [1292 S] is A. de Bekenesfeld called de Fulham in his will and probably A. de Fulham the younger 1290 Pat. His real surname was clearly de Bekenesfeld and de Fulham that of his master. William le Faunt [1319 S] is clearly identical with W. de Camerwelle called Lemfaunt 1325-6 and W. de Camerwelle 1307. In this case le Faunt (Lemfaunt) is the master's surname. Sewal de Godesname [1319 S, Cheap 25] has not been found elsewhere, but he must be identical with Sewal son of Sewal de Sprenggewelle, who was an apprentice of Richard de Godesname of Cheap. The font-name Sewal is only found here in the Subsidy.

In many cases the original surname of the apprentice is not known but the agreement of his surname with that of his master indicates that he had what for shortness' sake is called a master's surname. There can be little doubt that Robert Podyfat, a former apprentice of Roger Podyfat, had taken the surname of the latter, or that Thomas de Bury [1319 S, Bridge], son-in-law of Roger de Bery [1292 S, Bridge], was a former apprentice of his father-in-law and took his surname.

The custom of transferring the master's surname on his apprentices must have been wide-spread. It follows that we must not conclude from the fact that two persons with the same surname and occupation and of the same ward or even parish, but apparently belonging to different generations, were necessarily father and son or near relatives, though that was doubtless often the case. We must always reckon with the possibility that the later bearer of the surname was an apprentice who had taken over his master's surname.

For other types of variation in surnames reference is made to the above-mentioned paper.

If no definite identification can be suggested for a taxpayer, nothing is said about him in the Commentary, apart from a note on his surname, if one is necessary. If the surname is of the occupational kind and self-explanatory, it has generally been supposed that his occupation was that suggested by his surname, and he is omitted in the Commentary, but it must be remembered that many occupational surnames were inherited and that the bearer may have had a different occupation.

In the period under discussion it was not unusual for people to change their occupation or combine two different lines of business. At least two taxpayers of 1319 seem to have been bakers who were also, or later became, cornmongers. Hosiers are not rarely called alternatively drapers, (fn. 3) which probably indicates that they were at the same time drapers or changed over to the drapery business. Elias de Salle (FarrI 39), a mercer, was the apprentice of a hatter. Craftsmen such as girdlers or coffrers did not always produce girdles or coffers (strong iron boxes) alone, but occasionally might do other metal work. Thus we are told that Nicholas cofrarius of London sold armour to the King in 1305-6 (C1). Saleman le Cofrer [Cheap 54] was a warden of coffrers in 1328, but he is styled armourer in 1322. Richard le Coffrer [Cheap 172] made girdles. Richard Bokskyn, saddler [FarrI 151] was the apprentice of a fuster (saddletree-maker).

Many people are referred to in records as merchants. This term included business men of various kinds, as mercers, drapers, vintners, fishmongers, stockfishmongers, and also general merchants. A person called "merchant" in a record may quite well have been particularly a fishmonger or a corder or the like.

A note must be added here on woolmongers. The wool-trade was not in the hands of the woolmongers (or woolmen) proper alone, but anybody with sufficient capital might buy and export a sack or more of wool. In the lists of wool-exporters in 1271 ff. (Pat, RH, etc.) persons of various callings are met with, pepperers, drapers, vintners, corders and so on, and the same is true of lists from the first half of the 14th century. If a taxpayer appears now and then as a wool-exporter, it must not be concluded that his chief business was that of a woolmonger.

On the principles followed in determining the residence of taxpayers something has been said in Chap. III.

The utmost brevity has been essential in the Commentary.

In references from one article to another in the same Subsidy a taxpayer is usually designated only by his number in the ward, the latter being indicated only if he is found under another ward.

The dates of the making and the enrolment of wills have generally both been indicated, but if there is only a slight difference of dates the year of enrolment alone has often been given.

Long names of London parishes have generally been shortened if the parish belonged to the ward under discussion. Thus in the Commentary on Vintry, St. Martin Beremanchurch is referred to as St. Martin, St. Michael Paternoster Royal as St. Michael, in that on Aldersgate, St. Botolph Aldersgate as St. Botolph and so on.

The word "apprentice" is generally abbreviated to "appr.". A note such as "repr. Dowg." means "a representative of Dowgate." A "master's surname" is one which an apprentice had taken over from his master.

Etymological explanations are as brief as possible. They will generally be found at the end of articles, separated from the preceding part by a dash. Thus in the commentary on 1292 S the note on taxpayer no. 1 under Bridge (William de Lewes) ends with "-Lewes Sx.", which indicates that the surname was taken from Lewes in Sussex. Several surnames have had to be left unexplained, among others those of some taxpayers of foreign origin.

The meaning of some occupational surnames or terms is disputed or insufficiently clear, and it was impossible to deal with them in the Commentary. They have therefore been relegated to an Appendix placed before the Indices of taxpayers.


  • 1. In two cases (Dowg 43 and 83) R- is written instead of B-.
  • 2. For the years of office of aldermen etc. Beaven's Aldermen. . . of London has been very helpful.
  • 3. Thomas de Kydeminstre (not in the Subsidies) is called "draper and hosier" 1304 LBB 146.