Introduction chapter VI: assessments, 1, general remarks

Pages 88-98

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

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In this section



I. General remarks.

(a) Clerics and non-freemen as taxpayers.

The subsidies were generally lay subsidies, and clergy were to be taxed only for goods found upon temporal property, which were not assessed for clerical taxes (Willard, EHR 29, 318). In the Subsidy of 1292 no cleric can be found to have been included, but in that of 1319 there is one certain case, John de Epwelle [CripI 12]. Master Henry le Mareschal [Langb 54] was originally assessed at over 40s., but the entry was cancelled, the remark "quia clericus" being added in the margin. He will have been a cleric.

Only London citizens (freemen) were normally taxpayers, and there is nothing to suggest that any taxpayer in 1319 was not a freeman. Two persons were struck out because not freemen. Henry Nasard, later alderman of BroadSt, and a taxpayer in 1319, was distrained for a twentieth in 1306, a silver cup of the value of 10 marks being seized for a tax of 100s., exactly the amount of his tax in 1319. He pleaded that he was not a freeman at the time, and the cup was restored to him (LBD 217 f.).

But in the earlier roll several persons appear as taxpayers, who were not freemen at the time. A safe case is Robert Persun, who was assessed at £2 in Walbrook. He must be the Robert Persone, skinner, who was elected a sheriff in 1309. After the election had taken place it was pointed out that he was never a freeman of the City, nor admitted to the freedom, nor sworn, and the election was quashed (LBC 180). He must have been admitted a freeman later. It is noteworthy that a Robert Person, probably the same man, is styled citizen of London as early as 1288 (C1).

No less than 7 taxpayers of 1292 in Bridge seem not to have been admitted freemen till about 1310, the admissions being booked in LBD. They are: Reginald Abel (no. 4), John Helis (no. 16), Robert de Eclyntone (no. 17), Gerad le Ceynturer (no. 31), John May (no. 33), Simon Kidmenstre (no. 37), Robert Palmere (no. 66). Two instances are found in Walbrook: John de Heynesham (no. 5) and Phelip le Fount (no. 64); one in Billingsgate: John de Doddinghirst, barber (no. 22); two in Cripplegate E: Robert Podyfat (no. 14), Walter le Gardiner (no. 25). It is possible that some of these persons, who were admitted c. 1310, were namesakes of the taxpayers of 1292, but it is improbable that there were two persons called Reginald Abel or Robert de Iclyndone (Eclyntone) or Robert Podyfat. It is also noteworthy that an apprentice of Gerard le Ceynturer was admitted a freeman in 1310-11, and that it is stated about Philip le Fount (or Lenfaunt) that he had long borne the burdens of the City (LBD 104). It is doubtless more than a coincidence that Reginald Abel and Robert de Iclyndone, stockfishmongers, and Robert le Paumer were admitted within a few days of each other (LBD 71).

It was not unusual for admission to have been deferred for a considerable time. Several statements in the lists of admission in LBD prove this to have been so. Thus Richard de Gravele, called Bokskyn [1319 S, FarrI 151] was admitted in 1311, but it is stated that he was articled in 1276. Simon de Benstede, who was admitted in 1310-11, paid a fee of only 2s. 6d. "because he stood well in the City for the past thirty years and long undertook the burdens of the City". The statement "had long borne the burdens of the City" or the like is found also, for instance, in connection with the admissions of Henry de Bristowe (LBD 72), Geoffrey de Chelchethe (ib. 140), Hamo de Chepe (ib. 149). The last was a taxpayer in 1319 [Walbr 4].

(b) The ward where taxpayers were to be taxed.

People were taxed in one ward only, even if they had property in more wards than one, and property of London citizens outside London was taxed in London. We may thus take it for granted that if a name appears in more than one ward, different persons are meant, and not that the same person was taxed in two or more wards for property in these wards. One might be tempted to suppose that there was only one John de Pampesworth, though taxpayers with that name are found in three wards, but there is no doubt that there were three persons with this name in London in 1319, who can be identified as people of different occupations.

Before 1311 there was some doubt as to the ward where a taxpayer was to be assessed, and it is not certain that all the taxpayers of 1292 were actually resident in the ward where they appear. But in 1311 an ordinance was issued as regards the ward in which assessment and collection of tallages was to be made; it is printed in LBD 285 f. It was ordained that if a citizen has his mansion in divers Wards, or has the entrance and exit of his mansion in one Ward and the hall, chambers, and kitchen in another Ward; and further if he have his mansion as aforesaid in one Ward, whilst his merchandise and goods for sale lie in another Ward, the citizens shall henceforth be taxed, tallaged, and assessed in those Wards wherein their halls, chambers, and the rest of their houses are situate, and where they eat, rise, and sleep, for all their goods and chattels which they possess within the said City. But as touching Aldermen, it was agreed and ordained that thenceforth they should always be taxed and assessed in those Wards where they reside, and not in the Wards where they are Aldermen.

Aldermen, so far as can be seen, were not taxed with the rest of the citizens in 1292. In view of the fragmentary state of the roll it is impossible to be quite sure of this, since a number of aldermen may have been taxed in wards for which the returns are missing. But we should expect to have found Wolmar de Essex under Billingsgate, of which he was alderman and where he presumably lived. Adam de Fulham, alderman of Bridge, doubtless lived in that ward, where he is missing. John de Gisors, alderman of Vintry, probably lived in that ward, but he is not among taxpayers. Thomas de Stanes, alderman of Broad St, probably lived in Cripplegate I, but is absent in both wards. John de Dunstaple, alderman of Walbrook, is assessed under Walbrook, but he was not elected till 1292 or 1293. The only alderman acting in 1290-2 who is listed in the returns is Robert de Rokesle, alderman of Lime St and entered among taxpayers of Dowgate, but he has no assessment and will have been put in by mistake. We must not conclude that aldermen were exempted from taxation. They may have been assessed separately, perhaps by the chief taxers.

In the subsidy of 1319 aldermen were assessed in the ward where they lived. No less than five aldermen were resident in Cripplegate Infra.

There was some doubt as to the ward in which three taxpayers were to be assessed in 1319. John Sok [BroadSt 74] was struck out because he had been assessed in Castle Baynard ward, where he duly appears. William atte Rode [BreadSt 22] was exempted because assessed in Cripplegate, where he is found. Bernard de la Pouche [Tower 64] was exempted because he lived in Langbourn ward, but he was apparently forgotten by the taxers of the latter ward.

The case of Roger Chauntecler is peculiar. In the return for Farringdon Extra the column of assessments shows a blank after his name, an assessment having been erased, and the "t" is absent at the beginning of the line. But in the "Schedule" (LBE 125) is added to the sum total for Farr E "preter Rogerum Chauntecler." The explanation of these facts is given by a marginal note under Candlewick ward, opposite to the entry for John de la Nonneys, according to which an addition was to be made to the tax of the latter of 13 pounds and half a mark, being the twelfth of 24 sacks of wool found in Billingsgate ward, which had belonged to Roger Chauntecler. This sum is added at the end of the return to the original sum total of 17 pounds odd, raising the sum total for Candlewick to 30 pounds odd.

Miss Thrupp, op. cit., p. 115, referring to this entry, suggests that the collectors discovering the 24 sacks of wool belonging to Roger Chauntecler in Billingsgate confiscated two and sold them for 10 marks. It must at least have been for 10 marks each, since 20 marks are equivalent to £13 6s. 8d. And we are not told why the sacks were taxed in Candlewick ward and why the entry is placed over against the name of John de la Nonneys. Besides the sacks did not belong to Roger Chauntecler, but had belonged to him (fuerunt). What happened seems to have been this.

Roger Chauntecler apparently had failed to declare 24 sacks of wool and had concealed them in Billingsgate ward. The taxers were unaware of their existence, but they seem to have suspected that he had taxable property somewhere, and left the matter of his assessment open, as indicated by the additional note in the Schedule. After the work of assessment had been finished by the subtaxers and the returns had been handed over to the chief taxers, and the latter had entered the sum total for Candlewick, it was found that Roger Chauntecler had sold 24 sacks of wool stored in Billingsgate to John de la Nonneys. The sale must have taken place after the date of the assessment (Michaelmas Day 1319). One might have thought that the chief taxers would have held Roger Chauntecler liable for the tax, but they seem to have simply taxed the wool. They may, as Miss Thrupp suggests, have confiscated two sacks and left it to John de la Nonneys to arrange the matter with Roger Chauntecler. If John de la Nonneys had acquired the wool before the day fixed for the assessment there would have been no reason to mention Roger Chauntecler as earlier owner, and the note on the tax of the latter in the Schedule is unexplained. The chief point is here that Roger Chauntecler was not taxed outside the ward in which he lived. (fn. 1)

There seems to be one certain case in the subsidy of 1319 of a London citizen having been taxed in London also for property outside the City. Under the name of John de Triple [Walbr 69] is written in a small hand "de .xviij. et .xij." This must mean "de octodecima et duodecima", implying that John de Triple was assessed for the twelfth in London and the eighteenth raised in country districts. He was erroneously charged for the subsidy of 1313 in Hertfordshire, though ultimately released (Willard, p. 153). He may have had property in Herts also in 1319.

(c) Exemptions.

Exempted from taxation were people with a value of taxable movables below a certain minimum, in 1319 half a mark (6s. 8d.), deduction having been made for certain articles, the same in 1290 and 1319 (cf. p. 11). Some people were exempted for other reasons, among others the moneyers.

Three persons have a blank in the column of assessments in the returns for the subsidy of 1292. Robert de Rokesle senior [Dowg 33] was the alderman of that name, on whom see p. 90. Why John le Bukeler [Bas 11] was not assessed cannot be determined. Roger Crock [BishI 12] is a special case. It is stated in Select Cases of the King's Bench (Selden 58) in 1294 that he was a debtor of William de Hameldon, king's clerk and a well-known financier, and had fraudulently alienated to his sons the house where he lived and two others and was devoid of means in February 1291-2. No doubt this transaction explains why Roger was not assessed for the subsidy in 1292.

The number of persons exempted is far larger in the subsidy of 1319. Apparently the sub-taxers provisionally included some names that had to be cancelled for one reason or the other. The number of such items is at least 33. On Bernard de la Pouche and Roger Chauntecler see p. 91.

In all cases, except one, the column of assessments shows a blank. The exception is Master Henry le Mareschal [Langb 54], but the entry has been heavily scored through. He will have been a cleric (cf. p. 88).

The reason for exemption was in most other cases doubtless technical poverty, and this is often expressly stated by the remark "nichil quia pauper" or "pauper" in the margin or elsewhere. The persons are Hugh le Wyrdrawere Bish 47, Richard de Farndone and Stephen atte Holte Cornh 57, 59, John de Harlestede Cand 35, Richard de Nortone CripI 66, John le Fayner, William Cocus, and Robert de Chesthunt Qu 57, 64, 67, Avice Clenhond Tower 62. The initial t has not been filled in before these names. In some wards a "nichil" is added in the margin and the "t" is missing: Roger le Brewere, Reginald de Vndle and Alice de Bokyngham Langb 18, 48, 65, Hugh de Copham Cordw 9, Robert le Dorturer, Agnes de Newenham and Richard le Long FarrE 68, 73, 80, Stephen le Nayler FarrI 162. Most of these were doubtless technical paupers, but Reginald de Vndle may have been exempted as a legal pleader. Hugh de Parys Langb 39 has no assessment and t De before his name is cancelled. He will have been a pauper.

In a few cases the column of assessments shows a blank and the initial "t" has not been filled in, there being no remark in the margin: Robert de Stowe, John atte Bataille and Sabina le Taburer BroadSt 48, 56, 66, John Cosyn and Henry le Marchal BreadSt 16, 25, Robert de Clactone, John de Fylers and William Huberd Aldersg 12, 31, 37. Most of these were doubtless paupers, but William Huberd was probably a moneyer and exempted for that reason. An assessment has been erased after his name.

The surnames of Queenhithe 81 and 82 are illegible, and an assessment is not visible.

Two persons were struck out because they were not freemen, John le White Tower 61 ("extranius" being added in the margin) and Bankyn de Brounlexk Cand 53 ("non liber ville").

Two persons were struck out because non-existent, "nullus talis" being added in the margin: Richard de Wodesslade Qu 19, William atte Vyne Qu 56.

(d) "In Rotulo".

In connection with exemptions it will be convenient to deal with the taxpayers in the Subsidy of 1319 who have "in R." or "in Ro." before their names, since this marginal note has apparently been taken to indicate exemption. 19 taxpayers belong to this group: John de Triple Walbr 69, John de Warle and Henry Norman Bridge 60, 75, Stephen de Abyndone (alderman), Robert Personn, Thomas Cok and Simon de Swanlonde Dowg 1, 3-5, John de Wengraue (alderman) BroadSt 1, William Bonserieaunt Aldg 1, Geoffrey de Meldeburne Cordw 68, John de Lyncolne BreadSt 77, Chiuellus caligarius regis, John de Sellyngg, John le Luter and Edmund le Latoner Cheap 163-6, Roger de Frowyk (alderman), John atte Sole, John Smart Junior and John le Mynour Tower 67-70. In Rotulo is usually abbreviated as "in R.", or "in Ro.", but "in Rotulo" occurs in additions to sums total under BreadSt and Tower.

The taxpayers in question generally had high, some very high, assessments, as £40, 40 marks, £20 (two), 25 marks (two), 10 marks, £5, £4, £2 (three), 33s. 4d., £1 (two). Two had a tax of 1 mark, one a tax of 8s. 4d., Edmund le Latoner one of 40d. only. The sum total of the assessments in Rotulo is no less than £167 5s.

Professor Willard apparently takes these persons to have been exempted from taxation. In Parliamentary Taxes, p. 155, dealing with the Subsidy of 1319, he remarks that some names were crossed off because the men were exempt from taxation and refers to membranes 1, 3, etc. On membranes 1 and 3 no cases of exemption are found, but on mem. 1 there is one taxpayer who has "in R." before his name, and on mem. 3 there are no less than four such taxpayers, and Professor Willard seems to be referring to them. This view receives some support from the fact that certain among these persons are known to have been exempted from taxation for life, as John le Luter (or le Leutur) so early as 1295, John de Selling in 1309, John de Triple, Robert Person and Simon de Swanlond during the reign of Edward II (op. cit. 153). John de Warle was exempted from taxation in 1309. William Bonserieaunt and John atte Sole were moneyers and as such normally exempted, and John le Mynour may also have been a moneyer. But an exemption from taxation could be withdrawn, at least temporarily, or people enjoying this privilege might get a hint that a voluntary contribution was expected from them on a special occasion.

The persons with "in R(o)." before their names were not exempt. As Lady Stenton informs the editor in a private communication, "in Rotulo" indicates that the taxpayers had not paid their taxes and that the amounts were carried over to next year's Pipe Roll. The roll referred to in these entries is not the Subsidy Roll, as might be supposed, but the Pipe Roll. "In R(o)." will have been entered after the collection had been finished. See also p. 351.

The reason why these taxpayers had got a respite may in some cases have been simply a temporary inability to pay, but there are circumstances which seem to indicate that some of these persons were in a special position. Three were aldermen, and two among these had taxes which they should not have been unable to pay. Further the placing of these taxpayers in the returns offers some curious points.

In some wards, being high taxpayers, they are at the head of the lists, as in Dowg, BroadSt, Aldg. In BreadSt and in Bridge they are in the middle of the lists. But in Walbr, Cordw, Cheap and Tower they are placed at the end of the lists. John de Triple (Walbr) is followed by the sub-taxers and two taxpayers who were evidently entered on a later occasion. Geoffrey de Meldeburne (Cordw) comes before the sub-taxers and one more taxpayer. The taxpayers with "in Ro." before their names in Cheap are followed only by two widowed ladies and the sub-taxers. In Tower they come before five taxpayers, among whom were doubtless the sub-taxers for the ward. This cannot be a mere coincidence. The taxpayers with "in R(o)." before their names seem to have been added in these four wards after the lists had been drawn up and before the sub-taxers' names had been entered. The reason may be that these persons were known to have had an exemption from taxation and were therefore omitted in the first instance.

This suggests that the respite may in some cases have been a privilege. If taxpayers who had had an exemption from taxation were yet assessed for the Subsidy, they may have been granted the liberty to pay at their own convenience. Other taxpayers may have been allowed a respite for other reasons, for instance the three aldermen.

(e) The sub-taxers.

The sub-taxers were assessed by the chief taxers. It has been shown by Professor Willard (pp. 62, 207 ff.) that the sub-taxers were often assessed leniently and in round sums such as 1s., 1s. 6d., 2s.; in this way they got some compensation for their trouble. In some cases taxpayers had a smaller tax when serving as subtaxers than they had when not so employed. This holds good for country districts, but a similar system may have been followed in London, and it is therefore desirable to deal separately with subtaxers and their assessments.

The sub-taxers of the Subsidy of 1292 are not indicated, and the same is true of the Subsidy of 1319 as far as nine wards are concerned. In these nine wards they should generally be looked for among the taxpayers placed towards the end of the lists (cf. p. 20), but in most cases it is improfitable to make guesses as to definite names. In some wards it is clear that the last four or five taxpayers were not sub-taxers. Thus in Cornhill they include two paupers and in Langbourn two women. But for Coleman St and Aldersgate the last four or five may well be supposed to have been sub-taxers. Those for Tower were pretty certainly the last five or the last four but one (cf. p. 96), and Adam Hunteman may owe his low tax of 1s. to his having been a sub-taxer.

The sub-taxers of the remaining wards are indicated by a Tax' or Taxat' (Taxatores) or Nomina Tax[atorum] in the left margin. Their number varies, but only in Cripplegate reaches the minimum of six stipulated by the form of the Subsidy. Under Bishopsgate, Candlewick, Cordwainer and Portsoken lines are drawn from the Tax' to each name. In several wards there is a round bracket over against a series of three to six names; this is found under BreadSt, Bridge, Cripplegate, Dowgate, Queenhithe and Walbrook. In the remaining wards there is a bracket consisting of lines drawn from Tax' (Taxat') to the first and the last in a series of three to five taxpayers, evidently all sub-taxers. The number of sub-taxers thus varies between three, four, five, and six.

The six sub-taxers placed at the end of CripE doubtless represented Cripplegate ward as a whole. It is unlikely that CripE should have had six sub-taxers. Apparently the first three were resident in CripI, the last three in CripE. Robert Sely probably lived in CripI like his father, and John Michel was assessed in CripI in 1292. On William Jurdan no certain information is available.

It is worthy of notice that Robert Sely was alderman of LimeSt on Oct. 28, 1319, but he may have been recently elected then. It is hardly likely that an alderman would act as sub-taxer.

The assessments of the sub-taxers show much variation. The highest is £10, the lowest 6¾d., practically the minimum assessment, paid by a sub-taxer in Bishopsgate. The sums are, the number of persons assessed at each amount being added between brackets, if more than one: £10, £5, 30s. (2), 20s., 16s. 8d., 16s. 1d., 1 mark (4), 11s. 8d., 10s. (3), 8s. 4d., 6s. 8d. or half a mark (5), 6s. (2), 5s. (11), 40d. (7), 3s., 2s. 2½d., 2s. (6), 20d. (11), 13½d. (3), 12d. or 1s. (2), 6¾d. It will be seen that 45 sub-taxers had assessments below half a mark and 32 below 5s., the total number being 66.

The assessments of the sub-taxers do not generally show round sums such as 1s. or 2s., those common in country districts. The sums most often met with are 5s. and 20d., the latter the amount most frequently found in the Subsidy and the former also very often met with. The assessments in Bishopsgate are small, the highest being 2s. 2½d.; but most taxpayers in this ward had small taxes. It is impossible to determine if or to what extent a reduction was made for sub-taxers, but it is intrinsically probable that one was made for people of moderate means. The sub-taxers would be chosen among people who were of good standing and generally trusted, and one would expect them to have had taxable movables worth considerably more than half a mark, the minimum value taxed. The low assessments of half the number of sub-taxers may well be due to a reduction having been made for them, and the fact that three sub-taxers in Aldgate had a tax of 2s., an amount not otherwise found in this ward, is noteworthy. It must be left an open question if a reduction was made also for people in a good economic position, but such people seem rarely to have been asked or been willing to undertake a sub-taxer's work.

The occupations of the sub-taxers show much variety. They would naturally often be chosen from among people who had the occupations most frequently followed in the respective wards, and one has the impression that care was taken to get various occupations represented. Thus the sub-taxers for Billingsgate were two fishmongers, one cornmonger, and one woolmonger, those for Bridge two stockfishmongers, one fishmonger, one cutler and one chandler, those for Candlewick two plumbers, one butcher, and one waxchandler, those for Queenhithe three fishmongers and one dyer, those for Walbrook two skinners, one or two burellers, and one vintner.


  • 1. As already pointed out, an assessment, apparently of 30s., seems to have been erased in the assessment column opposite the name of Roger Chauntecler. It must remain an open question by whom this assessment was entered and why it was cancelled and erased. Had it been the original assessment of the sub-taxers, we might have expected the sum total for FarrE to have been 30s. higher in the Schedule than it is. The assessment may have been entered by the chief taxers, but cancelled when the sacks of wool formerly belonging to Roger Chauntecler had been discovered and duly taxed.