Staffordshire Lay Subsidy, 1327: Introduction

Pages 195-196

Staffordshire Historical Collections, Vol. 7, Part 1. Originally published by Staffordshire Record Society, London, 1886.

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The Subsidy Roll Of A. D. 1327.


This Subsidy was granted by the First Parliament of King Edward III. to meet the expenses of the Scotch War. The Statute has been lost, but the King's Commission, dated 23rd November, 1 Edward III., recites that the Earls, Barons, Knights, Citizens and Burgesses of the Kingdom, had granted to him a twentieth part of all moveable goods for the defence of the Kingdom against the Scots.

The Collectors and Taxers for co. Stafford were John de Acton and Richard de Hampton. The Commission directs them to summon before them the most loyal and best men of each vill, from which they were to elect four, or six, or more if they thought it desirable, by whom the assessment could be best accomplished. These were to be sworn to fully and loyally make inquiry into the goods possessed by every man of the vill on Michaelmas Day, 1 Edward III., in the house or out of the house, and to tax the same according to their true value, saving the things to be excepted. The latter are stated to be the armour, "mounture," (fn. 1) jewels and robes of Knights and gentlemen and their wives, and their plate of silver or pewter. "Des viens de meseaux" (fn. 2) were not to be taxed, nor the goods of those whose moveable property did not reach the amount of 10s. The Commission makes no distinction between freemen and others, and it is probable therefore that the villein tenants of every manor were taxed equally with the freeholders, for the principle of the taxation of this era was to include all classes indiscriminately, until it degenerated at length into the poll tax pure and simple, which produced the insurrections of the following reign.

On the other hand, the exemptions amongst the upper classes were numerous. The nobles and gentry paid no tallage on their most valuable possessions, and all those who held any office under the King claimed to be exempt altogether. There was good reason for some of these exemptions, for the upper classes for the most part paid scutage, and those who attended, according to their summons, to serve the King in a warlike expedition, and whose scutage was remitted in consequence, were put to an enormous expense in the necessary equipment of horses and arms for themselves and retinue. When the feudal levies were discontinued, the English nobles submitted to the same taxation as the rest of the community, and thus freed themselves from the reproach cast by the French revolutionary party of the last century with some justice against their nobility, of making use of obsolete privileges to escape their share of the national burdens.

The Roll now printed is the earliest extant Subsidy Roll for Staffordshire. It will be noted that for the purpose of computing totals, manors are in some cases joined together in the most arbitrary fashion, quite independent of any manorial or ecclesiastical connection.


  • 1. I conclude this word, from the context, must mean horses used for riding.
  • 2. Probably tools and implements used in agriculture or trade.