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'Introduction', Yorkshire Lay Subsidy: 30 Ed. I (1301) (1897), pp. VII-XIX. URL: Date accessed: 21 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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This volume contains the return for Yorkshire, as far as preserved, to the grant of a subsidy of a Fifteenth of all personalty made to Edward I. at the Parliament held at Lincoln in the spring of 1300–1. The only other subsidy for this reign which is extant, namely, a Ninth granted in 1297, has been printed in Volume xvi. of this series. No return exists for the reign of Edward II., so it is necessary to pass to the time of Edward III. for the next Yorkshire Subsidy Roll. Like the subsidy roll already in print, this one is imperfect. Almost all the North Riding portion has been preserved, but the returns for Allertonshire and for the liberties of St. Mary's and St. Peter's, York, are very much rubbed, and to some extent destroyed. There is nothing for the West Riding, and only the wapentake between Ouse and Derwent for the East Riding. All these are in the same handwriting, and were probably copied by the same clerk from the original returns. The following is a list of the MSS. printed, all of which are in the Public Record Office:—Exchequer Lay Subsidies. Yorks. N. R., 211/2, twenty-six membranes, pp. 1–104. Ibid., 211/4, one long membrane, pp. 104–115. Ibid. Yorks. E.R., 202/4, a fragment, pp. 115–6. Ibid. Yorks. N.R., 211/5, another fragment, p. 116.

At the end (pp. 117–121) is printed the return for the city of York, which is entered on the Roll of Foreign Accounts, No. ii., now attached to the end of the Pipe Roll for 30 Edward I. This is written in a different hand.

The circumstances attending the grant of this subsidy were very similar to those under which the grant of a Ninth was made in 1297. The Ninth was granted as a consideration for the confirmation by the king of the Great and Forest Charters. By this confirmation the king undertook not to levy taxes without the consent of Parliament, and promised that the Forest Charter, which had been issued by his father in 1217, should be observed. Unfortunately, from the very beginning misunderstandings arose as to the nature of this confirmation. The introduction by the king of a clause saving the rights of the Crown cast great doubts on his sincerity, and the delay in the enforcement of the Forest Charter gave rise to much discontent. By the provisions of this charter surveys or perambulations of the royal forests were to be made to ascertain how much land had been improperly enclosed by the Crown, and steps taken for the disafforestment of the portions wrongfully taken in. To allay this discontent the king in a full Parliament held at London in 1300 reconfirmed the Great and Forest Charters, with additional articles, which are embodied in an important act, called "The Articles upon the Charters." In consequence of these the survey of the forests was made and presented to a Parliament held at Lincoln, which began on January 20th, 1300–1.

At this Parliament (fn. 1) the king desired the prelates and nobles to express approval of the perambulation, which had been made and ridden (chevauchee) by the king's order, or to redress anything in it which required amendment. If that method did not please them, then that a middle way should be provided whereby the matter might be arranged in a suitable manner, having regard to the dignity of the Crown, that it should not be diminished, and also that the king's oath and theirs to the Crown should be saved.

The prelates and nobles replied that for fear of the perils which might ensue they dared not answer; but instead they presented a bill containing twelve articles for his consideration.

By the first two, to which the king gave his hearty assent (placet expresse), they prayed that the Great and Forest Charters should be observed from thenceforth punctiliously and in all points, and that any statutes to the contrary should be declared null and void. By the third article, to which he gave a grudging assent (placet tacite), he agreed that with the advice of the prelates and nobles the jurisdiction (poer) of the justices assigned for keeping the charters in the counties should be defined (mis en certein). Next was agreed that the perambulation already made and ridden by good men according to the form provided in the Forest Charter, should stand, and be properly perfected by disafforestment, according to the bounds set out by the perambulators (puraleurs), and that seisin of the disafforested land should at once be granted to the true owners. The next two articles, the fifth and sixth, related to the trespasses done by the king's ministers against the tenor of the charters, and the wrongful fines levied contrary to the statute passed at Westminster the previous Lent. The king agreed that these should cease in the future, but was unwilling that Parliament should have any control over the auditors appointed to enquire into these matters.

They next demanded that the sheriffs should answer for the issues, as was done in his father's time, which issues had been and were to the great impoverishment of the people, and that the sheriffs should not be more heavily charged. To this it was replied that a fitting remedy for the matter would be provided by the common council as speedily as possible.

The eighth to the eleventh articles obtained the king's hearty consent. By these it was agreed that the perambulations not finished or ridden should be made before Michaelmas next; that (fn. 2) if these were done, a grant of a Fifteenth, instead of the Twentieth which had been granted at that Parliament, would be made to him; but if not, nothing was to be levied: and they besought the king to have regard to the subsidy of a Ninth which had been granted to him not long before (that is in 1297), for the same things. The Fifteenth was to be levied at Michaelmas then next (Seint Michel avenir de deinz le an), and four knights were to be elected by the common assent in each county to tax, gather, and pay the Fifteenth to the king.

To the last article the prelates of the holy church stated that they could not consent that any contribution should be made from their goods or the goods of the clergy contrary to the prohibition of the Apostolic See. This displeased the king, but the body of the nobles approved. (fn. 3) On February 14th following, the king issued at Lincoln a full confir mation of both the Great and Forest Charters, and granted that any statutes contrary to these two charters, or to any article in either of them, should be amended, or even annulled by the general council of the realm. (fn. 4) As regards this confirmation Blackstone (fn. 5) remarks:—"This seems to have been the final and complete establishment of the two charters, of liberties and of the forest: which, from their first concession under King John, A.D. 1215, had been often endangered, and undergone very many mutations, for the space of near a century; but were now fixed upon an eternal basis, having in all, before and since this time (as Sir Edward Coke observes), been established, confirmed, and commanded to be put in execution, by two and thirty several Acts of Parliament."

Soon after Michaelmas (Sept. 29th, 1301), the king began to make preparations for levying the subsidy. By a mandate dated at Stirling (Strivelyn) on Oct. 8, he ordered the sheriff of Yorkshire to summon the commonalty of his county for the purpose of choosing three or four knights, or other men, from among the more faithful and discreet persons in the county, who should be best fitted for the duty of assessing and collecting the Fifteenth. The collectors were to appear before the treasurer and barons of the Exchequer on the morrow of St. Luke (Oct. 19th), to swear that they would well and faithfully do all that should be required of them in this matter. (fn. 6)

The election must have been made with great celerity. On October 24th the king at Dunipace (Donypas) confirmed the election of Gerard Salvayn, Alexander de Cave, Robert de Berleye, Geoffrey de Hothum, Robert Gower, and Ralph son of Ranulph, and informed them that the Fifteenth was to be paid into the Exchequer on three several dates—the morrow of St. Martin (Nov. 12), Easter (April 22), and the quindena of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (July 8); and at the same time he exhorted them to hurry on the collection, as the money was very needful for the expedition in Scotland. (fn. 7) The money came in but slowly, and to accelerate matters the king appointed at Linlithgow (Lynliscu), on Nov. 21, William de Carleton and Lambert de Thrikingham to supervise and hasten the levy of the subsidy. As we hear nothing more on the subject, probably the great bulk of the money came in with fair despatch. The rolls for the North Riding were not finally delivered into the Exchequer until Aug. 4, 1302. (fn. 9)

The following is an abstract of the accounts (fn. 10) rendered by the collectors:—

West Riding.—Collectors, Ralph son of Ranulph and Richard de Berle.

li s. d.
613 0 0 in 11 tallies
244 12 in 14 tallies
8 19
37 0 0
13 6 8 expenses
67 16
5 0 11¾ balance
989 15

North Riding.—Collectors, Alexander de Cave and Robert Gower.

li s. d.
1,597 0 0 in 5 tallies
29 10 0 in 2 tallies
14 0 0 by the abbot of Byland
1 7 4 balance
20 0 0 expenses
6 16 7
1,668 13 11
1,668 13

East Riding.—Collectors, Gerard Salveyn and Geoffrey de Hothum.

li s. d.
687 10 0 in 11 tallies
192 2 6
191 12 6
17 0 0 expenses
30 6
1,118 11

Sum total for the whole county:—

li s. d.
West Riding 989 15
North Riding 1,668 13
East Riding 1,118 11
3,777 0 10¼ (fn. 11)

The expense of collecting this sum was 50li 6s. 8d., or only slightly over one and a third per cent. The arrears amounted to 35li 7s. 4d., or under one per cent., of which by far the greater portion was due from the West Riding, the North Riding having a surplus of 1¼d., a striking testimony to the excellence of the fiscal arrangements under Edward I. The West Riding was still the poorest part of the county. The manufactures, which at a later period made it the wealthiest of the three ridings, had not yet been established.

The method of levying the Fifteenth so closely resembles that used in raising the Ninth, levied in 1297, that it will be sufficient to refer the reader to what I have printed on that subject in Vol. XVI., of this series, pp. xii.–xvii. The only important difference is that it is clearly stated here that the chief taxors, who were to be four in number, were to be elected by the county. (fn. 12)

Goods held in a purely spiritual capacity (mere spiritualia) were not to be taxed, but all temporal goods, whether belonging to ecclesiastics or laymen, or any other persons whatsoever in the realm, of whatever condition they might be, were to be taxed in levying the Fifteenth, which was to be levied and collected from the temporal goods for the king's use. (fn. 13)

Comparing this subsidy with the one next preceding the Ninth levied in 1297, it will be noticed that a larger number of people contribute to the tax, and that the tax is levied on very poor persons. The smallest amount levied for the Ninth was a shilling, that is on goods of the value of nine shillings; here as small a sum as twopence is by no means uncommon, and in one case, Roger Milnes, in Goathland, 1¼d., that is, on persons possessing half a crown and under. Two causes were probably the reason of this,—first, the king's increasing need of money to carry on his Scotch campaign; and second, as the subsidy was for a smaller proportion, a Fifteenth instead of a Ninth, it was levied with greater strictness. This strictness, however, varied very much in different parts of the Riding. As has already been pointed out, sums as small as twopence and under were paid in many places, whilst in the wapentake of Bulmer no one paid less than fivepence, and elsewhere no very small amount is named, so that it would appear that the tax was not generally levied on the very poor.

The religious houses were by far the largest taxpayers. Their wealth, or at least the portion of it subject to taxation, consisted exclusively of agricultural products, such as cattle, sheep, and corn, and was due, no doubt, to their superior methods of farming, which were encouraged by the quiet and security they enjoyed. A reference to the Colchester return to this subsidy mentioned below will show that this was the case in an Essex town, and the same rule would hold good of the North Riding.

The number of persons in the humbler ranks of life mentioned in this roll makes the return almost as full as a poll-tax. Compared with other mediæval subsidy rolls for Yorkshire, its superiority in this respect is very marked, the only one at all equal to it being the Ninth for 1297, already in print. The returns for the reign of Edward III. are very jejune; and it is necessary to come down to the poll-tax of 2 Richard II. (the Yorkshire portion of which has for the most part appeared in the Journal of the Yorkshire Archæological Society) to find its equal in fulness, though in other respects far less interesting.

To the philologist the names of the poorer classes are full of interest, and from them it may be seen how many of our modern surnames are derived. To give an idea of the great variety of names contained in this volume, it may suffice to state that in the wapentake of Langbaurgh alone no fewer than seventy trades and occupations are mentioned; and careful study of the returns for other places would increase the list very greatly. Unfortunately, to treat the subject adequately requires more space and knowledge than I can command.

The Yorkshire returns only give the sums total, and do not specify the goods on which the Fifteenth was levied. To give some idea of what the goods were that were subject to this tax, extracts are given from the return for the borough of Colchester, (fn. 14) which may be compared with the city of York as regards position and wealth:—

Roger Dyer (tinctor) had on St. Michael's day last past (Sept. 29th, 1301) in valuables (thesauro) a clasp of silver, 18d.; a mazer cup, 18d. In his chamber two robes, 20s.; two beds, half a marc; a napkin and a towel, 18d. In his house a basin and ewer, 14d.; one andiron, 8d. In the kitchen a brass pot, 20d.; a small brass pot (pocinetum, O.E. posnet), 6d.; a small brass dish, 8d.; a tripod, 4d. In the brewery one quarter of oats, 2s. Weed-ashes, (fn. 15) half a marc; a large vat for the dye-work, 2s. 6d. Also a cow, 5s.; a bullock, 2s.; two little pigs, 12d. each; a sow, 15d. Billets and fagots for the hearth, one marc. Sum, 71s. 5d.; the Fifteenth of which, 4s. 9¼d.

William de Sartrino, in valuables, a ring, 6d. In his chamber a robe, 10s.; a bed, 3s. In his house a brass pot, 12d.; a basin and ewer, 12d. Also a carthorse (affrus), 5s. In the tannery skins and bark, 16s.; tubs and coolers (algeas (fn. 16) ) for his business, 4s. Sum, 40s. 6d.; the Fifteenth of which, 2s. 8½d.

Gilbert Agote, in valuables, a silver clasp, 18d.; a mazer cup, 2s. In his chamber two robes, 20s.; a bed, 4s.; a napkin, 18d.; two towels, 12d. In his house one andiron, 4d.; a brass pot, 2s. 6d.; a small brass dish, 12d.; a small brass pot, 6d.; a tripod, 8d.; two pairs of fullers' shears (forpicum fullorum), 6s.; prepared teasels (cardones), 12d.; one pound of wool, 3s. In the grange four quarters of wheat (siligo), 12s., at 3s. a quarter; four quarters of barley, 12s., at 3s. a quarter; six quarters of small oats (avene minute (fn. 17) ), 10s., at 20d. a quarter; a cart-horse, 5s.; two cows, 5s. each; four young oxen (boviculi), 3s each; a young pig, 12d.; sixty sheep (bidentes), 12d. each; meat in the larder, half a marc. Sum, 8li 13s. 8d.; the Fifteenth of which, 11s. 7d.

Walter Mason (le Mazun), one bed-coverlet (chalon') and one sheet (linceamen), 18d.; one poor robe, 4s.; two young pigs, 10½d. each; one brass pot, 20d.; one small brass pot, 10d. Sum, 9s. 9d.; the Fifteenth of which, 8d.

John Skot, butcher, had, amongst other things, meat for sale, lard and fat (sepum et pinguetudinem), 5s.; a knife and axe for cutting the meat in his business (pro officiio suo), 6d.

John Godgrom (parmentarius), had 2s. worth of white leather and gloves. William Gray, who was a mercer, had a stock, worth 16s., of gloves, purses, belts, wax, and other small things. There was one boat, which with its equipment (atilio) was worth 18s. It was held in partnership by John le Gags and John de Peldon. Robert le Musterder had mustard-seed and vinegar, two hand-mills, and sepum and cotun: the first, perhaps, for cepe, an onion, which may have been used in mustard-making, though of this there is no evidence; and the latter, possibly, some high-flavoured spice, or the like. The stock-in-trade was at times very small. The stock of belts kept by Simon le Gerdlere was only valued at a shilling. Richard Hoke, who was a blacksmith, was better furnished; his hammers, anvil, and other tools for his forge, were worth 5s. One of the wealthiest men in the town was John Edward. The sum total of the value of his goods was 109s. 3d. Amongst other things he had a piece of woollen cloth, 7s.; wax, 5s.; silk and fine linen (sindon (fn. 18) ), 20s.; flannel (flaunneol) and silk purses, 24s.; gloves, belts, leather purses, and needles, half a marc; and 2s. worth of small articles in mercery.

Amongst miscellaneous articles there was a gridiron (craticula), a wash-tub (lotorium), russet-coloured cloth, two silver spoons (only worth 16d.) and verdigris (viridegret') and quicksilver belonging to a merchant, William de Saham, whose whole stock-in-trade only amounted to 15s.

By far the wealthiest tax-payers,—here as in Yorkshire,—were the religious houses. The abbot of St. John's paid 9li 19s.; the prior of St. Botolph, 6li 19s. 8d.; and the master of the Leper House of St. Mary Magdalen's, 4li 3s. 8d. By comparing the list of the goods of these three houses, we obtain the following prices:—For corn, wheat, and barley, 3s. a quarter; small oats, 20d.; oat malt (braseum avene), 2s.; and barley malt (braseum ordei), 3s. 4d.; beans, 4s.; (fn. 19) oxen, 10s. apiece; young oxen, two for a marc; cows and bulls, 5s. apiece; a calf, 12d.; a stot, 6s.; a horse, 6s.; a cart-horse, 4s.; hakeneys, 3s. and 4s.; (fn. 20) a twoyear-old sheep (bidens), 12d.; an ewe, 12d.; a young sheep (agnus), 6d.; pigs, 2s. and 18d. (fn. 21)

In nearly every case the prices here are considerably higher than those prevailing in the West Riding in 1297, probably in consequence of Colchester being in a more populous county, and nearer London.

Before concluding, I wish to tender my heartiest thanks to the Rev. Canon Atkinson, vicar of Danbyin-Cleveland, for his ready assistance and advice given in the preparation both of this volume and of the one on the Ninth, and also for helping with the revision of the proofs in both volumes, a most tedious and wearying undertaking.


1 Parliamentary Writs, i. 104, 105.
2 "Le pueple de Reaume, ensy ke totes les choses suzdites se facent e seent establement afermez e acomplez, ly grante le xvmc en luy del xxme einz ces houres graunte, issint ke tote les choses suz dites entre sy e la Seint Michel prochein suant se facent, autrement qe rien ne seit levee. Placet expresse. E qe il voille aver regard al nevime done nadgeres pur mesmes les choses avoir. Placet expresse."
3 "E par ceste choses suzdites ne pount ne osent pas les prelatz de Seinte Eglise assentir ke contribucion seit fete de lur biens, ne de biens de la clergie, en contre le defens le Apostoille. Non placuit Regi, set communitas procerum approbavit."
4 Vincent's Lancashire Lay Subsidies, pp. 235–6, where is printed a copy of the royal confirmation, copied from Tower Miscellaneous Rolls, 113, m. 18. The perambulation of the Yorkshire forests occurs on m. 2.
5 The Great Charter. Introduction, p. lxxiv., quoted by Vincent, p. 236.
6 Parliamentary Writs, i. 106.
7 "Pecunie quam festinanter pro expeditione guerre nostre Scocie nos habere necesserio oportebit." Ibid.
8 Ibid., p. 108.
9 See p. 104 infra, where the date is wrongfully printed 1303.
10 Printed at length on p.
11 This does not include the tallage paid by the city of York, 418li. 12s. 8d. (see p. 117 infra); nor the Fifteenth of the goods of the Hospitallers and Templars, who had compounded with the king for their portion (Parliamentary Writs, i. 106).
12 Ibid. i. 105.
13 Ibid. i. 110. Order dated at Roxburgh (Rokesburgh), 9th Feb., 1301–2. "Set quod omnia bona temporalitatis tam ecclesiasticarum quam temporalium et aliarum quarumcumque personarum de regno nostro, cujuscumque condicionis existant, ratione ejusdem quinte decime taxentur, et de eisdem bonis temporalitatis quinta decima illa levetur et colligatur ad opus nostrum juxta formam predictam." In the taxation of Colchester (Rolls of Parliament, i., Appendix, p. 243), it is expressly stated that the rector of St. Rumwold's paid on his lay fee,"de laico feodo suo."
14 Rolls of Parliament, i., Appendix, p. 243. "From the original in the possession of the Rev. P. Morant, now in the collection of Thomas Astle, Esq."
15 Cineres de wed'. "Nothing more or less than what used to be called when I was a boy' wood-ashes,' which were used for making 'ley,' the alkaline liquor which removed the grease, some natural, some added, and made the material capable of receiving the dye. These wood-ashes might contain in their bulk any vegetable ashes whatever; and I well remember the careful way in which the said ashes were saved. The weed-heaps always afforded a lot of these said ashes; and when one remembers what weed-burning is, even yet in many places, and especially what it was when cultivation was in its most imperfect stages, weed-ashes could have been only as plentiful as the ley that was made from them was indispensable in the processes the cloth had to be passed through."—J.C.A.
16 John Menny, who was also in the tanning business, had cuvas et algea in his tannery.
17 Probably an inferior kind of oats. The word small is used with a similar meaning in the phrase "small beer."
18 Et accepto corpore Joseph involirt illud in sindone munda (St. Matthew xxvii. 59).
19 Property of John Menny.
20 Property of William Gray and Stephen de Levenhey.
21 Property of William Gray and John Menny.