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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Taxes, Lists, Business, Electoral and Insurance Records  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Feudal Aids 1066-1660

Feudal Aids came into being after the Conquest and lasted until the Restoration in. They were taxes demanded at times of heavy expenditure by the king from his tenants-in-chief, who were also allowed to exact aids from their free tenants. The excesses of aids required by King John resulted in Magna Carta (1215) limiting the king’s right to levy such aids to three occasions (Cannon):

v The knighting of his eldest son.
v The first marriage of his eldest daughter.
v The ransom of his own person from captivity

In 1275 there was a limit placed on the actual amounts which could be raised by aids. The earliest known extant enrolled account of an aid is for 1303 and others are known for 1347, 1402, 1609 and 1612 (Jurkowski et al. have details).

Lay Subsidies

Early Lay Subsidies 1207-1332
Theoretically a subsidy was granted by Parliament, following a request from the monarch to subsidize certain extraordinary expenditure, especially the military activities in Wales, Scotland and France during this period. These taxes on lay people (non-clergy) are the earliest-surviving comprehensive tax records in England. They were based not on land holdings but on moveable personal goods, with exemptions for the poorest people and for necessary goods such as a bed and firearms, and goods used to earn a living, such as riding horses, agricultural tools and food for livestock. Certain other situations such as natural disasters, tin miners of Devon & Cornwall, workers in the King’s mints and those owning property in one of the Cinque Ports of Kent and Sussex were also exempt.

The assessment ranged from a twelfth to a twentieth of the value of un-exempted goods and this is usually given in the heading of the list. If two fractions are given the higher one was for urban areas. Only a small number of nominal lists are extant for lay subsidies before 1332, some in TNA class E 179 and others in borough archives (notably Shrewsbury 1297-1332). They are listed by Jurkowski et al. who show original assessments for the subsidy of 1225 known as the fifteenth, and the eleventh of 1295. Lay Subsidy lists have been published in FHS journals, so the researcher should keep an eye on back numbers of these; for example the 1327 lay subsidy for Ilketshall St. Lawrence is included in the March 2004 Suffolk Roots (Turner).

Franklin discusses the importance of the taxes from 1290-1334 as having huge numbers of names, (10,601 in Devon 1332) and as many as 16,000 per county, and that these are usually available in print now, for example Dorset’s 1332 subsidy which has an excellent introduction (Mills). About 90% of those named were men, the rest overwhelmingly widows. Similar later taxes called tenths and fifteenths were imposed on townships and parishes and the names of individuals were not sent up to London.

West (1986) has an interesting section on the Lay Subsidy Rolls with an example and transcription from Worcestershire, lists of surnames derived from the occupations in some of these rolls, and a useful bibliography including details of published rolls.

Tudor & Stuart Lay Subsidies 1522-1671
Individual wealth was again taxed by Henry VIII based at different times on income from freehold land, the value of moveable goods, or income from wages. It should be noted that a taxpayer was charged in only one category (whichever yielded the most to the crown), and although assessed for his entire estate he only paid in his place of residence, and also that assessments of wealth are likely to be under-estimates. Different rates and exemptions for poverty were used for each subsidy.

There were two kinds of nominal lists prepared:

I. The summaries, or estreats, which were sent to the Exchequer, which usually just give the taxpayers’ names and amounts.
II. The paper bills used by the collectors in the area, which list names, amounts and what they were being taxed on, and the names of the local assessors and collectors. A few may give residence place names or occupations, perhaps to distinguish person of the same name.
Hoyle (Tudor Taxation Records: A Guide for Users, 1994) shows examples of a township’s bill and a commissioner’s estreat for Goring, Oxfordshire.

The most comprehensive returns are those of 1523-1527 and 1543-1544 since they had the lowest taxation thresholds, and with more people being named in the later one. The lay subsidies covered the whole of England except the four northern counties (Cumberland, Westmorland, Northumberland and Durham) and the Cinque Ports. Cheshire is not covered prior to 1523 and Wales and Monmouthshire did not pay subsidies until 1543. Large numbers of the nominal lists of taxpayers for these years, and others, are in E 179 at TNA, whilst others may be found in municipal archives, estate collections in local record offices, or collections formed by early county historians that may have been deposited in a relevant library or archives.

Both aliens and recusants (Roman Catholics) were often listed separately in the subsidy assessments, with recusants being grouped into households. Aliens had been charged a double rate from 1512 onwards, (except for 1546-1547), and recusants were charged a double rate from 1625. From 1563 until 1663 subsidies were similar to the earlier ones but the assessment threshold was much higher so the returns only list the wealthier members of the population. The reigns of the Stuarts, James I and especially Charles I, saw a huge number of punitive subsidies leading up to the Civil War. In 1642 there was a return to the fixed-yield subsidy whereby quotas were set for each county and borough and this style remained until well after the Restoration. Extensive and useful lists of taxpayers have survived from the 1642 subsidy.
Examples of Lay Subsidy Rolls include:

w Lay Subsidy rolls transcript for 1346, 1358 and 1603 for the county of Worcester on fiche 6025342(1).
w Lay Subsidy rolls transcripts for 1522/3, 1547, 1563, 1568, 1592, 1600, 1642, and 1661 for the Isle of Wight on film 1470908 . Indexes to these (23,000 persons) and to the New Forest division of Hampshire are offered by D. F. Vick (Subsidy Returns. Hampshire Family Historian Vol. 29 #1, page 31).
w Lay Subsidy for Buckinghamshire 1524-1525 was published by Chibnall & Woodman and is on fiche 6072682(2).
w Transcripts of subsidies (and other lists) from many counties are in the Banks Collection at the Library of Congress and on 11 films starting at 1550093.
w Lay Subsidy transcripts for 1581 for five Norfolk hundreds published by the Norfolk Record Society (Stone).
w Lay Subsidy transcripts for 1581, 1642, 1647 and 1660 for Devon by Stoate (1988).
w The second payment of the second subsidy of 1602, at 1 shilling in the pound on goods, or 1s 4d in the pound on lands, for the city of Exeter has been transcribed by Hoskins; St. Stephen’s parish is given below .

Chart: Lay Subsidy Roll 1522/3 Kingeston Tithing, Isle of Wight, Hamshire TNA reference E 179 173/194 (Film 1470908)
Note that parish registers start in 1647 for Kingston. Amounts are not rendered in modern format: sums under £3 (60s) are in shillings, and those under two shillings (24d) are in pence.
John Mieulx gent £ 40 40s
Gregory Hauke 20s 4d
William Salter 20s 4d
Robert Mason 20s 4d
Thomas Pukford 20s 4d
Thomas Shephurd 20s 4d
Richard Tayler £8 4s
Geffery Tutten £5 2/6
John Baron £3 18d
Robert Kyngeswell 40s 12d
Thomas Holte £5 2/6
William Downe £3 18d
John Maiho £3 18d
William Rikeman 20s 4d
Summa of this forseid tethyng 56s 6d

Chart: Lay Subsidy 1581 for Devon
[It is unusual to see widowers so noted]
Commissioners for the hundreds of Wonford, Crediton, West Budleigh, Teignbridge and Exminster
Francis Earl of Bedford
John Bishop of Exeter
Robert Denis
High Collector: John Eveleigh of Ottery St. Mary
Date 10 Sep 24 Elizabeth
Total: £349.1.4
Example: Toppesham [now TOPSHAM] Parish
Those assessed on land
Andrew Hollande armiger 15/- Thomas White 1/-
Thomas Brodemeade 1/- Edmund Coyle 1/-
David Earell 1/- Henry Baylie 1/-
Emelena Birtche 1/-

Those assessed on goods
Elizabeth Mitchell wid 10/- Richard Wyslake wid 3/-
John Wylles 5/- William Bagwell 5/-
Alice Call wid 4/- Agnes Wythall 3/-
Thomasina Weste 4/- William Macye 5/-
Petherik Hovell 4/- Richard Dowrishe 3/-
Agnes Combe 3/- John Loges 5/-
Gilbert Pepet 6/- John Elsdon 4/-
Thomas Roe 3/- John Wyslake 3/-
Philip Drake 3/- Robert Marshe 3/-
John Wyslake super le Hill 3/- John Wyslake wid 3/-
Abraham Wyslake 3/-
Total £5.13.0

Chart : 1602 Subsidy for St Stephen, Exeter, Devon
(data from Hoskins)
George Smythe esq in lands £30 40s
Hugh Vaughan esq in goods £8 8s
Jasper Bridgman in lands £6 8s
John Trosse in goods £5 5s
John Pill £3 4s
John Halstaffe in goods £4 4s
Robert Staplehill in goods £4 4s
Joan Clevelande in goods £4 4s
John Vigurs in goods £5 5s
Clement Owleboroughe in goods £3 3s
Nicholas Hatche in goods £3 3s
Katherine Peryman widow in lands 20s 16d
Valentine Tooker in lands 20s 16d
John Savidge in lands 20s 16d
Total £4 12s

The total rates per annum of 2s 8d in the pound on personal estate (goods) and 4s per annum on lands seem awfully high. Hoskins notes, however, that the assessments were notoriously unreal, being nowhere near the true value. In the 1590s it was openly stated that assessments were between 1/30th and 1/10th of the true value. Also, very few people possessed lands and comparatively few reached the £3 exemption limit, as can be seen from the fact that only 14 people paid the subsidy tax at all in 1602 in the whole parish of St. Stephen, Exeter.

In the published Somerset subsidy rolls (Stoate & Howard, The Somerset Protestation Returns and Lay Subsidy Rolls 1641-1642, 1975) names are listed roughly in descending order of tax assessed with recusants noted at the end of the list. Many widows are so noted, as are esquires, gentlemen and clerks, and the terms senior and junior are used to distinguish some men of the same name. I extracted the Dashwoods who were all in the expected group of parishes in the north west. The inclusion of Joan Dashwood widow is important as the only wife’s name I don’t know is Francis’ who died in 1630. Only the head of the household is usually noted, so the Manninge entry I interpret as a mother and son. The entry for Elizabeth and Robert Dashwood is unusual and perhaps is a sibling pair who were both affluent as there are only six people paying more than they did out of 77 contributors in Nettlecombe.

Chart : Extract from Somerset Subsidy Rolls for Williton Hundred 1641 From Stoate & Howard, who note that this return is in poor condition.
Sampford Brett & Torweston George DASHWOOD 1/9
Watchet (St. Decumans) George DASHWOOD 1/-
Bicknoller George DASHWOOD 1/-
Nettlecombe & Woodavent
[collector is Robert Dashwood) Joan DASHWOOD wid
Elizabeth & Robert
Grace Manninge &
John Manninge 8/-

10/8 2/8


Further discussion on subsidies can be found in:

w Hoyle (Tudor Taxation Records: A Guide for Users, 1994), with illustrations of the 1524 lay subsidy return for York and the Ainsty; All Saints Pavement, York (with the published transcription), and a damaged one for Ripon, Yorkshire; and the 1524 and 1600 returns for Wigston Magna, Leicestershire. Note that Hoyle was published in 1994 so pre-dates the online E 179 database, but is still very useful.
w Jurkowski et al. (Lay Taxes in England and Wales 1188-1688, 1998), who include details of each one and an illustration of the 1523 assessment for Southwark, Surrey (which includes the Scots and brothel keepers), as well as one from Midhurst, Sussex for 1625.
w Gibson & Dell (The Protestation Returns 1641-1642 and Other Contemporary Listings , 2004) list all extant returns for the 1641 subsidies by county.
w Jeremy Gibson lists those surviving for 1660-1685 by county.

Sheep Tax 1549
This subsidy of Edward VI was different from the previous Tudor lay subsidies in that it did not tax land. This was because the cultivation of arable land was in decline and needed to be encouraged. Sheep-farming and the manufacture of cloth were both prospering and with the usual government wisdom (if many people want it or do it then tax it) these were taxed instead. This proved very unpopular and the tax was aborted, although a few assessments do survive in E 179.

Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Taxes, Lists, Business, Electoral and Insurance Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

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