England’s Immigrants 1330 – 1550 Resident Aliens in the Late Middle Ages


Not surprisingly for such a small county, the number of aliens assessed in Rutland was relatively low. Only 26 people were found liable to pay the first year of the 1440 subsidy, of which 20 actually paid, and unfortunately the information provided by the assessors was relatively sparse, with no nationalities given beyond people with the surnames ‘Frenchman’ or ‘Irish’, and no occupations. Unusually, householders were all described as married to English women, and non-householders as ‘singleman’ or ‘singlewoman’, but these terms were probably just quirks of the scribe compiling the returns, and may or may not have been totally accurate.

No returns survive for the second year of the 1440 tax, although the accounts show that the numbers remained consistent, with 20 individuals paying. However, at this point the administration of the tax in the county seems to have broken down. The first year of the 1442 tax was assessed and accounted perfectly properly, but on 26 April 1446, the Exchequer sent orders to the JPs and the sheriff of the time, William Walker, ordering them to assess and collect outstanding payments, namely the final years of both the 1440 and 1442 subsidies. According to the writs, together with more detailed enrolments on the Exchequer memoranda roll for 1445-6 (E 159/222), the sheriffs responsible for those payments, William Beaufo and Thomas Berkeley respectively, had both been pursued by the Exchequer for not rendering their accounts. After failing to respond to various summonses, Berkeley finally appeared in Hilary term 1446, and was promptly sent to the Fleet prison. However, he soon returned to the court, having secured letters from the king on 18 February pardoning him from rendering accounts for this tax, which apparently he had not collected because, so he had sworn, the original commission had failed to arrive – the medieval equivalent of it being lost in the post…!! Whatever the truth of the matter, Berkeley was immediately released from the Fleet, but was forced to make a fine for his failure to answer the court’s numerous summonses. Beaufo appears to have avoided the Fleet, but he appeared in the following term with similar letters, dated 19 March 1446, also claiming that the commission had not arrived. This seems even less convincing than Berkeley’s claim, given that, like all other sheriffs in office that year, Beaufo had successfully received and executed similar orders for the first payments of the 1442 tax. Both former sheriffs were therefore exonerated, new commissions were issued to Walker and the JPs, and on 15 January 1447 Walker duly appeared at the Exchequer to render account for both. Unfortunately the particulars drawn up for the second year of the 1442 tax then contained a scribal error, wrongly associating them with the first year, and this error was then perpetuated on the account roll, despite Beaufo’s correct account for those collections having been enrolled three years previously. There were also financial consequences for the Exchequer. Whereas the 1441 and 1443 inquests found 20 people liable to pay the tax, by the time of these belated inquests for 1442 and 1444, eventually held in June 1446, only 8 taxpayers could be found, a drop in numbers which would continue thereafter. Unfortunately this episode, involving both administrative failings and scribal errors, was an all too regular example of the problems surrounding the collection of the alien subsidies.

The numbers of assessed taxpayers in Rutland remained low throughout the 1449 subsidy, with between 5 and 7 people paying the three collections for which figures are available, and nominal returns surviving only for the first two years. Many of the same individuals continued to appear as in earlier assessments, although the vagaries of the assessment process are again made clear by the taxation of an Oakham man, a Fleming described variously as Gregory Rowe, George Rowe, George Rove and other variants on that theme. Places of residence and nationalities were given in the 1449 assessment, the five people taxed comprising three Flemings, a Frenchman and a Brabanter, but no such details were included in 1450. Numbers paying the 1453 tax were initially higher. The provenance of the inquisition for the first six payments is suspect (see below), but 22 people paid in 1456 and 15 in 1457. However, no clear details survive for the period between 1458 and 1463, and between 1464 and 1467 the sheriffs sent in nil returns to the Exchequer. A single householder paid in 1468, and three non-householders in both 1469 and 1470.

However, the collection of the initial payments of the 1453 tax in Rutland were again troubled. William Beaufo, the man who had earlier failed to collect the 1440 subsidy, was again sheriff of the county in 1455, when the first payments of this tax were to be collected, yet his account for those payments was not enrolled until Michaelmas term 1458, at the same time as that for the ninth and tenth payments, due two years later. Moreover, two sets of particulars survive claiming to relate to the ninth and tenth payments, only one of which matches the enrolled account. The other set, which accounted for half as many people, is accompanied by an inquisition which is practically identical to that accompanying Beaufo’s particulars for the first six payments: they seem to have been written by the same scribe, contain the names of the same jurors and taxpayers, and even contain the same omissions and corrections. Only the date and the name of the sheriff are different. The particulars accompanying it have also clearly been altered. Precisely what happened here remains unclear, but one possible scenario is that the inquest for the first six payments, supposedly held in September 1455, may actually have been held in August 1457 (the date given in the ‘duplicate’ inquest), and given a false date to cover up the administrative failings of the officials. This would certainly explain the lateness of the account’s enrolment. The 1456 and 1457 payments had already been collected perfectly normally, but for the 1458 payments (no details of which appear on the account roll or in any other surviving documents), the county officials may have sent in a second document produced at the August 1457 inquest, in order to avoid the trouble of holding another gathering. However, since this document bore the name of Thomas Flore, the sheriff at that time, rather than his successor Thomas Dale who was actually responsible for the 1458 payments, this may then have caused confusion at the Exchequer, with the resultant documents being altered to associate them with Flore’s period as collector rather than Dale’s. This would explain the production of what are ostensibly a confused second set of documents for the 1457 payments. This is highly speculative, and further research is needed to discover precisely what occurred.

A full set of documents survives for Rutland for the collection of the 1483 subsidy, but unfortunately only one person was assessed to pay, John Matthewe of Uppingham, a cook from Picardy. Three non-householders paid the 1487 tax, but only the final account survives, and no further details of those taxpayers are known.

Jonathan Mackman

Cite this page:

England’s Immigrants 1330 – 1550 (www.englandsimmigrants.com, version 1.0, 6 October 2022), http://www.englandsimmigrants.com/page/sources/alien-subsidies/the-east-midlands/rutland