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

Berkshire & Oxfordshire

General Observations
The number of resident aliens in both counties is relatively high at the beginning of the period, but quickly falls to lower levels after the first collection of the 1449 taxation.  The numbers increase again in 1483.  The two counties are not particularly equally matched in the number of resident aliens; one county appears to have had significantly more than the other at any given time.  It must be noted that the above figures were reached not only with the E 179 assessments and associated documents, but some gaps in the figures were filled by information found in the account rolls (E 359).

Tax assessments survive for Berkshire between 1440 and 1483, however they are limited.  There are no records for the later collections of the 1440 tax or for any of the collections of the 1442 tax.  The Berkshire hundreds most populated with resident aliens were Faircross, Hormer, Reading, Ripplesmere, and Wantage, with their dominant towns of Newbury, Abingdon, Reading, Windsor, and Wantage being the most populated towns.

Unfortunately, the records of the tax assessments for Oxfordshire are much depleted.  Only 9 documents survive listing the names of resident aliens, beginning in 1451 in the 3rd collection of the 1449 tax.  While the figures can be augmented by the account rolls, information on the individuals, where they lived and where they came from is limited and must be treated with some caution.  Using the limited information, it can be seen that Binfield was the hundred that was most populated with resident aliens, specifically because of its main town Henley upon Thames.  Yet the most populated place in Oxfordshire was clearly the city of Oxford, with over 50 resident aliens.  This information can be supplemented by figures in the E 359/28 account roll, which shows that in the 1442 tax (1st and 2nd collections) that there were a further twenty-eight resident aliens in the city (eight householders and twenty non-householders).

The records of resident alien women in Berkshire are limited to the early years of the period, but they do show that there were thirty-three wives of aliens resident in the county in 1440.  The records also show that there were only two independent female householders, and sixteen female non-householders in the early assessments of the period.  Unfortunately, because of the lack of survival of the early records for Oxfordshire, no female resident aliens are recorded for the county.

Both counties reveal a diverse range of occupations of resident aliens.  In Berkshire, the most common occupations were corveser and tailor, while in Oxfordshire there was not one dominant occupation.

It is notable that in 1483, four Teutonic masons were recorded as living in New Windsor, Berkshire.  It is highly likely that these four men (non-householders) were present to work at Windsor Castle, possibly on Edward IV’s tomb.  The tomb was made of Low Country black marble, so perhaps they came over to work in that familiar material.

The origins of the resident aliens in Berkshire and Oxfordshire are regularly recorded, and at times in more specific terms than just generic catch-all terms.  The dominant nationality in Berkshire was French, followed by German (‘Teutonic’) and then Irish, while in Oxfordshire the dominant nationalities were French, Dutch and Scottish.

Familial groups
An interesting feature of the Berkshire records is that they reveal some small family groups, not just husbands and wives.  For example, the Wever family in Abingdon, recorded in the 1st collection of the 1440 tax, consisted of four people – Gyllam senior, Gyllam junior, Janyn, and Joan, Janyn’s wife.  In the same collection, the Parle family, also of Abingdon, consisted of John, his wife Margaret, and their son Stephen.  This indicates that their son was over the age of fourteen and had not been born in England, hence his inclusion on the assessment.  Margaret was not assessed separately, but was named with her husband.  Another interesting pair is mother and son Alice and David Iryssh of Stanford in the Vale, Alice presumably being a widow, and her son, assessed separately, being over the age of fourteen and born, judging by their surname, in Ireland.  Finally, an unusual record is made of brother and sister John and Eva Reynald, also in 1440.  He was the vicar of the church of Frilsham, and his sister was assessed separately.

Jessica Lutkin

Cite this page:

England’s Immigrants 1330 – 1550 (www.englandsimmigrants.com, version 1.0, 10 December 2022), http://www.englandsimmigrants.com/page/sources/alien-subsidies/the-south-east/berkshire-oxfordshire