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


The alien taxation records that survive for the whole county of Hampshire are fairly extensive, covering the period 1440 to 1470, although unfortunately no records survive for the 1483 subsidy. Newly discovered material sheds further light on Hampshire’s resident alien population in significant detail, just before Southampton achieved separate county status. An assessment for the third and fourth collections of the 1442 subsidy was recently identified, filling a gap in our knowledge. The records for Hampshire divide after the 1442 subsidy, when Southampton was awarded county status in 1447. This split in administration coincided with the introduction of higher tax rates for alien merchants and their clerks, a group that was prevalent in Southampton.

In total, nineteen assessment records for the alien subsidies survive for Hampshire; thirteen for the county, and a further six for Southampton after 1447. Two particulars of account cover Hampshire, and five cover Southampton. There are two surviving records for the 1523 subsidy that provide evidence of resident aliens, but these mainly cover Winchester and Southampton, and are not as representative of the whole county as the alien subsidy documents. There are plenty of other sources for resident immigrants, Alien residents of Hampshire mainly feature in the records of the oath of fealty taken in 1436 during the Burgundian crisis, and a substantial number of alien residents in Hampshire have also been recorded in the Westminster Denizen Roll of 1544. Winchester’s Black Book also inadvertently records alien residents.

Hampshire was home to a minimum of 1,900 identified resident aliens between 1337 and 1544, although the vast majority were to be found there between 1436 and 1470. Southampton alone was home to at least 460 identified immigrants – just under one third of these residents. As is the case in many other counties across England, the largest number of aliens was assessed in the returns for the first and second collections of the 1440 subsidy, at 1127 individuals. The assumption would be that in the case of Hampshire this was as a result of the large port of Southampton, well known for its large Italian mercantile presence, but surprisingly the aliens in Southampton were only a group of 145 individuals. Winchester (the city and the soke) was not far behind, with 118 resident aliens. However, in total these two major urban areas were home to only 263 aliens – just under 25% of Hampshire’s recorded immigrant population. The most populated hundred in 1440 was King’s Somborne, with sixty-eight aliens (nineteen of which were householders, and forty-nine were non-householders). The vast majority were servants, although a few weavers and bakers were identified. As well as the village of King’s Somborne, resident aliens were to be found in Romsey, Stockbridge, Longstock, Upper Somborne and Leckford. Alton and Finchdean hundreds also had a fair share of resident aliens; twenty-five in Alton and twenty-four in Finchdean. As well as in Alton itself, immigrants were spread throughout the hundred, in places like West Worldham, Chawton, Ludshott and Kingsley, and in the hundred of Finchdean immigrants were to be found in Petersfield, Lovedean, Idsworth, Hinton, Catherington and Buriton. Yet alongside these relatively heavily populated areas, other hundreds had only a smattering of resident aliens. Wherwell and Pastrow hundreds were home to only two each, Overton and Barton Stacey three each, four in Kingsclere, and seven each in Bermondspit and Odiham. However, when viewed as a whole, this does show that in 1440 Hampshire was widely populated with resident immigrants across the entire county.

Cloth towns in Hampshire drew in immigrants, including Andover (19 individuals in 1440), Alton (13 individuals in 1440), Alresford (11 individuals in 1440) and Basingstoke (four individuals in 1440). In Alton, for example, six aliens were employed by townsmen; William Halstede of Alton employed two alien servants. Hampshire’s coastal hundreds were also home to relatively large numbers of resident immigrants. The hundreds of Christchurch, Portsdown, Bosmere and Titchfield were particularly well populated with resident immigrants, with at least 116 individuals positively identified as living in one of the four hundreds. Smaller alien populations lived in the other coastal hundreds of the New Forest, Redbridge and Bishop’s Waltham, numbering 48 identified individuals.

By 1444 the recorded alien population of Hampshire appears to have dropped dramatically, to 274 individuals – only a quarter of the 1440 population. Together, Southampton and Winchester (including the soke) were home to 123 immigrants – 45% of the total immigrant population returned in 1444. Many of the hundreds presented a dramatic decrease in their alien population. For example, King’s Somborne appeared to have lost 84% of its identified alien residents, and Mainsbridge lost 94%.

By the time of the first collection of the 1449 subsidy, Southampton had achieved county status. As far as the collection of the alien subsidies was concerned, this simply meant that Hampshire and Southampton were assessed separately, sending in their own returns via their own sheriffs. Merchants and merchants’ clerks were to pay higher rates than ordinary householders and non-householders, and this group made up half of Southampton’s immigrant population between 1449 and 1469. Perhaps the most significant aspect of the immigrant merchants in Southampton is that their names were recorded on the particulars of account. The later collections of the alien subsidy saw a dramatic fall in the numbers of people assessed. Taken together, after 1449 Hampshire and Southampton’s resident aliens did not number over seventy individuals in total, and there were more aliens to be found in Southampton than the rest of Hampshire.

Who were the immigrants in Hampshire?

Examining the data in more detail, it can be seen that the vast majority of Hampshire and Southampton’s resident aliens were male, numbering 1,801 (94%) – only 103 women (6%) were recorded. Of these women, seventy were servants and assessed as non-householders, and three were servants of other resident aliens. For example, one only identified as Joan, was recorded as the servant of Peter Englissh in Winchester in 1440. Only three women were recorded as householders, two of whom lived in Southampton.

Only 175 individuals have their origin positively identified in the records, which is a disappointingly low number. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority are the Italian merchants in Southampton, numbering 128 individuals. A further thirty-one are identified as Dutch or Flemish, and fifteen are identified as French, Norman, Breton or Picard. Ninety-seven aliens in Hampshire had surnames that suggested their origin – Dutchman, Frenchman, Irishman, Norman and Guernsey. There were forty-five Frenchmen and thirty-four Normans, heavily suggesting that a large proportion of Hampshire’s aliens consisted of French immigrants. In Southampton, the resident immigrants were not just Italians, even though they have dominated past research. In each of the assessments where details are given, it is usually a rough fifty-fifty split between Italian individuals and those of other origins. There is therefore much more to Southampton’s story of medieval immigration than just the Italian population.

Occupations are only sporadically identified, and the most common occupation is servant, with just under half of the aliens with an occupation recorded being identified as such. Forty-seven were recorded as being servants of other aliens, while the larger portion were servants to native Englishmen and institutions. However, beyond servants there was a wide variety of occupations carried out by Hampshire’s immigrants. Labourers and agricultural workers, including a husbandman and a millward, are the next largest occupation group after the merchants and their associates. Plenty of crafts roles feature in the identified occupations. The shoe and textile industries are represented by a handful of cordwainers and a souter, nine weavers, a hosier, a dyer, a haberdasher and a skinner, and the victualling trades by a beerman, a butcher and three bakers. There are also three carpenters and a tinker.

Only a few religious men are recorded as alien residents in Hampshire between 1330 and 1550. Three alien chaplains were identified as living in Hampshire in the fifteenth century. John Burgh was identified as a chaplain living in Kingsclere in 1440, where he was assessed to pay, and did pay, the lower tax rate as a non-householder. However, Winchester’s religious institutions employed aliens as servants. One particularly interesting identification is that of a Winchester scholar, assessed to pay the alien subsidy in 1440.

Jessica Lutkin

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-south-east/hampshire