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


Neighbouring London, and one of the major points of entry for many immigrants, Middlesex returned a particularly high number of resident aliens throughout the period of the alien subsidies. Nineteen returns survive, yielding 5,175 examples of individual resident aliens in the county – 12.5% of the total names on the project’s database. This large number is the result of not only the good survival of the records, but also the diligence of the assessors, who were often the same assessors as those for London. Unlike many other counties, the number of assessed aliens in the 1450s and 1460s did not fall dramatically, and perhaps offer a greater picture of the nature of immigration in the south of England than in other counties.

The first and second collections of the 1440 subsidy returned 763 individual aliens, and while the figures for the subsequent collections of the 1440 subsidy fell, they remained above 350 individuals. The collections for the 1442 subsidy also saw high numbers, returning 427 in the first and second collections, and 295 in the third and forth collections. While the figures remained the same in the first collection of the 1449 subsidy, at 296 individuals, the figures did start to fall afterwards. 132 and 150 were returned in the second and third collections (no assessment records survive for the forth collection, although the account roll shows it fell again to 128). The beginnings of the 1453 subsidy saw a return to the higher numbers of the 1440 subsidy, at 332 for the first to sixth collections. While the only assessment for the seventh and eighth collections to survive shows individuals in Westminster, the account roll reveals that there were 285 individuals. For the remaining collections of the 1453 subsidy, the number of individuals returned did not fall below 180. Finally, the 1483 subsidy returned 439 individuals. This assessment roll has been published in J. L. Bolton’s Alien Communities in London in the Fifteenth Century (Stamford, 1998), pp. 106-118.

The great wealth of information provided by the Middlesex alien subsidy returns represents the large numbers of immigrants who chose to settle in London’s suburbs and hinterland. Many may have chosen to avoid the extra regulations on aliens that were imposed by the civic authorities, or perhaps the tight restrictions on crafts and trade imposed by the gilds and livery companies of the city. Some did not go far – Westminster and Ossulstone hundred were the most heavily populated with aliens. Ossulstone hundred included Whitechapel, East and West Smithfield and Shoreditch, suggesting that many alien residents did not want to live too far from the opportunities offered by the city of London. It is also notable that, where specified in the early assessments, many immigrants could also be found in the Savoy Liberty.

As is the case in most counties, the vast majority of the individuals recorded were men. In this case, 4,906 were male. Of the 244 recorded women, 122 were wives of aliens, and were therefore not taxed. Four women were recorded as widows, and fifty-seven were recorded as servants – sixteen of whom were servants to other aliens. The nationalities of the Middlesex residents represent a limited variety, and the majority that have been identified were from the Low Countries region. There were just under 100 French individuals recorded. However, only a handful have been identified as Irish or Scottish.

The majority of occupations identified were either servant or labourer, and 518 servants were in service to an alien master. Many different trades and crafts have been identified, representing a wide spread of skills across the county. Many of these were focussed in Westminster, servicing the requirements of the cathedral and central government. Some of the more unusual craftsmen included an organ-maker and a clock-maker, but there were also cordwainers, barbers, a weaver, vintner, tailor, point-maker, patten-maker and beer-brewer. There were also four apprentices to two Englishmen in Westminster. In the rest of the county, other occupations included bakers, an armourer, a carver, a cooper, a glazier, a hosier, a mason and a scrivener.

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/middlesex