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


The survival of the alien subsidy records for Wiltshire is somewhat patchy, but the records that do survive reveal a sizeable immigrant population in the county. Records survive for all the collections of the 1440 alien subsidy, which provide the greatest information on Wiltshire’s alien population. 491 individuals were recorded in 1440 – 460 men, 30 women (14 wives of aliens who were not taxed), and one indeterminate. By the final collections of the 1440 tax in 1442, the number of immigrants had fallen to 301, a not inconsiderable drop. However, the number of recorded immigrants fell even further to 173 in the first and second collections of the 1442 tax, although this fall was in part caused by the Irish exemption from the tax. In the final collections of the 1440 alien subsidy, seventy-seven Irish people were recorded, and were therefore not included in the new alien subsidy only a few months later.

By 1449, the number of immigrants recorded in Wiltshire fell dramatically, and did not rise above thirty individuals for the rest of the collections. In 1449, only thirteen resident immigrants were recorded, and no further records survive for the 1449 alien subsidy. Quite a few records are also missing from the 1453 alien subsidy for Wiltshire, in particular the seventh to sixteenth collections. However, the general figures provided by the records that do survive suggest that identified immigrants in Wiltshire barely rose above twelve individuals.

Of the total 1,460 instances of immigrants recorded in Wiltshire, a fifth of them could be found living in Salisbury. Many others could be found in the large market towns of the county, including Marlborough (77), Devizes (69), Malmesbury (53) and Warminster (47). Yet many others could also be found scattered across the rural areas of the county. The alien residents of Salisbury represented a wide range of occupations, demonstrating the economic pull of the city and opportunities it offered for work. The city was home to tailors, corvisers, weavers, goldsmiths, bakers, skinners, cooks, tuckers, cordwainers, brewers, a scrivener, a carpenter, a barber and a lockyer.

The nationalities of the resident immigrants given in the records reveal that, when recorded, the majority of aliens were either French or Irish. The ‘French’ label is somewhat problematic in the Wiltshire records, as many individuals were recorded as ‘Norman’. It is quite likely that the two labels were interchangeable, and that many of the so-called Normans were not necessarily from Normandy, but other regions of France. A much smaller number of immigrants were recorded as Flemish, or from the Low Countries region. Only five individuals were recorded as Scottish.

As is the case for many of England’s counties, the vast majority of the recorded aliens were male. In Wiltshire’s case, only seventy women were recorded. Of those, twenty-three were wives of aliens, and were therefore not taxed. The remainder were either recorded as servants, or were recorded without further detail. Two women were recorded as widows. They were both Irish women, and only feature in the first and second collections of the 1440 subsidy. They were Isoda Greson and Anastasia Laborer, and both lived in Calne.

Jessica Lutkin

Cite this page:

England’s Immigrants 1330 – 1550 (www.englandsimmigrants.com, version 1.0, 9 December 2022), http://www.englandsimmigrants.com/page/sources/alien-subsidies/the-south-west/wiltshire