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


Situated next to the Welsh border, Herefordshire is one of the counties to return a disappointingly low number of alien residents. One possible explanation for this is that many ‘aliens’ were undoubtedly Welsh inhabitants, and therefore exempt from the alien subsidies. The survival of Herefordshire’s alien subsidy records is also somewhat patchy. While the 1440 subsidy records survive, there are none for the 1442 subsidy. Records only survive for the first and third collections of the 1449 subsidy, and only seven sets of records survive for the 1453 subsidy. Finally, while the returns survive for the 1483 and 1487 subsidies, they only return eleven and two names respectively. In total, only 285 alien residents in Herefordshire are identified in the alien subsidy records. Unfortunately, other records, such as oaths of fealty, only bring to light a handful more.

The fullest records are for the 1440 alien subsidy. The first and second collections returned sixty individuals, the third and fourth forty individuals, and the fifth and sixth fifty-seven. There are two stand-out points to note regarding these individuals. The first is that the overwhelming majority were identified (typically by surname) as French. Only two other nationalities were recorded – Irish and Flemish. The second notable point is that the majority can also be traced through the three sets of records. Either the same people were being assessed and taxed each time, or the JPs used the same list, and made minor adjustments. Where an occupation is recorded, most are given as servants. However, a few crafts are represented: a tanner, a glazier, and a pattenmaker.

Later assessments record far fewer individuals. For the 1449 subsidy, the highest number returned was thirty-seven, and for the 1453 subsidy is was just nineteen. As well as the overwhelming number of French in the Herefordshire records, with, for example, only one Scott recorded for the whole period, the individuals were also predominantly male. Only five women were recorded, which was doubtless a gross misrepresentation of the actual number of alien women in the county. All five were recorded as wives of aliens. Considering the number of single women and widows identified in other counties, it is unlikely that these five women were the only ones in the county.

The main centres of Herefordshire were home to significant numbers of resident aliens. Leominster, Ledbury and Weobley were home to the greatest number of individuals, although other places, such as Monnington on Wye, Staunton on Wye and Bodenham were also home to immigrants. However, many more were spread far and wide across the county, suggesting a great rural spread of immigrants in the county.

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-west-midlands/herefordshire