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


Details survive of the sums collected in Staffordshire for a large proportion of the individual collections of the alien subsidy. However, with the exception of documents for the first two subsidy grants, very little information survives about the alien population in the county. Very few individuals were recorded, and very little cash was ever collected. 178 people were accounted towards the first payments of the 1440 subsidy, although only 176 names appear on the inquisitions, suggesting there was a clerical error at some stage. Unlike the situation in many counties, this did not reduce significantly for the following year, the county still returning 134 names, although the payment rate dropped considerably, with only 49 people paying compared to the 112 who paid at least one of the two collections of the first year. Very few specific nationalities or occupations were recorded in the inquests for either year, but surname evidence would suggest that by far the largest population in the county were the French, with a few Irish and one or two Flemings.

However, numbers did fall significantly for the third year of the 1440 subsidy, with only 62 people named on the return, and only 47 assessed for the first year of the 1442 subsidy. This may seem a little strange, given that the inquests for both pairs of collections were taken at exactly the same times, both being the responsibility of the same sheriff. The inquests for the first payments of the 1442 tax simply contained a proportion of the people named in the inquest compiled on the same day for the previous year, with no new people being included. Presumably the absences reflected those people who had moved away or died in the intervening period, but either there had been no new arrivals during the year, or there was simply no attempt to assess them.

However, little information for aliens in Staffordshire survives from this point. No details survive for the final payment of the 1442 tax, and when the subsidy was revived in 1449, only three people were discovered by the assessors. Four were taxed in 1450, and 6 in 1452, but in 1451, as a sign of things to come, the sheriff sent in a nil return. An almost complete set of returns or accounts survives for the 1453 tax, but it was not until 1467 that Staffordshire is actually known to have contributed anything (only for 1460 is no data available), and for year after year the sheriff returned inquisitions stating that no liable aliens were resident in the county, a situation that seems scarcely credible but evidently was accepted by the Exchequer officials. In 1467, two aliens were finally recorded, and these two paid again in 1468. A different pair of aliens were assessed in 1469, but no figures survive for the final three payments. In 1483, 9 people paid the subsidy, but only basic details survive of their names, unusually included within the collectors’ particulars for some unknown reason. No details are extant for the 1487 tax.

Jonathan Mackman

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/staffordshire