Introduction to Tudor lay subsidies

Copyright Stephen Swailes.

The Tudor lay subsidies (taxations) shown here cover all 20 hundreds in the county of Northamptonshire. Most date from before the start of surviving parish registers and thus provide a useful list of names occurring in each village around 1525 or 1545. There are more subsidies available in the National Archives' E179 series but those shown here are thought to be the most comprehensive for Northants. Most old tax records just gave the sums of money collected whereas these contain the names of the people who paid tax.

Then as now some people evaded the taxman and some people were exempt from paying tax as they were too poor. Most taxpayers were men but some women, often widows, are included. While far from a census, the lists are probably a good approximation of the number of heads of households eligible to pay tax at the prevailing rate.

People were taxed on their goods, their lands or their wages. The abbreviations ig (in goods), iw (in wages), il (in lands) show which basis was used.

Other abbreviations are li for pounds (libra), s for shillings and d for pence. The final 'i' in a valuation was written as a 'j' so, for instance, iiij was four, xij was 12, lxj was 61 and so on.

These transcripts were produced over many years and there is a little inconsistency in the way they are presented. The rolls usually stated the value of a person's goods and the amount of tax they paid on those goods. Usually only one of these is included here. The amount of tax collected in a place was often stated at the end of the list of names for that place. In the transcripts the amounts given against each person may be the individual valuation of their wealth (usually pounds/shillings) or the amount that the individual paid (often shillings/pence). This is easy to determine if, for instance, the amount of tax collected (the sum of the individual payments) is much less than the sum of the individual valuations.