The 1327 Lay Subsidy

The 1327 Lay Subsidy

In late 1326 a popular rebellion led by Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March resulted in King Edward II being deposed and imprisoned. The King’s closest supporter Hugh le Despenser the elder, who was lord of the manor of Fairford at that time, was captured and executed. The King’s son was crowned as Edward III on 25 January 1327 and his father died, probably murdered, while imprisoned in Berkeley Castle in September of that year. However, as the new king was only 14 years of age at that time England was in effect ruled by Mortimer and his lover Queen Isabella, Edward III’s mother. One of the earliest pieces of legislation of the new reign was passed in September to order a Lay Subsidy, a nationwide tax of the laity intended to raise money to renew hostilities against Scotland which Edward II had pursued unsuccessfully for some years.

The Lay Subsidy of 1327 was a flat rate tax of one twentieth of the value of each person’s moveable goods, hence the tax is also known as the Twentieth. The majority of moveable goods were cattle, sheep and crops and therefore the tax fell harder on the rural population than it did on those in the major towns. Two prominent local men in each county were appointed as Chief Taxers, those for Gloucestershire being Sir William Tracy and Robert de Aston. They then appointed other local men, known as Subtaxers, to conduct the assessment and collect the money from people. Those who were taxed included everyone from the lord of the manor down to his peasant tenants (both freemen and serfs), traders and craftsmen as long as they had moveable possessions worth at least 10 shillings. The list of names, the Roll, was drawn up and sent to the Exchequer in Westminster for approval. The assessment took some time to complete and it was not until between February and June of 1328 that the money was actually collected.

Fortunately the Lay Subsidy Roll for Gloucestershire has been preserved in The National Archives and lists about 9,000 names of residents who were taxed in the county. The list for Fairford (written as Fayreforde) consists of 81 names and this is one of the earliest sources of the names of inhabitants of medieval Fairford. The total value of the tax to be collected from Fairford was £7 and 17 shillings (equivalent to just over £4,800 in 2020 money).

As a comparison the figures for the local area is as follows:
Fairford 81 names £7 17s 0d
Kempsford 74 names £6 15s 1d
Lechlade 59 names £6 11s 4d
Meysey Hampton 19 names £2 14s 2d
Southrop 22 names £2 11s 2d
Hatherop 30 names £1 19s 11d
Quenington 16 names £1 16s 9d

The list of names for Fairford reveals some interesting information. Firstly, of the 81 residents assessed for tax, 14 of them were women; quite likely most of these would be widows who held property in their own right. One of the women was Alice de Warenne, Countess of Arundel who had been granted Fairford manor after her husband had been executed on the orders of Queen Isabella on 17 November 1326 for being one of the very few noble supporters of Edward II and the Despensers. Alice was assessed in the Subsidy Roll at 5 shillings and 6 pence, almost certainly nowhere near her real taxable value. Alice only remained Lady of the Manor of Fairford for about a year as it was granted back to Eleanor, the widow of Hugh le Despenser the younger, in 1328.

Despite Alice’s exhalted position she was not the highest rated person in Fairford in the Subsidy. William Spark was valued at 9 shillings and 4 pence and Robert Hikeman was close behind at 9 shillings and 3 pence. In the 15th Century members of the Hicheman family were living in Kempsford and Lechlade and Robert Hicheman was one of the executor’s of John Tame’s will of 1497. It is possible that Robert Hikeman was an ancestor of these Hichemans.

It seems that several families were dominant in Fairford in 1327. There were three members of the le Longe family: William, Agnes and Matilda who were assessed separately for a total of 6 shillings and 3 pence while the four members of the Pirk family were valued to a total of 11 shillings and 2 pence. There are five other instances of people bearing the same surname including Edith and Matilda de London. If this surname represents the origin of Edith and Matilda then they were not originally ‘locals’. Another potential non-local was William le Vlips who possibly came from what is now the Netherlands. Someone who most certainly was local was another woman, Alice Horcote. At this date Horcott may just have been a farm or a tiny hamlet at the most; there had been a mill on the Coln there from the early 12th Century but Horcott only consisted of seven houses by about 1710.

In the 14th Century many surnames were taken from occupations as well as from a place of residence or origin. James and John Baker are actually recorded as ‘Pistore’ (Latin for baker) in the Subsidy Roll while the name of Peter le Wolmonger is an indication of the wool trade that would prove to be the making of the Tames in the 15th and 16th centuries. William Abbot and John Bisshop may have acquired their surnames from them or one of the ancestors having been employed by the clergy.

The information in this article is drawn from an excellent book by Doctor Peter Franklin titled ‘The taxpayers of medieval Gloucestershire: An analysis of the 1326 Lay Subsidy Roll with a new edition of its text’ published by Alan Sutton in 1993.

Fairford Carnival c1894 -1956

FAIRFORD Carnival started as a ‘Cycle Carnival’ in 1894 replacing the old Smoking concerts of previous years. A profit of £30 was made, £35 of which was donated to the Cottage Hospital which was then in the end cottage next to the Cricket Field in Park Street. The other £5 started the Carnival Fund.

A poem from Farford Carnival programme, July 6 1899
1914 crossing the town bridge
1934 Carnival Time

The Carnival became acknowledged as the greatest show in the West. Its heyday was in the 1930s. In 1937 the procession was so long that the head of the procession met the tail when progressing round the town. 32 Bands competed in the Band contest, 200 helpers served 5,000 teas and the Fairford shops ran out of food.

1926 Carnival Committee
1938 Globe float, note lady emerging from the top of the globe









1955 The old woman who lived in a shoe

The Carnival ceased during both wars and shortly after World War 2, the National Health Service was formed so the Hospital no longer had to depend on local donations. The impetus was lost and the Carnival only ran from 1953-56.

Disposing of the Carnival Equipment,1958


Inventories and Wills

Old wills can often reveal historical information not found anywhere else. This is especially true with regard to family relationships, property ownership and the testator’s character and occupation although it should be remembered that wills are often written to a standard legalistic formula and that testators may have left legacies not included in the will. Some wills are very brief and provide very little useful information but others can be very lengthy and very revealing. Many wills of the 17th and 18th centuries were accompanied by inventories which listed the household goods, money and credits of the deceased. These often include a lengthy list of the goods (furniture, clothes, bedding, utensils, etc) together with their estimated value. Some inventories list the goods room by room thereby suggesting the size and sometimes even the layout of the deceased’s house.
This series will consist of selected details from some of the almost 600 wills and inventories of Fairford residents dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries that have been collected and transcribed. These wills can be found in the collections of the National Archives and the Gloucestershire Archives. Those in the National Archives are of people whose wills were proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury in London and date from 1384 to 1858. They are the wills of the wealthier people, often those who owned property in more than one county. The collection of wills in Gloucestershire Archives are of those of less wealthy people and date from 1541 to 1858. In 1858 the probate of wills was transferred from the ecclesiastical courts to the civil courts. The wills from the Prerogative Court of Canterbury are copies of the original but most of the Gloucestershire Archive wills are originals. The handwriting can sometimes be very difficult to read but with enough practice most, if not all, of the content can be transcribed. Unfortunately some people died without making a will but the Gloucestershire Archives collection includes printed forms which give basic details of the execution of intestate wills. Until education became compulsory in the 19th Century many of the early testators were unable to read or write so signed their names with an ‘X’ or some other mark. Even those who could write rarely wrote out their own will, usually a friend or a solicitor or his clerk would do the writing. A small number of wills relating to Fairford residents or former residents have also been collected from the online collections from other counties, particularly Oxfordshire and Wiltshire.
Many of these wills provide valuable information that adds to our knowledge of Fairford history while others are interesting for a variety of reasons including: language and terminology; examples of great wealth or great poverty; details of property (both real, i.e. buildings and land, and personal, i.e. goods and chattels); and evidence of religious beliefs. Up until the 19th Century Fairford life was predominantly based on agriculture and the wills reflect this. However, the Fairford wills represent a wide range of occupations and trades.
They are also useful in determining family relationships, especially when, as with the Betterton family for example, there were several people of the same forename and surname living in Fairford at the same time. Various themes can be detected in the wills of Fairford residents. For example, in the earliest period (16th and 17th centuries) it was common for livestock, particularly sheep, to be bequeathed to family and friends. In the 17th to the 19th centuries furniture, particularly beds and bedding, were common bequests. Craftsmen often bequeathed their tools to sons – and occasionally daughters – in the hope that they would carry on their business. Those who were in trade, such as shop keepers, often bequeathed their ‘stock in trade’ to their relatives. These and other themes will be featured in this series of Fairford Wills.
Click here for
BROWNE, Henry (died 1714)
ADAMS, Thomas (1769-1845)

From 1530 to 1782 it was an obligation for every executor of a will to provide the probate court with an inventory of the deceased’s goods, together with their value. In the Diocese of Gloucester, Gloucestershire Archives have surviving inventories from 1587. However, not all inventories have survived as they were kept separately from the wills. They provide a huge amount of family and social information.
Towards the end of the 18th century they were very brief just listing ‘lumber and other goods’ and their value. Many of them accompanied administrations where the deceased had died intestate. Information from Fairford Wills was also transcribed, although not word by word.All the Gloucestershire inventories and wills are on line at and FHS has transcribed copies of most of them.
See below for examples of an inventories, if you don’t know what the word is say it (in a Gloucestershire accent) and all will be come clear.

Click here Inventory William Early 1755
HURST, Walter (1702) Inventory

19th Century population dynamics of Fairford

Statistics compiled from the national census taken every 10 years from 1801 to 1901, as reported in Volume 2 of the Victoria History of Gloucestershire, show that the total population of the county increased steadily throughout the 19th Century. In 1801 the population of Gloucestershire was 250,723 but by 1901 the figure had increased to 664,843. During the same period the population of Fairford showed a steady rise until the 1850s when it started to decline. The rate of decline was gradual but sustained over the next 50 years so that by 1901 Fairford’s population of 1,403 was only marginally above its 1801 population of 1,326. The reason for this decline is thought to lie in the general decrease in the number of people working in agriculture over the 18th and 19th centuries and the growing number of people moving to towns to work in industry. According to the census figures, Fairford’s peak year in the 19th Century was 1851 with a total of 1,859, a figure not matched again until 1971 when the population was 1,832. By comparison Fairford’s population at the last census in 2011 was recorded as 4,021 and with the recent building of houses on greenfield sites this will have increased, possibly by another 500 or more.

Comparative population graphs for Gloucestershire and Fairford


Another aspect of population dynamics is the mortality rate. The National Burial Index for England and Wales produced by the Federation of Family History Societies records a total of 1,419 burials in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin in Fairford between the years 1813 and 1858. This gives an average of 31 burials each year for an average population during this period of around 1,625. However, the National Burial Index does not record those buried in other churchyards in Fairford nor does it identify people who died in Fairford but were buried elsewhere. The peak year for burials in St Marys was 1845 with 55 burials; the lowest figure was achieved in 1824 with just 14 burials listed.

The burials recorded in the National Burial Index can be sorted by age of the deceased to show the distribution of deaths in particular age groups. This indicates that infant mortality was very high with 333 of the 1,419 total burials being those of infants aged 5 and under. This represents 23% of the total deaths for the period and was significantly higher in the earlier part of the 19th Century than in later years. However, the statistics also show that people lived to a good old age in 19th Century Fairford with a significant number of people living well into their 70s, 80s and 90s.

These notes and graphs were produced by Chris Hobson for a talk given to Fairford History Society on Victorian Fairford on 21 September 2006.

Fairford Community Play Project

Fairford has been very fortunate in obtaining a grant of £24,949 from the Local Heritage Initiative fund thanks to the hard work of Margaret Bishop and John Read who haVE masterminded the whole idea.

The Play will celebrate the heritage and history of Fairford’s pioneering role in education with a dramatic presentation of education in Fairford over three centuries. It will be produced in association with pupils and staff of local schools in and Fairford Amateur Dramatic Society, directed by Barry Kilgariff.

The story so far…………

The research is complete and been co-ordinated by Hugh Dudley and Nicky Clare from Farmor’s School with contributions from many other local history experts in the town and local history interviews. The amount of material acquired was so vast and in order to make a first class production it was decided to approach a professional scriptwriter, Stephen Deproust. Most of the material has now been handed over to him and in the remaining part of 2006 he will collaborate with production team to produce a first class script which will be completed by the end of December, 2006.

FHS hopes to get as many people as possible involved in this project and if you are interested please e-mail

The LHI grant has enabled us to set up this website designed by Suzanne Jones of The Graphics Network in Fairford.

FHS has also used part of the grant to acquire a scanner, digital camera, video camera and tripod.

This equipment will help us produce our outcomes from the project: a book ‘Now & Then in Fairford’ in which FHS is fortunate to have Edwin Cuss collaborating, a film of the Play which will be produced on DVD and a film of making of the play. It is also hoped to produce a short film for the purpose of display to visitors to Fairford.

The Local Heritage Initiative is a national grant scheme that helps local groups to investigate, explain and care for their local landscape, landmarks, traditions and culture. The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) provides the grant but the scheme is a partnership, administered by the Countryside Agency with additional funding from the Nationwide Building Society.

June 5th 2005: School Dinners Event

Nearly 70 people enjoyed going back in time to experience a school dinner in what used to be Fairford’s Free School, then became Farmor’s School and is now Fairford Community Centre. Transport was provided by the Fairford Community Bus to bring some of Fairford’s elderly residents to the event.

Dinner ladies Alison Hobson and Pam Nelmes served up traditional cottage pie and vegetables followed by rice pudding and jam. Thanks to Alex and Luci D’Elia and all the staff at The Bridge Restaurant for providing the food.

Headmaster, Trevor Hing said grace at the start of the meal and kept order throughout, dishing out the punishments to the naughty boys and girls!

Photographs by Chris Roberts

Naughty School Boys!
Naughty School Boys!

Headmaster with the Dinner Ladies

Well-behaved Schoolgirls!
Well-behaved Schoolgirls!

Queuing up for dinner
Queuing up for dinner

Headmaster with the Dinner Ladies