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|TOLLS AND CUSTOMS|
|Subject:||Customs charged on imports to and exports from London|
|Original source:||Corporation of London Records Office, Liber Albus, ff. 194-195|
|Transcription in:||Henry Thomas Riley, ed. Liber Albus. Rolls Series, no.12, vol.1 (1859), 229-36.|
Here are noted the customs which have traditionally been imposed on things coming to, or being taken out of, London for sale; as was presented to the Barons of the Exchequer by the citizens, at the command of our lord king, while the city was in the hands of the king after the disturbance made in the kingdom in the time of Sir Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester.
Customs of the city
This is the inquisition made in the city of London, by its citizens, concerning the levies and customs that the king has the right to take from merchants and merchandize entering and leaving the city; that is, from those who are subject to customs.
Levies on Spanish wool and haberdashery
For packs of Spanish wool, "wadmal", mercery, canvas, marten skins, cony skins, furs, linen, fustian, felt, lorimery, fells, haberdashery, squirrel fur, parmentery, shalloons, Rennes cloths, silk cloths, and on other items that are usually in packs, sixpence; for half of a pack, threepence, and for a quarter of a pack, a penny halfpenny.
One penny [is payable on] a dozen of cordwain, one penny the dozen of "godelmynges", one halfpenny the dozen of basan, one halfpenny the pound of silk, one farthing the pound of saffron. Let it be known that this custom is levied only on goods which come from abroad. No customs are due from wax, verdigris, copper, tin, or grey-work, if they do not pass beyond Thames Street towards the north; if they do pass, they shall pay sixpence for a pack, threepence for half a pack, or a penny halfpenny for a quarter of a pack.
Customs on victuals
The customs applicable to the small trades in the market of London:
These are the customs [payable] at Smithfield:
Customs of the bridge
These are the customs of the bridge.
Fees of the bailiff of the bridge
The bailiff may not take anything from a man [carrying goods]. From every boat bringing sprats, if it is not of the franchise of London, the bailiff may have a basketful and one farthing for the boat. From a ship bringing dabs, twenty-six dabs per hundred are due; if it brings fewer [than a hundred] nothing is due, and if greater no more is due than for a hundred. One penny is payable on a porpoise; if it is cut up for selling by retail, the bailiff shall have the entrails, the tail, and the three fins. From a ship bringing conger the bailiff may take the best and the second-best for his fee, based on the highest price set on their sale; if it is from the Cinque Ports [however], nothing is given. Two salmon are due from a Scottish ship bringing salmon; if it brings salmon and cod, one salmon and one cod are due; if salmon and haddock, one salmon and thirteen haddock; and twopence for the ship. The first ship arriving from Yarmouth with white herring, from which full custom is due, shall give 200 herring; any other ship which arrives afterwards shall give 100 herring, freemen excepted.
In the conflict between Henry III and his barons, London's ruling class were satisfied to remain loyal to the king. Popular discontent however surfaced in the form of an uprising in 1263, which led to de Montfort being welcomed into the city and Londoners furnishing part of his army for the victory at Lewes. Following de Montfort's defeat and death in 1265, London's government was seized into the king's hand for several years. It was in this context that the above record was made of the tolls that could be imposed on various merchandize entering the city.
By the latter half of the thirteenth century, London's population may have been approaching as many as 80,000 residents. This provided an important market. The wealthier citizens, along with the residents of the several monasteries and episcopal households in the suburbs, and the members of the royal court, provided a clientele for luxury goods. London was itself an industrial centre for the production of such goods.
Scavage was a type of import duty collectable from those not citizens (in this case, of London). Half went to the revenues of the sheriffs, while the other half belonged to the citizens who hosted the merchants who brought the goods from which scavage was payable. A further passage, of f.193 of Liber Albus also deals with scavage, but the customs specified there were double those reported to the king; the same being true of the customs on cloths and furs. This is probably because the inquisition of the 1260s ignored the half payable to the hosts.
On some of these items (e.g. wool, cheese, leather, ale), tronage or pesage were also payable, these being fees for weighing merchandize.
The items on which customs were payable give a good sense of merchandize being traded in the city, and of the diet of medieval townspeople. There are represented both luxury goods brought from overseas, and basic foodstuffs and other necessaries the small trades being those dealing in small quantities (retail) of necessaries produced in the region around London and brought into the city for sale primarily at Cheapside, although some of the commodities evidently might be sold wherever the seller thought a convenient spot, or wherever buyers might be found. It was assumed that the unloading of goods from a packhorse represented an intention to sell them. Less apparent to the modern eye from the lists is that some of the items listed may have been intended as drugs or medicaments for distribution by apothecaries (a term applied to spicers) or grocers. Spices such as cloves, mace, nutmegs, ginger, cinnamon, almonds, could be used to stimulate the appetite of the sickly. Besides their principal use by the dyeing industry, alum and copperas were applied to wounds (metal sulphates were believed to be antiseptics). Honey was also used to balm wounds it contains an antibacterial enzyme and even ink could be used on wounds.
Additional passages following after those above dealt with customs levied at Queenhithe (the earliest harbour/market of the post-Roman city, towards the western end of the walled precinct, in which part the Saxons first settled), the wool market at Woolchurchhaw, and the grain and produce market at Gracechurch, for goods similar to those already noted.
"Walbrook" "West Cheap"
"Holborn or the Fleet"
"Bromley or Stepney"
"tureens, pipkins, patens"
|Created: August 18, 2001. Last update: May 15, 2003||© Stephen Alsford, 2001-2003|