A history of Halesworth, Suffolk, UK, through the ages.


Volume 2


Halesworth in the 14th Century

As the 14th century arrived, our Lord of the Manor was still Reginald de Argentine who had been responsible for obtaining a licence for the weekly market and annual fair for Halesworth some years earlier. He died in 1307, but his son and heir John de Argentine, only enjoyed his inheritance for ten years before dying in 1318. John left his second wife Agnes with a 6 months old baby as the new heir, so her father William de Bereford, petitioned in 1320 to act a guardian for the child, and paid 70, a considerable sum of money in those days, for the privilege.

The Subsidy Return (property Tax) for 1327 includes Halesworth as the 'Villata de Halesworthe' and it lists Edmund de Bereford at the top of the paper, so it seems William de Bereford died earlier, and Edward had succeeded him. Agnes de Argentine, the mother of John de Argentine, the new lord of the manor, was granted 40 acres of land in Halesworth in 1319 under her husband's will, she died in 1375. John survived and saw much of the many events which took place in the 14th century, as he remained Lord of Halesworth Manor until his death in 1382.

The 1327 Subsidy Tax return mentions twenty people living or owning property in Halesworth at that time, and their names in a Latinised form include:-

                        De Edmundo de Bereforde      -              Edmund de Bereford
                        De Thoma de Stonham            -             Thomas de Stonham
                        De Roberto le Gardener           -             Robert le Gardener
                        De Ricardo le Reue                  -             Richard le Reue
                        De Ricardo Sumpe                   -             Richard Sumpe
                        De Galfrido del Heg                  -             Godfrey del Heg
                        De Hugone Esoul                      -            Hugh Esoul
                        De Thoma Pede                        -            Thomas Pede
                        De Waltero Hog                         -            WaIter Hog
                        De Thoma Alfred                       -             Thomas Alfred
                        De Adam le Smyt                      -            Adam le Smyt
                        De Margareta le Reue              -              Margaret Reue
                        De Leticia Spachet                   -              Leticia Spachet
                        De Henrico Hondof                    -             Henry Hondolf
                        De Rogero Page                       -              Roger Page
                        De Johanne Hasard                  -              John Hasard
                        De Rogero le Mellere                -              Roger le Mellere
                        De Ricardo Bryd                        -             Richard Bryd
                        De Henrico Bryd                        -             Henry Bryd
                        De Willmo Trytener                    -             William Trytener

Looking at the names, it is probable that Adam le Smyth was the smith, that Roberto le Gardener was a gardener and that Rogero le Mellere was the miller. According to Mike Fordham, the Halesworth Museum Curator, this tax acts as a useful guide to the growing importance of Halesworth in the district. In 1327 the tax paid by Halesworth was 27.7% of the total paid by the Blything Hundred. By the similar tax of 1524 (two hundred years later) this percentage had risen to 42%. The tax paid by the town of Halesworth itself had increased from 3.39% in 1327 to 5.30% in 1524. Much of this increasing prosperity came from the popularity of the town market, the annual fair and the twin agricultural and industrial nature of the town's workforce.

The Account of The Sergeant of the Manor of Halesworth in 1375/6 give us a good picture of this aspect of Halesworth's prosperity at that time. The Lord of Halesworth Manor got 25s (1.25d) ground rent each year from 25 market stalls leased in the Market Place, and we know that Alice atte Forthe paid 2d (1p) for one place in the market 25ft x 3ft (3.7m x 1m). Dealers also came from surrounding towns, such as John Wand of Beccles who also paid 2 shillings (10p) for one place in the market. The main event of the year was the Fair, which took place on the Eve of Saint's Day, and the following day, of the Feast of St. Luke on October 18th. The profits from the Fair for 1375/6 were 30s.4d (1.52p) from which the Lord of the Manor paid 3s.11d (19p) to the Church as an annual tithe (tenth) of the profits.  Even in those days there were always extra charges, - 20s (1) was paid to the Bailiff, 6s.8d (33p) to the Clerk for making up the accounts, and 4d (2p) to Richard Cosyn for parchment to write upon.

Some of the land was grazed by the Lord's animals or sown for grain for his use "grazing in Heyhoo, nothing" or "grazed by lord's sheep ... nothing" and in the case of Buntyfen it is rented at "3s (15p) for winter grazing, but nothing in the summer as grazed by Lord's oxen". The income included 2/6d (12p) from pasture in Milletunge, leased to Sirion Hemyng, 12d (10p) for pasture called Oddiryed leased to Adam Chapman, and 5s (25p) for grazing in Ewe Fen leased to Thomas Bolyant. Some capital income came from selling seven acres of meadow in Rushfen to various men at 5s (25p) per acre. It is also obvious from these accounts that the harvest time was both busy and exciting to all involved. It seems that three hundred and fifty two harvesters were hired at 3d (1p), meals included meat at 22s (1.10p), herrings at 7s.8d (38p), dairy produce such as milk, butter, eggs and cheese at 10s.6d (52p), and a real luxury in half a bushel of salt at 4d (2p).

Probably the most important commodity for the well-being of the harvester was the bill of 40s (2) for beer. Records of the Parish Church tell us that the Gleaner's Bell was still rung morning and night, for the month during the harvest time. This was to alert the workers of the starting and finishing times for this important task of gathering up the cut grain by following the reapers in the harvested fields. The payment to the sexton by the church for this service was two shillings (10p) per week, and this custom was carried on into the 19th century.

The accounts of the Manor also show that one stray ox was sold at 12s.6d (62p) and one stray mule sold at 5s.9d (28p). These, when found wandering around, would have been put in the Town Pound which stood near the Lord's land in Pound Street, now known as London Road, and then sold when no one came to pay the fee to redeem them. In 1381, when assessments of a guilty prisoner were made, the various farm animals and the acreage of grain had set values. A horse was worth 13s.4d (67p); an ox 10s (50p); a cow 5s-7s (25p - 35p); a working horse 5s (25p); a bullock 3s (15p); a sheep 8d (3p), while wheat or barley was valued at 2s.6d (12p) per acre, 2s (10p) an acre for rye, and 1s.4d (7p) per acre for peas or oats.


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