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  Mediaeval taxation and the Village Churches

Mediaeval kings raised cash by levying a charge on their nobles amounting to a certain fraction of their assessed wealth - a fortieth, perhaps, or an eightieth. There never was enough money to go round, and the amount was less than it should have been because so much land and property was in the hands of the church. This posed a moral problem - the land had been donated for sacred uses, and it was perhaps sacrilegious to take some of the value back for secular taxation. The solution was to put it about that the tax was to pay for the wars in the Holy Land. After once being levied, the tax somehow managed to become permanently linked to ordinary secular taxation.

  In the first place, however, it was necessary to assess the value of various ecclesiastical properties and holdings so as to know how much to expect to raise. A major assessment took place in 1254 and is known as the 'Norwich Taxation' because it was organised by the Bishop of Norwich.

  As this was a survey of church property, it was organised along ecclesiastical lines. Our village was in the Bishopric of Norwich, Archdeaconry of Norfolk and Decanatus de Kernewich, that is, the Deanery of Cranwich. The value of the benefice, that is, the value of the church with its lands and incomes, is noted for each of our two former parishes. It is very curious that while the average value of a benefice in Norfolk is 16 marks (i.e. 10 13s 4d), the value of Hockwold or rather Hoochwude, is only 10 marks. This is very low, and may reflect the effects of the Black Death. Certainly, the mediaeval remains of Hockwold as seen in the aerial photograph are spread out wider than the existing houses, so things may have been very bad.

  In contrast, Wilton (Watone) is valued at no less than 30 marks, that is, 20. However, part of the income from the parish, namely 2 10s 0d, belonged to the Clunaic monks of the Priory at Lewes. As the distinction between 'Rector', as in Hockwold, and 'Vicar' as in Wilton reflects differences in their control over the parish income, perhaps this monkish influence is why Wilton had a vicar, not a rector. This same Priory owned part of the income from St. Mary Feltwell and Methwold

  In 1291, Pope Nicholas IV granted the King a tax of one tenth on ecclesiastical property. The records from them show that although Wilton is still rated at 30 marks, Hockwold has doubled its value to 12 marks. A small revival, perhaps.

  There was a further tax assessment in 1334, but as this involved ordinary property rather than church property, it is known as a Lay Subsidy and was based on civil divisions. At this time most English counties were divided up into areas called 'hundreds', and this assessment places us in our Hundred of 'Grymesh', that is, Grimshoe or Grimshoe. Within the Hundred, the tax was assessed by 'Township' and the curious thing is that the tax is levied on Wilton Township. Perhaps this is a further reflection of a bad patch for Hockwold which by this reckoning had already lasted for eighty years. Our tax amounted to 9 12s 6d. This is a large sum which is exceeded only by Methwold, Feltwell and Northwold in our Hundred, and exceeds the majority of townships in the rest of this part of the country.

 

 

 

  Last Update: Tuesday 17 April, 2007 13:32
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