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.
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.