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the article and data that initiated the Ravenstonedale  project


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Ravenstonedale DNA project

Ravenstonedale DNA project

Ravenstonedale Lay Subsidy Rolls of 1379

The earliest document we possess that lists details of the people who lived in Ravenstonedale is the 1379 Lay Subsidy Roll.


The original parchment is held at the National Archives [E179/195/17/7d c.1] and this has been transcribed (thankfully) in ‘the Poll Taxes of 1377, 1379 and 1381’, edited by Carolyn C Fenwick, (Oxford University Press, 1998)


The Lay Subsidy was a Poll Tax, and was the first to cover everyone except beggars – though it is known that there was widespread evasion of what is understood to have been a highly unpopular tax – this tax was the cause of the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381!  I have been unable to find a specific explanation for the amount paid by each householder named ...the amount paid by a man who was recorded as having a wife, and that paid by single persons (male or female) was almost universally 4d (four pence).  Of the list of 108 names in Ravenstonedale, just four tradesmen/merchants paid sixpence and one merchant paid two shillings.  It seems likely that everyone with no listed occupation worked on the land or in unskilled jobs.


Glancing through some neighbouring parishes, few had ANY payments recorded at higher than the standard four pence – though in Wharton (Querton),  one Willelmo de Querton, esquire paid 6 shillings and 8 pence, as did Thomas, son of Johannis de Warthcop esquire.  And in Nateby, the location of Wharton Hall, Margareta who was the wife of Hugonis de Querton, esquire paid a whopping 20 shillings!  



[image of Wharton Hall] By John Illingworth, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Note:  The Gilbertine Priory had owned the entire parish for around three centuries, all the tenants would have paid their fines (the rental for the land they held) to the religious house from the late 1100s until 1540 when their lands were surrendered to King Henry VIII.  Subsequently Henry VIII gave the manor to the Wharton family as a reward (though they had to pay for it!) You can read the full story in ‘The Gilbertines and Ravenstonedale’ by Christopher R Irwin and Mary Irwin- available on Amazon. The Manorial Roll for 1541 lists all the customary tenancies – sadly earlier documents recording information about the tenants during the period of the Gilbertines, all seem to have been lost.


As the Poll Tax is described as the first tax to be levied on individuals rather than property, the variation must have been an indication of the number of adults living in each household – perhaps calculated on a sliding scale.  If anyone knows the definitive answer to this question I would be delighted to hear from you!

lay subsidy ravenstonedale from NA thumb

Sadly, the roll for Ravenstonedale has suffered some damage, resulting in seventeen entries being only partially legible (see image left to see exactly why), but from the names that do appear it is clear that hereditary surnames were still a long way from being universally adopted at this date.


Some were locative names (derived from placenames) – either of neighbouring parishes (de Dent, De Raysbeck), others of farms within the parish (de Morthwayt, de Askfell, and possibly del Grene which is an area in the village) and de Hogill – which is presumably named after the Howgill Fells just to the south west of the village.  De Bowefell may refer to the place now named Baugh Fell between Ravenstonedale and Garsdale, and could have evolved into BOVELL, which appears in early records.


There were some Toponymic names (derived from a description of where a person lived):-  del More (evolved into MOORE?), de Caldcotes, Cowhous, de Sandpool.  Schager seems to be derived from ‘sceaga’ a copse and could have evolved into SHAW


Some names were derived from occupations: – Oxhird, Pundar, Palfreyman, Clerk, Cook, Brewster, Taillour, Walker.  Baliolfe could have evolved into Bayliff


There were a few nicknames: - Kyngeson, Pacock, Todd, Squyer


And a lot of names derived from personal names:- Ibbotson, Dimotson, Stevenson,  Walkerson, Dobson, Sysson, Benson, Atkynson, Jakmayden, Johnmayden, Atkindoghter.  This kind of name was most liable to change each generation … with a child of Henry JOHNSON being named Willm HENRYSON (or even Margaret HENRYDAUGHTER).  This means that even where we found examples of this type of surname in the Rental Documents of 1541 and 1568, by which time hereditary surnames seem to be fully established in the parish, the later incidence may have evolved from a different family altogether. (These are marked with * on lists below)


However, the only names which appeared on the Lay Subsidy Roll that were still evident in the parish by the time of the lists of tenants of Lord Wharton which were recorded in 1541 and/or 1568 were:




A few more of the names reappeared in the first 100 years of parish registers (1578-1677), but may be totally unconnected to the individuals in the Lay Subsidy:


click the image to view the spreadsheet containing transcribed details of all the names on the Ravenstonedale Roll, with explanations of possible origins/meaning.

lay sub transcript thumb
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