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Lay Subsidy Rolls (Tax & Parish Records)

Nature of Source

Records from a tax levied on lay people on their movable property rather than land. The tax was usually raised as and when needed to fund a particular venture such as a military campaign. The poor were exempt from the tax as was clerical property. The clergy were subject to a separate clerical subsidy. The tax was also known as Tenths and Fifteenths. The records consist of lists compiled by the assessors of those eligible to pay.

Those taken between 1334 and 1524 only give the village totals so 1332 is the last tax to provide personal information. The returns are particularly useful for those interested in the origin of surnames and surname distribution. Earlier documents were written in Latin. Roman Catholics and other nonconformists were forced to pay double rates.

Where Found

The National Archives (E 179, Particulars of Account and other records relating to Lay and Clerical Taxation; E 359, Exchequer: Pipe Office: Accounts Rolls of Subsidies and Aids)
County Record Offices

Period Covered

1275 - 1665

Genealogical Value

Name and address (village & parish) of tax payer.

Further References

Amphlett, John. Lay Subsidy Rolls, A.D. 1346 and A.D. 1358: for the County of Worcester: James Parker, 1900 (Available at the Internet Archive)


Brooker, Janice &Flood, Susan. (eds) Hertfordshire Lay Subsidy Rolls 1307 and 1334: Hertfordshire Record Society, 1998


Chapman, Colin. Pre-1841 Censuses & Population Listings in the British Isles: Lochin Publishing, 2002 (Preview available from Google Books)

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Dale, T Cyril. The Inhabitants of London in 1638: Society of Genealogists, 1931 (Householders listed by parish showing rents and tithes, available at British History Online)


Dale, T Cyril. The Inhabitants of Westminster: 1935 (Extracted from lay subsidy rolls 1625-1645 and available at the Society of Genealogists library. Includes the poll tax of 1641)


Dowell, Stephen. A History of Taxation and Taxes in England from the Earliest Times to the Year 1885: Longmans, 1888 (Preview available from Google Books)


Exchequer, K.R. Lay Subsidy Rolls: List & Index Society


Faraday, M A. Worcestershire Taxes in the 1520s: The Military Survey and Forced Loans of 1522-3 And the Lay Subsidy of 1524-7: Worcestershire Historical Society, 2003  
Faraday, M A. The Bristol and Gloucestershire Lay Subsidy of 1523-1527: Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, 2009  

Faraday, M A. Radnorshire Taxes in the Reign of Henry VIII: Assessment-Lists and Accounts of Subsidies and Benevolences 1543-1547: M A Faraday, 2013


Faraday, M A. Shropshire Taxes in the Reign On Henry VIII: The Lay Subsidy of 1524-1527, The Lay Subsidy of 1543-1545 and the Benevolence of 1545: Faraday, M A, 2015  

Gibson, Jeremy & Dell, Alan. The Protestation Returns 1641-42 and other contemporary listings: Family History Partnership, 2004


Hoyle, R.W. Tudor Taxation Records: A Guide for Users: PRO Publications, 1994


Jurkowski, M and Smith, C and Crook, D. Lay taxes in England and Wales, 1188-1688: PRO Publications, 1998


Mitchell, Sydney Knox. Taxation in Medieval England: Yale University Press, 1951


Oates, Jonathan. Tracing Your Ancestors from 1066 to 1837: Pen and Sword Books, 2012


Stoate, T.L. (ed) Devon Lay Subsidy Rolls 1543-5: 1986


Stoate, T.L. Devon Lay Subsidy Rolls 1524-7: 1979


TNA Research Guide: Taxation before 1689

Websites (Public records: Subsidies and other taxes) (Research Wiki: English Lay Subsidies)

Online Databases (E 179 database: Guide and catalogue descriptions of lay and clerical tax records in England and Wales held in series E 179 at The National Archives, searchable by place name, type of tax and year range. The database shows what tax lists have survived for each area with a reference for ordering the original document. Individual names are not recorded, although the existence of such names is highlighted. Each type of tax has explanatory notes. The database includes Lay Subsidy Rolls, the Hearth Tax and Poll Tax but does not include local assessments held in County Record Offices or those held in the British Library)
British History Online (Enter 'lay subsidy' into the search box for transcriptions covering London, Cumberland, Staffordshire, Sussex and parts of Yorkshire. The site consists of a digital library of British historical sources developed by Institute of Historical Research and the History of Parliament Trust. The site is free to use with a search facility linking users to full transcripts of various sources. The contents of British History Online can also be searched at Connected Histories together with a number of other databases) (Genhound: Borough of Nottingham subsidy roll 1609; Lay Subsidy Rolls for the County of Sussex, 1524-1525) (Kent Lay Subsidy Roll of 1334/5. By H.A. Hanley and C.W. Chalklin) (Yorkshire: Subsidy Rolls for the year 1379) (Sussex Record Society: The Lay Subsidy Rolls for the County of Sussex 1524-1525, transcribed by Julian Cornwall) (Worcestershire Lay Subsidy Roll, Circ. 1280. Browsable images include Suffolk Subsidy Return, 1524 and 1568) (Online Parish Clerks: The project is run by volunteers who collect and transcribe parish records for a chosen Parish and make the data available for free online. The range of information covered includes Apprentice Indentures, Census Returns, Parish Registers, Bastardy Bonds, Settlement Certificates & Removal Orders, Militia/Muster records, Directories, Land Tax Assessments, Workhouse/Poor Law records, Churchwardens Accounts, Tithe Apportionments, Wills, Poor Rate Payers, Lay Subsidies, Protestation Returns, MIs, Church Memorials and Hearth Tax records. Old parish maps and photos are often included)

Many lists have been indexed and published at a local level.

CD Roms

S & N Genealogy Supplies (Suffolk in 1327 Subsidy Returns; Suffolk in 1524 Subsidy Returns) (Devon Lay Subsidies 1543-1545; Devon Lay Subsidy Rolls 1524-1527; Somerset Lay Subsidy Rolls 1641-1642; Dorset Tudor Subsidies 1523, 1543 and 1593; Cornwall Subsidies In The Reign Of Henry VIII 1524 and 1543 and The Benevolence of 1545)