Exchequer: Pipe Office: Customs Accounts Rolls
The rolls in this series contain the Pipe Office accounts of collectors of customs at English ports.
The accounts detail the sums raised by the wool and cloth duties, namely the ancient custom of 1275 and the new custom of 1303 and 1347, the mutuum and the subsidy. Other duties collected at the ports were the wine duty of tunnage, and the general tax of poundage. Although the collectors were based at one port, the customs area they covered often stretched far beyond a single location.
There were originally 25 rolls in this series. By 1908 there were 29 pieces. The apparent creation of four extra pieces can accounted for by the fact that some of the later rolls were in several sections: E 356/19 and 20 are two sections of one roll, as are E 356/23 and 24, E 356/25, 26 and 27, and E 356/28 and 29. By 1923 there were 30 pieces as there are now, the extra piece probably being E 356/30, containing accounts dating from various reigns.
Until the reign of Edward I, customs accounts were enrolled on the Pipe Rolls, but from 23 Edw I customs accounts began to be enrolled separately. This may well be linked in some way to the outbreak of war with France in 1294; Edward I raised substantial amounts of money for his continental campaigns by manipulating export duties. In 1323, the Cowick ordinance commanded that all accounts 'foreign to' the ordinary accounts rendered by the sheriffs contained upon the Pipe Rolls should henceforth be enrolled separately.
The imposition of the customs can be traced back to Edward I's appointment in 1266, while heir to the throne, as protector of foreign and native merchants. An agreement was made to levy duties on exports, which continued when Edward became king. There are five duties or customs whose accounts appear in the customs rolls:
The Ancient Custom (1275): a duty of half a mark (6s 8d) on every sack of wool (364 lbs) exported; a duty of half a mark (6s 8d) on every three hundred fells (fleeces with skin); and a duty of one mark (13s 4d) on each last (200 hides) of leather. In 1275 this replaced the earlier customs, and was therefore originally known as the 'nova custuma', or new custom. However, it acquired its usual name of the ancient custom, 'magna et antiqua custuma', in 1303 when the subsequent 'new' duty was introduced.
The New Custom (1303): negotiated by Edward I with foreign merchants only. They agreed to pay an extra 50% on the 1275 duties. One to two shillings was placed on cloth, depending on its grade, and 1s on a quintal of wax (about 100 lbs). Two shillings were placed on each dole or tun of wine (252 gallons), a duty which was known as tunnage. Finally, a duty of 3d in the pound (poundage) was placed on certain other goods imported or exported: goods sold by weight, fine cloth, animals, corn and general merchandise. In return, the foreign merchants were granted a 'Carta mercatoria', which gave them freedom to trade, regulated their status and exempted them from certain local taxes. The duty was collected from February 1303, until 9 October 1311, when it was abrogated by the Lords Ordainers. It was reimposed in July 1322, when Edward II had regained control of government.
The new custom was extended in 1347, when a duty on imported cloth was added to its demands by the Great Council. The duty was a graduated one, with separate scales applied to native and alien merchants. There were three rates on each 'cloth of assize' (a regulation textile measurement). Native merchants paid 14d, 21d, or 28d, and alien merchants paid 21d, 31d, or 42d, depending on the dyestuffs used in the finishing of the cloth.
The Mutuum: collected between July 1317 and Michaelmas 1318. An additional duty of 10s was paid by aliens on every sack of wool, every 300 wool fells and on every last of hides. Denizens paid half a mark (8s 6d) on corresponding quantities.
The Subsidy: In the early accounts in E 356, this refers to a duty identical to the mutuum, first collected during the year beginning Midsummer 1322. In later accounts it refers to any levy additional to either the ancient custom or the new custom; the rate of the tax is noted in the account concerned.
Wine Custom (Tunnage): a duty of 2s imposed on every tun imported from 20 July 1322 onwards.
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