March 2013 Poll Taxes of Wiltshire in 14th Century
On Thursday and Friday (7th and 8th March) I spent time at the Wiltshire History Centre at Chippenham in doing some “Peapell” Research room. My father John Hurley runs the team of volunteers who are transcribing Wiltshire parish records. They do a great job and make the records on baptisms and Burials and other records available through the sale of CDs and sites such as Findmypast.
I wanted to look at Carolyn Fenwick’s book “Poll Taxes of 1377, 1379 and 1381 Part 3 Wiltshire – Yorkshire” looking for “Peapell”. I found many uncommon and even some odd names. These included “Cruchman”, “Baylemound”, “Totobold” and “Bongy”. They are very rare on census and parish records from mid 1500’s onwards so I am sure these are nick names or by-names.
Carolyn Fenwick has collated all the information from the National Archives on Poll Taxes (series 179) into three books with up to 200 people on a page. The information is different for different periods and areas but for Wiltshire in 1379 it is fairly comprehensive so I could see the payers name including surname or by-name where recorded, amount paid and even sometimes the occupation. The Poll taxes applied to all adults over the age of 14 who were not beggars although it has been said that evasion was widespread. The poll tax payments were mostly 4d (there being 12 d to a shilling and 20 shillings to pound)
I did not find any remotely possible “Peapell” references even allowing for wild variations in spelling. I can infer that either (i) “Peapell” had not been adopted by this time as the surname or (ii) “Peapell” were living in another part of the country or (iii) they evaded the poll tax.
I did however find a few “Howes” surnames. Ii sent an e-mail to Paul Howes who is studying the name to let him know that I would send through details. He was very interested.
The poll taxes lists were interesting not only for the unusual names but also that some names were missing or rare. For example there were a relative low number of “Smiths” in Wiltshire at most three opn a page of 200 names and in many pages none at all. There were far more “miller” derived names such as Miller, Milner, Mullward etc. Smith is now a much more common name now that Miller even though it wasn’t then.