West Derby Hundred Lay Subsidy Roll of 1585

  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 509
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      3640 x 158 mm. 1 roll. Medium: parchment. Condition: parchment severely weakened and erroded by dampness and decay. Conservation record: the parchment has been backed onto cartridge paper.

Scope and Content

Lay subsidy roll for the West Derby hundred of Lancashire, listing persons liable for the lay subsidy of 1585 according to their parish and township, and the amount due from each.

Administrative / Biographical History

Lay subsidies were a form of taxation levied on the laity, based upon an assessment of their moveable wealth and income. The lay subsidy was an extraordinary concession granted to the king by parliament to supplement his income in exceptional circumstances, usually for war. The bulk of lay taxation records is held at The National Archives (class E179), but there are tax returns dispersed through record offices and libraries across Britain. Lay subsidies were directly assessed taxes and were levied almost continuously from the reign of Henry VIII until the Civil War. Assessment was made by constables and local officers, subject to the approval of the commissioners, and high collectors at the hundred level oversaw the collections made in localities.

The lay subsidy of 1585 was granted by parliament in March 1585. The tax was levied on individuals and corporations with moveable goods worth £3 or more and the threshold of liability for income from land was 20s. The taxpayer was only charged in one category of his wealth, either land or goods, whichever yielded the most to the crown. Rising rates of taxation led to widespread under-assessment and evasion, and by the reign of Elizabeth I, the lay subsidy had ceased to be an accurate gauge of the wealth of the kingdom.

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library from R. Cunliffe Shaw of Ashton, Preston, in March 1929.


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan, project archivist, and Elizabeth Gow with reference to M. Jurkowski, C.L. Smith, and D. Crook, Lay Taxes in England and Wales 1188-1688 (Kew: PRO Publications, 1998).

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1928-35 (English MS 509).

Custodial History

Former owner: R. Cunliffe Shaw.

Related Material

The JRUL also holds English MS 515, a lay subsidy roll for the Salford hundred of Lancashire in 1641 (ref.: GB 133 Eng MS 515).