A Dispute Over the Exaction of Taxes at Bury St. Edmunds, 1198
Abbot Samson of Bury St. Edmunds made many changes in the customary payments from
his burgesses. This he did partly on account of the difficulties experienced by the
cellarer as the agent of the monastery, and partly because the poor and some of the
burgesses complained of the evasions of the rich.
Afterwards, all the burgesses sought this privilege jointly, making an agreement with
the lord abbot, and offering an annual tax in place of such an exaction; and the abbot,
thinking of how the cellarer went shamefully through the town for the collection of rep-silver,
and of how he caused pledges to be taken in the houses of the poor, sometimes stools,
sometimes the doors, and sometimes other useful things, and how the old women drove him
away with their distaffs, threatening and cursing the cellarer and his men, decreed that
twenty solidi should be given annually to the cellarer at the next port-moot, by the hand
of the reeve, before August, by those burgesses who undertook to pay a tax for this. And
thus it was done and confirmed by our charter; and another quittance of the same kind was
given to them called sor-penny, to be paid by four solidi at the same time. The
cellarer was accustomed to receive one denarius a year for every cow belonging to the men
of the town for exit and pasture; unless by chance they were the cows of the clergy or of
the serfs of the glebe, which cows he was accustomed to impound, and this caused much
trouble. But afterwards, when the abbot had spoken about it in chapter, the monks were
angry and thought it unseemly on his part, and Benedict the subprior, replying for all,
said: "Abbot Ording, himself, would not have done such a thing for fifty marks of
silver." But the abbot was very angry and set aside the matter for a time.
From: J. G. Rokewode, ed., Chronica Jocelini de Brakelonda, (London: Camden
Society, 1840), pp. 73-74, reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source
Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936;
reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 373-374.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by
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© Paul Halsall, September 1998