Certificate of Musters 1522

The King, Henry V111, was very aware of the prospect and serious threat of war with France and Scotland, wars he could not afford. He needed to know exactly how much money he could raise, how many men he could call on to fight for him and what weaponry they had.

Musters were region/township wide held once or twice a year. People worth £1 or more in goods or freehold land or owned a bill (pike with point and blade) or a bow were supposed to report to lieutenants or commissioners with their weapons and armour (‘harness’) which was then certified.

Transport and the distances to be travelled were problematic. Much to the relief of the relevant towns, it was normal for people not to attend but to be taken on their word. The prospect of crowds of armed men in the towns was daunting but it did leave wealth declarations wide open to corruption either by threat of violence or bribery of the commissioners and constables.

Supply of weaponry was the responsibility of the individual and/or the parish and should reflect the wealth of the owner. When it came to raising funds, Henry knew that an ad hoc funding appeal to the wealthy would result in the normal extensive evasions and so he resorted to subterfuge, to obtain more detailed and specific information through the muster system.

Wolsey had helped to identify some of the loopholes. In an attempt to tighten up, people were given a year’s notice to assess their wealth and worth. In March 1522 everyone was commanded to attend the muster where they had to declare on oath details of wealth, property and ‘harness’ in case of war. These details were recorded, and the King’s servants/inspectors employed to check that they were correct.

There were loopholes in previous calculations and this method was intended to tighten up on records. It included travelling craftsmen and skilled workmen (artifices and journeymen) with no fixed abode, people who had property in more than one area (for example Thomas Darrell is listed on the 1522 muster for Twyford. He lived in Lillingstone Dayrell but he owned the mill in Twyford). Most importantly the Church, which was remarkably rich and potentially a large source of revenue.

The Church had many loopholes. Shrines, plates, salvers, chalices etc for services were not included in the valuations, but all Church guilds, hospitals and chantries were included. Many Church dignities and senior members, for example, Bishops, had several properties and contents in numerous Shires, for example Charndon Poundon (spelt Polendon) and Twyford (Twyforde), came under Lincoln College in Oxford. Pre 1522, muster entries may have only declared one valuation.

Interestingly the ecclesiastic valuations of the 1522 muster are not very different to the detailed valuations of Cromwell prior to the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536 when Henry broke with the Roman Catholic church to access the extreme wealth of the Church.

From the 1522 Certificate of Musters by April 1523 Wolsey was in a position to raise funds for Henry. These funds were called and in the form of a ‘loan’ to the crown. Only the rich with land and or goods worth £40 or more per annum were called to pay the first instalment by November 15th.1523, (5 months before the Parliamentary decree.)

The full text of AC Chibnall: The Certificate of Musters for Buckinghamshire (Bucks Record Society vol. 17) is in the Archives section of this website (or see pages 34 and 35 here)

Terr et tent per annum – translates as: Value of lands and holdings

Bona et catalla – translates as Value of goods and chattels

Winslow History

  • Taxation rates 1524/25
  • Income from land 1s in the £
  • Goods worth over £20 1s in the £
  • Goods worth £2-£20, 6d in the £
  • Goods worth less the £2, 4d in the £
  • Wages over £1, 4d in the £

National Archives Kew

  • £1 value in in 1522 is worth £520.02 in 2020
  • In 1522, It would buy 2 cows
  • 9 stones of wool
  • 2 quarters of wheat
  • 33 days wages for a skilled worker.