TOLLS AND CUSTOMS Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval Ipswich customs imports exports transportation cloth stoneware spices hardware fur skins leather fish food timber livestock dye market regulations tolls exemption
Subject: Customs charged on imports to and exports from Ipswich
Original source: British Library, Add. Ms. 25012, ff. 42-46
Transcription in: Travers Twiss, ed. The Black Book of the Admiralty, vol.II: "Le Domesday de Gipewyz". Rolls Series, no.55, vol.1 (1873), 184-206.
Original language: French
Location: Ipswich
Date: late 13th century


These are the customs belonging to [payment of] the king's farm of the town of Ipswich, to be levied there on various merchandize coming into the town franchise for sale, and on diverse items, namely those on which custom ought to be paid, in the way described below, that is:

Customs of the quay

  • For every tun or pipe of wine, vinegar, cider, sour wine, and all other types of liquor brought into the town franchise for sale, 2d. is to be taken for king's custom.
  • For every tun or pipe of honey, oil, ointment, or similar type of merchandize, 2d. If it is sold by the gallon, then 4d. is to be taken for every 100 gallons; and for a smaller amount, less, depending on the quantity.
  • For every barrel of pitch or tar, 1d.
  • For every tun of ale carried or taken out of the town towards the sea or sea-coast for sale, 4d.; that is, if the tun is bought by container. If the tun is bought by measure, then 4d. is payable for every 100 gallons.
  • For every tun of woad, 2d.
  • For every barrel of ashes, 2d.
  • For every tun or pipe of verdigris, [or] copperas, or any other similar type of merchandize, 3d.; if these are to be sold by the hundredweight, then 4d. is to be levied per hundredweight.
  • For every ton or pipe of teazel, 2d.; for every "rundelete" or "bastoun" of the same merchandize, a halfpenny.
  • For every truss or pack of cloth arriving at the quay tied with cords 4d. is to be levied. For every bundle that is not tied up, 2d. If the truss, pack or bundle is untied and part of it is sold in town, then custom is to be levied for those pieces according the specifications for the cloth market.
  • For every truss or pack of canvas tied with cords, 4d. For every bundle not tied up, 2d. For canvas sold by the hundredweight, 4d. per hundredweight.
  • For cloths from Coggeshall, Maldon, Colchester, Sudbury, and other cloths bought in the countryside and brought into the town by merchants, to export abroad via the quay – regardless of whether the cloths are in a truss, pack or bundle, or whether tied up or not, or whether in a tun or not – the king's custom is to be paid by the piece on such cloths bought outside for export. That is, for every piece of double-work, which people call "two men's sheet", 1d.; and for every piece of lesser work, which people call "one man's sheet", a halfpenny. But if these types of cloths, previously mentioned, are bought within the town of Ipswich, the correct custom is determined according to the market where the cloths are purchased; and if those cloths are put into a tun for transporting abroad via the quay, 2d. per tun must be paid for them towards the king's custom. Furthermore, for a truss or pack tied with cords, 4d.; and for a bundle not tied up, 2d.
  • For every last of wool belonging to a single merchant, 8d.; for half a last, 4d. If there is less than that, then 4d. for every sack or packet.
  • For every last of millstones, 8d; for half a last, 4d. If there is less than half a last, then 1d. to be levied for each millstone.
  • For every last of smaller millstones, 4d.; for half a last, 2d. If there is less than half a last, then a halfpenny to be levied for every couple.
  • For every stone called a "Slipston", a halfpenny; such stones are not assessed by the last.
  • For every hundred freestones and black stones called "ragston", 4d.
  • For every piece of carved marble – such as coffins, lids, crosses, fonts, and other stones of this type – a halfpenny; that is, from the seller if he is subject to custom, and as much from the buyer if he is a merchant.
  • For every hundred mortars, 4d. If there are fewer, then 1d. per dozen is to be levied.
  • For every heap of plaster, a halfpenny.
  • For every type of merchandize which arrives in bales, 4d. per bale is to be levied. If this is merchandize to be sold and weighed by the hundredweight – such as brasil, alum, almonds, rice, and other such kinds of merchandize – then 4d. is to be levied per hundredweight.
  • For every frail of figs, raisins, and all other items put into frails, a halfpenny per frail is to be levied.
  • For every hundredweight of grain, 6s.8d.
  • For every dozen cordwain (not in bales), 4d.
  • For every thousand[weight] of Spanish iron, 4d. if it is sold by the thousand[weight]. For every quintal sold by itself, 1d.
  • For every hundredweight of wrought iron, 4d.
  • For every hundredweight of Normandy iron, 4d.
  • For every quantity of old iron, 2d.
  • For every load of lead, 8d.; for every pig, 1d.
  • For every hundredweight of tin, brass, and copper, 4d.
  • For every barrel of steel, 2d. For every sheaf of steel sold by itself, a farthing from the buyer. For every bundle of steel sold by itself, a halfpenny.
  • Regarding osmond, the custom is to be levied in the same way as for lead.
  • For every piece of ore of brass, latten or copper, a farthing is to be levied.

  • Also, for every thousand white furs, 2s.; for half a thousand, 12d. If there are fewer than half a thousand, then 4d. is to be levied for every bundle.
  • For every thousand squirrels' furs and wheels [?], 12d.; for half a thousand, 6d. If there are fewer than half a thousand, then 2d. is to be levied for every bundle.
  • For every hundred woolfells or skins being exported, whether in sarpliers or not, 4d.
  • For every hundred skins of lambs, badgers, rabbits, foxes, cats, and other similar skins being exported, whether in a bale or not, 4d. If these types of skins are sold by the hundred, at the quayside, or elsewhere in town, then 4d. is to be levied per hundred.
  • For every last of cow-hides and horse-hides, 8d.; for half a last, 4d. If there is less than half a last, then 4d. is to be levied for every dicker; and if less than a dicker, a halfpenny is to be levied for every hide.

  • Also, for every last of red herring sold together by the last, 4d. from the seller. If there is less than a last, then a halfpenny is to be levied for every thousand.
  • For every last of fresh or salt herring, 4d. from the seller (except those that caught the fish themselves).
  • For every hundred of any kind of hard fish, 2d.
  • For every salmon, a halfpenny.
  • For every quintal of whale[meat], 4d.

  • Also, for every hundred[weight?] of wax sold by weight, 4d. If they are in a frail tied with cords, 4d. is to be taken per frail.
  • For every wey of cheese, butter, and lard sold by itself, 4d. If the butter is stored in bark, a halfpenny is to be levied per piece.
  • For every wey of the same merchandize being exported, whether in a tun or not, 4d.

  • Also, for every hundred swords, bucklers, targets, and coats of mail, 4d. If there are fewer than that, quantity will determine the amount to be levied from the seller and also from the buyer, if he is a merchant.
  • No custom is to be levied on archil, tiles [?], or weld.
  • For every hundred boards of Ireland or Esthonia, which are called eavings or wainscot, or from any other similar kind of board, 4d.
  • For every hundred of the smaller boards that are called barrel staves or shingles, 1d.
  • For every hundred oars, troughs, bowls and other such merchandize carved from timber, 4d.
  • For every dozen hats, 1d.
  • From every ship with bulwarks, "bauns", and bales, 2d. [as harbourage?].
  • From every boat with rowlocks, 1d.
  • From every boat with tholes, a halfpenny.
  • For each float of nets that are dried on dry ground, 4d. [as strandage?].
  • For every whole [carcass of] ham being taken towards the sea-coast, a halfpenny. For the meat by itself, a farthing.
  • For every horse being exported, 4d.
  • For every bale of woad, 4d. For every quarter of woad, measured by the common measure of the town, a halfpenny (from the seller, that is).
  • For every store of grain, onions, garlic, nuts, and other similar types of merchandize, whether in [ware?]houses or in ships, 4d. If the merchants pay for their stores in the houses or the ships, and then the goods are transported by boat to the ship, nothing is to be levied on the boat. But if the ship is loaded outside the boundaries of the town, and the merchants pay nothing for the storage in the ship, then a halfpenny is to be levied for every boat transporting the said goods to the ship.
  • For every bunch or quantity of garlic or cockles[?], a halfpenny.
  • For every thousand, or bunch of, onions sold by such parcels, a farthing, both from the buyer (if he is a merchant) and from the seller.
  • For coarse salt sold by hundredweight, 4d. per hundredweight. If sold in lesser parcels, the levy (that is, from the seller) is to be determined by the quantity.
  • For every wey of white salt sold by itself, 1d.
  • For every barrel of sturgeon, 2d.
  • 2d. is due from every iron-shod cart loaded with wine, millstones, packs, or other merchandize [coming to] the quay or certain other places where customs relating to the quay should be levied.
  • From every unshod cart, 1d.
  • For a horseload, a halfpenny.
  • For a load carried by a man, a farthing.
  • For a barrow-load, a farthing.
  • From every iron-shod cart loaded with sea-coal, 1d.
  • From every unshod cart loaded with the same merchandize, a halfpenny.
  • Nothing is due for a horseload of coal or fuller's earth.

Customs of the cloth market

  • For every coloured cloth from overseas, 4d.
  • For every striped cloth, 2d.
  • For coloured cloth from Beverley or Lincoln, and other similar cloths, the same custom is to be levied as from cloths from overseas.
  • For cloths from Coggeshall, Colchester, Maldon, Sudbury, and other such English cloths of double-work, which people call "two men's sheet", 1d. is to be levied of each cloth sold by itself, that is [only] from those who ought to pay custom.
  • For every piece of long cloth which people call "one man's sheet", a halfpenny.
  • For every piece cut of the same which is longer than an ell and which is sold for 6d. or more, the same is to be taken as for the whole piece. If the piece is of one ell or less and is sold for 1½d., a farthing is to be levied on that piece.
  • For every piece of linen cloth, whole or cut, which is sold for 2½d. or more, a farthing is to be levied.
  • The same for canvas.
  • For every bundle of cloth of double-work, which people call "two men's sheet", transported by horse, unloaded, and displayed for sale, 2d.
  • For every bundle of cloth which people call "one man's sheet", transported by horse, unloaded, and displayed for sale, 1d.
  • For every bundle of cloth of double-work or lesser work, transported on the back of a man, half as much as for a horseload.
  • From every cart coming into town loaded with similar kinds of cloth, which is unloaded and put on sale, 4d. is to be levied.
  • For linen cloth or canvas loaded on a cart, a horse, or a man's back, the levy is to be half of the custom previously mentioned as being due from linen.
  • For every surcoat or tabard, mantle, cape, or other kind of tailored cloth, sold by itself, a farthing.
  • For every other merchandize sold, in this market or in a place associated with this market, for 2½d. or more, a farthing is to be levied for the king's custom.

Customs on hemp

  • For hemp, of which the custom belongs to the cloth market, 1d. is to be levied for every cartload, a halfpenny for every horseload, a farthing for every load carried by a man. Of an amount sold for 2½d., a farthing is to be levied.

Customs of the fish market

  • For every cart bringing fish or herring into the market for sale, 2d; for a horseload, a halfpenny; for a man's load, a farthing; for a barrow-load, a farthing.
  • For every porpoise, 1d.
  • For every salmon, a farthing.
  • For every barrel of sturgeon or whale[meat], the same custom as is levied at the quay.

Customs of the wool market

  • For every cartload of wool, woolfells, cow-hides or horse-hides, 2d.; for a horseload, a halfpenny; for a man's load, a farthing. For that which is sold for 2½d., a farthing is to be levied.

Customs of the cheese market

    Concerning cheese, levy is to be made on cartloads, horseloads, man's loads, barrowloads, and other small parcels, in the same way as for the wool market. Custom is to be levied on these and other things pertaining to this market according to quantity, as with other markets. Let it be known that the custom on flax seed and hemp belongs to the cheese market, along with the custom on earthenware pots. In this market, [amount omitted] is levied on every cartload of pots, a farthing on a man's load, and a farthing on a barrowload.

Customs of the timber market

  • For every cartload of tubs, troughs, bowls, cups, ladders, and other such merchandize that is called woodwork, 2d. is to be levied. For a horseload of the same merchandize, and of baskets, vats[?], spades, and similar things of this type, a halfpenny. For a man's load, a farthing.
  • For every cartload of timber, boards, laths, and rods, a halfpenny.
  • For every cartload of hurdles and splints, a farthing. For every cartload sold, a farthing from the seller.
  • From every stall from which people sell cords [of firewood], 3d. a year. Let it be known that this stallage belongs to the timber market.
  • For every pair of cartwheels, 1d.; that is, a halfpenny from the seller and a halfpenny from the buyer.

Customs on broom

Customs of the bread market

  • From all of those bakers subject to customs who come frequently to the market to sell their bread, three farthings is due for three days in the week – that is, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. If they bring their bread to market on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, but stay away on the Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday, they are nonetheless to pay the full custom. If they come only one day a week, then only a farthing is to be taken from them; for two days, a halfpenny; and for three days, three farthings.
  • For every market stall held by a burgess, 6d. is payable annually, by even portions at Michaelmas and Easter, for occupying common land. From every outsider for his stall, 3d. annually at the same terms, and no more, and that is for their weekly customs.
  • Bakers subject to customs who sell bread from their own houses are to be charged customs as applicable, or should make an [advance] agreement for a specific [sum] annually.

Customs of the meat market

  • For every carcass of beef, cow, bullock, or heifer purchased in the town, a halfpenny is to be levied. If the beast is purchased outside the town, then three farthings are to be levied on the carcass.
  • For every scalded [carcass of] pork or carcass of mutton or veal, a farthing; that is, if the beast is purchased outside the town. If it is purchased in the town and no custom has been paid on the initial sale, then a halfpenny is to be levied on the scalding or carcass; but if the custom was paid, only a farthing is to be taken of the sale.

Customs of the livestock market

  • For every horse sold, 1d. from the seller and 1d. from the buyer.
  • For every bull, cow, bullock, or heifer of more than a year in age, a halfpenny from the seller and a halfpenny from the buyer.
  • For every pig, sheep, or calf (sucklings excluded), a farthing from the seller and a farthing from the buyer.
These customs belong to the meat market.

Let it be known that customs of the quay are to be levied from all merchandize that comes to the town by water and is sold inland, [whether] put in storage or not, as far as the lane extending from the watercourse of Botflood, along the side of the road leading south as far as Colhill, and from there on both sides of the street as far as the principal residence once belonging to John Bolle, in front of St. Stephen's cemetery; from there via the lane which extends from the cemetery to Brook Street, and from the end of that lane southwards on both sides of the street as far as the lane that leads beyond the town ditch towards Abbotscroft. Customs are to be levied in those places, along the lanes and roads mentioned as far down as the quay. On all other merchandize, coming out of the countryside to be sold in town, customs are to be levied according to the above-mentioned markets in the town. That is: grain at the grain market; livestock at the meat market; wool, fells, and hides at the wool market, with other things pertaining to that same market. And so on, regarding all other markets in the town, according to the merchandize – each according to the appropriate market in which that merchandize ought to be sold in the town, and as it has so been in the town from ancient times.

And let it be known that all kinds of saleable merchandize which come by land or by water to the town of Ipswich, or to a place belonging to the town, before Michaelmas or on that day before noon, regardless of whether the merchandize is to be taken out of town again or not, are subject to customs applied to the year past. Customs levied on that coming after the hour of noon on Michaelmas belong to the year following. The same applies to all things pertaining to the office of the chief bailiffs of the town at their changeover.

Regarding all types of merchandize arriving in town by water to be sold, the masters of the ships are to take oath as to the quantity and parcels of the goods, and on that basis are the correct customs to be levied. If, because the merchants are disbelieved, examination has to be made and it is found otherwise [than the quantity declared], the undeclared merchandize should be confiscated.


The Ipswich tolls provide a roughly contemporary comparison with those of London. There are sufficient similarities between the two lists that a detailed analytical comparison might suggest the influence of one on the other, or some common source on both, each then undergoing local adaptation and development.

Here as in the London lists, it is clearly noted that tolls were leviable on merchandize being imported or exported for resale, as opposed to goods for personal or household consumption. However, the latter were not automatically exempt. For example, in 1256 several individuals with estates in the locality purchased foreign burgess status in order to obtain freedom from toll on produce grown on their lands or goods bought for their own use; this status did not subject them to being at scot and lot as full citizenship would have. At about the same time the priors of Holy Trinity and St. Peter both purchased something similar that did subject them to scot and lot, yet was not considered the same as full citizenship. In 1274 it was made clear by a local ordinance that foreign burgess status was not heritable, and that it entailed only the toll exemptions indicated above; only those at scot and lot had exemption on all goods.

It can be seen that carts and packhorses were the principal means for overland transportation of merchandize. Wheelbarrows were not as common as carts or packhorses, but were nonetheless one alternative presumably for relatively short-distance travel; the London customs do not mention that option. Similarly, goods carried on one's own back likely applied mostly to small-scale producers in the neighbouring countryside, or to itinerant hawkers. But overland transport could be expensive for goods that were heavy, bulky, or produced in some distant part of England; thus a town like Ipswich with good access to the North Sea continued to have raw materials such as iron ore, stone, and salt brought from overseas, in addition of course to the kinds of goods which were only available (in volume at least) from foreign parts. The coarse salt produced by natural saline evaporation along parts of the French coast was also less expensive than salt produced in England which entailed the cost of burning fuel.



General note
The text of the original did not have the various tolls itemized; I have formatted it thus for easier comprehension.

A cask holding the equivalent of 2 pipes (or 252 gallons).

Used in fulling cloth, and (as potash) as a mordant to fasten certain dyes (notably woad) in cloth fibre.

The meaning of the term in the original, argoil, is uncertain. Riley believed it meant cream of tartar, but noted that others have interpreted it as potters clay (Fr. argile). Archil (Lat. arguella), a violet dye obtained from a lichen, is a further possibility. However, given the contextualization of the term at London in association with copper and at Ipswich in association with copperas, I favour the translation of verdigris (Lat. argelzarus), a green or blue compound involving copper that is today used as a paint pigment and was used in the cloth-dyeing process in the Middle Ages.

Coperose may have been used to referred to any vitriol (a sulphate, such as of copper, iron or zinc), or specifically to the green iron sulphate known today as copperas, which was used in dyeing as a mordant, and possibly in ink-making.

A plant whose seed case is covered in sharp points, like a thistle; this made it a useful tool for raising the nap on woollen cloth.

"rundelete" "bastoun"
A rondelet was a small cask, and a bastoun probably something similar.

The more traditional cloths produced in East Anglia were those of lower price and coarse quality, such as burels. As demand for these waned when imported cloth from Flanders could provide better quality at comparable prices, cloth-makers in eastern England began to refocus on chalon cloth, which could be made on two types of loom: one operated by a single weaver and producing chalon wide enough for blankets, the other operated by two weavers sitting side-by-side to create a double-width cloth used for quilted products. This is probably (although not certainly) the meaning of double-work, or sheets of cloth produced by two men.

A weight or measure that varied according to the type of material. E.g. in the case of leather, it comprised two hundred hides, and in the case of herring it comprised 10,000 fish, equivalent to probably 12 barrels.

The term here translated millstone (Lat. mola), meolys in the original, may alternatively be a type of bag (Lat. mala) used for packing merchandize, particularly cloth, or it may even mean honey (Lat. mel). The contexts in which meolys is placed make either the stone or the bag the more credible options.

"Slipston" "freestones" "ragston"
Slipston may have been a silkstone. Free stone and rags tone were basic quarried stone; the rags tone being of inferior quality, the upper layer of stone beneath which lay the free stone, although here they are assigned the same value for customs purposes.

A wood originating in the East Indies, or an extract therefrom, used for dyeing and in red ink.

Used in dyeing cloth, it was the most common, easiest to use, and one of the most effective of several metallic salts that could be applied to fix the colour a cloth was dyed. It was mined in Asia Minor and acquired from that source by Italian merchants.

A large basket made of wicker or rushes, commonly used for transporting fruit and woad.

A soft, fine-grained leather originally produced in Cordoba.

"thousand" "quintal"
A thousandweight must have been half a ton. A quintal was a measure equivalent to 100 lb., which makes it difficult to explain why that term was used here instead of the usual hundredweight.

The term here translated as "load" was karre, possibly in its origins referring to a cartload (Lat. carcata); in the London list, kark was the term used. According to Riley, the load comprised 30 pigs (bars). The total weight would have been approximately 2100 lb.

A high-quality iron-bearing ore which came from Sweden, although the term gradually came to be applied generically to small bars of iron. By contrast, unworked iron from (northern) Spain tended to be traded in larger quantities.

The use of "ore" (oure in the original) seems inappropriate here, since it refers to a natural mineral bearing metallic or other substances, whereas brass and latten were both man-made alloys (latten, imported from Germany, being similar to brass in its makeup and used for monumental brasses, as well as an occasional substitute for gold). "Ore" is perhaps being used to distinguish the alloy in its raw form.

In the context of furs, the word here translated as bundle is tymber in the original; this was a measure comprising 40 furs. White furs were from small animals such as squirrels or ermines.

"squirrels' furs and wheels"
The term here translated as squirrels' furs (popel strendlinges) had a more precise meaning in the Middle Ages, referring to fur from the backs of squirrels during a certain season (probably April to September). What rotes meant in this context is unclear; wheels would appear to be the literal translation – and the 15th century translator of this document used that term (although he may have been as much in the dark as I); perhaps it was a metaphor for the entire squirrel skin, which when spread flat might have seemed like a spoked wheel.

A sarplier, or sarpler, was special packaging for wool or woolfells; although not strictly speaking a weight or volume in its own right, a sarpler typically held an amount of wool equivalent to half a sack, though this could vary and for customs purposes wool was assessed by sacks or other measures (here, a hundred, which could be either a weight or a quantity).

A measure of ten hides.

"archil, tiles or weld"
I am uncertain about the translation of De lege vidz corkel ne de teyle a treefes ne de welde. Weld (also known today as dyer's rocket was a yellow dye from a plant found in Germany and France; this suggests that corkel should be rendered archil (or orchil), which was a violet dye – see the Winchester list of tolls for such a translation of kork. In this context, "tiles" seems an unlikely translation of teyle a treefes. Lege might perhaps refer to a measure (legena, used for gallon or sometimes for dry measures). The reason for exempting certain imported dyes from custom was probably because of their importance to the nascent cloth-finishing industry of the region, which would become noted for producing cloth of vibrant colours; weld was later cultivated in Suffolk, but probably not as early as the Ipswich list of customs. Tiles for the building trades – for floors, walls, and roofs – were, and would continue to become, in demand in Ipswich and vicinity (which was short of good building stone, and whose brick industry was little developed at this period) and this might explain them being lumped in with other customs-exempt wares.

"bulwarks" "bales" "rowlocks" "tholes"
For the significance of these terms in assessing the capacities of watercraft, see the notes to the London list of customs on fish.

The term here speculatively translated cockles is cokayle in the original, although the context makes cockles unlikely. On the other hand, it seems equally unlikely that a halfpenny toll would be due on each bunch of garlic, when in London this amount was levied on a hundred bunches.

So-called possibly to distinguish mineral coal from charcoal, which was often referred to simply as coal; or perhaps due to the fact that it was first quarried from coastal outcroppings.

"striped cloth"
Long striped cloths (cloths of "rays") were imported from the Low Countries at this time, although later made domestically.

An ell was a measure of length about 45 inches.

Like a surcoat, a short tunic worn atop other clothing.

Thin planks used as infill between the main timbers of walls, ceilings, and roofs in house construction.

"belongs to the bailiffs"
The customs on broom was a revenue assigned to remunerate the city bailiffs.

"For every market stall"
The 15th-century English translation reversed the fees, so that burgesses owed 3d. a year, and non-burgesses 6d. a year. This would seem more plausible, unless the original intent of this slightly confused passage was that non-burgesses pay a 3d. annual licence fee, then weekly customs on top of that. The latter hypothesis is supported by the earlier reference to the "bakers subject to customs", which would have meant non-burgesses.

"meat market"
The meat market customs indicate that the normal procedure was to bring live animals to market and slaughter them upon demand. A toll would normally be paid on the live animals, when imported into town, and an additional toll on the sale of the carcass.

The application of escaudinge to a pork carcass was to remove bristles from the outer skin of swine.

"the quay"
The topographical description of the boundaries of the marketing area attached to the quay essentially defined the south-eastern quadrant of the town; stalls could have been set up anywhere along the sides of the streets in this quadrant.

September 29th marked the close of the official year – that is, when a new set of bailiffs replaced that which had been in office for the past year – and therefore the close of the fiscal year.

It appears that the "masters of the ships" were not shipmasters in the sense of captains, but the merchants who owned or leased space in the vessels.

main menu

Created: August 18, 2001. Last update: January 8, 2019 © Stephen Alsford, 2001-2019