An Elizabethan Provincial Town: Leicester

  • W. G. Hoskins


The city of London — ‘a large, excellent and mighty city of business’, as Frederick, Duke of Würtemberg, saw it in 1592 — towered over all other English cities during the sixteenth century. In the great subsidy of 1543–4, the last comprehensive assessment before the lay subsidies became something of a farce, London paid fully thirty times as much tax as Norwich, the wealthiest city in the provinces, and well over forty times as much as Bristol, the third city of the kingdom. Even the suburb of South-wark, across the river, paid more tax than Bristol. London contributed as much on that occasion as all the other towns of England put together, from Norwich down to the smallest place that functioned as a local market-centre for its own countryside. Relatively speaking, Elizabethan London took a larger place in the economy of the nation than the London of the twentieth century.


Sixteenth Century Governing Body Timber Frame Taxable Wealth Privy Council 
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  1. 1.
    M. S. Henderson, Three Centuries in North Oxfordshire (1902), pp. 258–61.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    D. Charman, ‘Wealth and Trade in Leicester in the Early Sixteenth Century’, Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological Society, xxv (1949), p. 74. These figures are based on the number of taxpayers in 1524–5.Google Scholar
  3. 1.
    Records of the Borough of Leicester, ed. M. Bateson (1899–1903), vol. i, pp. 129–45. The total taxed population in the four quarters of the walled town was 570, in the suburbs 116.Google Scholar
  4. 1.
    The substance of the following remarks is taken from M. C. Cross, The Free Grammar School at Leicester (Department of English Local History, University College, Leicester, Occasional Papers, no. 4, 1953).Google Scholar
  5. 1.
    Tudor Economic Documents, ed. R. H. Tawney and E. Power (1924), vol. i, p. 108 (1520).Google Scholar
  6. 1.
    Thomas Wyggeston’s house is described in an inventory dated 18 August 1537 (Leicester munimentroom, 1D.50.ix./5)and William Wyggeston’s(inventory dated 26 July 1536) in Wyggeston Hospital Records, ed. A. Hamilton Thompson (1933), pp. 39–46. The latter house is described again in his widow’s inventory, dated 1541 (Leicester muniment room, I D.50.ix./9).Google Scholar
  7. 2.
    W. G. Hoskins, Essays in Leicestershire History (1950), pp. 111–12.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© W. G. Hoskins 1963

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. G. Hoskins
    • 1
  1. 1.University of OxfordUK

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