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TOLLS AND CUSTOMS Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval Norwich customs imports transportation fish food fur hardware skins market fees

Subject: Tolls on imports to Norwich
Original source: Norfolk Record Office, Norwich Book of Customs, f.6
Transcription in: J. C. Tingey, The Records of the City of Norwich, Norwich: Jarrold and Sons, 1910, vol.2 pp.199-205.
Original language: French
Location: Norwich
Date: first half of the 14th century (with later additions)


The customs of the city of Norwich

The customs on all merchandize coming to the city by land or by water.

  • For a thousand herring, whether travelling by land or by water, 1d.
  • For any amount [of herring] surpassing the price of 4½d, a halfpenny.
  • For a last of herring, 10d.
  • For a hundred cod, 2d.
  • For a cartload, 2d.
  • For a hundred mackerel, [brought] by land or by water, a halfpenny.
  • For a hundred ling, a halfpenny.
  • For a wey of tallow, 4d.
  • For [a wey of] lard, 4d.
  • For 16 helpings of lard, 1d.
  • For 5 coils of thread for packs, a halfpenny.
  • For 10 coils, 1d.
  • For tanned leather, a farthing. If it is cut for a man's pack, a halfpenny.
  • For a truss [of leather?] on a man's back, a halfpenny.
  • For a pack on the saddle of a horse, 1d.
  • For a cartload of horseshoes, 2d.
  • For each cart that ought to pay custom upon entering [the city], 2d., if it does not give grain.
  • For a truss that is not tied up, 2d.
  • For a bound truss, 4d.
  • For a sack of wool, 4d.
  • For a dozen of cordwain, 4d.
  • For a load of alum, 4d.
  • For a sack of alum, 4d.
  • For a hundredweight of alum, 4d.
  • For a hundredweight of pepper, 4d.
  • For a hundredweight of cumin, 4d.
  • For a hundredweight of wax, 4d.
  • For a hundredweight of brasil, 4d.
  • For a stone of wax, a halfpenny.
  • For "buckes tynes" tied up for going to Yarmouth, a halfpenny each.
  • For a millstone, 1d.
  • For a pair of handmill stones, a halfpenny.
  • For a stone for a forge, a halfpenny. If it has a hole made, 1d.
  • For a cartload of baskets, 1 basket.
  • From a smack, 8d.
  • From a hulk, 4d. If it is carrying corn, 4 bezants.
  • From a ship carrying salt, 9 bezants.
  • From a buss, 4d.
  • From a fishing vessel, 2d.
  • From a boat, 1d.
  • From a cog, 1d.
  • For a sack of applies, nuts or flour, a halfpenny each.
  • From each cart bringing salt, on its first arrival after Michaelmas, 1 bezant. And then, each time it arrives during the year, 2d.
  • From a ship which arrives with a cargo of nuts, peas or beans (and also with grain, if it does not give grain [as toll]), 4d.
  • For a load of garlic, 1d.
  • For a pack of garlic, a halfpenny.
  • For a dicker of hides, a halfpenny.
  • For a dicker of fells, a halfpenny.
  • For a backpack of mercery, shoes, or felt, a halfpenny.
  • For a backpack of "sux", copper, or worked iron, a halfpenny.
  • For a sheaf of steel, a halfpenny.
  • For a last of bacon, 4d.
  • For a bear, 42d.
  • For an ape, 40d.
  • For a cable, 8d.
  • For a hawser, 4d.
  • For a "sped"-rope, 2d.
  • For a "ned"-rope, 1d.
  • For a barrel of steel, 4d.
  • For a bloom of iron, 4d.
  • For a hauberk, 4d.
  • For a haubergeon, 2d.;
  • For a load of lead, 4d.
  • For a "fotmal" [of lead], a halfpenny.
  • For each "chef" of parmentery, a halfpenny.
  • For a hundred rabbit skins, 4d.
  • For a beaver pelt, 4d.
  • For a sable skin, 1d.
  • For a bundle of sable skins, 40d.
  • For a bundle of woolfells, 1d.
  • For a hundred fells, 4d.
  • For a thousand "arnement", a halfpenny.
  • For a backpack of cords of bast, a halfpenny.
  • For a cartload of cords of bast, 2d.
  • For a thousand large badges [?], 1d.
  • For a thousand small badges [?], a halfpenny.
  • For a hundred "seyses" of cords, or badges hanging [on cords?], 4d.
  • For a cartload of floats, 2d.
  • For 5 barrels of woad, 1d.
  • For a quarter of woad, 1d.
  • For a tun of cod oil or herring [oil], when exported, 8d.
  • For a cartload of oysters, 2d.
  • For a packhorse [of oysters], a halfpenny.
  • For a hundredweight of yarn for ray, a halfpenny.
  • For a bundle of marten skins, 4d.
  • For a bundle of weasel skins, 2d.
  • For a thousand grey-work, 1d.
  • For a bundle of cat skins, 1d.
  • For a hundredweight of copper, 2d.
  • For a hundredweight of tin, 4d.
  • For a tun of wine imported, 8d. And at its export, 8d.
  • For a tun of honey, 8d.
  • For a tun of hazel-wood, 2d.
  • For a brace of "bucke tynes", 1d.
  • For a horseload of glass, 1d.
  • For a cartload, 2d.
  • For 10 "parnez", 1d.
  • For the brewing of ale, 4d.

Belonging to the farm formerly of the bailiffs of Norwich.

  • From the craft [gilds] of Norwich at Christmas for benegable, 30s.
  • From the bakers at the four terms, £4 in equal portions.
  • From the linen drapery, 40s.
  • From the farmer of tronage, 30s.
  • From [the farm of ?] the fish-market, 20s.
  • From [the farm of ?] chickens, eggs, cheese, and peas, 43s.
  • From [the farm of ?] the market for white leather, 12d.
  • From [the farm of ?] the market for bulls, cows and horses, 4s.
  • The fullers are obliged to pay 45s. on 25 March and 8 September.
  • From the skinners, 4s.
  • From the farm of the water, 40s.
  • Two tallages are payable on herring, one on fresh and the other on salt herring, each on 21 December.
  • Two tallages are payable on wool, from outsiders, one before Pentecost, the other after.


At least some of the entries on the dorse of this document appear to have been later additions: not tolls per se but sources of revenue for the city. This is apparent for the items under the sub-heading regarding the bailiffs' farm – use of the term formerly suggests the additions may have been made after sheriffs took over responsibility for collection of revenues related to the fee farm. It also appears true for the preceding item, which must be a licence fee for brewing, just as the communal payment from the bakers was for a licence to bake.



A last was a weight or measure that varied according to the type of material. In the case of herring, it comprised possibly 12 barrels.

Tingey followed Riley in translating merlyng as whiting; but the term could be applied to various kinds of sea-fish.

Translation of fez as "pack" is a hypothesis, based on possible Latin sources: fesella (used for certain types of containers) or fessa.

In relation to some goods (e.g. cloth), "dozen" represented a volume rather than a quantity.

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

The word here translated "load" was carke, whence our "cargo" and (less commonly used now) "charge"; while those terms are today used in a general sense, they had a more specific use in medieval times – possibly 3 or 4 cwt. according to London's Liber Albus.

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 used to fix the colour a cloth was dyed. Its main source was trade with Italy.

A common spice grown and used in medieval Europe; while it might have been grown in England, supplies were more likely to have come from the Mediterranean.

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

"buckes tynes"
This term occurs twice in the list, without the meaning being apparent from context. Buckets and tubs would be a long-shot translation. Since the first reference is to them being bound (in a bundle?), and the second measures them by the brace (? braqe assuming the Latin brachium), which refers to timber, it appears that the tines – a term used today for the prongs of a fork – could have been some kind of stake. The term tines has, however, also been applied to the pointed part of an antler, which would explain "buck".

"smack" "hulk" "buss" "cog"
A smack was a small, single-masted boat, typically used for fishing or coastal transport. A buss was a broad-beamed, two-masted, 50-70 ton vessel, also used for fishing (particularly herring). A hulk was a larger vessel and the type of ship most commonly used for cargo transport in the Middle Ages. A cog was another, smaller (single-masted) type of cargo vessel; it had been the most common type until superseded by the hulk. The cog was a northern design (derived from the Norse knarr), whereas the nef (a term used in this list, but translated simply as "ship", since it became a generic term for ships) was a Mediterranean design for a trading vessel. Blending design elements from these two types produced the carrack, which was the predominant trading ship by the close of the Middle Ages.

Coins usually of gold, but sometimes silver, and varying in value from 10s. to 20s.; tolls involving such large amounts must surely have been annual licences (as the case of the salt-laden cart suggests). This was an international coinage used in commerce.

"pack of garlic"
A tentative translation of le feez de aux. Regarding feez, see the note above. In the absence of a better alternative, and since garlic is not mentioned elsewhere in the list, it is here assumed that aux corresponds to the modern ails.

A measure of ten hides.

Le feez d'un homme is here translated as backpack on the assumption that the feez (see above) would have been transported on a man's back.

Tingey rendered sux as "sugar", but that does not appear likely in the context; nor does "juice" (Lat. suxus).

A sheaf of steel comprised 30 pieces.

A heavy rope or cable used to for towing, mooring, or anchoring a ship.

"hauberk" "haubergeon"
A hauberk was a mail shirt that also extended to cover the legs; this was the principal element of armour before plate was introduced. A haubergeon was a shorter version.

A measure of lead, one-thirteenth of a fother (perhaps the amount here referred to as a load). Today, 70 lbs., but perhaps up to twice as much in the medieval period, depending on the weight of a fother.

Parmentery was clothing made out of leather; Tingey identifies a chef, or cheef, as 14 ells.

In regard to the sable furs, the word here translated as bundle is tymbre in the original; this was a measure comprising 40 furs. In regard to the sheep skins, the original of bundle is bynd, which comprised 32 skins.

Some kind of colouring used in ink.

A tough fibre obtained from plants such as flax or hemp and used to make rope.

The term here translated "badges" is in the original eymes. Tingey translated this as "weights", but I tentatively associate the term with the Latin esmallum, on the guess that these may have been pilgrims' badges.

It is hypothesised here that flotes may refer to floats for nets. Without explanation, Tingey translates the term as "skeins of wool", but suggests float-wood as an alternative.

A striped cloth.

A type of fur.

Coudres may possibly refer to hazel-nuts rather than the wood itself.

A hypothetical translation of braqe.

Tingey translates parnez as pieces of woodwork, but on what authority I do not know.

"four terms"
Michaelmas, Hilary, Easter and Trinity.

"farm of the water"
Probably a lease of collection of tolls on ships passing along the river.

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Created: August 18, 2001. Last update: December 22, 2002 © Stephen Alsford, 2001-2003

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