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 People of Rylstone

The first written information on the 'ordinary people' of Rylstone, as opposed to the land owners, comes from the various taxes that are recorded as being levied on behalf of the King. The Subsidy Rolls (Poll tax, tax on heads or polls) of 1377 and 1379 are the first of these with records on Rylstone (Ryllston) (1,2). These taxes were levied during the reign of Richard II. [The de Rilleston family appear much earlier in the Early Yorkshire Charters; see de Rilston Family tree]. The Poll Taxes were levied again in 1381, but the hostility aroused by the tax caused it to be abandoned after the 'Peasants Revolt', also in 1381.


There were 34 people named in the roll of 1377 and three people appearing at the bottom of the roll one of whom was a constable (term meaning an official) and the other two were down as good men of standing and they were the countersignatures. This tax was a supplement to the tenths and fifteenths raised also in 1377, it was raised on individuals rather than property or wealth as the tenths and fifteenths were. The Poll Tax was a basic 4d (pence) per person, but the clergy, children and some others were exempt. Fifteenths and tenths were land taxes; people living in towns paid a tenth and those in the country a fifteenth. These taxes continued until the 17th century.


The 1379, Poll Tax return for Rylstone lists 25 men and 31 women who were living in the village. Children under the age of 16 would not be listed. People listed paid the tax, which was a basic 4d per year, with more for tradesmen and those who were wealthier; for example Willelmus de Releston paid 3s (shillings) and 4d (pence). There were 30 people named who paid 4d and two who paid 6d. Twenty two of the people named who paid 4d and both the men who paid 6d were named and wife, so they seemed to have paid the amount to cover both of them. This poll tax also showed that a William de Rilston was Lord of the Manor; there were two weavers and a miller in the village at that time.


There are no records of taxes from the people of Rylstone during the 15th century that we have found. In Henry IV’s reign Parliament tried various land taxes and in 1435 and 1449 war emergencies led to a graduated income tax.


The next records of the people of Rylstone are found in the Early Tudor Craven Subsidies and Assessments (3), in the Loan Book of 1522 for the Wapentake of Staincliffe. It lists the assessments on both lands and goods; there is no note of the tax due. It also lists lords and stewards of each manor and bonds of dependence between lords and tenants. It is probably one of Wolsey’s assessments in 1522, as it includes both the 10th Lord Clifford and his son Sir Henry Clifford and, therefore, predates Lord Clifford’s death in April 1523. The loan was another device for raising money for the King. These loans were usually voluntary in theory although refusal could be very difficult and might result in imprisonment – and they were often not repaid. They varied in scope but often only the wealthier members of society were invited to contribute.


Wolsey’s purpose was two-fold: firstly to make a detailed census of the nation’s military resources, both manpower and weapons and secondly to obtain a detailed fiscal assessment, possibly to enforce the possession of harness and weapons.


John Norton was the chief lord for Rylstone at this assessment with 24 tenants with bonds of dependence to him. The amounts assessed varied from 40s to nil.

The 1524 Lay Subsidy return for the Wapentake of Staincliffe shows individually assessed taxes. The level of taxation to be raised was granted by Parliament. The gross sum was charged collectively on each township. The Villa de Rylston paid 15s in this year as taxation on three people whose combined assets came to £30 pounds.

Lay subsidies were a tax on property first levied in the 13th century. They were widely used in the early 14th century, but then declined as a means of raising revenue. They were revived in the 16th century by the Tudor Parliaments. They were voted by Parliament for specific purposes, such as war, to be levied at so much for every pound for which each person was considered worth in goods and real estate. Everyone was assessed by special commissioners and then taxed according to the rate of the subsidy.

In 1525, the lay subsidy for Villa de Rylston was 8s, and this was raised on seven men. The total value of their assessments was £16.

The next recorded Lay Subsidy for the Wapentake of Staincliffe was in 1543. At that time, Rilleston come under Ballivat de Kett’dale (Balliwick of Kettlewell). There were 31 people assessed as having to pay the tax on sums from £5 to £1, at the rate of 2d for each pound taxed. The total for the township was 17s 6d.

In contrast in 1547 the lay subsidy was paid by just three men each assessed at £5 who paid 8d in the pound and therefore the township paid 10s.

There is one return of the fifteenths (4) for Staincliff and Ewcross Wapentake village of Rylstone for 1562-3. Two men who appeared in the 1543 lay subsidy had goods worth £3 and each paid 5s each.

The next well recorded collection of tax is the Hearth Tax (5) (sometimes called the Chimney Tax). It provided a useful census of heads of families. For each hearth or stove a sum of 2s per annum was paid although the poor were exempt. The tax was payable half-yearly on Lady Day (25th March) and Michaelmas (29th Sept.) and was collected by constables and sheriffs who also had the right of entry to check any query regarding the number of hearths. The Tax was thought to be fair as the more wealthy a person was, the more hearths he would have. The records for this, in 1662, show that in Rylstone there were 37 households eligible to pay the tax. One household headed by Mr Francis Stireing had six hearths and was probably the Manor house. Mr Watkinson had three hearths and it is known that he was living at Scale House. Three households had two hearths; those of Richard Barton, John Scott and Richard Bolton and each of the remaining 32 had one hearth. The Tax was abolished following the Revolution in 1688.

The next three records located refer to Polls for Knights of the Shire. It was during the 13th century that each county was allowed to send two Knights of the Shire as members of Parliament to represent the specific interest of that county. After 1826, the number of knights from Yorkshire was increased to four.

The first recorded poll for Knights of the Shire for Rylstone was in 1807 (6) when six freeholders were entitled to vote for up to two candidates. The names of three candidates were put forward; Hon. Henry Lascelles, William Wilberforce and Lord Milton and the last two named persons were elected. All the Rylstone voters chose Lord Milton.

The second Poll was in 1841 (7), and this time there were four candidates: Lord Milton, Lord Morpeth, Hon. J.S.Wortley and E.B.Denison Esq. The last two were elected to serve in Parliament for the West Riding of Yorkshire. In Rylstone, there were 11 persons entitled to vote and they had two votes each.

The third of these Polls was in 1848 (7), the two candidates being Sir Culling Eardley Eardley Bart (Liberal) and Mr Edmund Beckett Denison (Conservative). Mr.E.B. Denison was elected.

Voting in boroughs was restricted to men who occupied homes with a minimum annual value of £10 and there were other qualifications in respect of properties in rural areas. This resulted in only one out of seven males being allowed to vote. Females were still disenfranchised giving more ‘fuel’ to the suffragette movement. In Rylstone eight men had 10 votes between them.

The census data from 1841 to 1911 (8) is very interesting as it shows the number of dwelling places was fairly constant at around 25, and the number of occupants was similarly fairly constant fluctuating between 36 and 49 over the 70 years. The majority of the male villagers were employed on the farms. The chief paid employment for the women was as house servants.

A century later there were 55 homes and 130 adults living in Rylstone (9).


​1. Fenwick, C. C. (Ed.) (2005). The Poll Taxes of 1377, 1379 and 1381. Wiltshire-Yorkshire. ISBN: 0197263364. London: British Academy.

2. The Subsidy Rolls (Poll Tax) of 1379 for Rylstone in Burnsall Parish in Staincliffe Wapentake, Yorkshire. Available online at:

3. Hoyle, R. W. (Ed. 1985). Early Tudor Craven: Subsidies and Assessments 1510-1547. Record Series 145. Leeds: Yorkshire Archaeological Society.


4. Return of Fifteenths for Staincliff and Ewcross Wapentake 1562-3. Yorkshire Archaeological Society. Bradfer – Lawrence Collection MD335/1/10/2/4.


5. Hearth Tax, 1662 for West Riding of Yorkshire. Available online at:


6. County of Yorkshire. The Poll for Knights of the Shire,1807. Available online at:

7. County of Yorkshire. Polls for Knights of the Shire, 1841 and 1848. Available online at:


8. Census data 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1891, 1901 and 1911. Available at Skipton Library.


9. Office for National Statistics (2014). Electoral Register for 2014. Available at Skipton Library.

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