Justice in the localities

  • Justice done in monarch's name
  • By 1485 - judicial system well established - central courts of law, travelling and local courts
  • Main central court = Court of the King's Bench in London
  • Judges went around localites twice a year
  • Justices of Peace (JPs) = local nobility and gentry - increase power and influence since 14th Century
  • Appointed annually for each county (county bench)
  • Hear and decide cases of felony and trespass
  • Arrested potential suspects
  • Supervised fixing on prices and wages
  • Attend quarter sessions in the year to perform role
  • Appointed because - lawyers (quorum = present at meetings) / nobility and gentry / ownership of land worth £20 a year
  • JPs adminiser Poor Law and control vagrants
1 of 12

Role of Justice of Peace under Henry VII and Henry

Henry VII

  • Appointed trusted members of court e.g. Sir Thomas Lovell = JP in Yorkshire and Sussex
  • Increase local powers of JPs, Act of Parliament in 1495 allowed JPs to act on information received about suspects without waiting for jury
  • Power to replace jurors who they considered to be corupt
  • Gave JPs power to inquire into illegal retaining on nobility and to examine complaints of corruption against local officials

Henry VIII

  • Appointment of JP for life unless suspected of not following govt. orders / misusing power
  • Wolsey keen to improve local justice and JP quality
  • 1526 = summoned JPs to hear peech before filling out a 21 section questionnaire on law and order
  • Cromwell careful to check who was appointed as JPs
2 of 12

JPs under late Tudors

  • Socio-economic crisis of late 1540s and early 1550s led to fears of social disorder - 1552, AoP = all alehouses had to be licenced by JPs
  • 1549 = ordered to take inventory of parish goods in order to expose those who had illegally taken them
  • 1552 = ordered to enforce 2nd Prayer Book
  • By Elizabeth's reign = amount of business by JPs and size of county benches increased
  • County bench - 25 under Wolsey / 40-50 under Elizabeth
  • No. of JPs by 1603 = 40-90
  • Local gentry - JP key to get power and advancement in politics - Cecil'l royal judges visited counties twice a year - limited govt. intervention - element of corruption
  • Establishment of LL in 1585 = royal control
  • Appointment of deputy lieutenant = JPs
  • By 1603 = 309 AoP which placed responsibility on JPs
  • 1580s - could deal with riots, witchcraft, property damage and recusancy, minor offences e.g. drunkenness
3 of 12

Monarchy finance

  • Crown = 2 main sources of income = royal lands and monarch's status as landlord (ordinary revenue) / taxation granted by parliament for monarch's needs (extraordinary revenue)
  • Tension between Crown's income and expenditure - monarchy rarely had enough money and reliant on parliamentary taxation
  • Expenditure e.g. Henry VIII spent more than £100,000 on Hampton Court Palace and Whitehall 
  • Royal Household in 1550s = £75,000 a year to run
  • Increased taxation - dangerous unrest (high levels over long periods)
  • Poorer regions - West and North = difficult to meet Crown's demands leading to revolts of 1489 and 1497 under Henry Vii based on taxation
  • Pilgrimage of Grace (1536) - background of taxation levels and poverty in Northern England
  • Led to development of new taxation from 1513
4 of 12

Taxation before 1513

  • No change in taxation since 14th Century
  • Parliament only institution to grant taxation - early Tudors = taxation in emergency e.g. war
  • System of tenths and fifteenths based on property and could include land and possessions
  • 1334 onwards = local community payments fixed (each tenths and fifteenths = £29,500)
  • Not enough income generated = price inflation, money owed was at a fixed rate - not meeting expenditure needs
  • Wealth and power avoiding to pay - burden of taxation on poorest of society/urban = more tax than local
  • Henry VII continued to use method - taxation granted in 1487, 1489-92 and 1497
  • Repeated in 1504, raised additional £180,000
  • Asked parliament for tenths and fifteenths and agreed to new tax, assessed on individual's wealth and ability to pay = direct assessment
5 of 12

1513 Subsidy

  • Thomas Wolsey's achievment - Henry VIII needed money for wa
  • 1509-20 - govt. spent £1 million on war effort, only received "25,000 a year from ordinary revenues before taxation

Introduction of Subsidy

  • Flexible - each individual assessed on income from different sources of wealth
  • Subsidy assessed by ability to pay based on wealth and property, paid tax on wealthiest category
  • Separate assessment for nobility, based on rank
  • Local officials appointed for each county - assess wealth
  • JPs monitored by national commissioners
  • Successful - 1513-23 = £302,099 (not sustained)
  • Cromwell asked parliament for subsidy to fund got. in peacetime
  • Elizabeth's reign - peacetime subsidies of £140,000, recieved £80,000
  • Demands of war increased, little to show, parliaament reluctant to grant subsidy e.g. 1523 denied £800,000
  • 1525 = Wolsey forced to raise non-parliamentary tax (Amicable Grant) - mass resistance, forced to cancel
6 of 12

1513 Subsidy

  • Elizabeth's reign = assessment of subsidy allowed to stagnate
  • Permitted rates of tax paid to become fixed - 4 shillings for every pound their land was worth / 2 shillings and 8 pence for every pound of goods
  • Less money and able to buy less with received money
  • After 1563 - taxpayers' assessment accepted as accurate - no oath, less income than reality
  • William Cecil = £4000 a year, claimed = £133 6s 8d
  • Tax records not kept up to date e.g. Suffolk 1523 = 17,000 taxpayers, by 1566 = 7000
  • Elizabeth's answer = medival way and multiple subsidies
  • 1601 asked and granted 4 subsidies and 8 fifteenths and tenths
  • Corruption and stagnation - forced to exploit royal prerogative to fund wars
  • Didn't face tax rebellions - suggests that England better controlled
7 of 12

Growth of the poverty and Government response

  • Poverty increase - issues of unemplyment and vagabondage
  • Main cause = increase population
  • Apart from 1550s, poor harvest and influenza (Mary's reign)
  • 1525 = 2.26 million/1551 = 3.01 million/1601 = 4.1 million
  • Prices increase / Wages decrease
  • Population increase, pressure placed on resources - more to feed, more demand for food to grow - higher prices
  • 1519-1587 on and off, grain scarcer, prices increase
  • Dissolution of monasteries in late 1530s - traditional source of support and alms for poor
  • Led to vagrancy and beggars - too lazy to work
  • Used punishments - harder to control
  • Threat to social order - could be arrested
  • Vagrants made to return to original parishes - known by authorities
8 of 12

Socio-economic legislation before 1563

  • Henry VII = ordered that beggars and idle poor put in stocks for 3 days, whipped and returned to original parish - poor relief here based on voluntary contributions by wealthy parishoners to church alms fund
  • 1531 - Poor law passed and ordered vagrants to be whipped, impotent poor licenced by JPs and allowed to beg
  • 1547 - Vagrancy Act, vagrant = able-bodied, without master, employment for 3 days
  • 1st offence = V branded on persons chest, forced to work as a slave for 2 years for person who informed against them - impossible to enforce = too harsh
  • Repealed in 1550 and replaced in 1552 by new Poor Law = impotent poor to be registered for 1st time - required Parish Priests and Bishops to place more pressure on those reluctant to make voluntary contributions to alms
  • Attempted to regulate wages and prices through parliamentary statute - pressure from particular interest groups who wanted to protect their trades
  • Acts passed in 1547 and 1555 to regulate cloth-making in East Anglia and Worcester
  • 1536 - Cromell introduced Radical Act, ordered local officials to find work for beggars and to organise collections for impotent poor - not renewed
  • 1548-9 - laws passed against price and wage fixing in 1554, Act introduced to forbade export of corn when prices above certain level
9 of 12

Statute of Artificers, 1563

  • 1551-1561 - population decrease from 3.01 million to 2.98 million
  • 1st attempt by central govt. to produce legislation that would address multiple problems
  • More authority on JPs who were expected to enforce it
  • All unmarried people under 30 compelled to work and to accept any job
  • Harvest, JPs could force all those able to work to help bring in crops, refusing = 2 days in stock
  • 12-60 required to work on land unless gentry, heir to lands worth £10 a year, goods worth £40, already employed in skilled craft, worked in mining, metal-working, glass-making, attending school/university
  • All wages assessed and set by local JPs annually
  • Work hours fixed - summer = 5am to 7/8pm, no more than 2hrs30mins for meal breaks / winter = dawn-sunset, penalty for absence = 1d an hour
  • Apprenticeships = 7 years, compulsory for any skilled occupation
10 of 12

Statute of Artificers (significance)

  • Increase in importance of JPs = regulation of socio-economic affairs in region
  • Technically impossible to enter skilled trade without apprenticeships
  • Emphasis on need for every person to have master and importance of food production as essential job for everyone to be involved
  • Central govt. attempts to control wage increase and social structure since 14th Century
  • Govt. responding to local experimentations with wage assessments and control began in 1550s e.g. London and York builders' wages
  • Statute respond to local trend - felt need to respond to concerns = growing partnership between centre and localities
  • Didn't solve all problems - further acts needed to deal with poverty and vagabondage e.g. 1572+1576+1598 Poor Laws
  • Determination of JPs to hold wages, annual assessments published, didn't change for years e.g. Kent 1563-1588 no change
  • 1590s forced to increase wages
  • Unsuccessful at preventing unemployment and vagrancy - assumed that there was always work for everyone
  • Migration = result of harvest time
  • Vagrancy increase 1580s and 1590s
11 of 12

Act for the Relief of the Poor, 1598

  • Deal with vagrancy and poverty
  • Elizabeth I = 1563, same act moved towards making payments to poor relief in parish - compulsory
  • Special collectors of alms were appointed to collect contributions to local fund - refusal = imprisonment (special collectors decide amount)
  • 1572 Poor Law = punishments e.g. boring hole in right ear for unlicenced beggars severe, harder to get a licence 
  • 1570s and 1580s - relatively stable economy - increased expectation that local parishes would provide for poor e.g. Norwich and York set up in 1549 and 1550
  • 1596 - food riots in south east/west and London
  • Increased socal unrest, severe socio-economic crisi 1594-8
  • Act for the Relief of the Poor from private billd - 1597 = 11 draft bills - introduced post of overeer of poor for each parish, job was to assess how much poor relief was needed and to collect and distribute relief - revised in 1601, lasted until 1834
  • Unpaid overseer - supervised y JPs, additional powers to raise compulsory contributions to local poor relief and punish who refused
  • Combined with other poor laws e.g. Vagabonds Act (1598), ordered most dangerous vagrants to be banished
  • Act for the Relief of Soldiers and Marines provided pensions for wounded.
12 of 12


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all Rebellion and disorder under the Tudors, 1485-1603 resources »