|Our June talk was given by Alan Mills, who discussed the impact of famine, pestilence, and the Scots on Swaledale and the North Riding in the early fourteenth century. During SWAAG’s “Swaledale Big Dig”, very little pottery from the late medieval period was found in the test pits in Reeth and surrounding villages, suggesting that this was a period of population decline. The Black Death was one factor but there were other events that affected population numbers. The Great Famine occurred between 1314 and 1323 because of catastrophic harvests, caused by successive years of bad weather, which coincided with outbreaks of bovine pestilence. In northern England problems were compounded by Scots raids, which followed the victory at Bannockburn in 1314.
Alan and Judith used the lay subsidy returns to estimate the economic impact of these events. The lay subsidy was a tax on personal ‘moveable’ property, levied by the Crown, at specific dates. Calculating the total amount raised in a particular year gives an estimation of the country’s wealth at that time. By comparing the returns for different English regions in 1313, 1322 and 1327, Alan and Judith were able to gain a measure of detrimental effect famine, pestilence and the Scots raids had on the North Riding.
Alan and Judith’s research was published in the Local Historian and a copy of the full report can be read by clicking Fieldwork Reports in the Quick Links at the top of the website.