16th January 1555.

Peter's Pence still collected today.

Peter’s Pence still collected today.

Peter’s Pence had been exacted since the West Saxon, King Ina’s pilgrimage to Rome, a tribute later given by King Offa of Mercia. Every household of a certain value had to contribute a penny to the See of Rome.(1)

The first documentary evidence is a 1031 letter by Canute to the English clergy.

Peter’s Pence was applied by the Normans in the late 12th century to Ireland at a 1d per hearth, under the disputed Papal, Bull of Laudabiliter, which supposedly gave the English control over the country. It was collected every 1st August – the Feast of St Peter ad Vincula.

The exaction, as with other payments, was later used as a weapon, to be withdrawn at will, by English monarchs, against uncooperative popes, up to the Reformation. But the tax continued until 1534, when Henry VIII was disentangling from Rome: ‘The exactions paid to the See of Rome [was] ‘never more to be levied’.(2)

However his daughter Mary I overturned many anti-Papal measures of her father for today in 1555, the Royal Assent was granted which repealed all statutes, articles and provisions made against the See of Rome: sithence 20th year of King Henry the Eighth.(3) It was a re-imposition noted in Rowington, Warwickshire Church Accounts of 1556.

In the reign of Elizabeth at Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire, Church Warden Accounts of 1575 refer to ‘Peter’s Pence’ or ‘Smoke-Farthings’, expended on the bishop’s visitation’.

One Devon parish records in 1609-10: ‘Besides 2 shillings for ‘Peter’s Farthing’, there is a payment for 2 shillings for Peter’s Pence’.(4) Then a survey of the Royal Manor of Cheltenham in 1617 asked tenants: ‘Whether is paid certain moneys called Peter’s Pence if not when did they discontinue’? The reply was: ‘The moneys called Peter’s Pence are commonly every year paid unto the Bailiff”. What he did with the money is unrecorded!

An Act of Parliament of 1625 attempted to clarify the many customs in Cheltenham and acknowledged the continuing existence of Peter’s Pence: ‘And be it enacted…that the said copyholders…shall hold the said customary messuages.. and by yearly rents, ‘worksilver’, Peter’s Pence and ‘Bead-Reap’ money to be paid severally’.

There is evidence over succeeding centuries that Peter’s Pence was being paid in some form at the Manor of Cheltenham, once held by the Abbess of Syon, as records make references as late as 1802.(5)

(1) Anglo-Saxon Romescot and exacted at a penny per house of a certain rental value. Ina according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle ‘gave up the ghost’ in Rome in 728.

(2a) ‘25 years of Henry VIII of 1534’.

(2b) One collector was Polydore Virgel, an Italian, naturalised English in 1510, deputy to Cardinal Castellesi, and later a pluralistic holder of many church appointments(2).

Virgel demonstrates the power of Rome power as even before his naturalisation he was enthroned as Bishop of Bath and Wells in October 1504, but as proxy for the Cardinal Castellesi.

In his own right he was installed as Archdeacon of Wells in 1508. the lucrative appointment of the living of Church Langton, Leicestershire, and in 1508 became Prebendary of Lincoln and Hereford Cathedrals. In 1513 he acquired the Prebendary of Oxgate of St Paul’s London.

(3) (1 & 2 Philip and Mary C 8). Mary’s Act was itself repealed by Elizabeth’s 1559 Act of Supremacy.

(4) Report/Transactions of Devon Association for Advancement of Science 1906 p 521.

(5) Gloucester Archives D855/M20 and Gloucester Archives D855/M79-80.

Ref: Pic Ref: Google Images.

Ref:The Papacy, Scotland and Northern England 1342-78, 2002 ADM Barrell.

Ref: Leadership in Medieval England Nunneries,Valerie Spear.

Ref; From Hroca to Anne 1000 years in the life of Rowington, Warwicks, Joy Woodhall 1974.

Ref: Wikipedia.org/Peter’s Pence.

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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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