Medieval Akeld : Population And Tenancies
The evidence for population and the number of tenancies has been summarised by Dixon (1985, II, 21-2). There were thirteen taxpayers in 1296 (Fraser 1968, No 304, see Selected Sources and Surveys), and ten in 1312/3 (PRO E179/158/6), but the Poll Tax return of 1377 lists sixty-two adults (PRO E179/158/32). The township was relatively prosperous in 1296, when moveable goods of the wealthier inhabitants, who were eligible for the lay subsidy, or tax, were valued at £53 in total.
In 1541, when the vill was mainly in the hands of the Greys of Chillingham, there were sixteen husbandlands and a bastle house (Bates 1891 33; Selected Sources and Surveys). In 1580 although it had been wasted by the Scots, there were still sixteen tenants (CBP I 14-9).
The Survey and Rental of the Baronies of Wark and Wooler compiled for Sir Thomas Grey at some stage between 1568 and his death in 1589 (NRO 4118) lists 13 ‘tennants’ and 8 cottagers. The cottagers were valued at 2s in rent each (the same as an acre of arable or meadow) and were evidently no more than smallholdings perhaps comprising a cottage dwelling and associated garden plot.
The thirteen tenancies were clearly much more substantial holdings, equivalent to the husbandlands mentioned in the other sources. Twelve of these were worth between 26s 8d and 8s 4d in rent. and there were clearly a series of relatively standard sized holdings since seven were valued at 13s 4d, another couple at 20s and a further pair at 26s 8d (i.e. exactly double the rent of the most common holding).
The rental value of one tenancy, held by one Thomas Grey - presumably an eponymous relative of Sir Thomas - was much greater than any of the others, being rated at 66s 8d. This may represent a demesne holding leased out to a relative. The number of tennants listed in the Grey survey tallies quite well with the figure of sixteen husbandlands provided by the other sources, if it is assumed that there were three or four more tenancies which formed part of that quarter of the township not held by Sir Thomas Grey. There may also have been additional cottage holdings attached to this quarter, which was held by the Wallis family throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.