Map of Customs Jurisdictions

The areas covered by the medieval English customs jurisdictions varied over time. In the first recorded customs tax, a fifteenth assessed on overseas imports and exports from 20 July 1202 to 30 November 1204, 22 ports were noted:

By the late fourteenth century, there were 13 customs headports: Boston, Bristol, Chichester, Exeter, Hull, Ipswich, London, Lynn, Melcombe/Weymouth, Newcastle, Sandwich, Southampton, and Yarmouth. Bridgwater was usually included in Bristol, but sometimes accounted separately. Several other ports served as temporary head ports in the late fourteenth century: Cumberland/Carlisle, Liverpool, Queenborough, and Scarborough. In 1402, the large customs jurisction of Exeter, which included the entire southwestern peninsula of Devon and Cornwall, was divided into two, with Exeter retaining all the Devon ports except for Plymouth, which by 1404 became the new headport of a jurisdiction including all of Cornwall.

For the different seaports within these jurisdictions over time, see E. M. Carus-Wilson and Olive Coleman, England’s Export Trade 1275-1547 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963).

Map 1: The National Customs Jurisdictions in Fifteenth-Century England

Map adapted from M. Kowaleski, “Port Towns: England and Wales 1300-1540,” The Cambridge Urban History of Britain, vol. IL 600-1540, ed. D. M. Palliser (Cambridge, 2000), p 473.