Roger Amyce was a man of importance in Abingdon in the mid-sixteenth century. In 1547, as a middle-ranking civil servant, he became ‘surveyor’ or supervisor in Berkshire of all the many properties that had fallen to the Crown as a result of the dissolution of the monasteries and of the guilds. Since almost all of Abingdon had been the property of its now-dissolved Abbey, and the guilds or fraternities no longer existed as local institutions, he took on much of the responsibility for the economic administration of the town. He authorised bridge repairs, and worked with the entrepreneur William Blacknall to develop local industries, including the manufacture of sailcloth. He helped to set up the charity of Christ’s Hospital to replace some of the functions of the dissolved Holy Cross Fraternity, and was its first auditor and then its second master, following Sir John Mason. It had been Mason who had convinced the Privy Council to allow the new foundation, but Amyce claimed, probably justly, that the initiative had been his.
Amyce’s main service to the town of Abingdon was in his survey, which was completed in 1554. This was essentially a listing of all properties in the town, with their ownership and financial yield. Two years later, those properties which still belonged to the Crown were granted to the town in its new charter of incorporation. The annual rent that the new Corporation would have to pay for them was calculated on the basis of Amyce’s figures, after the costs of repairs and maintenance. Abingdon’s Corporation was unique in its time for the sheer volume of property it owned.
At least two contemporary manuscript copies of Amyce’s survey still exist and there are several later transcripts and translations. They are an invaluable source for the history of the town in the sixteenth century.
See Glossary for explanations of technical terms.
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