ID TXA03710 / Unknown

TitleA history of the Tithes
Abstract1. The history of tithes

Originally, tithes were payments in kind (crops, wool, milk etc.) comprising an agreed proportion of the yearly profits from farming, and made by parishioners for the support of their parish church and its clergy. In theory, tithes were payable on (i) all things arising from the ground and subject to annual increase - grain, wood, vegetables etc.; (ii) at! things nourished by the ground - the young of cattle, sheep etc., and animal produce such as milk, eggs and wool; and (iii) the produce of man's labour, particularly the profits from mills and fishing. Such tithes were termed respectively predial, mixed and personal tithes. Tithes were also divided into great and small tithes; generally speaking, corn, grain, hay and wood were considered great tithes, and all other predial tithes together with all mixed and personal tithes were classed as small tithes. It was common, but by no means universal, for the great tithes to be payable to the rector and the small tithes to the vicar of the parish.

During the dissolution of the monasteries, much church land - and in many cases also the accompanying rectorial tithes - passed into lay ownership. These tithes became the personal property of the new owners or lay impropriators. Usually a vicar continued to have spiritual oversight of the parish and to receive its vicarial tithes.

From early times money payments began to be substituted for payments in kind, a tendency further stimulated by enclosures, particularly the parliamentary enclosures of the latelSth century. Enclosures were often made in order to improve the land and its yield, and had they proceeded without some arrangements respecting tithes, the rectors, vicars and lay owners of the tithes would have received an automatically increased income, as indeed they did when cultivation was improved without preliminary enclosure. One object of the Enclosure Acts was to get rid of the obligation to pay tithes. This could be done in one of two ways: by the allotment of land in lieu of tithes, or by the Substitution either of a fixed money payment or of one which varied with the price of corn {hence the name corn rents applied to payments in lieu of tithes). The limits of the land allotted, or of the land charged with a money payment, were generally shown on a map attached to the Enclosure Award.

2. Tithe commutation from 1836

Statutory enclosure was a purely local affair, prompted by local landowners. Although much of the country was covered, in 1836 tithes were still payable in the majority of parishes in England and Wales. Scotland and Ireland have a different history: the Acts cited in this research guide did not apply there. In 1836, the government decided to commute tithes (i.e. to substitute money payments for payments in kind) throughout the country. The Bill received Royal Assent on 13 August 1836; three Tithe Commissioners were appointed, and the process of commutation began. Although the Tithe Act 1836 (6 & 7 Will IV, c.71) is a long and complicated piece of legislation, the underlying principle was the simple one of substituting for the payment of tithes in kind corn rents of the same sort as were already payable in many parishes under the authority of a local Enclosure Act. These new corn rents, known as tithe rentcharges, were not subject to local variation, but varied according to the price of corn calculated on a septennial average for the whole country. Existing corn rents were left unaffected: they continued to be paid according to the varied provisions of the local Acts

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6. Tithe apportionments (IR 29)

In most cases, the principal record of the commutation of tithes in a parish under the Tithe Act 1836 is the Tithe Apportionment. Strictly speaking, the tithe apportionment and the tithe map (see Tithe Maps in section 9 below) together constitute a single document, but they have been separated to facilitate use and storage.

Readers normally consult microfilm copies of the tithe apportionments, for preservation reasons. To find the document reference using Discovery, our catalogue, search by place-name and IR 29.

Most apportionments follow the general pattern set out in the instructions which were issued at the time. The standard form of apportionment contains columns for the name(s) of the landowner(s) and occupier(s) (because until the passing of the Tithe Act 1891 the payment of tithe rentcharge was the owner's liability); the number, acreage, name or description, and state of cultivation of each tithe area; the amount of rentcharge payable, and the name(s) of the tithe-owner(s).

The apportionment opens with a preamble reciting the names of the tithe-owners, the circumstances in which they owned the tithes, and whether the amount of rentcharge to be apportioned was the subject of an agreement between the landowners and the tithe-owners or of a compulsory award made by the Tithe Commissioners. The preamble usually contains, too, statistics as to the area and state of cultivation of the lands in the tithe district; the extent of the land subject to tithes and of lands, if any, exempt on various grounds from payment of tithes; and the area covered by commons, roads etc. It concludes with a statement showing the respective numbers of bushels of wheat, barley and oats which would have been obtained if one-third of the aggregate amount of rentcharge had been invested in the purchase of each of those commodities (Tithe Act 1836, s.57) at the prices prescribed by the Tithe Act 1837, s.7.

The detailed apportionment of the aggregate tithe rentcharge then follows. A rentcharge is set out against each unit of charge, termed a tithe area. The amount of the charge is the par value, not the amount actually paid, which varied from year to year. The annual value of tithe rent charge was ascertained and published yearly (Tithe Act 1836, s.56), and tables were issued from 1837 onwards which enabled the precise payment due to be calculated for the par value of any amount of rentcharge.

By the Tithe Act 1839, ss.2 and 4, the Tithe Commissioners could confirm Special Apportionments (IR 97) of certain charges attaching to lands subject to tithes, such as liability for chancel repairs.

The source of this document is not known

SourceMersea Museum