Shropshire History




to Index




19th Century Tithe Map


Tithes were payments in kind (such as crops, wool or milk), comprising an agreed proportion of the yearly profits (usually 1/10th) from farming, and made by parishioners for the support of their parish church and its clergy. The Church defined 3 types of tithe that they said were payable :-


Predial - all things arising from the ground and subject to annual increase, eg grain, wood, vegetables, etc

Mixed - all things nourished by the ground, eg young cattle or sheep and animal produce such as milk, eggs and wool

Personal - the produce of man’s labour, particularly the profits from mills and fishing.


Tithes were not payable for :-


-         anything that was of the substance of the earth or was not of annual increase, eg stone, lime, chalk, etc

-         creatures that are of a wild nature, eg deer, hawks, etc whose increase is not annual but casual.


Tithes were also divided into great and small tithes. Corn, grain, hay and wood were considered as Great Tithes and all other predial tithes, together with all mixed and personal tithes, were classed as Small Tithes. It was common for the Great Tithes to be payable to the rector and the Small Tithes to the vicar of a parish.


Detailed descriptions of how the tithes were calculated and recorded can be found at National Archives and Wikipedia.


When tithes were paid in kind, the parson needed somewhere to store them until he could either sell or use them. The answer was a Tithe Barn, which was a large barn next to the church to which the local farmers brought their produce. These barns are often distinctive in appearance and a number still exist today.


Tithe Barn


Tithes were formally recognised by Pope Adrian I in 787. In the West, Protestants and Catholics were asked to pay 1/10th of their income or produce. The Orthodox Church expected people to make voluntary payments and forbade compulsion. In the Church of the Nazarene, people pay according to their ability. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints (Mormons), people pay 1/10th of their income, which does not go to church officials but is used to build and maintain church buildings and further the work of the church.

Public Notice Demanding Payment of Tithes, 1837


The first mention of tithes in written English law is in a constitutional decree, made in a synod held AD 786, wherein the payment of tithes in general is strongly recommended. This was confirmed by the kings of Mercia and Northumberland. At first, people could pay their tithes to whichever priest they pleased or pay them to a bishop, who distributed them amongst his diocesan clergy. When dioceses were divided into parishes, the tithes of each parish were allotted to its own parson.


Exemptions from paying tithes occurred when :-


-         an agreement was made between the parson and owner of the land that no tithe was payable on such land in return for some recompense, eg the allotment of other land to the parson personally

-         the tithe was substituted for a fixed money payment or one which varied with the price of corn (hence the name corn rents applied to payments in lieu of tithes)

-         an organisation was exempted by the Pope from paying tithes, eg Knights Templar

-         no tithe had been paid on land from time immemorial.


During the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536-41, much church land (and in many cases the accompanying tithes) passed into lay ownership. The Great Tithes became payable to the new owner and the parson only retained the Small Tithes.


Tithe Act 1836  

Under this Act, the government commuted tithes, ie substitute money payments for payments in kind, throughout the country. Three Tithe Commissioners were appointed to begin the process of commutation. The underlying principle was to substitute Corn Rents for the payment of tithes in kind. These new Corn Rents, known as Tithe Rent Charges, were not subject to local variation but varied according to the price of corn calculated on a 7-year average for the whole country.


The first task of the Commissioners was to discover to what extent commutation had already taken place so enquiries were directed to every parish or township listed in the census returns. The initial process in the commutation of tithes in a parish was an agreement between the tithe-owners and landowners or, in default of agreement, an award by the Tithe Commissioners, of the amount of the replacement Rent Charge. This was known as the apportionment of payment. When an award was not followed by an apportionment, because the rent charge was subsequently extinguished by merger and/or redemption, the awards were filed separately and known as Special Awards. When the landowner was also the tithe-owner, a situation was created in which an individual was effectively liable to pay tithes to himself. Such a situation was usually resolved by a Deed of Merger, ie merging the tithes on the land and extinguishing the liability to pay tithes by virtue of being also entitled to receive them.


In most cases, the principal record of the apportionment of tithes in a parish was a document called the Tithe Apportionment, accompanied by a map. Most apportionments follow the general pattern set out in the instructions which were issued at the time. The document opened with a preamble which contained :-


-         the names of the tithe-owners

-         the circumstances in which they owned the tithes

-         information about whether the amount of rent charge to be apportioned was agreed between the landowners and tithe-owners or a compulsory award made by the Tithe Commissioners

-         statistics on 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

-         the area covered by commons, roads and so on.


The detailed apportionment of the tithe rent charges then followed. A rent charge was set out against each unit of charge, termed a tithe area. The amount of the charge was 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 and tables were issued from 1837 onwards which enabled the precise payment due to be calculated for the par value of any amount of rent charge. The detailed apportionment had columns for :-


-         the name of the landowner and occupier

-         the number, acreage, name and state of cultivation of each tithe area

-         the amount of rent charge payable

-         the name of the tithe-owner.


Where there were subsequent changes in ownership or changes in the way land was divided, these changes were recorded in altered apportionments.  The document concluded 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 rent charge had been invested in the purchase of each of those commodities at the prices prescribed by the Tithe Act 1837.


There were some districts in which no Apportionment was made, although the tithes were commuted under the provisions of the 1836 Act. This was either because the amount involved was negligible or because there was a Special Award and/or the redemption or merger of the tithe rent charges. By this means the expense of a formal apportionment and of the preparation of a map was avoided. The Tithe Maps varied greatly in scale, accuracy and size. At the outset, the Tithe Commissioners had attempted to secure a uniform and high standard. However, in most cases there was no suitable map already in existence and, while there were many skilled land surveyors available, the expense of any new survey had to be met by the landowners. Insistence upon a fixed standard would have held up the progress of commutation, so concessions had to be made. When the 1836 Act was amended in the following year, a provision was inserted to the effect that, while every tithe map should be signed by the Commissioners and a map or plan should not be deemed evidence of the quantity of the land, or treated as accurate, unless it was sealed as well as signed by the Commissioners. Only about 1,900 of the tithe maps (about one-sixth of the whole) were sealed by the Tithe Commissioners. It is these alone, called first-class maps, which can be accepted as accurate. The unsealed, or second-class, maps constitute a very mixed collection and some are little more than topographical sketches.


In many cases, discrepancies between apportionment and map subsequently created difficulties in the administration of payments and redemptions. At the time of the survey, when all the landowners concerned were well acquainted with the ground, the exact area of a piece of land or its precise delineation on a map might have appeared of little significance. The matter assumed more importance as time went on, particularly when readily-identifiable tithe areas vanished as a result of later developments. The numbers of the tithe areas on the map correspond to those in the schedules to the Apportionment. These numbers are not consecutive and most tithe Apportionments of any size had a numerical key added, showing the page of the Apportionment where each tithe area appears. As the value of the produce from hops and fruit was greater than that from most other agricultural produce, lands cultivated as market gardens, orchards and so on, were subject to a separate payment in addition to the normal tithe rent charge. This charge, called an Extraordinary Tithe Rent Charge, was payable only during years when the land was so cultivated. Such lands were to be found in 16 counties but the majority lay in Kent, Sussex and Herefordshire. The Tithe Act provided for the making of an original and two copies of every confirmed Apportionment, all sealed and signed by the Tithe Commissioners. The originals were retained by the Commissioners and are now in The National Archives. The copies were deposited with the Registrar of the diocese and the incumbent and churchwardens of the parish. Many of these copies are now in local record offices.


Tithe Act 1839

Under this Act, the Tithe Commissioners could confirm Special Apportionments of certain charges attaching to lands subject to tithes, such as liability for chancel repairs.

Sometimes the commissioners had to ascertain and define ancient boundaries between parishes or townships, or to establish new boundary lines, in order to resolve disputes between landowners. These boundary awards are usually accompanied by a plan and often include schedules of lands giving names of owners and occupiers.


Extraordinary Tithe Redemption Act 1886

This Act ended the Extraordinary Tithe Rent Charge and allowed for its capital value to be ascertained and certified by the Commissioners.


Tithe Act 1918

This Act made provision for the redemption of tithe rent charges by means of terminable annuity payments for a period not exceeding 50 years.


Tithe Act 1925

This Act extended the period of terminable annuity payments to a maximum of 60 years.


Tithe Act 1936

This Act was introduced following the report of the Royal Commission on Tithe Rent Charges 1934 and :-


-         abolished all tithe rent charges payable on land immediately before 2nd October 1936 and replaced them by redemption annuities payable for 60 years, ending on 1st October 1996, unless redeemed or otherwise extinguished in the meantime. These annuities were to be paid to the State by those who had formerly paid rent charge

-          compensated the former tithe-owners out of Government stock

-          set up the Tithe Redemption Commission with the duty of collecting the new terminable redemption annuities for the State.


This effectively abolished all tithe rent charges and today they are only voluntary. The first task facing the Tithe Redemption Commission was to check claims submitted by tithe-owners who had hitherto been entitled to collect tithe rent charge payable under the Tithe Act 1836. Valid rent charges were then converted into redemption annuities and the sums to be collected from landowners were calculated. At the same time, the Commission also undertook to prepare fresh maps for each tithe district, based on modern Ordnance Survey sheets. Interpretations of each area as shown on the original tithe maps were plotted as accurately as possible in a limited time. Subsequently a programme was begun of checking in detail these first interpretations, the correctness of the rent charge/annuity conversions and the ownership of the properties concerned. Following this, the annuities were confirmed and, where appropriate, apportioned by a formal order. This process was known as District Apportionment and resulted in the creation of District Record Maps and Orders for Apportionment.


Tithe Act 1951

This Act empowered the Commission to prescribe the procedure to be followed in connection with calculating the cost of annuities charged on land for the redemption of tithe rent charge or of corn rents. It also modified the District Apportionment that had been interrupted by the Second World War.


1956 - the District Apportionment programme was abandoned, by which time about 5,900 of the 11,830 tithe districts had been dealt with.


1960 - the Government transferred the functions of the Tithe Redemption Commission to the Board of Inland Revenue.


Finance Act 1977

This Act stated that there were sufficient funds in the tithe account to service the existing redemption stock and, because of the high administrative costs of the scheme, tithe redemption annuities should be extinguished. Final payments were to be made by October, equal to twice the normal payment.


A good example of a tithe map and apportionments is shown on the website of the Broseley Local History Society. Follow the links on that page to see the map and apportionments for Broseley and Barrow.




Current Remains


The only visible remains of tithes today are a few tithe barns as below


Acton Burnell (SJ535020)


Associated with Acton Burnell Castle, owned by the Burnell family since the 1180s


Dorrington (SJ731408)


In the grounds of Netley Hall


Hodnet (SJ611282)


Dating from 1619. Timber framed with red brick nogging and tile roof

Norton (SJ728004)


Now part of the Hundred House Hotel


Smethcott (SJ457010)


On Newhall Farm, built in the 17th Century with a timber frame


Stanton Long (SO572906)

Now converted into a private residence


Upton Cressett (SO655923)


Now converted into a holiday letting