What is a tithe?
The word tithe literally means one-tenth. For centuries people were required to pay annual tithes to their local parish church to support it and its clergy. Originally tithes were paid “in kind” which meant handing over one-tenth of their produce (corn, hay, vegetables, eggs, wool, animals, fish, flour etc.) Not surprisingly, tithes were unpopular.
After the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century, much church property, including the rights to tithe, passed into the hands of private individuals (‘Lay Impropriators’). Collecting tithes caused endless disputes over the values of agricultural processes and produce as well as a reluctance by member of other religious denominations to pay tithes to the established church.
To end the disputes, the Tithe Commutation Act was passed in 1836. Based on land values, tithes were converted to an annual money tax known as ‘corn rents’ or ‘tithe rent charges’. Over time payment “in kind” was also substituted by monetary payments but varied from place to place. The Tithe Commutation Act set the payment based on the average price of wheat, barley and oats, thus removing local variation in payment.
What is a tithe map?
All land in England and Wales had to be surveyed and valued and tithe maps were produced. Each field or plot of land was numbered so that it could be identified in the tithe apportionment schedule. The tithe maps were often detailed and drawn to a large scale. Modbury’s tithe map is an extremely large document, measuring approximately 6ft x 4ft. A digital copy of the map has been made and the original will be kept at the Devon Records Office.
The tithe apportionment schedule is the key to the tithe map. It tells us who owned what pieces of land, what it was used for and the amount of payment due. The schedule is divided into columns:
- Occupiers – if the landowner, this is shown as ‘himself’, otherwise the tenant’s name is given
- The plot number referring to the tithe map
- Name or description of the land, premises or field
- State of cultivation eg arable, meadow, pasture, wood, garden, plantation
- The size – in acres, roods and perches
- The money due to the Vicar
- The money due to Impropriators
- Any further remarks.
Money was calculated in pounds, shillings and pence.
£1 = 20 shillings and 1 shilling = 12 pence
The apportionment schedule has being transcribed by volunteers and entered into a database.
For more information about tithe maps, visit the Devon Records Office website.