Vowchurch Tithe Assessment 1845

In medieval England and Wales tithes were an agreed proportion of annual farming profits, paid by parishioners to support their parish church and clergy. Tithes were traditionally paid in kind (hence the use of tithe barns) but soon began to be substituted by money payments. Generally speaking "great tithes" (corn, grain, hay and wood) were payable to the rector and "small tithes" (vegetables, animal produce, fishing and mill profits) to the vicar. The dissolution of the monasteries resulted in many great tithes transferring to lay ownership, while the 18th century enclosures drove further reform of the system. In the case of Vowchurch the incumbent was a vicar, and the rector was, in effect, the diocese.

The Tithe Act of 1836 was a lengthy and complicated piece of legislation, but was principally aimed at commutation or substitution of payments in kind of the land's produce, with payments of money. In some areas this had already happened under the influence of local Enclosure Acts, but enquiries were made of every parish or township listed in the census returns for England and Wales. In Vowchurch parish the assessment and subsequent apportionment was completed in 1845. The record of this is an 18 page listing of every piece of land in the parish, giving the landowner, the occupier, the name of the land or premises, the type of cultivation, the area, and the tithe rent payable. In addition each parcel of land is given a number which cross refers to the accompanying tithe map. The map is a large scale portrayal of the whole parish, at a scale of 3 chains to the inch (1:2376).

The tithe apportionment provides a snapshot of land use in the mid-19th century, listing the owners and occupiers of that land, mid-way between the censuses of 1841 and 1851. It complements the censuses, providing information about holdings and the type of production, but unlike the census it lists only the equivalent of "head of the household" rather than every person present.

The above text is extracted from an article by Steven Edwards (2011) in the Newsletter of the Golden Valley Study Group. A full transcript of the Vowchurch tithe apportionment, as well as a photographic record of the tithe map, is available on request, in return for a donation to church funds.