Tithes & the Tithe Commutation Act Survey 1810-1850
(Tatham & Melling Parishes)

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Historically, tithes were payments made to support church and clergy by parishioners, based on an agreed proportion of annual ‘income’, typically one-tenth. Several categories existed: (i) great tithes which were based on growth (predial tithes): grain, hay, wood; (ii) small tithes (mixed tithes) based on animal produce: young, wool, milk, eggs, or on the products of labour (personal tithes), e.g. mills, fishing. Commonly, the great tithes were payable to the rector and the small tithes to the vicar of a parish, where such a distinction existed. Also, after the reformation, great tithe ownership could pass into the ownership of lay persons (improprietor). In the local area both situations existed: in some townships ownership was in the hands of the rector and in others it was shared unequally between the rector and Lord of the Manor, in favour of the latter. By the 18th century, tithes in kind were gradually being replaced by equivalent monetary payments, i.e. compounded, by an agreed arrangement or modus. Eventually, in the 20th century, dislike of the complex tithe system led to the 1836 Tithe Commutation Act which resulted in a unified system over the country whereby all a parish tithes were replaced by a single annual lump sum or rent charge tied to grain values, which was subdivided between property owners according to the property's valuation.1

The history of tithes in the local area, in the first half of the 19th century, is described below mainly using Tatham as an example, because of the availability of early records.

Tatham Parish Tithes 1810-1847

Records of Parish tithe payments exist in the Lancashire Record Office in the form of account books kept by George Smith,2-4 who was clerk to George Wright, steward of Hornby Castle Estate, as well as in the former's Diary for 1819-1856.5 Apart from the stallinges (see below), only one account is signed Geo(rge) Smith, but the handwriting is consistent throughout. They indicate that several different tithes were collected every year: (i) Midsummer & Martinmas tithes; (ii) Easter Dues; and (iii) Corn tithes, although these were not straightforwardly related to the categories given above.

In the case of Tatham Parish, they were collected for the benefit of the Rectors: firstly Reverand Anthony Lister (later known as Rev. A. Lister Marsden) (1809-1823), followed by Reverand John Marsden Wright (1823-1874), son of George Wright. Initially, their collection was organised by G. Wright & G. Smith but, after court cases resulted in a change of ownership of Hornby Castle Estate in 1838, the Rector was directly involved together with George Smith. In addition, it appears that the tithes were used to support the poor, constables and highways rather than these requiring separate levies, with George Smith paying out sums of money from them, e.g.5

  • March 1821 Joseph Collinson called & I paid him a Poor & Constable Rate for Tatham Tithes
  • June 28th 1823 Robt Buttle called about the divisions of the Highway Rate for Arkholme Tithe

The so-called Midsummer & Martinmas (11th November) tithes, also referred to as small tithes, were single levies made on wool, lamb, geese, calves and sometimes pigs, which were listed in the annual account books from 1810-1849 for each farm. (Click here for an example of the transcribed record for 1810). (An earlier set for 1750-1764 are considered too fragile to be made available!). In practice, the wool was assessed on the basis of either sheep numbers or fleeces, the latter sometimes classified into fine, common & wethers. Wintering sheep were also counted since there was seemingly the practice of over-wintering fell sheep on non-fell farms, the payment for this apparently being their fleeces. In later years this was entered as a separate assessment without identifying the farm. Pigs were only infrequently tithed and not mentioned in the accounts at all in the earlier years, which seems inconsistent with many references to pig-keeping in Smith’s Diary. However, it does have one reference to a ‘tithe pig’ in 1819, paid by the inkeeper of the Bridge Inn.2,5

The assessed tithe unit was one-tenth of the relevant ‘crop', or approximately so, except for calves when every calf was assessed. A defined tithe rate was then applied to produce the tithe charge, although this was not always kept to, e.g.2

  • John Cort & William Middleton, Lowgill 1810:
  • 30 Sheep = 3 tithe sheep @ 2/1d = 6/3d
  • 12 lambs = 1 tithe lamb @ 6/6d = 6/6d
  • 30 geese = 3 tithe geese @ 2/6d = 7/6d
  • 5 calves @ 2/6d = 12/6d
  • Total Tithe: £1 12s 9d

In the above example, the calf tithe is equivalent to a one-tenth rate of 25/0d, showing that a calf was nearly four times the value of a lamb and ten times a goose, in tithe terms. The one-tenth pig rate was 5/- to 8/- in 1830. These values changed during the 30 years of the records, generally drifting down from early highs to later lows, e.g. fleeces (common) from 2/6d to 1/3d, lambs 7/6d to 4/6d, whilst calves & geese were relatively stable. However, even within years their was an unexplained variation. Although traditionally based on payments in kind, it is apparent that by the early 1800s the tithe was paid usually to the collector by the farmer in cash, although not always, e.g.2

  • John Clapham, Lowgill 1815:
  • 20 wintering sheep = 2 (tithe fleeces) @1/6d = 3/-
  • 33 sheep = 3 (tithe fleeces) ‘taken in kind’
  • 9 lambs = 1 (tithe lamb)‘taken in kind’
  • 5 calves @ 4/- = £1
  • Total (cash) tithe = £1 3s 0d

Easter Dues comprised small levies on a variety of produce. Many were a standard amount per houshold levied for convenience on proxy items rather than the products theselves, others were a small charge per item. (Click here for an example of the transcribed record for 1810). These are listed in account books for 1809-1830, in the Lancashire Record Office,3 and total Easter Dues for the next twenty years are often quoted at the end of the Midsummer and Martinmas tithe accounts. The individual levy rates can be worked out from the detailed accounts, together with the information on previous practices given in the Tithe Award of 1848,6 and records of the associated discussion meetings,7 e.g.

  • garden (produce) 1d
  • calf 1d
  • milk (cows 1d or 2d)
  • bees (swarm 1d) (honey)
  • plough (arable produce?)
  • eggs & chicks 1d
  • hemp 1d
  • foal 3d
  • corn and hay

Cows were differentiated as 1d per farrow cow (cow not in calf that year)6 and 2d per nuckled cow (newcal: calving that year).6 Hemp seems to have been widely grown in both divisions, at least between 1815-1829. The corn & hay tithe does not seem to have been levied after 1814 and this may be due to the existence of an agreement on a monetary payment, or modus, as claimed in the dicussion of the Tithe Award. Such a modus was accepted for the Higher Division (High End) with a value of £1 1s 4½d, as well as an individual modus for Robert Hall of £1 11s 6d. Interestingly, the total for corn & hay in the High End in 1810 was £1 7s 11d, indicating what the modus represented.

The Easter dues also included two church dues: a charge per ‘communicant’ – a variable charge per household, possibly 1d per adult and ½d per younger person – and a fixed ‘oblation’ charge of 1d per houshold. In some cases these were the only payments made. However, no payment was made by paupers or by others who were presumably exempt on religious grounds, including Quakers and the Catholic families of Robert Hall and Clintsfield.

Finally, the Lord’s Rent was paid by some individuals: 3/3d by Rev’d George Holden of Horton (?) and William Burrows of Guy Hill, 5/- for Hunter’s land.

Although particular days were set at the beginning of the year for payment of both groups of tithes together, the Diary shows that indivduals could pay them at any time during the year, and even years after,5 e.g.

  • January 17th 1820 Mr Wright received the Small Tithes & Easter Dues of Tatham (with George Smith in attendance)
  • March 29th 1819 John Thistlewood of Croasdale Grains, Tatham called respecting his Tithes of Wool Lamb & Calf & Easter Dues due from him as tenant of an estate there belonging to Joseph Ellershaw in the years 1813, 1814, 1815, 1816, 1817, 1818.

From at least 1811, there was an attempt at simpification by replacing both Midsummer & Martinmas tithes and Easter Dues with a single sum of money, agreed between an individual occupier and the Rector, lasting either for several years or open ended, and signed by both parties and witnessed by George Smith. (Click here for an example for Greenhaw (Green Hall) for 1814). Several were signed with a cross as late as 1834. The farmer is then said to stallinge for the sum of money (stallinge: dialect word meaning to compound for anything by the year or number).6 The agreements for 1814-1838 exist in a separate account book and these together with the tithe payments show stallinged sums increasing in frequency from one in 1811 to all but one in 1849.8 These sums were included in the Midsummer & Martinmas accounts and, consequently, the amounts of Easter Dues decreased proportionally.

Unfortunately, details of the corn tithes exist only in George Smith’s Diary. These record the sowing, shearing (reaping) and thrashing (threshing) of wheat, oats and barley in the parishes around Hornby, although not specifically in Tatham. There is also a single reference to tithe beans. Nevertheless, Tatham Tithe Grain is mentioned every year in summer from 1821 to 1849 (and by inference in 1820), when last year’s grain levy was collected , valued and then ‘let’ by George Smith, i.e. sold, often to the valuer who was commonly Thomas Barrett of Raw Ridding (Smith’s father in law) or John Lambert, Barrett’s son in law, both of whom had an interest in Wennington Mill. Its value, given for 1839 and 1841-49, varied from £62 to £100, averaging £78 10s 0d for the ten years, e.g.5

  • 1843 Friday August 18th I let the Tithe Grain in Tatham at the Bridge End to John Lambert for £77 (i.e. it took place at the inn)

The general picture is of a locally adapted sytem of tithes comprising various levies on at least 16 entities. From 1810 to early 1820s the non-corn tithes were raising about £100 per year, about 5% from Easter Dues and 95% from Midsummer & Martinmas (see figure). Subsequently, the income from both declined considerably, mainly during the period 1826-1836, to an average £57 in 1840-1845. The drop in commodity values (fleeces & lambs) must have been a major factor in this but, interestingly, there was also a decrease in the numbers of people paying tithes, although this recovered somewhat (based only on five yearly figures as yet). The corn tithes, averaging £82 for 1839-1846, are likely to have been the second major component of the tithes throughout the whole period being discussed. The only figure for the total tithes are the estimate for the seven year average of £171, produced in 1844 for the discussions related to the Tithe Commutation Act.8 Whilst this could well have been appropriate for the early period, the sum of the three tithe components is only £139, i.e. an average shortfall of £32, for which the source is unknown. Regardless of its basis or validity, this total was about to be dramatically increased!

The Tithe Commutation Act and Tatham Tithes from 1850

The work engendered by the 1836 Act was carried out by appointed Commissioners who established, by local consultation, the previous tithe procedures and amounts for a parish. From this was determined the Rent Charge Award, the single sum to be paid annually to replace the tithes. This was then distributed by the Valuer between all the individual land holdings, i.e. every house or cottage and yard, field, wood, mill etc., according to their area and use. This was listed alphabetically by owner in the Tithe Apportionment document (Schedule) and, secondly, by occupier, giving plot name, use, acreage and rent charge. The individual rent charges were totalled for each occupier, and these again again totalled for each owner in a final Summary. Tithe owners were exempt from tithes, as were roads and rivers. The location of each of these numbered land holdings was shown on the Tithe Map.

For Tatham Parish, the Assistant Commissioner was John Job Rawlinson, Barrister of Greythwaite, Lancashire, replaced later by Townsend, and the Valuer, who was more in evidence, was James Birrell of Gretna. Four meetings were held at Tatham Bridge Inn or Hornby Castle Inn, from Dec. 14th 1844 to Aug. 22nd 1848, between the Assistant Commissioner and interested local landowners and the rector, or their representatives including George Smith. Some detail of these negotiations are contained in the (incomplete) Tithe File of the Record Office and in Smith’s Diary. The average sum previously paid over the last seven years was put at £171 including 10s Highway Rate, with ⅔ coming from the lower division and two thirds from the upper. The average contribution to this from the corn tithe was £82 8s 7d.5 To this total was added £3 for unpaid tithes on coppice woods and £102 12s 7d for agistment (pasturage) and green crops. It was also proposed to add a tithe of 2 d/acre for lower division hay but this was resisted on the grounds that a previous modus covered this. This was partially accepted by the Commissioner and, after a further compromise by Smith on behalf of the Rector, £23 7s 5d was added for lower division hay, giving a final figure for the Rent Charge of £300.5,8 The award is given as a preamble to the Tithe Apportionment,7 i.e.

  • October 14th 1848: I AWARD that the annual sum of Three hundred Pounds by way of Rent Charges subject to the provisions of the said Act shall be paid to the Rector for the time being of the said Parish instead of all the tithes arising or accruing upon or in respect of all the lands of the said Parish which are subject to payment of tithes: signed J J Rawlinson

Agreement on the Apportionment eventually followed on Sept 17th 1849. It included 1144 valued and numbered properties (some numbers supplemented with letters).7 In addition 12 properties belonging to tithe owners were exempted as well as all woods, commons, moors and fells, church and chapel. So too were roads and rivers. The basis for the individual property valuation by Birrell is not clear but seems to have included use, size and quality. For example,values in d/acre for a farm at Lowgill were: meadows 6.3 to 8.7; pasture 6.7 to 14.2; rough pasture 3.5; arable 9.5 and house and yard 12.1. Comparison of the list of occupiers given in the Apportionment with the 1841 and 1851 censuses indicates that the original data for Tatham Fells derives from the period between the censuses, whereas that for Lower Tatham clearly predates 1841 (15 cases with same occupier in both censuses but different in the tithe survey). The first payments under the new scheme were made in 1850. The actual tithe paid on each tithe area, defined by the par values in the Apportionment, varied each year in proportion to the corn price adjusted Rent Charge.

The Tithe Map has a large scale (1:4733) but otherwise compares closely with the contemporary smaller scale Ordnance Survey map (1:10 560).9 Interestingly, George Smith assisted the OS surveyors in the production of that map, defining for them the parish boundaries in 1841 & 1842. The OS map were published in December 1847 (Tatham) and 1848 (Tatham Fells) and they claim to have been surveyed in 1844-45. Despite this, the Tithe Commission meetings decided that a suitable OS map could not be supplied (perhaps because of the scale) and, after Smith obtained tenders, Mr Scully of Huddersfield was appointed to produce a new map, on Nov 17th 1847. The finished map, inscribed James Scully L (Land) Surveyor, was sent to the Tithe Office for approval on April 14th 1848, for which Scully was paid £73 6s 6d, divided between the Lord of the Manor (Pudsey Dawson) and the Rector (JM Wright). Since the OS map was in fact available, although at a reduced scale, it is tempting to think that it was used as a basis for the Tithe Map, by simple enlargement. Details could then be quickly checked and amended where necessary. Smith actually records his use of such a device, a pantograph (given as pentagraph), for enlarging estate plans in 1842 and 1845. Like the tithe map, the earliest version of this OS map does not show the NW Railway's Wennington-Lancaster branch, opened in 1849 (Smith's Diary), although it is present on a later version with the same publication date. Using the OS map in conjunction with Tithe Map allows the names of houses and farms to be identified.The Tithe Act Survey maps presented here are based on information from the Tithe Apportionments and Tithe Maps, compiled on base maps derived from the 1847-48 OS maps: (see Tatham).

Tithe commutation obviously had the effect for Tatham Parish of greatly increasing the Rector’s income at the expense of the landowner. It is perhaps surprising that it was not opposed more strongly - maybe they were all too conscious of having underpaid in the past? It also clearly made the owner liable for the tithe, although of course the occupier paid in the end, overtly or otherwise (the owner’s liability was removed by the Tithe Act 1891), e.g.5

  • August 17th 1850 William Howson (tenant) of Lowgill called & paid Dr Cort’s Tithe Expenses assessment for Tatham

Revaluation of tithes of the Townships in the old Parish of Melling was also completed by J J Rawlison in 1848, i.e. Melling with Wrayton ; Hornby; Farleton; Roeburndale; Wray with Botton; Wennington (Arkholme with Cawood not considered here). In these cases the awards were divided between the Vicar of Melling (Reverend J Tatham) and the improprietor Pudsey Dawson of Hornby Castle Estate and Lord of the Manor. A table of the Tithe Awards (below) shows that the Vicar of Melling received only 7 % of them. In practice, considerably less because the Impropriate sum for Hornby is low since Pudsey Dawson occupied much of the land himself and also his tenants tithes were merged, presumably with the rent (46 % of Hornby township was owned by him). Interestingly, although Hornby Castle no longer owned land in Roeburndale (except for one smallholding), it still retained ownership of the impropriate tithes and the same is true to varying extents in the remaining townships. In contrast, the Reverend John Marsden Wright was the sole beneficiary of the Tatham Tithe Award.

Tithe Awards 1848

Parish Township Area / acres Rated items Rector / Improprietor /
Melling Melling 1052 350 6 107
Melling Hornby 3326 252 8 21
Melling Farleton 1041 186 3 41
Melling Roeburndale 8784 464 4 74
Melling Wray 6401 800 8 126
Melling Wennington 1005 289 6 67
Melling Total 21609 2341 35 436
Tatham Tatham 8501 1165 300 -


1 National Archives Research Guide 41.
2 Tithe Collection Books, Midsummer & Michaelmas Tithes 1810-1834 & 1835-1849, Lancashire Record Office PR2920/3/3-6 & PR542.
3 Easter Dues 1809-1830, Lancashire Record Office PR2920/3/1-2.
4 Tithe & Easter Dues Agreements 1814-1846, Lancashire Record Office PR2920/3/8-9.
5 Diary of George Smith, Tatham 1819-1856, transcribed by Jennifer Holt (Privately held).
6 Wright J. 1904: The English Dialect Dictionary, London. 6 vols (EH pers. comm).
7 Tatham Tithe Apportionment, Lancashire Record Office.
8 Tatham Tithe File, National Archives, IR18/4277.
9 Tatham Tithe Map, Lancashire Record Office, DRB 1/183.

Click here for Tithe Maps and Schedules

MK, with MW & EH 2010
Page created 1-3-2010. Latest update 27-12-2010
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