Tithes in England and Wales were originally payments in kind of a tenth of the annual produce of land by way of crops and animals, payable to either the parson of the parish, or an entitled lay person, or both. By the 1830s tithes were highly unpopular amongst rural landowners, as they did not reflect the changing social and economic conditions of the dawning industrial age. Some individual arrangements had already been made to commute the payment to a fixed sum of money, and under the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836, the remaining payments in kind were to be commuted into fixed monetary sums based on average prices for wheat, barley and oats. Negotiations took place between local landowners and the parish authorities to arrive at these sums, though in some case the government’s Tithe Commission stepped in to mediate. Coverage is not complete as no apportionments exist for parishes where commutation had taken place prior to 1836. In this case, enclosure awards can often prove useful.
Parishes with outstanding payments in kind were surveyed to produce a tithe apportionment, consisting of a tithe map, showing the properties in the parish that were liable to tithes, and an apportionment schedule which set out the financial liability for each landowner involved. These schedules provide vital clues about a historic property’s ownership and occupancy, as they list both the landowner and their tenants. The schedules give the extent of property and for farming properties often list all the fields. These field names can be very useful for comparing to earlier records, such as manorial rolls, and can help trace a property much further back in time. For houses built after the tithe commutation, the records can provide valuable information about what the land was once used for and who owned it, perhaps leading to information about the developer of the property.
The Tithe Commission retained copies of all apportionments that were created and these have been deposited at the National Archives in two series: IR 29 (apportionment schedules) and IR 30 (maps). Copies were also held at parish and diocesan level, and these will have been deposited at the local county record office.