Tithes - Hartley-Kent: The Website for Hartley

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History of the Tithe

Tithes were an ancient 10% tax payable to the Church, on produce.  In the 18th Century the legal author William Blackstone summarised this as:

..in general, tithes are to be paid for every thing that yields an annual  increase, as corn, hay, fruit, cattle, poultry, and the like; but not  for any thing that is of the substance of the earth, or is not of annual  increase, as stone, lime, chalk, and the like; nor for creatures that  are of a wild nature, or ferae naturae, as deer, hawks, &c, whose increase, so as to profit the owner, is not annual, but casual.

We learn something of how tithes were collected at Hartley from depositions made in the case of Thomas Bradley v  William Bensted.  Rev Bradley was then Hartley's absentee rector, who lived at Greenhithe, William Bensted was the owner of Hartley Court.  They show collecting tithes in kind was a complicated and time consuming business.

in the period between Michaelmas 1821 and the 2nd day of September 1822, the said defendant kept on his said farms and lands within the said parish of Hartley, sometimes three and sometime four milch cows.  And this deponent saith that the said defendant did during the said period duly, as this deponent believes, set out for the said complainant in pails in the cow lodge belonging to the said defendant’s farms where the said cows were milked, every 10th day’s milk of the said cows, as and for the tithe thereof.  And that this deponent or some one by his direction, always attended the milking of the said cows on every 10th day from time to time, as the said tithe of milk was set out, and accepted the same on behalf of the said complainant, and took the same away from off the said defendant’s premises and afterward sold and disposed of the same and paid ever or otherwise accounted for the money produced by such sales to the said complainant.

...the said defendant, in the period between Michaelmas 1821 and the 2nd day of September 1822, kept on his said farms and land in the said parish of Hartley, several sows which produced him several young pigs, but how many this deponent cannot set forth, and that to the best of this deponent’s belief, the said defendant did from time to time between dates, set out the tithe of such young pigs for the said complainant.  For this deponent saith that from time to time when such young pigs were titheable, the said  defendant gave this deponent notice thereof, and this deponent thereupon went to the sties on the said defendant’s premises and took away every tenth young pig and accepted the same as and for the tithe thereof for the said complainant.  And afterwards delivered the same to the said complainant, except in one instance in the said year 1822, to the best of this deponent’s recollection and belief, when the said complainant having had notice from the said defendant, through this deponent, that a tithe pig was due and might be taken away from the sow of the said defendant, the said complainant went himself to the said defendant’s premises in the said parish of Hartley and got into the sty where the sow and young pigs were, and caught and took one of the said young pigs, as and for the tithe of the said pigs and carried the same home with him upon his horse.

(Robert Hayes of Hartley, Rector's agent for tithes)

on the 22nd day of July 1822 the said complainant attended on a room on the premises of the said defendant at Hartley aforesaid where the said defendant’s wool was deposited and kept and that this deponent was present on that occasion and attended on behalf of the said defendant for the purpose of seeing the said defendant’s wool weighed and tithed.  And this deponent saith that the said defendant’s wool was then weighed in the said room in the presence of the said complainant of the said defendant, and of this deponent and others and that the whole weight   thereof consisted of 6 cwt, 2 quarters and 23 pounds and that 75lb as and for the full tithe of the said wool was duly and fairly set out for the use and in the presence of the said complainant, as rector of the said parish and that the said complainant appeared to be perfectly satisfied therewith and made no objection thereto.

(Robert French of Northfleet, farmer)

The Rector didn't have to collect the tithes themselves, for example they could lease the right to collect the tithes to someone else, so long as they remained rector.  In 1774 the absentee rector Richard Clarke leased the income from the tithes and the rectory to a Richard Welch of Lambs Conduit Street, Middlesex.  He in turn leased it in 1783 for 7 years to Thomas Edmeads of Hartley Court for £100 p.a.  This would not be all the income because Rev Clarke had also sold annuities of £50 p.a. out of the income of the tithes.  (Source: TNA C104/269 bundle 48).

The value of the income from the tithes, and the glebe land belonging to the rector was £220 in 1796 and £230 in 1801 when the advowson (right to appoint the next rector) was offered for sale.  The adverts also mention the existence of a tithe barn to keep the tithes in.  It has been suggested in the past that Hartley RC Church was the tithe barn, but this is more likely to be the barn for Middle Farm.

By the 19th century it became increasingly common for tithes in kind to be replaced by a money payment agreed between the rector and the landowners.  The Bradley v Bensted court case mentions that in some years Mr Bensted paid a sum of money in lieu of tithe.  In 1826 the new Rector Edward Allen and the landowners agreed a sum of £319 for all lands in lieu of tithe for the next 7 years, which agreement was rolled over in 1833.  The Tithe Act 1836 set up a national system of a rentcharge in lieu of all tithes.  The tithe file set out below records some of the negotiations involved.  The landowners objected to the draft award of £359, and proposed it should be £329.  The commissioner thought £359 a fair assessment, based on recent years but did allow a reduction in respect of rates, making it £345.  Hartley was not a particularly wealthy church living, the £345 in 1844 would be about £30,000 a year today.

A map of the parish was drawn up with a schedule of the owners and each field they owned.  The schedule named the field, along with its acreage and the amount of rentcharge payable for that field.  Tithe maps are a very important local history source.

The amount of tithe mentioned in the schedule was not fixed but was pegged to the average price of corn over the 7 preceding years.  This involved taking a £100 basket in 1836 when the rentcharge was set, based on the averages it was deemed to buy 95 bushels of wheat, 168 bushels of barley and 242 bushels of oats.  In the following year the average price over 7 years meant that the "basket" of grain cost £98 13s 9¾d to buy, so the tithe rentcharge fell by about 1% compared with the schedule.  Over the next 50 years the basket varied from £90 (a fall of 10%) in 1855 to £113 (a rise of 13%) in 1875.  By 1900 the prices of corn had fallen greatly as a result of cheap imports from America so the rentcharge was only £67, meaning a fall in income of a third.  As the cost of living was similar in 1900 and 1844, this represented a fall in tithe income to £20,000 per annum.

The rapid increase in the cost of foodstuffs in World War I led to a big increase in the tithe.  In 1918 the basket stood at £109 3s 11d and threatened to go even higher.  Even though this was a big increase over 1900, the cost of living had doubled since then, further reducding the value to the Rector of Hartley in modern terms to about £14,000 a year.  Fearing a bigger rise, Parliament fixed the value at £109 3s 11d for 7 years by the Tithe Act 1918 and reduced to £105 in 1927 under the Tithe Act 1925.

Later acts of Parliament allowed people to redeem their rentcharges, which appears to have happened at Hartley in the case of Fairby and some other properties.  However by the early 20th century the tithe in Hartley was a mess.  This was mainly due to the sales of plots made by Payne and Trapps Limited and Small Owners Limited, as neither company made attempts to reapportion the tithe.  Payne and Trapps even claimed they had redeemed the tithe, which I believe turned out not to be the case.  This caused problems for individual plot owners as they could be made liable for the tithe on the whole of the land their plot was carved out of, if the collectors couldn't contact the other owners (Rev Bancks - Parish Magazine June 1927).

No tax is very popular, but tithes were disliked for many reasons.  It fell disproportionally on farm land.  It also was objectionable to the many people who were of other denominations because it supported the Anglican Church, at this time non-conformists were particularly opposed.  For historical reasons only 60% of the income from tithes nationally went to pay the parochial clergy, the people it was supposed to support.  About 20% of the income from tithes was in the hands of laypeople (Parliamentary Report 1856).  The agricultural slump of the 1930s led to great dissatisfaction.  A Kentish vicar, Canon Brocklehurst said tithes were driving a wedge between the church and people.  In his church near Ashford people refused to put anything in the collection plate and the road to the church was lined with placards saying it was a den of thieves not a house of prayer (Kent & Sussex Courier 1.3.1935).

Finally the Tithe Act 1936 abolished the rentcharge, replacing it with annuities payable to the government to last 60 years, unless redeemed or extinguished first.  The annuities were less than the previous tithe rentcharge, charged at the rate of £91 11s 2d per £100 assessed tithe for farm land and £105 per £100 for other land.  The tithe owners (the church) were compensated instead with government stock.  This required tithe owners to submit details of what they received and new maps to be created.  The latter were apparently done somewhat hastily.  The schedule of owners and map survive for Hartley, but in some cases it appears the "owner" is paying the tithes on land they had since sold.  In the end the tithe annuities were abolished 20 years early in 1977, partly because the small sums weren't worth collecting.

For more information see National Archives - Tithes.

Tithe File 1843
1. Hartley - Award Meeting

To the Tithe Commissioners for England and Wales


I attended this meeting at the Lion Inn Farningham on the 21st of November.  The Rector Edward Allen proved the affixing of te notice of meeting on the church door and another public place in the parish on the 8th of October.

The meeting was postponed by the commissioner to the 21st November.

The Rector and Mr Hayward his solicitor
Mr John Clutton for Mr Evelyn
Mr Brooks
Mr Benstead
Mr John Swaisland
Mr John Treadwell

Tithe Owner
The Revd Edward Allen as Rector is sole tithe owner.

The Rector is also patron.

The total quantity is by recent survey exclusive of glebe - 1,166 acres, 2 roods, 37 perches

Arable 907a 3r 16p
Meadow and pasture 16a 2r 31p
Orchards and gardens 13a 3r 3p
Hops 22a 2r 6p
Wood 205a 3r 21p
[Total] 1,166a 2r 37p

Glebe 11a 2r 31p
[Total] 1,178a 1r 28p

The tithes were under compositiion during the whole of hte period of averages  The composition having been originally fixed in 1826 for 7 years, and continued without alteration to the present time, except that in 1829 an abatement of 10% for each was made, this was not continued.  The amount of composition was £319

[........ Page missing on photocopy, it did mention that 1829 abatement was due to a poor crop.....]

....over £368 9s 0d

It was decided that the average should be taken being 15½, the ????? charge being by unanimous consent fixed at 12 - £9 6s 0d

The amount to be awarded - £359 3s 0d with an extraordinary charge on tithes of 12 shillings per acre.

A notice had been given by the landowners to vary the average, but no attempt was made to prove that the average was mor than the value of the tithes.

It proved that the two ageements had been drwn and partially signed in 1838.  The first for £400 adn the second for £375, in each case including the hops and glebe.

This was only £5 more than the average when the hops and glebe were added.  The award will therefore be for £359 3s 0d with an extraordinary charge of 12 shillings per acre for hops and 5 shillings per acre for the glebe.

The rent charge to commence from the 1st of October preceeding the confirmation of the apportionment.

Some of the landowners contended that the rentcharge would be very high, from what I known of the neighbourhood, I believe it is as near right as possible.

The award should be drawn with as little delay as possible.

I have the honour to be, gentlemen, your obedient servant  (S) J Woolley.  Nov 30th 1843

2 Draft Tithe Award

(17 Jan 1844)
Covering letter of award by Thomas Smith Woolley of South Collingham, Notts, esq, assistant tithe commissioner.

3  Hartley Appeal Meeting

To the Tithe Commissioners for England and Wales


I attended this meeting at the New Inn Gravesend on the 29th of February.

Mr Wiliam Benstead [Bensted] proved the affixing the notice of meeting on the Church Door and place of deposit copy draft award 28 clear days before the meeting.

Mr Benstead also proved that the copy draft award was deposited at his house in the parish at the same time and had been there open to the inspection of all parties interested till the day of meeting when he produced it.

Parties Present
The Rector and Mr John Hayward his solicitor
William Martin (sic - should be Masters) Smith esq
Mr John Chilton
Mr Benstead
Mr Treadwell
Mr Hayward of Rochester for the landowners

The draft award was gone through and found to be correct in point of form.

Mr Hayward stated that he attended on behalf of the landowners to object to the rentcharge on the grounds of its being more than the net value of the tithes - and consequently more thn ought to be demanded.

On examining the file, I found that a notice had been given to vary the averages, but the date of this office stamp sowed that it was not received till the 9th of November, whereas the notice of meeting was published on the 8th of October.

Mr Hayward (of Dartford) on behalf of the rector objected to the notice as invalid - when Mr Chutton said he was prepared to prove that it was delivered by himself to the Tithe Office on the 8th of November.  Mr Chilton was sworn and on being referred to the notice on the file stated that he delivered it at the Tithe Office in the evening of the 8th November - that it was after office hours and that he delivered it to a woman as near as he could guess about 8 in the evening.  Mr Benstead proved that he affixed the notice of meeting on the church door about 11am on the 8 of October.

The case was so peculiar that I did not feel justified in deciding whether the notice was good or not, but as Mr Marten and Mr John Chilton had attended for the purpose of giving evidence, I determined I take the evidence at all events and ascertain whether the notice was good.  I have since been informed that the delivery at the office any time on that day would be good.

Mr Hayward called Mr William Murten, who being sworn, stated tht he had been over the parish for the purpose of making an estimate of the value of the tithes which he had done with great care.  The estimate attached to my report marked (A) ammounting to £329 19s 6d.

Mr Brooks who had come in late to the meeting stated that he appeared on behalf of the committee of Mr Clarke, a lunatic, and that he did not concur in the attempt to reduce the average but attended only to watch the proceedings.

Mr Murten proceeds - his estimate is founded on the presumed cropping of the present year.  Includes everything but the extraordinary charge on hops.  

The sums accorded exclusive of the extraordinary charge being £359 3s 0d
His estimate £329 19s 6d
Difference £29 3s 6d

Mr John Chilton sworn - had also been over the parish, but had not made any particular estimate, considered Mr Murton's the full value.

Mr Hayward (the Rector's solicitor) said he was not prepared to ask any questions or to offer any evidence, which he woudl be if the notice was decided to be good.  That the case was one which he thought scarsely admitted of the claim put up - the compositions had been without variation, except the allowance of 10 per cent in the year 1829, since the year 1826, and the difference according to Mr Murton's evidence was but trifling.

I explained to the parties my view of he case, viz. that it was prima facie a case which the Act contemplated, that the evidence of opinion more would? be very thing and clear to justify me in settling it against the arrangements made by those most interested at the time when they could judge for themselves.  Finding I could make no more way, I adjourned the meeting to the same place on the 29th of April at 11.

I cannot but think that Mr Murton's estimate is a low one, at least as compared with one of the adjoining parish of Horton Kirby.  

I trust all will be settled at the next meeting.

I have the honour to be gentlemen, your obedient servant.

J Woolley, March 12, 1844

Appendix A

[Acreage][Crop][Yield per acre][Total crop]Tithe[Total Tithe]
222aWheat22 bushels610 qtr 4 bushels61 qtr @ 54s / qtr£164 14s 0d
43aBarley28 bushels150 qtr15 qtr @ 15s / qtr£22 10s 0d
94aOats32 bushels367 qtr37 qtr @ 37s / qtr£40 16s 0d
110aBeans & peas20 bushels275 qtr27½ qtr @ 31s / qtr£42 12s 0d
38aTares?16 bushels76 qtr7½ qtr @ 40s / qtr£15 0s 0d
Deduct 10% for epenses beyond the value of ????£28 11s 0d

[Total]£257 1s 0d

@ 5s£25 15s 0d

@ 3s£11 8s 0d

@ 5s£20 15s 0d

@ 2s 6d£10 7s 6d
37aNaked fallow

£0 0s 0d

@ 1s 6d£15 12s 0d

@ 3s£3 0s 0d

@ 8s£5 4s 0d
22½aHops (ordinary)

@ 9s£9 0s 0d


£5 0s 0d

[Total]£106 1s 6d

[Sum Total]£363 2s 6d
Deduct for feed of horses 9 teams 36 horses @ 6d per horse, 16 weeks?£16 0s 0d
Deduct difference between outbound and contained admeasurement 5%

45a 0r 0p arable at 7s
20a 0r 0p pasture
22a 2r 0p hops at 8s per acre
13a 0r 0p orchard
£15 15s 0d
£0 3s 0d
£1 0s 0d
£0 5s 0d

[Total]£33 3s 0d

[Grand Total]£329 19s 6d
Feb 29th 1844, William Murton

4 Second Appeal Meeting

(Received 15 May 1844) Meeting at New Inn, Gravesend.  Landowners successfully argued that the amount added for rates should be £40 10/- and not £54 10/-.

5 Tithe Map

Whereas an award of Rentcharge in lieu of tithes in the parish of Hartley in the county of Kent was on the 20th day of May in the year 1844, confirmed by the Tithe Commissioners for England and Wales, of which award the schedule therein comprised, the following is a copy....
Tithe Commissioner Thomas Smith Woolley of South Collingham, Notts.

Total Quantity of cultivated lands (excluding glebe)1,166237
of which...
Pasture or Meadow231
Orchards, Fruit Plantations, gardens1333
Hop Grounds2226

Tithes are due on all lands with hoplands separate.
.... Now know ye, that I, Thomas Smith Woolley do hereby award that the annual sum of £345 13s by way of ordinary rentcharge... to be paid to the said rector of the said parish for the time being instead of all the tithes, except the tithe of hops to which the said rector is so entitled as aforesaid, except the tithes arising from the glebe lands of the said parish.
Any future hopgrounds shall pay 12s per acre
Any glebelands sold by the rector 5s per acre
Valuer William Murton of Turnstall in Kent.

(24 Dec 1845) Complaints about the map.  Fences are not distinctly marked, place names are omitted.  A half acre belonging to Mr Clarke should be in Longfield.  They confirm most of fields 3, 83 and 144 are in Hartley, but are unsure as to whether no. 10 belonging to Rev King is in Hartley or Longfield.
(20 Mar 1846) Letter confirming corrections to the map.

6 Subsequent alterations

(1850) Deed of exchange of glebe
Letters from London, Chatham and Dover Railway Co., advising owners of necessity of a tithe apportionment

Aug 1860William Masters Smith (owner)
George Best (tenant)
7a, 7b (wood)
5a, 5b, 6a, 6b (arable)
11.1.1861George Palmer Evelyn, Charles Francis Evelyn, Edward Boscawen Evelyn (owners)
William Bensted (tenant)
11a, 17a+b, 18a+b (wood)
9a, 9b (arable)
21.8.1860William Clarke (owner)
William Bensted (tenant)
79a, 15a, 15b (arable)
14a, 16a (wood)
Aug 1860Archdeacon Walker King (purchased of Bradley) (owner)
William Treadwell (tenant)
1b Hatts Field (5a 3r 4p arable)
1a Hatts Field (10a 2r 19p arable)
Aug 1860Thomas Bradley (owner)
William Treadwell (tenant)
2a Shaw (0a 2r 6p wood)
5a, 5b, 6a, 6b (arable)
Aug 1860James Armstrong (owner)
William Armstrong (tenant)
4a, 4b (arable)
3a, 3b (wood)
21.8.1860Rev James King (owner)
himself and William Bensted (tenant)
11a, 11b (wood)
12a (arable)
Tithe Map 1844
I have plotted the map onto an overlay of the modern OS map (colour) and the 1955 Ordnance Survey map (black and white).  Some smaller plots have not been plotted but the field numbers are on the map.  In the schedule I have converted the acres, roods and perches to decimals, and converted the pounds, shillings and pence into pounds and pence, largely to get the table to fit better.

Modern map contains OS data © Crown copyright and database right (2019)

Tithe Act 1936 Map and Schedule
I have plotted the tithe holdings onto the 6 inch to the mile map of Hartley.  The north part is a contemporary map, but I don't have a 6 inch map of Hartley for the 1930s, so they have been plotted onto the 1955 map.  The join is fairly visible!  Not all of the parish is included in a holding.  In the case of the Wellfield area, this will be because they couldn't trace the owners, in other parts it was probably down to redemption of the tithes.

The schedule gives the freehold owner who paid the tithes.  The original also gives the last date of payment, but I haven't copied that.  In the original the extents are given in acres, roods and perches, which I have converted into fractions of acres.  I have also added a modern identification.  The schedule hasn't always caught up with changes of ownership, for example Melsetta, Church Road was sold by Small Owners Ltd in 1921 but in 1936 the tithe for it was being paid by Jane Foote-Maxton, the successor to the company.  The return also recorded whether all or part of the holding was farmland because it made a difference how much annuities people paid.

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