Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Enclosure Award Liability

The start of the story: The Rectory Tithes

The Rectory was a valuable asset since the owner had Rectory Glebe and also the Rectory Tithes  (sometimes called Impropriate tithes or greater tithes) which meant the owner had the right to have a share in certain produce from all farmers although precisely what produce came under these tithes was often in dispute  It was though of huge value with one minor fly in the ointment that once in a generation the owner of the Rectory tithes had to either contribute or maintain the local parish church's chancel. The Rectories were generally in the ownership of monasteries or clergy although a few lay people possessed  them. It was Henry VIII who sold the rectories off to Lay people on an industrial scale along with the liability to retain the chancel. The new owners though made a lot of money on the tithes and so to maintain a chancel on occasion was not a significant issue.

There were also Vicarial or less tithes which may include 10% of the honey and various other small items of produce which would normally to the Incumbent of the church be it vicar or rector. In the event the priest was a perpetual curate the lesser tithes were also frequently owned by a Lay person.

The Tithes were often  sold or given in parts to various people and organisations and so in a parish some of greater tithes may have been given back to the vicar some remained being collected by the local gentry and others tithes fell into the hands of the various Oxbridge colleges.

Collecting the tithes became by the mid seventeenth century awkward since it was hard to know who owned what and what was titheable, as there were local variation, and there were also court cases going on over tithes. People resented giving there produce going to the local gentry and non-Anglicans disliked a tax to support the church they did not go to and it was thought , probably correctly, that the collection of tithes made farming less efficient. There was a desire to remove the tithe system by various parties from the seventeenth century onwards but it was not completed until 1936.
Between 1730 and 1835  the principle away in which tithe collecting was removed (commuted) in parts was by enclosure acts.


Enclosure (older spelling is inclosure) started in the Tudor period where essentially the wealthy land owners claimed the common land for their farms. This was done piecemeal, causing much upset with the commoners who used the common lands and this led to riots in places. This enclosure was frequently illegal but there was no enforcement to prevent it from happening.
From the early eighteenth century through to the mid nineteenth century enclosures continued  but more frequently by parliamentary act. All the local landowners or those with land based interests would be allotted some land as outlined by a Private Act of Parliament. The Enclosure Commission would then come along and give allotments in way they considered to be fair. Some land would  go to those with manorial rights, others to those who owned the tithes, some going to large landowners and some to the commoners. Generally it was the wealthy who gained, whilst the poor commoners would end up with a tiny amount of land for their own use instead of the right to farm hundreds of acres with other commoners

Enclosures and Tithes

One way people could gain an allotment was by ownership of tithes and people would give up there right to collect the tithes in either the newly enclosed land or the entire township or Parishes. Depending on the number of tithe owners, and/or  townships, or even Parishes, there may well be a number of allotments of land. Since a condition on owning the Tithes was that the owner had to upkeep the chancel then this liability was transferred to the land. The allotment of land is often given the phrase 'in lieu of the Rectory (Impropriate) Tithes' and/or sometimes Rectory Glebe that end up carrying the liability for the upkeep of the chancel. Well known examples of this form of liability are Aston Cantlow Broadway and Wickhambrook  Essentially this liability has never been repealed or changed although there is a way of compounding (paying the church off) to remove the liability.
There were also sometimes allotment given for the lesser tithes to the local vicar or curate and these allotments never carry the liability.

How much land is covered by this Liability?

There were about 1100 Acts of Parliament that created land in lieu of tithes to a non-clerical Rector  but some allotments for tithes are very small or the tithe owner got Corn Rents (a monetary payment) instead of land. On occasion the allotments in lieu of tithes was large for instance Arlecdon where 390 Acres were given to the Bishop of Carlisle. In the Enclosure awards I have viewed the amounts were between 30-150 acres. Assuming an average of 200 Acres per Act that gives 220000 Acres with personal and several liability as a result of Enclosures.

How is this land with the liability located

Parliamentary Enclosures come in three parts an Act of Parliament, an award and plan or map. The Award  interpreted the act on the ground and each award is it's own eccentric, often hard to read and long, document but I provide a rough guide to reading one here. An example of an enclosure award with all 58 s pages is  Streatley Berkshire here. The plan  of the award and Streatley's is found here and unusually it notes the land given in lieu of tithes on the plan.
Of the 1100 or so Acts of parliament which gave land in lieu of tithes to an non incumbent I have found around 620 plans and I expect there are not more than 700 in total in existence. Without a plan, I believe, it is all but impossible to locate the land and having viewed a number of enclosure plans it is clear that a number are simply inadequate to locate the land with the liability but  many though are very good plans.                      
(Three files showing the partial results of my research explanation  pre 1771 Enclosures, post 1771 enclosures) .

Vanished Liability

In some cases the liability may theoretically exist but church has been rebuilt in such a way that the liability has ended or the church is now redundant with the result there is no liability. Where the allotment was given to a clerical rector the liability was removed in 1923 as the church nationalised all its various assets removing the land with the liability form the care of the local rector but also removing the liability.


Although there may well be the potential for 220000 acres of land with the liability I would expect there to be approximately 500 usable plans connected to chancels with the obligation to repair remaining and this makes about 100,000 acres of land.

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