14th December 1936. Tithing.
The Cluniac Priory of Wangford, Suffolk had only three to five monks and was a dependency of Thetford Priory, founded in 1159.(1)
The Prior along with Abbot of Westminster and Archdeacon of Sudbury were appointed in 1226 by Pope Honorius III to resolve disputes over tithes.
Today in 1936 an extant receipt of Cheddon Fitzpaine, Somerset, shows tithe collection was still alive.(2)
As agriculture went in for so much economic improvement in the 18th century, so the Rector’s 10% became more and more valuable. Thus the rectory, became the the social equal of the squire, a menage of wealth and servants, commanding rents of glebe and tithe. Both were set to exert parochial power until the 20th century.
But there were disparities in clergy income: rich rector and poor vicars and curates, and the question of tithes had long been a bone of contention. The poor vicar might have had the Small Tithe, but this was often consumed in ale and cheese by the payers at the Tithe Audit.
The Tithe Commutation Acts of 1836 had converted tithes into a fixed rent based on the price of corn. By the 1925 Tithe Act collection was assigned collection to the Church of England’s Queen Anne’s Bounty Board, whose Limited Company ‘General Dealers’, soon began enforcing payment.(3)
It was the tithe collection in the 1930’s, at a time of agricultural depression, which not surprisingly causing a resistance of tenants, especially at the strong arm methods being employed.
Discontent had been strongest in Kent and Eastern England, which intensified in the 1930’s after attempts by court officials acting for the Bounty’s fifteen regional committees, began to distrain (confiscate) farmers’ stock.
5000 farmers marched through London in June 1936, and the Church of England lost much goodwill, not to say money. A Royal Commission begun in 1934 resulted in the Tithe Act of 1936 with a resultant reduction in charges.(4)
A stone memorial opposite St. Peter’s Church, Suffolk, still commemorates ‘the tithe seizure at Elmsett Hall, of furniture including a baby’s bed and blankets, herd of dairy cows, eight corn and seed stacks valued at £1200 for tithe valued at £385’.
The aftermath of World War II, with its extensive sale of land, hastened the extinction of tithe liabilities, which amazingly didn’t see its last gasp until 1977.
The Church of England, once a large owners of land, now holds comparatively little with its 125,000 acres. It appears that much land was sold off quietly, by local rectors before this power was passed to the dioceses in the late 1970’s.
Once the separation of wealth from church livings was passing, it is not surprising to see a decline of interest of the rich in being ordained as they looked for richer pastures new.
Now enters the grammar school boy with his piety and Latin, being replaced today by, well, anyone they can get.
ADDENDUM: English Heritage states that there is no evidence that Tithe Barns were ever used for storing tithes.
(1) Wangford Priory was dissolved in 1540 along with its Mother House at Thetford.
(2) It was for a half year tithe rent charge due on October 1st, and a demand on R Meade Esq for £1/12/1d. Receipt No 27632 for Queen Anne’s Bounty (QAB) Tithe Collection Committee area no 5. The collectors were W.H. Palmer & Sons, Agents for the Committee.
It was the amount of tithe rent charge due to QAB (as trustees for above benefice) on lands as above named parish… exempt from Stamp Duty see Tithe Act 1925 and Finance Act 1924.
(3) Queen Anne’s Bounty supported poor priests.
(4) Tithe Act 31.7.1936. Ch 43 26 Geo 5 and 1 Edw 8.
Ref: ‘The Black Book of Corruption Unmasked’ Vol John Wade 1820 books.google.co.uk.