Collecting the Tithes

An account of how the collection of tithes changed in Dadlington in the 19th century

This article appeared in The Stoker (February 2017) 
In the year 855, King Ethelwulf granted the church the right to receive tithes from the people in each parish. To pay your tithe, you would have had to hand over one tenth of everything you produced in a year – crops, eggs, cattle – and these would have been stored in a tithe barn and used as a form of payment for the clergy. Some tithe barns can still be found around the country, the Tithe Barn Restaurant at the Bosworth Battlefield Centre being a restored example, having been transported from its original site at Sandiacre in Derbyshire.

With Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, a lot of land held by the church fell into private ownership, and the owners continued to collect tithes. However, by the early 1800s the system was in disarray and an act of Parliament of 1836, the aptly named ‘Act for the Commutation of Tithes in England and Wales’ replaced payment in goods with monetary payments. The price for each acre of land was set nationally, being based on a seven-year average for the price of wheat. In order to ensure these new tithes were fair, tithe maps were drawn up and these form probably the earliest accurate historical record of much of England.

The original maps now reside in the National Archives in Kew, along with the list of owners and occupiers and in some cases, details of the work carried out by the Tithe Commissioners. Tithe maps can be found for both Stoke Golding and Dadlington. What is striking about the Dadlington map is that the field patterns in existence back then, have changed very little. An overlay of the tithe map on an aerial photograph of modern day Dadlington can be seen below. Copies of both tithe maps are held by the Leicestershire Archive at Wigston.

Where the owners of the land were the occupiers as well, the law removed the need for them to pay themselves. One such case involved Thomas Vernon who owned most of the land bordered by Shenton Lane, Sutton Lane and the Fenn Lanes. The vicar, the Rev. Samuel B. Hemmings, owned a parcel of land on the northeastern edge of the parish and the governors of Nuneaton Grammar School had a few fields bordering the Fenn Lanes. Some field names survive to this day, such as Bath Meadow and Bath Pieces, whilst others describe the landscape or what took place there. To the west of the last house on Shenton Lane, William Shilton Senior owned a number of fields called Fen Moor, whilst the first field on the right was called Brick Kiln Hill. Of the 1,021 acres in the parish, 408 acres were arable land, used for growing crops and 515 acres were meadow or pasture for animals. The church owned 52 acres of glebe land and there were four acres of fox covert, an acre of common ground and further land given over to roads, cottages with their gardens and the canal.

Amongst the information held in Kew are a series of letters from one of the commissioners about his dealings with the landowners of Dadlington. A notice advertising each of his meetings would have been posted on the door of St James’ Church and at the first meeting, a Mr. Arthur Malin brought up two concerns regarding the new settlements. Firstly, the landowners were receiving nothing from the Ashby Canal Company whose canal crossed some of their land. They had been written to and had agreed to pay the sum of £2 2s 2½d. Secondly, there were some issues with the accuracy of each owners’ acreage, the areas have been estimated in some cases. The commissioner accepted the first concern and rejected the second.

As a consequence, an appeal was heard on 20th April 1843 at the George Inn in Hinckley. Mr Malin now had his solicitor with him and there was also a Mr Chapman for the Dean and Chapter of Westminster who owned land in the parish. The commissioners had re-measured the land and found two errors, either by mistake or by design, they couldn’t prove it one way or another. One field had been recorded as 8 acres when it was in fact 18, another as 88 when it was 94. The appeal was therefore upheld and an additional 16 acres at five shillings an acre was added to the total for the village. A further meeting was held in Dadlington, at what was then called the Dog and Gun, the following year, and there is also a letter from the rector, George Dealtry, and two churchwardens acknowledging the rent charge.

Download a copy of the Tithe Map
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