Beyond the Internet: Week 45 Tithe records and maps

Beyond the Internet

This week I’m writing Week 45 in my Beyond the Internet  series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens and this week’s topic is Tithes and Tithe Maps.

Attentive readers will note that I got ahead of myself the other day by posting Week 46….that’s what happens when (1) you get behind and (2) you’re keen to get to the end. There are some overlaps between valuations and tithes in that assessment of land and property was common between the two and was done by an approved assessor and subject to appeal.

So what exactly are Tithes and the Tithe Maps?

Tithes were essentially taxes charged on the value of produce and labour from properties to fund the operation of the parish of the established church. In early years the tithe payments were mainly payable in goods or produce. Such was the scale of the tithe collections that huge tithe barns were sometimes built to store the produce which had been tithed. The National Archives provides a comprehensive and expert guide here.

However over time it became increasingly common for the payment of tithes to be in currency rather than goods, and this became the requirement after the introduction of the UK Tithe Act of 1836. The assessment was undertaken by independent commissioners and resulted in large scale maps and valuations of each person’s property holdings, whether as a tenant or owner.

These documents provide the family historian with the opportunity to learn not only the value of their family’s land (rented or owned, remember) but also its specific location.  They are also important because with the inevitable time lags it enables links between the census, the tithe schedules and maps. and the Ordnance Survey maps.

Tithe Barn, Leigh, Worcestershire, England. Image from Wikipedia Commons.

The Tithe Applotment records in Ireland are even more valuable because in the absence of 19th nominal census data, they provide one of the key ways of tracing family in the pre-Famine era. Unfortunately many families farmed land which was not of sufficient value for them to have to pay the tithes, leaving them hidden from us. The payment of tithes towards the upkeep of the established Church of Ireland certainly caused consternation in Ireland for those Catholics who were liable to pay the tithes.

How can these records help us?

As with valuations from Week 46, these records can do one of two things: either break open aspects of our family history, or simply add another piece to the puzzle. They will tell us:

  • Whether our ancestors owned or leased their land and property
  • Who the landlord was
  • Whether their land ownership, and hence possibly their economic circumstances, changed over time, by comparison with other records
  • What type of property they owned
  • Who their neighbours were & their relative wealth within the community
  • Whether they owned/leased one or more properties

Where can they be found?

As with so many other records, more and more is becoming available online, or able to be ordered online. However the following sources will be useful to see the original documents:

  • The regional records office for the county where your family lived
  • The National Archives (England/Scotland/Ireland)
  • Parish chest records (check out what’s available on the Family Search site for your family’s parish –this can be very helpful for those living overseas).

You might also try a newspaper search through the British Newspaper Archive (available by fee) or through the 19th century British newspapers (available online from the National Library of Australia, or equivalent, with your NLA library card) to see if there is any mention of the tithe assessments in your family’s parish.

Remember every little snippet of information helps us build up a picture of our ancestral families and can sometimes open up a whole new perspective and field of research.

The liability for tithes in the mid-19th century may be inter-linked to the enclosure of land in the parish. You can read my ancestral discoveries on enclosures here.

Have you made any discoveries about your family by using tithe records and maps? Why not share them on your blog or in the comments? 

Are there additions/clarifications/corrections regarding Tithe records which would be useful to other readers?

From Week 47 (the next post), we’ll move into resources for occupations.

 

Sandon, Hertfordshire enclosure and the Kent family

Sometimes with family history it’s one small fact that is the key to opening a door. Such was the case with the enclosure documents I’d photographed while visiting the Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (HALS) last year.  Despite having the information for nearly a year I hadn’t got round to looking at it in detail until I took the Pharos  course on Enclosure Maps and Records for Family Historians.[i]

I won’t attempt to go into the details of enclosure here except to say that it was the process, put simply, whereby formerly common lands were enclosed for private use usually by the bigger landowners of a parish. Also during this process the landowners may have “swapped” their land plots with others in order to consolidate their properties in a more rational and productive way. The National Archives has this informative guide to Enclosure Records.

Roe Green a hamlet in Sandon parish, Herts, but no sign to my Kent family’s former home.

Sandon parish in Hertfordshire, where one branch of my ancestors lived, commenced this process in 1840 and the award was enrolled in 1842. [ii] At the conclusion of the enclosure process a detailed map was produced and all land adjustments recorded. This comprehensive map is available through HALS.[iii]

At the commencement of the enclosure process, a community meeting was held to discuss the ramifications and proposals around the enclosure. The meeting was advertised in advance by notices on the church door and also in the local newspaper, The Reformer. However it was the location of the meeting that was to be my gold key. It was held at the public house of Richard Kent known by the sign of the Anchor at Roe Green, a hamlet in the parish.

While I’d known from the 1841 and 1851 census enumerations that Richard Kent (and indeed his father) was a publican I had never known the name of the pub. This snippet giving its name was indeed the key to learning more about his life before he, his wife and adult family emigrated in 1854.

The next strategy I applied was to ascertain whether the pub was one of the UK’s listed buildings. I figured if it had been around for a couple of centuries, this might be possible.

Believe it or not, Roe Green really was this green! But which of these heritage houses might have been where my ancestor lived? © Pauleen Cass

There were two pathways to this information:

1. The first, through British Heritage, enables a search of a locality http://list.english-heritage.org.uk/. I used the advanced search to locate Sandon in Hertfordshire and not others.

2. The second provides the same information but you go directly through the Listed Buildings site at http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/england/hertfordshire which let me then choose the parish and the building.

Both provided me with a listing for The Old Anchor as it was also known in subsequent years. Both also provided me with detailed descriptions, but overall I think I prefer the first option as a search tool. So what did I learn about the building? The full description is subject to Crown Copyright but you can read it here. In essence, it is a former public house dating from the 17thcentury and is grade II listed. It also provides its grid reference and a local map. It must be said though that the location of the building on the map can be a little imprecise.

The (Old) Anchor on Roe Green, Sandon, Herts in 2010. © Pauleen Cass

Armed with this additional information, and the alternative title, I googled the name for more information, using various search combinations. This turned up a range of information ranging from real estate sales to renovation approvals, hiking/walking trails and general information. All of which are grist for the family history mill.[iv] One site in particular deals with the common lands, remaining after enclosure, in Sandon parish and specifically in the locality of Roe Green.

Google images provided me with a great photo of the house taken by Mark Jordan for Panoramio. It was so evident it was the Anchor, that I went back to my own photos, taken on a scattergun approach before I learned the name of the family’s public house and knew its location.  Lo and behold I had taken a photo which did show the anchor over the front door but it is nowhere near as obvious as on Panoramio. I’m indebted to Mark and his photo for giving me the “tipoff”. (Rhetorical question: why do you always learn pivotal information after you’ve visited the place??)

Another useful site I came across shows images of listed buildings circa 2001, at the turn of the 20thcentury.  Images of England is linked to the National Monuments Record website. The Old Anchor is photographed on this site and the copyrighted image can be seen here.

There are also a couple of sites which deal with old pubs or inns in Hertfordshire and mention this public house. They are a Flickr discussion site and Dead Pubs though both discuss later periods. Previous to learning the pub’s name I hadn’t had enough detail to know in which property at Roe Green the Kent family had lived. Now I could go back and trace it through all the decennial census records from 1841 through to 1911 using Findmypast UK: while not every census gives the actual name of the building, a couple do, which makes it possible to link them up. Historical Directories also provide useful information on the inhabitants over time.

What becomes apparent is that while Richard Kent classed himself in 1851 as a publican, as well as a farmer of 40 acres, presumably through a lease agreement. This was not the case with subsequent owners/tenants of The Anchor. Why was this so? Had his land lease been taken away? Was this one of the reasons the family left for Australia in 1854? Did the next tenant simply not want to take on the farming lease given they already had a trade? So many questions which only further research both in reading and in the archives might address.

Meanwhile I’m looking forward to learning more about the background by reading Behind the plough: agrarian society in nineteenth-century Hertfordshire by Nigel E Agar and Brewers in Hertfordshire – A historical gazetteer by Alan Whittaker.

This research is © P Cass September 2011.

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[i] These courses provide historical context for family history research and are excellent.

[ii] The Award is also available from The National Archives at Kew at CP 40/4003.

[iii] HALS reference QS/E/85. Sandon parish is also fortunate to have the Tithe map from 1840 as well. DSA4/90/2