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A history of the tithe system in England, 1690-1850 with special reference to Staffordshire

By Eric J. Evans


This thesis attempts to provide a general history of the tithe\ud system during the last century and a half of its existence in its\ud old form. It attempts this partly through a detailed study of one\ud county, thus enabling a wider variety of legal, administrative,\ud ecclesiastical and parochial documents to be used than has been\ud attempted in previous studies of the tithe system. Staffordshire\ud was selected partly because of its excellent source materials in\ud the Stafford County Record Office, the William Salt Library and the\ud Lichfield Joint Record Office, and partly because the county provides\ud a most useful admixture of different agricultural and industrial\ud settlements. As Caird wrote in 1850:\ud 'The state of agriculture in Staffordshire is influenced by\ud such a variety of circumstances that examples of every system\ud pursued in England may be found in this county.'(1)\ud It was therefore possible to assess whether the tithe system had a\ud differential impact on different types of farming, and how much it\ud penetrated industrial areas. The thesis attempts to show how tithe\ud was collected in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and\ud how far tithing in kind remained. The importance of lay as well as\ud clerical tithe owners is studied and the thesis attempts to indicate\ud the amount of social tension occasioned by the system.\ud As litigation over tithe was frequent in much of the period, the complexities of the legal situation are studied and an analysis made\ud of the Staffordshire cases, indicating the major reasons for litigation,\ud what evidence was considered valuable, how cases were settled,\ud and the importance of legal costs in the progress and determination\ud of disputes. One particularly lengthy tithe battle - from Cheadle -\ud is treated as a separate case study.\ud A case study of the Quaker attitude to tithe, as the leading\ud dissenting sect objecting ID its payment, is also made, indicating\ud the degree of non-payment by Quakers, their legal tussles, persecution\ud and campaigns to change tithe law. The national campaign\ud against tithe is studied with consideration and evaluation of the\ud arguments of both sides in the light of the actual situation. The\ud reasons for the increasing momentum and bitterness of the campaign\ud from the late eighteenth century onwards are assessed. As the\ud eighteenth century enclosure movement provided the first major\ud opportunity since the Reformation for a change and redistribution\ud of tithe property, attention is paid to the impact of the movement,\ud indicating how far tithe was exchanged for land at enclosure. The\ud relative benefits to land and tithe owner are assessed.\ud The thesis concentrates finally on the parliamentary attempts to\ud reform the system, and the difficulties encountered there. The\ud origins of the 1836 Commutation Act are studied together with an\ud analysis of the Act and its intentions. The last chapter is devoted\ud to a study of the Act in operation, showing how easily commutation\ud was effected, how tithe values were altered, and how the parties\ud concerned reacted to the changes which commutation would bring. The thesis ends at 1850 with most commutations, and their attendant\ud redistribution, complete.\ud Above all, however, this study attempts to explain how men\ud attempted to make an anachronistic system work in an increasingly\ud complex society, how far compromises were necessary and acceptable,\ud and how far tithe was responsible for tension in the village\ud community. It attempts to provide a general history of tithe, but\ud it does so in the belief that, because tithe was a local and\ud parochial burden, its proper impact and effects cannot be properly\ud understood without detailed reference to local situations

Topics: DA, S1
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  1. Account of expenditure by the tithe commissioners in 1841
  2. Anon: The Sacred and Indefeasible Rights of the Clergy ... VinV. Arnall: Anisadversions on a Reverend Prelate's Remarks a Bill Nov Depending ... to prevent Suits for Tithes,
  3. II Printed sources 1. Parliamentary material The debates on tithe and related subjects for the period have been studied in the available reports, which become truly systematic and reliable only after about 1803.
  4. Papers respecting tithe causes (H.
  5. Reports of the Tithe Commissioners to the Home Secretary
  6. Return of enclosure Acts in which tithes were commuted
  7. Return of parishes in England and Wales where tithe commutation has been authorized by Act of Parliament (H.
  8. Revenues of episcopal sees doi
  9. (1833). Select Committees on Agricultural Distress (H.
  10. sources: 2. Public Record Office Exchequer bills, depositions
  11. (1819). The Yearly Distress or Tithing Time at Stock in Essex' doi
  12. These span the whole period under study but are particularly useful for the period 1690-1730. Minutes of the Yearly Meeting

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