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©2007 Sussex Archaeological Society






Hamsey Tithe Map

Tithe maps: the background – Professor Brian Short

The ancient practice of tithing was a means whereby the local clergy would be supported by their community. In principle one-tenth of produce was to be paid to the rector and to the vicar, originally in kind - every tenth bushel of wheat or calf or vegetables etc. This was clearly a cumbersome process, and one rendered highly unpopular also at the dissolution of the monasteries when much former church property - and accompanying tithes - passed into lay ownership, often to a large local landowner. Sometimes the payment in kind was changed (or commuted) to a money payment, deemed easier for all sides to deal with.

Over much of the country (although to a lesser extent in Sussex) the payment of tithe was ended by the Enclosure Acts of the 18th century, which either allocated land in lieu of tithes or a money payment which was either fixed or which varied with the price of corn. But tithe still continued to be paid in kind in many areas through into the 19th century. However, increasing urbanisation, the growth of nonconformity, and the fact that farmers felt this to be an unfair tax on their productivity increases, now brought matters to a head. In 1836 the government succeeded with a Bill to commute all tithes to a money payment, based on the price of corn (henceforth known as tithe rent charges). Following the passing of this Tithe redemption Act, three Tithe Commissioners were immediately appointed and they in turn appointed Assistant Commissioners who toured the country investigating each parish to ascertain whether and how tithes were being paid. The results of these enquiries, often very informative on local matters, are included in the Tithe Files for each parish, which can be consulted at The National Archives (IR 18).

Next an agreement was brokered between tithe owners and those who continued to pay the tithe, or failing agreement an award was made. The record of the new arrangements is contained in the Tithe Apportionment and the Tithe Map. It is from these maps that this study of the landscape of Barcombe and Hamsey has taken details. These documents for the two parishes can be seen at the East Sussex Record Office.

The Apportionment is based on a standard layout and includes information on the owner and occupier, and the acreage, name, state of cultivation for each field or other tithe area (including houses) and the rentcharge. This is a wonderful source of information on land ownership and occupation, farm sizes, field names and sizes, and land use. It is often the first time that a field name can be discovered. Each tithe unit normally has a unique number within its parish and the Tithe Map which accompanies the Apportionment shows, at scales approximating to 26 inches to the mile (Barcombe) or 13 inches to the mile (Hamsey), each field and house in some detail, as well as roads, woodland, quarries and other local detail. The original copies of all these documents are preserved in the National Archives but second copies were made and these have found their way into local record offices. The Tithe Maps are now available for purchase on CD-Rom from the East Sussex Record Office.

Standard sources of information for tithe material include:

Maps for family and local history (2004)
G.Beech and R. Mitchell
The tithe maps of England and Wales (1995)
R. Kain and R. Oliver
The tithe surveys of England and Wales (1985)
R.Kain and H.Prince
Tithe surveys for historians (2000)
R. Kain and H.Prince

Tithe maps and apportionments see part 1
Why a tithe map? see part 2
For a brief introduction to tithe maps
by Professor Brian Short part 3
To download an A1 pdf version of the
redrawn Hamsey Tithe Map
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