Tithe commutation

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Tithe commutation was a 19th-century reform of land tenure in Great Britain and Ireland, which implemented an exchange of the payment of a tithe to the clergy of the established church, which were traditionally paid in kind, to a system based in an annual cash payment, or once-for-all payment. The system had become complex, with lay owners by impropriation entitled to some tithes, which were of a number of kinds. [1] [2]



In Scotland, a form of commutation of teinds applied from 1633. [3] A full reform was carried out in the 1930s. [4]

Commutation of tithes occurred in England before the 19th century major reform, since it was an aspect of enclosure, a legal process under which rights to common land were modified by act of parliament. An estimate places 60% of enclosure acts as involving tithe commutation. [5] In such cases, commissioners who dealt with the detail of enclosure acts handled tithes by allocation of land, as part of the division of ownership. [6] By this mechanism, in the period 1750 to 1830, glebe land increased, and clerics in some places became active farmers. [7]

From the 17th century tithe commutation became seen as part of agricultural improvement, and by the later 18th century tithes were seen as a major obstacle to improvement, for example by Adam Smith. and the Board of Agriculture. [8]

In England and Wales existing tithe payments were abolished by the Tithe Commutation Act 1836. It introduced in their place a cash payment, the "corn rent". [8] The legislation was shaped by the parliamentary contribution of William Blamire, a farmer and self-styled "practical man", who became a tithe commissioner. [9]

Tithe maps

Implementation of the Commutation Act for England and Wales required detailed maps. Robert Kearsley Dawson took the opportunity to press for a substantive cadastral survey. [10]


  1. Joan Thirsk (1 March 1990). Chapters from The Agrarian History of England and Wales: Volume 3, Agricultural Change: Policy and Practice, 1500–1750. Cambridge University Press. p. 216. ISBN   978-0-521-36882-7.
  2. Roger J. P. Kain; Hugh C. Prince (20 April 2006). The Tithe Surveys of England and Wales. Cambridge University Press. p. 7. ISBN   978-0-521-02431-0.
  3. "Dictionary of the Scots Language :: SND :: Teind n.1, v.1" . Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  4. Callum G. Brown (1997). Religion and Society in Scotland Since 1707. Edinburgh University Press. p. 68. ISBN   978-0-7486-0886-7.
  5. Gordon E Mingay (17 June 2014). Parliamentary Enclosure in England: An Introduction to Its Causes, Incidence and Impact, 1750-1850. Routledge. p. 46. ISBN   978-1-317-89033-1.
  6. Jonathan David Chambers; G. E. Mingay (1966). The Agricultural Revolution, 1750–1880. Batsford. p. 86. ISBN   9780713413588.
  7. David Hempton (26 January 1996). Religion and Political Culture in Britain and Ireland: From the Glorious Revolution to the Decline of Empire. Cambridge University Press. p. 8. ISBN   978-0-521-47925-7.
  8. 1 2 Stuart A Raymond (27 February 2015). Tracing Your Ancestors' Parish Records: A Guide for Family and Local Historians. Pen and Sword. p. 145. ISBN   978-1-78303-044-6.
  9. Evans, Eric J. "Blamire, William". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/2601.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  10. Roger J. P. Kain; Hugh C. Prince (20 April 2006). The Tithe Surveys of England and Wales. Cambridge University Press. pp. 69–70. ISBN   978-0-521-02431-0.

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