The Fernhurst Society
The Tithe Act of 1836
The system of tithing goes back to long ago times before readily available recorded history (there is, however, on scratched mud tablets found by archaeologists, reference to a form of census which was used for the collection of taxes (tithes) by the rulers of the Mari, a race of Amorite settlers in the ancient Holy Lands way back in about 2000 BC, as related by Werner Keller in his 1955 book The Bible as History). There are written records of tithe collection in many parts of England as far back as the time of the Roman Empire occupation, soon after the development of Christianity. With the established Church becoming the recognised base for the organisation of local affairs, by the 6th century tithing was the formal means of financing the Clergy. The people were expected to give a part, normally the equivalent of 10% of their annual produce, to the Rector and/or Vicar of their Parish. Back in those early days it was a matter of delivering actual produce such as crops, cattle and eggs, etc, to the Parish Tithe Barn, from where it was disposed of to raise money, or used by the incumbent vicar or curate and sometimes shared with his absentee rector.
The history of the tithing system is complex and warrants more than this brief mention, so for those with an interest, reference to Roger J P Kain and Hugh C Prince’s (2000) book Tithe Surveys for Historians would be a good read (a copy is available in the West Sussex Record Office (WSRO) at Chichester).
In 1836 the Government of the day, after many false starts, passed a Tithe Act which allowed for the conversion of the provision of produce as the tithe to become an annual cash payment. Detailed surveys of virtually all English parishes were carried out within a few years of 1836 when maps were drawn up, some more accurate than others, followed by the preparation of Tithe Apportionment Schedules which, when completed and checked, were submitted to the Tithe Commissioners and approved as formally sealed documents. Three copies of each were produced, with the original going to the Tithe Commissioners, one copy being held by the parish and the other copy deposited with the Diocese. Nowadays the surviving copies are held by the National Archives (Public Record Office) at Kew and, for West Sussex Parishes, at the West Sussex Record Office (WSRO) at Chichester. Until deposited there the Parish Copy of the map and schedule would most likely have been stored in the Parish Chest in the church under the care and custody of the Incumbent and the Church Wardens, along with all the other records they were required to maintain.
The West Sussex County Archivist obtained a National Heritage Lottery funded grant to cover the cost of organising and carrying out the digitisation of the Tithe Maps and the Apportionment Schedules for all parishes in West Sussex. Over 160 maps have been electronically scanned and volunteers have transcribed the schedules as searchable spreadsheets. It took over a year for them to be transcribed and checked for accuracy before being accepted as a true record, and published. All the information is now available to enquirers at the WSRO and may also be added to the Portsmouth University web site in due course. It is a valuable asset for those enquiring into their family history or land use with a CD for each parish showing the maps and apportionment schedule available for purchase from the WSRO.
The Apportionment Schedules for Fernhurst and North Ambersham, which is now a part of Fernhurst and Lodsworth, are available via the links above, as are the schedules for neighbouring parishes. They provide much detailed information on the ownership and occupation of land and property in the Parishes and Tithing at that time, albeit they are only snapshots as recorded to meet the requirements of the 1836 Act, complete with an owner and occupier (not necessarily the resident) name index.
For those of the Parish who are living in old properties with a history dating back to the 1840s, or those occupying land in the Parish, the Tithe Apportionment Schedule provides a fascinating insight into previous owners/occupiers and land usage. From the property and field names listed in the schedule it should be possible to locate all the sites as they are today. Put this information together with the detailed family records, which are available in the censuses from 1841 through to 1901, and much can be learned about Fernhurst’s past before it progressed into the twentieth century and living memory.
David J Coward
Updated Jan 09