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Tithe Apportionments at Barton on the Heath

Tithe Apportionments at Barton on the Heath – All Change in 1839!

Whilst recently investigating the demotic history of Barton on the Heath, the oldest map of the village that I could find was the 19th century Tithe Map. Most of the recorded history of Barton centres around Barton House and the Church of St Lawrence, but the 170 year old Tithe Map and accompanying Apportionments Tables for Barton reveal something more of the life of the villagers and tenant farmers of the time.

Tithes were a form of land tax, payable each year to the Rector of the Parish in which the land lay, and had traditionally represented one tenth of the annual produce of the land. However, over the years, disputes had arisen over the value of tithes due, and in some areas tithes had been already replaced by monetary payments. In 1836 the government decided that all tithes still due in England and Wales were to be commuted to payment in money, and the Tithe Commutation Act was passed. Three national Tithe Commissioners were appointed along with a number of Assistant Commissioners to oversee the implementation of the act throughout the country.

The Assistant Commissioner appointed to supervise the working of the act in Barton was Thomas Smith Woolley of Allesley. His job was no doubt not an easy one. He called meetings with all the landowners and tenants to agree a total tithe due for Barton, and then to apportion it amongst the lands in the Parish. A Tithe Map and accompanying Apportionment Table was then produced and implemented. The table shows for each piece of land at Barton in May 1839, the owner, the occupier and the annual rent-charge payable, commencing with payments in early 1840.

Tithe maps were amongst the first detailed maps available in the England and Wales. The apportionments not only fixed the ‘rent-charges’, formerly known as tithes, due to the Rector of each parish, but also gave an indication of the value of each piece of land for prospective tenants or purchasers. The central portion of the Tithe Map for Barton on the Heath reproduced below is with kind permission of Warwick County Record Office, and is record number CR569/22. 


Comparing this map with the current Ordnance Survey map shows how very little development has taken place in Barton over the last 170 years. The only significant changes have been the disappearance of about 12 cottages, small gardens, yards and ‘hovels’ (Thomas Woolley’s words, not mine!) down the west side of Little Compton Lane below the Old Post Office and towards the ‘osier beds’ (now the lake), and the building of the houses in Camden Close in the middle of the last century.

The highest rent-charge in Barton for a single piece of land was £17 17s 10d payable for the 24 acres 3 roods and 39 perches of land known as Great Ground, on the western border of the Parish. This land was owned by John Shirley and was occupied and farmed by the ‘representatives of John Clarke’. Mr Clarke also farmed the ‘Fish Ponds and Banks’ on the sloping ground behind Dover House, then named Shirley Farmhouse. The ponds were presumably of medieval origin, originally supplying fish to the tables of Barton House. Mr Clarke became liable to pay 2s 3d and a halfpenny a year rent-charge to the Rector indicating that the ponds must have been quite productive in 1839. Sadly the ponds are now mainly dry in the summer, and during the winter are home to just a few hibernating amphibians.

At the other end of the scale, a small cottage and garden of 4 perches in area in Little Compton Lane, occupied by Thomas Harris, was rated at only 2d rent-charge per year. William Robins and Ann Dyer who each occupied even smaller cottages of half a perch in size, also in Little Compton Lane, were no doubt delighted to hear that they had been assessed with no rent-charge at all!

In total, in 1839, the total of the rent-charges payable to the Rector – Taylor James Scholefield – by the occupiers of the 1154 acres in Barton Parish was £351 9s 5d and one farthing, an appreciable sum in the first half of the 19th century. Of this sum, the land owned by Robert Bird senior and junior accounted for over £221, with the greatest liability for rent-charges as occupier being William Sedgley, whose aggregate 168 acres cost him nearly £53 10s. Mr Sedgley’s rent-charges contributed one seventh of the total for the parish. To the Rector, whose position was then in the gift of Trinity College Oxford, Mr Sedgley must have been an important man.

Between the owners and tenants of the larger portions of land and the small cottagers were many smaller tenants, agricultural labourers and tradesmen. The names of many of the villagers recorded in the Apportionment Tables can also be found in the subsequent 19th century census records along with details of their occupations. One or two have marked graves in St Lawrence Churchyard. Their memorials, their houses and places of work are tangible links with historical records in dusty books and maps, and are reminders of the not so recent past.

For those of a more tender age than I, there were 20s (shillings) in £1, and 12d (pennies) in one shilling. 2 halfpennies or 4 farthings made one whole penny. In land area, 4 roods equal one acre and 40 perches equal one rood. Additions of sums of money and areas of land were much more difficult in the 19th century than at present, and 170 years ago there were no electronic calculators either!

Since 1839, times have moved on. Many of the field boundaries have gone. Landowners and their tenants have changed and agriculture has become more machinery and less labour intensive. Neither rent-charges nor tithes are now payable to the Rector of Church of St Lawrence, but that is a story for another day.

Colin Maynell

Barton on the Heath, June 2008

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