Recently the Norfolk Record Office launched the Historical Maps of Norfolk website, on which you can see a variety of local maps, Enclosure, Tithe, old Ordnance Survey maps as well as aerial photographs. One of the most useful for both Family and Local History are Tithe maps.The idea of Tithes (giving a tenth of your possessions) dates back to the Bible, but in medieval Britain tithes were paid to support the local church. In theory, tithes were payable on
- all things arising from the ground and subject to annual increase – grain, wood, vegetables etc.
- all things nourished by the ground – the young of cattle, sheep etc., and animal produce such as milk, eggs and wool.
- the produce of man’s labour, particularly the profits from mills and fishing.
They were divided into Great Tithes (usually corn, grain, hay and wood) and Small Tithes (everything else). In general the great tithes were paid to the Rector and small tithes to the Vicar. To start with the tithes were paid in kind ie a tenth of your crop or every tenth sheep. Gradually this was replaced in some places by a monetary payment. For more information about Tithes see the TNA research guide
In 1836 the government decided to commute tithes (i.e. to substitute money payments for payments in kind) throughout England and Wales by the Tithe Act 1836. This resulted in Tithe Maps being drawn up for most parishes and a Tithe Apportionment produced. The Apportionment gives details of everyone who paid tithes. Every plot of land on the map was given a number and the Apportionment shows the owner, occupier and size of the land. It also gives a brief description of the land eg house & garden or meadow.
So – simple.
Tithe records can be useful for Local History, you are interested in a property, find it on the map, make a note of the plot number and look up the details in the Apportionment.
If you are a Family Historian and know that someone was living in a certain village, look them up in the Apportionment, then find the relevent plot number on the map. This is especially useful as most maps were drawn up in the 1840s and, as most of us have found, the 1841 census can be frustratingly vague about addresses. In some villages you are lucky to be told the road your ancestor was living in!
Except – it is not always simple. Sometimes the Apportionment has not survived, sometimes it is the Map – although there were supposed to be three copies, one kept in the Parish Chest, one at the Diocesan Record Office and the third at the TNA.
And then there are the vagaries of the modern Record Offices. As previously mentioned the Norfolk Tithe Maps are now available online – but not the apportionments. According to the website:
“The apportionments have not been digitized. If you would like details of a particular entry in a tithe apportionment then please contact the Norfolk Record Office, quoting the plot number and the name of the parish where the plot is located.”
Not much use if you don’t know where they lived!
In Warwickshire, the problem is reversed. The Apportionments are available online and can be searched here but the maps are not. You have to travel to Warwick to see them.
In both cases a possible useful resource is virtually useless.
Some other Record Offices have the right idea. In Cheshire you can search for a name, get the details and then see the map.
Try entering “Tithe Map” and a county into Google and see what is available. I hope you have more luck than me.