Tithe Apportionment Transcription Project
Volunteers from as far away as France and the north of England have been transcribing the tithe apportionments for each of the parishes in Devon. There are more than five hundred of these parishes. After a fantastic effort and a considerable amount of hard work by this dedicated team, the mammoth task is nearing completion.
Only a few apportionments have not been allocated.
A short history of tithe and tithe maps
The tithe was an annual payment of an agreed proportion (originally one-tenth) of the yearly produce of the land, which was payable by parishioners to the parish church, to support it and its clergyman. Originally tithes were paid ‘in kind’ (wool, milk, honey, fish, barley etc).
By 1836 tithes were still payable in most of the parishes in England and Wales, but the Government had decided on the commutation of tithes—in other words, the substitution of money payments for payment ‘in kind’ all over the country— and the Tithe Commutation Act was passed in 1836.
A survey of the whole of England and Wales was undertaken in the decade or so after 1836, to establish boundaries of land, acreage of fields, and states of cultivation, and parish or district tithe maps showing all plots subject to tithe were produced.
What is a tithe apportionment?
When an overall value for the tithe in a parish or district had been determined, the tithe rent-charge had to be apportioned fairly among the lands of differing quality and various uses in the parish, and for this purpose a tithe apportionment linked to the map was drawn up.
Why are we transcribing the tithe apportionments?
Tithe apportionments, with their associated maps, are to be made available online as part of the Tithe Maps Online project. Funding from Devon County Council paid for the scanning of the maps and is continuing to fund further phases of the project, to eventually make these maps and apportionments available without having to visit the record office.
The third and final stage of the project aims to link the apportionment details to each field on the map, thus making information about ownership, occupancy, acreage, and state of cultivation instantly accessible.
For this final stage the apportionment information has needed to be transferred to a spreadsheet in a standard format, and this could only be done by reading the original document, or an image of it, and keying in the separate pieces of data to a computer. This was accomplished very successfully by volunteers for a large part of East Devon during the Parishscapes project, and groups elsewhere in the county have produced transcriptions or are in the process of doing so.
Since 2011, we have been extending transcription to cover the whole of Devon’s tithe apportionments, and for this more volunteers were needed. The Devon Record Office purchased greyscale digital copies of the 472 tithe apportionments from the National Archives for volunteers to use, and thus supplied copies of these apportionment images on CD-Rom to transcribers. Our volunteers’ coordinator has supplied detailed instructions for transcription and liaises with transcribers who are still working on transcripts. The documents themselves are generally written in a clear hand and are not too difficult to read.
Digitized images of the tithe apportionments for Devon which were supplied for the transcription project by the National Archives are, in most cases, now accessible online through a Devon County Council webpage which is under development as part of the Tithe Maps Online project.