Tithe Apportionment Transcription Project

Volunteers from as far away as France and the north of England assisted in this project by transcribing the tithe apportionments for each of the parishes in Devon. There were almost five hundred of these parishes. After a fantastic effort and a considerable amount of hard work by this dedicated team, the mammoth task was completed.

The second stage, which involves checking these transcriptions before they go online, is now being carried out by volunteers in the heritage centre under the supervision of Irene Andrews, Access and Service Development Manager.  As they are completed, the third stage, that of converting the corrected transcripts to pdf format and sending them to the Devon County Council IT team to put them online, is undertaken. Therefore the transcripts as well as the digital copies of the tithe apportionments are gradually appearing online on the Devon County Council ‘Tithe maps and apportionments’ webpage.

As of February 2014, 10% of the apportionment transcripts had been provided to the IT team to be put online.

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 Devon Heritage Centre.

The final stage of the project is supposed 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 had 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 the separate pieces of data onto a an Excel spreadsheet. This was done by volunteers during the East Devon Parishscapes project, and groups elsewhere in the county have produced transcriptions or are in the process of doing so.

From 2011, we extended transcription to cover the whole of Devon’s tithe apportionments, and for this more volunteers were needed. The former Devon Record Office (now renamed Devon Heritage Centre) 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.

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 in pdf format through the Devon County Council ‘Tithe maps and apportionments’ webpage, which is still being developed by the DCC IT team as part of the Tithe Maps Online project.

Please be aware that this webpage is still “a work in progress”.