Tithes and Awards

The schedules for four Tithe Awards in the Wakefield area have been transcribed and are available from the Society.(See publications E29, E30, E31 and E32). The accompanying maps for these four awards have been prepared by the late Ken Bartlett and are available for download in PDF format from the left-hand panel.


Tithes were originally a payment of one-tenth of the land’s produce (every tenth cow or one-tenth of its milk or the corn produced in a field) to a monastery, or later to the Church for the support of the parish incumbent. Some tithe rate books, recording payments or arrears, survive in parish records at County Record Offices (CRO). When the monasteries were dissolved, their rights to receive tithes were often obtained by laymen to whom the monastery land was sold or granted, and the Church’s rights to receive tithes were also bought and sold, so that by the 19th century many tithes had to be paid by parishioners to local landowners rather than to the Church. Reform was necessary!

Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 enabled commutation to be made more easily by com-missioners. The Bill received Royal Assent on August 13 1836 in negotiation with the inhabitants of each parish, on the parishes basis of a professional land valuation. Three Tithe Commissioners were appointed, and the process of commutation began. Tithe apportionment maps were prepared for most parishes between 1838 and 1854. Although the Tithe Act 1836 is a long and complicated piece of legislation, the underlying principle was the simple one of substituting for the payment of tithes in kind, as were already payable in many parishes under the authority of a local Enclosure Act.

The commissioners decisions were called Tithe Awards. They are incorporated in schedules, arranged alphabetically under parish landowners, and show the occupiers, the acreage of each parcel of land, the annual money tithe payable, and a numerical reference to an ‘accompanying large scale map of the parish’. The map shows houses, boundaries, acreages, land – use and field names, and has cross-reference back to the schedule. These awards continued through half a century. Tithe Awards were drawn up in three copies. The one retained by the commissioners is now at the National Archives, in class IR 18; the one for the bishop is either at the diocesan registry or the County Record Office; and the incumbent’s copy may be still in the parish chest or deposited at the CRO. Tithe Awards may be used to confirm residence or ownership of land in a parish, and to throw light on an ancestor’s way of life and are a much underused source of information.

Source: Dictionary of Genealogy by Terrick V H Fitzhugh and Ancestral Trails by Mark D Herber (Joan P Smith member 3)