Braithwell, Micklebring and Clifton History and Heritage

The Township of Braithwell. The Tithe Award. 1838 - 1840.

Before the 1830's, the Tithe was traditionally a payment to the "lay Rector" of one tenth of the produce 'that came from, or was nourished by the earth.' It was paid in kind, and was difficult to calculate and collect.

Tithes have been collected from the early Middle ages onwards. To begin with, this was in the form of a grant of a proportion of all the goods produced. This went to the Church and it was at first a voluntary contribution. In late Saxon times it became a compulsory tithe, the proceeds going to the poor of the village, the Priest to supplement his small stipend, and some went towards the upkeep of the Church. Tithes were the corner stone of Church income.

Monastaries received a sizeable proportion of Tithes as they flourished and were endowed, but an Act of 1391 made 'Vicarial upkeep' compulsory, and binding upon all receivers of the Tithe. With the dissolution of the monastaries, their lands, and rights of tithe passed to the Crown, and this was later granted for favours rendered, or sold outright to administrators, notables and Court favourites. In this way for the first time, the tithes became private property. In the case of Braithwell, the 1765 Enclosure Act names the Duke of Leeds as the 'owner of the soil and mineral rights', and Richard, Earl of Scarborough as Improprietor and Lay Rector. By 1838, little had changed, and it was stated the the Earl of Scarborough was receiver of the Great Tithes, and the Vicar, Charles Augustus Stuart was in receipt of the Vicarial or Small Tithes.

Great Tithes were levied on crops of corn, hay and also wood. The small tithes were the rest: usually wool, small livestock and garden produce: items which were a great deal harder to assess and collect than those going to the Improprietor! Each vicarage had an original endowment which stated precisely which rights of tithe were attached.

As previously stated, the Church needed Tithes in order for the Priest to carry on his duties in the Parish. Many livings were poorly paid, and the priest needed the income from the tithes to survive. Because of the difficulty of collection, many attempts were made to tighten up procedures. In some instances, 'moduses' were being paid. (a small customary payment made in lieu of a full demand agreed by consent often many years previously). These no longer reflected the present value of the tithe, and so the parson was losing out. There were only 2 in Braithwell at the time:

         Plot 87 belonging to Rev. G.Rollinson (Chapel Hole)

         Plot 88 belonging to Robert Thompson (Crag Close)

These do not seem to have caused the Commissioner problems as they did in other parishes, and they are dealt with in detail in the Award.

A further worry was that from 1790 onwards, the Parsons on their low stipend were hit with inflation following the steep rise in corn prices with the start of the Napoleonic wars.

 The Tithe was a tax on productivity, not on acreage. The Church welcomed this ... the more the produce, the greater the Tithe to be collected! In many cases the collection of the Tithe led to disputes, in some cases turning the Vicar against the parishioners: another cause of concern for the Church authorities. Many clergy were forced to accept less than they were due, rather than stir up trouble in the Parish. The poem below puts the case well!

The Priest he merry is, and blithe

Three quarters of the year,

But oh! it cuts him like a scythe

When Tithing time comes near.

For then the farmers come ..jog, jog. Along the murky road

Each heart as heavy as a log

To make their payments good.

Now all unwelcome at his gates The clumsy swains alight

With rueful faces and bald pates. He trembles at the sight.

And well he may, for well he knows Each bumpkin of the clan

Instead of paying what he owes, Will cheat him if he can!

William Cowper.

In 1834 and 1835 Bills were introduced into Parliament for the commutation of Tithes from a payment in kind to a cash settlement, but these failed to become law. This was possibly due to the fact that with the widespread enclosures having taken place, land was now more productive and so greater tithes were to be had! Finally a Bill was passed and the Commutation of Tithes in England and Wales became a reality.

Before 1836 there had been a number of voluntary agreements. The Act did not put a stop to this, in fact they were encouraged. The costs were to be based upon the price of the three main cereal crops - wheat, barley and oats. This was to be worked out as an average over the previous seven years. (In the initial stages this caused a problem, the Improprietors arguing that this was unfair as 1834 and 1835 were years when corn prices had been abnormally low).

Three Tithe Commissioners were appointed, two being the Home Secretary and the Archbishop of Canterbury. They operated from London, but mostly they relied upon the work of Assistant Commissioners. The costs incurred by the valuers and surveyors were to be met "by the landowners and Improprietors in such proportion as the Assistant Commissioners shall direct." The costs of apportionment were to be met exclusively by the landowners in ratable proportion to the sum being imposed in lieu of tithes.

The ways in which a voluntary agreement could be initiated were similar to those stipulated for enclosures. One quarter of the owners of lands subject to Tithes could call a meeting to discuss the matter. At this meeting, if two thirds of the landowners and tithe owners (by value) agreed on the process being started. It became binding on all to accept the change. They could appoint an Assessor to apportion the new charges ... usually a respected member of the community. (in the case of Braithwell, John Snipe, the schoolmaster). The Braithwell meeting was held on 15th November 1837.

Living locally in the school house, and knowing personally all the owners and tenant farmers, Snipe had an unenviable task. Overnight he became the taxation officer! His task was to get all to agree to the values he apportioned, bearing in mind the acreage, quality of the land and the amounts in kind paid previously. He started by checking former payments in kind, making a rough conversion to arrive at a total cash amount which could be accepted by both the landowners and tenants and the Improprietor. On agreement, the sum was then sub-divided amongst the landowners, according to the size of their various plots. This process in order to reach individual agreements must have necessitated many private meetings with the individuals concerned. Then in order to comply with the terms of the Act he had to convert all in order to arrive at the number of bushels of cereal crops grown in the village in the previous year.

 It becomes obvious that this is the way John Snipe went about the process when one studies the figures on the document. They are as follows;


Price per bushel

No.of bushels


7. 0



3. 11



2. 9



(If one multiplies the number of bushels by the price per bushel, the answer in each case comes to £152. 6. 8. This would seem to be more than a coincidence... but given the task he had, I would suggest that working out the figures in this back handed way was perhaps the best way of reaching an agreed settlement in the time available.)

The Church and the Commissioners wanted an end to the Tithe system as it had been, and they tried to persuade as many as possible to accept voluntary commutation on the grounds that it was quicker, cheaper and easier to execute. It became general practice that in voluntary agreements, the receipts for produce grown over the past seven years was not necessary, provided that agreement did not seem to injure either party. This was the case in Braithwell, but, being a careful person, John Snipe made the figures fit in the spaces provided. The sum of the three sets of figures came to £457, and this was agreed as the total Tithe.

A meeting must then have taken place with the Earl of Scarbrough and Charles A. Stuart, the Vicar, to apportion the Greater and smaller tithes. This was not a constant proportion as can be seen from the figures. Of the total, the Vicar received 19% (£87), but the individual amounts passed on to the owners varied between 17% and 25%.

No Great Tithes were imposed on houses and orchards, and former Common land, enclosed in 1765, did not pay smaller Tithes because of a grant of land given to the vicar in lieu of them at the time.

No Tithes were also imposed on woodland or waste.

The Assistant Commissioners were supposed to conduct their own survey to check on the local results and the work of the Assessor, but in effect, in many cases this did not take place. (Out of over 2,200 voluntary agreements, only 17 were disputed!) The Commissioners approved voluntary agreements because they could then avoid being looked upon as a central bureaucracy. They wished to avoid standardisation, peaceful agreement being in their view, better for all. Disputes would only have the process. The Commissioners also realised the delicate nature of the operation and felt that it was much more advisable for someone with local knowledge to play a leading role.

After the local agreement had been reached, the provisional Award was then passed to the Assistant Commissioners, who in turn, usually recommended it to the Commissioners in London for official recognition. Initially, it all was supposed to be completed in six months, but the process usually took two years.

Some maps were found to be very inaccurate. This was not the case in Braithwell. The map appears to have been well surveyed and excellently produced. No detailed work on the Parish of Braithwell could have been produced without first having studied the Tithe Map. With the enclosure of the Open fields not having taken place until 1858, the Tithe map shows the position of all the strips in detail, as well as giving all the local names.

The Award is written on 26 large sheets of Vellum. The first three pages give a brief written account of the distribution. Then follows pages of detailed figures showing the Tithe allocation to each of the 647 designated plots. The final three pages contain a summary, showing the amount of Tithe paid by each landowner.

One copy of the Award complete with map is to be found in the Doncaster Archives, and the other copy is in the Borthwick Institute, York. (A copy may also be consulted in the BMC history group archive)

 At last after 2 years of surveys and meetings, the voluntary agreement for the commutation of Tithes in the Township of Braithwell was finished. Tithes were now a cash payment, based upon the acreage of land and not upon the yield. The next link in the chain was the enclosure of the open fields of the Parish 18 years later, and from then onwards, farming in the Parish could flourish.