Tithe commutation was a 19th-century reform of
In common law systems, land tenure is the legal regime in which land is owned by an individual, who is said to "hold" the land. It determines who can use land, for how long and under what conditions. Tenure may be based both on official laws and p ...
in Great Britain and Ireland, which implemented an exchange of the payment of a
A tithe (; from Old English: ''teogoþa'' "tenth") is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a contribution to a religious organization or compulsory tax to government. Today, tithes are normally voluntary and paid in cash or cheques, whereas h ...
to the clergy of the
A state religion (also called an established religion or official religion) is a religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state. A state with an official religion, while not secular, is not necessarily a theocracy, a country whose rulers ...
, which were traditionally paid
in kindThe term in kind (or in-kind) generally refers to goods, services, and transactions not involving money or not measured in monetary terms. It is a part of many spheres, mainly economics, finance, but also politics, work career, food, health, etc. Th ...
, to a system based in an annual cash payment, or once-for-all payment. The system had become complex, with lay owners by
Impropriation, a term from English ecclesiastical law, was the destination of the income from tithes of an ecclesiastical benefice to a layman. With the establishment of the parish system in England, it was necessary for the properties to have an o ...
entitled to some tithes, which were of a number of kinds.
In Scotland, a form of commutation of
teindIn Scotland a teind was a tithe derived from the produce of the land for the maintenance of the clergy.
It is also an old lowland term for a tribute due to be paid by the fairies to the devil every seven years. Found in the story of Tam Lin as well ...
s applied from 1633. A full reform was carried out in the 1930s.
Commutation of tithes occurred in England before the 19th century major reform, since it was an aspect of
Enclosure, sometimes termed inclosure, was the legal process in England of consolidating (enclosing) small landholdings into larger farms from the 13th century onward. Once enclosed, use of the land became restricted and available only to the ...
, a legal process under which rights to
Common land is land owned collectively by a number of persons, or by one person, but over which other people have certain traditional rights, such as to allow their livestock to graze upon it, to collect wood, or to cut turf for fuel.
A person ...
were modified by
act of parliament
Acts of parliament, sometimes referred to as primary legislation, are texts of law passed by the legislative body of a jurisdiction (often a parliament or council). In most countries, acts of parliament begin as a bill, which the legislature votes ...
. An estimate places 60% of enclosure acts as involving tithe commutation. In such cases, commissioners who dealt with the detail of enclosure acts handled tithes by allocation of land, as part of the division of ownership.
By this mechanism, in the period 1750 to 1830,
Glebe (also known as church furlong, rectory manor or parson's close(s))McGurk 1970, p. 17 is an area of land within an ecclesiastical parish used to support a parish priest. The land may be owned by the church, or its profits may be reserved to ...
land increased, and clerics in some places became active farmers.
From the 17th century tithe commutation became seen as part of agricultural improvement
, and by the later 18th century tithes were seen as a major obstacle to improvement, for example by
Adam Smith ( 1723 – 17 July 1790) was a Scottish economist, philosopher as well as a moral philosopher, a pioneer of political economy, and a key figure during the Scottish Enlightenment, also known as ''The Father of Economics''
. and the Board of Agriculture
In England and Wales existing tithe payments were abolished by the
Tithe Commutation Act 1836
The Tithe Commutation Act 1836 (6 & 7 Will 4 c 71) was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom with the long title "An Act for the Commutation of Tithes in England and Wales". It replaced the ancient system of payment of tithes in kind with ...
. It introduced in their place a cash payment, the "corn rent".
The legislation was shaped by the parliamentary contribution of William Blamire
, a farmer and self-styled "practical man", who became a tithe commissioner.
Implementation of the Commutation Act for England and Wales required detailed maps. Robert Kearsley Dawson
took the opportunity to press for a substantive cadastral survey.
History of the Church of England
History of the Church of Scotland