The National Archives website explains that “Originally tithes were payments in kind (crops, wool, milk etc) comprising an agreed proportion of the yearly profits of cultivation or farming and made by parishioners for the support of their parish church.”  This is why the lessee of the Rectory in Thornbury had the right to collect the tithes and also the duty to maintain the church.

National Archives goes on to explain that “in theory, tithes were payable on (1) all things actually arising from the ground and subject to annual increase – grain, wood vegetables etc; (2) all things nourished by the ground- the young of cattle, sheep etc and animal produce such as milk, eggs and wool; and (3) the produce of men’s labour, particularly the profits from mills and fishing.  Such tithes were termed respectively predial, mixed and personal tithes.  Tithes were also divided into great and small tithes; generally speaking corn, grain, hay and wood were considered great tithes, and all other predial tithes together with all mixed and personal tithes were classed as small tithes.  It was common but by no means universal for the great tithes to be payable to the rector and small tithes to the vicar of the parish.”

This was the case in Thornbury. The Tithe Terrier of 1696 for example (which calls the Rectory the Parsonage) lists the tithes due and says that

All the Tythe Corne and graine growing and increasing yeerely within the parish belongs to the parsonage except of the piece called Cicera which belong to the Viccar by the institution of the Viccaridge.”

However it seems that tithes on most of the hay was by custom paid to the vicarage with one exception that from “the Lands of the Lady Symonds, and are particularly sett down and bounded in each part of the parish which have time out of mind beene paid to the parsonage.”

According to the National Archives “At the dissolution of the monasteries, not only much church land but in many cases also the accompanying rectorial tithes passed into lay ownership. These tithes became the personal property of the new owners or lay impropriators. Usually a vicar continued to have spiritual oversight of the parish and to receive its vicarial tithes.”

This was the case in Thornbury from at least 1540 when the monastery of Tewkesbury was dissolved and the Rectory began to be leased out to a series of landlords who after 1546 paid the College of Christ Church in Oxford for the lease and then collected the Rectorial tithes, part of which was retained for themselves.  The Vicar continued to collect the “Small Tithes”.

The tithe situation was made the more complicated because the tithes in kind were gradually replaced by payments of money and the crops had to be valued.  The archives of Christ Church have many references to the disputes about the value placed on a harvest and the effects of drought etc on the estimated value.   One object of the Enclosure Act in the nineteenth century was to get rid of the obligation to pay tithes.  As part of this process the total tithes payable to the Rectory and to the Vicarage had to be converted into a cash equivalent and then each piece of land had to be valued to ascertain what proportion of this new rate each owner was liable to pay.  This led to a considerable correspondence that is still held in the archives of Christ Church College and to some complaints about the decisions made by the then Vicar Maurice Fitzgerald Townsend Stephens.

The Tithe Terrier of 1696 was a complete list of the lands in this area on which tithes of produce or cash were due.  The area liable to pay tithes to the Vicarage and the Rectory included not only the Borough of Thornbury but also other areas, including; Kington, Oldbury on Severn, Rangeworthy, Upper and Lower Moreton (or Moorton), Falfield and Buckover.  Most of these tithes were related to the crops of corn and hay and most as one might expect from the information provided by the National Archives appear to be payable to the Rectory rather than the vicarage.  We have listed below some of the “Small Tithes” that were payable to the vicarage.

Item the Milke of each Cow in the parish it hath been the Custome that the Viccar shall receive three pence and for the milke of each heifer three halfe pence yeerely.

Item it hath beene used time out of mind that the Viccar shall receive of each person living out of the parish and renting or feeding ground in the parish twelve pence out of each pound of the yeerely rent.

Item it hath been the custome that the Viccar shall receive of each person feeding ground with cattle called unproffittable cattle the Tenth penny of the Vallue of the feeding of such Cattle while they are at Grasse and noe longer and that for aftermath fedd where there is Tythe hay nothing shall be paid.

Item the Tythe of Hemp Flax and of garden fruites planted or sowed in any other grounds than the gardens belonging to the severall houses of the parrishoners ought to be paid in kind to the Viccar.

Item it hath been the Custome time out of mind that each parishoner shall pay to the Viccar yeerely in liew of the garden belonging to his house one penny and for his fruites one penny.

Item the Tythe of Fishing in the River of Seaverne and the moneys paid in liew of the severall fishing places or Weares sett downe in the speciall manner of Tything belonging to the Viccar and the Viccar is to have the Tythe of the Load Weare and of the Load Poole in kind.

Item the Tythe of Wooll Sheepe Lambs calves young Piggs Geese and Eggs is to be paid in kind to the Viccar and he is to receive for the fall of each foale one penny.

Item the Tythe of the Silve cedule within the parish is to be paid in kind to the Viccar.

Item each person exceeding the age of Sixteene yeeres within the parish is to pay to the Viccar yeerely at Easter for his or her offerings two pence and each man servant sixpence and each maid servant four pence.

Item each woman for whose delivery from the perill of child birth thancks is to be given to pay to the Viccar four pence and each person marryed whose banes have been thrice asked in the parish is to pay for his wedding the price of one greene Goose well fatted and all persons marryed by Licence are to pay noe limitted sum and if any shall be married out of the parish they are to pay to the Viccar the accustomed Due.

Item it is the custom that if the Tythe Calfe fall before Hollary day then the parrishoner shall keepe him five weekes but if after onely one month and that the tythe Lambs are payable at St. Mark’s day or between that and Hollary day.