The Tithing system
Theoretically, tithes are a tax of one-tenth part of income, in its many forms, and produce which were payable to the clergy. Disputes over tithes grew in number following the Reformation. The majority of complaints about tithes given to the Select Committee on the State of Agriculture in 1833 came from Kent. As a last resort discontented farmers could seek redress by litigation.
The 1806 Tithe Map
A Tithe Map of the parish was created in 1806 as a result of a tithe dispute between the rector of Frittenden, Henry Hodges, and the occupiers of the land. An order for tithe payments of 1737 had contained no reference to either hops or wool, and legal opinions were sought in 1805 and 1806.
Henry Hodges was the Rector of Beckley, near Rye in Sussex, from 1804 to 1837. He lived and was buried there. Henry was the brother of Thomas Law Hodges, who inherited the Hemsted Estate, Benenden, from his father in 1802. This included the patronage of Frittenden which his father had bought from the daughter of Henry Bagnall, a former Frittenden Rector. When the Rectory became vacant in 1805, Thomas Law Hodges appointed his brother Henry to the position. There is little evidence of his ministry at Frittenden, the work being apparently undertaken instead by a succession of curates, including Edward Moore.
Apart from the 1806 map, there was a detailed associated Apportionment which showed every field by its number on the map, who occupied the field, its acreage, and what was grown on it. [The map and Apportionment are held in Historical Society’s Archive.] The dispute resulted in a case being submitted for a decision at Lincoln’s Inn when it was described as follows:
The Revd. Henry Hodges is Rector of Frittenden in the County of Kent and is about to agree with his parishioners for a composition to be paid him in lieu of their respective Tythes the most considerable impediment to which is a difficulty that has occurred with respect to such Land as is used for the cultivation of Hops.
The emergence of such a dispute reflects the growing influence of non-conformity in the area [the Strict Baptist Chapel on Pound Hill was also built in 1806] and also suggests that hops were of growing importance in the parish. The Napoleonic Wars were raging and large numbers of troops were billeted in the county who required feeding and watering.
The judgement of 7 May 1806 was that ‘the Rector is not intitled to the tithes in Kind of Hops but is intitled to those of Wool’ [ie 4d per acre]. [This might suggest that sheep were allowed to graze in hop gardens.]
The 1837 Tithe Map
Thirty years on from the dispute, The Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 also required a field by field survey of landownership, occupancy and use in each tithe district.
This was recorded on the Tithe Map and in the Tithe Apportionment [both held in the Society’s Archive]. This survey appears to be merely an update of that undertaken in 1806. The objective of the Act was to establish a monetary equivalent, referred to as the ‘rent charge’. Although the survey was dated 1837 the Apportionment was not finalised until 1841. The Gross Rent Charge payable was £414.
Further records of ‘rent charges’, for 1857, 1869 and 1921, are held by the Historical Society.
The Tithe Act 1925 transferred the income to the Queen Anne’s Bounty fund, which supplemented the income of poor clergy. The Tithe Act 1936 extinguished tithes altogether, Government Stock being issued in compensation.
The information on this page has been kindly provided by the Frittenden Historical Society.