The Tithe Survey of Swansea

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The tithe survey of Swansea parish is just one of the eleven thousand such surveys that were completed by the middle of the nineteenth century. The surveys now form a wealth of information about the nineteenth-century landscape. Locally, the survey provides us with a picture of Swansea that is still predominantly rural. On a national scale the average size of a apportionment is twenty-three pages; Swansea’s apportionment has over one hundred pages, so it can be regarded as one of the larger tithe districts. Swansea parish is one of the one hundred and thirty seven districts of the county of Glamorgan, and nine hundred and eighty-five across the whole of Wales. When the information in the Swansea survey is multiplied by such numbers, the reader can imagine the wealth of often untapped information awaiting discovery.

The Tithe Commutation Act enabled tithe owners and tithe payers to come to an agreement over the value of the proposed corn rent charge at any time before 1 October 1838. In the absence of agreement by all the parties the Act gave the Commissioners the power to impose a valuation. voluntary agreements between the affected parties were positively encouraged to keep the commutation process as free from acrimony as possible. In Swansea’s case the affected parties gathered at a series of parochial meetings and came to a provisional agreement by 28 December 1837. This provisional agreement was phrased in precise terms by the Commissioners, thus ensuring conformity for all agreements across the country. Swansea’s agreement was rather early and may indicate the satisfactory nature of the process in this area. The records indicate that Swansea was one of the first two hundred parishes in the country to present their agreement to the Commissioners.

For the rest of the country, the bulk of agreements were not to be completed until 1839-40. The records also tell us that agreements between the interested parties were not as common as desired. Locally the parishes of St John’s and Oystermouth had awards imposed as a result of an impasse between tithe owners and payers. In due course, Swansea’s agreement was inspected by the Commissioners and confirmed as satisfactory on 30 September 1843. Because the tithe surveys have their origins in an Act of Parliament it is not surprising to find that the surviving records have a format that is largely uniform despite there being over eleven thousand surveys. Essentially, each district will have two documents; a map and an apportionment.



The View for Sunday October 15 2000

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