The Tithe Commutation Act of 1836

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The early years of the nineteenth century saw several attempts to impose a nation wide solution to the tithe problem. Hitherto, a great number of local arrangements had experimented with a variety of ways of commuting payment in kind to something more reliable and less argumentative. It was generally agreed that the tithe should be abolished and tithe owners given a money payment as a replacement. At the fifth attempt, an Act of Parliament was finally passed in 1836 (6 & 7 Will. IV c.71). The ‘Great Tithe Act’ as it became known, proposed a fluctuating money payment adjusted each year and based on the average price of wheat, barley, and oats.

It was hoped that an annual review of the payment for each tithe owner would reflect the variable nature of the amount of farm produce in good and bad harvests, and preserve the purchasing power of the payment. Every piece of tithable land was to have a corn rent charge (a monetary value) assigned to it and a record kept so that a prospective purchaser of land would know exactly what he would have to pay annually to the tithe owner. In this way the value of a piece of land could be measured against its tithe obligation. This would mean easier financial planning for farm improvements. The tithe commutation was to be overseen by a body of commissioners who had the power to impose a settlement in the absence of agreement by the concerned parties. The Tithe Commission was established in London with Assistant Commissioners stationed around the country to oversee implementation of the Act. The Act was eventually extended to cover almost all of Wales and nearly two-thirds of England.

 

 

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