Where did my ancestor live? Part 1 Tithe maps

Maps can be a very useful tool in both the family and house historian’s tool kit to research both people and the surrounding area, the landowners, occupiers, use of land and changes over time. In this first of three blogs looking at how differint maps and together with other resources can be used, I look at Tithe maps.

The Tithe Commutation Act 1836 allowed tithes (tenths) to be converted into cash payments. These payments were known as Tithe Awards (also known as apportionments or schedules) and were based on land values and the price of corn. The Tithe Commutation Act converted tithes into a tithe rent charge, which were finally abolished in 1936.

In most cases three copies of the award were made. One for the parish, one for the diocese and one for the Tithe Commission. The award provided details of landowners and occupies within each tithe district usually based on the parish boundary.

The tithe award also has a reference number to an accompanying large scale tithe survey map of the parish showing what land was occupied as well as features such as houses, parish boundaries and field names.

They can be found at TNA in series IR 18, Tithe Files, IR 29, Tithe Apportionments and IR 30, Tithe Maps. They are also usually found at County Record Offices.

The Tithe Apportionment Schedule includes Landowner’s name and address. Description of land held, and the amount measured in acres, roods and perches. Plot number showing where the plot is on the tithe map. Tenant’s/occupier’s names and the amount of tithe payable.

The Tithe records for my home village of Cranleigh are available at the Genealogist website[1]&[2] as well as at Surrey History Centre. The records available include the original tithe map[3] for the whole parish of Cranleigh dated 1842 along with the apportionment award and summary dated 26th July 1841[4]. They also include 36 altered apportionment[5] (including altered apportionments of already altered apportionments), 16 of which include their own maps[6]; and 6 separate larger scale altered apportionment maps. The records cover the period from 1841 to 1936 when the Tithe Act of that year introduced a landowner’s annuity scheme in place of the tithe rent charge; the annuity scheme was wound up in 1977.

The original tithe map is in the scale of 8 chains to 1 inch and both a black and white and colour copy are available at the Genealogist website. The colour map is most useful as it provides a key to various shaded areas which helps to identify the different landscape although some of the colours are now faded and difficult to distinguish. The features include dwelling houses, out houses, the church, mills, rivers, ponds, roads, woods, furze and orchards. However, the different uses of fields is not distinguished, in this case[7], on the map.

Certain properties and areas are named in the map, such as the common, Common House, Rectory, Park House, Knowle, New Park, High Park, Snoxhill, Vachery, Vachery Lodge, to name a few. Many of these areas and places remain today.

The first of the larger altered apportionments is dated 9 March 1871 and is in respect of land along the route of the London to Brighton and South Coast railway line (which opened on 2 October 1865), and those sections of each ‘plot’ or field purchased by the London to Brighton and South Coast railway company.

The remaining larger scale altered apportionments are for various areas in the parish from the years 1910, 1921, 1931 and two in 1932. These are all in respect of property development in the various areas.

It can be therefore seen just from the above brief overview of the various tithe maps that these alone illustrate change and development over a 90-year period. The apportionments, the altered apportionments and associated maps together provide a more detailed illustration of change and development over a 105-year period thus providing important information for both the local and family historian. Those tithe maps which were produced as a result of change and development, may help to identify when an ancestor’s property was built. Such change and development can also be illustrated if they are used in conjunction with other maps from the same period, such as the OS maps which were developed in the 19th century and may provide more detail to the tithe maps.

What is clear from the map is that every single piece of land is identified with a number corresponding with the apportionment (or altered apportionment) and therefore if an ancestor lived in the parish at the appropriate time, they should be found in the award. It must however be noted that it is only the landowner and occupier who are named i.e. the head of the family not an entire family. Of course, it may be the case that more than one generation lived together, in which case an ancestor may not be named in the tithe records. This illustrates that other records may need to be used in conjunction with tithe records, such as the 1841 census which will provide details of who else your ancestor lived with who can then be searched for in the tithe records. Other records such as registers of births, marriages and deaths, lists of electors and rate assessments may also be useful in identifying which ancestor may appear in the tithe records.

The apportionment begins with the preamble providing details of who is responsible for conducting the award, their address and position,

“Thomas Smith Woolley of South Collingham in the County of Nottingham having been duly appointed and sworn an Assistant Tithe Commissioner”.

It goes on to set out the extent and use of the land liable to tithes,

“…the estimated quantity in Statute Measure of all the Lands of the said Parish which are subject to payment of Tithes amount to Seven Thousand four hundred and ninety four acres which are now cultivated and used as follows (that is to say)

Four thousand and five hundred acres as arable land

Four hundred and ninety four acres as meadow or pasture Land and

One thousand and five hundred acres as wood

One thousand acres are the Common Land of the said Parish”

It goes on to provide details as to who is entitled to the tithes and the annual sum awarded,

“…I find that the Rector of the said Parish for the time being is entitled to all the Tithes arising from all the Lands of the said Parish…..

hereby award that the annual sum of One Thousand Four Hundred and Fifty Pounds by way of Rent Charge (subject to the provisions of the Act) shall from, the first day of October next preceding the Confirmation of the Apportionment of the said charge be paid to the Rector of the said Parish for the time being instead of all the tithes…”

The Apportionment Award itself is then set out in printed columns:

  • Landowners;
  • Occupiers;
  • Number referring to the plan;
  • Name and Description of the lands and premises;
  • State of Cultivation;
  • Quantities in Statute Measure;
  • Amount of rent charge apportioned up the several lands and payable to the Rector;
  • Remarks.

At the end of the award there is then a summary setting out:

  • Landowners;
  • Occupiers;
  • Quantities in Statute Measure;
  • Rent charge payable to the Rector.

It is therefore within the appointment that the most useful information is found both for local and family historians. Family history cannot truly be told without looking at the local history and being able to place ancestors in context of their home and surroundings.

In lectures 5 and 6, parish registers and parish records, I researched the Tickner family of Cranleigh and it was clear from those records that they were a large and prominent family in the area, with descendants still living in the area today. The tithe records provide further insight into their prominence in the area. John Tickner is named as landowner and occupier of what appears to be three ‘areas’ of land with field numbers 147, 88 – 110 (Barhatch); 65 – 87 (Fowles); 258 – 281 together with 813 – 816 (Park House). These include two houses with gardens, arable and pasture fields, meadows, underwood and a plantation. Each field is given a name. The “quantity is statute measured” is given for each field and with totals for each area given in A (acres) R (roods) and P (perches) along with the total Rent Charge payable given in £ (pounds) s (shilling) and d (pence) for the total lands:

‘Area’                          Quantity                      Rent Charge

Barhatch                     134  3  8                      27  12  6

Fowles                         114  2  11                    26   6   6

Park House                 216  1  3                      33   8   6

Total                            465  2  22                    87   7   6

This covers a large area of the east and north east of the village. What is interesting from this is that John Tickner was named as both the Landowner and occupier of all these lands suggesting he and his family worked this land themselves and did not rent any out. What the tithe record does not tell us is anything about John Tickner’s family: wife, children etc. Other records mentioned above would help provide this information such as the 1841 census. Interestingly, although John Tickner is listed in the apportionment as occupier of two properties, in the 1841 census he is not listed as living in Cranleigh but in the neighbouring village of Alfold. Also, for example,  in the 1841 census[8], the property known as Park House owned by John Tickner and where he is also listed as the occupier in the tithe records, was in fact occupied by the Stedman family, with the head of the household being described as an agricultural labourer. This nicely illustrates that not all ancestors will be named in the apportionment and how other records should and can be used in conjunction with tithe records.

Staying with this example, in the ‘Remarks’ column next to the fields listed under Park House in the apportionment, it states “AA21” which is the Altered Apportionment dated 29 September 1931[9]. This award illustrates change. All those fields and properties numbered 258 – 281 together with 813 – 816 in the original apportionment are now in new landownership, being split between 17 separate landowners. It should be noted that only landowners are listed by this time and are therefore presumably the occupiers. Unfortunately there is no census for 1931 as it was destroyed by a fire in 1942 so the best other records for this period to use in conjunction with the tithe record would include the registers of births, marriages and deaths, the 1921 census (to be released in January 2022[10]), the 1939 National Register and trade and telephone directories.

What the altered apportionment does not tell us is when the new landowners bought the land and whether they bought it from John Tickner or another. It does however tell us the size of each ‘plot’ or field which, from a local history point of view can provide evidence of changing field boundaries when compared to the size in the original apportionment. Land usage is unfortunately not provided.

On 2 September 1920 there was an altered apportionment[11] for the area known as New Park Farm owned and occupied by John King in the original apportionment, field numbers 771 to 812. This appears to have been an altered apportionment when new roads were starting to be built. The altered apportionment shows one of the fields being split into two by the new road with one landowner being named and the remainder plots being described as having various landowners suggesting the various fields having already been ‘sold off’ by John King.

This altered apportionment is itself altered by a further altered apportionment dated 21 August 1930[12]. This later altered apportionment further illustrates change and development of the area, setting out a new housing estate which had been built on a large proportion of the land once owned by John King. From the map and award together, it is possible to locate an ancestor’s home on this new housing estate. The award lists all the new house owners and their location on the separate tithe map which is scaled 1:2,500. Some of the new owners have other comments next to them which are helpful to the family historian; for example, Mary H. Barrodale (Spinster), Lieut. Col. A. C. Elliot, C.B.E, Jessie Jordan (Married Woman), Surrey County Council. There are then several fields just listed under the description of ‘various’ for landowners, which is not very helpful and other records would need to be searched for the owners and/or occupiers of those parts, including the earlier apportionment as they may still be in the same family ownership.

As with all historical records, tithe records only provide a snapshot of the occupation and use of land at a particular time but again as with many historical records, where a series of records exist as in this case, then changes and development can be followed over that period. Apportionments and altered apportionments provide evidence of change of ownership through time.

The summaries at the end of the apportionments  sets out the total acreage of land owned and/or occupied by each individual and can therefore also provide evidence of a family’s changing fortunes, for example through the size of acreage owned and its growth and shrinkage over time. Because each field is identified individually, and are numbered on the tithe map, patterns of field ownership/occupation can be plotted and can provide important information about the relationship between landowners and occupiers and the social and economic structure of the local community, particularly when used in conjunction with, for example, census returns which may help further identify worker-occupiers (as illustrated above in the example of John Tickner).

The tithe maps also provide locations for industries such as mills and mining. For example, the Tithe map for Cranleigh provides the location of two mills and in the 1841 census there are two millers listed but they were not the same as those listed as the owners or occupiers of the mills in the apportionment award. The two millers in the census are therefore likely to be employees. Again this illustrates that there are in fact many individuals not named in the tithe records because they are either not landowners and the main occupier, or they may be subtenants, lodgers, living with other family members etc. the majority of the population were in fact not recorded in the tithe records such as, “women, children, soldiers, students, lunatics, paupers, landless workers, itinerants traders and vagrants”[13], being just a few of the long list of those Kain and Prince refer to.

Where an ancestor is known to be of a certain occupation, for example an agricultural worker or farmer, and they are named in the tithe records, the type of land use described should give an indication of the type of agricultural labourer or farmer they were, i.e. arable land would indicate a crop farmer whilst pasture land would indicate a livestock farmer. Meadow land is likely to be land unused at the time of the survey possibly used in rotation for either pastureland or crop growth. It must also be remembered that the use of land was subject to constant change. For example, farmers would, as they still do today, rotate field usage by season or year to try and get the best of the land. Field boundaries may also have been subject to change for the same reason.

As well as land use and landownership/occupation information, Evans and Crosby[14] suggest that field names set out in tithe records are useful to the local historian. “Since the late 1940’s field names…..have been increasingly recognised as an important source for many areas of local history research”[15]. Tithe records were the first records to systematically record field names which, as with the study of place names and surnames, may provide some insight into the history of the area. A field name could derive from physical features of the land (which may be historic and no longer evident), historic events which took place, location, size etc. And whilst field names were subject to change and the recording of them subject to the usual idiosyncratic errors (accent, dialect, spelling etc) many “will be of great antiquity, perhaps dating from the early Middle Ages, or will relate to very specific features of land-use, topography or ownership”[16]. For example, John Tickner has fields called “Great Wood field” which lies adjacent to a wood and is the largest of the fields he owns surrounding the wood; and “Lime Kiln field” which was once probably the location of a lime kiln (further research into the local area history would confirm this); however many of his fields are simply named by their size such as “six acres” and “lower six acres”. There are however also names which describe the condition of the land, such as “Great Stoney field”, “Stoney Field”, “Little Stoney field”, “Bushey Copse”. “Marsh field”, “Flat field” etc.

Field names could however also include “lost man-made features and sites with archaeological potential… Names such as Old Hall Field, Banqueting House Meadow and Castle Hill can be a pointer to such locations”[17].

Evans and Crosby[18] also suggest that tithe maps, along with “very detailed and lengthy documentary research”[19] can form the basis to reconstruct medieval landscapes.

The tithe map and apportionment award together also provide a clear picture of the size of the glebe terrier, its location and occupation. In Cranleigh the Rector is recorded in the apportionment award as the landowner of 35 fields; 8 of which he is described as occupying himself including the church yard and rectory. The remainder of the glebe terrier is largely the central village area and surrounding fields.

Overall tithe records provide a rich insight into the local society and community at the time they were conducted and can be used to research changes over almost a century, as altered apportionment awards were made. Tithe records in themselves are unlikely to be able to assist in tracing an ancestral line beyond the 1840’s. They do not identify all individuals and therefore an ancestor may not be recorded in the tithe records. However, their use is in being able to ‘put meat on the bones’ of family history. Being able to identify where an ancestor lived and understand the surroundings in which they lived, can bring an ancestor’s character and life, to life. Tithe records “offer a wealth of detailed information on local landscapes and rural communities”[20] and together with other contemporary records can help reconstruct the society in which they lived.


E. Evans                      Tithes: maps, apportionments and the 1836 act: a guide for local historians & A. Crosby             (British Association for Local History 1997)

R. Kain & H. Prince               Tithe Surveys for Historians (Phillimore 2000)

J. West                    Village Records (Phillimore 1997)

G. Blanchard            Tracing your House History (Pen and Sword 2013)


[1] http://www.thegenealogist.co.uk

[2] IR 29/34/40 and IR30/34/40

[3] IR 30/34/40/000 and 001

[4] IR 29/34/40/004 to 056

[5] IR 29 /34/40/058 to 181

[6] IR 30/34/40/AA11, AA19, AA2, AA21, AA24 & AA25

[7] Some commissioners did differentiate field use by tinting or colour

[8] HO 107/1045/9

[9] IR 29/34/40/131 to 133

[10] The genealogist website has available a 1921 census substitute collection which is essentially trade and telephone directories.

[11] IR 29/43/40/107 to 109

[12] IR 29/43/40/120 to 128

[13] “Tithe Surveys for Historians” by Kain and Prince page 124

[14] “Tithes, Maps, Apportionments and the 1836 Act”

[15] “Tithes, Maps, Apportionments and the 1836 Act” page 44

[16] “Tithes, Maps, Apportionments and the 1836 Act”  page 46

[17] “Tithes, Maps, Apportionments and the 1836 Act” page 49

[18] ibid

[19] Ibid page 51

[20] “Tithe Surveys for Historians” by Kain and Prince page 104

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