Digging in the Deep: Indexing Tithe Apportionments

  1. What is a Tithe?
  2. What is an Apportionment?
  3. Getting started
  4. How to Index
  5. Occupiers and Owners
  6. Numbers
  7. Abbreviations
  8. Other Columns
  9. Possible Abbreviations
  10. And Finally…

What is a Tithe?

Tithes were a form of taxation under which 10% of the yearly income or produce were paid over to the Church or landowner. This form of taxation was a part of English culture since at least Anglo-Saxon times. Originally it was a voluntary payment made to the parish Priest, but became compulsory in the 10th century. As these taxes were paid to the Church, tithes were a massive source of revenue for local Priests and the diocese.

Some tithes were payable to lay landowners, that is non-clergy who owned land and tithe rights of their own. This became more common after the Reformation when Church lands were sold off and more lay people bought the rights to tithe collection. It remained a huge part of a clergyman’s income however as most tithes continued to be owned by the Church.

Tithe payments were originally made ‘in kind’, meaning a tenth of the crop yield, or the tenth lamb or calf, or a tenth of everything produced was paid over to the Church. By the early 1800s though the in kind payments were increasingly unpopular. In 1836 the Tithe Commutation Act was established to convert all tithe payments to money. These payments are also known as tithe rent charge, or corn rents as they were based on the national price of corn calculated over a 7 year period. In many areas tithe charges had been commuted to money before this Act was established as part of the Enclosure process so for some this official change made little difference.

A national tithe survey was established to find out who owned what land, to whom tithes were payable, and which areas of land might be subject to tithe charges. Enquiries were sent out to every parish and township and, for every area where the tithes had not yet been commuted to money payments, a full survey was undertaken. Assistant Tithe Commissioners travelled to each parish to value the land and settle the new terms of the tax. 11,800 surveys were made across England and Wales between 1836 and the 1850s. The result of these surveys were the tithe maps and apportionments we now hold.

What is an Apportionment?

The tithe apportionment is the legal document that accompanies the tithe map. The two were used in conjunction to itemise the landowners’ boundaries, all tithable land, and the amount to be paid by each person in every parish or township. Some lands were exempt from tithes, for example naturally barren lands, forests in possession of the crown, glebe land in the occupation of a parson, and lands that had been exempt from tax since time immemorial.

Apportionments all follow a standardised format. They begin with a preamble which outlines the articles of agreement between the landowners and tithe owners, or the compulsory award imposed by the Tithe Commissioners. The preamble also gives a breakdown of the extent and state of cultivation of the land and lists any land that is exempt from tithes in the area including commons, roads and waterways. After this preamble comes the main part of the apportionment, the full list of the plots of land as shown on the accompanying map. The list is arranged alphabetically by landowners’ name, not by plot number.

There may sometimes be a third part to an apportionment which outlines any changes made to the tithes when ownership changes hands, or divisions of land are altered. Often these changes were not formalised in a written apportionment though and were merely agreed upon between landowners and tithe owners.

Tithe charges were abolished in 1936.

Getting started

Indexing tithe apportionments is slightly different to the transcribing you have done so far. The transcriptions of letters and accounts will all be entered into our catalogue to form part of the searchable descriptions for each item. Apportionment data however does not go into our catalogue. Instead we keep it as a separate file that can be used in a multitude of ways, primarily to make searching for individual people much easier.

An example of a project that has utilised tithe indexes is our Leeds Tithe website which can be found at http://wytithemaps.org.uk/leeds-maps/. We hope in the future to get some further funding which would allow us to add the tithes you are working on to this website. It is therefore crucial that all the spreadsheets follow the same rules and format.

We have found the best way to index the apportionments is in Excel. You will therefore need access to Excel and basic knowledge of how to enter information into it. If you do not have Excel don’t worry, there are still records to transcribe instead!

Apportionments are all a standard size which is sadly too large for us to copy at a high resolution. We have taken photographs of the apportionments and while they are legible and of fairly good quality they are sadly not all as clear as the other records you have been using.

How to Index

It is important to note that indexing is different to transcribing and has a different set of rules to follow. Please read them thoroughly before starting and refer back to them when needed.

  • We will send a readymade excel document for each apportionment. You do not need to start a new sheet or document for each image and can carry on from one page to the next to create a long list. If more than 1 volunteer works on an apportionment we will merge their work into one master spreadsheet.
  • Start a new row for each plot number.
  • If two plot numbers have been joined together (usually you will see something like ‘1&2’) enter the information as you find it using an ampersand (&).
  • There may be some columns on the spreadsheet that you do not need to fill in for every plot. For example the spreadsheet will have an ‘occupier 2’ column. If there is no second occupier for an entry you can leave this column blank.
  • If you are unsure of a word but can make a guess, put your best guess in [square brackets]. If you cannot read a word at all put a question mark (?) in place of that word.

Occupiers and Owners

  • If someone owns or occupies more that 1 plot of land their name will probably only be written in the first row of their batch of plots. We need their information in every row though so you can copy their name down into each of the relevant rows on your spreadsheet, this will probably be until the next person is named.
  • Where there are two occupiers please list each occupier separately in the appropriate column.
  • Where there are more than two occupiers, all but the first can all be listed in the surname of the second occupier column:

e.g. ‘occupier forename 2: Benjamin, occupier surname 2:  Smith, Robert Forster & Lucy Jones’

  • If the owner or occupier has a title (Lord, Rev, etc), enter this before their first name in the forename field:

e.g. ‘Collins The Reverend Thomas’ would be ‘Owner Surname 1: Collins, Owner Forename 1: The Reverend Thomas’.

  • Some plots were occupied or owned by an institution or collective such as ‘Leeds Guardians’ or ‘Trustees of John Smith’. In this case there will be no surname and forename to put in the relevant columns so please put the full title given in the first available column which will be ‘owner surname 1’.
  • If the owner / occupier is a company name enter it forename first:

e.g.  ‘James Blackburn & Company.’

  • If a name uses an epithet, such as ‘John Smith of Eccleshill’, enter the name as usual and add any additional text of this kind in brackets, after the surname:

e.g. ‘Owner Surname 1: Smith (of Eccleshill), Owner Forename 1: John

  • If the document says ‘In hand’ or ‘herself/himself’ or ‘themselves’ please transcribe the owner’s name(s) instead.
  • The names of people and places should be given capital letters where appropriate, even if they do not have them on the document.


  • The quantity of land columns, which outline the size of the plot, are subdivided into acres, roods and perches. This is shown as ‘a’, ‘r’ and ‘p’ on the apportionment. These measurements will be given in the column heading so you only need to put the number in each column, not the ‘a’, ‘r’ and ‘p’.
  • Within the columns of figures (the land quantity and money columns) a ditto (“) mark means zero NOT that the number is the same as the figure above.  Please enter a 0 in these cases.
  • Where there is no number given in either the quantities or money payable columns enter a 0. There should be a figure in all rows of the numerical columns.
  • Where a fraction is given leave a space after the whole number, before the fraction:

e.g. ’12 1/2’ or ‘3 1/3’ etc

  • Many owners have multiple plots listed. In some cases a total of their land and money payable has been given at the end of their section. These totals are often shown in a new row with a single or double line drawn above and below them. e.g.:

Do NOT enter these totals into the spreadsheet. We need each row of data to link to one specific plot and the totals are not needed. The totals are usually at the bottom of an owner’s section, or the top of the page, they may say ‘brought forward’ or ‘carried over’ before the numbers.


  • Where the author has written ‘ditto’, ‘do.’ or “ we need the information they were referring to, so please go to the next full description above ‘ditto’ and put that instead.
  • Unlike the full transcriptions you have been doing you can fill out any abbreviations that might come up, for example ‘esq’ can be written out as ‘esquire’, ‘Ld’ as ‘Lord’, etc. You do not need to put these in square brackets. If you write out the full word you do not need to write the abbreviation as well, just one or the other. See below for a list of likely abbreviations:

e.g. ‘John Smith Esq’ would be ‘Owner Surname 1: Smith Esquire, Owner Forename 1: John’

  • If you are not sure what an abbreviation might be don’t guess, just write exactly what is there.
  • Where there is an ‘etc.’ it is written with the dot at the end:

e.g. ‘houses, gardens etc.’

Other Columns

  • Notes field – Please record anything else written on the apportionment here.  For example, add ‘Payable to the rector of Barchester’ if this is added to the ‘Payable to’ column.
  • Transcribers Notes – Please use this to make any comments about what you have done that we might need to know.
  • Please note that on some apportionments the plot number column is labelled ‘numbers referring to the map’. This is just an alternative name for the same thing so you can enter those number sin the ‘plot number’ column of the spreadsheet.

Possible Abbreviations

Ld – Lord

Ldy – Lady

Sr – (as a title) Sir

Rt Hon – Right Honourable

Rev – Reverend

Esq – Esquire

Sr – (after the name) Senior

Jr – Junior

Trees – Trustees

Elr – Elder

Yr – Younger

Co – Company

Mea – Meadow

Pas – Pasture

Ara – Arable

&c – etc.

Do – Ditto. Do not enter ‘ditto’, instead enter the last full entry above.

Exr / Ex – Executor

And Finally…

If there is anything not covered in this guidance please let me know. I hope you enjoy these tithe records!