The Great Tithe of 1836

The GREAT TITHE of 1836

Angmering, Ferring, Kingston, East Preston, and Rustington

[Based on a book of that title]


RW Standing

Two hundred years ago the view from Highdown was that of a green and sylvan landscape, with embowered villages, where a harsh but natural balance of population and environment had barely been lost.

In the early 19th century there were those, like Dr. Arnold, who thought the Anglican church was doomed. As a bishop of Ripon has more recently put it, reforms of the 16th century "left many of the old evils undisturbed." In particular the outrageous wealth that some bishops enjoyed, up to £50,000 a year, while many curates survived on £60, although that was better than the grinding poverty of common parishioners on perhaps £35 a year. [A History of the Church of England by JRH Moorman]

The 1830s were one of the great decades of reform, and two pieces of legislation are thought to have helped save the church for perhaps another 150 years. The setting up of the Ecclesiastical Commission, and in 1836 the Tithe Act.

Tithes had become compulsory in the tenth century, before a money economy had greatly developed, when rural parishes could support their parson by allowing him a tithe, or tenth, of their crops. He also had possession of a small area of glebe land, as his farm. However, parishes were barely established before the Prebend of Ferring was created, with the Great Tithes diverted to the cathedral canon, leaving his vicar with only Small Tithes.

The difference between the two sorts of tithe was vast, especially in this part of Sussex where arable predominated. The Great Tithes were from the corn crops of wheat, barley and oats, whereas the vicar was left to gather his tenth from other minor crops and animals - if he could.

In 1635, during the visitation of the archbishop, sets of Glebe Terriers or surveys were drawn up by Sussex parishes. These are often enough the only documents providing details of land belonging to the vicarages, and of tithes from land in general. The Vicar of Ferring at this time still had nearly forty estimated acres of glebe in the three parishes, of which only three acres were in Kingston, nearly fourteen in East Preston, and twenty three in Ferring. This provided his main living, apart from small tithes, the Ferring terrier giving his basic stipend as the age old five marks, or £3 6s 8d.

Unfortunately these local terriers do not provide details of the tithe, with values for its various components, or any payments made in lieu of them. However, it is known that small sums of a few pence were being paid for lambs, instead of needing a judgement of Solomon about dividing them. [EpI/23/5]

The wide range in total incomes enjoyed by incumbents, may be illustrated by the value of livings in 1724, for the Vicars of Ferring and Rustington, and Rector of Angmering. In Rustington the vicar had under £31, whilst the vicar of Ferring, who was favoured with three parishes, had just under £70, but for Angmering the income was as much as £130.

In the 19th century "compositions" were being paid in place of the small tithe, and in the Tithe Reports concerning the years before 1836, for East Preston this was estimated at under £28, for Kingston under £16, but for Ferring the accounts could not be found. In the Agreements, the current value for all three parishes was settled at £150 10s, a considerable increase but still considered modest.

This "rent charge" was distributed across the parishes, to be paid on blocks of land according to their productivity, with the total amount henceforth paid varying in relation to the cost of corn. This was in fact a victory for the landowners, in that now any improvements in husbandry would give them greater yields and profits, but with no increase in tithe payments.

This radical change took place after long years of pressure, for if the Levellers had got their way tithe would have been abolished after the 1642 civil war. But for another two hundred years, during years of depression, the farmers still had the galling sight of tithe owners and lessees coming onto their land to take part of their crop. The Olliver family, for instance, purchased the great tithes of Rustington in 1805 and built their tithe barn there in 1807, enjoying another thirty years of plunder in that parish.

But with a rent-charge to be paid, something near to a cadastral survey of the country had to be undertaken, parish by parish, and tithing by tithing - the greatest such survey since Domesday. Large scale maps were accompanied by apportionments, which listed the ostensible owners and tenants of land, acreages of fields, their usage, and the amount of tithe apportioned. Not only relating to farm and woodland, but also the villages themselves, with the names of house owners, and also of tenants in many instances - although in Ferring Prebend tithes on cottages appear to have become defunct. When this information is allied to the census returns of 1841, a remarkable picture of society is painted.

To obtain a good sample of farms, several of the small local parishes need to be considered together. Angmering, Ferring, Kingston, East Preston and Rustington, make such a grouping, not quite so large as to be unmanageable. Even if the extreme downland parts of Angmering are excluded, this still extends to the best part of six thousand acres, from the pasture and woods below the hills, north of Angmering village, to the brickearth corn belt of the coast. In the tithe survey twenty-two percent of the one was woodland, but for the other it was barely measurable. The contrast between the two areas is still quite obvious today.

One of the most extraordinary features of the ancient parishes, can be illustrated by the fact that a person could walk due north from East Preston, beyond Hammerpot, and again be in East Preston. Indeed a large area there, of near 200 acres, belonged to Poling and Rustington as well as to Preston. In the Saxon mists of time this may have been a shared swine pasture, as the name Swayne Dean seems to imply. [HC183] Most peculiarly, an area south of Angmering church, today partly occupied by shops, belonged to Poling. In the 1870s these outliers were absorbed into Angmering, and bureaucratic efficiency began its march.

Apart from these outliers, the boundaries of all five parishes are much the same today. The enlargement of East Preston in 1985, to include the area north of Worthing Road up to the railway, being the most significant exception. And no doubt the Kingston boundary with Ferring follows the present course of the brook, rather than its ancient tortuous windings.

It is quite evident that the surveys are not totally reliable, field areas disagreeing with later Ordnance Survey estimates by a margin. But greater errors include the omission of small plots from the Apportionment, as in a couple of instances at Rustington. The most striking error locally, is at Angmering which was eventually deal with as two tithings, with Ham and Bargham separate, and not finalised until 1849. As a result a large area in Angmering Park is included in both tithings. Whether later tithe amendments for Angmering answered this has not been discovered.

An interesting feature of the tithe agreements concerns land for which ancient "modus" payments were made instead of great or small tithes. These all related to land which had been owned by monasteries before the Reformation. In Kingston the manor farm paid a modus to the vicar. In Angmering Ecclesden Manor farm was tithe free, and a modus was paid on other lands. However, the areas to which these payments related in 1836, should not be assumed to have been exactly the same as the monastic farms, or even those of the 17th and 18th centuries. The Kingston manor farm of 1759, and 1671, was a smaller area within the modus land of 1836.

WSRO has the diocesan copies of tithe apportionments and maps, [IR35 and IR29] and these maps can differ in some details of treatment from the original PRO maps. But the WSRO does not have the tithe agents Reports [IR 18] which are very useful in providing details of crops, rotations and comments on the valuations. Anyone dealing with a single parish might find the tithe agent reporting a three or four course rotation, with yields of as much as 40 bushels an acre for wheat. For Angmering a four course rotation and 24 bushels is specified. There can be little doubt that this is a generality or average, with yields on the brickearth coastal plain more likely to be 40 bushels - as reported for East Preston - but as little as 16 bushels in the northern parts. This is supported by the relative rate values of different quality land in the parish. It is also unlikely that a farm extending across parish boundaries had different rotations on contiguous fields of the same quality.

What kind of society was it? In this extensive swathe of county, and its five villages, there lived around 400 families with half them in Angmering. Barely a house did not overlook countryside, and beyond them the South Downs was a park in [managed] nature, with no need for artifice. Of these families at least two thirds were involved in agriculture, either as labourers, farm tenants, or owners, and, until other forms of employment arrived, few more people could usefully be employed.

The Swing Riots of 1830 had proclaimed rural poverty. Ten years later, there was wealth enough for the owners of large estates on the coastal corn belt, to embark on building fine new mansions for themselves, at Kingston, Preston Place, Ham, Ferring, and elsewhere.

Parishes were in the nature of miniature states, with those holding land holding power, and if that were only one person then he had a veritable kingdom. Recent common field enclosure in Rustington and Angmering had completed that concentration of power, with all land now managed in severalty, rather than by a community of interest.

What this meant for others is a moot point, the poor were seldom asked. After the 1834 Poor Law, the local village potentates fought hard for their own liberties, against the more national system of the Commissioners, keeping control of the existing Gilbert Union and workhouse, and of poor relief in the parishes.

The difference between a closed and open parish can be starkly portrayed. At one the one extreme stood Kingston, which the Olliver family had purchased over fifty years previously, admittedly a small place but this only made control easier. Now it was split between George Olliver at West Kingston, and Samuel Henty at East Kingston. The sea had largely destroyed the old village, and no thought was entertained of allowing another to grow up. Olliver claimed that nobody could get into the parish to become a pauper, he only had those families he needed as farm servants, and his father had the opportune policy of sending boys off to be apprentices, reducing dependents to the minimum. It did not enter any Union until 1869.

Angmering might have been in a similar position, but that its great size meant it had enough small landowners to hold out against even one such as Gratwicke of Ham. This is graphically illustrated by an incident in 1844, when Gratwicke’s tenant farmer obediently proposed him for Parish Guardian (in charge of poor relief), but the vestry voted this down outright. They were not going to support a person in favour of the new Poor Law.

Who were the main landowners of the district?

With people virtually living under the shadow of Arundel Castle, there can be no doubt that the chief personage in this part of Sussex was the Duke of Norfolk. But, as the title implies, this was not his only seat of power, and indeed the current 12th Duke chose not to live in the county, and his influence was at best indirect. Of more relevance is the fact that he had never been the chief landowner in the immediate district, although the downland parts of Angmering were dominated by him after his acquisition of the Shelley estate based on Michelgrove, including Old and New Place in Angmering, with the decoy ponds. Rebuilding of the castle, which had begun earlier, was completed by the next duke, who did live there.

The more immediate landowners of the district were George Pechell of Castle Goring, who owned a thousand acres of Angmering, and William Gratwicke of Ham Manor, with six hundred acres there and in East Preston and Rustington, and perhaps two hundred acres elsewhere. Almost as a matter of course Pechell was an MP whilst Gratwicke was a magistrate.

Captain Pechell had acquired part of the estate of Sir Cecil Bishopp of Parham, when he died in 1828, by marriage to a daughter. In similar manner it would later pass from him to Arthur Somerset. His newly acquired house is still well known, south of Clapham, with its Gothic north aspect contrasting extraordinarily with its Palladian south aspect, it had belonged to the Shelley family.

It would seem that Captain Pechell had some influence on plans for the coast railway which began operating in 1846. It had been intended to provide a station at Ferring, but his intervention changed this to what we have today, stations at Goring and Angmering, where he happened to have properties. As yet the only development in travel affecting the locality, was the turnpike link from Littlehampton through Ham with its new road at Water Lane and Long Furlong.

This absence of modern vehicles meant that roads were mainly used by farm carts, and other heavy vehicles, with much other travel either by horse or ‘shanks pony‘. Look at any old map and the circuitous routes are immediately obvious, so that walking by road to church from East Preston village, or to Ferring from Kingston, would have meant absurd journeys. In reality what today are footpaths were often essential greenways and tracks for riders and walkers, not mere leisure ways.

William Gratwicke was the son of William Kinleside a rector of Angmering, but added Gratwicke to his name, to show his descent from that family through his mother. The Gratwickes had owned land in Ham since the 16th century. He is best known perhaps as the rebuilder of Angmering Church, and of Older’s School opposite, in 1852, reputedly using race horse winnings. Amongst other successes, he won the Derby with Merry Monarch in 1845, and took £2000 on a side bet, and the horse is buried on the estate.

A plan of the church before it was redesigned by the architect Teulon, shows how every possible space had been used for public and family pews, crowding tightly about pulpit and altar, and upwards onto a gallery. The present church is built on the old plan, but has the north aisle in addition, with little but the tower and part of the chancel from the ancient church remaining.

Apart from the triumvirate, the greatest clan in the district was that of Olliver /Henty, whose history has been touched on in a previous article. George Olliver with over 300 acres in Kingston and East Preston, and James Olliver at Pound House in Angmering with 120 acres, whilst William Olliver had another 100 acres at Preston Place in East Preston and Angmering. These were rivalled by Edwin Henty with his 460 acres attached to The Grange in Ferring, and Samuel Henty with another 300 acres in Kingston and Angmering.

Of rather over sixty measurable estates in the district, only sixteen exceeded 100 acres [40 hectares], the rest were seventy acres and below with twenty-five under ten acres. These substantial holdings include, James Grant at Ecclesden Manor, Edward Penfold at Rustington House, Bushby at West Preston Manor, George Cortis largely in Angmering, the Corney family at the Manor House in East Preston, David Lyon at East Ferring, and Thomas Compton in Rustington.

The layout of farming estates, owned by the magnates, created a pattern that has lasted into our own day. Kingston Gorse, and West Kingston, Willowhayne Estate, Angmering on Sea, and other such primary housing estates.

Sadly for the church, perhaps, most of the old social basis for its maintenance, both as an institution and a building, has been undermined.

[General Ref: RJP Kain & HC Price Tithe Surveys for Historians Phillimore 2000]

RW Standing, 2001

Last updated: 11 January 2003