History Group Talk May 2010

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Roger Claxton gave the meeting a most interesting and informative illustrated talk on  the  1842   Widecombe Tithe Map and the associated Apportionment Book

For years the local copy of the Widecombe Tithe Map has been stored in the Church House at Widecombe and concern was being expressed as to the  deterioration that was happening to it.It was stored in a wooden box approximately twelve feet long and about one foot square.
In March 2008 the Widecombe Parish Council decided, upon recommendation from conservators at The Devon Records Office, that the map should be deposited at the DRO and they would get it digitised. The sum of £900 was raised from the Parish Council and private donations. This was done and The Parish Council was given a DVD of the map. We notice that the map actually copied was the Diocesan copy, this can be recognised as the worn parts shown are different to those that affected our Parish Copy. We have a C.D. copy of the map and it was felt that our copy too needs digitising as different parts of the parish on the different maps are in various states of disrepair. Interest was expressed that Two Crosses is marked on the map of 1845. When looking at this map on DVD one needs to be aware that there are other items to be studied and read in conjunction with it:
(a) Record of field names of the Parish - collected by members of The Widecombe Women's Institute in 1965.
(b) The Archaeology Survey of Widecombe - by Mark Beeson in 1979.
(c) A print out from the work by Peter Hirst on field names and O. S. Numbers.
(d) Field Names of the Parish of Widecombe - Transactions of the Devonshire Association 1963 Volume XCV. - Hermon French.
A Tithe = One Tenth. This word comes from the Old English teogoþa meaning a tenth. The earliest mention of tithes is in The Old Testament of The Holy Bible. In Britain in 855AD there is a record of Tithes. Tithes are also recorded in 1285 when there is mention of tithes due on land. The annual payment of tithes were generally the payment in kind i.e. produce. The payment was to the church and paid to support the church and the parish clergy. (i) A tenth of what was grown and increased, like straw, hay and fodder crops. (ii) A tenth of what had been nourished like livestock. (iii) A tenth of the produce of men's labour including profits from milling and fishing. In c1836 the government decided that there should be a tithe commutation, and the system from then on was for the payment to be made in money instead of kind. All parishes were surveyed and maps produced showing each parcel of land. Each field was given a number, as were some buildings, the numbers recorded on the map. This created a rateable value of the whole parish and there were different rateable values according to the type of land and the crops if any grown on it. Associated with the map, an Apportionment book was created, in which every field was listed with the number to correspond with that on the map duly recorded. The book listed the owner, occupier, plot number, name of field, state of cultivation, acreage, the amount per acre and the total due. Until 1891 the owner was responsible for payment.  
There were two amounts due:
(a) Great tithes due to the rector or diocesan authorities or their lease holder.
(b) Small tithes due to the vicar. The map of Widecombe appears to have been drawn up by William Blamire and Richard Jones in 1845, three copies were made. One was for the parish to keep, one for the Bishop of the Diocese, and the third was deposited with the 'Crown' and stored at Kew in London. The conservation of our map is hopefully done by now and we really should check this with the DRO. Worth noting is that on the map Widecombe, is spelt with a 'double d' (Widdecombe). Our copy was copy number 2 and measures approximately 12 feet by 13 feet. It is skewed from true north to fit into a smaller area. The map was hand drawn in sections and then glued onto canvas with the scale of :- Three Chains to the Inch. - N.B. a Chain is twenty-two yards. We looked at some areas of the map and compared them to today's satellite images to explore such things as disappearing and changing boundaries. Peter Hirst, together with a group of helpers, spent an awful amount of time and energy transcribing the Apportionment Register, in all amounting to over 2351 rows of details, each row consisting of:
* Estate * Owner * Occupier * Plot Number * Name of plot or field * State of Cultivation * Acreage * Rent-charge to Vicar * Rent-charge to appropriators 
Roger has now scanned and digitised the pages as well and provided index and search facilities for every item of information in the register. Peter also recorded grid references against each field. These are now also digitised (although not checked in detail). In Hermon French’s field names article, meanings of some of the field names are explained viz: prison, moor, brake, homer, grattons and many others. Bowden (Beaudown pronounced Boodown) means below the down or common, and field names too will lead to further explorations and research. The fact that the map and the apportionment book are now on CD means that it is possible to cross comply one with the other. This will make a fascinating study for the future.
Thank you Roger - you have whetted our appetite to research another aspect of our district and its local history. We shall be contacting the Parish Council to inform them of the success of this project.

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