Tithes, (in theory 10% of a person’s income) were taxes paid since the medieval period to support the priest of the parish church. Under the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836, tithes could be turned into a rent charge.

In villages where this happened a survey of the land was carried out and a large scale detailed plan was drawn up showing every house and area of land. Each plot was individually numbered. A book of reference, usually called the apportionment, lists the name of the owner and occupier of each plot of land, the acreage of the plot and its use (such as arable, pasture, wood, or house and garden).

Tithe maps and apportionment schedules produced under the Tithe Act of 1836 are a unique national resource, possibly only surpassed in value by the Domesday Book. For almost every parish in the country, they provide accurate data on the geography, ownership, occupation, use and economic productivity of the land. These are often the earliest detailed maps that survive of a village and are of great use to archaeologists and historians.

Extract of Ash Tithe Map Image: Surrey History Centre

Extract of Ash Tithe Map
Image: Surrey History Centre

Surrey Tithe Records Project completed

One of the most important historical sources for investigating Surrey’s people and communities can now be studied in the comfort of your own home.

Very high resolution, coloured digital images of the county’s tithe maps have been created, funded by the Surrey Wildlife Trust, the Surrey Archaeological Society, the Surrey History Trust and Surrey Heritage.Volunteers have transcribed the tithe apportionments for each tithe district, which tell you who owned and occupied every plot of land on the map and what that land was used for in the mid -19th century. Researchers of local and regional history, archaeology, economic history and genealogy will all find them invaluable.

CDs and DVDs of the maps and apportionments for each of the 109 tithe districts in the present county of Surrey are now available to purchase from Surrey History Centre (see website for details) and for a name index (of over 15000 names) to identify where your ancestors lived at the time of the tithe apportionments. The discs include software allowing you to navigate swiftly around the map and zoom in on an individual plot.

All the material on the discs can also be freely viewed in the search room at Surrey History Centre, thus protecting the originals and making their content more readily available. In addition the tithe maps and apportionments of the six tithe districts in Spelthorne, formerly in the county of Middlesex, are now available to view at Surrey History Centre for the first time, thanks to funding provided by the Surrey History Trust.  Spelthorne CDs are also now available to buy.

For more information please see the Surrey History Centre website.

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