Before the notion of stipends provided a vicar with an income, he would have had to rely on glebe and tithe to feed himself.
The Glebe was a piece of farmland, cultivated by the cleric himself, or by a hired man if he could afford one.
The Tithe was a tenth of the produce of the parish. A rector got the Great Tithes of corn and hay, but if he was a lay rector (not a clergyman) he would have to supply someone to hold services, administer sacraments, etc on his behalf, ie. ‘vicariously’ – hence, a vicar! The vicar got the Small Tithes.
In 1579, Ralph Turner, a new vicar in West Haddon, got into a dispute with his lay rector, Edward Andrew, about just what was included in Small Tithes. The Bishop of London and ‘several doctors of the civil law’ ruled that the vicar was due a tenth of the following:
- flax (which made linen – hemp made a coarser fabric, more like sackcloth, and rope)
- herbs (these included vegetables, a word not widely in use at this time)
By 1765 the Enclosure Commissioners awarded John Watkin the Vicar, in lieu of
- half a yardland,
- the swarth (a half-yardland-equivalent share of the hay from the village meadows – a tenth of which he presumably owed to Thomas Whitfield as his lay rector),
- land called Spinney Close on the South side of the town (as yet unidentified – no acreage given),
- a modus of 20 shillings for every yardland in the parish and a shilling per cottage, payable each year,
- the small tithes
- and ‘garden pence due to the Vicar out of the gardens, orchards or old enclosures of the several proprietors of the open field lands’
a farm of 157 acres
Bearing in mind that a half yardland was rather less than 20 acres, even adding up all the other sources of income due to John Watkin, it would seem that Thomas Ford and Jonathan Robins, objecting to enclosure on the grounds that too much was allowed for tithes, had a point.