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Tithe

 Taxes were, as still should be, paid by everyone but tithes are no longer collected. The concept is as old as religion itself. God has provided resources which enables life so people repay some of that bounty in thanks giving. The right to collect tithes was defined in a legal instrument called an advowson.
 The system of tithings and hundreds soon got confused with parishes so some church land was owned by military men and some cleric were more concerned with government than the church. The best way  for the king to pay his civil servants was to make them a bishop as was the case when Robert Burnel, the secretary and chancellor for Edward I. He  was rewarded for his services to the king by being made the Bishop of Bath & Wells  in 1275.
The system was further abused after the dissolution of the monasteries. Many people bought former monastery land which had the added attraction of being ‘tithe free’. This was still an attraction when Chewton House was sold in the Victorian era.
 There were two types of tithe.
 The great or rectorial tithes such as a tenth of the corn and hay crops which were due to the rector. These were valuable and relatively easy to collect.
 The little or vicarage tithes were due to the vicar, who may have been appointed by the rector, and were less valuable, such as a tenth of the vegetables grown or the tenth of the wages of even the poorest workers. This lead to the invidious position of some very wealthy bishops or other clergy having to take action against the people they were supposed to be helping.
The laymen could appeal to the common law judges if they though the tithes were unfair but they faced a ‘double or quits’ option if not worse. The courts may have award  two or three times (or more) the amount claimed by the clergy if the appeal failed. The final sanction was the clergy could excommunicate people who failed to pay their tithes condemning them to internal damnation before the dissolution of the monasteries also curbed the power of the clergy.
This caused all sorts of confusion especially as the church held the land under common law. Agreements were often made to commute the payment in kind to cash as early as the beginning of th 16th century. these were called ‘modus decimandi’.
At the other end of the scale of clergy, some parishes were so poor they could not support a clergyman
so he had to take the living from more than one parish. Pluralism as it was called, was acceptable in some situations where there were parishes that were close together but that was frequently not the case. The rector may have paid a curate to take services if the distances were too great but sometimes
the parishioners spiritual needs were ignored.
Chewton Mendip appeared to be almost unique in that there was another form of religious tax called a Sacrefield Rent that was still being levied in the 18th century.
The problems persisted until the whole system was overhauled in the 19th century starting with legislation and reviews conducted in the late 1830s.
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