Editor: Joan Leese
WHITBOURNE’S MEADOW GREEN – Mildred Shepherd
Meadow Green was probably always small and of a triangular shape, the apex starting at approximately the Poplands Farm, and the base being just S.W. of the School where the road ran past the Forge (now the Post Office) to the Live & Let Live Inn, which I understand from a former licensee interested in such matters, dates from the 15th century – she had found out from the brewery owners holding the deeds. The old bui1ding, half timbered, is at the back. The line of the lane can be seen from the unusual angle of the Post Office to the present road and ran past the cottage where the first schoolmasters lived until the School House replaced it in the l870s; it ran under what is now part of the school playground.
From “Whitbourne: A Bishop’s Manor” by Phyllis Williams
In medieval times the lane up from the Church lay over the Bishop’s little bridge and up the ploughland (until lately orchards), to the left of the present road known locally as the Church Bank. The existence of a well in the west side of the track had been known for sometime where a cottage must have stood; and another was found and filled in on the east side when ploughing was done two years ago, indicating another. The lower one of these is probably the cottage mentioned on p.13 of the Rev. A.T.L. Greer’s booklet on Whitbourne, which he says he found in the Church archives that John Tedersterne (of Tedstone?), the Bishop’s fisherman in 1433 was granted “… opposite the stone bridge in the Manor of Whitbourne towards the south and also one acre of land in the field called Crowenhulle (Crown Hill) …;” the garden of this cottage must have been the cause of the sudden angle of the old track. This track continues uphill, through a deep way towards the Poplands Farm and so to skirt Meadow Green. Exploring this track this spring I found a pond and steep bank blocking it. The marshy ground must have been banked up to form the pond out of the spring forming the marsh, after the new road (the Church Bank) was cut out of the hillside and the old road went out of use, for the old track survives in a footpath behind the gardens of Meadow Green Cottages to a stile in the hedge of the school field, (this last bit being used daily by the schoolchildren of Knightwick last century until their School was built). This footpath is shown in the 1887 ordnance map as continuing to the Live & Let Live Inn, though in the 53 years I have known it it stopped at the stile.
There is a possibility that Meadow Green Cottages stood on the Green itself – they are certainly long and narrow like wayside cottages though they are a distance from the old track. It is just possible that once the land in these gardens, the school field and the orchard below (now built on) may have been part of Meadow Green skirted by the two roads mentioned. The house called The Croft is shown in the Tithe Roll as Meadow Green Farm and the house end-on to the road between Poplands Farm and The Croft is called Meadow Green.
I am indebted to Mrs. Phyllis Williams of Hamish Park, who first told me the school had been built on the Green and who first pointed out to me that the Poplands, Meadow Green Farm and Meadow Green Cottages originally had their fronts facing away from the present road and facing the old track, which renewed my desire to explore the track and trace the history of Meadow Green as far as possible. There was a large pond on the N.W. side of the Green, now filled in, but up to the 1960s cattle drank there on their way across the Green, until it became contaminated.
Then in 1856 the school was built on the Green and the children’s playground was the Green itself. In 1875 when the school was extended to the S.W. there was no longer room for the lane from the Forge and the playground, and the school playground was joined to the garden of the schoolmaster’s new house and the new road was made over the Green causing the rather odd hairpin bend we have nowadays. There was very little Meadow Green left now, though in 1924 when I first came to the village there were wide verges full of buttercups and other flowers each side of the road from the Croft to the school on the S.E. side and wider from the Croft to the pond on the N.W. side and a triangle of grass in the centre of the road junction by the school. This is all shown in the 1887 ordnance map and hadn’t changed. Since about 1930 the road has been frequently widened until by the 1970s there was only a narrow strip of Meadow Green on the N.W side on which had been planted an oak to commemorate the Coronation of King George V (by Mrs. Gwen Goulding, as a little girl) and another for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (by Mrs. E.F.H. Evans, Mrs.Goulding’s mother).
In the 1890s Mr. Bickerton Evans’ son gave a piece of the meadow beyond the pond for a Reading Room for men and boys, and after the 1914-18 War Captain E.F.H. Evans gave the adjoining piece of meadow for the Ex-Servicemen’s Hut to be put up in the early 1920s. This served as a Village Hall until the new Coronation Hall was built and opened in 1964. Before this dances and whist drives had been held in the large schoolroom. The land for the new Hall was given by Captain E.S.F. Evans from part of the same large meadow skirting the N.W. of the Green. So three generations of the family gave land for village amenities. At the end of the 1960s the Reading Room and Hut, which had outlived their use, were taken down. The land on which they stood was given by the ex-servicemen to be made into a children’s playground and added to the diminished Meadow Green. In the early 1970s this was rotovated and seeded and some silver birches, etc. planted, and chain-link and post fence put along the roadside. In 1973, tree planting year, more trees were added.
A triangle of land is in the ownership of the Coronation Hall, from the back of the pond site to the M. H. corner, the rest is now Meadow Green and administered by the Parish Council. By now all the elms have gone. At the end of the 19th century a row of elms extended from behind the pond, along the edge of the Green almost to the Poplands Farm and on the S.W. side four large elms stood until the 1950s, and one until elm disease took it in 1972. Mr. Jack Meek remembered the elms as a boy in the 1890s.
The village pound was just off Meadow Green to the W and now contains the electric transformer for the housing estate known as Acreage (called after the half-timbered cottage of that name on the opposite corner). It was quite small and must of course have been flat, but when the road past Acreage was cut out (probably at the time the hairpin bend was made round the school), the soil was dumped in the long-disused pound making it slope sharply, and elm trees grew up in it most of which succumbed to elm disease in the 1970s’ outbreak. Mrs. E.F.H. Evans, now in her 90th year, tells me she remembers grey stone walls round the pound when she was a child, but by 1924 when I first saw it hedges had replaced these.
THE NINETEENTH-CENTURY TITHE SURVEYS –
‘The rural landscape of England and Wales in the 1840s is depicted exactly in the field-by-field surveys carried out by the Tithe Commissioners. Their enquiries covered about three-quarters of the country. The maps drawn for each parish show the boundaries of fields, woods, roads, and streams, and the position of buildings, while the accompanying schedules give the names of their owners and occupiers, their state of cultivation and their area. The amount of detailed information they provide about 1and tenure, field systems, and land use is unequalled in any other series of documents. Their accuracy is sufficient to warrant their continued use as evidence in courts of law on matters not directly connected with the payment of tithe. Their uniformity and comprehensiveness are surpassed only by the Land Utilisations Survey of the 1930s. Indeed they rank as the most complete record of the agrarian landscape at any period.’
The above is quoted from an article by H.C Prince in the Agricultural History Review, VII (1959). Our Society’s research group is making extensive use of the tithe surveys in their studies of the history of the rural areas around Bromyard. Group members are writing, for each of the parishes studied, a short statement of the situation as shown by the tithe survey and these will be published from time to time in the Newsletter. The following condensed version of the article by Prince may be helpful to the understanding of the parish statements to follow.
The Nature of Tithes
Tithes customarily represented a tenth of the annual increase of the produce of the soil and were of three kinds: predial tithes, payable on the fruits of the earth, such as corn, hay, wood, fruit and other crops; mixed or agistment tithes, payable on animal products, such as colts, lambs, calves, wool, milk, eggs and honey; and personal tithes, payable on the clear gains of a man’s labour and industry, generally levied on the profits of milling and fishing. By common law, tithes were not payable on minerals or anything that formed part of the freehold. Deer, rabbits, partridges, pheasants, wildfowl and fish were tithable by special custom only.
In the first instance tithes were paid to the rector of a parish, who might be a resident incumbent or a bishop, prior or college. An absentee rector normally appointed a vicar to perform his parochial services and allotted him a portion of the revenue of the benefice, usually the small tithes These included all tithes except those on grain, hay and wood, which constituted the great tithes. At the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, rectories and tithes belonging to the dissolved houses were vested in the Crown, and most were subsequently sold to laymen. Lay impropriators still hold nearly a quarter of the nett annual value of all tithes at the time of commutation.
The payment of tithes in kind was a cause of endless disputes between farmers and tithe owners. Very costly proceedings were entered upon to determine which courts should hear such suits, who was liable to pay, how payments should be assessed, and how they should be paid. Frequently disputes arose concerning the nature of tithable produce It was once decided that partridges were ‘ferae naturae’ and therefore exempt from tithe as were turkeys On another occasion wild cherries and fallen apples were adjudged to be subject to tithe. The most difficult cases of all were those involving the produce of woodland. In some areas all woodlands were exempt; in others only certain trees; in yet others the trunks and branches were exempt, but acorns, mast and even charcoal were tithable.
Tithes were an imposition which bore most heavily on progressive farmers whose yields were great but whose expenditure was also large. In areas where the profit to be gained from improvement was likely to be small, potential investors were undoubtedly deterred from venturing their capital because of the incidence of tithes.
The Board of Agriculture reports at the beginning of the nineteenth century unanimously condemned the payment of tithes in kind but they noted that other forms of payment were common in most countries. Tithes were converted to other forms of payment by two different methods; either by a formal agreement between the tithe owners and farmers, or alternatively under the terms of a parliamentary enclosure award. The first method often resulted in tithes being converted for a fixed annual money payment known as a modus or composition. But a fixed sum of money was not strictly equivalent to a tithe payment which varied from year to year according to the amount and value of farm produce For this reason some agreements stipulated that a fixed sum be paid for an agreed number of years, some provided for a periodic revision of the payment, while others specified that the sum should fluctuate from year to year with the price of some commodity, usually wheat When tithes were dealt with under a parliamentary enclosure act, they were generally extinguished in return for allotments of land. There were marked regional as well as social differences in the manner of commuting tithes under parliamentary acts. In some areas, they were invariably extinguished; in others, moduses and compositions prevailed.
The Tithe Commutation Act of 1836
In 1836 an act was passed to commute all tithes in kind and substitute a fluctuating money payment known as a corn rent adjusted each year on the basis of the seven year average price of wheat, barley and oats. The amount of corn rent-charge was to be obtained by dividing £100 of tithe into three equal portions and calculating how much wheat, barley and oats could be bought with each and multiplying these quantities by the average price in succeeding years. In 1836 the septennial average price of wheat was 7s.0½d. per bushel, of barley 3s.ll½d. per bushel, of oats 2s.9d. per bushel At these prices £33.6s.8d. bought 94.96 bushels of wheat, or 168.42 bushels of barley, or 242.42 bushels of oats. Each succeeding year the corn rent-charge on £100 of tithe was to be the sum of the septennial average prices of these quantities of grain. In this way the purchasing power of the money payment was preserved.
The first task was to establish the boundaries of every district in which tithes were paid separately. This was known as a tithe district to distinguish it from a parish. What was frequently disputed was not the existence of a parish, but the exact extent of its boundaries. This was particularly important for someone who was .a tithe owner in one parish and a tithe payer elsewhere. Again, the tithe payments themselves differed from parish to parish both in their nature and amount, so that a particular piece of land might carry a higher rent charge if it were included in one parish rather than in another.
Once an agreement or award had been confirmed by the Commissioners the rent had to be apportioned among the lands of the parish. This was done according to principles agreed upon by the landowners, or if no principles were agreed upon according to the average tithable produce and productive quality of the lands It was inevitably difficult to apportion the rent-charge equitably among lands of differing quality and differing utilisation, not because the actual use of the land was difficult to determine but because its tithable produce was likely to change from time to time. Previously, it had been possible to reduce the amount of tithes by converting arable or meadow to pasture, thereby substituting a mixed tithe for a predial tithe of corn or hay; or to avoid payment altogether by fallowing arable land, etc. On the other hand, the tithe owner was entitled to benefit from an increase in productivity resulting from land reclamation, artificial drainage or other improvement. In fixing the apportionment of an area of marsh pasture capable of producing normal crops with the aid of artificial drainage, it was decided in an early test case that ‘regard was to be had to the probability of the lands being converted from one species of culture to another.’ But in practice there was no way of assessing the probability of lands being converted to other uses, and the only alternative to rating all lands alike at the same valuation was to differentiate them on the basis of their observed state of cultivation.
Apart from making provision for the change of culture of hop ground and market gardens, the act did nothing to prevent the temporary value of land being made the basis of a permanent change. Indeed the method of apportionment authorised under the act was that based on an accurate field survey. The essential purpose of the survey was to make an accurate measurement of the acreage of each parcel of land, or tithe area, and to record its observed state of cultivation. For the purpose of valuation the state of cultivation was recorded as ‘arable’, ‘grass’, ‘meadow’ or ‘pasture’, ‘common’, ‘wood’, ‘coppice’, ‘plantation’, ‘orchard’, ‘hop ground’ or ‘market garden’. In general, the most important distinction was between arable, regularly ploughed and cropped, whose tithes amounted to about one-fifth of the value of the rent, and permanent grassland, whose tithes represented less than one-eighth of the rent. In the West of England, and probably in Wales, the arable appears to have included all ley grasses. In many parishes no distinction was drawn between meadow that was mown for hay once a year or more, and pasture that was normally used exclusively for grazing, yet the assessment of an acre of meadowland might be as much as eight times that of pasture. Woods, coppices, and plantations were not always separately distinguished. Lands devoted to orchards, hop grounds, or market gardens were usually classified according to their actual state of cultivation, but they might be rated as arable or grass and charged with a supplementary or extraordinary rent-charge.
A special problem confronted the Commissioners in apportioning the rent-charge of Lammas lands and commons. These were owned in severality for only a part of the year; from Lammas to Candlemas they lay open to common grazing. A further difficulty arose in apportioning the rent-charge where part of the lands of a parish were exempt from tithe.
The Tithe Maps and Apportionments
The Tithe Commissioners succeeded in resolving many of the complex problems which had previously embittered relations between the tithe payers and tithe owners. In a majority of parishes they were able to secure an agreement, in the remainder they imposed an award. Throughout the country they carried out their task with speed and thoroughness. We are lucky that in our district, because enclosure had been at an early date, tithe surveys were carried out in every parish. Similar but less extensive information is also available for the three extra parochial areas of Brockhampton, Grendon Warren and Saltmarshe in the form of Deeds of Merger of Tithes made by virtue of the act of l836.
The details of the survey for most parishes are set down in two documents, namely, a map and an apportionment. The map or plan is usually drawn at a scale of three chains to an inch, approximately 26.7 inches to a mile. All maps show the boundaries of the tithe areas within a parish. The tithe areas usually correspond with fields. The amount of detail on the maps varies considerably. Most maps mark the course of streams, etc. the outlines of fields, lakes, ponds, and the line of roads and footpaths Many of them use distinctive tree symbols to show coniferous and deciduous woodland.
The apportionment contains the articles of agreement or statement of award, giving the names of the Commissioners, surveyors and tithe owners, and the date of confirmation. Also given are the area of the parish, the area subject to tithes, etc. The most important section is the schedule of apportionment in which each tithe area, numbered on the accompanying plan, is listed under the name of both its owner and its occupier. Whereas in the majority of cases the tithe area is a field and the field name is recorded; where it is not it is described, for example, as a ‘house and garden’ or a ‘piece of water’. Its state of cultivation is entered for the purposes of valuation according to the local practice. The statute acreage and the value of the rent-charge apportioned to it are stated, and a final column is left for remarks.
Three statutory copies of these documents were prepared. The original is with the Tithe Redemption Commission The second copy should be in the parish chest and the third in the diocesan registry. Those copies have often been lost or damaged or transferred to a county records office.
The Surveys as a Source for the Geography of England and Wales
Not surprisingly, Prince says that if the geography of England and Wales in 1840 is to be written, full use will have to be made of the tithe surveys. He itemizes the different kinds of information that they give and, long though the list is, it could be made even longer. He then makes suggestions as to how the tithe surveys can be used in combination with other sources, such as the 1841 census returns and enumerators books, private estate accounts, farm leases, etc.
‘A VILLAGE CONSERVATIVE CO-OPERATIVE COMPANY’
The following letter, which was published in The Worcestershire Chronicle on 25th March 1882, under our heading, was found among the Barneby Papers in the County Records Office. Perhaps it was written by an indignant Liberal. It shows the error of assuming that 19th-century landowners went their ways uncriticised publicly by the rest of the community. Evidently they were, at least behind the protection of a pseudonym.
“Sir, I noticed in your evening issue of Tuesday last, which is much appreciated here at Bromyard, a paragraph in the Petty Sessions report which stated that ‘A temporary transfer of the licence of the New Inn was granted from Mr. David Knight to H.J. Bailey, Esq., of Rowden Abbey.’
Well, Sir, I learnt that the public-house in question is the New Inn, Wacton, situate about four miles from our town. The owner of the property is Mr. W.H. Barneby, (a magistrate), and the tenant from whom the licence has been transferred is Mr. David Knight, who is leaving because he cannot obtain a reduction of rent, the figure at which it stood being too high to enable him to carry on the business with sufficient profit to himself. (I may here mention that there is a Butcher’s shop and a grocery store in connection with the public house). As would appear from the report in the paper, H.J. Bailey, Esq., is now to become the general provider for the villagers, but this I find is not the case. The gentleman in question has been or is to be joined in the business by the Hon. B St. John, W.H. Barneby, Esq ,and Captain Enderby (all Conservative Magistrates for the Bromyard Division) who are jointly to carry on the ‘store’ and retail beer, beef and ‘baccy’ to the inhabitants. Presumably they will put someone in to represent them But does it not seem singular that while gentlemen who are connected with a certain trade as brewers, distillers and the like, are disqualified from being appointed Magistrates, others who have been raised to the Bench should concern themselves with said trade? You may take it for granted that these gentlemen will do their best to ensure the proper conduct of the house, but accidents, you know, do unfortunately occur in the best regulated families, and should such a thing as a breach of the law occur at the New Inn, Wacton, would not Robert the Blue find himself rather awkwardly situated in laying information against his Magisterial masters? Hodge you may know, will get drunk occasionally and when in a devil-may-care mood his conduct becomes what the police call disorderly. How funny, but at the same time how unlikely, to find the holder of the licence, H.J Bailey, Esq., summoned or in any way made amenable to the law as other landlords are! What a curious predicament the village policeman will find himself in.
I was musing over the state of things thus brought about when my informant volunteered the information that there were two other licensed houses in the district, but that both were likely to be closed, thus leaving the Conservative Co-operative Company in sole possession of the ground. ‘How is that?’ I asked. I was then told that the occupier of one had lately been fined £10 by the Bromyard Bench on a charge of receiving straw which had been stolen from H.J. Bailey, Esq. The man has since prosecuted the witness upon whose evidence he was convicted on a charge of perjury and though the Bench declined to commit her for trial she is to be indicted at the next Assizes. Meanwhile the man is not allowed to sell. In the face of the conviction this may be perfectly legal, but pending the trial of the witness it seems rather harsh. The other licence holder having been convicted (his first offence) for selling during prohibited hours, has received notice that the renewal of his licence will be opposed.
Sir, these facts seemed to me so peculiar that I thought it would be a pity not to let the public know of them. There may be other county squires (and Magistrates) who would like to start a Conservative Public-House Company in the division where they administer the law.
Yours obediently, LOOKER-ON Bromyard, March 22”