If you had to give away a tenth of the output from your daily labours in products or services, what would you give? In the days when most people worked on the land, handing over a sheaf of corn, a basket of apples, or a pig to the parish priest would have been routine until tithes were converted to a monetary payment in the 19th century.
Tithes were in effect an annual tax on the parish to pay towards the upkeep of the clergy and the parish church, with a proportion going to the poor and needy. Produce from the land was stored in the tithe barn until needed.
In a Shropshire parish at the end of the 17th century, a document setting out how the parish was run described how the tithing system worked:
‘All tythes are paid in kinde of corn and hay, hemp and flax, pigs and geese, fruit, wool and lamb.’
For other items, a monetary payment was required:
‘For calves one in tenne, or seven and all under seven half pence a piece, one pence a piece for cows milk, and a barren cow a penny. Offerings for housekeepers and servants two pence a piece, and children above sixteen two pence each, for a colt four pence, for bees a penny a stall, for poultry two eggs each hen and three for the cock.’
Other income was raised through conducting baptisms (6d), banns of marriage (2s 6d), marriages by licence (5s) and burials (6d).
What would you put in a tithe barn today?