Kentish Tithe Rebellions in modern times
A Family History talk by John Bulaitis
Friday 11th May 2018 7:30pm - 9:30pm
Dr John Bulaitus, Senior Lecturer
Christchurch University Canterbury
Despite a delay starting due to a technical hitch with the branch projector we moved rooms to use a different system. This delay did not appear to faze our speaker who gave a very eloquent and fascinating talk with slides about the downfall of the tithe system at the turn of the 19th/20th century.
John started with a brief explanation about the tithe which from early medieval times was a tax paid to support the parish clergy and the fabric of the parish church. Tithe payers were assessed at 1/10 of the harvest they produced and it was paid in kind. Originally paid by land owners it later included those who rented land in the parish too. However, a payment in kind system was not very efficient and hence the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 changed it to cash payments. It was an unequal tax as little consideration was given to land quality and use (poor or fertile, arable or pastoral) as to what each portion of land could produce. There were numerous protest marches and fights. Women also joined in the protests. We were shown a map of English counties and told that Kent was the hot bed of protest against the tithe.
To tell the story of the fall of the tithe system John told the story of Frank Richard Allen (1877 – 1961) a tithe collector who switched sides becoming Secretary of the (NTA) National Tithe-payers Association.
In 1902 Allen was employed as Head Clerk in the Chapter Office of Canterbury Cathedral. By 1911 he had worked his way through various roles becoming Chapter Registrar a position that carried extra remunerations and duties; one of which was to collect the tithe owed to the cathedral. In 1919 he could see that the tithe system was not working and he began to question his role and speak about change. When Dr George Bell was made Dean of Canterbury in 1924 he decided that the role of Chapter Registrar should be divided and that the tithe collector part of the role should be different job. The collector’s salary would be paid out of the tithe he collected and he would have to fund his own office arrangements away from The Precincts. Allen tried to argue against these changes but Dean Bell had him expelled from the office of Registrar and Allen lost the extra remunerations he had previously earned and enjoyed. Allen then joined the NTA working from rooms in sight of the cathedral at 19 St Margaret’s Street. Here he worked with other major players against the tithe system. These included the Rev Roderick Kedward (1881 -1937) a Non-Conformist Minister and MP for the Ashford Liberal Party. Kedward’s monument, for his role in bringing down the tithe, still stands in Ashford Market today.
Concentrating on the years 1931 – 1936 John described how the tithe-payers caused disruption by auctioning tithe items for much less than their worth. How the tithe collectors sent men in to increase the bidding who were sent packing being pelted by mud whilst others dunked in cesspits etc. There was an amusing tale of 60 police plus 2 solicitors sent to collect a number of a specified breed of chickens to auction elsewhere. The farmer had cleverly put the chickens in a fields with several other breeds and they didn’t know which they were supposed to be collecting. They decided to take any chickens and after chasing them about the field only managed to get hold of two. The press had a field day with headlines and reports making the collectors appear fools.
In the end the government decided to collect the tithe through the tax system under the Tithe Act of 1936. This act allowed for the winding down of the tithe tax, to be ceased completely by 1993. However, due to changes in agriculture when the inland revenue looked at the system in the 1970s they found that it was costing more to administrate than they were collecting and the tithe was ceased.
Friday 8th June 2018 The Enumerator strikes back' by Dave Annal