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The Instrument of Apportionment

The agreement having been made, the rent-charge decided, the draft apportionment made and the approval of the landowners obtained the last thing to do was to write up everything that had been agreed to and send it to the Tithe Commission for final approval and the official seal of the Commission. When received at the Tithe Commission the draft apportionment underwent a fourteen point examination and the map a five point examination [In Depth- The Tithe Commission.] Any queries were returned to the valuer for clarification. In Martin’s case this can be seen at Frome Vauchurch.

Once all points of contention had been agreed the final document that was forwarded was known as the Instrument of Apportionment.  Original images of all of England and Wales tithe commutations have been published by the Genealogist. Here you see the valuer at work, his writing, his occasional errors or revisions, his attempts to reduce the number of pages and so on. As the images are copyrighted I have not used them here but luckily there survives at Dorset History Centre a draft copy of the instrument that was made by John Martin and that is illustrated here. In real life the final Instrument would have been almost exactly the same. Both were large documents, the closest modern equivalent would be A3 and written on paper.

As it is the definitive legal record of the commutation process it does not record or describe the various meetings and processes that led to its creation. Any such details, if they survive at all, will be found in the Tithe File of each parish and the National Archives explains how to find out if any such documents exist within the file.

The instrument is typically made up of four parts. The first part is a re-statement of the original terms of the voluntary agreement or the award made by the assistant tithe commissioner but the date on the instrument is not the date the agreement was made in the parish but the date it was confirmed by the Commission.

The second part, the most important part of the whole process to the tithe owner, is a single page detailing how much wheat, barley or oats could be bought with the tithe-rent. Occasionally if the agreement was short it is crammed into the bottom of one of the other pages.

The third part, which is usually the longest, details the holdings of the land owners and the share of the rent-charge they had to pay. At the end is a summary page of the same.

The final page of the third part bears the signatures and seal of the commissioners who confirmed the apportionment. Attached -annexed – to the instrument was a map of the parish although usually this has been subsequently detached. On occasions there will be found additional pages titled “Altered Apportionment of the Parish of..” which were produced when land usage altered at some later time.

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The first three pages of the draft apportionment made by John Martin at Rampisham.

The first page of every instrument begins with the same words,

APPORTIONMENT of the RENT-CHARGE in lieu of TITHES in the Parish of xxxxx in the County of xxxxx

The details were hand written on a pre-printed book. Two companies were used by John Martin and he appears even handed. For the Draft apportionment at Rampisham he used one by Shaw and Sons of London whilst the final Instrument was printed by J A Patrice of 3 Clifford’s Inn London. Sometimes, as at Child Okeford the usual printers endorsement, at the top of the page, is not included and some like the Maiden Newton commutation were written out on parchment by hand. Very rarely [and never by John Martin] the instrument was completed in print. How much time pre-printing actually saved is debatable in the example given below the parts in dark red were written in by hand.

When the instrument resulted from a voluntary agreement the entire document is usually in one hand and appears to have been written out in its entirety by the apportioner. The Rampisham apportionment, like all of Martin’s apportionments appears to have been written by him and the handwriting is unmistakeably his [1]. When the ATC made an award he usually wrote out the first part of the award and the apportioner the apportionment part. The next part tells us whether the tithe were commuted by voluntarily or by compulsion. In Rampisham it was voluntarily as the word “Agreement” is included.

Whereas an Agreement for the COMMUTATION of TITHES in the Parish of Rampisham in the County of Dorset was on the seventh day of October in the Year One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty nine confirmed by the Tithe Commissioners for England and Wales of which Agreement with the schedule thereunto annexed the following is a Copy:-”

It is interesting to see how particular they were in recording information. Note that the Agreement had already been sent to the Tithe Commission for ratification. Although the agreement is restated in the Instrument of Apportionment they are clear to make the point that what follows in the Instrument is only a copy of the original agreement, not the original.

Although I have mentioned the Agreement in general terms we now see the details recorded in what were called the ‘Articles of Agreement’. The TCA specified what had to be included in the articles. They had to include an account of the various meetings that had been held between landowners and tithe owners, and the date the agreement had been made. The names of the tithe owners and others who had an interest in the tithe are given and there had to be a statement confirming that the requisite authority to make the agreement, had been obtained. With minor changes of names, venues and dates the articles are the same for virtually every parish in the country.

“Articles of Agreement for the Commutation of the tithes of the Parish of Rampisham in the County of Dorset in pursuance of the Act for the Commutation of Tithes in England and Wales made and executed at a parochial meeting of the Landowners and Tithe owners within the limits of the said parish duly called and holden according to the provisions of the said Act and adjourned and holden by adjournment at the Rectory House in the said Parish on the Thirty first day of January One thousand eight hundred and thirty nine by and between the several owners of Land and Substitutes for owners of Land within the said parish according to the provisions of the said Act by whom or by whose Agents duly authorised in that behalf this Agreement is executed and the interest of which Landowners in the lands of the said Parish is not less than two thirds of the lands therein subject to Tithes of the one part and the Reverend William Pace Clerk Rector of the said parish and Owner of all the Tithes as well great as small of the other part.”

Next comes a statement as to the amount of rent-charge that should be paid to the rector and/or the vicar or curate of the parish, together with the amount of rent-charge given in lieu of the tithe of Glebe land.

“It is by these Presents witnessed that at the said meeting it hath been and is mutually agreed upon by and between all the said Parties to these Presents in manner following [that is to say]

That the Annual sum of Two hundred and eight pounds by way of Rent charge [subject to variation as in the said Act provided and subject to the other provisions therein contained ] shall be payable and paid to the said William Pace as Rector of the said Parish and Owner of the Tithes thereof and to his successors instead of all the Tithes as well great as small of the lands of the said Parish subject to Tithes [including the Tithe of Glebe] the Rent Charge in lieu of which it is hereby agreed shall be fixed at the sum of Ten pounds in respect of the Rectorial or Great Tithes and also of the Vicarial or small Tithes of all the Glebe lands in the said Parish and which sum it is hereby agreed shall be apportioned exclusively upon the said Glebe lands but shall be payable only when such Glebe lands shall not be in the manurance [2] or occupation of the Owner thereof and instead of all moduses and compositions real and prescriptive and customary payments payable in respect of all the lands of the said Parish or the produce thereof

A summary description of which lands is contained in the schedule hereunder written

In many parishes the identity of the Rector was relatively simple but it was not always so. Details will be mentioned under each commutation later but one of the most complicated was that at Stratton. The rector at Stratton had been a lay impropriator, John Trenchard, who at his death had bequeathed the right to claim the tithe to the Revd. George Pickard. As he had no clerical duties in Stratton Pickard was not claiming the tithe by virtue of any religious right but as a layman. However Pickard was a lucky man for he happened also to be the ecclesiastical rector at Warmwell where he also claimed the tithe. The iniquity of the tithe system is here exemplified. For Pickard received £275 rent-charge from Stratton, whilst the curate at Stratton, Robert Albion Cox, who did all the clerical work, was only entitled to the money arising from the modus and the villagers gardens, valued at a mere £5 per year. Luckily for him he held a second or plural curacy at Charminster which was worth £17 per year. Not a lot of money for a clergyman.

Note the rule about the Glebe land. This was land that had, in ancient times, been given by the lord of the manor or other donors, to the incumbent of the manor or parish for their support. As the church did not pay tithe to the church the owner of the Glebe would not pay tithe but if it was rented to someone else – that was a different matter.

Frequently, there was an additional clause in the agreement that specified the date when the tithes were extinguished in favour of the rent-charge:

It is also Agreed that the said lands shall be discharged from the payment of Tithes from the First day of January next after the confirmation of the apportionment to be made under this agreement. In testimony whereof the said parties to this Agreement or their Agents duly authorised in their names and on their behalf have hereunto subscribed and set their respective hands and seals at the place and time above mentioned.

As the instrument of commutation is a restatement of the original agreement these signatures do not normally appear in it, although of course they were attached to the original agreement sent to the Tithe Commission [see above].

This clause, which appears in many of the commutations, is redolent with significance and highly symbolic. It makes it clear that the tithe, that ancient payment, commanded by God, was henceforth abolished- by man. Gone was all trace of the Levitical tradition with its implied obligation to maintain the structure of the church and provide alms to the poor; the tithe-rent charge was simply another form of property to be bought and sold.

The next part of the agreement comprises certain information that was required by the act- what were known as schedules. The first of these schedules listed the total area of the parish, together with all the areas of land subject to tithe in the parish. Most apportionments include phrases such as, “contains by estimation” or “contains by admeasurement” or by “statute measure xy or z acres. This might be thought to indicate that the area in one parish was guessed at in some cases and measured in others. In fact there appears to be no significance to these different terms, at least in so far as Martin’s commutations are concerned, for he uses the word estimation in parishes where we know he was involved in surveying. In a footnote Whalley notes that in the agreement the commissioners expected only estimated quantities and his only advice was that it was best to ensure that the total area of the separate quantities listed should add up to the stated gross quantity for the parish. A fairly elementary precaution one would think. Despite this the measurement at Rampisham seems remarkably accurate.

The areas that had to be listed included the arable lands, meadow, pasture, orchard, woodland, hops, glebe land and any land that was exempt from tithe, or the monetary payments that were sometimes made in lieu of tithing in kind.

The whole Parish of Rampisham contains Two thousand and thirty one acres one Rood and Thirty one perches of land statute measure.

The whole quantity of the lands within the said parish subject to the payment of any kind of tithes is one thousand one hundred and sixty eight acres two roods and six perches statute measure

The whole quantity of land subject to Tithes within the said parish which is cultivated as Arable land is one hundred and two acres two Roods and fourteen perches Statute measure

The whole quantity of land subject to Tithes within the said parish which is cultivated as Meadow or Pasture land is nine hundred and eighty nine acres three roods and four perches statute measure

The whole quantity of Gardens and Homesteads subject to Tithes within the said Parish is nineteen acres one rood and thirty perches Statute measure

The whole quantity of land subject to Tithes within the said Parish cultivated as Woodland and Plantation is fifty six Acres two Roods and thirty eight perches statute measure.

The Glebe lands of the said Parish which if not in the manurance or occupation of the owner would be subject to Tithes amount to Sixty two Acres and eight perches statute measure.

The next part of the schedule listed all moduses, prescriptive payments, customary payments and exemptions from tithe.

Certain lands of the said Parish heretofore common land are exempt from the payment of all Tithes under the provisions of a recent Inclosure Act and the whole quantity of such land is Eight hundred and Nine Acres three Roods and Seventeen perches statute measure

There are no other lands within the said Paris Exempt from the payment of Tithes

There is a modus within the said Parish for Cow White as follows [that is to say]

To pay Two pence for each Cow

One penny half penny for each Heifer and every tenth calf at seven weeks old running by the side of its Dam

No other Modus or composition real prescriptive or customary payment is payable instead of all or any of the Tithes of the said Parish

Next comes a decleration and the calculation of the amount of wheat oats and barley discussed earlier.

Now I John Martin of Evershot in the County of Dorset having been duly appointed Valuer to apportion the Total Sum agreed to be paid by way of Rent Charge in lieu of Tithes amongst the several lands of the said Parish of Rampisham Do hereby apportion the Rent Charge as follows :

Gross Rent Charge payable to the Tithe Owner in lieu of Tithes for the Parish of Rampisham in the County of Dorset Two hundred and eight Pounds

Value in Imperial Bushels and Decimal parts of an Imperial Bushel of Wheat Barley and Oats : viz.

Price per Bushel

s d

Bushels and Decimal parts


7 ¼



3 11 ½



2 9


The Rampisham calculation was the only entry on an A3 page of the draft apportionment.

Following this comes the table of apportionment. There appears to have been no standard way of ordering the results. Sometimes the landowners were listed alphabetically, sometimes by size of holding but in the case of of Rampisham there appears to be no particular order other than that the first mentioned is Revd. Arthur Johnson – the lord of the manor.

A number of documents have survived from this commutation. The first is a book of particulars organised by plot number.

From the book of particulars.

The second appears to be his working draft; It is a simple note book in which he has written his own headings and in which he doodles as was his wont.

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In the view below we can see that he recorded not only the area of the land in ink but also it’s value, inserted in pencil. The next inked column although not titled is in fact the rent-charge for that plot. What the remaining pencilled column is for is not known, except that some entries have a second column repeating the rent charge to the right of this one.

That this is a working document is shown by various deletions and pencil additions.

The final draft, presumably the one that was shown to the ATC and the landowners was produced on a printed form and mimics the final instrument. There is no practical difference between them. At the end of the instrument is a summary page.

As a landowner Martin himselfhad to pay 5s rent-charge.

In total the Instrument of Apportionment took up thirty three pages and at the end was signed by John Martin and then sent to London. There the Tithe Commission examined it together with the ATC report and then attached their seal to the document with the following endorsement :

“We the undersigned Tithe Commissioners for England and Wales do hereby confirm the within written Apportionment In testimony whereof we have hereunto subscribed our respective names and caused our Official Seal to be affixed this third day of July in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred and forty”

William Blamire Rd [Richard] Jones


The commutation work could not all be completed at once and there is some evidence that parishes were prepared to wait for Martin to be come available whilst still availing themselves of his services. At Winterbourne Monkton for example we find him valuing the tithes in 1838,

20th December 1838 Valuing Monkton Tithes Slept at Dorchester


As the agreement was not made until 1839 it suggests he was still valuing the tithe in the old manner. This would not be a surprise for there were no monetary compositions or moduses in the parish and until the agreement was made the tithe would still have to be valued.

At Wytherstone the commutation was not undertaken to 1840 but again Martin was there valuing the tithes in 1838.

8th August 1838 Mr Banger – Went to Wytherstone and Valued Tithes of Farms and divided the same between Tenants – slept at Wytherstone Charge 3 Guineas
9th August 1838 Working upon the same all the Morning and returned Home and Went to Batcombe in the afternoon respg Rate

The 1845 diary has a number of entries relating to payments to him from individual landowners that are specifically related to the commutations. They are almost always referred to as commutation rate or expenses and typical of such payments is this one from the Abbotsbury commutation in 1845,

Accounts July 1845 Received of the Executors of the late Mr Chas Hawkins his T Commutation Expenses for Abbotsbury £6 12s [sent to the bank this day].

We know from the tender he submitted at Corscombe that he charged a flat rate of a shilling per acre to commute a parish and the obvious thing would be to divide the total money due to the landowners in proportion to their holdings. Hawkins’ rent charge in the instrument of apportionment was £12 18s and the payment made to Martin is just over a half of this and this too is typical, in that these payments are often close to the rent-charge or half the rent-charge, but never exactly the same.

Whilst it is not clear which bank he paid this money into it was probably his own, the Wilts and Dorset Bank. In this example from Burton Bradstock, the amount Mr Roberts paid was close to the rent-charge – £25 10s 0d- but again not exactly the amount.

26th September 1845 Attending to Farming Works Mr Wm Roberts dined with me and paid his Burton Commn Rate
Received of Mr Wm Roberts his Commutation rate Burton £23 19s
6th October 1845 Working on the Abbotsbury Town Plan for Lord Ilchester Sent Mr Wm Roberts Check to Bank £23 0 0d

Sometimes the money paid him bore no relationship to the rent-charge,

10th November 1845 Received George Udalls Rate of Expenses Shipton Gorge £3 5s

Mr Udalls rent-charge was a mere 5 shillings. On another occasion the money he received came close to the rent-charge but the figures still don’t quite add up. Nathaniel Templeman owned some fifty acres in Belchalwell and one hundred and eleven acres in Gobson Common, Child Okeford. Martin commuted both parishes and at commutation in 1840 Templeman owed £17 7 0d rent charge on his acres in Belchalwell and 19 shillings on his acres at Child Okeford [thanks to a modus] making a total of £18 6s 0d. Templeman had died during the commutation and his agent paid Martin £18 8s 0d. The amount from each parish is clearly not in proportion to the rent-charge and it is not clear how these figures come to add up.

August 1845 Reced of Peter Erle Esq the late Revd N Templeman Commutation Expenses at Belchalwell and Child Okeford Belchalwell £13 8s 0d

Okeford £5 0s 0d


£18 8s 0d

At Holy Trinity Dorchester Mr Coombs, the agent for Mr Wood the Rector, paid £3 12s 0d expenses as the costs of apportionment fell to the landowners not the rector so why he should have paid this is unusual and the reason not known.

August 1845 Received of Mr Wood [symbol] Mr Coombs his apportionment expenses for the Holy Trinity Pd into W&D last Wednesday £3 12 0d

If the rent-charge at Child Okeford was apportioned on the various qualities of the land in different amounts then it is probable that he charged his fees in the same way. We simply cannot be sure.

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1 The agreement from Rampisham is contained within boxes in the text. Where data from agreements in other parishes is included the source is named and the text is unboxed.

2 Tenure or occupation of land.