Small tithes survey 1828: historical evidence

The 1828 Small Tithe survey provides valuable evidence about food production and farming in Todmorden in the late 18th century. (Click a name to the left to see the evidence about particular people)

‘Small Tithes’ was an ancient tax payable to the Vicar of Halifax on ‘potatoes, turnips, barren cattle, seeds, eggs, milk, cows, calves, gardens, pigs, geese, foals and bees.’

This tithes survey was made in 1828 by the vicar of Halifax seemingly to check he had been paid what he was due! It asks in the questionnaire what the situation has been as far back as those questioned can remember. Were the respondents telling the strict truth about how much they produced, or were they trying to convince the vicar that no more tithes were owed? In any case, it gives some indication of what could be found on a local farm.

Malcolm Bull’s Calderdale companion informs us that the vicar in 1828 was Charles Musgrave, who became the incumbent in the year before the survey. Bull says ‘After his induction, he had a dispute with his parishioners, over the rights and interests of the living. This ended in 1829, by an Act of Parliament, under which the vicarial tithes, mortuaries, and Easter offerings of almost the whole parish, were commuted for a yearly stipend of £1,400 paid by the townships’ He also says that there was much opposition to this new vicar’s rate especially amongst non-conformists, and that owing to difficulties in collecting a living from the parish, the living of Halifax remained vacant for some time after the death of Musgrave.

The survey does not concern itself with the ‘Great Tithes’ of corn, hay, wool and lambs which from 1535 (the dissolution of the monasteries) had been replaced by a yearly rent charge on the land going to the landowners. So the survey does not tell us about any oats which were grown, nor, surprisingly, does it mention sheep. Malcom Bull says ‘Cattle and sheep were – and still are – farmed throughout the district, although sheep farming was not widespread until the 19th century when newer breeds were suitable for the boggy, acid moorland.’ If anyone knows more about the history of sheep farming in Todmorden, then please – write in.

Many thanks to Malcom Heywood for drawing this survey to our attention and painstakingly copying out what it said so that we can reproduce it here:

John Barker – Lower Ashes – Stansfield – farmer.

Age 67 Always lived in Stansfield.

He grew no potatoes except two loads a year.
A few turnips in the garden.
No seeds or eggs.
I have all along sold milk both new and old
I have kept cows sometimes five, six or seven.
Now and then I brought up a calf – I always had a garden but did not sell produce.
I had no pigs, geese, foals or bees.
Only one plough at a time.

William Crabtree – upper East Lee in Stansfield
Age 72 – weaver – born in Stansfield and lived all his time in it.
Never grew potatoes except for my own use, nor turnips. No seeds or eggs except for own use. I sold milk (old)
Kept cows two-four for milking
Sometimes a calf to grow up
Had a garden but made nothing of the produce
No pigs, geese or foals
I have had hives of bees.
I never had a plough.
I am the oldest farmer in Stansfield

Zachariah Law –Shade nr Todmorden
Shopkeeper
Born and lived in Longfield 61 years ago. Leaving three years ago. Whilst at Longfield had two farms lived at one 16 years, and the other for 24 years.
I grew potatoes for self and sale. No turnips.
Plenty of eggs for self and sale.
Sold milk, new and old.
1st farm – 3 milch cows and a horse.
2nd farm, 6 milch cows, 3 young cows and a horse
Had a garden but did not sell produce.
No pigs, geese, nor foals, no bees.

His father was at Croft in Langfield – weaver –
Grew potatoes for himself, no turnips, no seeds, sold a few eggs. Sold milk mainly old but a little new. Had 5 or 6 milking cows every summer and sometimes two calves. A small garden – no breeding pigs nor geese only one foal and no bees.

Zachariah Clayton lived at Nest in Erringden.
He was seventy years old and was a weaver.
He was born in Sowerby township and lived there until he was twenty-four years old when he moved to Erringden where he has lived ever since. He had lived at three different farms; Holderness, Marshaw Ridge and Holloclee bfore moving to Nest about 1825.
This is what he says about life on his farms:-

I grew potatoes but only sold any some light times.
I grew a few turnips but only in my gardens.
I never had any seeds except garden seeds for my own use and hay seeds some of which latter I have sold.
I generally kept poultry and sometimes sold eggs among my neighbours but never took any to market.
I kept milch cows (up to 5 at once)
I sold the milk new or old just as my neighbours wanted it.
I had calves – have kept and brought up two in a year besides these I sold for veal.
There was a garden belonging to each of the farmhouses out of which I sold a little fruit and some trifling matters but I did not make a practice of selling the produce of my garden.
I never bred any pigs or kept any except for my own use.
I never kept any geese – nor foals, nor hives.

John Sutcliffe Lived at Hardhippins End in Erringden. He was sixty-seven years old and was a weaver. He had lived in Erringden all his life and was born at Wood Top Farm. His father was a farmer there and John worked on the farm. When his father died, about 1793, John continued farming the land until 1811 when he moved to the cottage at Hardhippins End. This is what he says about life on the farm at Wood Top.

I sometimes grew potatoes for my own family’s use.
I never grew any turnips.
I never grew any seeds except hay seeds.
I sometimes sold eggs, but never carried any to market.
I seldom sold new milk but was in the habit of selling old milk to milk fetchers who were regular customers.
I used to keep sometimes five and sometimes six milch cows.
I used to keep a calf now and then but not frequently and to send it into Craven during the summer for two summers to feed.
I had only a little garden.
I mostly bought a pig at the back end of a year and fed it but never had any litter of pigs.
I only used to buy one or two geese for my own family use at the back end of each year.
I never had a foal.
I kept bees now and then, never more than one in a year. I had what honey they produced as far as I wanted and sold the remainder to any of my neighbours that wanted it but never took honey to market.

As far as I know my father in all the before mentioned circumstances did just as I did as long as he lived.

David Hollingrake lived at The Bottoms in Stansfield. He was sixty-eight years old and was an innkeeper. He had always lived in the township of Stansfield never more than half a mile from where he lived then and had been at Bottoms ‘public house’ and farm for forty-four years.

This is what he says about his farming life
‘I never did anything with my land in Erringden but graze it.

I have now and then grown potatoes in my land in the township of Stansfield, for my own use, and now and them I have sold potatoes – one year I sold 80 loads of them.
Never a sack of turnips in all years put together. I have always kept geese, ducks and fowls and bred all sorts of them and had eggs.
At first I kept only two cows – they were milch cows – I kept increasing the number as my land was improved and now I have four milch cows, two strips (stirks?) and one calf which I am bringing up. Have sold milk and butter all my time.
I have had half a score of sows at different times which have produced me litters of pigs – and I have had three litters in one year.
I have bred five foals, but only one at once.