Common land (a common) is land owned collectively or by one person, but over which other people have certain traditional rights, such as to allow their livestock to graze upon it, to collect firewood, or to cut turf for fuel. Originally in medieval England the common was an integral part of the manor, and was thus legally part of the estate owned by the lord, over which certain classes of manorial tenants and others held certain rights. By extension, the term "commons" has come to be applied to other resources which a community has rights or access to. The older texts use the word "common" to denote any such right, but more modern usage is to refer to particular rights of common, and to reserve the name "common" for the land over which the rights are exercised. "Common land" does not mean state-owned or public land, but is owned by private individuals or corporations called partition units.

Today commons still exist in England, Wales, Scotland and the USA, although their extent is much reduced from the millions of acres that existed until the 17th century.

The Origins of Tithe

The earliest parish maps which includes a description of land use were made for the Tithe Apportionment. Therefore an understanding of this process is necessary to define the state of the common land.

The tithe was an annual payment of an agreed proportion (originally one-tenth) of the yearly produce of the land, which was payable by parishioners to the parish church, to support it and its clergyman. Originally tithes were paid ‘in kind’ (wool, milk, honey, fish, barley etc) and were payable on 3 categories of produce:

  • All things which grew and which increased annually e.g. grain, vegetables and wood

  • All things which were nourished by the ground – lambs, calves etc. – and animal produce like milk, hides, eggs and wool

  • The produce of man’s labour – particularly the profits of mills and fishing

Tithes were also categorised as being great and small.

Great tithes – from corn, other grains, hay and wood – commonly payable to the Rector of a parish – were also called 'rectorial tithes'.

Rectors were often remote from the parishes, so a new deputy or vicar was appointed to act as the parish priest. Because the vicar was not entitled to the great tithe, it was usual to provide him with the small tithes – worth about a third of the total tithe of the parish - as a basis for a living

Small tithes – from all other things which grew, like vegetables, fruit, hops; also animals and animal produce, and milling and fishing profits – commonly payable to the Vicar of a parish – also called 'vicarial tithes'.

The difference in income between the Rector and the Vicar could be quite considerable, with the bulk of the tithe income often going to an absentee Rector. Some Vicars did their utmost to increase their income by making such produce as acorns or fallen apples tithable!

At the dissolution of the monasteries, many of the great tithes – rectorial tithes – passed into the hands of laymen, who became the new owners of the church land and its accompanying rectorial tithes.

The payment of tithe was a cause of endless dispute between the tithe owners and the tithe payers – between clergy and parishioners - in many cases. In addition, Quakers and other non-conformists objected to paying any tithes to support the established church. Almost every agricultural process and product attracted controversy over its tithe value. By the eighteenth century the complex legislation surrounding the tithe began to have a detrimental effect on the increasing numbers of farmers working for agricultural improvement. Tithing was seen as increasingly irrelevant to the needs of the community and the developing agricultural industry.

From early times, money payments had begun to be substituted for payments in kind. Parliamentary enclosures, which mainly occurred in the 18th and early 19th century, to improve the land and its yields, encouraged this trend towards cash payments. This enclosure was a purely local affair, achieved by the passing of an individual Act of Parliament, called an Enclosure Act, and was prompted by local landowners. It got rid of the obligation to pay tithes, either by allotting land to landowners in lieu of tithes, or by substituting a fixed money payment, called a ‘corn rent’.

An Enclosure map shows the land allotted or charged with a ‘corn rent’, and is often attached to the Enclosure Award. Few of these exist for Devon, but they can be very common in other parts of England.

The Tithe Commutation Act of 1836

By 1836 tithes were still payable in most of the parishes in England and Wales, but the Government had decided on the commutation of tithes – in other words, the substitution of money payments for payment ‘in kind’ all over the country - and the Tithe Commutation Act was passed in 1836. Three Tithe Commissioners were appointed and the long process of commutation began, with Assistant Commissioners stationed around the country to oversee implementation of the Act. These money payments were not to be subject to local variation. The Act proposed a fluctuating money payment adjusted each year and based on the average price of wheat, barley, and oats.

It was hoped that an annual review of the payment for each tithe owner would reflect the variable nature of the amount of farm produce in good and bad harvests, and preserve the purchasing power of the payment. Every piece of tithable land was to have a corn rent-charge or tithe rent-charge (a monetary value) assigned to it and a record was to be kept so that a prospective purchaser of land would know exactly what he would have to pay annually to the tithe owner. In this way the value of a piece of land could be measured against its tithe obligation. Existing ‘corn rents’ which already existed under any old Enclosure Act, were left unaffected, and continued to be paid instead.

A survey of the whole of England and Wales was therefore necessary. Enquiries were sent to every parish and township listed in the census returns, and meetings took place all over the country to find out how much commutation had already taken place. The Commissioners then established Tithe Districts to distinguish them from parishes. Most Tithe Districts corresponded with parishes, but the Commissioners could, if necessary, form separate districts. Many parish boundaries came under close scrutiny, perhaps for the first time in centuries, and maps showing these were drawn up. We now call these tithe maps. This huge effort to survey the country in the 1840s gives us the first detailed view of the rural landscape of England and Wales.

In some parishes, an agreement was reached between the tithe-owners (clergy or lay owners) and land-owners. In other parishes, where dispute persisted, a compulsory Tithe Award was made by the Tithe Commissioners.

Tithe Apportionments

When an overall value for the tithe in a district or parish had been determined, the tithe rent-charge had to be apportioned fairly among the lands of differing quality and various uses in the parish

This was documented for each parish in a Tithe Apportionment. When a landowner was also the tithe-owner, and effectively had to pay the tithes to himself, the tithe rent-charges were ‘merged’ in the land – i.e. the liability to pay tithes on that land was cancelled, or the land was ‘free of rent-charge liability’. This could happen before or after the apportionment took place.

Each tithe apportionment begins with a preamble explaining who owned the tithes and the circumstances and statistics (total acreage, land exempt from tithe, etc.).

For each ‘tithe area’, it contains columns listing.

  • landowners (who were responsible for tithe payments until 1891) in alphabetical order
  • occupiers
  • the plot number referring to the tithe map
  • name or description of land, premises or field
  • state of cultivation – arable, grass, meadow, pasture, common, wood, plantation, orchard, hop ground or garden
  • acreage
  • amount of rent-charge payable, usually to the Rector or Vicar

At the time of the Tithe Map and Apportionment of Linstead Parva was made in the 1840s, the village had three areas of common pasture, which amounted to about 30 acres (Fig 1)

Fig 1 Common pastures and their areas in acres rods & perches.
Gilders Green

Blacksmiths Green

3. 3. 06
Collipys Green

19. 0. 02

33. 2. 22
On the modern maps of the parish two other greens are named, Linstead Green and Morrellhaugh Green. There is no mention of these in the pre-enclosure maps, which suggests they were enclosed before the Tithe Map was made. However, it is possible that Morrellhaugh Green, was an alternative name for Gilder's Green. was known, and was recorded as such by the first OS surveyors . Regarding Linstead Green, which on the first ordnance survey maps is shown as designating a large strip of land running east to the south of the road from Collipy's Green, this may well be simply a description of that part of the village centred on the old Greyhound public house, referring to the proximity of the habitations to Collipy's Green.

The following table summarises the ownership, number of fields allocated to them and the tenantry associated with the enclosure of Collipy's Green
Land compartments
William Woodyard of Kelsale
Samuel Philpot; Tallent Ingate

John Crabtree of Halesworth; James Frances of Ridsdale
Thomas Read
1 acre
Sir Charles Rowley Bt. of Tendring Hall
John Crabtree of Halesworth
Charles Taylor

Reverend Edmund Holland of Benhall
Thomas Markham

Charles Ingate of Chediston

Charles Ingate

Maria Katherine Hazeldine wife of Rev William Hazeldine, Somerset
John Cook

Lord Huntingfield
George Taylor
4 acre
None of the landowners with rights to the common were local inhabitants.

The following maps showing the positions of all the greens.

See also: