Tithes were a levy raised by the Church upon the population to fund the parish church and the clergy. They were first instituted in the early middle ages, and originally called for the local parish to receive one tenth of the agricultural produce of each parishioner, essentially acting as a tax on income.

All householders were liable to pay tithes unless the property they owned or occupied was specifically exempted due to some long standing custom or association with the parish.

Tithes were initially paid in kind, but this often led to difficulties with storing and selling the volume of goods received. In the 17th and 18th century some landowners reached an agreement with the local diocese to pay a cash sum instead of goods. But the exchange rate wasn't standardised and led to numerous disputes and court actions. To rectify this situation the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 was enacted and appointed tithe commissioners to oversee the conversion of tithes to a financial payment. A survey was conducted for each parish and the various tithes were assessed and converted to tithe rent charges.

The surviving tithe records provide useful information about householders within a given parish, information which is often amplified by records of tithe disputes which were commonplace in the middle of the seventeenth century.

For a comprehensive description of the tithe system please see this informative National Archives web page.