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Archaeologia Cantiana -  Vol. 134  2014  page 273

A History of the Ecclesiastical Courts of the Diocese of Canterbury, 1566-86, based on the
   Cause papers bound within the Volume MS.F.4.12. By Karen Rushton

paints a picture of the collection of tithes as being social and economic rather than religious citing the commercial nature evident from the way in which tithes could be leased out.31 However tithes would surely have always been of this nature, and so this does not explain the increase in tithe disputes following the Reformation except to say that it was not due solely to religious dissent.
   Christopher Haigh highlights the changing economic decisions and rising inflation that made the continued use of the modi decimandi in place to collect tithes untenable.32 The modi were agreements establishing a set amount that would be paid rather than calculating it seasonally and as inflation affected the value of real money the payments received as a result of the modi did not reflect the true value of the goods they represented. Furthermore, the dissolution of the monasteries and the selling off of their vast estates had transferred the ownership of many tithes to laymen with legislation being passed allowing them to contest their rights to tithe in the courts thereby contributing to a vast increase in recorded disputes.33
   The detailed descriptions of the tithes owed are potentially of great use to the economic or social historian. Each case goes into great detail about the types and amounts of goods owned, and comparisons can be made to establish the relative wealth of those involved. In some instances where specific pieces of land are involved the name of that piece of land is also given making it possible to place disputes geographically. Entry 10 sees the clerk and rector of the parish church of Upper Hardres, Richard Pyllesworthe challenging Matthew Wood of the parish of Elham for tithes owed. Whilst Wood clearly doesn’t reside in the same parish the rest of the record goes on to explain that he holds pasture land in the parish of Upper Hardres on which he clearly keeps sheep as it is claimed that he owes a total of 2 shillings for tithes owing in respect of land and lambs. Libels and articles relating to tithes in MS.F.4.12 make up some of the longest entries due to the way each type of tithable good could be listed and dealt with separately.


Testamentary cases heard in the diocesan courts differed to the granting of probate which was one of the main duties of the court but simply involved formally approving wills and giving the named executor the right to begin administering the goods of the deceased. However, the involvement of the courts stretched much further than this to the resolving of disputes arising from the administration of wills. The number of testamentary cases featuring in MS.F.4.12 is evidence of how often these disputes could occur. There were some situations regarding the administration of wills, however, that did not fall under the remit of the church courts and were heard by the secular courts. These could include disputes

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