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Archaeologia Cantiana -  Vol. 89  1974  page 113
The Tithe Commutation Surveys in Kent  By Roger J.P. Kain, B.A., Ph.D.

the landowners challenged this, and a new survey showed that only 2,771 acres were subject to tithes.35
   Some tithe maps are seriously inaccurate. All the maps were inspected at the office of the Tithe Commissioners and those attaining a standard of accuracy admissible in courts of law were affixed with the commissioners’ seal. Those which received the seal of approval were commonly known as first-class maps, while the remainder were titled second-class. The first- and second-class tithe maps of Kent are shown on Fig. 5. Just over half the Kent maps passed the system of checks devised by Lieutenant Dawson which is well above the estimated national average of 20 per cent. Dawson’s system was designed to detect involuntary mistakes made by the mappers and measurers. In 1841, the tithe commissioners stated that, ‘in a single map 400 such errors have been pointed out and admitted, and like cases, on a somewhat smaller scale, are numerous. We regret to state, however, that maps are sometimes sent here containing errors of which the mappers are conscious, and the existence of which they attempt to conceal, by tampering with and making compensating errors in the field books, or original records of admeasurement which they are required to send with the maps. No examination in this office can enable us to detect here wilful and fraudulent errors of this description’.36  The Commissioners pointed out that there were two ways in which landowners could protect themselves against such frauds. ‘The map is deposited in

the parish for 21 days before confirmation . . .  an assistant commissioner attends at the end of 21 days, to whom such errors may be pointed out and whose business it is to see them corrected.’37  But they regretted that landowners’ inspections were often very casual. The only way in which accuracy could be proved was by selecting lines on the map and measuring them on the ground. Unfortunately, the Tithe Commissioners had no powers to pay the expense of such operations or of levying the expense on responsible parties. In conclusion, the Commissioners said, ‘unquestionably we believe the maps to which we have attached our seal are very much more accurate than they would have been had they not gone through the ordeal of this office, but we think it prudent that the landowners should know what description of errors we can detect here, and what may escape detection’.38  It is prudent that historians using the tithe maps should also be aware of such errors.

   A separate tithe file, kept for each tithe district, contains some additional information, not only on procedures adopted in commutation 
   35  P.R.O. LR.18/3743, 3840.
36  P.P.s(HfJ.), xii (1841), 141.
37  Ibid.
38  Ibid.

Page 113

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