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Archaeologia Cantiana -  Vol. 89  1974  page 115
The Tithe Commutation Surveys in Kent  By Roger J.P. Kain, B.A., Ph.D.

but also on farming practices in the locality. The Kent files were heavily weeded in 1912, but the most important document which often survives is the official report of the assistant Tithe Commissioner recording the proceedings of the survey from the advertising of the first parish meeting to the final submission of a report and statement of accounts. The manner of conducting local enquiries followed a fairly strict routine prescribed by the act, and printed questionnaire forms helped to ensure that uniform standards were maintained and that important considerations were not overlooked. The format of the Kent questionnaires is identical to those of Essex described by Cox and Dittmer.39 Besides information on local tithing practices, two sections required assistant commissioners to describe local farming practices. Question 11 asked them to provide a brief description of the state of agriculture in each tithe district and asked them to record any instances of extraordinarily high or low farming that they noticed. Subjective though these assessments are, their value is enhanced by the fact that in Kent a large number was written by only six assistant commissioners. Fig. 6 shows that all six conducted enquiries through the length and breadth of the county which ensured their familiarity with a variety of farming practices.
   One of the problems that assistant commissioners encountered was that of identifying a ‘normal’ course of cultivation in a tithe district. This was a necessary first step to enable them to estimate the gross annual produce

of parish lands. Tithe rentcharge was then taken as a tenth of this and apportioned over parish lands according to their state of cultivation at the time of field survey. In Kent, this first step was particularly difficult because of the wide variety of soil types and agricultural practices found in many tithe districts. T. S. Woolley was confronted by this problem when officiating at three parishes in different parts of the county. Of the calculations he made at Bromley he said, ‘it is not to be supposed that the course of cropping on which I have founded my calculations is universally or even generally adopted in the Parish. Almost every occupier farms his lands as circumstances may seem to require, without very rigid adherence to a particular rotation of crops’.40  At Sutton Valence, he reported that the agents of the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury, ‘had formed their estimate on their opinion as to the most proper course to pursue though they did not consider it had been generally adopted nor indeed any regular system’.41  Finally, at Shoreham, ‘scarcely two farmers can be found who follow the same course of husbandry’42  There were also other
   39  E. A. Cox and B. R. Dittmer, ‘The Tithe Files of the mid-nineteenth Century’, Agricultural Hietory Review, xiii (1965), 1—16.
   
40   P.R.O. I.R.18/3531.
   
41  P.R.O. I.R.18/3828.
   
42  P.R.O. I.R.18/3794.

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