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Wateringbury Tithe Survey (1839)

posted Dec 27, 2011, 6:42 AM by Terry Bird   [ updated Oct 7, 2015, 7:49 AM ]

A map[1] of the village was prepared in 1822 and updated in 1839 together with a ‘Tithe Award Schedule’ [2]   It is a useful snapshot of the village at that time.

  Tithes had been traditionally one tenth of the produce of the land, payable in kind to the vicar (or 'rector' who could be a layman, and if so who then had to appoint a vicar or curate), and often stored in a tithe barn (no such barn identified in Wateringbury).  In some areas of the country they had become payable in money rather than in kind but Kent they continued to be mainly in kind.[3] Tithes were a contentious matter in early nineteenth century Britain and the protests and repression had become particularly violent in Ireland. Tithe disputes inevitably alienated vicar from parishioner. In Kent some ten attacks on parsons occurred during the so-called swing riots of 1830/31. Their importance to the clergy is illustrated by Mr. Collins in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice where in discussing the work of the clergy at Mr. Bingley's ball he states:

    "The rector of a parish has much to do. In the first place, he must make an agreement for tythes as may be beneficial to himself and not offensive to his patrons"

'Great tithes' were those levied on cereal crops (wheat, oats etc.) and traditionally went to the rector whilst 'small tithes' on other produce and went directly to the vicar. The vicar's other main source of income was the glebe land he held which he might farm direct (and so become a farmer or peasant 6 days a week) or rent out. 

In his evidence to the House of Commons in 1839 about the  fruit trade  (paragraphs 1441 onwards) Mathias Lucas reveals the local deal made in Wateringbury with the vicar before the Tithe Commutation Act to commute the tithes for a fixed sum (£700)  for a fixed (7 years) period of time. 

   The Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 established the legislative framework for the replacement of tithes in kind with an agreed fixed sum of money, and a body of Commissioners to supervise the work involved.  Surveys of this kind took place across a lot of England where tithes in kind were still the custom.  A national set of prices for various items of produce based on a seven year average was established as the basis for the fixed money rent. In Kent a majority (359 out of 407) were complete by 1843 and most of the process was complete by 1848 with most amounts being voluntarily agreed by all affected.[4] -not as fast as the Domesday survey.

 The Wateringbury map is detailed enough to show individual properties so it gives a clear idea of the layout of the village and helps in the dating of village properties. Each plot of land is identified and numbered for reference to the schedule. The map was produced in the case of Wateringbury by Henry Williams of 19, Romney Place, Maidstone.  Some (about a half in Kent but less in the country overall) of the best quality work was sealed by the Commissioners. Wateringbury’s does not appear to have been sealed, possibly because it was based on earlier work just updated.  It appears, nevertheless, of a high professional standard.  In Kent most surveys were done on a parish basis. Wateringbury’s map and survey include the Hamlet of Lilly Hoo (situated about 5 miles south of the church and surrounded by the parishes of Yalding, Tudely and East Peckham.).

 The map shows the main cluster of buildings around the crossroads, then known as Wateringbury Cross, but the general impression is of a non-nuclear village.  There is scattered development along the Tonbridge Road (called Wateringbury Street) towards the church, some which would have been quite recent reflecting Mathias Lucas’ energetic ownership of Wateringbury PlaceBow Road (only referred to by that name once) is not very developed apart from the two breweries (Wateringbury Brewery, near Wateringbury Cross, and Phoenix Brewery down the hill); the Wardens, its mill and mill pond (three quarters of an acre) are all evident.  Red Hill has scattered development with enough to justify its own pub, The North Pole.  Old Road has various cottages, houses (Westbury Manor, now Manor Farm,) with Latter’s buildings half way between the Tonbridge Road end and the old settlement of Pizien Well (including the old Poor House there-abolished a few years earlier at a meeting under the overseer Peter Sinclair in the nearby pub, The Duke's Head, on 16th April 1827).  Cannon Lane has scattered houses and cottages and is shown as continuing all the way to West Malling.


Extract from 1839 tithe map showing the crossroads known as Wateringbury Cross



Extract from 1839 tithe map showing the Church, Wateringbury Place and Old Road.

The accompanying schedule divides the village into over three hundred plots, most with the plot names, and shows

  • the owner and occupier (tenant) for each plot,
  • the reference number shown on the map (a logic yet to be fathomed) and often a description or name.
  •  if and how it was cultivated,
  • the area of the plot in acres, roods (4 to an acre) and perches (40 to a rood), with sub-totals by tenant,
  • the fixed rent now payable to the ‘vicarial appropriator’ for each tenant.

Agricultural activity: from the schedule we can establish the nature of the local economy, still predominately agricultural and establish what proportions of land were represented by arable farming, hops, fruit, mixed hops and fruit, meadow and wood. 

 Hops (14% of the total land area of Wateringbury excluding that classified as mixed hops and fruit) are the only specific crop separately identified-probably because of its high profitability and associated tithe.  Some 14 different people were growing hops in Wateringbury in   32 different fields which varied in size from a third of an acre (James Fremlin) to a massive 36+ acres (Mathias Lucas).  Wateringbury’s   197 acres of hops compares to an estimated total acres of 56,000 acres in England in 1866[5]

 Hops were introduced into England by Flemish immigrants in the sixteenth century and were particularly suited to Kent’s smaller, long enclosed, fields.  Large quantities of hops continued to be imported and in 1690 the government imposed a duty on imports to encourage the local industry and then in 1710 legislation to ban the use of bittering agents other than hops. Immediately before the survey hop growing had only expanded slightly, but rapid expansion came in the years 1862 to 1878 before there was a contraction again as Indian and Pale ale replaced Porter, requiring better quality hops, as the fashionable drink.

 Arable (still in 1839 at 26% the largest individual category of land use in Wateringbury) was land judged to have been ploughed in the last three years (the usual rotational period) and would have covered turnips, barley, beans, peas, clover and wheat.

 Fruit[6] had been at the start of the century a relatively unimportant sector in Kent overall, but by 1839 represented 10% of land usage in Wateringbury, having benefited from the imposition of tariffs on fruit imports in 1817 (important for apples) and low sugar prices (an important factor for soft fruit in jam production, which over this century changed from a luxury to an everyday item).  Two years before the survey, 1837, tariff protection was suddenly removed and sugar prices also increased in the years that immediately followed.

 Transport was an important cost factor to the soft fruit sector in particular and, even before the railways reached Wateringbury in 1844,  they brought economic benefit as the rail link from London (and practically all fruit marketing had become centred on Covent Garden) to Liverpool and Manchester enabled cherries to be transported to new markets, increasing demand and prices.

 One factor disadvantaging apple and cherry growing was the fact that most land leases were for 14 or 21 years which was not sufficient to give security of tenure for longer lasting trees. In Wateringbury only 432 acres (48%) of the land area was farmed by the owner and the balance (52%) by a tenant farmer.

See also Fruit growers deputation meets P.M. (1839) and Matthias Lucas' evidence to the House of Commons committee on fruit trade.

 Wood (20% of Wateringbury’s land) would have been coppiced sweet chestnut (i.e cut back on a regular cycle of about 15 years) and essential for providing the hop poles. An early East Kent writer on the hop industry, Reynolds Scot in 1574, advocated using three poles per hop vine rather than the four commonly used. Even using three poles per vine would have required about 2,400 poles per vine, each 15-16 feet long.

 When hop growing started wood would have been used for providing the fuel for drying the hops, later replaced by charcoal and probably at this time being in turn replaced by coal.

 The acreages (roods and perches omitted) represented by each category of land are set out in the following table:


Land use













Mixed hops &fruit






















The total acreage of 1420 acres is somewhat more than the 1350 acres of the current electoral ward largely reflecting the inclusion of 80 acres in Lilly Hoo in the survey.

  There are many more farms than at the time of Domesday Book when there were just two manors. The main landowners and their farms, which cover 901 of the 1420 acres of the survey, are:




Farm name

Area in acres











Matthias Lucas

Matthias Lucas

Wateringbury Place



Includes much wood but meadow rather than parkland.







William Cook

James Ellis

Westbury Manor



No fruit. Now Manor Farm.









Frances Goodwin &William Wilcocks

Great Cannon Farm










Matthias Lucas

William Fremlin

Wateringbury Cross Farm



Mixed. Pelicans







W. Cheeseman

W. Cheeseman

Lilly Hoo Farm



Largely arable







Matthias Lucas

Frances Goodwin &William Wilcocks

Danns Lane Farm



Mixed but a large amount of hops.








Mary Crow

Richard Starnes

Broomscroft Farm



Largely fruit.


It should be noted that there were no common lands in Wateringbury and it is unlikely that there had been for common land was not a Kentish tradition.

 At Wateringbury ‘the Great Tithes were always taken in kind of which no account had been kept’. These tithes were leased by a ‘large farmer’, Mr. Lucas, and ‘were as usual mixed up with the produce of his own land’. [7]

  Non-agricultural activities also get some reference, although they were not subject to tithes: the two breweries; three pubs (King’s Head, Duke’s Head and North Pole), 2 wheelwrights, 2 claypits for brick earth, a carpenter’s yard, 2 mills and more shops than today. 

 Only one reference on the survey is made to an oast in Wateringbury which is perhaps surprising: early on in the growing of hops, introduced in the sixteenth century,  drying had taken place in ad-hoc places including the lofts of houses, later purpose built barns, but the increased production in the eighteenth century had seen the introduction of pyramidical structures on square bases to improve the air-flow needed in drying; it was only in the nineteenth century that roundels came in with cowls on top which were free to rotate. Roundels were thought to avoid areas in the corners which did not dry as well, but late in the nineteenth century there was a return to square oasts again. The cowls would have been made by wheelwrights of which there were two in Wateringbury. 

 The two breweries were[8]

  • Charles Leney’s Phoenix Brewery, near the Wardens.  Phoenix brewery was probably founded in the previous century. In Kelly’s directory of 1861 they are listed as brewers, maltsters, brick makers and coal merchants, farmers and hop growers and for good measure owned the gas works which had been established in 1856. They expanded by acquisitions from 1859 and in turn were bought by Whitbreads in 1927, who used the Leney name until 1961 and maintained production in Wateringbury until 1982.
  • John Beal Jude’s Wateringbury (or Kent) Brewery near the crossroads. It is listed in Kelly’s directory of 1867 as brewer, maltser, coal merchant, farmer and hop grower and in 1870 he took into partnership Ernest Hanbury and the business became known as Jude, Hanbury &Co. John’s nephew, William Jude  succeeded him and the business grew to employing 34 people. In 1919 it expanded into East Kent and eventually the brewery at Wateringbury was sold to the Yalding Soap Company.

 They were two of some 50,000 breweries in the country at the time although from that peak numbers declined.[9]  Nearby villages with their own breweries included West Malling, Yalding and Hadlow (2).

 Only 38 acres off Cannon Lane are described as waste land and so exempt from tithe. The railway did not reach Wateringbury until a few years later.

 Population is not derivable from the map or schedule. We can see some 80 different  tenants mentioned by name (including 9 women). There are several important female owners (including Lady Twysden; Baroness Le Despencer) as well.  The population of Wateringbury was in 1841, the nearest census date  1,271, having grown from 817 in 1801 when the first census had taken place.



[1] A copy of the map is available from the Wateringbury Local History Society library.  At Kent Archives reference IR/30/17/383.

[3] Archaeologia Cantiana Volume 89  ‘The Tithe Commutation Surveys’ by Roger Kain  p 101.

[4]  Archaeologia Cantiana Volume 89  ‘The Tithe Commutation Surveys’ by Roger Kain p102.

[5] ‘Out of the Hay and into the Hops’ by Celia Cordele table 1.

[6] ‘Fruit growing in Kent in the nineteenth century’ by D. Harvey in Archaeologia Cantiana Vol 79 (1965)

[7] ‘Out of the Hay and into the Hops’ by Celia Cordle p132.

[8] ‘The Encircling Hop’ by Margaret Lawrence pp85-87.

[9] ‘The Encircling Hop’ by Margaret Lawrence p81.