From the Thorley Archives
A Journey Through 900 Years of Patronage, Diocese and Income

It is known from the Domesday Survey of 1086 that Geoffrey de Mandeville (or de Magnaville), an important Norman land holder, was then the Lord of the Manor of Thorley. Geoffrey's son, William de Mandeville, inherited his estates around 1100, but Henry I confiscated those in Sawbridgeworth, Saffron Walden and Great Waltham as punishment for the escape of Ranulf Flambard, the Bishop of Durham, from the Tower of London whilst William was the Constable. William's son, Geoffrey de Mandeville, 1st Earl of Essex, succeeded in recovering these estates during the power struggle that ensued between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda following the death of Henry I in 1135. However, Geoffrey's constantly shifting allegiance ultimately led to his downfall, and he was besieged and killed as a rebel by Stephen in 1144. Geoffrey was the founder of a Benedictine Priory in Saffron Walden, later to become Walden Abbey, on the site of what is now Audley End House. He included the Church of St James the Great, Thorley, together with eighteen others, in the Priory's endowment, along with its tithes, the payments in kind of a tenth of the profits of all local agriculture and labour which the Church received each year, and its glebe land, the land belonging to the Church from which it derived additional income.

Although the early history of tithes in England is somewhat obscure, it is known that in 786 two papal special envoys, George of Ostia and Theophylact of Todi, visited England and held two councils that approved a canon that decreed that all men should strive to give tithes from everything they possess, because it is the special property of the Lord, and they should support themselves and give alms from the nine parts. However, there is no evidence that tithes were enforced by civil law in England at that time, with the earliest known such enforcement dating from the middle of the tenth century. Initially tithes could be rendered to any cleric. However, the Third Lateran Council held in Rome in 1179 ruled that tithes should be paid to the representative of the Church where the payer lived.

In 1288 Pope Nicholas IV granted King Edward I the right to ten per cent of the income of the clergy in his realm for the following six years to aid him in funding an army to join the crusades in the Holy Land. The Pope then ordered that a survey be undertaken of all ecclesiastical incomes in England and Wales to aid the King in the collection of this revenue. Known as the Taxatio Ecclesiastica, this survey was completed in respect of the Province of Canterbury in 1291 and of the Province of York in 1292, and was to form the basis for all subsequent ecclesiastical taxation until the reign of Henry VIII. It records that the total income received by Thorley at that time was £12 3s 4d per year, of which £6 13s 4d went to the Abbot of Walden and £1 10s 0d to the Prior of Hurley, with the benefice itself retaining £4 0s 0d. The income that Walden Abbey received from Thorley in 1336 is known to have been set aside to fund garments for the monks.

The patronage of the living of Thorley, that is the right to present a nominee for appointment as the incumbent of the benefice when a vacancy arises, was acquired, although it is not clear how or when, by the Bishop of London, and it became, for many centuries, a Rectory, as distinct from a Vicarage, in the diocese of London. As a Rectory, the incumbent was a Rector, derived from the Latin Regere meaning to Guide or Direct, who was entitled to receive the income realised from all the parish tithes together with that from the glebe land, apart from any portions assigned to other religious institutions. Had it been a Vicarage, the incumbent would instead have been a Vicar, derived from the Latin Vicarius meaning Substitute or Deputy, who would only have received the income from the lesser or vicarial tithes, arising from livestock, minor produce and labour, supplemented with that from the glebe land. In this case, the income from the greater or rectorial tithes, relating to cereal crops, hay and wood, would have gone to another cleric, religious foundation, layman or secular organisation acting as the Rector of the benefice, on whose behalf the Vicar would have been appointed to fulfill the role of parish Priest. The earliest recorded Rector of Thorley is William Vigerons (Vigorous, Vygorous or more fully William dictus Vygorous de London), who was presented to the benefice by Stephen de Gravesend, Bishop of London, on 20 March 1327.

In 1534 Henry VIII was declared to be the head of the Church of England by the Act of Supremacy. One of his first actions as head was to commission a survey of all Church finances. This was primarily to determine the sums that were then being paid by the clergy to the Papal exchequer through taxes known as First Fruits and Tenths. The former consisted of the entire income of an incumbent during the first year of a new preferment, and the latter one-tenth of his income in all subsequent years. By a further Act of 1534 such First Fruits and Tenths. were redirected to the Crown. The results of the survey of Church finances were recorded in Valor Ecclesiasticus, often referred to as The King's Book (Liber Regis), that was compiled in 1535. It records that the Rectory of Thorley had a yearly income of £16 13s 4d at that time. Although the authors of Valor Ecclesiasticus do not appear to have totalled its numerous entries, it is known from other sources that the income of the Church then amounted to around £300,000 a year, of which the monasteries were in receipt of some £135,000. It is always difficult to compare the relative worth of money at different dates, but in terms of commodity purchasing power this total Church income is approximately equivalent to £155 Million in today's money. The information in Valor Ecclesiasticus led directly to the Suppression of Religious Houses Act of 1535 (1536 New Style) that dissolved all monasteries with an income of less than 200 per year. Larger monasteries were then encouraged to surrender their assets voluntarily. By this time the support Walden Abbey received from Thorley was limited to an annual payment of 53s 4d (£2 13s 4d), as recorded in the Abbey's possessions and sources of income that were surrendered to the King in 1538. These were subsequently granted by him to Thomas Audley, 1st Baron Audley of Walden, who, having succeeded Thomas Moore as Lord Chancellor of England in 1533, served in that capacity until his death in 1544. The Suppression of Religious Houses Act of 1539 dissolved those monasteries that were then still remaining.

It is thought that, by the time of their dissolution, monasteries were acting as the Rectors of as many as forty per cent of all Church livings. After the dissolution, the tithes that these monasteries had received became vested in the crown. The rights to most were then sold or granted to laymen, who thereby became lay Rectors of the associated benefices.

The First Fruits and Tenths Act of 1534 was repealed during the reign of Philip and Mary, but re-enacted during that of Elizabeth I. Queen Anne subsequently relinquished the Crown's right to these taxes, and diverted the money to a Bounty Fund that she established in 1704 to augment the incomes of the poorer clergy. However, by this date the money received through First Fruits and Tenths had lost its earlier value, as payments were still being collected in accordance with the valuations in Valor Ecclesiasticus. Various Acts had also exempted payments by clergy taking up lower-valued livings, and those associated with the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, the Colleges of Eton and Winchester, Hospitals for the relief of the poor and Schools for the instruction of the young. Further exemptions in respect of lower-valued livings were introduced shortly after the establishment of what was known as Queen Anne's Bounty and, in order to reduce the burden on those taking up livings that were not exempt from payments, First Fruits were thereafter collected in four annual installments. Both forms of payment were eventually to be abolished by the First Fruits and Tenths Measure of 1926.

By the end of the eighteenth century sufficient time had passed since the compilation of Valor Ecclesiasticus for there to be significant uncertainty in the total income then being received by the Church of England. In a letter written to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1783, the Bishop of Landaff stated that he was of the view that this could be no more than £1.5 Million per year. In An Essay on the Revenues of the Church of England published in 1816, Morgan Cove, Prebendary of Hereford and Rector of Eaton Bishop, presented detailed estimates of the main sources of income that totalled approximately £2.8 Million. William IV subsequently thought it expedient for divers good causes and considerations Us thereunto moving to appoint Commissioners to establish precise figures for these sources. From the Commissioners extremely detailed report, entitled Liber Ecclesiasticus and published in 1835, it can be concluded that the total gross income the Church received from them in 1831 was in fact close to £3.8 Million. In terms of commodity purchasing power such a figure is approximately equivalent to £300 Million in today's money. The net value of the benefice of St James the Great, Thorley, as reported in Liber Ecclesiasticus was £455 per year.

Although addressing the majority of sources of Church income, Liber Ecclesiasticus omitted a number which together were estimated at the time to amount to a further £1 Million per year. These included some £540,000 per year then received through a system operating under common law whereby parishioners were obliged to set a Church Rate to defray the cost of repairing the fabric of the church and cover other expenses associated with divine worship. Such Church Rates were set by parishioners duly assembled after proper notice by the Churchwardens in the vestry of the church. Although such vestry meetings were legally the assembly of the whole parish, only those who occupied property that was subject to the Poor Rate, on whom the Church Rate would also fall, had the right to vote. Church fees accounted for an estimated further £300,000 of the £1 Million, and the free-will offerings collected during church services for some £50,000. Other elements included additional income associated with the building of new churches and chapels, lectureships and chaplainships. The Poor Rate would ultimately be absorbed into local civil rates by the Rating and Valuation Act of 1925,

As a result of the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 payments in kind to Rectors, whether clerical or lay, and Vicars were replaced by variable monetary payments, referred to as tithe or corn rents, based on values assessed for individual parcels of land using seven-year average prices of wheat, barley, and oats determined nationally, with each contributing equally to the total. This required the drawing up of accurate tithe maps showing the owners and occupiers of every parcel of land, with that for Thorley being completed in 1845.

In that very year, by an Order in Council published in the London Gazette of 29 August 1845, Thorley was transferred on 1 January 1846 from the diocese of London to that of Rochester. However, this transfer did not in itself bring with it any change in patronage. The patronage of Thorley remained with the Bishop of London until 1852, when a further Order in Council ratified a large number of changes in patronage throughout the Provinces of Canterbury and York. However, the change in respect of Thorley as detailed in this Order was not straightforward. The text of the Order as published in the London Gazette of 4 June 1852 states 'That the patronage of the several benefices ... situate in the diocese of Rochester, and which said patronage is now vested in the Bishop of London, be transferred unto and thenceforth be and remain vested in the Bishop of Rochester and his successors; provided nevertheless, that, with regard to the benefices of Fairsted, Kelvedon, Rickmansworth, Southweald, and Thorley ... there shall be reserved to the present Bishop of London, during his incumbency, the right of presentation to such one of such last-mentioned benefices as he may select, upon the next vacancy thereof.'

Following the death of Thomas Pennington, aged 91, on 21 December 1852, Frederick Vander Meulen was instituted as his successor as Rector of Thorley on 13 January 1853, only seven months after this Order in Council. According to the article on Rickmansworth in Volume 3 of John Edwin Cussans' History of Hertfordshire, the Bishop of London, Charles James Blomfield, selected this vacancy to exercise his right of one further presentation, and the patron for Frederick Vander Meulen's appointment was accordingly the Bishop of London even though Thorley was in the diocese of Rochester at the time. That the Bishop of London was the patron for this appointment is also recorded in Canon Procter's Church Guide that was published in the 1920s, and on the Board in the Church listing the Rectors of St James. However, the March 1853 Register of Ecclesiastical Intelligence in Volume XXXIV of the Church of England Magazine cites the Bishop of Rochester as the patron for this appointment. In any event, the population of the Parish at that time as stated in that Register was 396, and the value of the Rectory £542 per year.

The transfer of Thorley from the diocese of London to that of Rochester was quickly realised to have been a mistake. According to Dioceses and Episcopal Sees in England, a Background Report for the Dioceses Commission, by Colin Podmore that was published in 2008, 'The need to create a see of St Albans was recognized in 1847, in order to remove the absurdity created by the transfer of Hertfordshire and Essex (apart from East London) to Rochester the previous year', with the result that St James the Great was to be transferred again, this time to the newly formed diocese of St Albans in 1877.

By an Order in Council on 30 April 1877, published in the London Gazette on the 4 May 1877, Queen Victoria created the Bishopric of St Albans, decreeing that 'The diocese of the said bishopric shall consist of the counties of Hertford and Essex, and of so much of the county of Kent as lies north of the River Thames'. Thorley was thereby transferred from the diocese of Rochester to the new diocese of St Albans as of that date. However, this did not result in a change in Bishop for Thorley, as the Bishop of Rochester was himself translated to the Bishopric of Saint Albans and enthroned there on 12 June 1877. Finally, by an Order in Council of 28 June 1877, published in the London Gazette on 13 July 1877, Queen Victoria directed that from that date 'The patronage of every ecclesiastical dignity and benefice being within the diocese of Saint Albans ... now vested for any estate or interest in the Bishop of Rochester shall ... become and be vested in the Bishop of Saint Albans and his successors.' So as of 13 July 1877, Thomas Legh Claughton, the former Bishop of Rochester, by then Bishop of St Albans, was, after an extremely short hiatus, once again patron of the benefice of St James the Great, Thorley.

The total annual income of the Church of England arising from historic sources had by that time risen to an estimated £6 Million, with an additional £1 Million then also being received in the form of free-will offerings. Spurred on by a parliamentary grant of £1 Million provided by the Church Building Act of 1818 and a further £500,000 by that of 1824, such voluntary giving had become central to financing the construction of the large number of new churches that were built during the nineteenth century to accommodate the then rapidly expanding urban populations. At the beginning of the 19th century there were approximately 10,000 parish churches in the country. By 1872 a total of 3204 new churches had been built. Rather than dividing existing Rectories and Vicarages, the incumbents of these new churches were often appointed as Perpetual Curates, a technical term that had originated in the sixteenth century for parish priests who were supported by stipends, often funded through endowments, rather than through tithes or the income from glebe land. The term ceased to be used after 1868 when Perpetual Curates were allowed to call themselves Vicars, but the formal status continued to exist until being abolished by a Pastoral Measure of 1968. Whereas the Rector of a benefice, whether clerical or lay, had personal responsibility for funding repairs to the Chancel of the church, with parishioners being responsible for the remainder of the building, parishioners were responsible for all repairs when the incumbent was a Perpetual Curate.

The responsibility of parishioners for church repairs had historically been met through the setting of an appropriate Church Rate levied on that property in a parish with no liability for Chancel repairs. The Church Rate once established was technically enforceable through ecclesiastical courts. However difficulty was often experienced in compelling individuals to pay. This became increasingly so with the rise in the number of Nonconformists, who by the middle of the nineteenth century outnumbered the members of the Church of England and often did not wish to contribute to the costs of their parish church in addition to that of their own denomination. The payment of Church Rates could also only be enforced if legally set, with the parishioners of Braintree successfully voting in 1837 against the setting of any compulsory rate, despite the fact that their parish church was in urgent need of repair. Eventually, by virtue of the Compulsory Church Rates Abolition Act of 1868, the payment of Church Rates became voluntary.

As a result, free-will offerings would henceforth increasingly be required to meet the cost of repairs and other Church expenses. The liability for Chancel repairs falling on clerical Rectors was to be transferred to Parochial Church Councils by the Ecclesiastical Dilapidations Measure of 1923, further increasing the dependence on such voluntary giving. However, the Chancel repair liability falling on lay Rectors still exists to this day, as does the right of a parish to set a voluntary Church Rate, the latter as laid out in the Parochial Church Council (Powers) Measures of 1956.

Thomas Legh Claughton was still the Bishop of St Albans at the time of the Institution of John Mathias Procter as Rector of Thorley on 22 January 1883, and so was the patron for his appointment. Canon Procter's entry in the 1885 edition of Crockford's Clerical Directory records that the gross annual income associated with the living was then £535.

Although the matter of diocese was now settled for St James the Great, Thorley, because it was in Hertfordshire, changes were still afoot for nearby Churches across the border in Essex. Once again quoting from Colin Podmore's 2008 report, 'As we have seen, the need to create a see of St Albans was recognized in 1847, in order to remove the absurdity created by the transfer of Hertfordshire and Essex (apart from East London) to Rochester the previous year. The new diocese consisted of Hertfordshire, the whole of Essex (the East London parishes having been detached from London and transferred to Rochester in 1866) and North Woolwich (anticipating that Kent enclave's later incorporation into Essex). But the 1877 diocese proved no more stable than the 1846 Rochester diocese and lasted only six years longer. Its two counties, stretching from Harwich on the East coast to Dunstable near the border with Buckinghamshire, were in themselves no more a natural unit than the 1846 diocese of Rochester had been. People in Chelmsford did not look to St Albans as the focus of their community any more than they regarded Rochester as such. In 1914, 37 years after the diocese's inception, Essex and North Woolwich were detached to form the new diocese of Chelmsford, while Bedfordshire was transferred from the equally unnatural and unstable 1837 diocese of Ely. Thus only in 1914 was a natural pairing of the counties north of London achieved.'

Meanwhile, the Tithe Act of 1846 had made provision for landowners to be able to extinguish tithe rent charges through lump sum payments to the tithe owners or, in the case of payments being made to an incumbent, to the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty. The Tithe Act of 1918 subsequently also made provision for tithe rents to be redeemed through annual annuity payments over a maximum of 50 years, a period extended by the Tithe Act of 1925 to 60 years. By this latter Act, all tithe rent charges payable to benefices were also transferred to the Queen Anne Bounty fund to be held in trust for the incumbents of the benefices. The functions and assets of this fund were ultimately to be merged with those of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to form the Church Commissioners by a Measure of 1947. The initial focus of work of the Church Commissioners was to improve the income of clergy, with the aim of achieving national consistency.

By 1930 the total gross income of benefices from historic sources amounted to some £6.5 Million per year, with voluntary contributions by then more than matching this figure and accounting for an additional £6.9 Million, bringing the total income of the Church to an estimated £13.4 Million, equivalent to around £750 Million in today's money. The gross annual income of the Rector of Thorley at that time, as detailed in the 1932 entry in Crockford's Clerical Directory for John Edward Ingleby Procter, the son of John Mathias Procter and the incumbent form 1909 to 1937, was £558. This was made up of a Tithe Rent Charge income of £506, channeled through the Queen Ann Bounty fund that was by this time also responsible for managing the tithe receipts payable to clergy, a further £6 from that fund and £1 from the Ecclesistical Commissioners, £39 from 52 acres of glebe land and £6 by way of parish fees.

The Tithe Redemption Act of 1936 finally abolished all tithe rents then still in existence, replacing them with annuities payable to the Government rather than the tithe owner for a period of 60 years, with owners being compensated by the issue of 3% Government stock. In 1976 the Government decided to extinguish these annuities prematurely because of the high costs by then associated with administering the scheme. Final annual annuity payments were collected in October 1977 equal to twice the normal payments to ensure that there were sufficient funds in the tithe account to service and ultimately to redeem outstanding stock, a process that was given legislative effect by the Finance Act of that year. However, incumbents continued to benefit from the income derived from glebe land until 1 April 1978 when, by virtue of the Endowments and Glebe Measure of 1976, such land ceased to be owned by a benefice, instead becoming vested in the Diocesan Board of Finance of the diocese to which the benefice belonged. The process that had been started in the mid-nineteenth century of diverting the income and assests that had historically been received and owned by individual parishes to the central administration of the Church was thereby completed.

Any financial advantage of one incumbent over another from holding a benefice with a higher tithe or gelebe income, or from being a Rector rather than a Vicar by virtue of the greater proportion of such income to which the former was entitled, thus finally came came to an end, with all parish priests henceforth receiving stipends from the diocese. A Central Stipends Authority was established by the General Synod in 1972 and, as a result of the recommendations it has made over the years, there is now consistency in clergy income across the country. The Church Commissioners initially fulfilled the role of the Central Stipend Authority, paying all stipends centrally from 1978. However, following the heavy financial losses they incurred and the recommendations of a 1994 report on the Organisation of the Church of England entitled Working as One Body, the responsibility for this Authority was transferred in 1999 to the Archbishops' Council that was then established under the National Institutions Measure of 1998.

Voluntary giving by worshipers to parish churches is now by far the largest source of Church income, with that from centrally managed historic assets, now mostly in the form of financial stocks and bonds, generating only a fraction of that required. Parishes are therefore asked to contribute towards diocesan expenditure, with the annual amount requested from each termed its Parish Share or Diocesan Quota, and calculated in accordance with its needs and ability to pay. With an increasing number of benefices consisting of a group of ecclestiastical parishes under a single stipendary minister, starting in 2014 Parish Shares were allocated to benefices rather than individual parishes.

Today it takes just over 1 Billion a year to finance the 13,000 parishes and 43 cathedrals of the Church of England, with around £160 Million of this coming as income from the centrally owned assets that were valued at £5.5 Billion at the end of 2012. Some £750 Million comes from Church giving by worshipers, and a further £130 Million by way of the income from funds held by parishes, diocese and cathedrals, and fees paid for weddings, funerals and chaplaincies. The Parish Share set for Thorley for 2014 was £83,056.

Philip Hargrave
April 2014

From the Archives