Tithe Farm

The earliest record of the property has been found in 1786 when the estate of the deceased William Singleton, who held the Norton Court Estate at the time, was being sold.  William Butt was the ‘tenant at will’ at a yearly rent of £45.  The property was described as “a messuage or tenement, with the buildings, consisting of a day-house, barn, stable, granary and mill-house, orchards, and lands thereto belonging, in the parish of Norton aforesaid, containing by estimation about 70 acres, viz arable, in the common fields, 49 acres; pasture, 14 acres; inclosed and in the common meadows, 7 acres; with common of pasture for 11 cows, in the common meadows called Foremead and Stratys at the usual and accustomed times of the year.  NB.  This farm lies near the Mansion-house, and there is a break of thorns inclosed, consisting of about 1 acre called Smith’s Leys Break, by the side of Smithfield, which belonged to the Mansion-house Estate, by is now held by Mr Butt, who has the thorns to repair the mounds of the Estate, in his occupation, and the grass in lieu of 11s 3d, to make up 12 cow pastures in the common meadows, which were let to him as belonging to this farm, there being no more than 11 pastures”.

At the time of the Inclosure Act at Norton in 1806 Plot No 203 was the site of the Glebe Homestead and was in the occupation of Edward Webb of the Norton Court Estate and William Butt was still tenant.  It was 2 roods and 31 perches in size.  To aid orientation, Plot No 207 on the following plan is Court Farm.


In 1821 Plot No 203 was described as ‘Antient Inclosed Lands’, was ‘House, Garden, Yards and Outbuildings’ and was still 2 roods and 31 perches in size.  William Butt was the tenant on a 21 year lease renewable every 7 years; but things weren’t that straightforward. 


In 1821 there was a ‘Report on with a Survey and Valuation of the Impropriate Rectory of Norton in the County of Gloucester belonging to The Reverend the Dean and Chapter of Bristol’.  My understanding of ‘impropriate’ in the context of ecclesiastical law, was the destination of the income from tithes of an ecclesiastical benefice to a layman.  The 1821 report states that ‘the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral Church of the Holy and undivided Trinity in Bristol are Impropriators of the Tithes arising within the greater Part of the said Parish [Norton] and William Butt Gentleman is the lessee thereof’.  The report goes on to say that ‘all Tithes both Great and Small of all the lands in the Parish shall be commuted for land, by allotments to be made to William Butt as Lessee to the Dean and Chapter of Bristol’.  This came with conditions of course; ‘The Living of Norton is a perpetual Curacy; the Stipend is £20 a Year, chargeable on the Dean and Chapter of Bristol, who are the patrons, but which by agreement, is paid by the Lessee’.  The report states that ‘The Lands belonging to the Dean and Chapter, as well as those over which they have Tithes, are stubborn and unkind’ but ‘Wm Butt, the Lessee manages the Land well’.

The Butts were a large family with branches at Standish, Sandhurst and Norton, amongst other places, and I am not certain when William was born or who his parents were.  It appears that he married Ann (Nancy) Higgs and they had a number of children amongst whom were; Richard, John, Samuel, Samuel and Harriet. There is a group of headstones in the churchyard at Norton that relate to this branch of the Butt family but unfortunately they are largely unreadable.

Returning to the 1821 report we see that Plot No 203 then contained a number of buildings; “The Buildings are in the Village of Lower Norton, and consist of a dwelling house, comprising two rooms and a Small cellar on the Ground floor, with 3 bed rooms over, of Brick, Brick Nogging, and Thatch, and in bad repair.  There is a Small Garden, which with the dwelling House is let off in two parts, one part to the overseers of the poor, and the other part to George Townsend.  A good cattle shed covered with slate and having a well built brick wall on the north side in very good repair.  Another stable brick and thatch in tolerably good repair.  And a barn with two threshing floors, one of stone and one of board.  The barn stands on a brick basement of about 2½ feet high, and is weather boarded from thence to the roof which is covered in thatch and in tolerably good repair.  The weather boards and board threshing floor are in bad repair.  All the above buildings adjoin each other and form, imperfectly, the three sides of a square, the fourth side opening to the road and facing the south.  The space thus inclosed form a comfortable cattle fold, with a pond of water in one corner.  Adjoining the barn is a stack yard. These buildings are quite detached from the farm lands and from the titheable lands”.

I have not been able to identify George Townsend in any other record. 

A ‘Terrier and valuation of the messuages, lands, and other hereditaments liable to poor rate in the parish of Norton’ from 1838 records a ‘Tithe Farm’ at Plot No 203 in the occupation of Richard Butt.  I believe that this Richard was a son of William and Ann Butt who had previously held this plot of land.  Richard’s Tithe Farm had 238 acres and as the farmland that accompanied the homestead on Plot No 203 was in excess of 224 acres in 1821 it is believed this refers to the same property.

A tithe report for Norton from 1840 records that “There is no Glebe Land in the Parish but a farm which is called ‘The Tithe Farm’ was allotted to ? the Property of the Dean and Chapter under an enclosure act”.  The farm was recorded as being in excess of 238 acres.

In 1841 Thomas Foster, a 50 year old agricultural labourer, his wife Elizabeth, and four young children were living at Tithe House.

An undated map of this area of Bishops Norton which, judging by the names of the tenants listed on the accompanying schedule, suggests that it dates from approximately 1860 does not show any detail for Plot No 203 other than by recording that it was ‘Glebe’ land.  Perhaps there was still a house and farm buildings here or perhaps not.  Another map dated about 1870 annotates Plot No 203 with simply ‘Tithe Barn’ which suggests that the house was no longer there and the following OS map also shows just a single structure here, likely the barn.

[1st Edition OS 25” map, 1844-1888]

On 2 March 1871 the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England sold a property to Edward Webb.  Previously of the Norton Court Estate for many years the family still owned much land in Norton in the 1870s.  The property in question was 2 roods and 31 perches in size and was described as “…a homestead formerly a tithe barn ….. which piece or parcel of ground is now and has for some time been in the occupation of the said Edward Webb…”.  It was sold “…of the fee simple in possession free from encumbrances of the said hereditament for the sum of two hundred pounds being the consideration which upon due calculation and enquiry appears to the said Commissioners to be just and reasonable…”.

I do not know what happened to this Plot of land after this time although between the 1890s and 1950s, at least, it was used as the village cricket pitch.

[Fred Mullens (my grandfather), then of Green Corners, batting on the village cricket pitch in approximately 1905.]

The following photo was taken in 1955 and shows the Mullens family of Fir Tree Cottage, opposite Plot No 203, and a barn of some description can still be seen to have been present at that date.

[Roy Mullens (Fred's son) with wife Kay and daughter Ruth in the garden at Fir Tree Cottage, 1955]