Canterbury: Bishops and tithes

Pages 288-291

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 11. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1800.

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Bishops and tithes

THIS PLACE is said from the time of archbishop Theodore, until that of archbishop Lanfranc, that is, for the space of 349 years, to have been A BISHOP'S SEE; but what renders this almost incredible, is, that there is no mention made of any such in any history whatever, till near the time of the Norman conquest, and then of only two, Eadsin and Goodwin, who are both stiled bishops of St. Martin's; the former is mentioned as such from the year 1032 to 1038; (fn. 1) the latter seems to have been constituted bishop of this see in 1052, by archbishop Robert, and died in the year 1061, according to the Saxon chronicle.

THE OFFICE of these suffragan bishops has been already fully treated of in the History of Kent, under the account of those of Dover; as to those of St. Martin's, the office of it being vacant a few years before archbishop Lanfranc came to his see, he, after he became archbishop, whether because two bishops were too many for one city, the reason, as some say, which he gave for what he did, or having respect to that ordinance of the council of London, holden anno 1075, requiring the removal of bishops sees from obscure rural villages to cities, or because this bishop was a chorepiscopus, a kind of country suffragan, an order of prelates he no doubt well knew had been for just reasons abolished abroad, and to foreign customs, he had according to all accounts, too much partiality; for one or more of these reasons, he refused to consecrate any other bishop in this see; but as he needed the help of a substitute, he created in the place of it a kind of new office of archdeacon, in which place he put Valerius. one of his chaplains, who became the first archdeacon of Canterbury, at least in the light that office has been looked on ever since, (fn. 2) and thus ended this suffragan see of St. Martin.

THE ENDOWMENTS of these churches, as well within as without the walls of this city, in respect to tithes, ought not to be passed by in silence; the custom and manner of the payment of which, Mr. Somner says, in his time, whether predial or personal, was not in kind, but by and according to the rents of houses, viz. after the rate of 10d. in the noble, quarterly payable. This, he says, was the general custom of tithing throughout this city, one parish, St. Andrew's, only excepted, where, by what means was unknown, the custom was to pay something more, viz. 10½d. in the noble. How long this custom had been in force, was not found; but by records in the archbishop's registry (fn. 3) it appeared, that antiently the clergy of this city were in the same situation for their tithes and offerings, as their brethren the clergy of London were, and partook with them of their custom; but how long afterwards this continued, or when or why it ceased and was changed, and abated into the present manner of tithing, and whether or no personal tithes were then paid besides, (as Linwood's opinion is, that they ought to be, this being according to him, a predial tithe) was not found; but he says, he persuaded himself, that personal tithes were likewise paid, and that, because almost every testator, as well of this city, as the country round about it, gave some satisfaction more or less by his will, to the parish priest for his tithes forgotten, or negligently paid, which it was conceived could not easily happen in this certain kind of payment. Yet it was rather than otherwise supposed, these privy personal tithes were seldom or never drawn from the parishioner by any legal compulsory way, or from any course taken for their recovery, in fore exteriori, as it is called, but by other means as prevalent in those times. That is, one me thod, by the calling the parishioner to account for them, in foro conscientiæ, in the court of conscience, at the time of confession, or thrist (perhaps the reason of their being called privy tithe); another by the terrifying danger of incurring the greater curse of excommunication, (which confirmed him much in his persuasion of the usual payment of them) declared in every parish church in town and country, until the reformation, four times in the year, against all such as withheld these tithes; the cause, perhaps, why every man was so careful not to die in his priest's debt for them. (fn. 4)


  • 1. Gervas, col. 1651, says, that Siward, suffragan bishop (Chorepiscopus) of archbishop Eadsin, died at Abingdon, and was buried there. Archbishop Eadsin sat from anno 1038 to 1050.
  • 2. See Battely's Somner, p. 34, 150.
  • 3. See these records in Battely's Somner, appendix, No. lxxi.a. lxxib.
  • 4. See Battely's Somner, p. 171.