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The photograph shows the National Trust's Great Coxwell Tithe Barn in Oxfordshire - well worth a visit.

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Symbols of rural oppression

Tithe barns remain a symbol of centuries of rural oppression.

In The Great Theft of 1066, William the Bastard of Normandy stole all the land of England for himself, personally: "to do with as he wished." This explains why you don't "own" the land on which your home sits because all land in England and Wales belongs to the state ("the crown"), you merely have the right to "hold" it (hence "freehold") under the feudal system of "socage".

The first thing William did was to grant land holdings to his family and friends, the ones who supported him with the blood on their swords. For example, Henry de Ferrers was granted over 230 estates in Berkshire, Wiltshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Northamptonshire, Gloucestershire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire where he lived in the castle at Tutbury. Of course, someone "owned" those estates before - but that was just tough luck - the sword is mightier than the pen when push comes to shove.

William also handed out leading church positions (Bishoprics etc.) to family and friends (many of whom knew nothing about religion!) which is where the tithe barns come in.

Tithe barns explain how those in the church hierarchy made their money - by taxing those who worked the land. This tax started off as a share of the produce of the land which had to be stored somewhere - hence the building of tithe barns. Bishops, priests and monks got fat on the labour of others and tithing continued for almost 900 years ending with the Finance Act in 1977. The Church of England still claims "Chancel Repair Liability" from the owners of property previously liable to support the church so take care when buying property in a rural area!

The Normans, like many landowners before and since, fought others and themselves for the right to hold land and to live off the labour of others via rent. Today, in 2020, many rural estates remain in the hands of descendants of the armed thugs who came over with William and English law has been developed to protect their land rights - which is why they pay no tax on the land they hold. This also explains why those who make money now tend to sink it into land because they can take advantage of rollover tax relief then pay no tax on the value of the land while taking rent from those who do the work. Anthony Bamford of JCB and James Dyson, of vacuum cleaner fame, are two examples. Bamford also employs Boris Johnson, but that's another story.

A simple tradition grew up amongst the landowning class (the "aristocracy" and later the landowning "nouveau riche") that the first son would inherit (and live off land rent), the second would become the Rector (and live off tithes), the third would join the army (to defend land rights) and the fourth would become a lawyer (to draw up the laws to defend land rights).

Some people think this is fair. Some people think it's fine for people to live off the wealth acquired by their ancestors, no matter how that wealth was gained: war, conquest, violence, theft, slavery, exploitation, whatever. Some people think it's fine for such people to contribute nothing positive to society. Some people think it's fine for such people to avoid paying their fair share of taxes for the social good. Some people think it's fine doing nothing and living off the labour of others.

Others don't think this is fair. They are happy when wealth comes from personal efforts because we need creative people, we need inventors, we need new businesses - and people should certainly be rewarded for their efforts - as long as they pay their fair share of tax. It's the silver spoons that get up their noses.

Chatsworth House is buried in a charitable trust to avoid tax. but you could offer to fight Peregrine Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire, for it and the tens of thousands of acres he holds. His ancestors fought at Hastings, and have done the dirty work of monarchs ever since, but he seems unwilling to fight for it now! Pistols at dawn by the side of the River Derwent!

One could argue that the majority of the population is unforgivably ignorant about history, which explains why it is so easy to pull the wool over their eyes and why we are where we are.

There is still a lot of metaphorical forelock tugging going on: "looking up to one's betters" (very Downton Abbey!) and "respecting the right of the rich to be rich" and "you are only jealous, people deserve what they made, good for them".

The fact that many of the rich acquired their wealth by doing nothing more than being born into it and avoid paying tax seems to escape their notice. The fact that others gained it by stealing a nation's assets ((Russian oligarchs pouring money into the Conservative party), grossly exploiting others, or ripping off their pension schemes, never crosses their minds. Keep them dumb, "let them eat cake", that's the secret.