Land, rent, church, tithes, rectors and vicars


History is subjective, not objective - each of us sees it in a different way. This is one way.

This is a long article - but it is about a big and important topic that continues to affect the lives of all of us - whether or not we are religious.


Bolton Abbey Tithe Barn - held by the Duke of Devonshire.
The Cavendish family, in the shape of Robert de Gernon from Montfiquet
in Calvados, Normandy, came over in 1066 at the beginning of the Norman occupation.
As well as holding vast estates (currently 73,000 acres - including Chatsworth),
they were a leading family in suppressing rebellions against rents and tithes.
Sir John Cavendish was executed during The Great Rebellion of 1381 on the
same day that Watt Tyler was murdered by William Walworth, Mayor of London.


This article (prompted by the discovery of an Edwardian rector's photo album) was written by the current occupant ("freeholder") of The Old Rectory in Trusley. (See potted history of Trusley.)

History isn't a neutral set of facts: "this happened, this happened, this happened" - that would make it as boring as rote learning a list of kings and queens.

History is about asking questions and interpreting events in order to understand them. Without an understanding of history we are destined to make the same mistakes over and over again and society will remain as unfair as it has always been. Personally I am in favour of a fairer and more just society but, in 2022, I seem to be in a minority.


None of us is impartial, we each have our own spectacles through which we interpret the world, so it is essential to ask:

  • "What is the background (family, education, current position) of the person doing the interpreting?"
  • "Do they have an axe to grind?"
  • "Do they have a world view or status to defend?"
  • "What do they gain from one view of history and lose from another?"

My maternal grandparents moved East from Wales, holding farms in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire and I was brought up on a dairy farm - I like cows! My paternal grandfather was the village blacksmith in Hartpury, Gloucestershire, and his claim to fame was the discovery, in 1905, of "Lake's Kernel" desert apples.

I had no intention of following the farming life - too much hard work for me - so I was the first in the family to go to University, found my way to Rolls Royce in Derby, taught for a few years, set up a software company and now, even though "retired", I continue to invent things and create new products.

History is rent

When looking at any event, in politics, business or history, the first rule is:

    "follow the money".

Find out who benefitted financially. For example: who made a fortune out of Covid, how did they manage it, who helped them, who controlled the purse strings, who was held accountable?

Who makes money from wars? How much money did Ford, Coca Cola, IBM, MGM, Chase Manhattan Bank, Dow Chemical, Woolworth, Alcoa and General Motors make from supplying products to Nazi Germany while it was at war with Great Britain? How much of the wealth enjoyed by the Bush family comes from their active support of Nazi Germany?

Ford's Cologne factory benefitted from the labour of 1,200 Russian slaves while making engines for Nazi Germany and Henry Ford received the Grand Cross of the German Eagle as a reward for his efforts in keeping the USA out of the war. (IBM supplied punch card machines to keep records of Jews and other "undesirables".)

History is almost always about the right to extract wealth from the labour of others by holding land - with a good dose of populist nationalism, racism and inter-/intra-religious violence thrown in.

"Rent" means different things to different people at different times. It is always the payment, in some way, by someone to someone else who has control over them or over specific assets - usually land or other property. Payment may be by labour (time spent working for someone else) service (military service when fighting someone else's battles), goods (produce of the land - crops and animals) or cash.

No one "owns" land in England.

You don't "own" the land on which your home, farm, manor, country pile, stately home is built. You "own" the buildings and you acquire the right to "hold" the land when you purchase the "freehold", but you don't own the land.

The reason is simple: at the beginning of the Norman occupation in 1066, Guillaume le Batard de Normandy took all the land of England into his own personal possession, "to use and abuse as he sees fit.", then declared himself "King William the first".

Nothing has changed since then.

Today this means that all the land in England is "owned" by us all - through "the crown". (Note: it is not owned by the monarch, it is owned by the state as represented by the government - and the government is elected by us.)

Democracy is a nice idea - in theory

Unfortunately we don't live in a democracy and the government represents a minority of the electorate. In 2019 the government received just under 14 million votes - 29.4% of the electorate. Under our current first-past-the-post system the majority of the electorate is not represented in parliament and certainly not in government.

Many people don't bother to vote because, in many constituencies, there would be no point, their vote would be wasted. Personally I don't vote because my political views are no longer represented by any of the major parties - fairness and justice are pipe dreams and we continue to lock up people without trial.

Obviously William had no intention of working the land, in fact, he had no intention of working at all - he wanted to live off rent. To do this he granted the right to "hold" parcels of land to those who had supported him with their swords in battle. For example, Henri de Ferriéres was granted the right to hold 210 manors throughout England - many of them in Derbyshire - including Trusley.

Obviously Henri de Ferriéres had no intention of working the land, in fact, he had no intention of working at all - he wanted to live off rent. To do this he granted the right to tenants to work the land in return for annual rent - paid initially with labour, and goods produced on the land, later changed to hard cash.

Unlike the Romans who had developed a highly centralised, urban civilisation which included sophisticated buildings, writers, philosophers and the ideas of a republic and voting (slaves did not vote of course), the Norman feudal system was decentralised with each king and each baron requiring only two major buildings to extract rent - the castle to project military might and the church to keep people in their place with threats of hellfire and damnation.

Nearby Tutbury castle was buit by Hugh d'Avranches in 1068 and taken over by Henri de Ferriéres et Chambrais in 1071. Henri also built nearby Duffield castle and he was the holder of Trusley manor.

In 1162 Henri's grandson William joined Henry II's sons in a rebellion - another example of violence used in the struggle for power and rent. Both castles were destroyed after the rebellion was crushed but both were later rebuilt - their ability to project military violence remained the key to extracting rent.

In the 11th century the Normans weren't interested in philosophy (!) and they had no explanations for the world around them apart from superstition and religion. With few people able to read and write, no printing to spread the written word, the Christian church and bible (in Latin) were, for 800+ years, as powerful a weapon as the sword for keeping people in their place within the social hierarchy - threats of hellfire and damnation were preached from every pulpit and painted on every church wall until whitewashed over during the reformation.

William granted the right to "hold" land to those in the Christian church hierarchy - after all, despite the mass slaughter he and his gang of thugs had carried out in France and England, he wanted to bribe his way into heaven. In fact, he died a horrible death resulting from obesity, his body was stripped bare and abandoned by his "supporters". There is no loyalty amongst thieves and murderers - especially if they can profit from another's death. His "supporters" fled the scene and rushed to defend the land they had been granted.

"Gang of thugs"?

Surely this is emotive language - why not "chivalrous band of knights"?

No. William wasn't surrounded by a happy band of well mannered chums in shiny armour - he brought together the most violent and greedy men he could find, those who would fight to the death in their own self-interest. The history of their marauding throughout Northern France is available to anyone who wishes to dig a little deeper.

William and his gang were armed thugs on horseback who murdered, raped and pillaged as they saw fit - and they continued in this way after arriving in England. Tens of thousands (records at the time said hundreds of thousands) were massacred in the north of England during "The Harrying of the North" of 1069-70 as villages were burned and vast areas laid to waste.

Those who had gone before the Normans invaded: Britons, Romans, Anglo Saxons, Vikings; were no better most of the time - living off the labour of others or, in the case of Viking attacks, stealing the wealth generated by others. The common people were, in effect, slaves - ruled by those who fought over the ownership of land and the rents it generated.

The arrival of the Normans was different - they were more systematic in their slaughter and their destruction of the previous social order - and we still live with the consequences.

The Norman occupation of England began in 1066 and it continues to this day.

Our entire social, class and legal system was created by the violence of the Normans and their descendants in their greedy self interest. Our public school and university system was created to ensure they retained power and wealth through holding land, extracting rent, controlling the law and organising state violence. The start of the Norman occupation in 1066 remains the most cataclysmic event in English history and the country will not become a fairer and more just place until this is recognised and things are done to redress the balance in favour of the majority of us.

We are many, they are few - perhaps now is the time to bring to and end the Norman occupation of England with the second half of Senlac?

Fortunately there are far simpler and less violent ways to create a fairer and more just society.

It is interesting that "Greed is good" has resonance today in a world where unfairness and injustice are guaranteed by neoliberal economics.

Church tithes

Obviously the church hierarchy had no intention of working the land, in fact, they had no intention of working at all (apart from the arduous task of "saving souls") - they wanted to live off rent.

The church grew very fat as people gifted land in order to bribe their way into heaven. Fear of death was a huge money spinner for the church which rapidly became a major landholder while extracting rent from its tenants.

In additional to rent the church levied tithes: 10% of agricultural produce (crops and animals). In many parishes special barns ("Tithe Barns") were built simply to store the church's share of crops.

By the time Henry VIII decided to close the monasteries (to line his own pockets with the equivalent today of £0.5 billion) they held more land than the king - in fact over 800 of them held, and collected rent and tithes from, millions of acres - over a quarter of all the cultivated land in the country.

Everyone paid

Tithes applied to everyone, believers and non-believers, not simply to tenants on church land. The cry of:

     "It's your god, he's your Rector, it's your church: you pay for it!"

fell on deaf ears.

Until recently, non-believers have kept a low profile for fear of being burned at the stake, hung or imprisoned as heretics or blasphemers - the law against blasphemy was not repealed in England until 2008.

Non-believers are still being imprisoned and executed elsewhere in the world - the terror inflicted by ISIS in the name of religion is not a new phenomenon.

The "living" provided by tithes was often in the giving of the local landholder so the Rector was in no position to rock the boat or call for social justice. Mr Collins, brilliantly played by David Bamber in the 1995 BBC mini-series of "Pride and Prejudice", exemplifies the social climbing Rector bowing at the knee to the local landholder.

The current church in Trusley was built in 1713 and we don't have details of any earlier church on the same site. We don't know if Trusley had its own tithe barn but, a few hundred yards away, on the border with the parish of Osleston & Thurvaston, there is Tythe Barn Lane.

The Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 brought an end to the payment of tithes with produce (crops and animals) in favour of cash. Each parish had to produce a tithe map and the tithe was set initially as the average over the previous 7 years. Along with the map went a list of landholders and the amount due for each piece of land.

Tithes in Trusley

In 1836 tithes paid to the church (actually to the rector) in goods (crops & animals) were converted into tithes paid in cash.

Each year the church sent round a valuer to work out the amount of tithe due from every area of land in the parish. This process was known as the "tithe apportionment" and the Derbyshire Records Office has provided us with a copy of the 1840 apportionment for Trusley (all hand written in the best Copperplate!) that goes with the 1839 map.

For lots of complex reasons (partly to do with land being owned by monasteries before Henry VIII dissolved them to line his own pocket) some land did not pay a tithe - it was "tithe free". Trusley had about 40% of the land not paying a tithe. The rector was therefore keen to extract every last farthing (1/960 of a pound) from the remaining 60%.

Please click the map below for a larger copy of the tithe map for Trusley in 1839.

Tithe map 1840
  • Click here for the 1840 tithe apportionment sorted into map reference order.
  • Click here for the 1840 tithe apportionment sorted into landholder order.
  • Click here for the 1840 tithe apportionment sorted into occupier order.
  • Click here for the 1840 tithe apportionment sorted into area order.
  • Click here for the 1840 tithe apportionment sorted into tithe payable order.

In 1840 the rector who benefitted from these tithes was Charles Evelyn Green - who didn't even live in Trusley! He had previously been a curate in Mickleover, became a stipendiary curate in Trusley (he was paid a small wage) and then became the rector of both Trusley and neighbouring Dalbury where he lived in the much larger and newly expanded rectory while renting out the Trusley rectory as a farm.

Charles extracted tithes and rents from both parishes but the rectory in Trusley fell into a dilapidated state until repaired and "enhanced" in 1859 by Colonel E. T. Coke prior to William Chandos-Pole becoming rector. The Chandos-Pole family (Normans) hold the nearby Radbourne estate.

When you see "rector", think "tithes".

A case of tithes - in Trusley!

Rectors nationwide would go to extraordinary lengths to ensure they got their pound of flesh by way of tithes - and little Trusley was no exception.

In 1809, Francis Wilmot, "patron, rector and principle landowner" (he was, in fact a "landholder", but it's a common mistake) discovered that three farms in the north of the parish: Grange Field, Beyer Leys and Nunsfleld; held by the Shaw and Eyre families, weren't paying their tithes.

Quick as flash, Francis dug deep into his records, traced the land holdings back to beginning of the Norman occupation in 1066, moved forward through the fourth Lateran Council of 1215 to the reign of Edward II in 1309, then via the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII to a possible dispute with another sword-wielding Norman family, the Curzons (from Notre Dame de Curson in Calvados, Normandy) who held land north of Long Lane and had built Kedleston Hall in 1759 from the rents they had extracted for almost 700 years.

Since the holders of the three farms had not paid tithes, "within the memory of man", Francis felt he was due a fair amount. He asked for judgement in his favour but the documents we have show that the advice he was given was that he had not shown a sufficient case and would have to take it to law for a decision. We don't know if he did, and if he did, we don't know the outcome - but the farms remained tithe-free in 1840! (Documentation available on request.)

Thanks to Mr Wilmot

Francis Wilmot was no better, and probably no worse, than must country rectors determined to extract all the tithes they felt entitled to. As both a landholder and rector Francis benefitted from the extraction of both rent and tithes.

Trusley dropped out of Coke hands in 1717 when the male line ended with the death of William Coke: "an easy, good-tempered man, living with the careless hospitality of former times, and if not spending more than his income, certainly saving none." At that time the estate was held by the Wilmot family who: "continued to reside at Spondon, Trusley Hall became dilapidated, and was soon after pulled down".

William Coke left the only record we have so far of anyone working in Trusley - Tom Handford, the local blacksmith, who accompanied "the squire" while hunting hares and is responsible for "The Trusley Hunting Song". A portrait of Tom hung in the servants' hall and under it were these lines:

     "This is Tom Handford - don't you know it?
     He was both Smith and Poet.

In 1720, William's daughter, Frances Coke, married her cousin D'Ewes Coke and, in 1810, another D'Ewes Coke wrote of Trusley:

"The roads are impassable, but for a cart and horse and the most melancholy neglect appears of the whole place. ... The present Mr. Wilmot has erected a new parsonage, of more flaming brick contiguous to it, and at present it offends the eye. It is a desirable sporting property, but it is, even for that purpose, scarcely ever visited by him."

So, Francis Wilmot spent some of his rent and tithes on building the Rectory - thank you Francis!

When Charles Eveleyn Green became rector in 1819 (?), Trusley Rectory was rented out as a farm while Charles lived in Dalbury - taking tithes from both parishes. Charles changed his surname to "Cotton" - this may have been a condition of a will when he married into the wealthy Cotton family of Etwall Hall. It wasn't until William Chandos-Pole (another sword-wielding Norman family holding the neighbouring estate of Radbourne) became rector in 1859 that "the Rectory was placed in a thorough state of repair by Colonel E. T. Coke, the patron." We assume this was when the front projection and ground floor bay windows were added as shown in the recently discovered photograph album.

The 1861 census shows William Chandos-Pole living at home in Radbourne while being rector of Trusley - by 1871 he was listed as rector of Radbourne - perhaps he collected rent and tithes from both parishes? The list of rectors and vicars at Radbourne shows that the Chandos-Poles successfully kept both the estate rents and the parish tithes in the hands of the family.

There was no regular road to Trusley beyond Radbourne until around 1840 when a bridge was built across Trusley Brook at a cost of £41 - about £4,200 today. Until then the "coach road" had bypassed Trusley by going to Etwall via Dalbury - now a dead end. On May 6th, 1803, J. Woodward, the chief tenant in Trusley, wrote to Mrs. Wilmot about her proposed visit to the village:

"Mr. Roome has put in his roads very well, we should be very glad if you please to let us know about a week before, and I think I can get Radbourne people to make a little amendment, likewise we ourselves, and me and George will meet you Madam at your side Radbourne, and conduct you safe to Trusley and depend Madam on ye beds and rooms being well air'd."

Today we would describe the Wilmots as absentee landlords and Mr Woodward as somewhat obsequious.

The estate returned to the Coke family through marriage.

Rapacious rectors: the tithing of turnips

The 18th century saw significant improvements in agriculture with one of the improvers being Charles Townshend, known thereafter as "Turnip Townshend".

Farmers have always had problems feeding livestock over the winter but, by planting a winter crop of turnips, they could avoid having to slaughter most animals in the autumn.

Thomas Cooke Kemp, the Rector of East Meon in Hampshire, had a tithe income of over £230,000 at today's rates. Obviously this wasn't enough to keep Thomas in the manner to which he had become accustomed - and, to make life a little more comfortable, he employed two curates, on a minimum wage, to do the religious "work".

During the winter, farmers used fences to move their stock across turnip fields so the crop was gradually consumed. To make life easier for the animals, farmers hoed up the turnips as the fence moved.

Quick as a flash, Thomas realised that by lifting the turnips from the soil, the farmers were taking a crop and therefore he was entitled to 10% of it by way of tithe. This led to a confrontation between the rector and the farmers and it ended in 1835 with an Act of Parliament being passed in favour of the rector! Landholders, as represented in Parliament, worked hand-in-hand with the church to defend their rights to extract rents and tithes.

To say there was "tension" between the church and tithe payers would be an understatement!

Some people took their resentment of tithes to extreme limits. In the late afternoon of 24 June 1806 George Parker, Rector of Oddingley in Worcestershire, was found in a glebe meadow in the village, dying from a gunshot wound to the stomach. Later confessions strongly implicated at least three substantial local farmers in a conspiracy to murder their late rector because of a long-running dispute about tithes. They had paid Richard Heming £50 to commit the crime, and then a day later Heming himself had been bludgeoned to death. For a clergyman to be murdered was rare in Georgian England, but for his death to result from a conspiracy between a magistrate and yeomen farmers was unique.

Tithing for cash was ended completely by the Finance Act of 1977 but the threat of Chancel Repair Liability still hangs over many rural homes. The church will still dig deep for its pound of flesh.

Quiet rural rebellion

The tiny Primitive Methodist chapel at the end of Back Lane, half way between Trusley and Sutton on the Hill, is a symbol of quiet rural rebellion.

By the 19th century it was highly unlikely that rent and tithe payers would take up arms in rebellion - as they had done in previous centuries - after all, the local militias were controlled by local landholders who would not hesitate to use violence to crush any rebellion. "Know your place - at the end of a sword or a musket!"

Having been forced to pay tithes for the upkeep of the church and the Rector, and having worked the rest of the week to pay rent to the local landholder, the local agricultural workers had no intention of sitting alongside them for Sunday service while the great and the good sang "All things bright and beautiful":

     "Rich man in his castle, poor man at his gate.
     God made them high and lowly, each to his estate.

History is violence to defend rent

Initially "freeholders" (those granted the right to hold land) extracted rent as a share of the goods produced on the land: crops and animals; later rent was extracted as cash. Throughout the world, land was seized (usually by violent "conquest") and those who worked the land found themselves with new landlords.

Little has changed throughout history for those who work the land, or who extract what lies beneath it, the only change being the person who demands their rent.

English history is rich in violence carried out in order to extract rent. Look carefully at the history of conflicts and battles on English soil and all of them come down to the struggle for land - who will be top dog, who will grab the lion's share of rent - the violence of the Norman Barons is ingrained in their descendants. Often those forced to fight are those who will have to pay rent to the victor! The common man has always provided canon fodder for those who exploit him.

Tithe wars

The church did not refrain from threats of imprisonment and violence in support of its income - even when it came as tithes from non-believers and from those of other religions! Rebellions against tithes took place fairly regularly all over the country, including "the battle of the ducks" during the "Kentish Tithe War" of 1934 when the church seized ducks because a farmer refused to pay the tithe. In the 1880s and 1890s troops were sent into North Wales to support tithe gatherers and entire farms were seized and sold off to pay the church.

Hundreds were killed and wounded in Ireland during the tithe war of 1831-36 as the Church of England uses troops to enforce tithes on Catholics.

Magna Carta

Magna Carta was not some great statement about an Englishman's freedom. It was about the rights of landholders in relation to the monarch. Those with the right to extract rent had no wish for that right to be taken away by the king.

The Hundred Years' War

Between 1337 and 1453 over 2,300,000 people, most of them recruited from the rural working class on both sides, lost their lives as landholders in England and France used them to fight wars over rent in France.

English football supporters still shout "Crecy" or "Agincourt" and use the "V" sign towards French supporters - forgetting that the English were totally destroyed in the battles of Patay, Formigny and Castillon. The last patch of "English" soil in France was Calais - which was regained by the French in 1558.

Football supporters are still chanting about "victories" in battles fought to ensure that those with wealth gained more wealth by the seizure of land through force. Who died to enable landholders to grab more land for rent? Answer: the ancestors of today's football supporters!

The distorted English view of history means we have lost our way in the modern world. We suffer from national insecurity which makes us, like the Americans, the world's bullies and loud mouths.

How has this level of historical and political illiteracy come about? We have to turn to our education system and to our mass media dominated by wealthy tax avoiders who don't even live in England (Murdoch, Rothermere, Barclay).

History teaching should be open, unbiased, honest and reflect all who took part. It should look at the long term consequences (which are still with us today) and show how "ordinary people", of all nationalities, have been used by those in power to pursue their personal financial ends.

The story that captured English archers had their draw fingers amputated is a myth - and certainly didn't give rise to the defiant English version of the "V" sign. Those with wealth were worth capturing and ransoming, common men were worthless and were knifed as they lay wounded - it was too costly to look after them as prisoners.

The Great Rebellion

The Great Rebellion of 1381, when "the lower orders" rose against those who were exploiting them, was viciously put down by the ancestors of those who, inthe 2020s, still hold vast swathes of the English countryside - including Chatsworth Estate. Interestingly the political analysis of those who rebelled was best summed up by a priest, John Ball:

"When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?"

The Midland Revolt

The Midland Revolt of 1607 was against the enclosure of common land by the Tresham family of landholders in Northamptonshire. Enclosure meant that landholders could prevent the working of the land by "common people" and could therefore maximise their rents by leasing the land to tenants. The revolt was crushed on behalf of the Treshams by Edward Montagu (of Norman descent) - fifty people were killed and the leaders of the revolt were hanged, drawn and quartered. The Montagu family went on to become Dukes of Buccleuch, the largest landholders in Britain.

The civil war

The Civil War wasn't about the rights of the common man. It was about the rights of the new middling classes, the new landholders who had benefitted greatly when Henry VIII sold off land previously held by the church and religious institutions. Oliver Cromwell was one of the middling classes, a landholder from Huntingdon, and, following the end of the Civil War, he became extremely rich with extensive land holdings. He was only too willing to crush any rebellion that insisted on rights for the common man - 340 "rebels" were imprisoned in Burford church and the leaders were taken out and shot. The Civil War defended the rights of the middling classes to extract rent.

Churches, rectors, vicars and Canon Law

I declare an interest. I live in an Old Rectory (a life's ambition fulfilled) and I sometimes mow the churchyard next door - but I am a life-long atheist. The God theory never took with me - I see no need for it, no evidence for it and everything it claims to explain can be explained in much simpler ways. I do my best to lead a happy, fulfilled and responsible life while helping others to do the same.

As an atheist, and unlike many Christians I've met, I have read the gospels and I can find nothing in them that justifies so many of the intolerant things done today in the name of religion. Like most non-religious people I try to live by The Golden Rule: "treat others as you would have them treat you" and I wish more Christians would read the Sermon on the Mount and the story of the Good Samaritan.

I am not happy when religions continue to demand the right to be treated as exceptions. Why? Why should they be allowed to get away with things when the rest of us try to live in harmony? Why do they try to deny people their personal and sexual happiness? Why do they deny me the right to a dignified death at the time of my choosing? Why do they deny women the right to control their fertility? By what right do they demand that I "respect their sincerely held beliefs" when they fail to respect my sincerely held beliefs? Whose "sincerely held beliefs" were they respecting when they burned people like me at the stake? Who do they think they are!

There is no church hierarchy in the gospels. There is no Canon Law in the gospels There is no religious uniform in the gospels. There are no elaborate rituals in the gospels. There is no tithing in the gospels. These things, and others, have grown over time to protect the interest and wealth of the church.

Click for a larger image.

Church Canon Law remains a law unto itself in matters relating to the church - and it is impenetrably complex - a long way from the (alleged) simple man from Nazareth. We continue to have an established religion with 24 unelected bishops sitting in the House of Lords pontificating about laws relating to all of us.

Holding land means the right to extract rent from the labour of others. That rent can be maximised if the same family also controls rent extracted by the church as tithes. The "Rector" was due the major share of the tithes ("the greater tithe") and, because the Rector didn't have to be particularly religious, he could appoint a "Vicar" to live off "the lesser tithe" in return for doing the religious stuff. If the Vicar didn't feel up to it. or wanted to take life easy (!) he could appoint a "Curate" to do the "work" while living off almost nothing. It reminds one of Swift:

"Big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite them, and little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum."

The difference is that those being "bitten" are those doing the real work to pay the rent and tithes!

In many rural parishes the landholder held the land on which the church was built and retained the right to appoint the Rector. If the Rector happened to be the son of the landholder then all was well - the labour value extracted from those working on the land as rent and tithes could be kept within the family and used to send the landholder's children to private schools. Visit a small parish church and look at the list of Rectors and Vicars - see how many share the same family name as the landholder. Even when it wasn't kept in the family, the landholder often retained the "advowson" - the right to nominate the next Rector or Vicar.

Church wealth, power, abuse, lies and fraud

Wealth can make greedy people even greedier - that's why so many rich people, and rich institutions, go out of their way to avoid tax via UK trusts, offshore trusts, tax havens, non-doms, charitable status, management charges, IPR charges, overseas company registration, film financing schemes, "not resident in the UK for tax purposes", tax lawyers etc. Tax avoidance and tax evasion is a highly profitable industry - for the wealthy and their advisors.

Who ends up paying for this? The rest of us. It's hard to avoid tax when you are on PAYE - as over 28 million of us are! Tax avoidance, and tax evasion, remain perks for the few while the money pay for it.

All power corrupts.

The Christian church (pre and post reformation, in both its Catholic and Protestant manifestations) has always been powerful and it has used that power to create laws to protect its wealth. It has always been corrupt - from the fat bishops and monks of the Middle Ages, to the wealthy rectors of the 18th/19th century, to the present day where abuse carried out by the clergy continues to be covered up. Archbishops and bishops seem to spend an enormous amount of time "apologising"!

Churches are a law unto themselves and the established church, the Church of England is supported by a labyrinthine legal system! This article is worth reading by those interested in finding out just how complex it is.

Churches are charities. In fact it is not the Church as a whole ("the Catholic Church" or "the Church of England") that is a charity, it is a diocese or organisation within the church. In some cases unregistered religious schools have obtained charitable status!

Why are they charities? For the tax breaks, to avoid tax. Like hedge fund managers, land holders, celebrities, government minsters and others with wealth, they take advantage of every loophole in our laws to avoid paying tax to contribute to the public good.

The Church Commissioners For England is a charity with an investment fund of £9.2 billion (£9,200,000,000). Their assets include The Hyde Park Estate where a three bedroom flat can set you back £6,000,000. Every tax break the Church Commissioners enjoy costs the taxpayer money - and taxpayers, religious or not, are paying to promote the "mission" of the Church of England just as they are paying to enable the church to indoctrinate children in religious ("faith") schools.

The strange thing is, church and church goers don't see anything odd about this - they assume it as a god-given right!

Recently the Pope apologised for the "deplorable conduct" of some members of the church in Canada in relation to the abuse of indigenous children in schools run by the church between 1883 and 1996. The church agreed to pay reparations for its actions but has successfully pleaded poverty, or the inability to raise sufficient funds, and the Canadian government has agreed to let it off the hook! The Catholic Church is the richest charity in Canada with annual donations of over $886 million, $490 million in cash and over $4.1 billion in assets. Poor it isn't!

Tainted money

The Church Commissioners have over £9.2 billion of investments - including over 105,000 acres of land - making it one of the largest landholders in England.

Where has that wealth grown from?

It has grown from taxes and tithes extracted by law, and often by violence, from those with and without religious belief.

It has grown from the cash demanded as compensation by the Church Of England before it was willing to give up its slaves in Barbados. The Church of England's United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (USPG) used a red hot iron to brand its slaves with the word "SOCIETY" across their chests.

The wealth of the Church of England is tainted and morally questionable.

"Protecting our national heritage"

Every stone and every brick in every cathedral, church and stately home was paid for by the sweat of those who worked on the land or underneath it. Every penny came from rent or tithes - extracted by law and, in some cases, by violence. Every piece of art or craft in cathedrals, churches or stately homes was similarly paid for by the sweat of those who worked. Every stone was laid by a stone mason, every brick was laid by a bricklayer - very few bishops were masons, brickies or hod carriers!

The Church of England claims that it requires £200 million a year to maintain churches over five years. In total this represents about 10% of its assets under investment and less than 0.1% of the cost of replacing the Trident nuclear submarines.

Many cathedrals, churches and stately homes are beautiful objects that warrant protection - if only to remind us how they came about and who really paid for them.

If the day ever comes when the Church of England no longer has sufficient funds to maintain its buildings they can be deconsecrated (taxpayers should not be funding religion) and, if thought worthwhile, they can be maintained at public expense. That is a choice to be made by us all - whether or not we are religious.

Set the churches free!

The majority of people in England claim to have no religion - 70% of young adults (16-19) have no religious beliefs.

A tiny minority of people in England (<7%) attend any form of regular religious service.

People are free to choose what they believe and free to join a church if they wish - and they should be free to fund that church without direct or indirect funding from others.

Charity status means tax payers subsidise the church and special laws and exemptions (*) mean that tax payers are subsidising religion. Atheists are forced, by law, to fund the CofE!

* as well as tax breaks from charity status, religions can avoid Council Tax and Business Rates and are specifically exempt from certain human rights and equality legislation - they are permitted to discriminate against people not of the same religion or not with the same world views.

Religions don't need our support, they are secure in their beliefs and they would welcome the chance to stand on their own two feet without support from the rest of us.

There should be no special laws relating to religious institutions, there should be no unelected religious leaders sitting in parliament making laws for the rest of us, there should be no established church and there should be no special privileges for religions. Everyone, young or old, should be allowed to make a free and informed decision about what to believe - not have it forced upon them or paid for with tax payers' money.

Is all this fair?

Of course it isn't fair!

Why should a group of people live off the labour of others simply because their ancestors waved their swords around in battle and murdered a few people?

There is nothing wrong with wealth - when earned through work. However, there is everything wrong with wealth when those extracting rent have done absolutely nothing personally to earn it.

In the 2020s we live in a country where the gap between the rich and the rest is greater now than it has ever been. We have failed to make the world a fairer place and it is getting worse, not better.

The English have always touched their forelocks, tipped their caps and picked up their pike / sword / musket / Lee Enfield / SA80 to act as canon fodder for their public-school-educated and landholding "betters" - and they continue to be conned into doing the same today.

The one good thing, from the landholder's point of view, is that the English no longer get uppity, they are easy to dupe, they fall for the con, they know their place, they are as happy as pigs in the pigsty.

Give them a bit of pomp and ceremony, use the mass media to show pictures of the royals on the front page, pander to their base fears and prejudices, provide them with a little box on a suburban estate, saddle them with a massive mortgage to stop them rocking the boat, and they will keep as quiet as church mice until called upon to take up arms to "fight the enemy", physically or metaphorically. The current enemy, under Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, is anyone who calls for a balanced view of history.

Perhaps we need a return to the spirit that motivated people during the tithe wars - before TV, streaming and social media destroyed our willingness to unite for the social good.

Could it be fairer?

Of course it could be fairer - and it is incredibly quick and easy to do!

All it requires is for the majority of the population to wake up, stop reading the Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, look at how unfair society has become, and decide to do something about it.

No-one wants to take away anyone's land - whether it's a tiny suburban garden or a massive country estate.

Landowners have traditionally controlled the law (that's why the rest of us only got the vote relatively recently) and that law was designed to protect their property and to ensure that they paid no tax on it.

There is no tax on land and landowners created the concept of "trusts" so land can be passed from generation to generation with no tax. Many of them go further and register their trusts in tax havens to ensure they don't have to contribute to the social good through taxation.

The UK, with its overseas territories, is the world's largest tax haven and attracts everyone from Russian oligarchs (for which read "Russian thieves and mafia") to some of the world's leading "entrepreneurs". Investment in property and land is one of the best ways to avoid tax - which could explain why James Dyson is now the second largest landholder in England.

The simplest, fairest and quickest way to make things fairer is to scrap all property taxes (council tax, business rates, stamp duty, etc.) and replace them with Land Value Tax (LVT) which is not a tax on land, not a tax on gardens, but a tax on the value of land.

The value of land is what someone would pay for it. The tax on that value would be at a flat rate across the country and that rate would be whatever is required to bring in the same as is brought in by current unfair property taxes.

This has the advantage of being:

  • Simple to understand - it is the same rate everywhere and depends only on the open market value of the land.
  • Impossible to avoid - you can't hide land in a tax haven or in a Swiss bank account.
  • Paid by the freeholder - and we know who the freeholder is - it's recorded on the Land Registry.
  • A flat rate everywhere - based solely on the open market value of land.
  • Supported across the political spectrum - from the right (Churchill was in favour of LVT) to the left.

Is it fair that someone whose ancestor fought alongside William at Hastings should make a windfall of tens of millions from the sale of a relatively tiny part of their huge estate for housing - as has recently happened less than five miles from Trusley? No, it isn't fair.

Would it be fair if society benefitted (more teachers, more doctors, more nurses, more care workers, more ...) through taxation when that land changed value from agricultural land to building land? Yes, that would be fair. After all, the change in value came about because we, society, granted planning permission for change of use - so the additional wealth should be shared between the landholder and society through Land Value Tax.

Please click here for more details on LVT.

LVT and tithes

The church was allowed to extract 10% of the produce of the land as a tax. This was a huge amount and was in addition to taxes extracted by way of rent.

Tithes had certain interesting attributes:

  • Simple to understand - they depended only on what the land produced.
  • Impossible to avoid - by 1836 they were paid by the landholder and the church knew who the landholder was and had the backing of the law.
  • A flat rate everywhere- 10%.

So far tithes sound very similar to Land Value Tax - except LVT will be nowhere near 10%!

The primary differences are:

  • Tithes were unfair - they were paid by the landholder but passed on to those working the land. In that way they were similar to a poll tax, one of the causes of The Great rebellion of 1381, the riots of 1991 and the fall of Margaret Thatcher.
  • Tithes were based on the value of produce, not on the value of the land itself - i.e. not on what someone would pay for the land.
  • Tithes were primarily rural: LVT applies to the value of all land, no matter where it is, who holds it, or what is on top of it: skyscrapers or turnips!

    An acre of land used to grow turnips has a lower market value than an acre of land used to grow skyscrapers - so the turnip acre will pay a much lower amount of LVT than the skyscraper acre because 1% of a low value is less than 1% of a high value.

  • Tithes benefitted the church only. Bishops grew fat on tithes and rent.
  • LVT benefits the social good for us all by scrapping unfair regressive taxes and replacing them with one based solely on the open market value of land.

Potted history of Trusley

Trusley is a tiny hamlet (technically a village because it has a church - All Saints) and conservation area in South Derbyshire. The centre of Trusley has an Old Hall, Manor, Old Rectory, Home Farm, Ivy Close Farm (now an Airbnb and renamed "The Old Courthouse"), Gardener's Cottage, three other cottages and two semi-detached homes originally built for agricultural workers. Elsewhere in the parish are five farmhouses, two of which are no longer used as farms.

The Doomsday Book records Trusley granted by William of Normandy to Henri de Ferriéres as thanks for his sword hand at the Battle of Hastings. Henri's agent, "Cola", lived in the village to collect the rent.

The Manor passed through other Norman French hands (Le Arbalesters, De Beufeys, De Odingsells, De Vernons, Mesnieres - anglicised to "Manners" - just as "Battenberg" became "Mountbatten" and "Saxe-Coburg Gotha" became "Windsor") before coming for the first time into the hands of the Coke family by marriage in 1418. The Coke-Steel family, and its trusts, remain the freeholders for almost the entire parish.

Trusley is a great place to live!

Place names

It is interesting to compare the field names shown on the 1840 tithe apportionment map with those listed in "The Place-Names of Derbyshire, Part III" published by the English Place-Name Society in 1959.

List of Trusley rectors

Source: Clergy database.

  • A rector lived by the extraction of tithes.
  • A rector who was also a landholder lived by the extraction of tithes and rent.
  • A vicar was appointed by a rector to carry out religious duties and lived by the extraction of "lesser tithes".
  • A curate was appointed to carry out religious duties and was paid a small stipend by the vicar or rector.

The Trusley Hunting Song

Written by Tom Handford, the village blacksmith, in relation to hunting hares with William Coke who died in 1717.

One Valentine day in the morning,
Bright Phoebus began to appear ;
Squire William Coke winded his horn —
Was a going a hunting the hare.
" Come, Wheeldon, uncouple the beagles,.
And let them go questing along j
Lose or win her, I must be at dinner,
Or else they will think me long."

Says Handford, " Pray, master, forbear
Resolving to leave us so soon ;
I ha'n't been a. hunting this year ;
How can you give over by noon ?
Black Sloven shall warm your bay Robin,
And make him go smoking along ;
Bonny Dick shall not gallop so quick,
If we light on a hare that's strong."

"Come, Handford, for all thy proud speeches,
I mean for to shew thee a trick ;
I value not hedges nor ditches ;
I'll make thee to know bonny Dick.
Then hie for the gorse in Ball Field I
We shall have her a thousand to one.
Lo, Thunder! lo, hark to old Wonder!
Away, boys, away ! she's gone."

The morning was pleasant all o'er,
So calm and serene was the sky ;
The woods with the echo did roar,
Which came from that sweet harmony.
Then over the lands and the meadows
So merrily they did pursue,
Young Beauty performing her duty:
She headed them all in the view.

Young Snowball, that jolly fine hound,
Was second, and scorned for to yield
Or lose. e'er an inch of her ground —
She's as good as e'er run in the field.
And thus for the space of two hours
They held all our horses to speed ;
Black Sloven hung hard on bay Robin,
But he could not do the deed.

" Come, Handford," then says the good Squire,
" How likest thou my bonny Dick ?
Dost think thou canst make him to tire,
Or not (or to gallop so quick?"
"Oh, master, I needs must confess
I think I was boasting too soon ;
But now for another stout hare,
And your Dick shall have dined by noon."

It was about nine in the morning
When we was a winding first knell.
Squire William Coke put up his horn
And said, "A fresh hare would do well.
Then Handford, have at thy black Sloven;
I'll make thee in purple to ride;
And if thou dost offer to stay,
I will certainly flog on thy hide."

"You'll serve him but right,'' says Wheeldon,
" For he has been taunting of me ;
I never was beat on the field :
Then for a fresh hare let us see.
Here are some fine closes of corn ;
Look well to your beat every one.
Oh, master, pray pull out your horn,
For away, boys, away ! she's gone."

Young Bluebell, she caught it before,
And cry'd it quite through the lane;
Soon after came twelve couple more,
And they rat0ed it over the plain;
Then bonny Dick play'd with:his bridle,
And went at a desperate rate.
"Come, Handford, I think you are idle.
Must I open you that old gate?"

" Kind sir, I most humbly thank you,
But I will not die in your debt,
You'll see my black Sloven go faster,
For now he begins for to sweat."
Hark ! Finder, and Winder, and Dido I
And Merry Lass briskly runs on,
There's Younker, and Banter, and Rainbow,
And Beauty — she leads the van.

We headed 'em stoutly and bravely
Straight up into Sutton Cross Field ;
Black Sloven began to grow heavy
And made a fair offer to yield;
Then Wheeldon went swinging before,
So well did Bay Robin maintain,
And Bonny Dick after did scour,
But Sloven was spurr'd in vain..

But he had the luck and good chance
For to go now and then by the string,
And led them a delicate dance
For life as they came the last ring;
Up goes a. fresh hare, a pox take her !
I ne'er was so vexed before,
And we could not make 'em forsake her,
But run her for two miles or more.

And there we left Honest Squire Coke
For to ponder upon the old hare.
Adzooks ! he leapt over the brook,
A most desperate leap I declare !
He had not gone past half a mile
But this cunning old gipsy he spy'd
Was creeping into her old file;
" Then away— where away?" he cry'd.

"Away, boys! Away, my brave lads!"
And so merrily winded his horn ;
The beagles all flung up their heads,
And we quickly did make our return;
Then drawing up close to the point
Where the cunning old gipsy had gone,
You never saw better dogs hunt
For life underneath the sun.

It was about two, afternoon,
When we was n winding the knell, •
Then Handford and Wheeldon made moan —
Said a cup of old hock would do well, ,
" Make haste," said the squire. 'ICome faster
Before I begin to grow cold,
For with sweat my clothes are as wet
As if they'd been dipp'd in some pool."

Then coming home by the Ash Hale,
Close under the Royal Oak Tree,
There Blood and Old Willot was fall'n,
Asleep as it happened to be.
" Come, Handford, and give them a larum,
My lips are grown sore with the. horn ; "
And round about they did bestare 'em
Like boobies that's newly born.

But as for the praise of these hounds
And horses that gallop'd so free,
My pen is not able t' expound,
If time would allow it to be.
Were not these two dainty stout pusses ? -
They held us from seven to one,
And never gave breath to the horses,
But merrily they run on.