Research paper: A tithe dispute in Clodock parish




A tithe dispute

in Clodock parish


By Nina Wedell

May 2008

In a dark corner of Clodock church under the gallery are two large stone tablets, mounted on the wall from floor level up to some seven feet, on which a lengthy text sets out the amount of tithes payable to the vicar. Though their size is imposing, the tablets are scarcely reached by natural light and seem almost hidden away at the back of the nave. This location seems a fitting symbol, as the tablets commemorate an episode in the life of the church which has long been forgotten in the local community; a dispute about tithe payments between parishioners and the vicar which led to a court case in 1805.



The Clodock modus tablets
[see below for transcription of the text]


However, enough documentary evidence survives to piece together the cause and outcome of the court case by which the parishioners won the right to pay tithes in cash rather than in produce from the land, or ‘in kind’. The process of litigation began in 1798 and the stone tablets were in place by 1811. This paper looks at the Clodock community between these years to trace the issues involved, the identity of the protagonists and attitudes current at the time.

The stone tablets and court case

The text on the tablets shows that the medieval system of tithes ‘in kind’ were replaced by cash payments in Clodock parish by 1805 and gives the amount of money to be paid in lieu of produce. This kind of transfer to a cash payment, which had been taking place nationally since the late 17th century at varying rates between regions, was called a ‘modus’. A significant point is that modus payments were a fixed amount of money, not varying from year to year, and reflect an earlier static requirement for tithes of produce established by long held custom. The text reads:


Summer Assizes in the year 1805
in a cause then tried before
Lord Ellenborough (Chief Justice
of the Court of Kings Bench)
Arnold George, James Jenkins
James Watkins and Benjamin Lewis
were Plaintiffs
Edward Sparkes, Clerk, Vicar
of this Parish of Clodock
was Defendant
The following Moduses were established
within the said parish

1st Sixpence for every House and Garden
in lieu of the Tithe in Kind of
Fruit and Herbs and other
Titheable Produce of such Garden

2ndly Twopence for every days Math
of hay
in lieu of all Tithe Hay
3rdly Twopence halfpenny for each
Milch Cow
in lieu of the Tithe of Milk
4thly Twopence for every Barren Cow
for the preceeding year
5thly Fourpence for every Colt
6thly Twopence in lieu of the Tithe
of eggs
from every Farm house


For the Plaintiffs
Messrs Arnold George
and others

Samuel George
Esq of Brecon

And on the 19th of May 1808 – the Verdict
establishing the above Moduses
was confirmed by a decree
by the Court of Exchequer

An entry in The Hereford Journal, on 21st August 1805, carried an account of the Summer Circuit which had been held in Hereford from Tuesday, August 13th to Saturday the 17th . Nothing is reported of the Clodock case, though an oblique reference to it may be there: ‘At the Nisi Prius there was a great deal of business, and two causes of some importance, which we regret the want of room prevents us from giving.’ [However, the same article did have space for various crimes, including horse stealing, burglary, stealing apparel and stealing wheat, for each of which the sentence was six months imprisonment.] An entry in the civil minute book for the Oxford Summer Circuit in 1805[1] is extremely brief. It notes : ‘Jones & Church, Jos Harris / George, Sparkes’; followed by a few marginal notes in shorthand, not decipherable. The Hereford Journal carried no follow-up article on the verdict in 1808, three years after the case was heard.

Were it not for the stone tablets, any local knowledge of this confrontation might well have passed into oblivion, as the minutes of parish meetings are silent about a dispute or legal action. The business of preparing the tablets does feature in local church records, though without any sense of what it meant to the protagonists. Is it a triumphalist gesture, or otherwise a token of reconciliation and closure? Whatever the impetus may have been, the parish vestry minutes[2] note a consensus agreement to set up a permanent record of the tithe payments:



 ‘October the 5th 1810
At a parish meeting called on Sunday the 30th day of September 1810 at the parish church and at the Chapels of Craswell and Llanveyno and held at Longtown according to appointment it was then ordered and unanimously agreed that the Churchwardens should pay Edward Prichard the Sum of fourteen Guineas for the Stone and workmanship for setting up a table of the Modus in the parish Church of Clodock being a Decree established by the Court of Exchecher and half a Guinea for hauling of the Stone down to the church.’



Wm Watkins
George Anthony
James Johnson
Joseph Williams
Richard Barrell
James Gilbert

William Prichard

Richd Watkins
Arnold George
Benjam Titley
John Rogers

William Morgan

John Price

James George
John Gilbert
Thomas Penry



Minutes of parish meeting
confirming the modus tablets


An entry in the churchwardens accounts between Easter 1810 and 1811 notes completion and payment for the work: ‘Pd Edward Prichard, £14-14-0’.

Two records of the substance of the controversy do survive, however, in the archives of St Davids diocese [to which the Ewyas Lacy parishes belonged at that time]. One from the Clodock churchwardens, in returning a questionnaire on church affairs to the Bishop in 1799, notes that ‘The Vicar and Parishioners are in Law concerning the Tithes and there is a Suit now depending in the Court of Exchequer and the Vicar claims now Customs (Viz) the priory Tithes in kind and the Parishioners pleads a Modus.’ [3] This explanation goes to the nub of many tithe disputes, fought out in courts throughout the land, where typically the clergy benefited more from tithes in kind, and parishioners from fixed cash payments during the inflationary times of the French Wars.

The second record is from the vicar, the Reverend Edward Sparkes, who wrote to the Bishop in 1804 in response to a complaint from the curate that the vicar had not been paying his salary.  Sparkes’ letter confirms a longstanding dispute over tithes and arrears in payments, with a consequent default in his own payments to the curate: ‘Could I bring the dispute with my Parishioners which have now been six years in agitation to a conclusion during which time I have not received above one third of my income from the Tythes Mr Rogers would find me as punctual in my payments as usual’. [4]

These two reports set the scene for a wider social and economic context of tithes, as well as a fuller account of their impact in the local community. The four townships of Clodock parish – Craswall, Llanveynoe, Longtown and Newton – would all have paid the same rate of tithe stated in the modus. St Clydawg’s church at Clodock was mother church to all, with chapelries at three of the townships, St Mary’s at Craswall, St Beuno’s at Llanveynoe and St Peter’s at Longtown, while Newton at that time was served at Clodock. Clergy income was thus needed for four places of worship, for the vicar at Clodock and a curate at the chapels. The distances from Clodock ranged from one to six miles in a highly dispersed settlement pattern which covered over half the land area of Ewyas Lacy. A similar way of life throughout was largely based on upland, small scale farming, with the only significant nucleation at the village of Longtown.

Tithe payers and recipients

Originating with early Christianity and continuing into the medieval period, tithes were payments ‘in kind’, of a tenth of produce from the land as obligatory payments to Church income. After the Reformation, and in the shift to a money economy, tithes in kind came to be substituted by moduses, giving a cash value for produce, which were common by the early 19th century. A third form of tithe, which will not be considered here as it lies beyond the time relevant to the Clodock modus, was based on the value of land rather than the value of produce: made mandatory following the 1836 Tithe Commutation Act, this basis of tithing [the tithe ‘rent charge’] continued until tithes were abolished in 1936.

Historically, tithes payments had also evolved in two broad classes of produce payable by landholders to two groups of recipients. The classes of produce were based on their value: ‘small’ or ‘vicarial’ tithes generally consisted of garden produce, livestock and wool; and a ‘great’ tithe of more valuable produce, notably corn, hay and wood. These were the customary classes of produce at Clodock, except that hay, or at least some hay, was included in the vicarial tithe. The distinction between the these sorts of produce arose in the medieval period when all tithes were paid to a religious institution such as a monastery or bishopric, which retained the great tithe and allocated a vicarial tithe as income to local clergy. At the dissolution of monasteries, their great tithes were appropriated by the Crown, who took advantage of this windfall by selling the right to claim great tithes to lay owners, or ‘impropriators’. It has been estimated that at national level lay impropriators owned some 30% of great tithes acquired at the dissolution.[5] The tithes in Clodock parish which had belonged to Llanthony Priory [hence the churchwardens’ reference to the ‘priory tithes’] were so split between the vicar and impropriate tithe owners. At Clodock, nearly all the great tithes were acquired by lay impropriators apart from an exempted area comprising the ‘borough’ of Longtown, that part of the parish which had been developed by the Normans as a market town where landholders paid only vicarial tithes.[6]

A Parliamentary of report of 1665 gave local details: ‘Most part of all the prediall [here referring to great tithes] and small teythes are Impropriate and are held by Nicholas Arnold Esq as his freehould. There is also a Vicaredge worth ffiftie pounds by the year. The said Nicholas Arnold is patron thereof. Iohn de la Hay a preaching Minister is the present Incumbent who supplies the cure and receaves the profits of the said Vicaredge (being part of the small tythes) to his owne use’.[7]

Writing in 1812, John Duncumb noted that subsequently ‘The Arnolds sold or leased these tithes, & c to the Oxford family [the Harleys of Brampton Bryan in Herefordshire], and the present Earl of Oxford disposed some of them to the proprietors of the soil, and the remainder to George Cornewall, esq., son and heir of Sir George Cornewall, of Moccas, bart’. [8]

The appointment of vicars at Clodock was transferred after the first patron Nicholas Arnold to other lay patronage of aristocratic and landed gentry families in the Marches, linked variously by marriage or local landed interests. As Duncumb continued: ‘[T]he patronage remained with the house of Llanthony until the dissolution, has since passed from the Reeces to the Vaughans, and recently to a branch of the ancient family of Wilkins, of Maeslough, in Brecknockshire.’

Nationally, the collection of tithes, whether in kind or in cash, was fraught with tensions, as illustrated by the Reverend Sparkes’ predicament. The local clergy faced an obvious conflict with their pastoral role, and those who were diffident nevertheless recognised that tithes not collected could jeopardise the right of future parsons to claim their due. On the part of parishioners, subterfuges for evasion were endemic. There were many practical issues about when, where and how the tithes should be collected or delivered, which in dispersed rural communities such as the townships of Clodock would have presented a formidable challenge. The area was notable for ‘its remote distance from any market town and almost impassable state of the roads, and above all the difficulty amounting to almost an impossibility of collecting the Tithes’ , as reported in the 1840s[9] - and at around 1805 there would have been similar, or perhaps worse, difficulties of access for collection.

The local impact of tithes

The attitudes of the Clodock community towards tithes in the early 19th century would have been influenced by changes in the fabric of society well beyond their local area. The agricultural and industrial revolutions and urbanisation were all playing havoc with the essentially feudal system of tithes, tied as they were to produce of the land. Added to these upheavals, radical politics and religious dissent were fostering a sense of individualism ill disposed to compulsory funding of the established Church or lay impropriators.

The high price of corn - linked with a protectionist policy to restrict cheaper imports through a series of Corn Laws beginning in 1804 - also produced a high tithable value for corn, which in turn created a disincentive for small farmers to produce it. Commenting in 1805 on the impact of tithes on the state of agriculture in Herefordshire, Duncumb identified  their effect on the price of wheat: ‘[T]he single fact, that, an acre of land under the culture of wheat, is liable to a deduction on account of tithe, in nearly a ten-fold proportion to an acre of land, grazed by cattle or sheep, is surely sufficient evidence that tithes must operate unfavourably to the culture of grain, and consequently to its abundance and cheapness’.[10]

The enormous differential in the rate of tithe on wheat would certainly have contributed to an absence of agricultural improvement in Clodock parish. The Corn Laws favoured large landowners who benefited from economies of scale, whereas grassland carried a lower rate of tithe which would have favoured sheep as the main marketable product, at the same time keeping the area largely undeveloped. Other factors would have been its remoteness from, and poor access to, markets.

Being relatively isolated, Clodock was also at the fringe of profound changes in the economy arising from the industrial revolution and urbanisation. One of these changes was the shift to a wage economy in factories and mines, towns and cities: Manchester grew from 22,000 in 1773 to 89,000 in 1811; Birmingham from 42,000 in 1778 to 85,000 in 1811. In these settings, the tithing of produce was an archaic system; indeed the tithes of produce had full potential relevance only in a rural setting. The anachronism and inequity of tithes were hotly debated at the time, and these considerations would presumably not have been lost on the farmers of Clodock, remote as they were from the centres of dramatic social and economic change.

There is no evidence of any radical political movement then current with the tithe dispute in the local area; dissent was rather from nonconformist religious views, similar to the national picture of religious dissent as a major impetus for objection to paying tithes to the established Church in the 17th and 18th centuries.  Although religious dissent over centuries is well remembered locally in oral tradition, the earliest known purpose-built nonconformist chapel was opened in Newton by the Primitive Methodists in 1833.[11] Before that time, dissenters would have met in private homes, farm buildings or in the open air insofar as they dissociated themselves from the established church.  That dissenters were active is confirmed by the Reverend Sparkes in response to diocesan questionnaires:[12] in 1799 he reported ‘But few Dissenters and fewer Papists; in 1804 ‘Some few Dissenters number but few’, and additionally to a question ‘How many Places of publick Worship not belonging to the established Church are there in your parish and to what Sects do they belong?, the reply was ‘Only one they call themselves Independents’; and in 1807 Mr Sparkes noted that he ‘repeatedly’ took pains to remove the errors of Schism and Enthusiasm.

Dissenting chapels [permitted since the Toleration Act of 1689] did exist in neighbouring areas such as the Baptist chapel at Capel y Ffin in the Llanthony valley [records from 1738] and Abergavenny [from 1773]; Congregationalist at Talgarth [from 1700], Abergavenny [from 1711] and Glasbury [from 1760]; Calvanistic Methodist at Talgarth [from 1801].[13] The description of local dissenters in Clodock as ‘Independents’ suggests that they were possibly Congregationalists, also known as Independents, who grouped themselves in autonomous chapels run on democratic principles and were evangelical in outlook. However, the later development of nonconformism in Ewyas Lacy strongly supported the Primitive Methodists; of 9 chapels built by the end of the 19th century at least 6 were Primitive Methodist, the others being (possibly) 1 Wesleyan Methodist and 2 Baptist.[14]   Methodism had originated in the 18th century as a movement within the established Church and a formal split did not occur until 1797, which in Mr Sparkes’ day would have been a new development. The Primitive Methodists splintered off after 1808 as a charismatic evangelical sect with a strong emphasis on lay participation, including women.

Identity of persons in the court case and its aftermath

Of the four plaintiffs in the court case, Arnold George of Pontymoody Farm in Llanveynoe is the only one who can be identified with certainty.[15] He was born in 1738, married Mary Lewis in 1770 and died at the age of 86 in 1824; at the time of the court case he was aged 67. He and his wife Mary [1745-1829] are buried in Clodock churchyard. The parish minutes for Clodock, which begin in 1798, show his attendance on various occasions, notably in 1810 when the making of the stone tablets was agreed, and again in the same year when the parish council agreed to set up a school in St Peter’s chapel at Longtown: both meetings noting the unanimous agreement of attenders. These records suggest a participation in church affairs which might seem difficult to square with conflicts implied by the Modus court case. However, at the time the established Church was the forum for much community business, including the registration of births, marriages and deaths and the administration of the Poor Law, as there was no secular institutional framework for such functions. The principle of optional support for the established Church was not explicitly recognised until the payment of church rates [for the upkeep of the church building] became voluntary through the Compulsory Church Rates Abolition Act of 1868. At Clodock in the early 1800s, the church would have been at the heart of the community’s sense of identity whatever the private views of individuals, and despite any involvement with dissent which apparently at that time was locally embryonic in terms of separatist organisation.

Arnold George’s will, dated 31st March 1824 and made within days of his death [he was buried on 4th April] gives an intriguing glimpse of his character. To his son James George he left 2 shillings, and to his grandson, also named Arnold George, he left ‘all my Freehold Estate or Estates Lands and Premises which I have bought and purchased in my own right to give and dispose of to whom I think fit on paying the Mortgage due thereon. And the love and affection which the said Arnold George have shown to me and my wife induces me to give…all that I am possessed of’.[16]

His farm, Pontymoody, was held by a copyhold lease from Lord Abergavenny, as recorded in the manorial court rolls of 1750[17] : ‘Grant to Arnold George of 10½ acres Welsh divided into several parcels of arable meadow and pasture approx 39 English acres…bounded by the river Monnow…’ This grant had probably been made to his father, as the Arnold George of the court case would then have been 12 years old. Later records from c1800 onwards show that the copyhold remained to comprise the core of a larger farm with additional freehold fields surrounding it owned by Arnold George, making a total farm size of some 81 acres. [18] The available evidence thus shows Arnold George the plaintiff to be a self-made man who had doubled the size of his farm; with some interest in church affairs; and judging from his will a person who could challenge conventional loyalties. 

A curious twist to the involvement of Arnold George the plaintiff, is that his grandson was himself an impropriate tithe owner of the freehold portion of Pontymoody Farm in the 1840s.[19] Although a few local smallholders owned the tithes on their own property this was unusual: the great bulk of impropriate ownership was retained by the families of non-resident landed gentry over many generations. However, tithe rights could be bought and sold, or alternatively quashed in exchange for land as a frequent means of eliminating the tithe burden. It may be that Arnold George the plaintiff acquired the tithe rights for himself, or possibly his grandson did after inheriting the property. The amount payable to the impropriator [and hence the amount saved by ownership] was £3-10-0 per year for land at Pontymoody. Might this tithe ownership at Pontymoody reflect a means of dealing with an objection to tithes in principle - by purchasing the tithe rights as a recourse for sidestepping a refusal to pay?

For other plaintiffs in the court case - James Jenkins, James Watkins and Benjamin Lewis – there are possible candidates connected with Clodock parish who would have been adult in 1805, though the identity of these parishioners as plaintiffs in the Modus court case is not at present confirmed.
James Jenkins : possibly identified in the will of ‘James Jenkins of Trewern, gent’ dated in 1805; documents for the inventory of his property and probate are dated in 1807 suggesting his death at about that time.[20] Earlier, in 1800, a James Jenkins attended a vestry meeting but not after that date. If the same person as plaintiff in the court case, this James Jenkins married Elizabeth Prosser in 1764;[21] James owned the farms Trewern, Pen y Lan and Lower Pen y Lan in Longtown, and Elizabeth had inherited other, unnamed, property in Llanveynoe in 1781. There is insufficient detail to identify the size of landholding (as for instance, 4 farms include the name Trewern, the largest of which was some 117 acres in 1840) but taken together the several properties suggest a fairly substantial prosperity. Some of James Jenkins’ land abutted that of Arnold George.[22]
James Watkins : possibly a James Watkins ‘of Ponthenry’ who was buried at Clodock in 1820, aged 73.[23] A James Watkins attended parish vestry meetings in 1800 [the same meeting also attended by James Jenkins] and in 1803. Of three properties in Clodock which include the name Ponthendre, the largest in 1840 was Lower Ponthendre at 70 acres.[24]
Benjamin Lewis : possibly the Benjamin Lewis ‘of Newton’ buried in Clodock churchyard who died in 1814, aged 72.[25] The name does not appear in the attendance list of vestry meetings. A Benjamin Lewis is registered for marriage to Ann Lewis in 1778.[26] Probate documents refer to ‘Benjamin Lewis, yeoman’ who owned a freehold property in Newton known as Great House;[27] and the inventory shows that he lent money, with debts of some £500 owing to him, as well as holding £137 cash in hand.

If these identities are correct, all four of the plaintiffs were elderly in 1805. Though of varying wealth and with some distinctions of social status it seems likely that they had known each other for many years, perhaps had grown up together, in the close-knit community of Clodock and its townships. The court case follows a trend in litigation at the time; parishioners were more likely to instigate proceedings in a civil court, whereas the clergy, when plaintiffs, preferred ecclesiastical courts. The years of delay between the hearing and the judgment were not unusual, given the great variety of local customs in tithing which were the basis of precedents in case law.

The outcome at Clodock suggests that the vicar was unable to establish the continuity of  a long held local custom of tithes in kind. There was certainly an absence of evidence from a crucially relevant document – the glebe terrier, an account book of the local clergy’s financial affairs. To a query, ‘Have you any Terrier of your Glebe Lands, Buildings, Tithes, etc and other Ecclesiastical dues?’, put in a questionnaire from the Bishop in 1799, Mr Sparkes had replied ‘Have not to ye best of my knowledge’.[28]   By not having this record, as well as his own admission of default in collecting the tithes, Mr Sparkes could have undermined his case considerably. The glebe terrier, if it ever existed, has never been found.

Edward Sparkes, BA, was the vicar of Clodock from 1774 until his death in November 1813. Mention of him by a later vicar, the Reverend Llewellin, in his history of the church notes ‘there must have been a lusty fight between Vicar Sparkes of Clodock and some of his parishioners, 1805-08 AD. A fourteen-guinea tablet still celebrates the event; but who could expect to win against a vicar with so pugilistic a name! But we must not forget that this fighting parson also caused the bells to ring – we could never boast of more than four until the year 1806, when he added a splendid fifth.’ [29] Elsewhere Llewellin remarks on ‘the vigorous and courageous vicar, Edward Sparkes’. It is notable that Llewellin was unaware of who indeed had won the court case when writing over a hundred years later in 1919, though the same misconception may have been held by John Duncumb writing in 1812 that ‘The rights of the vicars are recorded on a tablet in the church’. In any case, Llewellin remembered Sparkes for the restoration of the church bells, a legacy still greatly enjoyed today. In contrast to these dynamic perceptions, Edward Sparkes comes across as a reticent and shadowy figure in the parish records. Although living in the vicarage at Longtown[30] [a former house replaced by a new vicarage in the 1960s] he was rarely present at parish meetings, except for the appointment of churchwardens at Easter each year. 

Born in 1747 probably in Gloucestershire, Edward Sparkes received a BA from Merton College, Oxford in 1770 and in 1772 married Anne Winchcombe (nee Phillimore), widow of Nathaniel Winchcombe of Frampton on Severn in Gloucestershire. Anne (1729-1791) brought three children to the marriage, Elizabeth, Charlotte and Henry Winchcombe, and a daughter Mary Ann born to Anne and Edward was baptised at Frampton in June 1773. Edward took up his ministry at Clodock in 1774. His step-daughter Charlotte’s marriage in 1784  to Henry Hicks, a mill owner in the Stroud area of Gloucestershire, took place at Clodock church; although Edward, as vicar, did not conduct the service his daughter Mary Ann Sparkes was a witness. The family appear to have maintained close links with Frampton where Anne Sparkes was buried, and the absence of Edward Sparkes’ name in Clodock burial records suggests that he may have been buried with his wife at Frampton, after 22 years as a widower.[31] At his death it was said that ‘The Parsonage and Building upon the Glebe have been left by Mr Sparkes in a most dilapidated state and I almost fear from the circumstances in which he died that we have but little to expect from his executors…’.[32]

The vicar’s income is not clearly documented at this period. The then patron, Walter Wilkins of Maeslough Castle in Radnor, can be expected to have contributed, and possibly the major impropriator, then George Cornewall of Moccas Court in Herefordshire, though if so the proportion of total income is unknown. Tithe income was allocated separately for Clodock church and the three chapels of Craswall, Llanveynoe and Longtown: the clergy responsible at each varied from time to time, though generally any one clergyman served two places of worship. In 1835 the gross yearly income [presumably from all sources] at each was: Clodock £170; Craswall £47; Llanveynoe £64; Longtown £72.[33] A curate did not receive the whole of the relevant sum, but was paid directly by the vicar; in 1835 the amount paid to the curate was £50 pa. To put these figures in perspective, it has been estimated that the poverty line for clergy was about £150 pa by the early 19th century. To supplement their meagre income, rural clergy might hold farmland owned by the church, or might themselves own or lease farmland: for instance in Clodock, Lower House Farm was owned by the Church and held by Mr Sparkes and subsequent vicars.[34] Another common resource was to take private pupils, although there is no evidence of clergy doing so in Clodock parish.  In view of Mr Sparkes’ difficulty in paying the curate, it may be no coincidence that the Bishop of St David’s sought legal advice in 1804 as to the liability of impropriators to contribute to curates’ incomes. The opinion given was that ‘The Cts of Common Law have decided against the Bp’s Power over Lay impropriators as to Curate’s Salaries – wrongly (if I may presume to say so) but in a way that is authoritative upon the Subject’.[35]

At around 1799, John Rogers took up the post of curate at one or more of the townships[36] and became vicar from 1814 [at Sparkes’ death] until 1833. Of him, Llewellin says ‘The Rev John Rogers received the praise of the Methodists of his time for Evangelistic and educational effort. He caused the west end of Longtown Church to be used as a day school…’[37] Parish records show him to have been a conscientious attender and driving force at parish meetings.

John Rogers [1757-1836[38] ] first appears in local records as the curate at Walterstone from 1789 to 1796.[39] In 1792 he married Jane Gilbert [1770-1847] when he was aged 35 and she aged 22 and they had five children.[40] He leased Alltyrynys Farm at Walterstone:[41] this was a substantial property with an historic house, famous as the home of a branch of the Cecil family at the time of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, chancellor to Queen Elizabeth I. In 1804 the property was leased to one Aaron Rogers who subleased to his brother John, apparently already the occupier of the farm ‘for some years’. From these circumstances it seems that John Rogers was a farmer as well as curate, and may have had an independent income additionally. This would explain how he was able to subsist without pay from Mr Sparkes, at least until 1802. How long he continued to live at Walterstone is not known, but when he himself was vicar he lived at the vicarage in Longtown.[42] He bought property in the area: Ty Newydd, a ‘newly erected messuage’ in Longtown was initially leased in 1814 and then bought in 1819; other undated purchases are a house in Longtown called Ruthland and land in Clodock called Button’s Lands. His estate worth ‘under £2000’ at his death shows him a prosperous man. He and his wife Jane are buried in Clodock churchyard and are also commemorated by a memorial plaque in the church.

Parish meetings and minutes

The parish vestry minutes book shows something of the dynamics of parish life, though largely by inference from brief entries of dates, attendance names and a note, usually scant, of the business. The Clodock minutes 1798 [when the records began] to 1811 cover a period of church business relevant to the modus court case and its aftermath. During this period of 13 years, meetings were held on 44 dates with variable frequency. The number of parishioners at each meeting ranged from 2 to 18, typically between 6 to 8 attenders. Both churchwardens [the vicar’s and the people’s] were almost always present, though rarely the vicar. Despite such a sparse record, some underlying issues can be pieced together both from the minutes book and supporting evidence from diocesan records.

Churchwardens and their accounts
. In April each year appointments were made by the vicar and the people for their respective churchwardens, who were responsible for collecting rates for church upkeep. The vicar’s warden between 1803 and 1809 was James Jones, and people’s between 1803 and 1810 was Williams Jones. Both caused consternation, increasing from admonishments to a threat of litigation, for not presenting their accounts. In April 1806, increasing urgency is suggested by an attendance of 18, including two women [the only recorded presence of women] at the meeting for appointment of churchwardens. It was not until 1809 that James Jones’s accounts were provided for the seven years of his wardenship; a reason for the delay being that he had not collected the church rates. In the same year he was replaced by Henry Morgan as the vicar’s warden. William Jones was somewhat more prompt in presenting his accounts for four years in 1807. From 1809 John Rogers began to attend parish meetings regularly, perhaps as something of a new broom since in 1811 two new appointments were made: John Gilbert as vicar’s warden and Henry Harris as the people’s.

Rates, church repairs and church bells
. An order for church rates to be levied was made from time to time. Rates were expressed as ‘pence in the pound’, though the basis for the calculation of pounds has not been identified. Over the years the rates were: six pence in 1801 and 1804 ‘towards repairs of the parish church and chapels’; six pence in 1807 ‘for putting the bells in Clodock Church in good repair’; nine pence in 1809 ‘towards hanging the bells’; six pence in 1810 for repairs of the church and chapels but with a stipulation added ‘for this rate to be made according to the Poor Rate’. It would appear that there was some shift in priorities during these years, beginning with church repairs only, then exclusively for the bells, and finally an order which seems to assert a need for parity between church and poor rates.

At that time there were 5 bells at Clodock, all of which were taken down, one recast and all rehung. The work seems to have been completed by 1809. Minutes relating to the proposed work on the bells were punctuated with another record about difficulties in collecting rates, which may have some bearing on expenditure on the bells. The entry in April 1809 notes that ‘we the Inhabitants and landholders of the Parish of Clodock do order Mr Henry Williams and Mr William Jones [the churchwardens] to apply to the Ecclesiastical Court of the Diocese for an Order against those of the Landholders of the Parish of Clodock who have neglected or refused to pay their assessments made for repairing the Church of Clodock and the Chapel thereto belonging. The expenses if not paid by the defolters [sic] to be paid by the Parish at Large.’

Role of the curate
. Although John Rogers had been curate for some years, serving one or another of the chapels since around 1799 - probably Craswall and/or Llanveynoe – he does not appear to have been involved with Clodock church until 1809 when his name first appears in the parish minutes and thereafter appears regularly.

In 1810 there is a more purposive tone to the parish minutes, and it may be significant that Arnold George and his son James George attended several meetings in that year after an absence since 1801, suggesting that it became worthwhile to participate. At two meetings in May 1810 it was agreed to raise a rate of sixpence in the pound for repairs to church and chapel, though on this occasion the principle was stated in the minutes that assessments for church rates and poor rates should be of equal value: Arnold George and James George both attended the first meeting; Arnold George the second. In August and September 1810, arrangements were made for setting up a charity school for ten poor children in the chapel at Longtown: Arnold George and James George attended the September meeting. In October 1810, approval for making the stone tablets was endorsed. Each of the chapels had previously agreed the same at separate meetings, and this was a final plenary confirmation. There was an unusually large attendance of 16 at this meeting, including Arnold and James George. The absence of the vicar suggests that the initiative for putting up a memorial to the court case lay with the parishioners.

Plans for the charity school had long been overdue. Endowment for charity schools at Abbey Dore, Bacton and Longtown had been provided in 1716 in the will of Oliver Madocks[43] , but had not so far been implemented in Longtown – thus the decision to house a school in Longtown Chapel put to rights a delay of 94 years. There would have been strong encouragement to do so from the established Church’s longstanding policy to set up charity schools for literacy and Christian education among the poor.

A sense of impetus was followed in April 1811, at the yearly meeting for appointment of churchwardens, when John Gilbert was newly appointed as vicar’s warden, and Henry Harris as the peoples’. The business included an injunction for the new appointees ‘to apply to the Court [the ecclesiastical Consistory court at Brecon] for to oblige the late wardens to bring their account to Court and pass them there. We likewise order the said church wardens to apply to the Court for an order to oblige Daniel Morgan and others to pay their assessments. We order the said church wardens to get all Books, Bounds and papers of all descriptions belonging to the said Parish and lodge them in the coffer in the church and bring an action at law against any person who may detain them in their possession.’

It is clear that the vestry was determined to put its financial affairs in order, and with these forceful words a disruptive period in the life of Clodock church can be brought to a close. Issues underlying the tithe dispute would not have vanished, but in its wake the parishioners appear to have gained a sense of empowerment.


This study has attempted to recover the significance of the stone memorial and the dispute it commemorates. Some answers to the curiosity it raises have been teased out of archive

sources for a reconstruction which seeks to put flesh and blood on the persons involved in the legal action, and to examine possible contributing factors within the community as well as the wider economic and social setting of the time.  Any or all of the then current issues would have been recognised as matters of concern whether or not they were direct causes of dispute. Research for this reconstruction has benefited enormously from the information revolution made possible by computers and the internet, allowing ready access to the whereabouts of archive material, or the actual contents. The same resource offers scope for adding to or amending the story.

By contrast, it is puzzling that the context of the court case has been lost to oral tradition. Ironically, the stone tablets were presumably meant to ensure a precise record for all time of conditions that were thought to be unchangeable. Now they have become a quaint relic of byegone customs. Perhaps they were tucked away in a corner and their meaning forgotten because the adversarial message was then and still is at odds with the devotional purpose of Clodock church.


I am greatly indebted to Professor John Walsh for comment
on the historical setting in a draft of this paper

Any errors of reporting or interpretation are my responsibility




, John (1805) General View of the Agriculture of the County of Hereford . London
Duncumb , John (1812) Collections towards the History and Antiquities of the County of Hereford , Part I of Vol II, Parish of Clodock Hereford [Click here to see]
Evans , Eric J (1976). The Contentious Tithe: the Tithe Problem and English Agriculture 1750-1850 . London
Gibson , William (1994) Church, State and Society, 1760-1850 . New York
Llewellin , FG (1919) The History of St Clodock: British King and Martyr . Manchester
Walsh , John, Colin Haydon and Stephen Taylor (eds) (1993) The Church of England c1689-1833: from Toleration to Tractarianism . Cambridge




Abbreviations: GRO: Gwent Record Office;  HFHS: Herefordshire Family History Society; HRO: Herefordshire Record Office; NLW: National Library of Wales; PRO: Public Record Office [National Archives]

[1] PRO: ASSI 1/5

[2] All references to parish minutes are found in HRO: G71/1, Minutes of Parish and Vestry meetings for Clodock 1798-1846

[3] NLW: SD/QA/182 (1799), question 25 [Click here to see]

[4] NLW: SD/LET/1210, Letter From Edward Sparkes to the Bishop of St Davids [Click here to see]

[5] Evans, p8

[6] HRO: Tithe Apportionments, Craswall, Llanveynoe and Longtown, 1840s

[7] Quoted in Llewellin, p182-3

[8] Duncumb (1812), p279 [Click here to see]

[9] Tithe Files for Craswall PRO: IR18/3003 and Llanveynoe PRO: IR/18/3096

[10] Duncumb (1805), p37

[11] Gazeteer of post-medieval chapels in Herefordshire: http://www.smr.herefordshire.gov.uk/post-medieval/chapels/chapels_index.htm

[12] NLW: SD/QA/253 (1799), question 4 [click here to see]; SD/QA/184 (1804), questions 7 & 10 [click here to see]; SD/QA/187 (1807), question 21 [click here to see]

[13] Ifans, Dafydd (ed) (1994) Nonconformist Registers of Wales , Aberystwyth

[14] Gazeteer of post-medieval chapels in Herefordshire: http://www.smr.herefordshire.gov.uk/post-medieval/chapels/chapels_index.htm

[15] References for George Arnold’s dates: Herefordshire Marriage Index 1538-1837; Herefordshire Burial Index 1813-1839, published by HFHS

[16] http://www.lhsarchive.org.uk/ Probate Collection; Bond and documents for Arnold George

[17] HRO: J91/1, Manorial Court Book for Ewyas Lacy 1720-1858

[18] HRO: Tithe Apportionments Longtown and Llanveynoe, 1840s; Agent’s Pocket Book 1760-1862, Map 11 [click here to see]; Sale 1920, Map 10 [click here to see]

[19] HRO: Tithe Apportionments Longtown and Llanveynoe, 1840s

[20] http://www.lhsarchive.org.uk/ Probate Collection: Will and documents for James Jenkins of Trewern, gent

[21] Herefordshire Marriage Index 1538-1837, HFHS

[22] GRO: C1583.208, Survey of Ewyas Lacy c1800, Map 14

[23] Herefordshire Burial Index 1813-1839, HFHS

[24] HRO: Tithe Apportionment Longtown, 1840s

[25] Herefordshire Burial Index 1813-1839, HFHS

[26] Herefordshire Marriage Index 1538-1837, HSHS

[27] http://www.lhsarchive.org.uk/ Probate Collection: Will and documents for Benjamin Lewis, yeoman

[28] NLW: SD/QA/253(1799), question 7 [Click here to see}

[29] Llewellin, p157

[30] NLW:SD/QA/253 (1799), question 9 [Click here to see]; SD/QA/184 (1804), questions 2 and 4 [Click here to see]; SD/QA/187 (1807), question 3 [Click here to see]

[31] The biographical details in this paragraph were added in August 2011 from information kindly supplied by David Robins, citing Joseph Foster (1888) Alumni Oxonienses:The Members of the University of Oxford 1715-1886 , Parker and Co, Oxford; Clodock Marriage Register 1784, Herefordshire Record Office; and a pedigree at Frampton Court,

[32] NLW:SD/LET 1239, Letter for instatement as vicar of Clodock [Click here to see]

[33] Report of the Commission on Ecclesiastical Revenues of England and Wales, 1835

[34] GRO: D1583.208; HRO: Tithe Apportionment Longtown, 1840s

[35] NLW: SD/LET/1281 Counsel’s Opinion

[36] NLW: SD/QA/182, question 15 [Click here to see]

[37] Llewellin, p187

[38] References for John Rogers’ dates: Herefordshire Marriage Index 1538-1837; Herefordshire Burial Index 1813-1839, HFHS

[39] NLW: BT Walterstone , Parish registers 1712-1835

[40] Will of John Rogers, in Schedule of deeds and documents Ty Newydd [Click here to see]; also  http://www.lhsarchive.org.uk/ Probate Collection: Will and documents for John Gilbert, gentleman

[41] GRO: D1583.46.1, Papers regarding Alltyrynys

[42] NLW: SD/PC/11 (1827), Report on the Clergy in Ewyas Lacy [Click here to see]

[43] Hereford Library Local Collection, Report on the Charities of Longtown 1815-1839, p261 [Click here to see]

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