Woodford Halse Archive

St Mary’s Reverand Richard Walter Window
St Mary’s Reverand Richard Walter Window

Woodford Buildings

St Mary’s

A list of rectors and vicars, dating from the 12th century, is exhibited in the church, but there are doubts about its accuracy as there are mistakes in the 19th century and additional names in the 13th century have come to light. The list shows a change in the status of the priest during the 14th century, the rector becomes a vicar. How this came about is not clear, but it is said that in the 12th century the advowson was granted to the convent of St. Mary at Rowcester and then in 1230, the convent was also granted sixty shillings per annum, out of the rectorial tithes. Just over one hundred years later, comes the change in the status of the priest, he becomes a vicar in 1339 and, it is assumed, the rectorial tithes were taken over in their entirety, by the convent.

How, or why, this was done is not known, but it was a very serious loss to the income of the parish priest and an explanation of the difference between a rector and a vicar, will show why. A rector, by virtue of his office was entitled to both great and small tithes arising in his parish, but the vicar was only entitled to the small tithes, of much less value. The great tithes embraced everything that grew on the land, so the rector took every tenth sheaf of corn, a tenth of all hay, a tenth of all trees that were felled and when root crops came to be grown, every tenth load of turnips or whatever they were, would be his.

The small tithes were derived from that which fed on the produce of the soil, the wool from sheep, the milk from cows, the eggs from hens, every tenth calf or foal or piglet, or the value thereof, would also go to the rector. In those parishes where there was a vicar, the great tithes were collected by what was termed, the impropriate rector, a lay person, leaving only the small tithes, of much less value for the vicar. The rector had to collect his tithes, but the vicar could claim to have his delivered to the parish church porch and perhaps that is the reason, gates were once hung at the entrance to the porch, the staples can still be seen.

By kind permission of Woodford Halse Archive