In 1490, five men of the parish of Ramsden Crays in Essex were summoned to the Consistory to explain why they were refusing to pay tithes to their parish priest on their sheep. As this and other tithe cases before the Consistory make clear, local custom was important in determining what was subject to tithes and what wasn’t – though equally the bishop’s court could evidently cut through declarations of local custom to decree that the sheep were tithable after all.
LMA, MS DL/C/A/001/MS09065, fol. 72r
Responses of John Eggot, John Wyndell, Thomas Auger, John Umfrey, and William Herd, 13 May 1490
Responses personally made by John Eggot of Ramsden Crays [Essex], 13 May
Questioned, he admits that he owes to God and the church of Ramsden two shillings, and that he is subject to the jurisdiction of the bishop of London, and that for the last year and a half he has not paid his tithes, and that each year he has at least forty sheep, from which he never pays tithes, nor his predecessors in that parish.
John Wyndell of the same owes twelve pence, which he is ready to pay. He has never paid tithes of sheep, and every year he has sixty sheep and it is the custom there that sheep are not paid.
Thomas Auger, examined, admits that each year he has two hundred sheep, and nonetheless he never pay tithes on them to the current rector or his predecessors.
John Umfrey admits that he swore to pay three shillings eight pence for his father in the name of tithes, and that he never paid tithes of sheep, although he has probably two hundred sheep a year, on which he does not pay tithes.
William Herd admitted that he owes the church six cows and thirty shillings in money, and admits that he never pays tithes of sheep, although he has sixty or eighty sheep a year. But he says that if it were right he would pay the tithes, but the custom here is the opposite. And then all the abovesaid men promised, giving their faith in the hands of the lord, that from henceforth they would pay their tithes of sheep and concerning what has gone before they will settle with the rector.