Tithe maps of Norfolk, circa 1840
Tithe example


The Norfolk Historical Map Explorer includes nearly 700 tithe maps, which cover about 85% of Norfolk. They were created between 1836 and about 1850. They form one of the earliest detailed surveys of rural Norfolk.

The original tithe maps from which the digitized copies were made are held by the Norfolk Record Office, where the original maps can be consulted together with their apportionments.

What is a Tithe Map?

A tithe map was drawn up for almost all rural parishes in Norfolk between 1836 and 1850. This was necessary because the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 asked that payments of tithe in the form of farm produce should be replaced by a money payment. Tithe was a tax, which was paid to the local church.

Each map will show at least the boundaries of woods, fields, roads and waterways and the location of buildings. The houses are sometimes shown in enough detail to show their shape.

Understanding Tithe Maps

The surveyors of the tithe maps were given specific instructions on how the maps should look by the Tithe Commission in London. However, few surveyors followed all these instructions. The result is that the maps vary in style as well as in scale and quality. The tithe maps also depict a landscape, which is often very different from what we recognize today.

It is useful to remember some important points about a tithe maps orientation, scale and notation.


Each map will have its own compass from which the user can get their bearings. Tithe maps were not always drawn with north pointing to the top of the page.


The scale used on a tithe map is usually written as a number of chains on the ground equalling an inch on the map. One chain is equal to 20.32 metres or 22 yards. The scales used vary between 1 chain to 1 inch (7.92 metres to 1 centimetre) and 12 chains to 1 inch (95.04 metres to 1 centimetre).


Though different surveyors had different styles, there are some common features to most tithe maps. A more detailed list of these are given in Roger J.P. Kain and Richard R. Oliver, Tithe Maps of England and Wales (Cambridge University Press, 1995).

Houses - When colour has been used on the maps, inhabited buildings are usually shown in red and uninhabited buildings in black. On uncoloured maps houses were made more prominent, usually by heavier shading or solid black filling.

Water - The sea, rivers, streams, lakes and ponds are shown by the use of blue colouring or outlining.

Roads - Public roads are often coloured brown.

Hedges and fences - These are sometimes shown by pictorial symbols. The symbols may point to properties and thus indicate ownership of the hedge or fence.

Accuracy of Tithe Maps

Tithe maps were not created to provide an accurate survey of the area. The aim was to show the boundaries of all areas for which tithe was owed, usually fields. The amount of other information given varies from map to map. If something does not appear on a map, it does not mean that it did not exist.

In 1837 it was agreed that tithe maps could be classified as first- or second-class. First-class maps were thought to be accurate enough to serve as legal evidence of boundaries. Maps, which had a smaller scale than 4 chains to 1 inch (31.68 metres to 1 centimetre), were not considered for first-class status. Many maps for Norfolk were drawn to smaller scales due to the large size of the parish. These maps may still be accurate and should not be seen as inferior to first-class maps.

Just over 10% of Norfolk tithe maps are first-class.

Coverage of Norfolk

Not every parish in Norfolk has a tithe map on Norfolk Historical Map Explorer. If you can not find a tithe map for the area in which you are interested, please contact the Norfolk Record Office.

There are some tithe maps which have not been digitized. This is because the copy that is held by the Norfolk Record Office is either too fragile to copy or too incomplete due to wear and tear.

There were approximately 20 rural parishes for which tithe maps were not created. In most of these cases the landowner and the tithe owner were the same person or the tithes had already been commuted into money payments.

Tithe maps may only show land on which tithes were paid. There are a few parishes for which no tithe map was drawn up for this reason. An example of such a parish is Blakeney. Tithe maps were rarely drawn up for urban areas and when they were, they only cover land where a crop was being grown.

What Are Tithes?

Tithes were a tax paid to finance the local church. Traditionally people gave over one tenth of everything that they produced to the church.

Why were Tithe Maps Created?

By the 19th century, the whole system of paying tithes had become confused and was causing much resentment. Many tithes were being paid not to the church itself but to landowners who had taken over the tithes during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s. The tithe system discouraged farming improvements. If the farmer grew more crops on his land he had to pay more of them as tithe. The Tithe Commutation Act of 1836, meant that each field or titheable plot had to be valued and the tithe map and its apportionment were drawn up for this purpose.

What Are Tithe Apportionments?

The tithe apportionment is a record that accompanies the tithe map. It gives the following information for every titheable piece of land on the map: the name of the owner, the name of the occupier, the name of the field or piece of land, the type of cultivation, the acreage and its tithe valuation. Every plot on the tithe map has a number on it and this matches the entry in the apportionment.

The apportionments have not been digitized. If you would like details of a particular entry in a tithe apportionment then please contact the Norfolk Record Office, quoting the plot number and the name of the parish where the plot is located.

Related Documents

Three copies of each tithe map were made, one for the tithe commissioners, one for the Diocese and one for the parish.  The National Archives holds the tithe commissioners copy and the Norfolk Record Office hold the diocesan copy. If the parish copy of the tithe map has survived then it may be also held by the Norfolk Record Office.

Obtaining Copies of Tithe and Enclosure Maps

The Norfolk Record Office can provide copies of most enclosure maps and tithe maps as either digital image files or as hard-copy print-outs. To order, contact the Norfolk Record Office at the Archive Centre, Martineau Lane, Norwich NR1 2DQ; tel. 01603 222599; e-mail norfrec@norfolk.gov.uk, quoting the postal address to where the copy should be sent and details of the map you would like copied. If a specific section of a map is required, please provide details. Current prices are available from the Norfolk Record Office website at http://archives.norfolk.gov.uk.