Tithe Act

The idea that people should pay tithes (10 per cent of the annual produce of land or labour) to support their local minister and parish church was established in the 8th century. In the 10th century a law was introduced to impose penalties for non-payment.

It was believed that Oliver Cromwell would abolish tithes but after the House of Commons failed to agree an alternative system of church finance the proposed reform was abandoned.

In the 19th century Nonconformists campaigned strongly against the payment of church tithes. Roman Catholics in Ireland were also strongly opposed to church tithes.

After the passing of the 1832 Reform Act the Tories were heavily defeated in the general election that followed. In November 1834 King William IV dismissed the Whig government and appointed Robert Peel as his new prime minister. Peel immediately called a general election and during the campaign issued what became known as the Tamworth Manifesto. In his election address to his constituents in Tamworth, Peel pledged his acceptance of the 1832 Reform Act and argued for a policy of moderate reforms while preserving Britain's important traditions. The Tamworth Manifesto marked the shift from the old, repressive Toryism to a new, more enlightened Conservatism.

The general election gave Peel more supporters although there were still more Whigs than Tories in the House of Commons. Despite this, the king invited Peel to form a new administration. With the support of the Whigs, Peel's government was able to pass the Dissenters' Marriage Bill and the English Tithe Bill. The commutation of tithes in Ireland followed in 1838.