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Introduction to Glebe Terriers

The term Glebe Terrier is specific to the Church of England. A terrier is a written survey, or inventory, of land (the word derives from the Latin terra, land). The Glebe is the land or other property held by the vicar for the support of himself and his church. A Glebe Terrier is a detailed list describing the church's property in the parish - its rectory or vicarage, its fields and the church itself.

Originally, every church was entitled to a house and glebe. The glebe could be cultivated by the incumbent himself or by tenants to whom he leased it, and the terrier often includes the names of the tenants and also the holders of the adjoining lands. Therefore, the terrier can give a very useful picture of the fields and furlongs in the parish because the glebe land may have consisted of many strips in the open fields. However, not all parsonages were well endowed with glebe, and in those cases tithes formed the major source of income for the incumbent. Some terriers include a description of how income from tithes and fees is calculated and collected.

The first time a list of the holdings of each parish church was required was in 1571, when the bishops were directed to see that terriers of glebe land were compiled and deposited in their archives. The actual compilation of the survey was left largely to the discretion of each individual incumbent so the surveys, when gathered in at the Visitation, varied greatly. Once the lists reached the Registries, they were generally bundled away, although occasionally some originals were bound into volumes. A copy of the survey was often kept in the parish, either loose parchment sheets or copied on to spare pages in the parish registers.

The earliest surviving Glebe Terrier in Bedfordshire is that of 1577 for Clophill. Lists of Glebe Terriers held by Bedfordshire Archives were compiled in the 1970s and can be found by following the links below. 

Glebe Terriers - Parishes A to D

Glebe Terriers - Parishes E to K

Glebe Terriers - Parishes L to P

Glebe Terriers - Parishes R to Y

For more recent additions you will need to search our online catalogue

A General Surveyor of Church Glebes and Possessions within the Diocese was employed in 1605-1607 by Lincoln Diocese, and all surveys made under his supervision are set out in the same way.

The model glebe terrier:

The church and churchyard:

  • a list of everything in the church itself, including its fabric, furniture, plate, bells and books.
  • the churchyard with special notes as to customary obligations to repair walls or fences.

The parsonage:

  • detailed description of the parsonage with its curtilage, a statement of how much of it is brick, wattle and daub, thatch, tile, plaster and so on.

Glebe land:

  • the amount of glebe which belonged to the benefice, often in yardlands, ploughlands or oxgangs, with all the abuttals and boundaries named.
  • how much meadow accompanied the ploughland and the method by which this meadow was re-allotted, usually annually.
  • how many cow-, horse- or sheep-gates were attached to the benefice and exercisable upon the common.

Tithe revenue:

  • description of the tithe revenue of the benefice, with details of tithe-free land and the customary arrangements as to the collection of tithe, or the payments in lieu of tithe.

Use of the parish:

  • notes as to the use of the parish during Easter offerings, and mortuaries, surplice fees and other customary payments.

Income and fees

  • list of fees which the parish clerk could charge for such things as burial, funeral sermon, breaking the ground, marriage and tolling the bell. These fees were used to maintain the clerk - and the church clock