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Conjectural map of a mediaeval manor. The method of "strip farming" was in use under the open field system. The mustard-colored areas are part of the demesne, the hatched areas part of the glebe. The manor house, residence of the lord, can be seen in the mid-southern part of the manor, near the parish church and parsonage

Glebe (also known as church furlong, rectory manor or parson's close(s)[1][2]) is an area of land within an ecclesiastical parish used to support a parish priest.

Medieval origins

In the Roman Catholic and Anglican church traditions, a glebe is land belonging to a benefice and so by default to its incumbent. In other words, "glebe is land (in addition to or including the parsonage house/rectory and grounds) which was assigned to support the priest".[3]

The word 'glebe' itself is from middle English which is originally from Latin, gleba, glaeba 'clod, land, soil'.

Glebe can include strips in the open field system or grouped together into a compact plot of land.[1] Tithes were in early times the main means of support for the parish clergy but glebe land was either granted by any lord of the manor of the church's parish (sometimes the manor would have boundaries coterminous with the parish but in most instances it would be smaller),[4] or accumulated from other donations of particular pieces of land. Occasionally all or part of the glebe was appropriated, devoted or assigned to a priory or college. In the case where the whole glebe was given to impropriators they would become the lay rector(s)[2] (plural where the land is now subdivided), in which case the general law of tithes would resume on that land, and in England and Wales chancel repair liability would now apply to the lay rectors just as it had to the rector.

The amount of such land varied from parish to parish, occasionally forming a complete Glebe Farm.[5] From 1571 onwards, information about the glebe would be recorded at ecclesiastical visitations in a "glebe terrier" (Latin terra, land) by the incumbent of the benefice.[6] It could also entail complete farms, individual fields, houses (messuages), mills or works. A holder of a benefice could retain the glebe for his own use, usually for agricultural exploitation, or he could "farm" it (i.e., lease it, a term also used)[7] to others and retain a rent as income.[1]

British Isles

Church of England

Glebe associated with the Church of England ceased to belong to individual incumbents as from 1 April 1978, by virtue of the Endowments and Glebe Measure 1976. It became vested on that date, "without any conveyance or other assurance", in the Diocesan Board of Finance of the diocese to which the benefice owning the glebe belonged, even if the glebe was in another diocese.


Glebe land in Scotland was subject to an Act of Parliament in 1925 which meant that it would be transferred little by little to the General Trustees of the Church of Scotland.[8]


In Bermuda and the American colonies of Great Britain where the Church of England was the established church, glebe land was distributed by the colonial government and was often farmed or rented out by the church rector to cover living expenses.[9] The Dutch Reformed Church also provided glebes for the benefit of the pastor; it continued this practice through at least the 1850s.[10][11] In some cases—such as Glebe Road in Arlington County, Virginia, the community of Glebe in Hampshire County, West Virginia, Glebe Hill, near Tucker's Town, Bermuda, another Glebe Hill in Southampton Parish, Bermuda, and The Glebe Road in Pembroke Parish, Bermuda—associations with former glebe properties is retained in the local names.

See also

  • Manse — a dwelling and, historically in ecclesiastical contexts, the amount of land needed to support a single family


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 McGurk 1970, p. 17
  2. 2.0 2.1 Styles 1945, pp. 31–42
  3. Coredon 2007, p. 140
  4. "Institute of Historical Research". History of the County of Oxfordshire, of Surrey, of Sussex etc.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[verification needed]
  5. Such as the Glebe Farm (Styles 1945, pp. 31–42).
  6. Hey 1996, p. 204.
  7. Malden 1911, pp. 107-111.
  8. Cross 1957, p. 563.
  9. SM staff 2012.
  10. Heisler 1872, p. 295
  11. Ellis 1878,[page needed]


  • Cross, F. L. (1957). The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. London: Oxford University Press. p. 563.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Coredon, Christopher (2007). A Dictionary of Medieval Terms & Phrases (Reprint ed.). Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer. ISBN 978-1-84384-138-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Ellis, Franklin (1878). The Reformed Church of Linlithgo Livingston Columbia County New York.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Hey, David (1996). The Oxford Companion to Local and Family History. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 204.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Heisler, D. Y. (1872). The Fathers of the German Reformed Church in Europe and America. 3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • McGurk, J. J. N. (1970). A Dictionary of Medieval Terms: For the Use of History Students. Reigate, UK: Reigate Press for St Mary's College of Education. OCLC 138858.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Malden, H.E., ed. (1911). "Parishes: Shalford". A History of the County of Surrey. 3. London: Victoria County History. pp. 107–111.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • SM staff (15 March 2012). "The Glebe of Cumberland Parish". The Southside Messenger. Archived from the original on 30 October 2014.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Styles, Philip, ed. (1945). "Parishes: Aston Cantlow". A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3: Barlichway hundred. London: Victoria County History. pp. 31–42.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  •  [ "Glebe" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Encyclopædia Britannica. 12 (11th ed.). 1911. p. 117.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Beresford, M. W. (1948). "Glebe terriers in open field Leicestershire". Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological Society. 24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>