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Rectors and Vicars

What's the difference? The answer is simply - money!

Until Henry VIII destroyed the monasteries there was a difference between rectors and vicars of a parish. The rector had the right to all the tithes of the parish. A rector, if a priest, could perform the parochial duties himself or he would appoint a vicar to do the work for him - vicar simply means �substitute�.

A tithe was the payment of a tenth part of all the produce of lands of the parish. These were divided into �Greater Tithes� levied on wheat, hay and wood, and �Lesser Tithes� levied on the remainder. In Crich parish there were tithe barns on Hindersitch Lane and on Chadwicknick Lane. This is where the tithes were stored.

Often the Lord of the Manor endowed land to the church from which the priest could also derive an income. This was the parson's �Glebe�. Some lands were more productive and extensive than others, hence some parishes were worth more to the clergy than others. The ones that were rich attracted the attentions of those who were seeking to become richer. The Lord of the Manor might use his power to reward a dutiful servant or politician. As long as they were in clerical orders (and many who had been educated, were) they might expect to be presented with a well-endowed parish. Of course, they had no intention of actually living and working there! So instead they took most of the income - and appointed some poor vicar to do the job of actually taking services and ministering to the community in their place, paying him a small amount of the total entitlement.

In Medieval times many rectories were owned by monasteries. The monastery was entitled to receive the tithes but they also had to assume the spiritual care of the parishes. The monastery would use part of the tithe (typically a third) to pay for a vicar - whose place of residence became known as a vicarage.

When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries their assets were sold to local landowners who became known as lay rectors. They continued to take the tithe income and pay their vicars a pittance to minister the parish.

So, put simply, a vicar was just a substitute for the real thing, which was a rector!

These days there is no significant difference.