Board of First Fruits

The Board of First Fruits was an institution of the Church of Ireland that was established in 1711 by Anne, Queen of Great Britain to build and improve churches and glebe houses in Ireland. This was funded from taxes collected on clerical incomes which were in turn funded by tithes. The board was replaced in 1833 by the Board of Ecclesiastical Commissioners.


From the English Reformation in the 16th century, most Irish people chose to remain Roman Catholic and had by now to pay tithes valued at about 10% of an area's agricultural produce, to maintain and fund the established state church, the Anglican Church of Ireland, to which only a small minority of the population converted. Protests against this situation led to the Tithe war in the early 19th century.

In 1711, Queen Anne agreed that the tax on clerical incomes be given to the Church of Ireland for the building of new churches and Glebe Houses. To that effect, with Jonathan Swift's influence,[1] the Board of First Fruits was founded.[2]

During the first 70 years of its existence, the board purchased glebe lands for benefices at a total cost of £3,543. It also assisted the building of forty-five glebe houses with gifts of £4,080.[3]

In 1778, the Irish Parliament agreed a grant of £6,000, followed by £1,500 in 1779–1780, £6,000 in 1781–1782, £3,000 in 1783–1784 and £5,000 each year from 1785 to 1800. During the period 1791–1803, the board spent £55,600 towards the building of 88 churches and 116 glebe houses.[3]

The grants were maintained after the Act of Union 1800, but the Act of Parliament in 1808 saw a consolidation of the funds and allowed the board to also repair old churches and glebe houses.[4]

From 1808, the annual grant doubled to £10,000 and massively increased to £60,000 each year between 1810 and 1816. Thereafter, the grant was halved between 1817 and 1821, finally being reduced to £10,000 each year in 1822–1823.[3]

In the twenty years following the Act of Union, a total of £807,648 was paid out in grants to purchases glebe lands in 193 benefices, the building of 550 glebe houses, and the building, rebuilding and enlargement of 697 churches.[5]

The Church Temporalities Act 1833 put an end to the Board of First Fruits and The Board of Ecclesiastical Commissioners took over.[4]


Many architects worked for the Board of First Fruits. The following lists a few and is not exhaustive:


Many churches and glebe houses were constructed or improved with funding from the Board of First Fruits.


Church in Feigh West, built in 1813

Glebe Houses

An asterisk indicates that a building is featured on the website of the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Board of First Fruits.


  2. Brown, Stewart Jay (2001). "The national churches of England, Ireland, and Scotland, 1801–1846", Oxford University Press, p 65
  3. 1 2 3 Nigel Yates (2006). "The religious condition of Ireland, 1770–1850", p 34
  4. 1 2 Brooks, Chris & Saint, Andrew (1995). "The Victorian church: architecture and society", Manchester University Press, p 133–134
  5. D.H. Akenson, (1971). "The Church of Ireland: Ecclesiastical Reform and Revolution, 1800–1885, New Haven and London", p 115–119
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