In the Roman Catholic and Anglican church traditions, a glebe is land belonging to a benefice and so by default to its incumbent (priest). In other words "glebe is land (in addition to or including the parsonage house/rectory and grounds) which was assigned to support the priest".
Glebe can include strips in the open field system or grouped together into a compact plot of land. 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 coterminous boundaries as the parish but in most instances it would be smaller) 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. Where it was wholly appropriated then these impropriators (of glebe) became the lay rector(s).
In the case where the whole glebe was given to impropriators they would become the lay rector (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. Information about the glebe would be recorded at ecclesiastical visitations in a "glebe terrier" (Latin terra, land). 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) to others and retain a rent as income.
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. From 1571 onwards, Church of England glebe was listed in a glebe terrier, compiled by the incumbent of the benefice.
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. The Reformed Church also provided glebes for the benefit of the pastor. The Reformed Church continued this practice through at least the 1850s. 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.
- McGurk, Dictionary of Medieval Terms, p. 17
- Philip Styles (editor) (1945). "Parishes: Aston Cantlow". A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3: Barlichway hundred. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- Coredon Dictionary of Medieval Terms p. 140
- "Institute of Historical Research". History of the County of Oxfordshire, of Surrey, of Sussex etc.
- Such as the Glebe Farm in: Philip Styles (editor) (1945). "Parishes: Aston Cantlow". A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3: Barlichway hundred. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- Hey, David (1996) The Oxford Companion to Local and Family History. Oxford: Oxford University Press; p. 204
- H.E. Malden (editor) (1911). "Parishes: Shalford". A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 3. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- Cross, F. L. (1957) The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. London: Oxford University Press; p. 563
- "The Glebe of Cumberland Parish". Southside Messenger (Virginia). 15 March 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- Heisler Fathers of the German Reformed Church p. 295
- Ellis Reformed Church of Linlithgo Livingston Columbia County New York
- Coredon, Christopher (2007). A Dictionary of Medieval Terms & Phrases (Reprint ed.). Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer. ISBN 978-1-84384-138-8.
- Ellis, Franklin (1878). The Reformed Church of Linlithgo Livingston Columbia County New York.
- Heisler, D. Y. (1872). The Fathers of the German Reformed Church in Europe and America 3.
- 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.
- Beresford, M. W. (1948). "Glebe terriers in open field Leicestershire", in: Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological Society; vol. 24
- The dictionary definition of Glebe at Wiktionary