A tithing or tything was a historic English legal and administrative unit originally comprised of the men of ten neighbouring households, responsible to the manorial courtLowest courts of law in England during the feudal period, their civil jurisdiction limited by subject matter and geography. for the behaviour of every member, under the system of frankpledge; the tithing’s leader or spokesman was known as a tithingman. Tithings evolved into small rural divisions administering the territory of one tenth of a hundredAdministrative subdivision of a shire., or ten hides, and the term probably derives from the Old English tēogoþa, tēoþa, meaning “tenth”.
All males over the age of twelve were required to belong to a tithing, but women, clergy and the richer freemen were exempt. In its ultimate form, if an individual failed to appear when summoned to court the other members of the tithing could swear an oath to the effect that they had no part in the non-appearance of the summoned man. If they did not do so, they could be held responsible for the deeds of the fugitive, and forced to pay any fines his actions had incurred. The system was not in force in all of England, and particularly not in the north, and had died out by the end of the 15th century.