Glebe land is a historical term which originally referred to land belonging to a benefice and so by default to its incumbent; who owns it and what happens to the income is a frequently asked question.
In 1978 the Endowments and Glebe Measure 1976 came into effect, transferring the ownership and management of glebe land from incumbents to Diocesan Boards of Finance (DBFs).
Before 1978 an incumbent could keep the rent from the glebe land in the parish and sell the land and use the proceeds to supplement the stipend. This resulted in some clergy, who owned a lot of glebe land, enjoying a high income while others, with little or no glebe land, struggled with low incomes.
From 1978 onwards, the ownership of all glebe passed to the diocese (Diocesan Board of Finance) and all income arising from glebe land has to be used towards the payment of stipends. Consequently, the income from glebe land is enjoyed by all parishes in the diocese because it reduces the amount of parish share requested. In this way, many parishes where there was no glebe land benefit from the land now held by the DBF and all parish clergy in a diocese are paid the same stipend.
At the present time, the Hereford Diocesan Board of Finance (HDBF) owns 156 parcels of land totalling 1,309 acres, together with a number of commercial properties and houses valued, in total, at circa £8m. The houses are used to accommodate curates and, when unoccupied are let commercially to generate further income in support of stipends.
When glebe assets are sold, proceeds from the sale of glebe land are reinvested either in more land or buildings (such as a curate’s house in another location) or in quoted investments. Currently, the HDBF has some £13m of glebe investments.
The income generated from lettings and investments amounts to circa £460k per annum.
The letting of agricultural land, commercial and housing properties are managed by professional agents as is the management of invested funds. The HDBF has an ethical investment policy designed to grow the long-term value of glebe assets whilst recognising the need broadly to maintain the income generated.
Day to day management of all glebe matters is the responsibility of the Property Secretary, who is part of the Diocesan Secretary’s senior team in Hereford, with oversight provided by nominated Directors from the Diocesan Board of the Finance Executive Committee.