AskDefine | Define glebe

Dictionary Definition

glebe n : plot of land belonging to an English parish church or an ecclesiastical office

User Contributed Dictionary



  • glēb, /gliːb/, /gli:b/

Usage notes

  • A number of places are named Glebe


  1. Turf; soil; ground; sod.
  2. In medieval Europe, a glebe was an area of land, belonging to a parish, whose revenues contributed towards the parish expenses.


#* 1768, Thomas Gray, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,
    • Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield, / Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;

Derived terms



  1. Plural of gleba

Extensive Definition

In the Roman Catholic and Anglican church traditions, a glebe was an area of land belonging to a benefice. This was property (in addition to the parsonage house and grounds) which vested in the incumbent by right of his incumbency. Glebe included a wide variety of properties including farms, individual fields, shops, houses, factories etc. An incumbent was entitled to retain the glebe for his own use if he wished (for instance, some incumbents farmed their own land) or he could let it and any income formed part of the stipend.
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; instead, 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.

United States

In the American colonies of Great Britain where the Church of England was the established religion, glebe land was distributed by the colonial government, and was often farmed or rented out by the church rector to cover living expenses. This practice was no longer observed following the disestablishment of state churches that accompanied the American Revolution. The many roads in the eastern United States and other former British colonial possessions that bear this name once ran past a church glebe property.
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