A glebe is a tract of land that belongs to a church. It is used to maintain the church and its staff, and sometimes also to generate funds that can be sent to the seat of the church. Glebes have shrunk substantially from their historical origins, which is why numerous developments and estates around the world include the word in their titles, referencing their origins.
The concept of glebe land is quite ancient, although the term itself only dates to the early 1300s. Most religions have recognized that land is necessary for the church itself, along with associated facilities like housing for staff and space for the charitable works of the church, such as orphanages. In addition to these lands, many churches historically also held farms, factories, and other land that could be used to generate income for the church. In the feudal era, the church could use these lands to wield immense power, and it often came into conflict with wealthy lords and landowners who resented the amount of land controlled by the church.
Historically, ownership of glebe land was vested in the incumbent who held the office of priest, minister, or parson. The land could be rented out and used as the incumbent saw fit, and when he retired, died, or left the parish, the glebe would pass into the hands of his successor. It was sometimes used as an incentive to encourage priests to settle, as in the American Colonies, when people who were willing to serve in rural areas would be rewarded with substantial glebe lands.
Originally, churches were expected to sustain themselves entirely with income from the glebe, sending income from tithing to the parent church. Over time, the system began to change, and as the glebe shrank, churches were allowed to keep more of their tithing income. Ownership of the land also passed into the control of the church in many cases, rather than being vested in the incumbent, to promote management that would benefit the church as a whole.
Some parishes have been forced to sell chunks of their glebe land due to lack of funds and the changing nature of religious faith. Land with residences is sometimes in high demand, especially if the residences are old, as some people view old Church housing as aesthetically or personally desirable. Old rectories, parsonages, and so forth are also often located near the church and the graveyard, creating a relatively calm and quiet environment that many people appreciate.