Shropshire History

Shropshire

Hundreds

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Under the Saxons, Shropshire (like the other counties of England and Wales) was divided into administrative areas called Hundreds for military and judicial purposes. A Hundred had land which sustained approximately 100 Hides (households) and was headed by a Hundredman. He was responsible for justice and supplying military troops, as well as leading its forces. The office was not hereditary but, by the 10th Century, the office holder was usually selected from amongst a few local nobles. Hundreds were further divided into Tithings (an area containing ten households) and then sub-divided into Hides (a single household that became a unit of assessment for tax).

 

Within each Hundred there was a meeting place called a Hundred Court, where wealthy and powerful men discussed local issues and judicial trials were held. The Normans retained the system and taxed each Hundred based on the number of hides. To assess how much everyone had to pay, a clerk and a knight were sent by the King to each county. Here they sat with the Sheriff (crown official in charge of the county) and two knights from each hundred. After it was determined what tax had to be paid, the knights and bailiff of the hundred were responsible for getting the money to the sheriff, who would send it to the Exchequer.

 

By the 12th Century, the Hundred Courts were held 12 times a year. This was later increased to once every 3 weeks. In some Hundreds, courts were held at a fixed place whilst in others courts moved with each sitting to a different location. The main duties of the Hundred Court were the maintenance of the “Frankpledge” system. This meant that all men in a Tithing over the age of 12 were responsible for producing anyone from that Tithing who had committed a crime or they had to pay a fine. The Court was made up of 12 Freeholders who dealt with local matters. For serious crimes, the Hundred Court was run by the Sheriff and was called the “Sheriff's Tourn”. Where a Hundred was under a Lord of the Manor, a Steward (chief official of the Lord) was appointed in place of a Sheriff. The old Saxon system was eventually replaced whereby Hundreds were divided into Divisions and these were further sub-divided into Parishes and then Townships (an area containing a small town or village).

 

Until the middle of the 19th Century, the annual meeting of a Hundred was chiefly to discuss taxation. Hundreds were used to administer the first four national censuses from 1801-184 and groupings of Hundreds were used to define parliamentary constituencies from 1832-1885.  Upon the redistribution of seats in 1885, a different county subdivision was used. The importance of the Hundred Courts declined and most of their powers were extinguished with the establishment of County Courts in 1867. By the end of the 19th Century, other authorities had mostly replaced the role of the parishes and Hundred Courts. The remaining duty of the inhabitants of a Hundred to make good damages caused by riot was ended in 1886, when the cost was transferred to the county police rate. Although Hundreds had no administrative or legal role after this date, they have never been formally abolished.

 

The Chiltern Hundreds are a unique system to allow a serving Member of Parliament to resign, since they are not legally allowed to just resign their seat.  An M.P. is not allowed to hold a post which is paid by the Crown but there is a post of Crown Steward and Bailiff of the three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham. This post is only nominally paid but, upon being appointed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, they are automatically disqualified from sitting in the House of Commons.

 

 

For details of the Hundreds in Shropshire and their sub-divisions, look at the website on Shropshire Hundreds.

 

As an example, the Hundred of Oswestry has an Upper Division and Lower Division.  The Upper Division has 9 Parishes including Whittington Parish. This parish has the townships of :-

 

Berghill
Daywall

Ebnall

Fernhill
Forton
Hindford
Henlle
Old Marton (part of)
Welsh Frankton
Whittington.

 

 

 

Gazetteer of Sites

 

Munslow (SO520873)

Crown Country Inn built in the 17th Century and formerly a Hundred Court

 

Norton (SJ728003)

 

Hundred House Inn built in the 17th Century and formerly a Hundred Court.

 

Purslow (SO360809)

Hundred House

 

Hundred House Inn built in 1685 and formerly a Hundred Court.