Monday, January 14, 2013

The Newport Hundreds

The basic Saxon unit of land measurement was the hide. This was reckoned to be the amount of arable land needed to support a family - usually estimated as about 30 acres. The hide was not a precise measurement; poorer quality land for example would result in more acres making up the hide. To offer some sense of the variation, the parish of Wolverton (the old Manor) covered 2,324 acres at the end of the 19th century. In 1086 it was assessed at 20 hides. Hanslope (including Castlethorpe) was more than double the acreage at 5,800 but with only one third of this area suitable for arable farming, it was assessed at 10 hides.

Manors emerged in the 10th century as economic units. The smaller ones such as Bradwell and Stantonbury were assessed at 5 hides, while the more prosperous, like Wolverton, were assessed at 20. For wider administrative purposes manors were grouped together in hundreds, that is the area would encompass 100 hides. It was not exact. The hundreds were used to raise taxes, set up courts for issues which were larger than the manor court could handle and were sometimes used for raising military forces.

In the area largely covered today by Milton Keynes there were three hundreds - Secklow, Bunsty and Moulsoe. Each one was named after its central meeting point. Secklow (Sigel's Low) is the mound that is preserved in Central Milton Keynes. It was the central meeting place for the manors of Wolverton, Calverton, Stantonbury, Bradwell, Great Linford, Willen, the Woolstones, Woughton, Shenley, Loughton, Simpson, Stoke Hammond, Newport, Caldecote, and Newton Longueville.

North of the Ouse was the Bunsty (Bonnestou) Hundred, centred on Busty Farm near Gayhurst. This included the manors of Hanslope, Castlethorpe, Haversham, Little Linford, Gayhurst, Stoke Goldington, Ravenstone, Tyringham, Lathbury, Weston Underwood, Olney, Lavendon and Cold Brayfield.

Along the east side the Moulsoe Hundred, included Clifton Reynes, Emberton, Sherington, Hardmead, Chicheley, Astwood, North Crawley, Moulsoe, Wavendon, Walton and the Brickhills.

The hundreds had a long life. In the 14th century they were consolidated into larger units, usually groups of three, thus these three hundreds were thereafter known as the Newport Hundreds. They survived until the 19th century until the Local Government Act of 1888.

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