THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
--.. NORTH RIOINS
f "" : . > YORK
STORY OF THE SHIRE
FREDERICK W. HACKWOOD
Author of "Inns, Ales, and Drinking Customs
of Old England," "Old English Sports," die., dec.
"God gave all men all earth to love,
But since our hearts are small,
Ordained for each one spot should prove
Beloved above all."
HEATH CRANTON LIMITED
6, FLEET LANE, LONDON, B.C. 4
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
1. MAP OF ENGLAND AND WALES COUNTIES, COUNTY-
TOWNS, ETC. Frontispiece
2. LANDING OP THE JUTES 24
3. MAP OF ENGLAND ANGLO-SAXON KINGDOMS AND
DANISH DISTRICTS 79
4. A CASE OP APPEAL TO THE WITAN HI
5. LORD MAYOR'S PROCESSION IN CHEAPSIDE (1761) ... 120
6. TALLY STICKS AND TALLY BAG 134
7. JEW'S TALLYING 140
8. SHERIFF'S CARRIAGE AT COUNTY HALL 161
9. MEETING OF THE SHIRE MOOT 202
Shires, a Teutonic institution the Anglo-Saxon
The Jutes found Kent (445) given Thanet and
seize more territory.
The Saxons found Sussex (477) Wessex (495)
The Angles found East Anglia Deira Bernicia
and Mercia (586).
Process of consolidation begins with Northumbria
Bamborough and Edinburgh line of Northum-
brian kings succumbs to Wessex.
Diocese and kingdom co-terminous Durham, a
Strathclyde (or Cumbria) a Celtic kingdom from
the Mersey to the Clyde no line yet drawn between
England and Scotland.
Rise of Wessex master of the south-midlands.
All British influence gone Britons driven west-
ward then Wales cut off from Cornwall (577)
and from Cumbria (613) Severn Valley left to
Hwiccas (a mixed race).
The Bretwaldas rise and decline of Mercia the
triumph of Wessex a united England, 827 The
name " England."
Varying fortunes of contending kingdoms the
language of the Angles prevails Winchester, the
first capital the first shires.
The Welsh made servile if not expatriated
English shire system spreads into Scotland, Ire-
land, and Wales.
Englishman's mixed origin love of self-govern-
ment autonomy of the local unit the Anglian
ideal freedom rom a central control.
Individuality of the Shire value of local ex-
perience local independence the spirit of the
English constitution our common faith, " The
Liberty of the Subject." pp. 2336
8 ANALYTICAL CONTENTS
II. BRITISH TRIBAL AREAS.
Boundaries not constant Distribution at Roman
invasion The Trinobantes (Essex and Middlesex)
Iceni or Cenimagni (Norfolk and Suffolk) Segon-
tiaci (Hants and Berks) Ancalites (Berks and
Middlesex) Bibroci (Hants, Berks, Sussex, Surrey,
and part of Kent), Cassii (Herts, Beds, and Bucks)
and Cantii (Kent).
Two races Qoidels and Brythons (or Britons)
Goidels occupy the three western peninsulas
(Cumbria, Cambria, and Cornwall) except for a
wedge of the Ordovices in Mid- Wales the Demetse
and Silures in S. Wales the Damnonii in Cornwall
and Durotriges (Dorset and Somerset).
Coast-lands from Humber to Devon and inland as
far as Herts, Bucks, and Beds occupied by a race
distinct rom the western portions their civilisa-
tion higher probably a people of Belgic Gaul
while the Goidels of the west probably came from
West France or the North of Spam.
North country held by Brigantes flanked (Lan-
cashire) by Segantii and (Yorks) by Parisii West
Midlands occupied by Cornavii and East Midlands
by Coritani Thames Valley by Attrebates and
the sources by Dobuni the Cantii held Kent,
and the Regni Sussex the Belgse along the coast.
Cantium, the most civilised part the corn coun-
tries of the coast the wild tribes of interior the
descriptions of Diodorus and Strabo the Cornwall
tin ores conveyed to Vectis (PWight) no trace
of the Phoenicians.
A second century survey the Cantii (Kent)
Regni (Surrey and Sussex) Belgae (Hants, Wilts,
Somerset) Durotriges (Dorset) Iceni (Norfolk,
Suffolk, Cambs, and Hants) Coritani or Coritavi
(Northants, Leicester, Rutland, Derby, Notts
and Lincoln) and Parisii (S. E. Yorks) the
Catuvillani (PCassii) (Bucks, Beds, and Herts)
Attrebates (Berks) Dobuni (Oxon and Gloucester)
Brigantes (Northumbria) Voluntii (W. Lan-
cashire) Sestuni (Westmoreland and Cumberland)
also Jugantes and Cangi.
ANALYTICAL CONTENTS 9
Another Catalogue the Hedui (Somerset) the
Morini (Dorset) the Senones (Hants) the Rhemi
or Bibroci (Berks, Surrey and Sussex) the Attre-
bates (Surrey and Hants) the Cimbri (Devon)
and the Parisii (N.E. coast) duplicate names
attributable to foreign writers.
Belgic names that identify locality of origin Attre-
bates from Artois Cimbri from CambriUa Rhemi
from Rheims Senones from Sens Parisii from
Wales primitive tribes Ordovices (Flint, Denbigh,
Montgomery, Merioneth, Carnarvon and Anglesey)
Demetse (Cardigan, Carmarthen, Pembroke) Silures
(Hereford, Radnor, Brecon, Monmouth, and Glamor-
gan) Cornavii (Warwick, Worcester, Stafford,
Salop, and Chester).
Place-names betraying tribal locations -^Cantii in
Kent Iceni at Ickborough Bibroci at Bray
Cassii at Cashio Damnonii in Devon Durotriges
in Dorset Regni at Ringwood.
Tribal names and their meanings some heroic
tribesmen Boadicia of the Iceni Cymbeline of
the Trinobantes Cartismandua of the Brigantes
Caractacus of the Silures the names Coritavi,
Catuvillani, Attrebates, Cornavii. pp. 3746
III. BRITAIN DIVIDED INTO ROMAN
The first administrat've divisions were Roman
governed as one province by emperor's Viceregent
aided by a Procurator.
Divided into two provinces, A.D. 197 then into
four provinces special officers appointed from Rome
the " Saxon Shore." pp. 4750
IV ENGLAND DIVIDED INTO SHIRES.
" Shires " credited to Alfred not all in existence
at the Conquest first mentioned by Ina, 603 first
ealdorman mentioned by name, 757.
io ANALYTICAL. CONTENTS
Wessex comprised seven or eight shires advanced
its borders by settlements or divided its territory
among sub-reguli the relationship between eald-
orman and sub-regulus shires named after royal vills.
Mercia and Northumbria without an early shire
system ealdormen succeeding to sub-reguli
vassal kingdoms placed under duces and possibly
other units under ealdormen Mercia comprised
more than a dozen counties Monmouth not an
Hwiccia its extent a " Winchcombeshire " the
South Saxonia East Anglia first mention of Rut-
land earl or ealdorman ? or Danish " jarl ? "
a system of grouping the shires.
Northumbria ealdormen with a shire system
hereditary High-reeves mixed Anglo-Celtic race
Cumbria, a Celtic province.
A Writ of Parliament in 1275 mentions 37 counties
the three omitted and why the term
" Province " has no obvious meaning in England.
V. THE BORDER COUNTIES
Undetermined appropriation of Northumbria and
Strathclyde both under influence of Edward the
Elder Cumbria conquered by Edmund, and let on
military tenure to Scotland.
Northumbria divided into baronies and wards
Northumberland an earldom northern half, called
Lothian, acquired by Scotland (1018) Strathclyde
also added to Scotland the overlordship of Eng-
A united England and a united Scotland (1068)
Malcolm III. does homage to William I. for Cumber-
land Cumberland seized by Rufus a : ' New
Castle " Edinburgh made the capital.
Durham a Norman earldom devastation of the
northern counties by the Conqueror Northum-
berland scarcely English.
Northumberland, Durham and Westmoreland, re-
covered by Henry II the hereditary High Sheriffs
ANALYTICAL, CONTENTS n
of Westmoreland Scots king abandons claim to
Northumberland and Cumberland.
A line of demarcation in 1237 DU ^ border warfare
North of the border line the fortunes of Berwick
Lothian essentially English shire system intro-
duced into Scotland old territorial divisions pre-
vailed hi Celtic parts Galloway clans opposed to
shire authorities their tributary status.
VI. SCOTCH SHIRES.
While borders remain chaotic, the shire system
finds its way into the northern kingdom Gselicism
Scotland a confederation Pictland Galloway
Dalriada, or settlement of Irish Scots the Norse
settlement and the earldom of Caithness.
Three Gaelic elements the kingdom of Alban
(844) Highlands remain detached and semi-in-
dependent the seven Gaelic Mormaers the Norse
element of Caithness, Orkneys, and Hebrides.
David I. introduces Shire System (1124) Sheriff-
wicks, 1305 expediency of making office hereditary
or for life the number of sheriffs increased by
Scottish parliament and the shire system county
representation Orkneys and Shetlands, an in-
Cromwell's scheme of parliamentary representation
fixes a proportion between counties and burghs
in Scotland and groups the counties
" comm ssioners " or members to sit in the House
on " f urmes " method of Scotch representation
Scotch Sheriffs and their tenure. pp. 6468
VII. WELSH AND IRISH SHIRES.
From principalities to counties from hereditary
rulers to sheriffs.
Llewellyn's land formed into counties Flint as-
sociated with Chester.
12 ANALYTICAL CONTENTS
South Wales re-organised on shire system ancient
laws of Wales retained but modified
Henry VIII. divides Welsh Marches into shire
lands and legislates for uniformity with English
system disappearance of the Lord Marchers.
Shire divisions introduced into Ireland by Henry
II. the palatinates of Leinster, Meath, and Ulster
of Ormond and Desmond.
The " five obedient shires" of the Pale shire lands
extended hi Mary's reign the system completed
under James I. pp. 6973
VIII COUNTY NOMENCLATURE.
From a kingdom to a county eight examples
names related to points of the compass.
Counties named from clans eight examples legend
of " Debon's share."
Counties named from the chief town ancient
burghal centres Danish influence on place-names
waterside towns " South-umberland " towns at
"ford" or ' bridge:" as Oxford and Cam-
bridge Isle of Wight " Hamptonshire " and
Names from physical features woodland names
another legendary name.
Welsh county names Celtic name legends.
General principles of the naming county names
that do not bear the terminal "shire" county
by-names and short names exceptional spelling
and pronounciation. pp. 74 91
IX. THE SHIRES AS EARLDOMS.
The Ealdorman or Heretoga the Shire-reeve
old subject kingdoms as Earldoms their semi-
independence brought into subjection by the
Conqueror the Ealdormen also sometimes trouble-
Different status of Earl and Ealdorman the real
executive officer, the Sheriff supersedes both
Earl and Ealdorman.
ANALYTICAL CONTENTS 13
Ealdormen merged into Earls only four Ealdor-
men at the Conquest no titular Earls without
A double nomenclature Shire and County Earl
and Count disappearance of the title ' ' Count "
" Earl " loses territorial significance some county-
names reserved for royal princes others in the
peerage. pp. 9297
X. COUNTY ORGANISATION.
Difficulties of a centralized government met by
divisions and subdivisions influence of the church
" preost scyres " or parishes.
Division into Counties, Hundreds, and Tithings
Constitution of the Hundred northern and
southern differ much in area.
Bookland and Folk-land.
Other divisions than Hundred and Tithing as
Lathe or Leth of Roman origin Wapentake
due to Danish influences and of military origin
Rape, a Norman division.
Sokes Ridings natural boundaries.
Modern government subdivisions North, East and
West Ridings of Yorkshire- Holland, Kesteven,
and Lindsey in Lincolnshire East and West
Sussex East and West Suffolk Isle of Ely
Soke of Peterborough and Isle of Wight.
XLTHE SHIRE COURT AND OTHER
Saxon basis of society the Family influence of
local custom no uniform administration Shire
Moot held twice a year anciently judicial and
Sheriff's Court criminal jurisdiction the pro-
cesses of the Court Ordeal Compurgation the
Deman or " doomsman."
Delegated functions Hundred Courts, once a
month Tithing or Township Courts Tithing-man
or Head-borough presided intimate business of
14 ANALYTICAL CONTENTS
local moment dealt with from township to feudal
manor manorial courts attacked by Edward I.
rise of the Justices.
Hundred Courts their constitution influence of
the clergy the " wise men " or Witan National
Council or Parliament the element of county
representation "Hustings" or voting assembly.
From Folk Moot to Witan grouped Shires The
Shire Court at its zenith The first House of
Commons an expansion of the Shire Court Trial
by Jury also traced to Shire Court procedure.
XIL THE TOWNS.
Saxons not town-dwellers the growth and grading
of Towns county aid to walled towns ' ' entire
vflls " originally "one parish one tithing"
corporate towns market towns cities boroughs.
London a place apart of independent strength and
prestige the capital of the East Saxons Win-
chester being capital of West Saxons London given
authority over Middlesex long retained its Roman
London a city of privileges its first mayor first
Lord Mayor's Show the complexity of modern
local government. pp. 115 121
XIII." THE SHIRE MAN."
Administrative areas under deputed authority
the Ealdorman and a royal officer.
The Shire Man, Scir-gerefa, or Shire-reeve High
Reeves A constitutional officer whose office has
survived The King's Bailiff of the Shire annually
appointed by popular election.
In the north an heritable office heritable juris-
dictions abolished County Keepers.
Popular choice confirmed by royal approval
election superseded by Chancellor's nomination
Originally the Scir-gerefa an executive officer
afterwards a judicial officer President of the
Sheriff's Court judicial powers waned after ap-
pointment of Justices in Eyre and Justices of the
Origin of Trial by Jury local juries in Shire Courts.
Custos Comitatus the Sheriff's concern in
other county matters as revenue officer as mill-
Commander of the County forces The Fyrd or
national army Posse Comitatus how the levy
was raised its composition its character changed
by Feudai System baronial retainers differed
" livery and maintenance."
Decline of feudal levies Sheriff superseded by
Lord Lieutenant. pp. 122130
XIV. THE COUNTY ESCHEATOR.
From Witan to Great Council Exchequer Court
composition of fixed revenue.
The Escheator accounted for the Ferm of the
Shire" Sheriff-geld " Danegeld.
Finance reform after Conquest Sheriff as an
accountant business routine at the Exchequer
the Treasurer the "chequed" or chessboard
The tally system described abolished 1826
satirised by Charles Dickens.
The Treasury at Westminster the Exchequer in
session the Court of accounts Sheriff presumed
to be illiterate.
Shrievalties held by barons thesaurarial and
judicial functions of the Exchequer separated
importance of Sheriff's Office Statute of Sheriffs
appointments to be made by Chancellor become
annual scandals at the Exchequer (1389) a
change of sheriffs as a political barometer appeals
for money moved from Parliament to the County
Courts. pp. 131140
XV. THE KNIGHTS OF THE SHIRE
A connection between Shire Courts and the High
Court of Parliament the function of the County in
parliamentary representation "Wise Men" of
the Folk Moot continued after Heptarchy as Shire
Moot and a Superior Council set up.
16 ANALYTICAL, CONTENTS
Domesday practice of sending Commissioners to
consult Shire authorities local representatives
brought together by De Montfort original objects
purely financial 37 counties and many burghs
summoned by writ but always through the
Sheriffs not impeccable returning officers false
A democratic franchise a property qualification
set up comparative values of a " forty shilling
freehold " a restrictive franchise the influence
of large landowners.
As returning officer for boroughs and cities dis-
cretionary power as to enfranchisement of ' ' trading
towns " boroughs by prescription Writs of sum-
mons always to the Sheriffs who determined what
towns should send members some towns indiffer-
ent and represented only by the Knights of the
Reform Act of 1832 some counties divided into
two some given an additional member some
left unchanged with two members Welsh counties
retained one member each Scotch counties with
one member each and some with only alternate
The Union of 1801 two members to each Irish
county an election song of 1832 additional
Sheriffs to large counties in 1888. pp. 141 149
XVL THE HIGH SHERIFF.
Sheriffs of Condon and Middlesex still elected
High Sheriffs of counties nominated the ceremony
of the Law Courts on ' ' the morrow of St. Martin "
" pricking the Sheriffs " in February ensuing.
Sheriffs, the link between Shire Moot and Curia
the Chancellor presides at ceremony " Pocket
Sheriffs " objections to serve excuses considered
the judges' recommendations Rutland's ex-
A costly office -examples of systematised ex-
Clr'ef personal duty obligatory attendance on the
judges of Assize chief ministerial officer of the
Superior Courts to the extreme penalty of the
law during year of office may not act magisterially.
Decline in the importance of office duties vicari-
ously performed the Under Sheriff High Bailiff
of Hundreds Constables and petty officers
duties as Royal Bailiff " Sheriff's Posts."
XVII. THE ASSIZES AND THE COUNTY TOWNS.
Country divided into Circuits visited by Judges
as the King's representatives some ceremonial
has therefore to be observed.
Two Assize Courts the Crown Court and Nisi
Originally six circuits " justices in eyre " other
reforms effected through the Sheriffs Assizes
restrained to their own shires by Magna Charta.
The old circuits prior to 1830 Welsh circuits added,
1831 circuit alterations in 1863.
Now there are eight circuits the Northern the
North-Eastern the Midland the Oxford the
Western the South-Eastern the North Wales
and the South Wales The position of London
Four Assizes for all Circuits but not for every
Assize-town certain groupings found inconvenient
smaller Assize-towns may be deprived of the
Old-time Assize-towns "Maiden Assizes"
judges sent as commissioners " gaol deliveries."
XVIII. THE LORD LIEUTENANT OF THE
A military officer, tempo. Henry VIII. also Gustos
Ro'ulorum Sheriff superseded in military
matters but retains precedency.
An emergency officer superseding Commissioners
of Array the earliest known appointment with
the duties set forth instructions as to " armour
i8 ANALYTICAL CONTENTS
From " Commissions of Array" to Commissions
of Lieutenancy " the Militia formerly officered
by Lord Lieutenant responsibility for Militia
Status of Lord Lieutenant Deputy Lieutenants.
pp. 169 176
XIX. SHIRE BOUNDARIES.
Boundaries variously marked meeting-places of
three counties " hoarstones."
Rectification of county boundaries "foreign"
areas Ely Place Holborn, as part of Cambridge-
shire a list of out-lying territories consolidated,
1846 Kent and Essex once mixed up.
Pseudo-Shires Norhamshire Islandshire Bed-
lingtonshire Hexhamshire Bamboroughshire
Hallamshire Richmondshire Allertonshire .
XX. COUNTIES CORPORATE AND COUNTIES
Every part of realm in some county territories
that are " counties corporate " by royal grant in
theory, though not in practice, on same footing as
the other counties legal constitution of a county
corporate a tendency to disregard this special
status in parliamentary areas.
Nineteen old towns so distinguished London,
Bristol, York, Lincoln, Norwich, Newcastle, Hull,
Nottingham, Southampton, Coventry, Canterbury,
Haverfordwest, Gloucester, Chester, Exeter, Lich-
field, Poole, Carmarthen and Worcester.
Berwick-on-Tweed its peculiar status geo-
graphical counties which include these privileged
areas Welsh and Irish examples.
Three counties palatine Ely erroneously included
origin of privileged status their superior courts.
Legal definition of a palatinate when instituted
derivation of term ' ' palatine " the privilege
of an independent and almost regal jurisdiction.
ANAI.YTICAI, CONTENTS 19
The Palatinates of Chester of Durham and of
Lancaster Ely, formerly a royal franchise, is now
vested in the Crown.
Two ancient palatinates, Pembrokeshire and Hex-
hamshire all now deprived of ancient honours
by enactments. pp. 185 194
XXI COUNTY SESSIONS, COUNTY COUNCILS
AND COUNTY COURTS.
Two inferior courts Quarter Sessions with criminal
jurisdictions County Courts for civil business
a relic of the Shire Moot decline of Sheriff's power
rise of the Justices who were once elected but
now nominated by the Crown.
County committed largely to the Justices' care
Justices' duties, Appellate and Original.
Sessions quarterly the Chairman or Recorder
procedure satirised the Coroner.
Quarter Sessions a spending authority but un-
representative reform called for many proposals
for re-constituted County Boards.
Elective County Councils substituted, 1888 diffi-
culties of financing Countryside government.
The County Borough sixty-four large towns inde-
pendent of the County government London
A Standing Joint Committee for control of Police.
The County Court quite modern civil juris-
diction simple and inexpensive.
The Stannary Courts of Duchy of Cornwall The
Cinque Ports. pp. 195205
XXII. THE GEOGRAPHICAL COUNTIES.
Four Northern Counties poor land, rich coal-
fields lakes and mountains.
Counties of the Humber Basin great Yorkshire
Notts of old romance Derbyshire, the English
Switzerland, Leicestershire on the Central Plain
Staffordshire of the twin coalfields.
20 ANALYTICAL CONTENTS
Ribble and Mersey Basins Lancashire, the richest
coal-cellar in England Cheshire, the salt-cellar of
West-midland Counties Salop, merging into Wales
Worcester's rich valleys Warwick, ' ' the heart
of England " Gloster's grazing grounds Hereford
and the beautiful Wye Monmouth, ' ' the English
Welsh " county.
East-midland Counties fenny Lincolnshire little
Rutland low-lying Huntingdon Bedford and
' ' the slow-winding Ouse ' ' Cambridgeshire and
the Isle of Ely" The Bedford Level."
East Anglia Norfolk Broads Suffolk pastures.
Thames Basin Middlesex and Essex on lower
reaches pleasant Hertfordshire Bucks and the
Vale of Aylesbury Berks and the Vale o; the
White Horse Surrey, Kent, and the North
Southern Counties Weald of Sussex Hampshire,
"the county of Downs" Wilts and Salisbury
Plain chalky Dorset.
South West Corner diversified Somerset Lovely
Devonshire Cornwall, the county which is as
North Wales Anglesey, the Island County Car-
narvon and Snowdonia Denbigh in ' ' Wild
Wales " Montgomery and Flint and their
mineral resources Merioneth, and the Alsatia of
South Wales Cardigan and its sweeping bay-
Pembroke, "Little England beyond Wales "
sparsely populated Radnor and Brecon busy
Glamorganshire Carmarthen, the largest Welsh
Aid to memorising the county names, pp. 206 219
XXIII. SHIRE "PROVINCIALISM."
The Man from the Shires the Home Counties
A Shire horse.
County separateness north and south very distinct
from each other the northern harshness.
Line of demarcation Mercia, the ethnological
dividing line dialect differences. pp. 220 223
ANALYTICAL CONTENTS 21
XXIV. COUNTY ATTRIBUTES AND
The traditional Yorkshireman his coat of arms
County nicknames county comparisons in rhyme
Cheshire cats Lincolnshire bag-pipes Wilt-
shire moonrakers Derbyshire wise Hertfordshire
kindness Stafford law. the Bailiff of Bedford.
County pet names The Home Shire Woody
Warwick Breezy Berks High Suffolk Norfol-
cian Goose-greens Beechy Bucks Little Rutland
Nottingham dukeries the Shire of Sea-kings
Middlesex, rural London.
The Delectable Duchy legend of Lyonesse Som-
erset, most English of counties Dorset the heart
Cheshire, the gateway of N. Wales some character-
istics of Welsh counties.
Staffordshire blue Kentish fire lore and legend
of Kent Men of Kent and Kentish Men the tailed
men of Kent the real Dickens' county.
The pride of county productiveness the various
products for which certain counties have acquired
wide reputation. pp. 224 242
XXV. COUNTY PATRIOTISM AND COUNTY
County feasts Devon and Cornwall clannish
Sussex pride in the Cinque Ports.
County rivalries Worcestershire v. Gloucester-
shire Cornwall v. Devon Cheshire v. Staffordshire.
Essex lions the Cinderella county its boasts
Self sufficiency in local custom varying weights
and measures Troy Weight and Avoirdupois.
XXVI. COUNTY BADGES.
A county, having no corporate existence, was not
entitled to bear arms spurious arms generally of
chief town or some distinguished earl County
22 ANALYTICAL CONTENTS
Popular emblems of Kent Lancashire Yorkshire
County cognisances suggested by Mr. Alfred
Michael Drayton's county heraldry for Warwick-
shire Worcestershire Herefordshire Stafford-
shire Salop Derbyshire and their legends.
The battle streamers at Agincourt distinguishing
the county bands.
The Welsh battle standards. pp. 251262
XXVII. THE COUNTY FAMILY.
A power in the land officially recognised in the
organisation of the new Territorial army.
The county dignitaries how county families are
founded old landed families and the new industrial
"County society" exclusiveness "the county
Noble families. pp. 263268
The story of the English Shires begins with the
Anglo-Saxon invasion ; for the County, as we
know it, is a peculiarly Teutonic institution.
The Saxon Heptarchy is only a phrase ; as a
matter of historic fact the Norse invaders
established more than seven kingdoms here.
The first was Kent, founded in 445 by two chiefs
or ealdormen from Jutland, Hengist and Horsa,
who came at the invitation of the civilized
Britons to fight in alliance with them against the
barbarous Picts of Scotland, and the equally
troublesome Scots of Ireland.
The alliance was successful in its primary object,
and the Jutes received the Isle of Thanet as their
reward. Quarrels ensued between the new
comers and their allies, who a few years later
swarmed across the Wantsum, undertaking a war
of conquest in which the original inhabitants were
either slaughtered or dispossessed, the whilom
rovers of the sea settling down on the land with
their families and all their national institutions.
This process, it may be noted, was repeated at
each subsequent irruption.
Legend hath it that the Jutes also made a
descent on the Isle of Wight, and that the mainland
opposite fell into the hands of Hengist Hengist-
bury Head on the coast of Hants marks one of
the natural ' ' gateways of England " used by
the early raiders, Teutonic and Danish.
24 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
In the year 477 an expedition of Saxons, in-
habitants of Holstein, set out under the chief-
tain Ella, and succeeded in establishing themselves
in Sussex, by capturing the fortress of Anderida,
near Pevensey, the most thoroughly Romanised
part of Britain. Eighteen years later another
Saxon force, led by Cedric and Cynric, passed up
Southampton Water, and founded the kingdom
The East Saxons landed in Essex, in the
valleys of the Colne and Stour, captured Col-
chester, but could make little or no headway, a
great forest (of which Epping and Hainault are
remnants) hemming them in, just as the con-
querors of Kent were cut off from the west by the
impenetrable belt of the Andredweald forest, the
same barrier which also limited the kingdom
of Sussex to a narrow strip of coast land.
A third Teutonic tribe, the Angles of Schleswig,
then joined in the migration. They came in
several great hordes, the main division under
Uffa descending on the east coast and establishing
the kingdom of East Anglia. One band settled
in Suffolk, another in Norfolk, while a third sailed
up the Witham to Lincoln where their settlement
became known as Lindesey (Lindis-waras, " the
dwellers near Lindum "). Almost from the first
these settlers overflowed into Cambridge.
Previous to this another horde had landed at
Holderness, north of the Humber, and in less than
half a century had made themselves masters of all
Yorkshire, founding the kingdom of Deira.
Still further north, a fifth horde of enterprising
Ang es, under Ida, " the flame-bearer," sailed up
the Forth to the site of Edinburgh, and conquered
a large territory which became the kingdom of
Bernicia, having the mighty coast fortress of
Bamborough (called after Bebba, Ida's wife) as its
The last party of invaders, also Angles, made
their descent under a leader named Cridda, in 586,
and finding the coastlands already appropriated,
pushed their way up the Trent into the heart
of the country, overran the northern and western
midlands, where they founded a kingdom called
Mercia, that is, the land of the mere, or march ;
thus completing the Conquest begun from Wessex
by Ceawlin in 577.
This, which was the eighth and last kingdom
of the Heptarchy, lay between the Thames and
the Humber, and constituted the mere or boundary
between the English and the free unconquered
Britons of Wales.
Before the close of the sixth century, the pro-
cess of consolidation had commenced it began
with the Angles of the northern territories.
The country between the Humber and the Tees
was erected into the kingdom of Deira in 560 ;
the portion north of the Tees was established as a
kingdom in 547, by Ida, both territories being
eventually united with the name of Northumbria
under one monarch.
Northumbria stretched almost from the Trent
to the Forth, when its mother-town Bamborough,
was in the heyday of its pristine strength and
King Ida's Castle, huge and square.
It was ' ' Ida the flame-bearer " flames for
the houses and churches, the barns and the
steadings who led the fierce Northumbrians
across the land, almost to the walls of Chester,
while the vanquished Britons retired to their
fastnesses in the Pennine Hills. And soon after
26 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
this, Edinburgh was founded by Edwin, and the
Northumbrian kingdom flourished mightily.
From Ida, first king of Bernicia (547) and
Ella, first king of Deira (560) there were seven
short-reigned rulers till 593, when the two states
were united under Ethelfrith, first king of North-
umbria. Then came Edwin, after whose reign
the provinces were again divided, to be re-united
temporarily in 634 under Oswald. In 634 Oswy
began to reign as ninth king of Bernicia, and
when Adelwald, fourth king of Deira died in 670,
he seized the empty throne and became fourth
king of Northumbria. After its twenty-first
king had reigned some twenty years, Northumbria
became subject to Wessex, and ceased to have a
With the advent of Christianity, a missioner,
having converted a Saxon king, was allowed to
set up his bishop's stool in the capital, and thus
it came about that each original diocese was co-
terminous with an ancient kingdom.
Durham, in origin and history, stands unique,
in that its ancient boundaries do not preserve the
rough outline of a kingdom, or any other area
of civil government. Durham is a bishop's
shire, a diocese made into a county, with the
bishop paramount in all things. When the
heathen Danes destroyed the religious settlements
on the sacred isle of I^indisfarn, the relics of the
good St. Cuthbert were carried away, and for
safety eventually deposited at Durham.
And after many wanderings past
He chose his lordly seat at last
Where his cathedral huge and vast
Looks down upon the Wear.
Durham, a noble site upon a bold, rocky pro-
montory, enfolded by the winding river, became
at once a temple and a fortress. To this trans-
ferred shrine the Northumbrians paid all their
reverence, brought all their offerings. By degrees
the new settlement became supreme over all the
country round ; grants from kings and thanes
confirmed the authority of the bishop.
Let it be understood that the present line of
demarcation between England and Scotland had
no existence. On the eastern side the Anglican
kingdom of Northumbria stretched from the
Humber to the Forth ; on the western side, the
British kingdom of Strath-clyde (or Cumbria,
south of Hadrian's Wall) reached from the Mersey
to the Clyde, with Dumbarton as its capital.
When the Romans left the island, the tribes
occupying the country between the two walls had
formed themselves into the kingdom of Strath-
clyde. This state comprised (on the north side
of the present border) the counties of Ayr, Lanark,
Renfrew, and parts of Dumbarton, Stirling, and
The belated definition of the northern counties
naturally arose from the later period at which it
was attempted to fix a line of demarcation be-
tween a united England and a united Scotland.
Of which, more anon. In the meantime we
return to the Saxon kingdoms of the South.
When London, the richest and most populous
sea-port, was attacked and occupied, is not pre-
cisely known? probably about 568. The West
Saxons had extended themselves from Hampshire
to Gloucestershire, overrun Wiltshire, Oxfordshire,
Berkshire, and the valley of the Severn, almost
reaching Chester ; after storming the huge fortress
of Old Sarum, they destroyed Silchester which
commanded the road to London, and suddenly
found themselves at Wimbledon face to face with
28 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
the Jutes of Kent, who had edged their way west-
ward between the forest and the Thames. A
battle ensued, the Kentish men were forced back,
and the West Saxons remained masters of the
British influence largely disappeared in the
mastered territories, those who escaped death
fleeing to their brethren in Cornwall or Wales.
A line drawn along the Pennine chain to Derby-
shire, through the forest of Arden to the mouth
of the Severn, and thence to Southampton,
marked the limits of the Teuton conquest up to the
year 600. All west of that line remained British.
For with each successive wave of the incoming
Teutons, the Celts had retired further before them,
taking refuge in the more mountainous regions
of the west in Wales, Cornwall, and Cumberland.
The main body of the British in Wales were cut
off from their brethren in Cornwall by the West
Saxons in 577 ; in 613 the Northumbrians broke
through the British march, fought their way to
Chester and thus cut them off from the northern
section in Cumbria. It was a great battle in
577 at Deorham, near Bath, which cut off the two
principal British settlements from each other,
after which the West Saxons left the lower Severn
valley to the tribe of Hwiccas, working their way
up the Avon into Warwickshire. The Hwiccas
may possibly have been an outlying tribe of the
West Saxons who had intermarried with the
British ; when the see of Worcester was founded,
the Bishop was to be designated ' ' Bishop of the
Hwiccas/' and his diocese included the counties
of Worcester and Gloucester, together with some
of the adjacent district. At the outset there were
nine or ten Saxon kingdoms ; Middlesex soon
ceased to exist, and Deira and Bernicia were
generally governed by one ruler as Northumbria.
The pure Saxons established themselves into the
three kingdoms of Essex, Sussex, and Wessex ;
these afterwards federated under a Bretwalda,
or " Wielder of the British," chosen from one of
their kings. From a ducal Bretwalda, to a sole
king of all the united sub-kingdoms, was but a
step in political progression.
The rank of Bretwalda arose out of the need for
a common leader against the Britons, Picts, and
Scots. The first was Ella of Sussex, the second
Ceawlin of Wessex, and the third, Ethelbert
of Kent, the King who was converted to Chris-
tianity in 597 by St. Augustine.
The next Bretwalda was Redwald, king of East
Anglia ; the fifth and greatest was Edwin, whose
authority was acknowledged by all the Anglo-
Saxons, except those of Kent.
Edwin fell in battle, fighting against Penda,
the pagan king of Mercia ; who in turn was defeated
and slain by Oswy, king of Northumbria, and
sixth Bretwalda, in 656. Then Mercia, successful
against the Britons of the west, became the
leading state, uniting under its standard East
Anglia, Essex, Kent, and for a while also Wessex.
Ethelbald of Mercia, in a charter of the year 736
calls himself ' ' King of Britain." After the death
of Offa, king of Mercia, the builder of a dyke from
the Dee to the Wye, to keep back the Welsh,
Mercia began to decline.
*To Wessex was reserved the achievement of
bringing all the Anglo-Saxon states under one
crown. Egbert, eighth Bretwalda, wrested from
Mercia the tributary kingdoms of Kent and
Sussex, took under his protection the revolted
East Anglians, and completely overthrew Mercia.
To all these Egbert granted the power of electing
30 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
kings tributary to himself, and soon after received
the submission of Northumbria on the same
footing. By 827 the country was virtually
united, the minor kingdoms having merged their
identity into that of Wessex, so that Egbert
styled himself " King of the English."
Varying fortunes of the contending kingdoms
altered their boundaries from time to time, and
even their number, as the more powerful absorbed
their smaller neighbours. The Jutes (or Goths)
were the first comers, though the less numerous
of the three invading tribes. The Angles came
in such hordes that they completely evacuated
their native land, and left it uninhabited.
Though in the end a Saxon kingdom prevailed,
it was the dialect of the Angles, who had filled
the middle of the country, which came to be used.
It is indeed remarkable that while the people
of the entire south called themselves Saxon as
witness the names Essex, Sussex, Middlesex,
Wessex they never called themselves in literature
or records by the name Seaxisc, but always
It is now disputed that the name of this country
was elementally " the land of the Angles.'* It
is contended that the word England was derived
from the nature or character of the country in-
habited by them.
The root of the name is given as ' ' Enge,"
the Norse name for a meadow. Until the latter
half of the tenth century the southern parts of
England were known as Wessex, Essex, Sussex,
Middlesex. Freeman in his ' ' Norman Conquest "
(Vol. I) writes : ' ' Indeed England itself was hardly
a geographical name. Enghalaland is a late form,
scarcely found before the Danish Conquest. The
common name for the land is the name of the
people Angel-cyn " in other words, the meadow-
When the Norsemen overran and conquered
England in the tenth and eleventh centuries they
were struck by the extent and richness of the
pasture-lands of Yorkshire and Central England,
and called it Enge-land, that is, meadow-land.
The confusion of Enge-land with Angle-land
may have arisen from the fact that the district
so-named was really occupied by Anglians. For
till then the Angles and the Saxons had really
stood apart, and remained distinct from each
other, the former holding the north and the east,
the latter occupying the south and the west.
The Angles were the first to produce a cultivated
book-speech, which accomplishment so excited
the admiration of their southern neighbours that
they emulated the Anglian example, and the
common language which emerged came to be
called Englisc, after the inventors of it.
It was 400 years from the first Teutonic invasion
to the foundation of a united England ; Winchester
was adopted by Egbert as its capital, although
Alfred recognised the greater importance of
The original Saxon capital retained its position
till after the Conquest, and Henry II was crowned
at Winchester, although by this time I^ondon was
fast superseding it as a court residence, and the
seat of governmental functions. But no capital,
wherever situated, could make its voice articulate
or its authority felt, till the relationships of all
tributary and subordinate territories had been
placed on a definite footing.
When the Heptarchy was merged into one united
kingdom under Egbert in 827, few of the hep-
tarchical divisions, as Essex and Sussex, became
32 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
counties at once, while the rest of them, as will be
seen, were in due time divided up till they con-
stituted the forty English shires as we know them
to-day. Wales being unconquered territory, was
left out of this arrangement for a long period, even
after its conquest by Edward I.
The arrogant attitude which the Anglo-Saxon
conquerors assumed towards the original owners
of the soil, is amusingly illustrated by the name
by which they designated their victims. Having
first unceremoniously dispossessed the Britons of
their lands, the intruders dubbed them Wealas
that is, ' ' strangers " and as Wealas, or Welsh,
they are to this day known in the land which was
once their own.
Unquestionably a large native population must
have been left in the conquered portion, and these
would appear to have been gradually absorbed by
their conquerors ; the majority of these no doubt
in a servile position, and all of them in close sub-
A careful study of English Place-names dis-
poses of a theory, once so largely held, of the
original equality of the early inhabitants. It em-
phasises, too, the character of the first Anglo-
Saxon forms of land tenure, and seems to indicate
the early existence of a type of agrarian com-
munity from which the manorial system was
As the story of the shires unrolls itself, it will
be recognised as the manifestation of the English-
man's genius for local self-government. The
shire system of England spread at a comparatively
early period into Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.
At various later periods we get sprinklings of
other peoples. The Norman Conquest brought
in a mixed multitude from the continent : the wars
of Stephen's reign introduced a numerous body
of Flemings who were by Henry II. settled in
Wales ; and a little later a still larger body of the
same people were brought in by the commercial
views of Edward III. and located as cloth- workers
in Kent and the eastern counties.
However mixed the Englishman's origin may
have been ; and notwithstanding that De Foe
has said that
With easy pains you may distinguish
Your Roman, Saxon, Danish, Norman- English
all these varying elements have modified but very
slightly the national character, the dominant
feature of which, from the day our first Teuton
ancestor landed, has been a love of liberty and a
passion for self-government. And this has
always been expressed in the autonomony of the
Though various races have contributed to
populate this island, the chief contribution, made
well within the historic period, is from a Teutonic
source ; large colonies of the Saxons and Jutes
establishing themselves from Kent to Devonshire,
and the Angles (subsequently the Normans also)
from the Thames to the Tweed. It is the Tue-
tonic ideal of self-government that has always
The Romans, who occupied the country more as
a permanent garrison than as a body of colonising
settlers, are altogether a negligible element. By
the Danes or Norsemen a very considerable con-
tribution was made ; but in many characteristics
they were scarcely dissimilar from the Saxon
settlers with whom they freely mingled and inter-
34 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
Throughout the centuries, whatever people or
race have found their way to the shores of this
country, to remain here and " dwell within the
gates " with us, have inevitably been absorbed
and assimilated into the nation ; finding here
A land of settled government
A land of just and old renown
Where Freedom broadens slowly down
From precedent to precedent.
And not the least remarkable feature in our
national life has been the self-assertion expressed
in our settled form of local government, which has
always enjoyed comparative freedom from the
thralldom of a central authority.
The tendency for centuries has been for each
shire to exploit its own vitality, to cherish its own
traditions. Everywhere local patriotism and
civic independence have gone hand in hand,
the operation of the shire system tending towards
variation and individuality, and not to that dreary
uniformity of social life which robs it of half its
strength. It was surely the characteristic in-
eptitude of a centralised bureaucracy that, during
the recent great World War, neglected to take
advantage of the ardent spirit of territorialism,
and allowed the War Office to recruit a Lancashire
regiment with Cockneys, and to draft Dorset
men into a regiment of Borderers !
No topographer can afford to ignore the subtle
yet unmistakeable characteristics of the counties
which set them apart from each other. In the
old days each county was a little kingdom, and
all outside it was ' ' foreign."
The march of progress and easier communica-
tions are fast obliterating these distinctions, but
as nature is in them as well as man, and as parts
of remote rural England have not altered so
enormously since Domesday, many remain to
rejoice theUrue topographer, who knows that in
the country little things go a long way back and
A disposition to reverse the practice of centuries,
and to centralise the whole government of the
country in London, as that of France is in Paris,
first began to manifest itself here in the latter half
of the nineteenth century. The result has been
described as " the chaos of local government."
As early as 1888, the Rt. Hon. Joseph Chamber-
lain, while at the L,ocal Government Board,
diagnosed the evil with statesmanlike sagacity,
and strenuously opposed any addition to the
controlling powers of his department had he
not been himself trained in the school of local
politics ? The truth has since come home to
other statesmen, particularly in the education
department, that it is better to rely on local ex-
perience than to enforce a national uniformity.
Everywhere bureaucracy has been a failure, and
happily the tendency now is to go back to the good
old English custom and " trust the people."
The policy of the future will be the policy of the
past to increase the functions of local authorities,
to co-operate with them, and to free them from
the shackles of centralisation.
English freedom, liberty of thought, liberty of
speech, liberty of action, the freedom of English
institutions, are not a little attributaole to its
ancient system of local independence. It was
an organisation by which each locality became
as a matter of course, lively and articulate.
This is the spirit of the English constitution,
says that patriot statesman, Edmund Burke
and i he was speaking of that same spirit carried
across the Atlantic to the new States then arising
36 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
in the far west ' which, infused through the
mighty mass, pervades, feeds, unites, invigorates,
vivifies every part of the empire, even down to
the minutest member."
' ' The sovereign authority of the country," says
the orator, is kept by " the chosen race of the
sons of England," wherever they make their home,
as a sacred temple consecrated to their common
faith the Liberty of the Subject.
BRITISH TRIBAL AREAS.
Before entering upon the story of the shires,
it may not be out of place to make a digression
here, in order to obtain some faint idea of the
divisions into which this country was apportioned
among its earlier inhabitants, the Ancient Britons.
Even in those primitive times, when the surface
of the country was nearer the earth's primeval
state of dense woods, impervious marshes, and
undrained fenland, political boundaries did not
remain constant. This fact becomes apparent
when we find the various writers upon whom we
depend for our knowledge of those far-away times,
giving different lists of the tribal areas of the
Ancient Britons. We have to remember they
wrote at different periods.
When the Romans came to this country, just
before the Christian era, they found it in the pos-
session of a Celtic population akin to the Gauls
of France, and like them split into numerous
tribes, the mass of the people in a state of serf-
dom, the slaves of two dominant classes, the
priests (called Druids) and the chiefs of military
After the termination of the first hostilities,
treaties of agreement had to be made with the
Trinobantes of Middlesex and Essex, whose young
chief was restored (as a Roman tributary) to the
sovereignty which had been usurped by Cassive-
launus, the talented leader who had led the Britons
38 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
against the Roman invaders, and whose capital
was probably St. Albans, in the territory of the
Cassii, a Belgic tribe, probably the same as the
' Catycuchlani " of Ptolemy.
Another city of Romano-British origin in this
part of the country was that near Basingstoke
in Hampshire, called by the Britons Cser-Segant,
and by the Romans Segantiaci ; afterwards it
was known to the Saxons as Silchester.
The example of the Trinobantes was immediately
followed by other tribes ; the Iceni or Cenimagni
(of Norfolk and Suffolk), the Segontiaci (Hamp-
shire and Berkshire), the Ancalites (Middlesex
and Berkshire), the Bibroci (Hampshire, Berk-
shire, Sussex, Surrey and East Kent), and the
Cassii (of Hertford, Bedford, and Buckingham).
All these bargained for protection against the
aggressive Cassivelaunus, whose kingdom centred
in Hertfordshire. Julius Csesar was thus master
of a considerable territory, which completely
surrounded the country of the Cantii (Kent),
where he had first landed. And if we are to
accept Shakespeare as an authority
Kent, in the commentaries of Caesar writ,
Is termed the civillest place of all this isle.
(Henry VI. Part 2).
The Celts had come to Briton in two separate
bodies, and at two different periods. No one can
say when the first horde, known as the Goidels,
crossed from the Continent, but certainly cen-
turies before the Brythons or Gauls, who when
they arrived later drove them westward.
When the Romans appeared on the scene, the
Goidels were found occupying the three western
peninsulas of England, the Cambrian, the Cum-
brian and the Cornish, except for a wedge driven
in between North Wales and South Wales by a
BRITISH TRIBAL AREAS 39
Brythonic tribe called the Ordovices. South
Wales was occupied by the Demetse and the
Silures (the latter extending at first from the Dee
to the Wye) and the Cornish peninsula by the
Damnonii, having on their inland or north-eastern
borders the Durotriges, whose territory stretched
from the Bristol Channel to the Isle of Wight
within the well-defined limits of the Mendips and
the River Stour.
It is quite clear the island was inhabited by
two distinct races, differing perhaps to- some ex-
tent in language as well as in manners. The
coast-lands extending from the Humber to Devon-
shire, and stretching inland as far as the modern
counties of Hertford, Buckingham, and Berks,
were occupied by the tribes who had last crossed
from the continent and driven the aboriginal in-
habitants westward. They were distinguished
by a much higher civilization* they had perman-
ent habitations, while the others wandered all
over the interior, and the western highlands,
driving their flocks and herds before them.
It may be accepted that the southern and eastern
parts of England derived the main portions of
their population from Belgic Gaul, while the
western districts and Wales were probably
peopled from the west of France and the north of
Spain. The earliest peoples of both Ireland and
Scotland may also have been originally Belgic.
Northward of the Tyne wandered the Maetse, and
north of them the Caledonii, together known as
It will be seen that practically the whole
of England proper was held by the various
tribes of Brythons (otherwise Britons), the
north central part, stretching from the sources
of the Trent to the mouth of the Tweed,
40 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
being inhabited by the Brigantes, who were
flanked on the Lancashire coast by the
Segantii, and on the Yorkshire coast by the
Parisii. Eastward of the Ordovices, the Midlands
were occupied by the Cornavii, divided by the
Trent from the Coritani whose territory stretched
thence to the Wash. East Anglia, we have seen,
was held by the Iceni, Essex by the Trinobantes,
and west of these were the Catuvillani. The
Thames valley was occupied by the Attrebates,
and between the sources of that river and the'
left bank of the Severn came the Dobuni. Kent
was the country of the Cantii, divided by the
Forest of Anderida from the Regni. Lastly,
along the south coast came the Belgse whom
Caesar distinctly says differed in language and
customs from the Celtae.
As already noted the most civilized of all were
the people of Cantium (Kent), whose manners
bore strong resemblance to those of their Gallic
neighbours. The maritime districts were essen-
tially corn countries, agriculture having been in-
troduced by the Belgic settlers. The wild tribes
of the interior did not till the soil, but lived on
milk and flesh and clothed themselves with skins.
Cattle were abundant, though the art of making
cheese was unknown. All the Britons stained
themselves with a blue dye made from woad,
to give them a more terrible aspect in battle ; they
wore their hair long, and shaved every part of the
body but the head and upper lip.
The Goidels or aboriginal Celts were tall of
stature and corpulent, but not well made. They
practised polygamy. Their dwellings were tem-
porary establishments formed in the forest by
inclosing a space with felled trees, within which
they made huts of reeds and logs, and sheds for
BRITISH TRIBAL AREAS 41
the cattle, ' ' not intended to remain long " says
Diodorus Siculus, the Roman historian. Those
who practised agriculture, he describes as gathering
the corn, storing it up in the stalk in thatched
houses, out of which ' ' they plucked the old ears
from day to day, and used them to make their
Strabo, the geographer, informs us that those
who lived near the Bolerian promontory (the
Bands' End, Cornwall), were more polished in
manners, and hospitable to strangers, to whom
they were more accessible than those of the interior
since they had some small intercourse with the
outer world by sea.
Both authors quoted describe the country as for
the most part flat and very woody, with ' ' many
strong places on the hills."
The produce consisted of corn and cattle, gold,
silver, and iron, with skins, slaves, and dogs of a
superior breed for the chase. The inhabitants
of Cornwall worked mines of tin, and showed
skill in preparing the ore, which they conveyed
to Vectis (? Wight) where it was purchased by
merchants who transported it to Gaul.
The Isle of Wight was called by the British
Guict, signifying "divorced" or "separated,"
from which arose the appellation of Vectis, or
' separated region," for this island. In the days
of Diodorus it was only disjoined from the main-
land by the tide, and was united to it sufficiently
at the ebb, by a gravelly isthmus, to allow carts
of tin to pass over it.
Whatever there was of British intercourse with
the outer world, there exists not a scrap of
evidence, linguistic or other, of the presence of the
Phoenecians in Britain at any time. The tin of
the Damnonian peninsula certainly found its way
42 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
to the continent, it may have been through the
Isle of Wight, though not improbably via the
Isle of Thanet.
A survey made by a Roman geographer about
the beginning of the second century, shows Kent
still occupied by the influential Cantii ; Sussex
and Surrey by the Regni ; Hampshire, Wiltshire,
and Somersetshire by the Belgae ; Devon and
Cornwall by the Damnonii ; Dorset by the Durot-
riges ; Middlesex and Essex by the Trinobantes ;
Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridge, and Huntingdon
by the Iceni ; Northampton, Leicester, Rutland,
Derby, Notts, and Lincoln by the Coritani or
Coritavi ; while the south-eastern portion of
Yorkshire was held by the Parisii.
Between the tribes last enumerated, in the
counties of Buckingham, Bedford, and Hertford,
lay the tribe called the Catuvellani, another name
for the Cassii, or a division of it. In Berkshire,
west of these, were the Attrebates, and still further
west in Oxon and Gloucester, were the Dobuni.
Coming to the interior of the land and north-
ward, the extensive district, difficult of approach
on account of mountain and wood, reaching from
the Humber and Mersey to the present borders
of Scotland, was occupied by the Brigantes, be-
lieved to be the original inhabitants of the country.
This powerful and predatory tribe included several
smaller ones ; the Voluntii occupied the west of
Lancashire, and the Sestunii inhabited Westmore-
land and Cumberland. The Jugantes and the
Cangi, on the shores of the Irish sea, belonged to,
or were dependent on, the Brigantes.
A later writer gives a list of the Belgic colonists
who settled in the south-eastern portion of the
country, associating the Hedui with the locality
of Somersetshire, the Morini with Dorset, the
BRITISH TRIBAL AREAS 43
Senones with Hampshire, the Rhemi (probably
another name for the Bibroci) with Berks, Sussex,
and Surrey, the Attrebates with a strip of terri-
tory stretching from Surrey into Hants, the
Cimbri with the borders of Devon, and the Parisii
with the north-east coast. Some of these names
we have noted before ; those that are new are
probably duplicates, or the names of subdivisions.
Anyway it should be remembered that all these
names were conferred on the various tribes by
foreigners and strangers to them.
But it is interesting to trace in the names of
some of these Belgic tribes the localities on the
continent with which they were originally
identified. The Attrebates came from the region
of Artois, the Cimbri from Cambrilla, the Rhemi
from Rheims, the Senones from Sens, and the
Parisii from Paris. Place-names do occasionally
yield evidence in this way of the migratory move-
ments of a people.
Wales continued to be inhabited by its primitive
population. The northern counties of Flint
Denbigh, Montgomery, Merioneth, and Caernarvon,
with the island of Anglesey (then called Mona),
was the territory of the Ordovices. The south-
western counties, Cardigan, Carmarthen, and
Pembroke were held by the Demetse ; while the
still more celebrated tribe of the Silures occupied
the modern counties of Hereford, Radnor, Breck-
nock, Monmouth, and Glamorgan. Between
these and the Brigantes lay the Cornavii, who in-
habited the territory now filled by the border
counties of Warwick, Worcester, Stafford, Salop,
and Chester, and a part of Flint.
In the versification of Michael Drayton, we have
an expository rendering of all this in the lines
44 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
The Ordovices, now which North- Wales people be
Prom Cheshire which of old divided was by Dee ;
And from our Marchers now, that where Demetae then
And those Silures called, by us South- Wales men.
The poet, it will be observed, slightly displaces
some of the tribes, though fairly correct in the
main ; as " where the Dobuni dwelt, and their
neighbouring Cateuclani." And again in the
Cornavii more remote, and where the Coritani
Where Dee and Mersey shoot into the Irish Sea.
he is scarcely so correct as in the following
As in that horn which juts into the sea so far,
Wherein our Devonshire now, and farthest Cornwall are,
The old Damnonii dwelt ; so hard again at hand
The Durotriges sat on the Dorsetian sand ;
And where from sea to sea the Belgse forth were let
Even from Southampton's shore through Wilts and
The Attrebates in Bark unto the bank of Tames.
So eastward from the Thames the Trinobantes were set
To Trinovant their town, from that their name in debt
That London now we term.
London's earliest name, Troy-no vant, is really
British, being compounded of Tri-nou-hant,
' inhabitants of the new town." Civitas
Trinobantum, the city of the Trinobantes, might be
rendered New- townsmen. It has nothing to do
with the legend that London was founded by
Brute, a Trojan refugee, notwithstanding
Spenser's lines in the Faery Queen
For noble Britons sprung from Trojan's bold,
And Troy-novant was built of old Troyes ashes cold.
The spelling of the names of some of the tribes,
and their geographical location, must be re-
conciled as best they may.
It is interesting to note that the names of some
of these ancient tribes may be discerned in
existing place-names in the localities they once
occupied. The name of the Cantii is seen in
BRITISH TRIBAL AREAS 45
Kent and in Canterbury ; of the Iceni in Ick-
borough (Norfolk), Ickworth and Iken (Suffolk) ;
of the Bibroci in Bray (near Windsor), and of
the Casii in Cashio, the name of a Hertfordshire
Hundred, and in Cashiobury (near Watford)
which probably occupied the site of the chief
town of the tribe.
The Damnonii are believed to have given their
name to Devon, and the Durotriges to Dorset and
Dorchester, while the Regni evidently lived around
Ringwood (or Regne-wood) in Hants.
The literal signification of these tribal names
would be profoundly interesting and, probably,
very illuminating, if only they could be arrived
at with any degree of certainty.
The name Trinobantes, if not derived from the
capital settlement of the tribe, has been said to
signify the " battle-spearers " ; and the Ordo vices
(or Ordovi) are said to have been so-called because
originally they were " the hammerers," wielding,
in the Stone Age that preceded the Iron Age,
formidable axe-hammers of flint. The Iceni,
again, were " the men of the small knives," pre-
senting a Celtic parallel to the Saxons who, it is
well-known, derived their name from Seaxe, a
short sword. Invading hosts were frequently
named from the weapons they wielded in battle
with most effect.
As the Iceni gave to our history its most heroic
queen, the renowned Boadicea, the Trinobantes
produced for our literature Shakespeare's hero,
Cymbeline. Cymbeline, otherwise Cunobeline,
whose father was an ambitious chieftain
The first of Britain that did put
His brows within a golden crown, and call'd
Himself a king
is said to have had his capital at Colchester.
46 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
The Brigantes are believed to bear a name
which (literally) distinguished them as free men
and a privileged race, as contrasted with the
reduced and servile Goidels under them. It was
Cartismandua, queen of the Brigantes, who de-
livered the gallant Caractacus, king of the Silures,
to the Roman invaders. The name Silures is
altogether of unknown meaning, though believed
to have some relationship to the name Scilly. And
all that can be said of Demetae is that the district
they occupied now bears the name, in modern
Welsh, of Dyved.
The Attrebates bore a name which, it is said,
marked them out in a special sense as the farmers
or "homestead men." The Cornavii, it has been
suggested, had this name conferred upon them
because they occupied the horn, or ' corn "
headland, between the Dee and the Mersey.
This origin is extremely doubtful.
The Coritani (or Coritavi) are said to have taken
the name of some pre-Celtic inhabitants who had
possibly survived in the inaccessible regions of the
Wash, which then reached inland to Cambridge
and Northants. The Catuvillani were another
aggressive tribe, the Mercians of their day, and
paramount among the Celts.
BRITAIN DIVIDED INTO ROMAN
At the first coming of the Romans the tribes
were sharply divided. Many and great were the
changes which came over the native inhabitants
of the land after its subjugation. Their inde-
pendence was irrecoverably gone, their nationality
was lost, and, as they were merged into the
Roman Empire, they lost their very names, either
as Roman subjects or as Roman slaves.
Not the least of these great changes was the
disappearance of the old tribal divisions of the
land. Under barbaric rule the boundaries of these
divisions had fluctuated as aggression expanded
a territory, or subjugation had either obliterated
or contracted the tribal delimitations.
The Romans were the first to divide this
country into administrative areas ; though from
the time of its conquest, down to the year 197
A.D., they governed it as one province, and did
not, as they had done with Spain and Gaul,
divide it into three or four separate territories.
It is noticeable that while the people of Spain
became cultivated Roman citizens, the^Britons
remained rude boors.
Britain was one of the provinces administered
by the Emperor's deputies, not by an officer of the
Senate ; and the governor's full title was Legatus
Augusti pro prcetore, or Viceregent of the Em-
peror. Being a province that required military
48 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
occupation, Britain was not committed to a
Pro-consul chosen by the Senate, but to a Pro-
praetor nominated by the Emperor. In other
words, it was "Imperial" as opposed to
The governor of Britain, however, was not a
mere rough soldier, but generally a man of some
education, capable of administering the law and
conducting the affairs of state, besides com-
manding the military forces of the province.
By his side was an officer called a Procurator or
Quaestor, who took charge of all financial matters,
and administerd the revenues of the country.
After the year 197, Britain was divided into
two provinces by a boundary line, which was
not improbably drawn between the Mersey and the
Humber ; the southern half of the Country being
designated Britannia Superior, and the northern
half Britannia Inferior, these distinguishing terms
having reference to nearness to Rome. Although
it is not known in what towns the respective
Governors took up their official residence, the
weight of evidence is largely in favour of London
Presently this arrangement gave way to an organi-
zation of four districts or provinces, Britannia
Prima, Britannia Secunda, Maxima Csesariensis and
Flavia Csesariensis, to provide which with physical
frontiers the Thames, the Severn, and the Humber
were very probably called into use.
The first of these lay south of the Thames and
the Bristol Channel ; the second corresponded with
the modern principality of Wales ; Flavia com-
prised the middle of the country, from the Thames
to the Humber and Mersey ; and the country be-
yond this, to some twenty-five^miles north' of
Hadrian's Wall, formed the department of Maxima
BRITAIN DIVIDED INTO ROMAN PROVINCES 49
Csesariensis. At a later period (A.D. 369) a fifth
province called Valentia was added, stretching
northward from the Tyne to the Forth.
Towards the end of the Roman period, when
the enemies of the empire were closing in on every
side, three high military commanders were ap-
pointed, independent of the authorities in Britain,
but subject to the Gallic praefectus ; they were the
Duke of the Britons, the Count of the Britons, and
the Count of the Saxon Shore, the last-named
having the defence of the south-eastern coast in
his special charge.
The Saxon Shore comprised the coast of Norfolk,
Suffolk, Essex, Kent, Sussex, and Hampshire ;
castles with garrisons under the command of
Comes Littoris Saxonici per Britanniam were
situated at Brandcaster (Norfolk) Burgh (Suffolk),
Ithanchester (Essex), Reculver, Richborough,
Dover, L,ymne, (Kent), Pevensey and Worthing,
(Sussex). The remains of some of these castles,
and of the Roman walls in the north, are a few
of the reminders of the sway once held by imperial
Rome in this island. Hadrian's Wall, between
the Solway and the Tyne, marked the northern
limits of the province in the year 120. This wall
was the beginning of the division of Great Britain
into the two parts now known as Scotland and
Subsequently, but for a very brief space, the
old British kingdoms were united under one chief,
called Pendragon, who claimed to represent the
It will be seen that for some considerable time
before the Roman evacuation, piratical expedi-
tions had harried the coasts of the country, and
that settlements had even been effected. After
the Roman withdrawal the Teutonic marauder
was merged entirely into the settler.
50 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
In considering these early settlements physical
barriers and other natural features must not be
lost sight of. Thus, the first great settlement,
which was made in Kent, was bounded by the
dense forest which the Romans called Anderida ;
and here the Jutes were practically shut up in a
single county ; for by the time they made their
second landing, in Hampshire, the other tribes
settled round about were too strong for them.
Later, when the Angles attacked the east and
north-east coasts, they penetrated into the mid-
land districts but slowly, and that by sailing
cautiously up the rivers ; for at that period there
existed a great belt of swamp and marsh of which
the Fens are but now the merest remnant. The
river valleys, too, were found by the Saxons who
landed in Southampton Water, to be the easiest,
if not the only avenues into the heart of the
These invaders, whatever their tribe, were a
bold and sturdy people, of a free and enterprising
spirit. Yet of their previous history our know-
ledge is strictly limited, notwithstanding that
their habits and customs and their established
laws, came to exercise such a far-reaching influence
over the destinies of this country. It is manifest
that, as they came with their wives and families,
their intention was not so much to govern the
Britons as to exterminate or subdue them
to deprive the natives of their land, which by
comparison with the district round the Elbe
from which they came, with its barren marshy
soil and its chilly damp climate, was a rich and
ENGLAND DIVIDED INTO SHIRES.
Though Alfred the Great is generally credited
with the division of the country into shires, it
is certain these territorial divisions were known
long before his day, being mentioned in the laws
of King Ina, a century or more before the con-
solidation of England into one realm under one
king. The probability is that Alfred rectified
the boundaries of a number of them.
The smaller kingdoms and their sub-divisions
fell naturally into shires ; as Kent and Surrey,
Norfolk, and Suffolk, Essex and Sussex. At
what time the complete distribution of the
country into shires was effected is not known,
but nearly all of them had been called into exist-
ence before the Norman invasion.
Freeman, the historian, makes an exception of
Lancashire, which he says, did not exist as a shire
at the Conquest. In 1071 the northern portion
was included in Yorkshire ; and the southern part,
between the Mersey and the Ribble, had been
vested in the crown under Edward the Confessor,
and held of him by a number of petty thanes.
Ina, the greatest of the early kings of Wessex,
in 693 formulated, for the good governance of the
West Saxons, a Code of Laws, the thirty-sixth
of which distinctly mentions the earldorman
as the governor of a shire under the king. ; the
ordinance is to the effect that if he lets a captured
thief escape, or hushes up the crime, ' ' he shall
lose his shire."
52 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
The first Wessex ealdorman mentioned by
name is Cumbra, who ruled ' Hamtunscire "
(Hampshire), for king Sigebert, a tyrant, who
rewarded his fidelity by slaying him (A.D. 757).
Wessex included Hampshire, Wiltshire and
Berkshire, and also perhaps Oxfordshire, although
it was on the north side of the Thames. Somerset
and Dorsetshire were long included in Celtic
Damnonia, which comprised Devonshire and Corn-
wall, only nominally in Wessex, and in reality
mainly Welsh. Not till 926 was the king of the
Corn welsh driven back beyond the Tamar. A
trace in the delimitations of the two races may be
found in the loop of Devonshire on the west side
of the Tamar, none of the place-names being
Cornish, but commonly ending with the Saxon
terminal " cot."
All the shires of Wessex, save Devon, appear
to have been created before the reign of Ina.
These shires may have been the successive local
units created by each advance of the Wessex
border at the expense of the Welsh ; colour is
given to this theory by interpreting the names
Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, Somersetshire, as in-
dicating the regions in which bodies of settlers
called Wilsaetas, Dornsaetas, and Somersaetas
took up their abode, and gave their names to
their respective settlements.
Another view of the origin of shires regards
them as representing, more or less, the realms of
the numerous sub-reguli who parted Wessex
among themselves on several occasions during
the seventh century. This theory would certainly
hold good with regard to Berkshire, which most
probably represents a principality of three thou-
sand hides which king Csenwalch is known to
have granted to Cuthred "in Ashdown."
ENGLAND DIVIDED INTO SHIRES 53
Under the latter hypothesis the ealdorman
would be a royal official appointed to administer
what had formerly constituted the realm of a
sub-regulus, from its most important centre.
In agreement with this theory, the shire names of
Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorsetshire and Somer-
setshire, would then be traced back to the royal
" vills " from which they were respectively ad-
ministered, namely Hamton, Wilton, Dorchester,
It is noteworthy that in the other English
kingdoms which were large enough to require
administrative ealdormen, Mercia and North-
umbria, no trace can be found of this early shire
system, with its sheriffs, and other necessary
In Mercia there were certainly ealdormen who
governed districts for the king, but they were much
more extensive than the Wessex shires. The
Mercian ealdormen seem to have ruled the old
sub-kingdoms, in succession to the sub-reguli,
who died out in the eighth century. When the
Mercians were supreme in the eighth century, it
is noteworthy that they held way in London, when
that great imperial city was being engrafted with
Anglo-Saxon forms of local government.
It may be inferred from a statement in the
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that in the following
century there were at least five administrative
districts in Mercia under ealdormen these dis-
tinct from the vassal kingdoms of Mercia, like
Kent and Essex, under duces, as they signed
themselves in various charters. These ad-
ministrative districts were those of Hwiccia
(the lower Severn valley, formerly ruled by a
line of native kings ;) the Magesaetas beyond the
Severn to the line of Offa's Dyke ; Lindsey, be-
54 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
tween the Humber and the Wash ; the Middle
Angles, directly inland of East Anglia ; and
Mercia proper. Possibly there were two other
administrative units under ealdormen the
Gyrwas, on the Fenland border (Cambridgeshire,
North Northamptonshire and South Lincoln-
shire) ; and the Chilternsaetas, lying north of the
Mercia at one time or other comprised the area
now occupied by Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Not-
tinghamshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire,
Rutlandshire, Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, and
Worcestershire ; possibly also parts of Bedford-
shire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. For a
long time the Severn was its western boundary,
and till a comparatively late period Shropshire
and Herefordshire were in the Welsh marches,
and under Welsh rule. Monmouthshire, in the
basin of the Usk, was not made an English county
till the reign of Henry VIII (1535) and remains
to this day more Welsh than English.
Gloucestershire and Worcestershire do not
exactly reproduce Hwiccia, which had embraced
B. part of Warwickshire along the Avon, and had
not included the Forest of Dean, which was in the
ealdormanry of the Magessetas. Gloucestershire
was no doubt formed of lands attached to Glou-
cester and Winchcombe (there was originally a
' Winchcombeshire," which Eadric Streone, the
infamous ealdorman of Mercia, who was executed
by Canute, arbitrarily annexed to Gloucester-
shire) ; Worcestershire, of lands attached to
Worcester ; Herefordshire, of the area round
Hereford ; Warwickshire of lands governed from
Warwick Castle ; Staffordshire, of the burghal
hidage attached to Stafford ; and Shropshire,
of lands belonging to Shrewsbury. Salop com-
ENGLAND DIVIDED INTO SHIRES 55
prises a portion of Mercia only as to two-thirds
of its area, its southern third having been
Magesaetan soil. Oxfordshire, which was formed
round the government of Oxford, stretched beyond
the limits of old Mercia.
The formation of the west-midland shires came
much later, and seem to have been administrative
districts which crystalized around certain of the
burghal centres created by the warlike Princess
Ethelfleda (daughter of Alfred the Great, and
widow of Edward the Elder) or older centres like
Chester. It cannot be discovered that they
were honoured, on their formation, with an
ealdorman apiece. The first to be mentioned
by name is Cheshire, in 980 ; and none of them,
from this county to Oxfordshire, had boundaries
which coincided with those of the older Mercian
South Saxonia was made up of Sussex and
vSurrey ; East Saxonia, of Essex, Middlesex, and
Hertford, and in ancient times took in part of
Bedfordshire. Kent, as a Saxon kingdom and
a modern county, is practically identical.
East Anglia contained Norfolk and Suffolk,
Cambridgeshire and Hunts ; and as a rule, Lin-
colnshire, though at odd times it belonged to the
Mid Angles of Mercia. Of Rutland, as a distinct
county, no mention is made till the fifth year of
King John, at the coronation of whose queen,
Isabel, it was (with other lands) assigned for her
dower. Till this period it was a crown manor
merged in the neighbouring counties of North-
ampton and Nottingham.
In the eastern regions, which had come under
Danish influence, the title of Earl began to appear,
and evidently indicated the high dignitary who
on purely English soil would have been designated
56 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
By the year 930 there were no less than thirteen
earls bearing Danish names, evidently Danish
magnates holding territorial jurisdictions in
Northumbria, East Anglia, and the east Mid-
lands, all of them probably " jarls " who, having
submitted to Edward the Elder, were graciously
given, or confirmed in, their official positions.
Though there was an ealdorman for every
southern shire when Edward came to the throne,
by the end of his eldest son's reign there were only
three or four south of the Thames, a system of
grouping, probably for military purposes, having
been commenced by Edward and completed by
Athelstan. A unit of three shires, as Somerset,
Dorset, and Devon, or Hants, Wilts, and Berks,
would be more conveniently handled by one
ealdorman than three ; and its levies got together
more effectively under one leader, a matter of
some consideration when the Dane-law was but
As to Northumbria, there were certainly ealdor-
men therein, though without any visible trace of
the shire system. These officials are styled High-
reeves in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle ; they
exercised as much power as a sub-regulus, and their
office was apparently hereditary, as one family
of such High-reeves can be traced at Bamborough
for several generations. Though this character-
istically Anglo-Saxon administrative system
flourished in the north during the seventh and
eighth centuries, it was entirely swept away by
the Danes in the ninth.
Northumbria contained Northumberland, York-
shire, and Durham, and anciently stretched to
the Firth of Forth. The races who occupied
Mercia and Northumbria can only be described
as mixed Anglo-Celtic.
ENGLAND DIVIDED INTO SHIRES 57
Cumbria comprised Cumberland, Westmoreland,
Lancashire and a portion of Cheshire, and as a
Celtish province it stretched at one time into
Yorkshire as far as Leeds.
For Edward I's parliament of 1275 writs were
issued to thirty-seven counties, the three names
omitted being those of Durham, Chester, and
Monmouth the last-named, as already noted,
did not become shire ground till 1535, and the
other two were palatinates.
Durham was granted to St. Cuthbert and his
successors in 685, and was held by its bishops as a
palatinate from the Norman Conquest until 1836,
when it was transferred to the crown. Chester,
after the departure of the Romans was held by the
Welsh till 607, when it fell under the power of
Ethelfrith, king of Bernicia. In 828 Egbert
annexed it to Mercia, and William the Conqueror
made it a county palatine, and since 1237 & nas
been an appanage of the eldest son of the king.
Thus, so far as it is possible to trace them, were
the shires carved out of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
The term province has no obvious meaning in
England beyond application to the ecclesiastical
provinces of Canterbury and York. Mercia,
Wessex, and Northumbria are sometimes men-
tioned as provincial divisions, and there is now-
adays a tendency with some writers to revert to
the old names of the Heptarchy.
THE BORDER COUNTIES
Administrative areas disappeared from Scotland,
as they had from England and Wales, at the
termination of Roman rule in 410.
It remained still to be settled whether the
Angles of Northumbria and the Britons of Strath-
clyde should be annexed to Scotland or to Eng-
Both these states were largely under the in-
fluence of Edward the Elder, because he was able
to protect them from the Danes, who were then
ravishing the land on every side. In 945 Edmund
Ironsides made the conquest of Cumbria, and
then handed it over to the Scots king on military
tenure. Cumberland remained in the hands of
the king of Scotland till 1237, when it was per-
manently annexed to the English crown.
When Edwin, the founder of Edinburgh, sub-
dued all Northumbria in 942, he divided it into
baronies and counties, and transformed its kings
into jarls or earls. One of the earldoms took the
name of Northumberland, which extended from
the Tees to the Forth, with the consequence that
part of its history is interwoven with that of
Scotland, till the death of Siward, who dethroned
Macbeth of Scotland (1055).
The northern half, known as Lothian, of which
Edinburgh was the chief town, was granted on
certain conditions to Kenneth II, of Scotland, by
Edgar the Pacific. Half-a-century later Lothian
had become a part of Scotland absolutely (1018).
THE BORDER COUNTIES 59
In 1006 Malcolm II. had made a great effort to
annex Lothian, but he suffered a severe defeat
on the banks of the Wear, while besieging a new
town which was growing up around the shrine of
St. Cuthbert, the missionary who had converted
the Lothians that town is now the city of Dur-
ham. Twelve years later he did succeed in a
second attempt, defeating the Northumbrians at
Carham on the Tweed. In the same year (1018)
the latest independent king of Strathclyde died,
and that district was also added to the kingdom
Even after his victory at Carham, Malcolm
had to recognise the king of England as his over-
lord ; and when Duncan, his successor, tried to
throw off the yoke, he was disastrously defeated
at another battle fought near Durham.
By 1068 there was a united England and a
united Scotland, though the borderland between
them long remained vague, undefined, and
In that year Malcolm Canmore, always a
troublesome vassal, made an attempt to annex
Northumberland. William the Conqueror suc-
cessfully resisted the attempt, and in 1072 forced
him to acknowledge his overlordship for Cumber-
land also. Twenty years later William Rufus
seized Cumberland and placed an English garrison
in Carlisle. It was during this struggle that a new
castle (now Newcastle) was erected on the Tyne,
to hold the district against the Scotch raiders.
The capital was removed from Dunfermline
to Edinburgh by Edgar (1098) though homage
was still being rendered to the king of England
for Ix>thian and Strathclyde.
The Conqueror had given the county of Durham
to one of his followers, Robert de Comines, as an
60 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
earldom. The Norman garrison placed in the
city was promptly massacred, and the English in
York also rose on their new masters. The king
marched against these northern insurgents and
routed them with unsparing slaughter. A year
or two later the Normans set fire to York before
making a sally upon the English who were in-
vesting the city, and who with some Danish allies
managed to defeat the attackers, inflicting heavy
losses upon them. William was so exasperated, he
collected an overwhelming force with which he
again marched to the north, and laid it waste
with fire and sword, driving the inhabitants to
take refuge in the forests and mountains. From
the Humber to the Tees, and from the Wear to the
Tyne was made a desert. The history of the
northern counties at this period was a tale of
fury and carnage.
The country southward of Durham could
scarcely have been sympathetic to Norman rule,
and it is not at all surprising that Northumber-
land continued to link its fortunes with those
of Scotland through the reigns of several suc-
ceeding kings of England.
In 1157 Henry II. induced Malcolm to give up
Northumberland, Durham, and Westmoreland,
which had been held by Scotland since the dis-
turbed days of King Stephen.
When William the L,ion attempted to recover
Northumberland, he was not only defeated, but
compelled to acknowledge the king of England
as his overlord for the whole of Scotland. Scot-
tish independence, however, was shortly after-
wards recovered from Richard I for a money fine.
By the time of William the Lion, the counties
of Northumberland and Cumberland had become
English in their sympathies.
THE BORDER COUNTIES 61
Under the Normans Westmoreland was held
in two baronies of two wards each for border
service. It is significant of the demands of the
locality that for 650 years the office of High
Sheriff was hereditary in this county, the privilege
being terminated only in 1849.
The barons who opposed King John in the
civil disturbances of that reign, secured the
assistance of Alexander II. by promising him
the northern counties of England, which he had
always coveted. By the treaty of Newcastle,
twenty years later, a compromise was agreed to
that the Scots king, if he abandoned his claim
to the whole of Northumberland and Cumberland,
should be permitted to retain certain lands
situated in those territories. The fact that
Scotch kings and princes held lands in England
on feudal tenure, tended not a little to com-
plicate the relationships between the two countries.
It was not till 1237 that the line of marches
between England and Scotland became at all
fairly defined, when an arrangement was come to
that no further efforts should be made to extend
the Scotch frontier southward. However, in
May, 1385, Scotland having made a league with
France against England, a French force of two
thousand men landed at lyeith, and were afforded
the pleasure of making a raid into England to lay
waste the counties of Northumberland and Cum-
berland. And so the border game of harrying
and plundering went merrily forward for yet
another century or two.
Now to examine the state of affairs north of the
border line. Berwickshire is the most southern
portion of Lothian. Edward VI. and Mary,
Queen of Scotland, by treaty made Berwick,
which had been brought under the English crown
62 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
in Edward TV's reign, a county town, and a free
town independent of both states. Yet from this
time until the death of Queen Elizabeth, Berwick
continued to be involved in all the turbulence of
constant border broiling. By 1603, when the
two countries were united under one crown, this
town had changed masters no less than thirteen
times in its chequered history. Though referred
to separately in many national documents, Ber-
wick is now considered an English town, situated
politically in the county of Northumberland,
though it cannot escape from Scotland geo-
graphically without crossing the Tweed. The
uncertainty of its nationality in early times won
Berwick-on-Tweed the distinction of being ac-
counted a county in itself, and the singular honour
of being specially mentioned in Acts of Parlia-
ment, after Wales, as a separate area in Great
Britain. It may be claimed as the only English
town whose members have sat in a Scottish
parliament this happened in the Bruce's time,
and on one or two occasions subsequently.
The Saxons had entered the southern parts of
Scotland before the close of the fifth century,
and early in the sixth had established themselves
in Lothian. Their attempt to dominate the
country between the Forth and the Tay failed,
but Lothian remained essentially Saxon, in speech
and other ways. As we have seen, they were
eventually separated from the Saxons of England,
and absorbed into the kingdom of Scotland, the
historic centre of which was at Scone, on the banks
of the Tay.
It was, of course, to the Saxon element, that
the- introduction of the Shire system into the
northern kingdom was due. But for a long time
the policy of territorial divisions prevailed,
THE BORDER COUNTIES 63
divisions that were semi-independent and the
frontiers of which could be clearly marked by
some physical feature, as mountain, river or lake ;
to such divisions in Scotland proper may be
traced many of the country's great historical
names, like those of Fife, Angus, Athol, Argyle
and Strathnairn. The Saxon policy of Shire
divisions was quite unknown to the Celtic peoples,
who long after the appointment of Sheriffs,
treasured a hatred of them that was character-
The Galloway clans were always turbulent,
and for centuries the kings of both countries
failed in their efforts to maintian order among
the Border freebooters, a Sheriff's posse often
meeting with as sanguinary a reception as the
marauders gave each other in their old-standing
feuds and retaliations.
At first Galloway was rather a tributary than
an incorporated part of the Scottish kingdom.
The subjection of both Pictish Galloway and
British Cumbria was for a long time uneasy and
uncertain. But so far as the purpose of this work
is concerned, the most important annexation
was that of iothian, because it meant that Scot-
land was not to be solely a Celtic country, but to
contain a large English element.
Mainly because neither state was strong enough
to make the exact boundary line between the two
countries a really effective frontier, the border
countries remained in a disturbed and chaotic
condition for centuries. As a matter of historic
fact, the northern state was being all this time
slowly but surely Anglicised in many of its in-
stitutions certainly in those relating to its
system of political divisions. To see how the
English shire system was introduced into Scot-
land and developed there, it will be necessary to
take a cursory view of Scottish history.
Sight must not be lost of the fact that for six
hundred years before the Norman Conquest
there had been an English population spreading
itself and its racial influences over the south of
Scotland. After the annexation of Lothian, the
language and customs of Scotland gradually
became more and more English, Gaelicism receding
to the remoter districts of the north and west.
Scotland is made up of a number of confederate
nations. Pictland to the north of the Forth, as
far as the Spey, represents the land of the original
Gaels. Galloway (Wigtonshire and Kirkcud-
bright) was occupied by a smaller but independent
section of Picts. On the coast of Argyleshire
was Dalriada, a settlement of Irish Scots, who in
the end succeeded in converting the Picts to
Christianity, and then in giving their name to the
SCOTTISH SHIRKS 65
whole country. At a later period, the temporary
settlement of Norsemen in the great northern
earldom of Caithness, was brought under the
The Gaelic population of Scotland contains
three elements, the Picts, or northern Gaels, the
Scots, or Irish Gaels, and the British or Gaels of
Strathclyde. The Kingdom of Scotland had its
beginning in 844, when Kenneth Mac Alpin, king
of the Scots, united these Celtish peoples into what
was called the kingdom of Alban, with Dunkeld
in Perthshire for its capital.
Because of the hilly and inaccessible nature of
the Highlands, the local chiefs of the northern
Gaels acquired a power that, if not quite inde-
pendent of any centralised authority, made them
contemptuous of royal officials. There were
seven separate districts under officials called
Mormaers, each the head of a clan, exercising the
authority of a petty kinglet. The Norwegian
settlements and influence in the Orkneys and the
Hebrides, in Caithness and Sutherland the
Norwegians were as troublesome to Scotland as
the Danes had been to England are almost
outside the scope of this work, though it is in-
teresting to note that in the eleventh century a
Norwegian earl of Orkney held the office of
Mormaer. Eventually, however, this Celtish title
gave way to that of earl.
David I. (1124) was very much under English
influence, and had a great deal to do with the
earlier stages of Scotland's development of the
English shire system. In his reign Scotland
was divided into Sheriffwicks, in which the law
was administered in the name and by the au-
thority of the King ; and the Sheriff was,
both in theory and practice, the minister of the
66 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
crown, for executing the king's writs as well as
judging and trying cases, both civil and criminal
aS precisely as it was in Norman England.
The Scottish Sheriffwicks were mostly settled
in 1305. For some time, Galloway, Argyle, and
the western isles clung to their ancient policy and
lay outside the system. When the Anglo-Nor-
man policy at last prevailed, it was found ex-
pedient to make the SherirTships hereditary in
certain families. Under Robert I. (1306) and
David II. (1329) an advance was made by granting
Sheriffships for life.
Edward I., during the time he held Scotland,
increased the number of Sheriffs in that country.
To the policy of this monarch we are also largely
indebted for the system of border warfare as
a recognised institution a lawless system which
continued till the reign of James I., and during
which (notwithstanding that the frontier had
been irrevocably fixed) the sword was never long
in the scabbard, and the border counties, if not
exactly a waste, were shamefully kept back from
In the northern kingdom, as in England, the
story of the Shires cannot be separated from the
history of the evolution of parliamentary re-
presentation. From the twelfth century Scot-
land had its national assemblies of bishops, earls,
and barons, which were held at various places, as
Perth and Stirling. In the following century
these great councils came to be called Parlia-
ments, and began to include an element claimed
as representative of ' ' the community of Scot-
land " ; at the parliament of 1326, held at Cam-
buskenneth, certain ' ' burgesses and other free
tenants of the kingdom " were distinctly sum-
moned to attend in a representative character.
SCOTTISH SHIRES 67
In 1424, when James I. returned from his Eng-
lish imprisonment, full of English constitutional
ideas, he proposed to relieve the small barons from
the burden of attending parliament, provided they
sent two or more " wise men" from each shire
to represent them, except Clackmannan and
Kinross, which were to send one each. An
Act was passed to give effect to this, and thus, it
will be seen, the English method of the re-
presentation of counties was closely imitated.
The Orkney and Shetland Islands, the most
remote, if not the last shire-land added, were
acquired by the marriage of James III. with
Margaret of Denmark in 1468 ; these now con-
stitute an insular county. The name of the
adjacent county, Sutherland, is no misnomer,
though it is situated almost at the extreme
north of the mainland ; to the Norwegians who
founded it ' ' south land " was quite accurately
descriptive of its relative position.
It will be found that one of the first things done
by James III., when reducing the Highlands and
the Isles to order, was to appoint Sheriffs to take
charge of the several districts.
Cromwell was the first statesman who brought
forward a well-considered scheme for the parlia-
mentary representation of the three nations ;
in his second parliament (1654) England was to be
represented by four hundred members, Scotland
by thirty, and Ireland by thirty. He also fixed
the proportion between the county and burgh
representation of Scotland the former were to
have twenty members and the latter ten. For
this purpose the smaller and less populous counties
were to be grouped ; Sutherland, Ross and
Cromarty to return one member ; Forfar and Kin-
cardine, one ; Fife and Kinross, one ; I^inlithgow,
68 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
Stirling and Clackmannan, one; Dumbarton,
Areyle and Bute, one; Ayr and Renfrew one.
Selkirk and Peebles, one ; Orkney, Shetland, and
Caithness, one ; Elgin and Nairn, one.
It is interesting to note, in passing, that m t
Scottish parliament, while the nobility and clergy
occupied " benches," the commissioners of
and burghs sat on " furmes."
' It should not be forgotten that even in the
eighteenth century Scotland did not possess the
ri^ht of popular representation as we understand
The town councils elected the borough
members of parliament, and in 1790 the tot
number of voters in all the counties of the king-
dom was only 2652. Other particulars
cerning the Scottish counties may be found by
consulting that voluminous work, Chalme
At the Union of 1714 a return was made of th<
" Sheriffs and Stewarts" in Scotland, of which
there were found to be 33, given under
heads 9 held office " during pleasure 4 held
office for life (or lives), and 20 enjoyed heredi
office In 1748 the Imperial Parliament abolished
all hereditary jurisdictions in Scotland which were
associated with the ownership of land and
WELSH AND IRISH COUNTIES
So far we have accounted for the origin and
development of the forty English counties. The
twelve counties of Wales came into the scheme of
things at a later period of our history.
After his conquest of Wales, Edward I. sought
to introduce the shire system into that country.
In various parts of the conquered territory,
government by princes had to give way to govern-
ment by the king's officials. Instead of tiny
principalities composed of commotes in ancient
Wales a commote was half a centred or hundred,
containing fifty villages grouped differently at
different times, there were to be shires with fixed
boundaries. Instead of ruling scions of the
Welsh royal race, there were to be a sheriff, a
coroner, and bailiffs of commotes in each shire.
Mona, being an island, was comparatively
easy to make into a shire by itself, and it became
the county of Anglesey. The wild district of
Snowdonia, hitherto the unconquered heart of
independent Wales, together with the adjacent
promontory that runs out into the western sea,
The rest of Llewellyn's land became the shire
of Merioneth, and these three counties were placed
under the justice of Snowdon. The county court
was held regularly in each of them every month ;
and twice a year the sheriff was to make his
tourn through the commotes, to inquire into all
70 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
crimes and offences, after the traditional English
manner. East of these territories lay the four
centreds which had been in possession of King
Edward before 1284, and which had risen in
revolt because he had tried to introduce the shire
system into them. The eastern portion was
made into the shire of Flint, and the sherif
Flint was to attend before the justice of Chester,
and to bring his accounts to the exchequer of
South of Llewellyn's land, beyond the Dovey,
were the territories of the royal house of South
Wales, a picturesque land of feudal castles.
From the castles of Cardigan and Carmarthen,
Edward tried to establish his rule by introducing
the English shire system there. These two
southern shires were also given their sherif
their coroners, and their bailiffs of commotes, but
were made subject to a separate justice- the
justice of South Wales.
In re-organising the principality, Edward
ordered the justices, sheriffs, and other officers,
to administer, as far as was practicable, the ancient
laws of Wales, which he had publicly recited before
himself and his nobles at the Castle of Rhuddlan.
" We have," he then proclaimed, ' annulled
some of them by the advice of our nobles, some we
have allowed to remain and some others we have
decreed shall be added." Edward I. was a states-
man as well as a soldier.
After the Norman Conquest the English kings,
in order more effectively to protect the borders,
had given warrants to such of their barons as
desired them to seize and enter upon the lands of
Welsh princes. The land thus seized was called
a " lordship marcher" and was held from the
crown as a fief, but not subject to the usual con-
WELSH AND IRISH COUNTIES 71
ditions of feudal tenure. The Statute of Rhudd-
lan, which put an end to Welsh independence, did
not apply to the territory of the Lords Marcher,
and these districts remained as separate entities
From the date of the Statute of Rhuddlan the
term ' ' Wales " applied exclusively to the portion
directly under the King's rule.
In 1535 (27 Henry VIII.) an Act was passed
' for laws and justice to be ministered in Wales,
in like form as it is in this realm (England) "
By this Act the Marches or intermediate Border
Lands between England and Wales, were divided
into new counties, or annexed to old ones. The
new counties were Monmouth (which became an
English' county) Brecon, Denbigh, Montgomery,
and Radnor, in Wales ; the English counties
augmented by annexations were Gloucester, Here-
ford, and Salop ; the Welsh counties augmented
were Cardigan, Carmarthen, Glamorgan, Merion-
eth, and Pembroke.
The same Act directed the Chancellor of Eng-
land to issue a commission to such persons as he
should deem fit to inquire and view all the said
shires of Carmarthen, Pembroke, Cardigan, Mon-
mouth, Brecon, Radnor, Montgomery, Glamorgan,
and Denbigh ; and thereupon ' ' to divide each of
them into so many Hundreds as should be thought
most convenient, and to certify the said Hundreds
to the High Court of Chancery ; which Hundreds
(after such certificate) should be used and taken
as other Hundreds were in every other shire within
the realm of England."
By this Act Wales was removed from the juris-
diction of the Lords-Marcher, each of whom
had been a kinglet in his own territory. The
principality was also, with this legal constitution
72 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
of its twelve counties, brought within the English
parliamentary system. Eight years afterwards
another Act was passed creating the courts of
Great Sessions to which was assigned the work
carried on by the Commissioners of Assize in
England. These courts were held in each of the
twelve counties, and they went on practically
without alteration, down to 1830.
Similarly, at a later period, James I. when
modelling the Scotch local government upon the
English shire system, appointed " Commissioners
of the Middle Shires." After the Union of 1603
there no " Borders " they had become
the " Middle Shires."
Here a glance may be given at the English
shire system as it has been introduced into the
sister kingdom of Ireland. Henry II., after
landing at Waterford in 1171, and establishing
his authority in the south-east of the island, had
not been in Ireland six months before he had
divided the district ceded to him into counties,
appointing sheriffs and setting up courts of law
on the traditional English plan. King John
continued the process with fresh annexations,
and by his time there were three Palatinates in
Ireland, namely Leinster, which had been granted
to Strongbow, earl of Pembroke ; Meath to De
Lacy ; and Ulster to De Courcy. To these were
subsequently added Ormond and Desmond ; and
Strongbow's Palatinate of Leinster was split up
into rive smaller palatinates.
The power of the Irish Lord Palatine was all
but absolute. He had his Palatine Court, with
its judges, sheriffs, coroners, and other usual
officers, the territories being divided into counties.
By 1569 the whole of Ireland had been finally
divided into shires.
WELSH AND IRISH COUNTIES 73
Presently as England was unable to protect her
settlers in Ireland, they refused to call themselves
English any longer, save only those in the " five
obedient shires " which came to be known as the
English Pale, outside which the king's writ no
Two separate codes of law grew up, one for
the English Ireland, which then included ten
counties, though it afterwards shrank to four ;
the other for the rebellious English, which prac-
tically included the rest of Ireland. English
law could not be enforced outside the Pale, and
from time to time many ferocious Acts were passed,
which tended not merely to separating the two
classes of subjects, but to keep them from ever
By the reign of Mary the area of the shire lands
was still limited, though increasing. I^eix and a
portion of OfFaly, some of the more profitable
lands of the centre, were leased to English colonists,
and called Queen's County, in compliment to the
Queen ; while an adjacent territory was named
King's County, in compliment to Philip, her hus-
band ; at the same time Dangen became Philips-
town, and Campa was re-named Maryborough.
Other counties were formed in 1562.
Not till the time of James I. was every portion
of Ireland made into shire land, when the last
remnant of the native laws, as made by the
Brehons or ancient law-givers of the land, was
abolished. After the great Ulster Confiscation
of 1607 seventeen new counties were formed.
In speaking of an Irish county, it is customary
to omit the preposition ; thus, while we say the
' county of York," across the channel it is correct
to speak " Co. Cork."
In Ireland the name Barony is given to a Petty
In the majority of cases the name of an English
county will give a clue as to its probable origin ;
whether it represents an ancient kingdom, or was
a district occupied by settlers, or whether it was
formed as an area of government around a burghal
centre, and took its name from that centre.
As the Heptarchy faded out of existence, and
a united England came into being, the original
Saxon kingdoms declined to the position of Earl-
doms ; in other words, they became, for all
practical purposes counties.
Sussex, Essex, Wessex, and Middlesex were the
kingdoms, as the names imply, of the southern,
eastern, western and central Saxons. Wessex
has disappeared from the list of counties. The
south Saxons also founded Surrey, a name which
appears in Robert of Gloucester's Chronicle in
the form of Sothe-reye, that is, the south realm.
Norfolk and Suffolk were the northern and southern
divisions of the East-Anglian folk. Another
shire name which reveals an ancient kingdom is
Kent, though the name is one of British origin
which the Jutish invaders just adopted ; it sig-
nifies the territory of the Cantii, and is derived
from a Celtic word for " corner " or " headland,"
which geographically Kent is.
The eighth and last of this group is Northum-
berland, though its area is but a poor shrunken
remnant of the once extensive Anglian kingdom
COUNTY NOMENCLATURE 75
of Northumbria the country north of the
Northumberland is a name, the origin of which
may be attributed to its relative position land
north of the Humber ; or, if regarded as another
form of Northumbria, as a piece of tribal nomen-
clature applied to the reduced area of a modern
county, carved out of that ancient kingdom.
The points of the compass, as might be ex-
pected from a hardy race whose " home was on
the wave," entered largely into Saxon nomen-
clature ; the cardinal points were never lost sight
of as we see not merely in the county names
as South-Seaxe, North-folk, and so on but in
such place-names as Aston (East-town), Weston
(West-town) Norton (North-town), and Sutton
(South-town), of which they have left us scores of
examples. The same method of structure is
seen in the name of Northamptonshire or North
Hants the English county which touches the
greatest number of other counties.
The second group of county-names also makes
up a list of eight ; they are those in which are
preserved the names of ancient clans, or of some
The intermixture of the two races, where the
conquering Teutons permitted the dispossessed
Celts to remain among them, could not have
been without important results on the language
of the locality, and certainly on the place-names.
In Wessex and in Mercia the bulk of the popula-
tion was Celtic.
Even so late as the time of Henry II., Here-
fordshire was not entirely Anglicized, and it was
not till the reign of Henry VIII. that Monmouth-
shire was first numbered among the English
counties. The nomenclature of these two coun-
ties, however, was not affected by this fact.
76 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
In the name Cornwall, which is equivalent to
Cornwales, " the kingdom of the Welsh of the
Horn/' is recorded the fact that the Britons were
driven into this peninsula as they were into
Wales, and given the same nickname,
" Foreigners," by their overbearing conquerors.
Another body of Britons found security in the
hills of Cumberland, otherwise " the land of the
Cymri," the real name of the Welsh. By some
authorities the name of Cornwall has been derived
from the Cornavii tribe.
In Devon survives the name of the Celtic tribe,
the Damnonii (a word which has been claimed to
be of Phoenician origin, made up of Dan or Dun,
1 a hill," and moina, " mines"). The Cornish
called this county Dunan, but under Saxon rule
it became Devenascyre or Devonshire.
According to English mythology, the name
Devonshire is a corruption of Deboii's share.
This Debon was one of the heroes who came
with Brutus from Troy. One of the giants that
he slew in the South coasts of England was Coulin,
whom he chased to a vast pit, eight leagues across.
The monster trying to leap this pit, fell backwards,
and lost his life in the chasm. When Brutus
allotted out the island, this portion became
Debon's share. Thus in Spenser's Faery Queen
And eke that ample pit, yet far renowned
For the great leap which Debon did compell
Coulin to make, being eight lugs of ground
Into the which retourning back he fell ....
In mede of these great conquests by them got
Corineus had that province utmost west
And Debon's share was that is Devonshire.
Although Wessex disappeared from the map,
its divisions retain good Teutonic names. In the
names Dorset and Somerset, the terminal " set "
or seat, signifies the habitation of settlers. In
COUNTY NOMENCLATURE 77
the word Wiltshire again, the t belongs to this
root ; in the Saxon Chronicle the men of the
county are called Wilsaetan, just as the men of
Dorset and Somerset are called Dornssetan and
Somerssetan ; it was the seat or ' ' settlement of
the Wyltic tribe," a people found in Germany in
the sixth century.
Somerset may possibly have been named from
the Saxon Sumerton, because of the summer-
like temperature of the locality the Welsh for the
same reason called it Glad-arhaf. Dorset is
believed to reveal the name of the Durotriges, or
' dwellers by the water."
In the will of Alfred the Great, Dorset, Somer-
set, Wilts, and Devon are enumerated as
' Wealhcynne," a phrase which proves that
these counties were then Celtic in blood and lan-
guage, although politically they belonged to the
Anglo-Saxon Commonwealth. Wiltshire may
possibly be Wilton-shire, Wilton being a con-
traction of Wily-town, a town inhabited by a
mixed race, on the river Wiley.
Worcester, the British name for which was
Wigorn, was the country of the Hwiccas. In
Anglo-Saxon charters the name appears as
Wegerna-cester, Weogern, Wihgeraceastre, and a
variety of forms up to the tenth century, when
the addition of ' ' scire " is made to the name of
the county ; in one instance the town is specified
as " in metropoli Huicciorum." The country of the
Hwiccas extended from the lower Severn halfway
In the name of Nottingham we have a relic of
an old English tribe of troglodytes, of whom very
few other traces remain. The word Nottingham
disguises the original form Snot-incga-ham, the
ham or home of " the children of the caves."
78 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
An old British name for Nottingham was Tyogo-
fawr, " the house of the cave-dwellers." The
sand-rocks on which this town is built are easily
perforated, and rock houses existed there in the
last century. Mortimer's Hole, under Notting-
ham Castle is a cave well known to history.
According to the thirteenth century scribe,
Roger of Wendover, Nottingham was called in
the tongue ot the Britons, Tinguobanc, which
meant the ' ' house of dens," or of caves.
The names of the great bulk of the English
shires, as might be expected from the way these
divisions were formed, were borrowed from the
county-towns, from the burghal centres around
which they grew up as administrative areas.
In these cases, which constitute our third group,
where the shire name is obtained from that of the
dominating town within its borders, it will be
necessary to get at the meaning and derivation
of the names of the respective towns.
Alfred the Great and his successors had built
a number of " burhs," which it was the duty of
the neighbouring free-holders to garrison and
maintain. These strongholds, though some-
times called castles, were really stockaded mounds ;
it was with their aid that an end had at last been
put to the Danish forays ; and these places be-
came the centres for the new divisions or ad-
ministrative shires in the Midlands.
Those so named had, as a rule, a different his-
torical foundation from the counties with tribal
names, such as Devon, Essex, or Kent. With
hardly an exception names of the former class
belong to the Mercian or Northumbrian king-
doms, which were conquests or annexations
posterior to the date of the Saxon immigration.
Successive districts, as they were annexed, tooky
MAP or ENGLAND
COUNTY NOMENCLATURE 79
their names from the town in which the earl held
his court, and from which he governed his con-
quered earldom. Names of the one class, like
Sussex, point to the original tribal kingdoms ;
those of the other, like Derbyshire, mark the
boundaries of the subject provinces.
Derby was at the first called North worth ig by
the Saxons ; this was before the fortune of war
had created the Danelagh, or Danish kingdom,
where the Norsemen were predominant. Ac-
cording to one theory the Danes, when they be-
came paramount, rejected this name and called
the place Derby, from deor "a. wild beast" and
by, " an abode," because it was " the village of
wild beasts," in a clearing of the great midland
forest between Sherwood and Arden. Another
opinion derives Derby from Derwentby, the
village on the river Derwent. The Earls of
Derby take their title, not from the Co. Derby,
but from West Derby in Lancashire, which is
always pronounced as if spelt with a.
Some etymologist derives Durham, like Derby,
and makes it signify the " home of wild beasts."
This origin is more than doubtful, as in the
Saxon Chronicle the name is written Dunholm,
which at least gives it the Danish suffix holm
(an island or a grassy hill by the water) and not the
Saxon ham (home). The bishop's signature is
Dunelm, which again changes the prefix from the
Danish Deor ("wild beast") to the British
Dun, " a hill."
The bishops have been used to sign in Latin
and in French alternately, as each succeeded to the
see ; thus if the last bishop signed Dunelm, the
living incumbent of the see would sign Dunesm,
the next again Dunelm ; and so on.
8o THE STORY OP THE SHIRE
A goodly number of the towns which designated
the counties they dominated, have names associat-
ing them with the waters on which they stood.
Gloucester is ' ' the fortress near the clear water,"
derived from the British word gloyw, ' clear."
The Britons called Gloucester Caer Gloyw, ' ' the
fortress near the glowing or clear water," which
the Romans Latinised into Glou or Glevum.
The Saxons restored the old British name Glou,
adding to it ceaster, to signify it had been a Roman
Monmouth is at the mouth of the river Monnow,
where it makes its junction with the Wye ; and
the Monnow water was, in the British tongue, the
Mynydd, or ' mountain river." This county
with Glamorgan made the British Kingdom
Gwent, a name meaning an open elevated county,
Latinised into Venta by the Romans, and some-
times called Wentsel or Wentsland.
The name of Lincolnshire is obtained from its
chief town Lincoln, which was a British fortress
on the river Lindis, now the Witham. The
Romans in succession made the place one of their
chief stations, established a colony there, and
called it Lindum Colonia, from which it is easy
to trace the contracted form of Lincoln which
is substantially a Latin name for an English town.
The Lindum is a corruption of the old British
Llyn-dune, or ' fen-town." In Early English
times the county was sometimes known as South-
Another river-named town is Leicester, the
cester or ' ' camp on the Leir " or Ligera, now called
the Soar. (Some authorities, however, derive
Leicester from Legionis Castra, precisely as they
do Chester from Castra Legionis, each place having
been the permanent station of a Roman legion.)
COUNTY NOMENCLATURE 81
York is a contraction of Eure-wic (pronounced
Yor-ric) the Eure being now called the Ouse.
The Romans called the place Eboracurn, and the
Archbishop signs himself Ebor.
Obviously Lancaster is the ' castra on the
I/line/' or the Lon as its older pronunciation was.
Popular tradition, as unreliable as it is fanciful,
has derived Lancaster from Lang Kester, that is
Long Christopher, who in far away times used to
carry travellers over the river Lune at this spot.
Cheshire, made up from Chester, is Castra-shire.
Chester was called by the Romans Devana castra
(the camp town of Deva, or Dee-mouth). But it
was pre-eminently the great Roman city, the
Castra that it had been a British settlement, the
chief stronghold of the Ordorvices, was quite
ignored the Latin Chester, without any Celtic
Among the Saxons there were few towns worthy
the name ; markets and fairs were often held at
fords or bridges, where road and river met, and
hence it is that many towns which eventually
grew up at these points bear the word ford or the
word bridge as part of their names.
Several in the same category were fording places,
whose importance arose from the traffic brought
to them as well-frequented places. Oxford is a
good example. In Ceadwalla's grant to the
abbey of Abingdon, made in Saxon times, mention
is made of " eoccenforda," which is believed to be
the earliest form of Oxford, the name of which
long remained in the form Oxenford, literally
' the ford for oxen."
Hertford in its pronunciation, if not in its
spelling, is plainly " the hart's ford," although
an origin has been claimed for it in Harting's-
ford. Taylor traces it through the Celtic rhyd,
a ford, as a reduplication of terms.
82 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
Stafford is popularly derived from " the staff-
ford," the town at which the shallow So we could
be crossed by the aid of a staff. The old form,
however, was Stsethford the ford nearby a land-
ing place ; staithe being an old English name for a
Some antiquarians explain the name Hereford
as a Saxon word meaning ' ' army-ford," forgetting
that the Saxons called the place Feren-lege, that
is " the meadow of fern." One of its British
names was Henffordd, that is " the old way."
Probably the true etymology is from its other
British name Cser-fFawydd, corrupted by the
Saxons to Harford and then to Hereford. This
etymology is supported by Shakespeare's accenting
the word as two syllables in the fine
Harry of Hereford, Lancaster, and Derby.
Some old writers spell the name Hariford.
The etymology of the name Bedford has given
rise to much controversy. The first syllable Bed
occurs in a number of place-names, but in this
case it has been very variously interpreted. On
Saxon coins minted in the place the town's name
appears in the form Bedafor, and in the contraction
Bedaf and Beda. Anciently the name was fre-
quently written as Bedanford, which has been
taken as an abbreviation of Bedicanford, meaning
the " fortress by the ford." Another contention
is that the name is derived from the Cymric
Bedw, ' a birch grove," because it was the
' ' ford in the birch woods " ; and yet another that
its signification is " the beggars' ford," derived
from Bedica, a beggar. Many incline to regard
the first syllable as the relic of a personal name,
Beda or Bedca, and a few have even claimed
the word Bedford as equivalent to Bideford, other-
COUNTY NOMENCLATURE 83
Cambridge appears in the Anglo - Saxon
Chronicle, under date 875, as Grantanbryce, ' ' the
bridge over the Granta " ; it also appears at an
early date as Granta-ceaster, or Grantchester.
It is therefore evident that the town practically
occupied the site of the Roman station, Granta.
Spenser and Drayton call the river on which it
stands, the Grant. But Chaucer calls the town
Cante brigge ; and the river has for centuries been
known as the Cam. It is difficult to believe that
Cam is a corruption of Granta. Whatever the
river was called, it is more than probable it was
crossed by a ford long before it was spanned by a
bridge, and that Cambridge, like Oxford, derived
its earliest importance from a water-crossing.
The Rev. Isaac Taylor says that in
' Camboritum," the ancient name of Cambridge,
the syllable rit represents the Celtic root rhyd,
" a ford."
At Camboritum two great Roman roads inter-
sected, one of which, the Via Devana, was made
to pass sheer through the river by the construction
of a paved causeway, laid on the bed of the
sluggish stream. For some reason best known to
themselves the Roman engineers did not throw a
bridge across the Granta, or the Cam, whichever
they called it ; and the fact which emerges is that
for centuries the place was known as a " ford of
the Cam," but by Chaucer's time had changed its
name to Cam-bridge. The primeval fortress
of the Britons, covering some sixty acres, and de-
fended by mighty earthworks, a formidable strong-
hold which the Roman conquerors appropriated,
stood on the left bank of the river.
Warwick, which gives its name to Warwick-
shire, was at first the Weringwic, the fortress-
village, or station of soldiers.
84 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
Huntingdon is not improbably the Hunters'
hill ; the terminal don signified a hill-fortress.
These last two names indicate an origin through
conquest and annexation at a date posterior to
the Saxon tribal immigration.
Hampshire is a contraction of Hamptonshire,
named from the county-town Hampton, standing
on the river Anton, and now called Southampton,
to distinguish it from Northampton. The Shire
is also called the County of Southampton. The
natives prefer not to derive the name from the
river, but from the fine old Saxon word ham,
making it the homestead of the original Teutonic
settlers. Ham, like the German heim, signifies,
at first, an inclosure, that which hems in ; and in
essence expresses the sanctity of the family bond,
of the home, among our Anglo-Saxon progenitors.
The Isle of Wight, which forms part of the
county was called, according to the Anglo Saxon
Chronicle, after the name of Wihtgar, great-grand-
son of King Cedric, who conquered the island.
Northampton in the Saxon Chronicle, A.D.
917, is Hantun, and in Domesday Book, North
An tone. In 1087 it becomes North-hamtun.
Shropshire and Salop are names derived,
directly or indirectly, from Shrewsbury. In
Domesday Book (1086) the town appears as
Sciropesberie ; and the county as Sciropescire ;
in the Pipe Rolls (1159) Salope and Saloscir appear
for the first time. In the Anglo Saxon Chronicle,
tinder the year 1006, the town's name is written
Scropesbyri, and the county 'sScrobbesbyrigscire ;
in which the Scrope or Scrobbe is probably a
personal name, though Shrewsbury has some-
times been interpreted as Shrub-borough. As to
pronunciation the sc in the first syllable was
originally sounded as sk, but later became sh, and
COUNTY NOMENCLATURE 85
eventually just s. Then Srop, or Scrob, not being
easy to say (though to this day, the vulgar pro-
nunciation of the name in the immediate locality
makes it Shropshire), the name in process of time
developed into Slob, Slop, and ultimately into
Salop. The word Salop is generally accepted as
derived from the Norman " Sloppesburie," a
corruption of the Saxon Scrobbes-burh (Shrub
borough) the original of Shrewsbury.
Another group of county names is constituted
of those which are derived from some physical
characteristic, or some dominant natural feature
of the locality. Thus Rutland, or Roteland,
obtains its name from the English word rot,
" red," and is so called on account of its red soil.
It is curious to notice how our Teutonic ances-
tors seemed to seize upon any natural feature that
differed from or reminded them of their native
land. Denmark, the home of the Jutes, was an
undulating land of low hills and spreading moor-
land, consisting mostly on the surface of meadows
and beech woods. Of its forests more than fifty
per cent, were beech trees. So among our county
names we have Buckinghamshire taking its name
from the county town, which was the " ham in
the becen," or the village among the familiar
No county bears a name of greater historic
value than Berkshire which was named from the
tree under which its shire-mote was held in the
very earliest times. According to Asser, the
biographer of Alfred the Great, than whom no
authority could be more weighty, the name is
derived from Bar oc (bare oak) otherwise a polled
oak in the forest of " Wyndesore," under which
the people were accustomed to assemble for the
transaction of the public business of the shire.
86 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
Speed, the sixteenth century antiquary, remarks
" Bark-shire whether of the Box-woods there
sited, according to the censure of Asserius
Menevensis, or from a naked and beare-lesse
Oke-tree, whereunto the people usually resorted
in troublesome times, to conferre for the State,
I determine not."
Of the last county to be treated here, the Saxon
name seems to have been West-moring-land,
the west land of the moors." Geoffrey of Mon-
mouth (1154) gives currency to a legend that Mar,
son of Arviragus, one of the descendants of
Brutus, the Trojan Wanderer, killed Rodric, a
Pict, and set up a monument of his victory in a
place which he called West-mar-land: ; and the
chronicler adds that ' ' the inscription of this
stone remains to this day." The second syllable
has also been given as mere making the county
to be West-mere-land.
This completes the name-derivations of the
forty English counties. Although the Welsh
counties were not all named till a much later
period, it will be convenient to deal with their
In North Wales four of the six counties are
named after their chief towns, namely Carnarvon-
shire, Flintshire, Denbighshire and Montgomery-
shire. Anglesey obtained its name from its
Teutonic invaders, and Merioneth has retained
its ancient British name.
In South Wales five of the six counties have
names that correspond with those of the chief
towns ; namely Cardiganshire, Pembrokeshire,
Carmarthenshire, Brecknockshire, and Radnor-
shire (New Radnor a town of 3,000 inhabitants,
is not now the county-town of the last-named, but
Presteign, a mere village) while Glamorganshire
COUNTY NOMENCLATURE 87
has a Celtic name, the real origin of which has been
lost in the mists of antiquity.
Anglesey is generally supposed to be, literally
interpreted, ' the Englishman's island " ; the
Rev. Isaac Taylor makes it ' ' Onguls eg," meaning
" the isle of the strait." By the Ancient Britons
the island seems to have been called Mon, sig-
nifying remote ; this the Romans Latinised into
Mona, ' the nurse of Wales," because of its
Carnarvon is Caer-yn-Arfon, the city of Arfon ;
Arfon being the land over against Mona's isle.
In Gray's ode ' ' The Bard," we have the reference
On dreary Arvon's shore they lie.
Flint is not so called because it is the county of
siliceous rocks. Old documents make allusion
to Castellum apud Fluentum, " the castle on the
flow," or tideway. The word Fluentum, applied
to the adjacent town on the Dee estuary, has in
course of time been corrupted into Flynt or Flint.
Denbigh like the Flemishly corrupted form,
Tenby is a Welsh word signifying ' ' cliff."
Montgomery till 1533 was a part of Powysland.
The castle there was captured from the Welsh
by Roger de Montgomeri, a Norman noble who
gave his own name to it. The name of the
castle, as in the case of Flint, passed on to the
town which grew up round its walls ; and when
Henry VIII. made it the county-town, it was
allowed to name the shire in which it stood a
unique example of a Norman name so applied.
The Welsh call it Baldwinshire (Sir Dre Valdwyn)
after the original holder of the castle.
Radnorshire was named by Henry VIII. from
New Radnor, which he made the capital of the
county. Probably the literal signification of
Radnor is ' ' red shore."
88 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
Pembroke is Pen-bro, signifying the " head of
the land " a name highly descriptive of its
Cardigan is a corruption of the old name
Keredigion, the country of Keridig, a son of
Cunedda, a sixth century Welsh prince.
Merioneth is also said to be derived from a
personal name that of Meirion, a Welsh saint,
and another son of Cunedda. A second derivation,
however, has been proffered " mseronaeth/' a
Another Welsh legend asserts that Brecon was
named after Brycnan, the eponymic king whose
daughter was martyred by the heathen Saxons
and Picts at Merthyr Tydfil.
Carmarthen is believed to be Maridunum, the
sea fortress, which with the prefix Caer signifying
the city, became Cser-marthen.
An old British legend chronicled by Geoffrey
of Monmouth gives a romantic, though highly
improbable origin for the name of Glamorgan.
He says that Cundah and Morgan, the sons of
Gonorill and Regan, usurped the crown at the
death of Cordeilla. The former resolved to reign
alone, chased Morgan into Wales, and slew him
at the foot of a hill, a place ever afterwards called
Gla-morgan, or Glyn-morgan, otherwise the valley
of Morgan. A more probable derivation is from
mor the sea, and gant side, and makes the name
Glamorgan express " the place by the sea-side "
and synonymous with the Celtic Armorica.
The Cornish and Welsh languages, it may be
noted here, were originally indentical ; they were
two branches of the Cymric, as the Armoric of
Brittany is another.
In remote parts of Devon the ancient Cymric
speech feebly lingered on till Tudor times, and in
COUNTY NOMENCLATURE 89
Cornwall was still the general medium of inter-
course. On the other hand in the Welsh border
counties of Glamorgan, Flint, Denbigh, and
Montgomery, the English language has encroached
very largely upon, and in many parts has dis-
placed, the native language.
While the natural features of the country were
allowed to retain their British names every
river-name in the island, for instance, is of Celtic
origin the towns, strongholds, and political
divisions had Teutonic names conferred upon
them by the dominant race. Exceptions to this
rule may be found in the border counties of Salop,
Hereford, Gloucester and Devon, and in the
mountain fastnesses of Derbyshire and Cumber-
land, where occasionally village names occur with
the prefixes Ian and ire interspersed among the
And yet most of the shire names contain Celtic
roots. The Rev. Isaac Taylor gives the following
list of such Cambridge, Cornwall, Cumberland,
Dorset, Durham, Gloucester, Hertford, Hunting-
don, Kent, Lincoln, Lancaster, Monmouth, North-
umberland, Oxford, Worcester, and York, together
with all the Welsh and Scotch counties except
Anglesey, Montgomery, Haddington, Kircud-
bright, Selkirk, Stirling, Sutherland, and Wigton.
There are a few of the chief ancient centres of
population which bear Celtic names, as London,
Winchester, Gloucester, Exeter, Lincoln, York,
Lancaster and Carlisle ; while some of those which
originated from isolated family settlements in the
uncleared woods are distinguished by Teutonic
names, as Buckingham and Derby.
Anglesey in Wales, and twelve counties in Eng-
land Cornwall, Cumberland, Durham, Essex,
Kent, Middlesex, Norfolk, Northumberland, Suf-
90 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
folk, Surrey, Sussex, and Westmoreland bear
names which do not terminate in " shire."
In three cases the terminal ' ' land " would per-
haps make the addition of shire redundant, al-
though the objection has not applied equally in the
case of Rutlandshire. As explained elsewhere
Durham was originally an ecclesiastical diocese,
and not an earldom or civil shire.
For obvious reasons the termination " shire"
has never been appended to the Celtic state of
Cornwall. Nor has it been attached to Essex,
Sussex, Middlesex, Surrey, Kent, Norfolk, and
Suffolk, because anciently they were autonomous
kingdoms, and not portions "shorn" away from
other states. The same distinction has been
claimed, though not for the same reason, or a
particularly valid one, for Somerset and Devon.
Most of the English counties have by-names
or convenient abbreviations of their full legal
designations. Many of these terminate in s,
which may be taken as signifying shire ; as Beds,
Berks, Bucks, Staffs, Lanes, Lines, Yorks, Notts,
Wilts, Hunts, and Herts. In some cases the ter-
mination of shire is dropped without the addition
of the s ; as in Warwick and Derby.
Other counties are fortunate in finding short
names easily understandable ; as Devon, Oxon,
Salop, Rutland, Hants. Others again seem im-
possible of curtailment as Durham, Hereford and
The best authorities spell the name Gloucester
in full ; Shakespeare and the Post Office cut it
down to Gloster, which is tolerable and to be en-
dured ; but the compromise between these two
forms, sometimes accepted as good journalese
Glocester, is without justification.
COUNTY NOMENCLATURE 91
The pronunciation of Derby whether the er
be sounded like ar, as in clerk, person, Berkeley
must remain a matter of taste. The same
option is scarcely allowed us in the names Hert-
fordshire and Berkshire, which are invariably pro-
nounced Harfordshire and Barkshire. In the
seventeenth century Derby was most frequently
written as Darby, and the territorial title of
nobility is always so pronounced. The departure
from the usual sound of e in these words may be
attributed to an alteration in the sound values of
the vowels, and partly perhaps to original deriva-
THE SHIRES AS EARLDOMS
Each Saxon shire had a separate organisation,
and the entire system of shires made up the king-
dom. Its chief was called Ealdorrnan or Here-
toga, according as he was engaged in peace or war.
A Shire might be defined as containing a circuit
or proportion of the realm into which the whole
land is divided for the better goverment of it, and
the more easy administration of justice ; so that
there is no part of the kingdom that lies not
within some county.
Every county was also placed under the super-
vision of a yearly officer called the Shire-reeve,
who represented the king ; and of whose office more
Before the subdivision of the entire country
into shires, the old subject kingdoms were some-
times constituted earldoms. But the earls sought
to make their office hereditary, and were powerful
enough to give the king much trouble. During
the Danish period, while the office of the Elder-
man in the shires became less important that of
the earl (the Danish " jarl " is equivalent to the
Saxon ' ' eorl ") which became exalted, even at the
expense of the royal authority. Siward, " the
right valiant," earl of Northumbria, the famous
Leofric, earl of Mercia, and the rebellious Godwin,
earl of Wessex, made themselves semi-independent.
Of the latter's two sons, Tostig became earl of
Northumbria, and Harold actually acquired the
crown of England.
The Norman Conqueror discreetly limited the
powers of his barons and earls, except in two cases ;
the Bishop of Durham, who had to keep irder on
the Scotch borders, and the Earl of Chester, who
had a similar responsibility on the Welsh Marches.
The Ealdorman or Elderman (practically the
same word as Alderman) was not a territorial
noble, but an appointed officer, who held a meet-
ing of all the people of the shire twice a year, to
settle disputes, punish offenders, and collect fines.
His social status was different from that of an
earl, though his functions may have been prac-
tically the same.
In dealing with these officials there was at times
considerable trouble ; some of them being found
dishonest, and not a few of them ambitious.
Ethelred made an ineffective attempt to restrict
the powers of the Eldermen.
William of Malmesbury accounts for thirty-two
counties existing in the reign of Ethelred, and
Robert of Gloucester for thirty-five, including
' Winchelcomb," since joined to Gloucestershire.
No mention is made in these lists of Cornwall,
Cumberland (styled also Carlisle-shire) Northum-
berland, Lancaster, Westmoreland, Durham, Mon-
mouthshire, and Rutland. Cornwall, says a
Tudor writer who quotes these old chroniclers,
remained British till William the Conqueror gave
it to his brother, Robert of Moreton ; Cumber-
land, Northumberland, " Westmerland," and
Durham were ranged, in the Saxon period, either
under Scottish or under Danish rule ; Lancashire
was no county until Henry III. made it so, nor
had Rutland any Earl till the time of Richard
II. This is not strictly correct, but the list of the
thirty-two earliest counties is interesting from
their classification which is given thus The
94 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
nine counties under West Saxon law were Kent,
Sussex, Surrey, " Hantshire," Berkshire, Wilts-
shire, Somerset, Dorset, and Devonshire ; another
eight were under Mercian law, namely Oxford,
Warwick, Hereford, Gloucester, Shropshire,
Stafford, Worcester, and Cheshire ; and the other
fifteen were in Ethelred's reign under Danish
law ; namely Essex, Middlesex, Suffolk, Norfolk,
Hertford, Cambridge, Bedford, Buckingham,
Huntingdon, " Northamton," Leicester, Derby,
Nottingham, Lincoln, and Yorkshire.
It is not probable that there existed, side by
side, in every shire area, both a territorial (and
sometimes hereditary) ruler, known either as
"earl" or " jarl " (or in later times by the
Frankish equivalent, ' Count "), and the
king's appointed highest representative, the
" Ealdorman." But from an early period there
came into existence an official who was the real
and actual executive of royal authority, one to
whom the practical government of the shire was
entrusted, either as the Earl's deputy or the
Ealdorman's subordinate. He was known as
the Sheriff, or Shire-reeve. In English, the
name implies simply and directly what he was
the Officer of the Shire : but the Latin equivalent
still in legal use ' ' Vice-Comes," shows his original
position as subordinate to that of the Count, or
Earl. In process of time, however, it was upon
the Sheriff or Vice-Comes that the civil adminis-
tration of the county totally devolved he super-
seded both earl and ealdorman, and the Shire
Moot or County Assembly became the Sheriff's
The Ealdormen, says an ancient authority,
at first enjoyed ' ' the title of Earles, in whose
disposition was the government, upon delegation
THB SHIRES AS EARLDOMS 95
from the king, the title being officiary and not
hereditary, except in some particular shire."
According to one learned authority, when, in
process of time, the Ealdormen merged into Earls,
the latter, by reason of their high employment,
military duties, and attendance upon the king's
person, not being able to transact the business of
the county, the burden of it was delivered entirely
into the hands of the Sheriffs.
After the Conquest only four Ealdormen were
to be found in the whole of England, the ad-
ministration of several shires being in the hands
of each of these. By this time the Saxon idea of
kinship as the basis of society had so weakened
that the call was urgent for a king's executive
officer in each shire. It was under these cir-
cumstances that the Sheriff rose to be the king's
right hand in the county area.
According to I^ord Littleton, in his History of
Henry JI.,lib2fol. 217, each county was anciently
an earldom, so that previous to the re'gn of King
Stephen, there were not any titular earls, nor
more earls than counties, though there might be
The double nomenclature of county and shire
reflects the social and political conditions under
which the terms originated. Shire is a word
connected by Trench with ' ' share " and ' ' shear "
and is properly a piece of land sheared off.
When a Saxon king created an earl, it did not
occur to men's thoughts, accustomed as they
were to deal with realities, that such should be
merely a titular creation, or exist without ter-
ritorial jurisdiction ; and a share or shire was
assigned to him to govern, which also gave him
96 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
At the Conquest this Saxon officer was dis-
placed by a Norman, the earl by the count (comes
meaning originally " companion " one who had
the honour of close companionship to the leader,
or king) : it was then the shire became the county
(comitatus) or the territory governed by the count.
Strangely enough the title count has disap-
peared from the titles of English nobility, and the
earl has recovered its place and is the most ancient
of our titles of nobility ; notwithstanding which,
the wife of the earl is called a countess. Ter-
ritorially the two names " shire " and " county "
still survive, side by side.
Many Spanish counts bear the devices of a
cauldron in their arms which is taken to signify
their greatness in housekeeping and ability in
maintaining those whom they lead. Folk-
Lorists have thought the famous porridge pot of
Guy, Earl (comes) of Warwick, may have had
some connection with this association.
Whilst the original Saxon shares were generally
earldoms, no territorial significance is now at-
tached to a title of nobility appropriating a
Quite recently Ix>rd Carrington, on being raised
a step in the peerage, took the title Earl of I/incoln-
shire, although the family seat is situated in
A more glaring example is that of the Duke of
Devonshire, who is a great territorial magnate in
several counties, particularly in Derbyshire, yet
owns no estates in the county from which his title
is derived. Tradition explains this by the story
that when the first patent of nobility was made out
for the head of the Cavendishes in the reign of
James I., the Clerk made the mistake of writing
Devonshire for Derbyshire, and that the error
THE SHIRES AS EARLDOMS 97.
was allowed to go unrectified. It must be borne
in mind that the first Cavendish dignity was an
Earldom, and there was already in existence an
earldom of Devon, in the Courtney family. By
the way, it is contended by some precisions that
the county should be called Devon, and not
Cornwall, as previously noted, is a royal duchy
belonging to the Prince of Wales ; there are other
county-names which have been strictly reserved
for use by princes of the royal blood as titular
dukedoms ; as Cumberland and Kent. There
are in existence also dukedoms of Somerset, Rut-
land, Northumberland, and Norfolk. The last-
named also carries the second title, Earl of Surrey.
The earl of Wiltshire is borne as the second
title of the Marquis of Winchester, while one
nobleman appropriates two county-names the
Earl of Suffolk and Earl of Berkshire. Among
the other counties which now name titular earl-
doms are Buckinghamshire, Essex, Huntingdon,
and Westmorland. There are other county names
in use as titles, some borne as secondary titles.
Obviously, from the foregoing, a new peer in
choosing a title could not be permitted, if below
the rank of Earl ("Count") to adopt the name of
a county or a county town.
Three grades of earls are described and de-
fined in Burke's Peerage, of whom the Earl
Palatine is highest.
The style of an Earl is " Right Honourable,"
and he is officially addressed by the Crown as
' Our tnisty and right well-beloved Cousin,"
a mode of address invented and artfully used by
Henry IV., that prince having been either by his
wife, his mother, or his sisters actually related or
allied to every earl in the kingdom.
Having seen how the shires were formed and
named, the next point to claim the attention, is
their organisation for gubernatorial purposes.
When communication between distant parts
of the country was difficult, the problem of govern-
ment from a central authority was not so easy to
solve. In Tudor times, for example, under a
highly organised Privy Council Government, it
was found necessary (after the uprising of 1536,
known as the Pilgrimage of Grace,) to strengthen
the king's authority in two outlying parts of the
realm by setting up divisional Councils, one for
Wales and the Marches (see p. 71) and the other
for the Five Northern Counties. The Northern
Council was abolished by the Long Parliament,
as was also the Court of Star Chamber.
It seems probable that when the realm was
originally divided into counties, it was done
primarily with a view to the convenient ad-
ministration of justice ; for the judicial business
of the kingdom was in early times chiefly dis-
patched in local courts, held in each different
county, before the duly appointed officers of the
Nor must the influence of the church in local
government be overlooked. After their con-
version to Christianity the influence of the clergy
among the Saxons became very great, the humblest
priest ranking with the landed gentry as a " mass
COUNTY ORGANISATION 99
thane." Originally the bishops' dioceses were
ecclesiastical divisions co-extensive with the king-
doms of the heptarchy, and therefore with the
ancient kingdoms which became shires. Each
diocese (or shire) beyond its civil divisions was
ecclesiastically divided into parishes, co-ex-
tensive with the Saxon township ; that is, into
preost scyres, each being the district of a single
priest. The Bishops became members ot the
Witana Gemote or national Council, though in
time they retired from participation in the work
of the County Courts.
Hume says that it was Alfred the Great who,
' that he might render the execution of justice
strict and regular, divided all England into
Counties ; those Counties he subdivided into
Hundreds ; and the Hundreds into Tithings ".
The statement appears to be made on the au-
thority of Ingulphus secretary to William the
Conqueror who asserts that ' Alfred divided
the kingdom into counties, hundreds and
tithings." William of Malmesbury repeats the
statement, and gives a reason for the measure ;
namely, that it was to ensure safety of intercourse
among the people that Alfred " appointed cen-
turies which they call hundreds, and decennaries,
that is to say tithings ; so that every Englishman
living according to the law must be a member of
In Saxon times the Court of the township was
the Hallmote or Halimote ; but a little later this
developed into the Court Baron, the Court Leet,
or the Customary Court of the Manor having
civil jurisdiction. It was a court of freeholders
in which the steward of the manor acted as judicial
officer. Every manor had a Court Baron, but a
Court L,eet was a franchise granted by the crown
ioo THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
conferring the criminal jurisdiction anciently exer-
cised in the Hallmote now superseded by courts
of summary jurisdiction.
The constitution of the Hundred is found to be
so anomalous that really it is difficult to divine
on what principle it was founded. Some of the
smallest Shires present the greatest number of
Hundreds, but this may have arisen from their
being more densely populated.
That a Hundred consisted of a hundred families
of freemen is, after all, a mere guess. In the
time of Edward the Confessor, the Hundreds of
Northamptonshire seem to have consisted of a
hundred hides of land. In the north of England
the Wapentake corresponded to the Hundred
of the southern district. One authority states
that a Hundred was a group of inhabitants which
provided a hundred fighting-men tor the fyrd,
or national army.
There is a strange disproportion between the
area of a Hundred in the southern and in the more
northern counties ; the average number of square
miles in a Hundred of Sussex or Kent being about
four-and-twenty ; of Lancashire more than three
hundred. The Saxon population would naturally
be far the densest in the earlier settlements of the
east and south, while more to the west and north
their tenure would be one rather of conquest than
of civilization, and the free families much fewer
and more scattered.
Other authorities maintain that the system of
Shires and their sub-division into administrative
units existed long before Alfred's time, not only
in this country, but among all German nations.
When this people planted themselves on a land,
peaceably or otherwise, the family bond was the
unit of government. Each family had a hide
COUNTY ORGANISATION 101
of land some thirty cultivable acres. It was
book-land private property. Other families
clustered around, for the protection and com-
fort ot society. Ten families made the Tithing.
A wider personal and territorial division being
found necessary for administrative purposes, a
group of a hundred families formed the then con-
siderable community and hence the Hundred.
Each tithing and hundred had its folk-land
land comprising wood, heath, marsh, and pasture
held in common, and which originally formed
the mark or boundary of the small community.
The quality of the soil and the nature of the
surface differing in various parts of the country,
also accounted for the varying dimensions of these
The Hundred and the Tithing constitute the
normal or ordinary divisions of an English county ;
but there are other divisions and subdivisions,
in the names of which may be detected the im-
port of such epochs in the nation's history as the
accession of new blood by conquest and settlement.
A Lathe or leth is a larger division of a county,
containing three or four hundreds or wapentakes,
as in Kent and Sussex. The root of the word
lathe is German, signifying people, and was
originally applied to subsidized colonists (Iceti)
introduced by the Romans to defend a frontier.
The lathes of Kent are in all probability a vestige
of the Isetic organization of imperial Rome. The
English name for the officer who presided in a
lathe, was Lath-grieve, or Lathe-reeve, or some-
The border counties of Northumberland, Cum-
berland, Durham, and Westmoreland have
divisions significantly named Wards, as has
Lanarkshire on the other side the border.
io2 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
The Wapentake was a military division of all
fighting men capable of bearing weapons, an
organisation due to the Danish intruders, and
found chiefly in Yorkshire and other northern
The word Wapentake literally signifies the
touching of arms, and was derived from the cere-
mony which took place on the inauguration of
the chief magistrate, when, having dismounted
from his horse, he fixed his spear in the ground,
which was then touched by the spears of those
present. This was evidently the military origin
of the Hundred, as adverted to by Tacitus, who,
however, also mentions its civil or judicial des-
While the Hundred indicated a peaceful Saxon
settlement, and a Wapentake a Danish defensive
settlement, later still came a Norman sub-
division which must be classified with the latter.
The Rape is a memorial of the violent trans-
ference of landed property by the Norman Con-
queror the lands being plotted out for division
by the hrepp, or rope, just as they had been by
Rolf in Normandy. The Hide, the Saxon unit
of land, seems to have been measured off with a
leather thong, as the Rape was with a hempen
rope. Sussex is the only county which is
divided into Rapes as weU as into Hundreds
or Wapentakes. Wapentakes generally prevail
north of the Trent. The presiding officer of a
Rape was called Rape-reeve, and like the Lath-
reeve, acted in subordination to the Shire-reeve.
The counties divided into Wapentakes include
Lincoln and Derby (which have also their Hun-
dreds and Sokes, the latter a kind of manorial
franchise) ; also Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, which
apparently from their great size, were divided into
COUNTY ORGANISATION 103
thirds, called thirdings or tradings, now corrupted
into Ridings. The word " thing" or " ding"
is Scandinavian, and signifies a legislative assem-
bly. A Riding, or as in Lincolnshire, a Trithing,
was the jurisdiction of a third part of a county,
placed under the government of a Reeve or
Sheriff. Originally the officer who presided over
a Trithing was known as a Tri thing-man.
Originally the largest divisional area, the " Ga "
or ' ' Scir " (that is, the Shire) was probably always
defined by some natural boundary, as a river, a
forest, or a mountain range ; and it is tolerably
certain that some of the Shires bore the names by
which they are still known quite a century in
advance of Alfred's time.
At the present day certain of the geographical
counties are divided into smaller administrative
counties. In Yorkshire they are the Ridings,
and in Lincolnshire the Trithings, each having
the jurisdiction of a county. In Yorkshire, the
largest English county, the divisions are known
respectively as the North Riding, the East Riding,
and the West Riding.
The extensive area of Lincolnshire is par-
titioned into three " parts " ; they are known as
Holland, Kesteven, and Lindsey.
There is an East and a West Sussex, with
Quarter Sessions at Lewes for the former, and at
Horsham and Chichester for the latter, though
the Assizes are held at Lewes only.
There is also an East and a West Suffolk, ad-
ministered from Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds
In Cambridgeshire the Isle of Ely possesses in
some respects the features of a distinct county.
In Northamptonshire the Soke of Peterborough
is an administrative county of itself, with peculiar
104 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
A Soke is a locality which has some special
' liberty," as the tenants being excused from cus-
tomary burdens, or the privilege of holding a
court within its own ' soke " or jurisdiction.
Within the boundaries of the Soke of Peterborough
are comprised thirty townships and hamlets.
The Marquis of Exeter, the " first Civil Lord of
the Soke," is (or was) Lord Paramount and
Gustos Rotulorum having charge of the rolls of
the Sessions or the Peace and of the Commission
of the Peace.
The administration of justice in the city is in
the hands of a bench of magistrates, chosen from
the Soke under the nomination ot the Custos
Rotulorum and approved by the Crown, and
these magistrates when sitting at Quarter Sessions
had, till the igth century, powers of jurisdiction
far more extensive than an ordinary Court of
Quarter Sessions, in that they have the power of
trying any offence, including murder, and as for
long the Mayor of Peterborough (though reckoned
' the least city and the poorest bishopric in
England ") was said to be the only Mayor to have
the power of convicting and sentencing a man to
In Hampshire the mainland is administered as
the County of Southampton, leaving the Isle of
Wight a separate jurisdiction, though the Assizes
for the whole are held at Winchester. In Wales
the county of Carmarthen has a territorial division
called a Commot a name believed to be derived
from " commonty," a pasture right.
It may be recalled that Cromwell divided
England into eleven Districts, over each of which
he appointed a Major-General, a military officer
to enforce Puritan discipline (1655). Very soon
did the country tire of the severities of military
COUNTY ORGANISATION 105
administration and gladly reverted to the old
County system again.
As the familiar unit of local self-government,
the " county" is constantly being met with in
English literature. In Bret Harte's novels of
life in far western California, repeated allusions
are made to the ' ' county " and to the ' ' Sheriff,"
and the limitation of the latter's authority to the
confines of his own official area, just as it is in the
Mother Country. Or if we turn to the page of
history we find Richard Cobden in 1848 advocating
a plan in what he describes as ' ' constitution
tinkering," a subject then enjoying some amount
of public attention. He proposed that each
county should be governed by an elected assembly
to replace the lord-lieutenant and the magistracy
who then had charge of most of the local affairs.
According to the plan he unfolded ' ' The head of
this body, or rather the head of each county, to be
the executive chief, partaking of the character of
prefect or governor of State in the United States.
By and by, when you require to change the con-
stitution of the House of Lords, these county
legislators may each elect two senators to an upper
chamber or senate."
One is suddenly reminded of Cobden's almost
forgotten proposals, by the Ulster exclusion
clauses suggested for the Irish Home Rule Bill
by Mr. Asquith in 1914. In America, in England
in Ireland, it is always the Shire unit which is
THE SHIRE COURT AND OTHER LOCAL
Saxon Society was constituted on the basis of
the family ; the whole nation was built on the
family tie, cemented by the blood-bond of kinship,
which to them implied mutual dependence and
Local customs and local laws at this period
governed the lives of the whole people. For any
practical purposes there was no central govern-
ment in existence ; there was no " state " dealing
directly with the people, and if there were national
laws there was certainly no uniform administration
The great bulk of all the justice was done in the
local courts the Shire Moot and the Hundred
Moot the king's own court being for the pro-
tection of the royal rights, and a court for the
causes of the king's barons.
Originally, when as the national assembly as
well as the judicial court of the tribal kingdom,
held in the open air beneath the spreading shade
of some mighty oak, the Scir-gemote, or Shire
Moot, had possessed legislative functions. In
London ' ' Paul's Cross " was the meeting-place
for one of the chief Folk motes of the city.
In the later Anglo-Saxon times a Shire Moot or
County Court was held at the beginning of May
and October, in which all the thanes were entitled
to a seat and a vote. Its functions were judicial
THE SHIRE COURT AND OTHER LOCAI, COURTS 107
and it was presided over by the ealdorman (or the
earl), with the assistance of the bishop. Hume
justly remarks that among a people who lived
in so simple a manner as the Anglo-Saxons, the
judicial power is always more important than the
legislative ; and the thanes were mainly indebted
for the preservation of their liberties to their
possessing the judicial power in their county courts.
From the foundation of the kingdom the Shire
was the largest administrative division ; the
Sheriff occupied the position of royal steward in
it, and has survived all the other functionaries.
The County Court remained in Norman times
as the tribunal before which almost all the criminal
charges were determined. All the land-owners
of the county under the presidency of the Sheriff
and Bishop, formed the Court. They all took
part, or had a right to take part, in a criminal
trial, and they all looked on to see whether due
proof of guilt or innocence was given. Into the
methods and processes employed it is scarcely
necessary to enter here ; but, as is well known,
they included Trial by Ordeal, and the system of
Compurgation. In the latter, the neighbours of
the accused swore to a belief in his innocence, the
testimony of each compurgator being estimated
according to a scale of ' ' worth " an earl's oath,
for instance, being equal to the oaths of six
ceorls (the freemen cultivators of the soil) and so
on. If the aggregate value of the oaths fell below the
prescribed sum, the accused was found guilty. If
the accused put himself upon the trial by ordeal, the
weight of the pot of iron he was to bear, or the
depth to which he was to plunge his arm into the
hot water, was scrupulously pre-appointed by
the law. The Assembly looked on. In trial by
compurgation they added up the amount of the
io8 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
oaths ; in trial by ordeal they watched the effect
of the hot iron, or hot water, upon the skin of
the accused person ; and that was all they had to
do. It was over the solemnity of their fellows'
judgment, judicially exercised, that the Sheriff
of the county and the Bishop of the diocese
presided. When, in process of time, the Bishop
disappeared from this civil court, the Sheriff, as
direct representative of the King's authority,
became the sole president.
To assist in the dispensation of justice there
seems to have been another class of official, called
Deman in the original Saxon, but generally trans-
lated judices in the Latin, who took part in ad-
ministering and accepting the oaths of Com-
purgators. It is difficult to realise the precise
status of this officer in a court where the suitors
were the judges, but conceivably the judex may
have been the ' ' doomsman " of the Hundred.
In any case he acted as deputy to the Sheriff
in the administration of justice.
The sovereign of a large or considerable king-
dom found it impossible to wield the sword of
justice personally in every part of his realm, and
therefore in the evolution of the state, the ad-
ministration of the law was from the first a
delegated function. In England the earliest and
most elemental form of this delegated authority,
with a criminal jurisdiction, was found in the
Each Tithing or Township had its own local
court, with varying amounts of jurisdiction, and
subordinate to the Hundred Court, which again
was subordinate to the County Court or Shire-
moot. Hundred Courts were held monthly, and
the Shire Courts at least twice a year.
THE SHIRE COURT AND OTHER I^OCM, COURTS 109
' ' The civil division of the territory of England
(says Stephen in his Commentaries) is into counties,
of those Counties into Hundreds, and of those
Hundreds into Tithings or towns. This division
is of remote and undefined antiquity ; and was
not peculiar to England, similar distributions
having been in use among several nations of the
continent. As to the Tithings, they were so
called from the Saxon, because ten freeholders
with their families composed one. These all
dwelt together, and were sureties or free pledges
to the king for the good behaviour of each other ;
and if any offence was committed in their district,
they were bound to have the offender forthcoming.
And therefore antiently no man was suffered to
abide in England above forty days unless he was
enrolled in some Tithing or decennary."
One of the principal inhabitants of the Tithing
was annually appointed to preside over the rest,
being called the Tithing-man, or Head-borough,
names which speak their own etymology. In
some counties a similar officer, elected because he
was deemed to be the discreetest man in the
borough, town, or tithing, was known as the
Borsholder, or borough's-elder. As a Head-
borough came to be regarded as a sort of petty
constable, a borsholder would be a superior kind
of constable. The commonalties of some of the
larger townships elected officers with magisterial
powers ; but as a rule the Town Moot concerned
itself with other and more intimate affairs.
At the Town Meeting all questions of local
moment were considered and decided. For
instance, each year the strips of cultivated land,
scattered about the parish, were at these meetings
fairly divided so that each man stood an equal
chance of having good and bad in his holding.
no THE STORY OP THE SHIRE
The question of cropping was settled to the satis-
faction of the majority of the townsmen. Regu-
lations were made for the grazing of the common
lands, and also of the waste land between the
townships. In fact every communal interest was
discussed and fairly arranged.
With the advent of Norman rule, each village
and township became a feudal manor, or part of a
manor. As a ruling class, the Normans had
sense enough to preserve the local courts and
customs, and, incidentally, the powers of the
Sheriff became considerably enlarged.
At a later period the manorial courts of the
feudal lords were fiercely attacked by Edward I.,
who tried to extend the jurisdiction of the Shire
and Hundred Courts as well as the popularity of
the Assize Courts ; his object being not only
uniformity in the administration of justice, but a
vindication of the authority of the central govern-
ment. Another blow dealt at the old manorial
jurisdiction was the rising power and increasing
usefulness of the unpaid justices.
At the Hundred Meetings, where the Bishop
sat with the Elderman to look after the interest
of the church, the Sheriff also being present in
the capacity of the royal steward, to safeguard
the king's rights, all disputes were decided, and
criminal offenders punished according to law or
custom. Neither the Danish kings or the Nor-
mans interfered with the English practice of pre-
serving the peace by the method of mutual re-
sponsibility, and open trial in the Hundred Courts.
At the Hundred Court the landowners of the
district and their stewards were entitled to be
present, or if unable to be present might be
represented by certain of the freemen. The
Hundred was governed by a High Constable or
THE SHIRE COURT AND OTHER I/OCAI, COURTS in
At the Shire Court, also, the Church took a part
in the proceedings ; it was not till after the Con-
quest that the Church asked for, and obtained, in-
dependent ecclesiastical courts with a privileged
jurisdiction. Almost concurrently with the with-
drawal of the Bishop from the Shire Court, the
powers of the Eldermen waned to vanishing
point while those of the Sheriff steadily increased.
Henry I. sent out Commissioners to the Hun-
dred and Shire Meetings to see that justice was
done in them, and that the taxes were paid.
Above the Town, the Hundred, and the Shire
Courts was the Witan, or assembly of wise men,
who advised the king. As in Saxon and Danish
times, government through the great earls had
proved unsatisfactory, the Conqueror was careful
to avoid this form and to rely more on the advice
of the Eldermen, who in some sense, at least,
were representative of the Shires.
Our Saxon ancestors, like all the ancient German
peoples, maintained the right of meeting to advise
their king in council ; so, in all the countries where
the feudal system became established, there arose
a national council which, in different countries
was known by different names, as States General,
Cortez, the Grand Assize, or Parliament, In this
country the Norman Conqueror and his successors
had assemblies, differently constituted under the
names of Concilium, Magnum Concilium, and-
Commune Concilium. To these none were sum-
moned but archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors,
earls, and barons.
In this national assembly there always existed
an element of county representation, the Sheriff
of each Shire being directed to send up a certain
number of freeholders or royal tenants to talk
with the king it was in fact a ' ' talking meeting "
ii2 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
or parliament, the deliberations at which were
carried on in Latin or Norman-French. These
representatives were chosen by the free votes of
their fellows at the Shire-moot, or Hustings as it
came to be called later.
The Hustings, literally, was an assembly
(or "thing") of householders. The Borough
Courts were first called Hustings, and thence the
name became applied to the assemblies at which
Borough (and later, County) representatives in
parliament were elected.
Shire-Moot and Folk-Moot were synonymous
terms, the folk signifying the tribe. When the
union of the kingdoms had been effected, it was
doubtless found difficult, even on special legis-
lative occasions, for the people to attend. The
powers and functions of the Folk-Moot then
merged into the Witan or national council of Wise
Men, which consisted of the bishops, abbots, and
the chief officers of the royal household, the
ealdormen of the shires, and the King's nearest
kinsmen and chief tenants. These men, con-
sidered to have the highest knowledge of political
affairs, advised the King, carried on the ad-
ministration, and prepared the laws for the
acceptance of the people.
Spelman says that originally the Saxon Folk-
Moot held its annual meeting on May-day. This
learned antiquary explains it as a convention of
Bishops, Thanes, Aldermen, and Freemen, in
which the laymen having first sworn to defend
one another and conjointly with the king maintain
the laws of the realm, then proceeded to consult
of the common safety.
It was under the absentee King, Richard I.,
that the Shire Court reached its fullest activity,
and made for the fullest form of local self-govern-
THE SHIRE COURT AND OTHER I/OCAI, COURTS 113
ment in the county, which could be enjoyed under
feudal conditions, from the year 1194 its
influence in affairs was recognised time after time
by the union of a number of shires into a central
assembly for the discussion of some matter of
grave importance. In 1226, for instance, knights
of the shire were called together to discuss certain
disputed articles in Magna Charta.
It has therefore been suggested that, when
calling his first national parliament, Simon de
Montfort borrowed the idea of organising a central
assembly from the practice, which had then pre-
vailed for some time, of four leading knights going
round to arrange for a representative body of
twelve knights or freeholders for each Hundred,
into whose hands certain well-defined powers of
local government were fully committed. The
first House of Commons is claimed to be an ex-
pansion of this idea.
It is a weighty suggestion, no doubt ; there is
another of almost equal significance that our
boasted system of trial by jury can also have its
origins traced to an old Shire Court practice, or
possibly to that of the Hundred Court below it.
By the laws of Ethelred (about 675 A.D.) a court
was to be held in every Hundred, in which twelve
men (duodeni viri) of free condition and mature
age, together with the presiding officer, ' ' shall
swear not to condemn the innocent or acquit the
guilty." But, it must be remembered, these laws
were promulgated to regulate Trial by Ordeal and
Trial by Compurgation, and the " twelve men"
therein mentioned were merely a body of assessors
to assist the Earl or other officer who presided in
the Court ; and the duties performed by them can
scarcely be claimed as similar to those discharged
by a modern juryman. The germ of the idea
ii4 THE STORY OP THE SHIRE
which gave us the jury system is certainly there ;
but whether as a relic of Roman law adopted by
the Saxons from the vanquished Celtic inhabitants,
or brought over from the forests of Germany by
them, no man can say.
The Hundred Court was utilised in 1086 to
collect the sworn information upon which the
Domesday Book was compiled. The chief men
in each Hundred, who were called upon to give
evidence to the compiling clerks, were designated
jurors. The term, however, did not convey
the signification since attaching to it, as men called
upon to judge and award but merely men put
on their oath.
Among the Saxons the Shire Court had relied
chiefly on compurgation, and trial by ordeal.
The Normans introduced the wager of battle.
Henry II., a little later, is believed to have in-
troduced the jury system in a modified form. In
his reign the Shire Court first accepted the oaths
of those persons who were considered most likely
to know the truth of the case under trial. This
procedure in time developed mto the jury system
as we know it; a body of men knowing nothing
whatever of the case, bemg called upon to weigh
the evidence of those who did know.
To trace the history ot the Shire Court is to dis-
cover the origin of the Parliamentary idea, and
the rudimentary beginnings of democratic govern-
Our Anglo-Saxon forefathers were not town-
dwellers ; and in many ways they showed their
dislike of walled towns when they settled here.
With them land was the accompaniment of full
freedom, and the freeman was the freeholder.
Therefore, on their first arrival, instead of crowd-
ing together in cities, they preferred to live apart
in farmer commonwealths, each of which was
jealous of its isolation and independence, and to
maintain which, each agricultural settlement was
girt by its own " mark " or belt of waste land.
But even in a nation of sturdy farmers, the evolu-
tion of the burgh is inevitable though these
Teutonic invaders had destroyed Roman cities,
their children were doomed to the erection of
many Saxon burghs.
Though our subject treats nominally of the
Shire, the evolution of the Town cannot be entirely
Though with the Saxons the Tun or Township
was the smallest, if not also the least important
of governmental areas, it has come in many in-
stances to rival, and even to outstrip, the Shire,
in all material factors except, of course, area
as population, wealth and political influence.
Something, therefore, requires to be said on the
growth and grading of Towns.
Cities, boroughs, and corporate towns were not
always absolutely independent of county sup-
u6 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
port. In early times the walled towns, being
strongholds somewhat in the nature of local
" cities of refuge," received aids from the county
in which they were situated, and sometimes even
from a neighbouring county. Thus we find
Ipswich, in the reign of John, had its walls and
ditches repaired by the aid of the county, assisted
by the county of Cambridge. An entry in
Domesday Book discloses that the responsibility
for the upkeep of the walls and bridges of Chester,
lay upon the whole county.
Sir Edward Coke estimated that in his time,
some three centuries ago, there were in England
and Wales about 8,800 towns, several of them
having small appendages called ' ' hamlets," which
were noticed in the Statute of Exeter (14 Edward
I.) wherein also occurred the terms ' ' entire vills "
and ' demi vills." Sir Henry Spelman con-
jectures " entire vills " to have consisted of ten
freemen or frank pledges, " demi vills" of five,
and hamlets of less than five. ' These little
collections of houses are sometimes under the same
administration as the town itself, sometimes
governed by separate officers ; in which last case
they are, for some purposes in law looked upon as
' Tithings, towns, or vills," says a later au-
thority, ' ' are of the same signification in law,
and are said to have had each of them originally a
church with celebration of divine service, sacra-
ments and burials ; though that seems to be rather
an ecclesiastical than a civil distinction. The
word town or mil is indeed, by alteration of times
and language, now become a generical term, com-
prehending under it several species and varieties.
These towns contained each originally but one
parish and one tithing ; though many of them
THE TOWNS 117
now, by the increase of inhabitants, are divided
into several parishes and tithings ; and, sometimes,
where there is but one parish, there are two or
more vills or tithings."
Towns are distinguished from each other (legally)
as being either corporate or not corporate ; the
townsmen forming, in the first kind a corporation,
that is, a society, with certain legal powers, pro-
perties and capacities.
There are Market-towns, which are towns
entitled by some old privilege or franchise to hold
markets in their public streets and thoroughfares.
Cities (in England) are those towns which are
or have been in the past sees of bishops ; there
being no connection between a city and a see,
though the bishopric be dissolved, the town re-
mains a city still.
A borough is a town that sends, or has sent in the
past, a burgess to parliament ; it is sometimes
known as a " mayor-town."
Of all the towns in this country, London is
the most privileged, being the capital and the
most important, rejoicing in every civic franchise
possible. London is the exception to all rules.
When a state organism was being given to
England by its Norman Kings, London occupied
a peculiar place in the institutional life of the
country ; a place of independence, strength, and
prestige of a really remarkable kind, though
it is generally unnoticed or unemphasised by
historians. The records, though fragmentary,
clearly show that London stood apart from the
life that surrounded it in the Anglo-Saxon period.
In the earlier part of the period it had been the
chief town of the East Saxons ; but for recognition
as the capital city of a united England it had a
strong rival in Winchester, the Hampshire capital
n8 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
of the West Saxons. Its Roman walls at the
first had not attracted the Saxon invaders, for
they were not town dwellers ; the Danes, however,
had made it their head-quarters, and after they
had desolated it, King Alfred recovered and re-
The Conqueror had found London the chief
trading town, and had ordered it to be fortified
by the erection of a strong castle or tower. Its
citizens were freed from taxation, it was allowed
to have its own Courts of Law, and by Henry I.
was even given authority over Middlesex. While
London remained the largest city, Middlesex was
but the smallest of the Shires.
London is not included in the comprehensive
survey of Domesday. It did not become the
seat of Government until the late period in which
it grew out to, and absorbed Westminister, ' * the
home of royalty."
That eminent authority, Sir Laurence Gomme,
who has attempted to trace the origin and growth
to maturity of ' ' the English institution which is
contained within the shell of London city," makes
one realise that there is something almost myster-
ious in this complete separation of London from
the rest of the country.
This writer says
' London remained so long independent of
English polity because that city alone, in the
midst of the primitve and typically tribal society
that now flooded the country, retained the
character and the highly-developed institutions
of a city of the Roman world-state ; she stood
like a strong tower above the tide that over-
whelmed every other centre of the Roman civiliza-
tion of England."
THE TOWNS 119
There was in London a prolonged resistance by
its isolated garrison and higher civilisation to the
assaults, first of the Anglo Saxon, then of the Dane,
and then of the great Norman and Angevin state-
builders. London's position and numbers having
saved the community from mere stamping out
and scattering, her own law, custom, and govern-
ment, by sheer force of superiority, withstood
the absorbent power of the barbarian society about
it. And this at the period when the Shire system
was being inaugurated. Only by degrees Anglo-
Saxon custom and spirit soaked into the city from
without the walls. London elections were not
English elections its Anglo-Saxon Folk -Moot was
always striving to be dominant but never actually
When the Norman came London was still in-
dependent, though ranged with the rest against
him on the hill behind Hastings. The epoch of
the charters to London, begun by the Conqueror,
was the epoch of the gradual discovery by the
new statesmen of London's peculiar body of pre-
scriptive rights and customs, claimed as London's
due against every other power, into rights and
customs expressly granted by the Crown out of its
new national sovereignty. In the end the robust
life of the young English State, now at length
made one, played freely through the city, ob-
literating a thousand traces of the rule of ancient
Rome and blotting out the memory of what they
The first Mayor of London was Henry Fitz-
Ailwin, who was appointed in 1189, and held office
for twenty-four years. In 1354 the holder of the
office was dignified with the title of ' ' lord-mayor."
The Mayors of London, York, and Dublin, and
the Provost of Edinburgh have long had the
120 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
courtesy title of lord, which brought with it the
other courtesy designation of Right Honourable
and a similar honour has in recent years been
extended to the Mayors of the newer populous
cities, like Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool,
Bradford (Yorks.), Bristol, Hull, Leeds, Newcastle-
on-Tyne, Norwich, Nottingham, Sheffield, and
The first lord mayor to go by water to West-
minster (for the royal ratification of his election)
was Sir John Norman, who in 1453 thus instituted
the Lord Mayor's Show.
The symbolical cap and sword of the Lord Mayor
of London were given to Sir William Walworth
by Richard II., for killing Wat Tyler. In ' ' The
Nine Worthies of London " (1592) we are told
that the Mayor first arrested and then stabbed
the rebel chief, of which died.
A costly hat his Highness likewise gave
That London's " maintenance " might ever be ;
A sword also he did ordain to have
That should be carried still before the Mayor
Whose worth deserved succession to the chair.
In course of time the creation of diverse bodies
for diverse objects, tended not a little to com-
plexity the single community of London, for
instance, is managed by 144 local governing au-
thorities, with 4343 members elected in various
ways but then the population dealt with is half
as numerous again as that of Bulgaria.
In the centre is the City, nursing the ancient
privileges and property that belong to all ; outside
is County Council London, with its 28 separate
boroughs and 30 separate poor law districts ;
beyond extends the area of Main Drainage
London, beyond that the area of Water London ;
still further is the area of Police London,
stretching from Cheshunt to Epsom and
THB TOWNS 121
from Romford to Staines. No two of these
areas are co-terminous and all are strewn with
authorities, often conflicting in interest and
activities, all independent and all spending the
ratepayers' money. Within the 117 square miles
of the County of London there are 101 authorities,
spending over 25,000,000 a year; within the 693
square miles of Police or Greater London there are
262 authorities, spending some 35,000,000 a
There is no central control and no co-ordination ;
with the result that there is much waste, great con-
fusion, and some injustice.
And so London, with ever increasing population
and accession of wealth, has grown from greatness
to greatness. Other trading towns and com-
mercial cities have followed in the same course of
material prosperity. Inasmuch as many of these
prosperous towns have extended their municipal
boundaries, they have grown in area at the ex-
pense of the county area. But whether this
shrinkage of the county areas is for the good of the
general community is doubtful there is not only
the encroachment of the town upon the country-
side which is not hygienically desirable, but
there is the risk of a further impoverishment of
the rural districts, where local government is
already handicapped by the smallness and in-
elasticity of the rateable values chargeable.
THE " SHIRE MAN"
The division of the country into a number of
administrative areas called Shires, necessarily
implied deputed authority on a large scale ; it
was a system which called into being for each
Shire a functionary of no little importance, one
who for local purposes was the representative of
royal authority, vested with very considerable
powers. In the earlier stages of state con-
solidation the over-king had delegated his au-
thority to the Ealdormen of the Shire, who was
not unfrequently a descendant of the old tribal
kings. But with the later organisation of the
shire system, this delegated authority was placed
in the hands of a local freeholder of the better
sort, chosen by his fellows, though sometimes
nominated by the king ; he was specially charged
with the care of the royal estates within his
jurisdiction, and the collection of all dues and
fines for the royal treasury.
In the creation of this constitutional officer we
seem to see the first glimmerings of a national
consciousness, and the growth of that conscious-
ness is traced in the gradual evolution of his office.
This was the Shire-man in Saxon times the
Scir-gerefa or Shire Reeve, and in the northern
parts, the High Reeve. But by whatever name
he was known, he was a constitutional officer,
and his office, it is noteworthy to observe,
has survived a thousand years after that of
THE ' ' SHIRE MAN " 123
the Ealdorman has ceased to be known, and that
of the Earl or Count has ceased to have any
official connection with the county. It may have
been that when the custody of a Shire was com-
mitted, as at the first division of the kingdom,
to the hands of an earl or of an ealdorman, either
of these rulers was found of tendencies too auto-
cratic for the independent spirit of the people, ard
it was therefore deemed expedient to associate
in the government another official of a more
representative character, one more amenable to
well-ordered influences. It is not difficult to
understand how, under conditions such as these,
the office of Sheriff came into being.
As bailiff of the shire, acting on behalf of the
king, appointed annually with the approval of
both king and people, the Sheriff became the con-
stitutional head of the county ; and it was as such
that his office endured.
The Sheriff was at the first chosen by the in-
habitants of the several counties, in confirmation
of which it was ordained by statute 28 Edward I.
that ' ' the people should have election of Sheriffs
in every shire when the shrievalty is not of in-
For in some counties the office was once here-
ditary, as it was in Scotland, till the heritable
sheriffs were deprived of their powers (which ex-
tended to the trial of criminals) by an Act of
1748. After the Rebellion of 1745 the Imperial
parliament found it advisable to abolish all here-
ditary jurisdictions m Scotland which were
associated with the ownership of land and titles
of rank. In England the Earl of Thanet was
hereditary Sheriff of Westmoreland, and the
office once descended to, and was executed by,
a female of his line, in the person of Ann, Countess
124 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
of Pembroke, who exercised it in person, sitting
on the bench with the judges at Appleby Assizes.
The Sheriff of Northumberland was High
Treasurer of the county, and being entrusted with
the defence of the borders, was endowed with
extraordinary powers and prerogatives, even to
the retaining of some of ' ' the issues of his sheriff-
rick to his own use."
In Northumberland and the adjacent border
counties, the Sheriff in olden times appointed
officers known as the County Keepers, whose
chief duty was to afford protection against, or
make good, losses occasioned by reivers from the
Scottish side of the Tweed.
Although the process of popular election, which
was the more generally observed, appeared to
give the appointment that democratical tinge
which is in consonance with the English con-
stitution, the person elected was always re-
quired to receive the royal approbation. The
elected of the people required the confirmation
of the king.
These elections growing too tumultuous, an
end was put to them in the ninth year of Edward
II., when it was enacted that from thenceforth the
sheriffs should be assigned by the Chancellor,
Treasurer, and the Judges, as being persons in
whom the same trust might with confidence be
Originally the Scir-gerefa (conf. the other
Teutonic form, Shire-graf) was the executive
officer appointed by the king to carry out the
decrees of the Court, to take charge of prisoners,
to levy distresses, and so on. He was the legal
official before whom accusations had to be enrolled.
At first he acted only as assessor, but in process of
time became joint president, and ultimately sole
THE " SHIRE MAN" 125
president. The Sheriff's court survived the
Norman Conquest, and in the opinion of Hallam
it contributed in no small degree to fix the liberties
of England by curbing the power of the feudal
When the Earl (or the Ealdorman) had ceased
to attend the County Court, and the Bishop
had his own court, the Sheriff became the sole
judicial officer in the shire, and so remained for
a time till the appointment of Justices in Eyre
1189, and then of Coroners and Justices of the
Peace in 1195. By the first of these innovations
Henry II sought, amongst other reforms, to
secure greater uniformity in the administration
of the law ; and at the same time, of course, to
carry royal justice into every quarter of his
As already suggested (Chapter XI.) the origin
of trial by jury which no one really knows is
associated, and not remotely either with the history
of the office of Sheriff. In the reign of the
Conqueror a dispute arose about some land which
the Sheriff claimed on behalf of the king. ' All
the men of the county " (by which we are to
understand the " Sectores," or the landowners
of the district who acted as judges in such matters),
were assembled and sworn to say the truth.
Eventually they found for the Sheriff. The judge,
dissatisfied with the verdict, directed the men of
the county to choose out of their number twelve
who should, upon oath, confirm the verdict if
they thought fit. This they did, though au-
thorities now agree that the selected twelve were
not exactly jurymen. The legal existence of
jurors, in the sense of the awarders of a judgment,
was first recorded under the Plantagenets, a
century or so later.
ia6 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
The known and established facts are that the
jury system was found to exist in a very rough
and primitive form in the Conqueror's time, and
that under the Plantagenets it was carefully ad-
justed and improved to meet changed conditions
and altered circumstances. All sorts of inquests,
inquiries, and inquisitions, to do justice between
man and man, were brought through the Sheriff,
or other local officer, before a body of men sworn
to speak the truth, and who were chosen by reason
of their character and local knowledge ; and in
this assembly of sworn "Recognitors," as they
were called, we undoubtedly have the first germs
of the modern jury. The first steps in the evolu-
tion of the system are well known.
By the Assize of Clarendon, an order of the
King's Council made in 1164, local juries were to
present criminals for trial before the Shire Courts.
It was enacted that Inquest be made through
each County and through each Hundred by
twelve ' ' lawful " men of the Hundred and by five
" lawful " men of each Township, by their oath
that they speak the truth. These men were to
present to the justices all persons of evil fame
who must then submit to the test of the Ordeal
by fire or water.
Further legislation followed in the Assize of
Northampton, promulgated in 1194, prescribing
the method of appointing the Recognitors, in
whom we may recognise the beginnings of the
Grand Jury. There is a great tangle of subse-
quent statutes, rights, and customs ; in the
application of the Jury system to both criminal
and civil trials ; in the institution of the Petty
Jury to test the truth of the Recognitor's present-
ments ; and at last, after the abolition of Ordeal,
to make a judgment and return a verdict.
THE " SHIRE MAN" 127
Confessedly the part of the jurymen at first
was rather that of witnesses than of judges.
But the system which encouraged the accused,
or the litigant, to lay his case before a jury of his
fellow men, or as it was expressed, to ' ' put him-
self upon the country," was an institution worthy
of the administrative genius of the English people.
Sheriffs are said to have been nominated for
every county in England by William I in 1079,
though this is doubtful. In the new language
of the law courts, he then became vice-comes,
that is, deputy count ; and by that name he is
still legally known, though no longer subject to
an earl. To him, by letters patent, was com-
mitted the custody of the county, and in his
hands were other than judicial matters affecting
This, the most ancient constitutional officer
in the realm, has therefore to be considered in
other aspects than as a judicial functionary. The
Sheriff was the earliest revenue officer, being
legally responsible for the collection of the royal
revenues arising from litigation and taxation, as
well as from the king's landed estates.
He collected the royal rents and ferms, or con-
tributions of towns on the king's demesnes ; and
(as Escheator) dealt with escheats and fines, and
forfeitures for scutage, assarts, and other feudal
Not only was the custody of the county com-
mitted to him in a financial sense, but he was also
charged with the important duty of raising the
shire's quota to the national army, and presenting
it, when called upon, in a state of efficiency. He
was expected to head, if not to lead, the Fyrd, or
128 THE STORY OP THE SHIRE
The basis of national defence in Anglo-Saxon
times was an obligation not only to serve in arms,
but to equip oneself and to support oneself
entirely during the campaign. And the levy
was always made by counties. In return for
this service one became a ' ' freeman." Nowa-
days a minority regards military service as a loss
of freedom, whereas it used to be the price at
which one attained citizenship.
The Sheriff as a military officer does not occupy
a conspicuous position in history ; the form of
feudalism introduced by the Normans did not
encourage the old system under which the Saxons
had raised a national force by means of the
" Fyrd." From time to time the Fyrd, which
was in essence a territorial defence army, was used
to supplement the feudal levies the liability of
the feudal army did not extend to more than 40
days in a year but this was entirely a misapplica-
tion of its purpose.
The first precedent for employing the Fyrd on
foreign service was created by William Rufus.
This unscrupulous monarch, having assembled as
large an army as possible at Hastings, collected
from the men the money entrusted to them by
their respective counties for the expenses of the
campaign then cancelled the expedition and
pocketed the proceeds !
The Fyrd was the general levy of the shire,
liability to military service extending to every
man between the ages of 16 and 60. At the
call to arms the men of each township marched in
families, with their reeve (and in Christian times,
with their parish priest) to the meeting-place of
the Hundred ; thence the united townships
marched under the Hundred-man to the Shire
meeting-place, where the Ealdorman (and the
Bishop) took the command.
THE " SHIRE MAN" 129
This force at a later period was called the Posse
Comitatus, by the latter word being understood a
county composed of hundreds and tithings.
The Posse Comitatus was the whole force of
the county that is, all the male members of the
county over fifteen, who may be summoned by
the sheriff to assist in preventing a riot, the rescue
of prisoners, or other unlawful disorders. Clergy-
men, peers, and the infirm were exempt from such
Originally the Fyrd had consisted of two ele-
ments. The bulk of the shire levies consisted of
all freeholders, men in the prime of life, yeoman
and gentry, who need only discipline to make them
the very best fighting material. Supplementary
to these were the house carles of the king and his
ealdormert, fewer in number, but better trained and
always well disciplined. The levies were not
bound to serve out of their own shire, except under
certain defined circumstances.
In 1328 the first Parliament of King Edward
III. enacted : " . . . that no man be com-
pelled to go out of his shire but wher> necessity
requireth and sudden coming of strange enemies
into the realm ; and then it shall be done as hath
been used in times past for the defence of the
With the Saxons the Fyrd (or army) was actually
a territorial force, each locality supplying its quota
of fighting men for national defence. Moreover,
the labour of all the inhabitants could be re-
quisitioned for the making and mending of the
roads, bridges and forts in the neighbourhood.
The introduction of the Norman form of
feudalism naturally made some change in the
character of this national militia when land-
holding, instead of land-owning, became the basis
130 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
upon which depended the provision of an army
(and incidentally, the enforcement of justice).
William II. made use of the Fyrd in his quarrels
with the barons, using this English force as quite
distinct from his feudal supporters. The Fyrd
was again revived as a national militia by Henry
II., who embodied it for the defence of the coun-
try ; and in 1285 the Statute of Winchester con-
tinued the Fyrd by legal enactment. A blow,
however, was struck at this ancient method of
raising an army by the rise of baronial retainers,
attached to their leaders by " livery and main-
tenance," which began to grow up in the reign
of Edward III.
By the Tudor period, and when the old method
of raising military forces by feudal levies was fast
dying out, a new one had to be invented to take
its place. The Sheriff was superseded, as the
military commandant of the county, and his
place was taken by an entirely new functionary
known as the Lord Lieutenant.
To him was transferred the power to raise the
posse comitatus, or county forces, formerly in-
vested, under certain conditions, in the Sheriff.
Macaulay, however, does not hesitate to show the
more ancient officer discharging this military
function in Elizabeth's reign ; as thus, in his
famous ballad, " The Spanish Armada "
With his white hair unbonneted, the stout old sheriff comes,
Behind him march the halberdiers, before him sound the drums.
THE COUNTY ESCHEATOR
Under the Normans the Witan became the
Great Council, a strong central authority, attended
by the great barons and chief tenants of the king,
the bishops, and the heads of the great monas-
teries. As a consultative council it held period-
ical meetings for the transaction of business of
state ; and between those meetings a small body
of advisors, who in course of time evolved into
regular officials, carried on the affairs of the King's
Court. The Council gave its added authority
to the mandates of the king.
A branch of the King's Court was set up to
deal with the financial matters of the realm.
This was the Exchequer Court, in which trained
clerks were employed, under the direction of
capable officials. These officials stationed at
Westminster, were appointed to receive all ac-
counts and payments from the Sheriffs.
The fixed revenue consisted of the king's
demesne lands within the counties, of the county
mints (the " moneyers " were liable to be sum-
moned to Westminster to take part in the trial of
the pyx, when, for any deficiency in weight or
fineness of their coin, the manufacturers were
punished as traitors) and of certain boroughs which
paid annual sums as the price of their liberties.
There were also rents incidental to the forests,
and mining and other royalties. Danegeld was
regarded as a fixed revenue till the time of Henry
132 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
II. There was also a considerable casual revenue
arising from feudal fines and forfeitures.
The Sheriff, as Escheator, had to collect, bring
into the Exchequer, and there account for the
Ferm of the Shire ; that is, the fixed rent of the
old public lands and royal domains. At the
Norman Conquest these rents, known as Sheriff-
geld, together with the Danegeld (a tribute of
two shillings on every hide of land in the realm
and so called because it was a " gold " levy first
laid upon our ancestors by the Danes, and was in
fact the first tax collected in money in this coun-
try), and the various feudal fines and amercia-
ments, constituted the whole of the national
An Escheator was the officer, connected with
the seignorial interests of the Crown, who played
an important part in county organisation, when
feudal dues were rather a large consideration at the
Another term just used which needs glossarial
explanation is Ferm a word with an interesting
history which cannot be given better than the
learned Blackstone has given it
"Farm or feorme is an old Saxon word signifying
provisions ; and it came to be used instead of rent
or render, because antientJy the greater part of
rents were reserved in provisions ; in corn, in
poultry and the like ; till the use of money became
more frequent. So that a farmer, firmarius, was
one who held his lands upon payment of a rent or
teorme ; though at present by a gradual departure
from the original sense, the word farm is brought
to signify the very estate or lands so held upon
farm or rent."
After the Conquest the system of national
finance was reformed, and the Sheriff was brought
THE COUNTY ESCHEATOR 133
into contact with three great officers of state, the
Justicier, who was almost a vice-roy ; the Chan-
cellor, who was the King's secretary, and the
royal Treasurer. The Sheriff, in discharge of his
duties as a revenue officer, came up to the capital
to meet these high officials twice a year in the
Court of Exchequer.
The business of the ancient Exchequer was
primarily financial, and the principal accountants
were the Sheriffs, who were bound as the King's
principal financial agents in each county to give
an account of their stewardship twice a year,
at the Exchequers of Easter and Michaelmas.
Half the annual revenue was payable at Easter, and
the balance at Michaelmas, when the accounts
were made up for the year and entered on the
The Treasurer charged the accountants with
their fixed debts, which he read out from the Pipe
Roll, or great roll of accounts, wherein were
written the decision of the court, as to the in-
debtedness of each Sheriff, and all other account-
ants having business at the royal treasury.
The Treasurer of Henry III. is said to have been
provided with a ' ' checker " to ensure the accuracy
of his accounts, an official now represented by the
Chancellor of the Exchequer. The I^ord High
Treasurer disappeared in 1714 when George I.
put the office in Commission, since which the
Chancellor has become the chief official at the
The Court of Exchequer is said to have derived
its name from the " chequed " cloth (scaccarium)
resembling a chess board, which covered the table
there, and on which, when certain of the king's
accounts were made up, the sums were marked
and scored with counters.
134 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
The abacus, or other mechanical contrivance
for keeping accounts, was almost universally in
use before the introduction of the Arabic notation.
In England the Treasury department was named
originally ' the Tallies," from the method of
accountancy therein employed.
This ancient exchequer practice was a primitive
method of reckoning and keeping accounts by
means of wooden tallies. Two slips of wood,
precisely the same size, were placed together
and notches cut in them ; or sometimes the in-
dentations were cut in one piece, which was after-
wards split down into two equal and corresponding
parts ; one stick was kept by the creditor, the
other, " a tally," by the debtor. The word tally
is derived from the French taillier, to cut.
The tally was generally a willow or hazel stick,
about an inch in depth and thickness and roughly
shaped like a thick table knife.
The Exchequer tallies were notched according
to a graduated scale, a notch of one-and-a-half
inches representing 1000, a notch of one inch
standing for 100; three-eighths of an inch forio;
half a notch of that size representing i ; three-
sixteenths of an inch, is., and the smallest notch
id ; half pennies were represented by smaU holes.
The account of the transaction was written on the
two opposite sides, the piece of wood then being
split down the middle, through the notches ; one
half, called the tally, being given as a form of
receipt to the person making the payment, while
the other half, called the counter-tally, was kept
in the Exchequer.
The payments were then entered into account
books or rolls, and written records of the trans-
action duly kept.
THE COUNTY ESCHEATOR 135
This method of reckoning continued in use in
the Exchequer till 1826, when the last of the
officials known as Chamberlains of the Exchequer
passed away, and the system came to an end.
In 1834 the returned tallies were ordered to be
destroyed, and in pursuance of this order were
utilised as fuel for the stoves of the House of
Lords. It was the overheating of the flues by
heaping on this fuel which occasioned the burning
down of the old Houses of Parliament.
Charles Dickens once made the burning of the
Houses of Parliament the subject of a humorous
speech delivered before an Administrative Reform
Association. He said ' Ages ago, a savage
mode of keeping accounts on notched sticks was
introduced into the Court of Exchequer, and the
accounts were kept much as Robinson Crusoe kept
his calendar on the desert island. In the course
of considerable revolutions of time .... a
multitude of accountants, book-keepers, and
actuaries were born and died. Still official
routine inclined to these notched sticks ....
accounts continued to be kept on certain splints
of elm-wood called tallies. In the reign of
George III. an enquiry was made by some re-
volutionary spirit whether pens, ink, and paper,
slates and pencils being in existence this ob-
stinate adherence to an obsolete custom ought
to be continued." And so the speaker pro-
ceeded to make fun of these ' preposterous
sticks " which were only abolished in 1826, and
then instead of being given as firewood to the
miserable people of the neighbourhood, were used
as fuel to overgorge a stove, and cause a devastat-
ing fire which necessitated the expenditure of a
million of the public money to make good
136 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
The national treasury was at Westminster.
Close to the Chapter House of the Abbey is an
ancient vaulted chamber, called the Chapel of the
Pyx so named from the box which contained
the sacred wafer, though the term was afterwards
given to the public trial made there of the weight
of the coinage for currency. The once well-
guarded entrance to this place, which was no less
than the Treasury of England, is in the eastern
cloister ; it is an ancient double door which could
never be opened except by the officers of the
Government, or their representatives, bearing
seven keys, some of them of large dimensions.
Though access to the Chamber was purposely
made a ponderous formality, in the time of
Edward I. the chamber was forcibly entered and
plundered of its contents.
The periodical attendance of the Sheriff at the
Royal Treasury for the discharge of his onerous
duties and responsibilities there, adds further varie-
gation to the already composite pattern of his
At each session of the Exchequer a president
sat at the head of the chess board table the king
was the nominal president, but his place might
be taken by the Justicier or other great official.
On the right sat the Treasurer ; the Chancellor
sat on the left. Further to the left, but clear of
the table, were the Constable, two Chamberlains,
and the Marshal. The Chamberlain shared with
the Treasurer the duty of receiving and paying
money, and the keeping of an accurate account
of the state of the treasury. The Marshal (a
subordinate of the Constable, a high official, who
was responsibile for the army) had the custody of
THE COUNTY ESCHEATOR 137
These officers and their subordinates constituted
the court of accounts, or upper exchequer there
was lower exchequer, or office of receipt and pay-
ment where there was also an appointed cal-
culator, who exhibited the state of each account
by means of counters on the exchequer table, so
that the proceedings of the court might be clear
to the presumably illiterate Sheriff.
When Henry II. overhauled the Shrievalties
he found the office frequently held by powerful
barons who had grossly abused their authority,
and whom he promptly removed ; in many cases
appointing in their places trained clerks of the
Exchequer. The reform was evidently short-
lived, as in the succeeding centuries the office
was filled in all parts of the country by members
of the baronage.
The political struggles of the reigns of Henry
III., Edward I. and Edward II., amongst other
results, transformed the Exchequer into a purely
revenue department, a decision brought into
effect by the Parliament of Lincoln, 1316. Under
the Angevin Kings both thesaurarial and judicial
functions pertained to the Court of Exchequer,
and besides the Treasurer there was also a Chief
Justice, and another great officer, the Chancellor,
who appears to have originally acted as the King's
This Secretary obtained the name of Chancellor
(Cancellarius) because he sat at a desk behind a
lattice-work screen, the Latin name for which was
cancelli. Or, according to Coke, he was so called
from cancellendo, from ' ' cancelling " the King's
letters patent when granted contrary to law, which
is the highest point of his jurisdiction. At first
the Chancellor ranked as a very humble officer.
He resided in the palace and had a daily allowance
138 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
of ' ' five shillings, a simnel, two seasoned simnels,
one sextary of clear wine, one sextary of household
wine, one large wax candle, and forty pieces of
candle." The money allowance was made only
if he dined out ; if he dined at home he got three-
and-sixpence, with a slight variation in the other
commodities. . . . He kept the King's seal
and the King's conscience.
The independence of the financial department
had become a great issue by 1316. The Sheriff's
duties were not confined to executing the behests
of the courts of law, and attending the judges on
circuit. The Sheriffs superintended the muster
of the troops and were charged with the supply of
men and munitions for public purposes. They
conducted the parliamentary elections, paid the
members, and controlled the sources of informa-
tion as to the state of the country, then available
to the government. And a matter of great
importance the bulk of the royal revenues
passed through their hands.
Among the legislative enactments of the Parlia-
ment which opened 28th January, 1316, was a
statute relating to the appointment of Sheriffs
and Hundreders ; and while those troublous times
brought the repeal of some enactments at the
Parliament of York in 1322, the Statute of Sheriffs
was carefully excepted, and the method of ap-
pointing those officers lasted till the Stuarts.
The Ordinance provided that Sheriffs were to
be appointed by the Chancellor, and by the
Treasurer and Barons of the Exchequer ; or
in the absence of the Chancellor, by the Treasurer,
the Barons, and the Justices of the Bench, and
that the commissions must be issued under the
great seal. Thus the Chancellor had the power
of putting his veto upon any appointment ; which
had not been so before.
THE COUNTY ESCHEATOR 139
At the time of the Provisions of Oxford (1258)
the Sheriffs were chosen by the King in Council,
and were summoned to come to the Exchequer
and receive the keepership of their counties in the
form lately provided. At this date the Ex-
chequer appears to have been on the Baron's side,
and the Chancery on the King's. The Chancellor
is forbidden to consider himself responsible to the
King only. He is to seal no writs but on an order
by the Council.
Although one of the Provisions of Oxford was
intended to make the office of Sheriff an annual
one, it did not become so until more than a century
later. The choice of Sheriffs was always a point
of no little importance during the political struggles
of that century. Henry Ill's barons appointed
one set, and the King another.
In 1389 the great scandals in the Exchequer
involved an almost complete change of Sheriffs.
It has been asserted that during the thirteenth
and first quarter of the fourteenth centuries any
general change of Sheriffs was equivalent to a
very rapid fall in the political barometer. From
the advent of John de Clancy to the office of
Treasurer in 1278 there was a desire and an effort
made to maintain the system of getting grants of
money to the Crown passed in the separate County
Courts instead of having to appeal to the re-
presentative body of the whole country assembled
in Parliament. But this system had gradually
died out by 1295.
The preamble to the Statute of Lincoln recites
as the reason for the change in the system of
appointing Sheriffs, the continual oppressions
suffered by the people through the appointment
of unsuitable men.
140 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
The new Sheriffs were not to be merely the
servants of the department primarily concerned
with the collection of the revenue and the assertion
of the King's rights as against the people they
must be landowners in their respective counties.
As some holders of the office had been known to
grow immensely rich, the motive for the change
is not far to seek.
All this turmoil centring round the office of
Sheriff is a tribute to its immense importance, and
indicates the power, either for good or for evil,
conferred upon the holder of it in those ruder
It is significant, also, of the spirit in which es-
cheats to the Crown, and other accidental profits
accruing to the Exchequer in those times, were
levied by these official escheators, that we have
derived the words ' cheat " and ' cheator "
from the name of such legalised extortioners.
THE KNIGHTS OF THE SHIRE
It has appeared there was a threefold object
in dividing the realm into shires ; namely, for the
administration of justice ; for the collection of
revenue ; and for the raising of a national army
by territorial contingents. In all of these the
Sheriff took the leading part ; and later, when
parliamentary representation by shires and lesser
constituencies came into being, what official so
readily available, what officer so competent to
deal with the matter, as the Sheriff ? And so
when the time arrived, and circumstance de-
manded, the Sheriff became the Returning Officer
of the County.
It is interesting to trace the connection between
the High Court of Parliament and the ancient
Shire and Hundred Courts ; between the national
representative assembly and those embryonic
local assemblies whose deliberations and de-
cisions judicial, perhaps, rather than legislative
gave effect to the popular will and secured redress
of popular grievances in more primitive times.
It is interesting to remember that before the
Counties sent members to parliament in 1295,
the Knights or lesser barons had met in their own
counties for local government.
The function of the county in parliamentary
representation began long before the era of the
House of Commons. At the time when the
Tribal English Kingdoms existed, each kingdom
142 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
had its Folk-moot or assembly of the people, who
held counsel with the King and his " wise men "
on the affairs of the kingdom, and also formed a
judicial court. After the heptarchy had passed
away, the Folk-moot was continued in the united
England as the Shire-moot, while for the affairs
of the whole realm, a supreme Great Council
sprang into existence. After the Norman
Conquest the National Council underwent some
changes, but the right of Englishmen to deliber-
ate on national affairs, and to direct taxation,
was steadfastly maintained.
From the Domesday inquiry a practice grew up
of sending out Commissioners to consult with the
local authorities of the Shire and Hundred Courts,
on the administration of criminal justice, and the
levying of national taxes. This was the first
real attempt to keep the central government in
touch with local representatives.
The bringing together, by Simon de Montfort,
of the representative burgesses and shire men,
first gave us all the elements of a modern parlia-
When the Sheriffs were required by Simon de
Montfort to send two burgesses to represent each
borough, a new class was added to the King's
Council or national parliament.
In the Writs of 1254 the Knights of the Shire
were summoned to appear " in the stead of each
and all," the object of county representation being
then purely financial. In 1264 the towns were
first admitted to representation, so that from the
first the importance of the representative prin-
ciple in matters of taxation, seems to have been
Writs were sent out to 37 counties and 166
burghs for the important parliament of 1295 ; the
THE KNIGHTS OF THE SHIRE 143
number of the counties were fixed, although the
king might alter the number of the enfranchised
The Knights of the Shire, coming in place of the
lesser tenants-in-chief, were representative of the
freemen of the county rather than of the feudal
class ; and though they really belonged to the
baronial class, as representative of the country-
folk, they identified themselves with the re-
presentatives of the towns, and elected to sit in
the same chamber with them the House of
Commons. While the lords of parliament were
summoned personally, the elected representatives
were always summoned through the Sheriff.
In 1710 (9 Anne c. 5) it was enacted that no
person should be returned to Parliament as a
Knight of the Shire who had not a landed estate
worth 600 a year.
The Sheriff, as returning officer at parliamentary
elections, does not boast an altogether impeccable
record. Hallam records six instances during
the Plantagenet period, wherein the misconduct
or mistake of the sheriff called for specific anim-
adversion ; indeed the laxity of the sheriffs at
elections was frequently the ground of general
complaint, and even of some statutes. For in-
stance in 12 Edward II., a petition was presented
to the Council against a false return for the county
of Devon ; and in 36 Edward III., the sheriff of
Lancashire was found in fault, when the wages for
attendance at Parliament were claimed by knights
of the shire unduly returned by him as having
been elected. Defaulting sheriffs were usually
summoned before the Court of Exchequer to
answer for such delinquencies.
It appears that at the voting for members of
parliament in the county courts of that period, the
144 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
privilege of the franchise was not limited totenants-
in-capite, but was based on a much broader
foundation ; for not only all freeholders, but all
persons whatsoever present at the county court,
were declared or rendered capable of voting for
the Knight of the Shire a more democratical basis
of the representative principle than is commonly
supposed. It was a retrograde measure in the
reign of Henry V. (1429) which disqualified men
of small estate from voting, limiting the county
electorate to freeholders with estates of and above
the annual value of 405.
Before the year 1429 a sort of universal suffrage
appears to have prevailed. An act (8 Henry V,)
was then passed to put an end to this prematurely
democratic state of things, and set up a property
qualification. After reciting that ' ' the elections
of knights of shires in many counties had then of
late been made by very great and excessive
number of people dwelling within the same coun-
ties of which most part was a people of small sub-
stance and of no value, whereof every one of them
pretended a voice equivalent with the most worthy
knight and esquires dwelling within the same
counties, whereby manslaughters, riots, batteries,
and divisions among the gentlemen and other
people of the same counties would very likely rise
and be, unless convenient and due remedy were
provided," the Statute enacts, ' ' That the Knights
of the Shires shall be chosen in every county by
people dwelling and resident in the same counties,
whereof every one shall have free Land or Tene-
ment to the value of Forty Shillings by the year
at the least, above all charges."
This was the origin of the ' ' Forty Shilling
Freeholder." By 10 Henry VI., c. 2 the qualifi-
cation must be situate or arise within the County
THE KNIGHTS OF THE SHIRE 145
for which the Freeholders claimed to vote ; a
condition which was not formally expressed in the
The qualifying figure of five hundred years ago
was estimated by Bishop Fleetwood to have been
equal to 12 per annum in Queen Anne's days,
and by Blackstone as equivalent to 20, which is
the more correct. The permanence of the quali-
fication for the County franchise is thoroughly
The forty-shilling freeholders tended to make
the House of Commons less representative, be-
cause this franchise was really a restrictive one ;
and besides, the elections were really controlled
by the large land-owners. One of the first steps
in constitutional government, introduced by Henry
IV. was to forbid Sheriffs interfering in elections.
The Sheriffs were also at that period the return-
ing officers for the cities and boroughs. The
kings who first summoned parliaments little
foreseeing the lofty prerogatives to which the then
half -emancipated burghers would eventually attain
could but address the Writs of Summons for the
towns, as well as for the counties, to the same
officer. Thus the writ of 23 Edward I. directs
the sheriffs to cause deputies to be elected to " a
general council " from every city, borough, and
trading town. The latter phrase, though subse-
quently omitted from writs, gave the sheriffs
such discretionary power that quite a number of
" trading towns," which were not chartered
boroughs, and had no other claim than that of
populousness, or commerce, became in course of
time boroughs of prescription. Some ' ' consider-
able places," though unincorporated, but which
could afford to defray the expenses of a represen-
tative, took such a notable interest in the public
146 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
welfare, that they regularly exercised the fran-
chise and elected two " burgesses " to successive
parliaments and from this cause alone many
towns came to be called boroughs, though they
held no charter, either from the crown or from
mesne lord. The point here, however, is that the
Writs of Summons were at first addressed in
general terms to the Sheriff, and it therefore
rested really with him to determine what towns
should exercise the elective franchise.
Not a few towns willingly forewent the privil-
ege of parliamentary representation rather than
pay a representative. From 1349 to X 547 f r
nearly two centuries, no Lancashire borough sent
members to parliament, and the county was re-
presented only by the knights of the shire. One
Sheriff of Lancashire returned ' ' there were no
cities or boroughs in his county that ought, or
were used, or could on account of their poverty,
send any citizens or burgesses to Parliament."
The average payment was four shillings a day for
a Knight of the Shire and two shillings for a citizen
or burgess, levied on the constituency.
There was a custom of girding with a sword each
Knight of the Shire upon his election ; a custom
honoured in the metropolitan county by its
breach, probably because the parliaments were
usually held in Middlesex, the Knights whereof
had only fees for their attendance, and no allow-
ance for travelling, as in other shires. The
practice appears to have disappeared altogether
after 1769, so far as Middlesex is concerned, when
Wilkes was being repeatedly re-elected for that
On the subject of ' Knights of the Shire,"
William Somner, the seventeenth century an-
tiquary and learned compiler of an Anglo-Saxon
THE KNIGHTS OF THE SHIRE 147
Dictionary, has an interesting note. According
to this authority the Anglo-Saxon form of the
word ' Knight " was ' ' Cniht," and it meant
' a boy, a little boy or child, a young youth or
stripling, also a servant, a servitor, a man-ser-
vant. Indeed, the word, properly interpreted
beside that of a boy or youth, signifies no more than
a servant. Witnesse that use of it yet remaining
in our ' knights of the shire/ which, although
no knights by dignity or place, yet are so called
but why ? Under favour, in regard of that ser-
vice which is required and performed of them in
Parliament for their several counties, whose ser-
vant for the time they are."
This certainly rather discounts the dignity of
county representation ; but, be it remembered,
it was a strained definition, written during the
levelling days of the Cromwellian Commonwealth.
Till the Reform Act of 1832 all the forty English
counties had returned to Parliament ' ' two knights
of the shire " each except Yorkshire, which
since 1821 had been allowed to return four ;
thirty-seven of them continuously from the time
of Edward I., Cheshire and Monmouth from the
time of Henry VIII, and Durham from the days
of Charles II.
The ' ' reform " of 1832 (among other things)
divided the following twenty-five counties into
two electoral districts each : Cheshire, Cornwall,
Cumberland, Derbyshire, Devonshire, Durham,
Essex, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Kent, Lan-
cashire, Leicestershire, Norfolk, Northampton-
shire, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Shrop-
shire, Somersetshire, Staffordshire, Suffolk,
Surrey. Sussex, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and
148 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
Seven others were not divided, but were allotted
an additional member each ; namely, Berkshire
Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Dorsetshire,
Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, and Oxfordshire.
In the case of seven others, where apparently
there was insufficient increase of population to
call for additional representation, no change was
made ; these were Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire
Lincolnshire, Middlesex, Rutland, Westmoreland,
Nor was any alteration made in the represen-
tation of the twelve Welsh counties, represented
by one member each from the time of Henry VIII,
namely Anglesey, Brecknockshire, Cardiganshire,
Carmarthenshire, Carnarvonshire, Denbighshire,
Flintshire, Glamorganshire, Merionethshire, Mont-
gomeryshire, Pembrokeshire, and Radnorshire.
Before the passing of the 1832 Reform Bill, of
558 members of Parliament for Great Britain,
about half represented constituencies south of a
line drawn from Gloucester to Harwich. Cornwall,
for instance, had 40 members, nearly as many as
Yorkshire and Lancashire together. The north-
ern counties had not yet come into their own
mining and manufacturing had not yet ousted
agriculture from its ancient eminence.
The Scotch counties represented in the British
Parliament by one member each, from the time
of the Union under Anne, were then thirty in
number : Aberdeen, Argyle, Ayr, Banff, Berwick,
Dumbarton, Dumfries, Edinburgh, Elgin, Fife,
Forfar, Haddington, Inverness, Kincardine, Kirk-
cudbright, Lanark, Linlithgow, Orkney and
Shetland, Peebles, Perth, Renfrew, Ross, Rox-
burgh, Selkirk, Stirling, Sutherland, Wigton, Bute
and Caithness alternately, Clackmannan and Kin-
ross alternately, Cromarthy and Nairn alternately.
THE KNIGHTS OF THE SHIRE 149
Of Irish counties represented in the Imperial
Parliament by two members each, from the Union
under George III, in 1801, the following is an al-
phabetical list : Antrim, Armagh, Carlow, Cavan,
Clare, Cork, Donegal, Down, Dublin, Fermanagh,
Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Kilkenny, King's
County, Leitrim, Limerick, Londonderry, Long-
ford, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Queen's
County, Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary, Tyrone,
Waterford, Westmeath, Wexford, and Wicklow.
Of the changes, re-groupings, and subdivisions
made by subsequent Redistribution Acts it is un-
necessary to treat here.
There occurs in Fraser's Magazine for November,
1837, a political song, entitled" The Counties,"
which reviews, county by county, the result of the
general election then recently over ; the nature
of this effusion may be judged from the following
sample of its quality
Here's to the counties divided in two,
Here's to the undivided at all, sir !
Here's to the Shires with one member ! though few
Have an allowance so small, sir.
Melbourne's vile crew
Well may look blue
While they are reading the county list through.
Down to 1888 the fifty-two geographical coun-
ties had each one Sheriff, even if it were divided
into Parts (as Ridings) that had each a distinct
county administration ; although within such
counties there were not a few places exempt
from the jurisdiction of the County Sheriff, and
entitled to have Sheriffs or equivalent officers
of their own as the " Counties corporate,"
or those cities and boroughs which were ' ' counties
THE HIGH SHERIFF
The High Sheriff is still the chief civil officer of
the county, holding the office for one year only,
to which he is appointed with the same quaint
old formalities which have been observed for
The story of the shires is to a very considerable
extent the history of the evolution of the office
of Sheriff. Established in Saxon times with
almost vice-regal powers, the Sheriff's office was
utilised to constitute a local constitutional au-
thority representative of several departments
of the state ; but as the shrieval machinery grew
out of date, the office was gradually shorn of much
of its ancient importance.
The election of the Sheriffs of London and
Middlesex was granted to the citizens of London
for ever, in very ancient times, upon condition
of their paying 300 a year to the King's exchequer.
In consequence of this grant, they elected two
Sheriffs, though these constituted together one
officer. In 1748 a bye-law of the city imposed a
fine of 600 on every person who, being elected,
refused, to serve the office of sheriff.
The High Sheriffs of the counties of England
and Wales (except Cornwall and Lancashire) are
nominated every year on the morrow of St. Martin
(November 12). The Chancellor, Chancellor of
the Exchequer, the judges, and several of the
privy councillors, assemble at the Law Courts ;
THE HIGH SHERIFF 151
an officer of the court administers an oath to them
in old French, that they will nominate no one from
favour, partiality, or any improper motive. The
same officer produces a list of the counties in al-
phabetical order, and of those who were nominated
the year before, reads out three names to each
county, and the last of the three he pronounces
to be the present Sheriff. But where there has
been a " pocket sheriff" one not of the three
nominated by the judges in the exchequer, but
who has been appointed directly by the king,
of his royal prerogative he reads the three names
upon the list, and then declares who is the present
sheriff. Should any of the ministry or judges
object to a person named in the list another gen-
tleman must be named in his room. If no
objection be made, some one rises and says,
' To the two gentlemen I know no objection, and
I recommend A B , Esq.,
in the room of the present sheriff."
This ancient and interesting ceremony, which
dates to the reign of Edward II, and popularly
known as " pricking the sheriffs," is but the
nomination of three gentlemen, fitted by wealth
and position in each county in England and
Wales (excepting the Duchies of Lancaster and
Cornwall) to occupy the position of High Sheriff,
The " pricking" is really done in the February
ensuing by His Majesty the King, who with a
golden bodkin, " pricks" the name of one of
three gentlemen named for each county, almost
invariably that of the first on the list placed before
The popular election of Sheriffs was terminated
in the reign of Edward II ; and the office is now
not only gratuitous but compulsory. For Corn-
wall the Sheriff is nominated by the Prince of
152 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
Wales as Duke of Cornwall, while for Lancashire
the Sheriff is appointed by His Majesty, as Duke
The ceremony even in its most modern form,
recalls the ancient Exchequer wherein the Sheriffs
were the connecting link between the Shire-moot
and the Curia. Not only are the judges sum-
moned for this appointment, but all the members
of the Cabinet. The justiciarii and Great Officers
of State sit once more on the Exchequer side of the
Curia, only the Exchequer and his Barons are now
gone, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer finds
himself presiding once a year in the King's Bench
Division of the High Court of Justice. On such
occasions he wears a gorgeous robe of black silk,
with costly and elaborate gold embroidery a
robe which his predecessors in former days wore
as Judges of the Court of Exchequer, and which
is still distinctive of his high office.
The right of the sovereign to name whom he
pleases to be sheriff, whether chosen of the judges
or not, was grounded on a particular case in the
fifth year of Queen Elizabeth, when by reason of
the plague, there was no Michaelmas term kept at
Westminster, so that the judges could not meet to
go through customary forms of nomination ;
whereupon the queen named them herself without
any such assembly. Though this was the only
authority for making these extraordinary sheriffs,
a procedure whereby the royal prerogative was
set above the laws, the practice of occasionally
naming the so-called ' ' pocket sheriffs " continued
till the time of George III.
The new Sheriff is generally appointed about
the end of the following Hilary term which enables
the old sheriff to hold officer over the Michaelmas
and Hilary terms. By several old statutes it is
THE HIGH SHERIFF 153
required that no man shall continue in the office
longer than one year, and by a statute of Richard
II. no man who has served the office of sheriff
for one year can be compelled to serve the same
again within three years after.
Not unfrequently a person nominated has raised
objection himself, pleading sometimes that he is
likely to be abroad ; or that he is a practising
barrister or else a military officer ; or that his
estate is small and that he has no equipage ; and
The Council takes into consideration the validity
of the excuses and, if necessary, hears the
evidence of counsel on the matter, and if the ex-
cuses be eventually accepted it then becomes the
duty of the judges who went on circuit in the dis-
trict at the last summer assizes to name other
gentlemen to take the place of those excused.
For this purpose their lordships have provided
themselves with lists of the name? of suitable
persons, from which, when the King's Remem-
brancer calls out, " One name wanted," or " Two
or three names wanted," as the case may be,
they read as many as required. And thus the
list of shrieval appointments is satisfactorily
In the county of Rutland, the area of which is
so very small, there was so often a difficulty in
rinding a man of the usual high social station for
this office, that it became customary there to draw
regularly upon the farming class for this purpose.
Huntingdonshire is joined with Cambridgeshire
in the appointment of a sheriff to serve both
counties, and in the middle ages one sheriff long
served for the two counties of Norfolk and
Suffolk, a practice reminiscent of their original
status as the Kingdom of East Anglia.
154 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
If country gentlemen came at last to be chary of
accepting this ancient and honourable office, it
was not because its dignity had declined, so much
as on account of the gross extortions to which
the holders of it were subjected by a crowd of
official hangers-on, who existed merely for the
maintenance of an antiquated and useless cere-
monial of state. So a time came when sheriffs
of strong mind and sound common sense dispensed
with much of the old ceremonial ; one went to
meet the judges in a hired carriage in lieu of the
traditional golden coach ; another cut off the
trumpeters ; and a third suppressed the javelin men,
till, in some county-towns, the ancient pageantry
of the judicial procession had all but disappeared.
To the Sheriff was committed the care of an un-
discharged jury, whom the judge possessed the
power to lock up without meat, drink, fire or
candle, until they had agreed on their verdict.
And if the judge was obliged to remove to the
next Assize town on his circuit before the jury
had found their verdict, the Sheriff had to take
the jury after him in a cart.
Some years ago a " little bill" of the charges
in which a High Sheriff had been mulcted was
communicated to The Times. It appeared that,
in the course of three assizes in one single county,
the gentleman whose duty it was to entertain the
judges of the land, was called upon to pay the piper
at the following prodigious rate, Item. For
the Judges servants, 8, i8s. 6d. ; and for ale for
them, 9 193. The " ringers " cost three guineas,
which must be considered as cheap at the price,
seeing that no extra charge is made for being
deafened or driven half crazy by the intolerable
clangour of the bells. The " use of the pulpit "
was charged at one guinea ; but we are not told
THE HIGH SHERIFF 155
whether this included the use of a clergyman, a
beadle, and a pew-opener. The ' ' trumpeters "
had 5 8s. between them ; and though this seems
in all conscience sufficient for the duties they had
to perform, they further shared, with the ' ' clerk
of assize" and the " chaplain," in the sum of
eleven pounds charged for wine. Then a mys-
terious individual, alluded to as Mr. P. ,
charged 10 i6s. lod. for attending at the Trea-
sury, passing the accounts, and obtaining the
Sheriffs quietus \ And so the items ran on in a
range of conscienceless extortions.
Some times a judge on circuit travels with a
marshal, a clerk, a butler, a cook, a valet, and a
marshal's man, and at times the cook carries his
own cooking utensils, so that the baggage of the
whole retinue is enormous. At a West Country
Assize town the judge's lodging contains fourteen
The Sheriff, as principal county officer, still
has to perform certain functions in connection
with the administration of justice.
The chief of his personal duties is obligatory ;
he must attend personally and in proper state
upon His Majesty's Judges when they come to
hold the Assizes for his county ; the sufficient
lodging and maintenance of them during that
period is also laid to his charge.
The accommodation to be provided always in-
cludes fire, lighting, linen, table equipment,
kitchenmaids, scullery-maids, chambermaids, and
not infrequently a staff of men-servants ; to say
nothing of the time-honoured responsibility for
providing the judge's state coach, having the
church bells rung on his lordship's arrival, and
engaging the trumpeters to grace his presence.
156 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
The High Sheriff who neglects to be in attend-
ance on the Judge of Assize is liable to a heavy
penalty. At the Winchester Winter Assizes of
1892 the High Sheriff of Hants was fined 500
guineas for not being present. He had utterly
forgotten that he was High Sheriff and had gone
away on a health cruise to Africa.
His ancient presidency of the County Court,
and the other common law duty of commanding
and controlling the militia, have long since dis-
appeared. As chief ministerial officer of the
Superior Courts of Justice, the Sheriff executes
(vicariously, of course) all processes issuing there-
from ; in civil cases serving writs and taking bail ;
in criminal causes arresting and imprisoning,
summoning the jury, keeping custody of the
delinquent, and executing sentence upon him.
He has to carry out the law even to the extreme
penalty, for there is no official hangman.
In the time of Edward IV. when the King's
officers attempted to set up their own scaffold
and gallows on Tower Hill, the city of London
resisted, and the Sheriffs successfully maintained
their right to carry out all executions revolting
and cruel as some of the accompaniments were.
Yet this part of a Sheriff's duty had its risks
in bygone days when the deadly typhus was com-
monly present under the name of " gaol fever."
In 1577, at the Black Assize at Oxford, there died
of the gaol fever two judges, the sheriff of the
county, two knights, several justices of the peace,
and all the jurymen but one.
A Sheriff may not " hold pleas of the crown,"
that is, try criminals ; for it would be altogether
unbecoming for one to be both judge and execu-
tioner, or even to impose a fine and then to levy
it. Indeed, during the year of his shrievalty
THE HIGH SHERIFF 157
he may not act as a magistrate, as this would be
Formerly the Sheriff exercised both civil and
criminal jurisdiction ; the former in the Sheriff's
County Court, and criminal jurisdiction in the
Sheriff's Tourn or Turn the Tourn deriving its
name originally from the Sheriff's taking a
' turn " or circuit about his shire and holding this
court in several places. The Tourn was a court
of record, having jurisdiction in claims of 40
shillings and upwards ; it was finally abolished in
1877. The Sheriff's County Court was not a
court of record, the claims for debt or damage
exceeding 40 shillings, or action for trespass, could
not be tried there ; the Sheriff's County Court
ceased when the modern County Court was in-
stituted in 1846 the newer one is a statutory
court having nothing to do with the ancient court
The omce of High Sheriff has grealty shrunk in
importance since the days when he was ' ' governor
of the shire, president of its court, and captain
of the forces."
As a judicial officer he had the administration
of justice in the county court, and as a ministerial
officer he was charged with the execution of all
legal processes, civil and criminal.
The High Sheriff always appoints for his year
of office a professional Under Sheriff, who is a
trained lawyer. Then there are quite a number
of underlings whose services are utilised to carry
out the various duties pertaining to the office ;
as High Bailiffs of Hundreds and of other liberties,
bound-bailiffs (" bum-bailiffs " who levy distress),
foot-bailiffs, and other executive deputies, which
occasion may require to carry out the processes
of the law. For all these the High Sheriff is
158 THE STORY OP THE SHIRE
responsible, by virtue of his office. The Sheriff
himself is considered as the bailiff to the crown
the word bailiff being of Anglo-Saxon origin, and
signifying a keeper or protector. Of High Con-
stables, Head Constables and similar executive
officers of olden times it is not necessary to say
anything here, as their functions have been largely
merged in to those of the county police.
The Under Sheriff holds the courts necessary
to carry out some of the judicial functions still
pertaining to the office of Sheriff. On receipt of
certain Writs, as a Writ of execution against one not
able to satisfy claims for debt or damages, or a writ
of enquiry as to damages, the Sheriff must summon
a jury to inquire into and deal with the matter-
all of which is done through the Under Sheriff.
The judicial functions of this official are pointed
to in the old seventeenth century rhyme
Swearers are lyers, lyers most are thieves,
Or God helpe jaylors and true under-shrieves.
As royal bailiff it would fall to the High Sheriff
to collect crown rents, seize lands forfeited or
escheated to the crown, and to take charge of
wrecks, waifs, and strays.
The writs of parliament for the county being
addressed to him, he controls the election of county
members, making all necessary returns relating
thereto ; also elections for Coroners, when they
occur, are in his hands.
As elsewhere shown, the ancient military func-
tions of the office passed to the Lord Lieutenants.
Yet to-day any male above sixteen years of age
who refuses to obey the High Sheriff's call to
withstand the King's foes is guilty of felony.
At one time posts were set up at the doors of
Sheriffs on which the royal proclamations were
THE HIGH SHERIFF 159
fixed ; and it was the custom when a man went up
to the Sheriff's posts to read the proclamation, to
remain uncovered while doing so. In Newcastle-
on-Tyne and one or two other ancient ' ' counties
of cities " the compliment is still paid to the
Sheriff of fixing two ornate lamp-posts outside
the door of his private residence.
THE ASSIZES AND THE COUNTY TOWNS
The capital of any country or province is the
town which is the seat of the Government.
Similarly the county-town is the one in which the
Assizes for the county are usually held, and in
which the other branches of local self-government
for the shire area are carried on.
The country is divided into what are known as
circuits, and in each circuit is a number of towns
where Assizes are held. These towns are visited
periodically, about three times a year, by judges
of the High Court of Justice. Generally two
judges go on circuit together, taking alternately
the criminal and the civil business at the towns
where the Assizes are held.
Because the judges come as the representatives
of the sovereign to deliver the gaols of those
charged with crime and to do justice among the
people generally, a certain amount of state and
ceremony is observed on these occasions, as the
history of the Sheriff's office has disclosed. The
county authorities have to provide ' Judges'
Lodgings," that is, suitable accommodation in
which the monarch's representatives may reside
during the Assizes. On their arrival, of which
due notice is officially communicated to those
concerned, the royal judges are met by the High
Sheriff, as the leading county official annually
appointed by the Crown.
THE ASSIZES AND THE COUNTY TOWNS 161
The time-honoured practice is to meet them with
a state carriage drawn by two or four horses, and
sometimes by outriders, the coachman and foot-
men invariably rejoicing in powdered wigs and
gorgeous liveries. The Sheriff himself wears
either court dress with a sword, or, if he is an officer
in any branch of his majesty's forces, a military
uniform. The escort to the Assize Courts often
includes besides trumpeters, marshals, javelin
men, and other attendants ; and the commission
is opened in the criminal court by the reading of
the royal proclamation.
The business of the Assizes begins next morning.
The Court in which criminal trials take place is
known as the Crown Court (because proceedings
are undertaken in the name of the Sovereign),
where the bewigged judge wears a robe of scarlet
trimmed with ermine ; his colleague donning a
black robe and a wig presides in the civil court.
The latter is sometimes called the Nisi Prius
Court, because formerly all county causes were
ordered to be tried on a given day ' ' unless before "
the judges came into the county to which the cause
Henry II. divided the country into six circuits
or districts with three judges assigned to each,
for the administration of the King's justice. This
was done in 1176 at the Council of Northampton,
thus effecting a much needed reform by which
each division of the Kingdom could be periodically
visited by justiciarii itiner antes, or " justices in
Justices in Itinere (or ' ' in Eyre ") were in-
tended, not merely to improve the administration
of justice, but particularly to remove the great
inconvenience arising from the high court of law
following the king's person. At first the judges
162 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
passed round the kingdom once a year, com-
missioned to hold their Assizes in the various
places appointed for the sittings.
Assizes united indissolubly the royal and the
popular elements of justice, and replaced judicial
combat by something which approaches very
near to trial by jury ; more than that, they en-
couraged the principle of selective representation,
and revived and re-organised the national militia.
All this business was in the hands of the Sheriffs,
and it is significant that in 1170 a clean sweep
had to be made of corrupt local Sheriffs, when
officials royally nominated were everywhere sub-
stituted for them.
One of the most important changes made by
Magna Charta was a provision restraining Assizes
to their respective shires, so as to save the un-
fortunate suitor from following the Curia Regis
from one end of the kingdom to the other, as had
been the case during King John's itineraries.
But this provision was so far modified as to
enable Justices Itinerant to adjourn suits to
another day and place in the same circuit ; and
with this result, that the ancient pleas of one
county are not infrequently to be found on the
plea rolls of some adjacent county.
The old circuits prior to 1830 were (i) The Home
Circuit consisting of the counties of Hertford,
Essex, Kent, Sussex and Surrey ; (2) The Midland
Circuit, consisting of the counties of Warwick,
Leicester, Derby, Nottingham, Lincoln, Rutland
and Northampton ; (3) The Norfolk Circuit con-
sisting of the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cam-
bridge, Huntingdon, Bedford, and Buckingham ;
(4) The Northern Circuit, consisting of the counties
of York, Northumberland, Cumberland, West-
moreland, Lancaster, and Durham ; (5) The Oxford
THE ASSIZES AND THE COUNTY TOWNS 163
Circuit consisting of the counties of Oxford,
Worcester, Stafford, Salop, Hereford, Monmouth,
Gloucester, and Berkshire ; (6) The Western
Circuit consisting of the counties of Hampshire,
Wiltshire, Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, and Somerset.
To these were added in 1831 the two Welsh
Circuits ; and three years later it was provided
that assizes might be held at more than one place
in the same county in Yorkshire, for instance,
in each of the three Ridings.
Other alterations were made from time to time.
In 1863 the county of York was taken out of the
Northern Circuit and annexed to the Midland
Circuit ; then the counties of Leicester, Rutland,
and Northampton were taken out of the Midland
Circuit and annexed to the Norfolk Circuit.
Later, the public convenience was sought by
making it possible to discharge the civil and
criminal business of Surrey through judges and
juries trying issues in Middlesex and London.
By the Winter Assizes Act 1876 certain counties
were united to facilitate the more speedy trial of
There are now eight of these circuits, each con-
taining from six to nine towns. They are the
Northern and North-Eastern, the Midland, the
Oxford, the Western, the South-Eastern, the
North Wales and the South Wales.
The Northern Circuit covers the counties of
Cumberland, Westmoreland, and the County
Palatine of Lancaster ; the towns visited by the
judges being Carlisle, Appleby, Lancaster, Man-
chester, and Liverpool.
The North-Eastern Circuit covers Northumber-
land, Durham, and Yorkshire ; the towns visited
being Newcastle, Durham, York and Leeds.
164 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
The Midland Circuit covers the counties of Lin-
coln, Nottingham, Derby, Warwick, Leicester,
Northants, Rutland, Bucks and Beds. ; the assizes
being held at Lincoln, Nottingham, Derby, War-
wick, Leicester, Northampton, Oakham, Ayles-
bury, and Bedford and Birmingham.
The Oxford Circuit covers the counties of Oxon,
Berks, Worcester, Stafford, Salop, Hereford, Mon-
mouth, and Gloucester ; the towns visited by the
judges being Oxford, Reading, Worcester, Stafford,
Shrewsbury, Hereford, Monmouth, and Glou-
The Western Circuit takes in the counties of
Hants, Wilts, Dorset, Devon, Somerset, and
Cornwall ; the towns visited including Winchester,
Salisbury (or Devizes), Dorchester, Exeter,
Taunton, Bodmin and Bristol.
The South-Eastern Circuit includes the counties
of Norfolk, Suffolk, Hants, Cambs, Herts, Essex,
Kent, Sussex and Surrey ; the towns at which
Assizes are held include Norwich, Ipswich, Hunt-
ingdon, Cambridge, Hertford, Chelmsford, Maid-
stone, Lewes, and Guildford.
In the North Wales Circuit are included the
assize towns of Chester, Mold for Flintshire,
Ruthin for Denbighshire, Carnarvon for the
county of that name, Beaumaris for Anglesey,
Welshpool for Montgomeryshire, and Dolgelly for
In the South Wales Circuit the towns visited are
Haverfordwest for Pembrokeshire, Lampeter for
Cardiganshire, Carmarthen for the county of
that name, Brecon for Brecknockshire, Presteign
for Radnorshire, and Cardiff or Swansea in
London and Middlesex, as previously mentioned,
are not comprised in any circuit, but courts for
THE ASSIZES AND THE COUNTY TOWNS 165
the trial of issues by a jury are held before judges
of the High Court four times every year at what
are called the London and Middlesex sittings.
In 1834 the Central Criminal Court was in-
stituted to deal with London, Middlesex, and
certain of the metropolitan suburbs which reached
into Essex, Surrey, and Kent. The county-town
of Middlesex was Brentford so far as the holding
of assizes and the county election in olden times
could make it so. The Essex Assizes were at one
time holden at Brentwood. In Northumberland
the Assizes were formerly held at Alnwick till the
large centre of population claimed the privilege.
In Lancashire Preston claims to be of more im-
portance, and certainly more central than the old
county-town ; it is the headquarters of the county
police and the meeting place of the County
In recent years new towns which have become
great centres of population as Leeds and Birm-
ingham have been created Assize-towns ; so
that in one geographical county there may now
be found more than one town enjoying that
privilege which was once the special prerogative
and characteristic of a county-town.
Although all the circuits now get three assizes
a year, every assize town is not visited that number
of times density of population, and the demands
for judicial attention necessarily arising there-
from, giving a new assize town like Leeds the full
number, while an ancient county-town situated
in a sparsely populated district, as Appleby is,
has but two assizes each year. Formerly there
might be four Assizes a year.
By the latest arrangement the dates of the
Assizes in the eight Circuits are respectively about
the middle of January (Winter) middle of May
i66 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
(Summer) and middle of October (Autumn).
Except in Lancashire, Glamorganshire, Devon,
Bristol, Suffolk, and Sussex, the Autumn Assize
is for criminal business only. There is an ad-
ditional assize, for Lancashire and Yorkshire only,
In the winter and summer two judges are
usually assigned to each circuit, except the Welsh
circuits, to each of which only one is sent, the
judges of the two Welsh circuits meeting and
sitting together in the counties of Cheshire and
Glamorgan. In the autumn the arrangements
From time to time various groupings have been
tried. In 1876 power was given to the Crown,
by an order in council, to unite certain counties
for the holding of the Winter Assizes ; and in 1879
similar power was given for consolidating the
business of several counties at the Spring Assizes.
This system of grouping was found to be attended
with great inconvenience to litigants, witnesses
and others, who were kept waiting at long dis-
tances from their homes.
In 1897 a scheme was promulgated for holding
full vSummer and Winter Assizes in all circuits ;
for an Autumn circuit in which only criminal
business could be taken, except in Manchester,
Liverpool, Leeds, and Swansea, where civil cases
might also be tried ; and for an Eastern Circuit
for both kinds of business in Manchester and
Liverpool, and criminal in Leeds. A later amend-
ment of the schedule gave an Autumn Assize to
Since 1878 the Crown has been empowered to
deprive any county of the privilege of having
assizes held within it. To some of the smaller
county towns which very largely depend upon
THE ASSIZES AND THE COUNTY TOWNS 167
the Assizes for their importance, the loss of this
ancient privilege would mean a very substantial
depreciation in their property values ; little
wonder, therefore, that the prospect of such
deprivation fills them with dismay. Even a busy
town like Stafford demurs to be superseded by
In Kent, Assizes were formerly held at East
Greenwich, Dartford, Milton-next - Gravesend,
Sevenoaks, Rochester, Maidstone, and Canterbury.
In the time of Richard II. the assizes were held
most frequently at Canterbury, and it was one
of the grievances of Jack Cade and his followers
that they had to travel from the farthest parts of
West Kent into the east to attend the sessions of
the peace ' ' causing men some five days' journey,
and they desired for the better administration of
justice it should be divided into two parts."
Maidstone, once but of little repute, became the
assize town after the Restoration. Canterbury
(a county in itself) is, of course, the ecclesiastical
capital of Kent, and Maidstone is now the county
town. The cathedral city prefers that Maidstone
should enjoy the privilege of carrying out execu-
The other corner county, Cornwall, also
hesitates between its cathedral town, Truro, and
Bodmin with its gaol, as to which is really the
county town. Launceston was the ancient capital
of the Duchy the office of Constable of Laun-
ceston Castle is still in existence.
Maiden Assize is the name given to one in which
no criminal is brought to trial ; formerly when the
laws were more draconian and bloodthirsty, the
name applied when no criminal was left for
execution. Such naturally occurred more fre-
quently in the less populated counties, as in
1 68 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
Anglesey, Monmouth, and Montgomery. There
was a custom on such occasions to present the
judge with a pair of white gloves, and the judge's
attendants in some counties (as Yorkshire, where
the occasions were extremely rare) claimed glove
money till these fees were abolished some fifty
or sixty years ago.
The giving of white gloves at a maiden assize
is a piece of symbolism of Teutonic origin. Not
only was the practice observed when no criminal
had been called upon to plead ' ' called upon by
name to hold up his hand " but prior to the
seventeenth century such prisoners as had re-
ceived pardon after condemnation were accus-
tomed to present gloves to the judges.
Those pardoned men who taste their prince's loves,
As wedded to new life, do give you gloves.
In olden times when a sentence of outlawry
was reversed, the culprit attended the court per-
sonally and presented gloves to the judges.
The judges do not sit in virtue of their position
as judges of the High Court of Justice, but as
commissioners specially sent down ; and the
arrangement is such that there is a General
' Gaol Delivery " that is, a clearance of pris-
oners awaiting trial, at least three times a year.
THE LORD LIEUTENANT OF THE COUNTY
The Lord Lieutenant was a military officer first
appointed (it is believed) under Henry VIII., to
preserve order in his county ; and as such he suc-
ceeded to the powers and duties of Sheriffs and
Justices of the Peace, as well as those of special
Commissioners of Array. Under succeeding
Tudor sovereigns, the office grew into permanence,
and appointments thereto remain in the hands of
Another ancient office, though quite distinct,
is usually joined with the Lord Lieutenancy that
of Custos Rotulorum. The duties of this office
are to keep the county records (as the records of
Sessions) and involve the appointment of the
Clerk of the Peace, and the power of recommending
to the Great Seal the names of fit and proper
persons to be inserted in the Commission of the
Peace for the county. The Lord Lieutenant is
at the head of the county magistracy.
Though the Lord Lieutenant now heads the
county organisations, his office cannot compare
in antiquity with that of Sheriff. In the matter
of precedency too, the Sheriff claims to come before
the Lord Lieutenant, and an instance is recorded
of a duke who had been Lord Lieutenant forty
years, apologising to the Sheriff for having in-
advertently taken precedence of him.
The office of Sheriff is of far more ancient
foundation than that of Lord Lieutenant, which
170 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
(according to Strype) was first established in the
third year of Edward VI. to suppress the ' ' routs
and uproars " then active in most of the counties,
during the religious ferment of the early stages of
the Reformation. It might be supposed the
sheriffs already possessed sufficient power for that
purpose ; but the means then adopted to restore
tranquillity were not well calculated to be popular
among the people among the extraordinary
measures taken at that time it was ordered that
no drum was to be struck or pipe sounded ; all
plays were forbidden ; and in the churches of
Devonshire and Cornwall, Lord Russell was to
take down every bell in a steeple save one, so as
to prevent a peal being rung. The times were
certainly out of joint when Lord Lieutenants were
first called into being. They seem, on the face of
it, to have been emergency officers, whose appoint-
ments became permanent.
Lord Lieutenants of Counties appear to have
come into existence somewhere about the middle
of the sixteenth century ; they succeeded the
Commissions of Array, which the Crown in earlier
times had been accustomed to issue. The earliest
of these appointments are to be recognised in the
Commissions ' de arraiatione et capitaneo
generali contra Francos " issued, for a large range
of counties of the kingdom, to the Dukes of
Norfolk and Suffolk, and to the then Lord Russell,
Blackstone, however, says, " About the reigns
of King Henry VIII. and his children, Lord Lieu-
tenants began to be introduced as standing re-
presentatives of the Crown to keep the Counties
in military order ; for we find them mentioned as
known officers in the statute 4 and 5 Philip and
Mary, chap 3, though they had not been long in
THE LORD LIEUTENANT OF THE COUNTY 171
use, for Camden speaks of them (in the Britannia)
in the time of Queen Elizabeth, as extraordinary
magistrates constituted only in times of difficulty
This earliest known appointment by name is
that of ' ' the Erie of Bedford, appointed their
Highnes Lieutenant of the Counties of Dorset,
Devon, Cornewall, and their Citie of Exeter, the
I7th daie of March, the fourth and fifth yeares of
their Majesties raignes."
The said Lieutenant is directed to have with
him his Commission, his Instruction, and his
Letters, and to depart forthwith to his charge with
all diligence. He is to give orders for the raising
of beacons and the control of same ; to muster the
men within his lieutenancy with their armour and
weapons ; to call the gentlemen of the shire to-
gether, and view their retinues of serving-men ;
to classify them as able horsemen and footmen, and
to appoint fitting captains to lead each body ; to
view the horses fit for military service, and to
appoint the places at which the troops are to
muster when called upon. All dangerous landing
places along the coast are to be noted, and the
inhabitants are to be called upon to provide de-
fences of ' trenches and bulwarks of earth "
at such places ; while the inland dwellers are to
furnish sufficient numbers to man these defences,
providing each man with ten or twelve days'
The Lieutenant, if an enemy should land which
is too strong for the local forces to contend with,
is to withdraw his men to some place of ad-
vantage, destroying his trenches, cutting down
trees and breaking the bridges behind him, and so
impeding the advance of the invaders till aid can
be sent him. In all towns diligent watch is to
172 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
be kept ; all seditions and dangerous rumours are
to be strictly suppressed. In fact, it is laid
down as the direct duty of the Lieutenant to take
all measures for the due observance of the statutes
regulating the musters of properly armed and
equipped men, liable to serve the Crown in the
defence of the country ; and he is particularly en-
joined ' ' to keepe the shire in good order and quiet,
especiallie at the tyme of levying the subsidie."
Such were the instructions of ' Marie the
Queen," in 1558. Similar instructions were given
by Queen Elizabeth in June 1574, when the King
of Spain was making a threatening demonstration
against this country from the opposite shores of
the Low Countries.
To ensure that there shall be no lack of men
' trained in feates of warre," nor any deficiency
in their proper " furniture of amor," ' certaine
honest chosen captens " possessing the necessary
knowledge are to be appointed to the divers
counties " there to teach and traine the people
to understand how to weare their armour, use
their weapons and doe such like thynges. . . .
upon every holiday in the afternoone, in sundrie
places to be chosen, meete for two or three moneths
space " ; at which the grave and discreet gentle-
men of the county are "to be present and at-
tendant for conservation of peace and good will."
The shrewd Elizabeth enclosed with her in-
structions a schedule, so that no one liable should
escape from ' such assessments and appoint-
ments " ; in fact the Lieutenant is expected to
' augment the number of horsemen by meanes of
putting in execution the intente of the saide
schedule." And in this matter the Lieutenant's
advice is sought for further means of augmenting
the force of the shires, either in footmen or in
THE IvORD LIEUTENANT OF THE COUNTY 173
horsemen, or in armour and weapons, ' ' amongste
the meaner sorte of farmers that be of secreat
wealth and never before charged with service
as the gentlemen be."
In committing the care and government of the
aforementioned counties of Devon and Cornwall to
the Earl of Bedford, ' ' because they lie upon the
Sea-coast," the adjoining counties of Dorset,
Somerset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire are
ordered to give them any necessary aid and suc-
cour in time of danger, as are also the opposite
coasts of South Wales. Nothing further calls
for attention except that the Instructions contain
a price list of the ' ' Armour and Artillerie " then
in use the ' armour of a dimi-lance " being
valued at 545. 4d. ; a corslett, 303. ; " a currier
complet," i6s. 8d.: ' a harquebush," 8s.; "a
dagge complet," i6s. 8d. ; "a bowe of ewe,"
2s. 6d. ; " liverie of arrowes and shafte," 22d. ;
morris pike, 2s. ; halberd, 6s. 8d. ; a black bill,
i6d., etc., etc.
A regular standing army was unknown in early
England ; independent of the forces of feudalism
the Fyrd was the only body of professed warriors.
Previous to the reign of Henry VIII. probably
from the time of Edward I. to protect the realm
from invasion or domestic insurrection, it was usual
for the sovereign to issue Commissions of Array,
under authority of various Acts of Parliament, all
of which were repealed in the reign of James I.
Under these Commissions officers were sent into
each county to array, that is, to set in military
order the inhabitants of every district. It was
provided that no man should be compelled to go
out of the kingdom at any rate, and not out of the
county except in cases of urgent necessity. In
the Tudor period Commissions of Array were
174 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
superseded by Commissions of Lieutenancy, al-
though Charles I. afterwards issued a Commission
of Array to call out the Fyrd. This revival was
resisted as illegal, and in 1642 it was ordered that
Lord Lieutenants were to be appointed by Parlia-
ment, because he alone could call out the Militia
by which name the Fyrd, or national defensive
force, had now come to be known. Every free-
man between the ages of 15 and 60 was not only
liable to serve, but to provide his own equipment
according to his social status ; and to enforce the
latter obligation in ancient times an Assize of
Arms was held at certain periods, for the inspection
of arms, armour, and other war material for per-
sonal equipment, in manner similar to that sug-
gested in the Schedule just quoted.
The records of the Militia musters in olden times
are very meagre, but the force was called together
in 1539, and for the Armada panic in 1588. It is
difficult to find with any degree of certainty what
part the Militia took in the Civil War (from 1641).
In recent times the Militia has been embodied
again and again during the Peninsular and
Waterloo campaigns, in the Crimean War, 1854 6,
and as late as the South African War. This
ancient corps then became a sort of Special Reserve.
In the course of centuries the Fyrd considered
as an auxiliary force, has had many different
names the General Levy, the Trained Bands,
the General Militia, Armed Associations, Volun-
teers, and lastly the Territorials.
The standing army was established in the reign
of Charles II., but the Militia finally became a
body of voluntary recruits, trained for home de-
fence, and who served for pay. The contingent of
each county was prescribed by statute, based on the
size of its population, and if the quota was not forth-
THE LORD LIEUTENANT OF THE COUNTY 175
coming voluntarily, a ballot of its able-bodied
men might be enforced. Formerly the Militia was
officered by the Lord Lieutenant and those ap-
pointed by him, but all high military authority
has been vested, since 1871, in the Crown.
In his military capacity the Lord Lieutenant,
till the Army Regulation Act of 1871, was re-
sponsible for the efficiency of the Militia. Those
powers and jurisdictions relating to the recruiting
of the Militia by ballot, should that course have
to be adopted, continued. The effect of recent
enactments, however, has been to abolish the
Lord Lieutenancy as a great military office.
The appointment of Lords Lieutenants in Eng-
land dates from (cir) 1549 * m Ireland only from
The Lord Lieutenant is a great personage,
usually a peer or large land-owner placed at the
head of the county government, combining in him-
self the civil office of Custos Rotulorum and the
military post of crown representative associated
with the armed forces of the county. The
military duties have shrunk to little more than
mere patronage and ceremonial while in the other
capacity the Lord Lieutenant may, if it should be
necessary, preside at a general sessions of the
As mentioned elsewhere, each of the Ridings of
Yorkshire has a separate Commission of Lieu-
tenancy, as a county in itself. In 1660 Charles
II. granted a Commission of Lieutenancy to the
city of London giving the Commissioners similar
powers to those possessed by the Lords Lieutenants
of Counties ; and by them the City Train Bands
were remodelled and increased.
To each county there are a number of Deputy
Lieutenants. The office of Deputy Lieutenant
176 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
was also part of the organisation for national de-
fence, but now it is little more than a social dis-
tinction, though the appointments and quali-
fications are regulated by the Militia Act, 1882.
At least twenty must be appointed for each county
if there are so many therein qualified ; the quali-
fication requires that a Deputy lieutenant must
be a peer, or a peer's heir, resident in the county ;
or the possessor of landed estate valued at not less
than 200 a year, or of a similar income derived
from personalty within the United Kingdom.
These deputies are appointed by^the Ix>rd lieu-
Every place bearing the term ' ' shire " as part
of its proper name is not a shire in the sense of
being a county division. The Anglo-Saxon
' Scir " has had, at various times, divers mean-
ings ; it has not only signified a county, province,
or district, but it came to be used in the sense of a
boundary, or any object marking a boundary ; as
While giving some consideration to these, it
may not be out of place to deal with those de-
tached outliers of territory which used to give old
county maps such a puzzling appearance.
There is a Shire-oak near Stonnal, Staffordshire,
but it is a mile or two from the Warwickshire
boundary ; and a Shire-oak near Worksop, near
the boundary of Notts and the West Riding of
Yorkshire. Shirbourn, literally " the boundary
brook," divides Coventry from the parish of
Allesley ; there are other places in the country
similarly named and for the same reason. Shire
Ditch, again, on the Malvern Hills, marks the
boundary between Worcestershire and Gloucester-
The spot at which three or more counties come
together has always been more or less a wonder
place, a place to be marked and noted, a spot that
was somehow distinguished above its surround-
ings. It was something to be able to stand in
three counties at once. In the old prize-fighting
178 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
days there was the spot near Birmingham,
known as Three Shire Oak, at which the
counties of Warwick, Worcester, and an isolated
part of Salop came together, and provided a
favourite place for pitching the ring, because
when the constables of one county put in an
appearance, there was a choice of two others
through which the disturbed sportsmen could
make their escape to quieter quarters.
The spot where the four counties of Warwick,
Stafford, Leicester and Derby come together is
known as No Man's Heath, and boasts a licensed
rendezvous called " The Four Counties Inn."
If a thing is to be particularised and noted it
must be named ; so what more natural than the
bestowal of proper names upon sudh spots. As
boundary stones have been in use from the most
remote times pillars of stone and border stones
are mentioned in the Bible, and in Anglo-Saxon
times such landmarks were known here as hoar-
stones (now often corrupted into whorestones,
warstones, and so on) we get the place name
Three Shire Stones in several parts of England.
It is the name of the meeting-point of Lancashire,
Cumberland, and Westmoreland (seven miles
west of Ambleside) ; of the junction of Cheshire,
Derbyshire, and Staffordshire (2 miles north of
Flash) ; and of the meeting-point of Gloucester-
shire, Somerset, and Wilts (a few miles north of
Bath). Near Cleeve Prior, where the shires of
Worcester, Gloucester and Warwick come to-
gether is the Three Shires Elm. Four Shire Stones,
again, is where the four counties of Worcester,
Warwick, Oxford, and Gloucester meet, near to
The modern town of Mossley is in Lancashire,
Yorkshire and Cheshire, and the three municipal
wards are named respectively after the counties.
SHIRE BOUNDARIES 179
When the first great Reform Bill came to be
passed, a rectification of the frontiers had to be
made for electoral purposes, to overcome the
difficulties arising from detached portions of some
counties lying within the confines of other ter-
ritorial counties. A few years later, other legal
and administrative anomalies, which naturally
attached to isolated fragments of a county lying
away in some " foreign " area, were remedied by
the Statute 7 and 8 Victoria c. 62, which generally
made them parts of the counties by which they
were respectively surrounded.
No more absurd instance of this inconvenient
arrangement could be found than that of Ely
Place, Holborn, which was supposed to be ID the
county of Cambridge the locality having
anciently been the " inn " of the Bishop of Ely,
the tenements known as " Ely Rents," though
within the liberties, franchises, and jurisdiction
of the City of lyondon, long remained a ' ' peculiar "
jurisdiction of the Bishop of Ely, and was there-
fore accounted " part of the city of Ely in the
county of Cambridge."
Here is a list of 52 such anomalies, compiled
mainly from maps in Lewis's Topographical
Part of Situate in Town or Village
Berks Oxford Shilton
Berks Oxford little Farring'n
Bucks Oxford Caversfield
Derby Leicester Ravenstone
Devon Dorset Thorncombe
THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
Town or Village
Clent & Broom
SHIRE BOUNDARIES 181
Part of Situate in Town or Village
Worcester Gloucester Iccomb
Worcester Gloucester Evenload
Worcester Gloucester Cutsdean
Worcester Gloucester Blockley
Worcester Hereford Edvin Loach
Worcester Stafford Dudley
Worcester Gloucester and Shipston
Worcester Gloucester & Daylesford
The map of Scotland, too, often shows the en-
clave, fragments of Cromarty and Banff being
dotted about other neighbouring counties.
The whole of Halesowen was not included in
Salop. It is a large parish of several townships,
one of which was in Worcestershire as its name,
Warley Wigorn, testifies. But it did not con-
sist of one piece ; it was cut up into small patches
and scattered among the townships of Oldbury,
Langley, and Warley Salop, which were in Shrop-
shire : some of these pieces were mere fields ; some
were larger and themselves enringed portions of
Shropshire, so that on the smaller scale Ordnance
Maps it was scarcely possible to distinguish the
boundaries of the two counties.
It will thus be seen the limits of the shires have
not been inviolably unchangable. As a matter of
fact county boundaries have been altered by legal
process from time to time, by transfers, and
otherwise. Extensions and consolidations for
convenience of local government have demanded
that detached and outlying districts should be
transferred to a nearer centre of administration.
The list just given, of counties that once had
182 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
separated fragments lying in the midst of neigh-
bouring counties, is probably, by no means an
The Thames is always considered the dividing
lire between Essex and Kent. But at Woolwich
a small portion of the ancient manor lies on the
opposite coast, in Essex probably apiece recovered
in olden times from the encroachments of the tide.
On the other hand Chalk and Higham near Gravesend
were anciently accounted parts of Essex. The
Isle of Dogs, in Middlesex, has been claimed, but
by what authority is unknown, as part of Kent.
It would be impossible to give all the instances
in which county boundaries are known to have
been altered. The present boundaries of Staf-
fordshire by no means coincide with the limits
recorded in Domesday Book. The boundary
between Westmoreland and Cumberland, accord-
ing to ancient surveys of manors, was not along
the existing line of demarcation, the former
county having evidently gained some time or
other at the expense of the latter.
The names of several places in England have
the terminal " shire," which are not counties,
but which probably represent ancient lordships.
In Northumberland are to be found Norham-
shire, Islandshire, and Bedlington shire, detached
portions of the patrimony of St. Cuthbert. They
were formerly included as parcel of the Palatinate
of Durham. Norhamshire, a ward of over twenty
thousand acres near the Tweed, formed till 1844
a detached portion of the county of Durham.
Islandshire, another Northumberland ward, con-
taining some twenty-eight thousand acres, in-
cludes the Fern Islands, and also formed at one
time a detached part of Durham county. Bed-
lingtonshire is a ward of over eight thousand four
SHIRE BOUNDARIES 183
hundred acres, consisting of Bedlington parish,
situated on the river Blythe, five miles south-
east of Morpeth.
Hexhamshire (locally known as " the shire ")
is a division of Hexham parish in south North-
umberland ; of the 24,000 acres in the parish it
embraces nearly 19,000 which once constituted
a county palatine, comprising the parishes of
Hexham, Lee St. John, and Allendale. This
area was anciently governed by the Bishops of
Hexham it was in the year 684 St. Cuthbert
was called to rule over this now long obsolete
diocese. Subsequently it passed as a barony to
the see of York, and in the reign of Elizabeth
was annexed to Northumberland.
Besides these, Northumberland also contains
Bamboroughshire, near the ancient castle and
capital of the kings of Northumbria ; and the
Shire Moor at Backworth, near North Shields.
In the county of York are Hallamshire, Howden-
shire, Richmondshire, and AUertonshire. Hal-
lamshire is an ancient lordship of the southern
division of the West Riding, mentioned in Domes-
day Book as Hallam. Its boundaries are now
difficult to determine, but they are generally sup-
posed to embrace the parishes of Sheffield and
Ecclesfield. Howdenshire is a wapentake (and
now a parliamentary division) in the East Riding.
Richmondshire contains the five Wapentakes of
Gilling East, Gilling West, Hang East, Hang
West, and Halikeld; roughly speaking it is
bounded on the north by the river Tees, on the
south by the river Ure, on the west by Westmore-
land, and on the East it reached about as far as
AUertonshire is the name of another Wapen-
take in the North Riding.
184 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
The application of the term ' ' shire " to these
northern districts originated in the Middle Eng-
lish period, probably with the monks, who seem
to have employed it to denote certain undefined
localities or regions that never had any exact
COUNTIES CORPORATE AND COUNTIES
For upwards of a thousand years the whole
realm has been so divided for its better govern-
ment that there is no part of the kingdom which
does not lie within some county.
Besides the geographical counties, of which
there are forty in England and twelve in Wales,
there are counties corporate, certain towns or
cities with lands and territories, having liberties
and jurisdiction by grant from the king ; as the
county of Middlesex annexed to the city of
London by Henry I ; as the county of the city
of York (tempo Henry VIII.) , of the City of
Chester (Elizabeth), of the cities of Bristol, Glou-
cester, Norwich, Worcester, etc., and the county
of the town of Kingston-upon-Hull, and others.
Centuries before that modern invention, the
' county-borough," was heard of, certain cities
and towns in this country enjoyed the privilege
of ranking as counties in themselves. They
were " counties corporate," distinct from the
geographical counties in which they were situate
they all lay, with the possible exception of
Berwick-upon-Tweed, within the defined limits
of territorial counties.
This superior status had been acquired by
virtue of county privileges conferred upon them,
generally as a mark of the royal favour in former
times. Still, though the two classes of counties
1 86 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
are generally considered to be on the same footing
in strict theory of law, they are in no way so in
The legal constitution of these privileged places
has been thus set forth :
' There are counties corporate otherwise called
counties of cities or towns which are certain
cities and towns, some with more, some with less
territory annexed, to which out of special grace
and favour the kings of England have granted the
privilege to be counties of themselves and not to
be comprised in any other county ; but to be
governed by their own sheriffs and other magis-
trates so that no officers of the county at large
have any power to intermeddle therein."
As counties corporate constitute no part of the
counties in which they are locally situate, so they
had formerly in general no share in voting for the
members to serve for those counties in parliament.
However, thirteen of the number were latterly
included within their respective counties, so far
as regards the right of election for knights of the
shire ; and this tendency has been largely followed
in the later Redistribution Acts.
Nineteen old towns have been so distinguished,
most of them cities. London was a county by
prescription at the Norman Conquest ; the others
have been separated from their parent counties
since that epoch.
Bristol, formerly part of Gloucestershire, was
invested with independent jurisdiction by a
charter 47 Edward III., which is the earliest in-
York was made a county by Richard II.; Lin-
coln, Norwich, and Newcastle-on-Tyne, by Henry
IV. ; Hull, Nottingham, Southampton, and
Coventry, by Henry VI.; Canterbury and Haver-
COUNTIES CORPORATE AND PALATINE 187
fordwest by Edward IV.; Gloucester by Richard
III ; Chester by Henry VII.; Exeter by Henry
VIII.; Lichfield by Mary ; Poole by Elizabeth ;
Carmarthen and Worcester by James I.
From its position on the boundaries of two king-
doms, Berwick-upon-Tweed was the scene of fre-
quent conflicts prior to the union of England and
Scotland under James I. The town itself was in-
cluded under the English crown in the reign of
Edward IV. ; and although it was made an in-
dependent town by Edward VI., and referred to
separately in national and legal documents, it
was still considered to belong to England. The
town is still defended by fortifications, which,
though out of date, form an agreeable promenade.
Edward I. granted Berwick a charter of incor-
poration, and James I., by a new charter, conferred
on the corporation the seignory of the town and
3,077 acres of land within the borough.
It will be observed that two of these corporate
counties have been carved out of Northumberland
(Berwick and Newcastle) ; two out of Yorkshire
(York and Hull) ; and two out of Gloucestershire
(Gloucester and Bristol). Kent has lost the area
of Canterbury, Cheshire of Chester, Devon of
Exeter, Staffordshire of Lichfield, Lincolnshire
of Lincoln, Norfolk of Norwich, Notts of Notting-
ham, Hampshire of Southampton, and Worcester-
shire of Worcester.
The county of Hull, or rather Kingston-upon-
Hull, include s a strip of land five miles westward
from the town.
The " city and county of the city of Lincoln "
comprises the city together with four adjacent
villages ; the remainder of Lincolnshire, which is
the second English county according to area, is
divided into three parts, namely Lindsey, Kest-
even, and Holland.
i88 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
Poole, in Dorsetshire, created a separate juris-
diction under the style and title ' ' the County of
the Town of Poole," by charter dated 23rd June,
1568, is the smallest of the class, and no assizes are
Coventry was re-annexed to Warwickshire in
the reign of Victoria.
Only two towns of this status are in Wales,
namely Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire, and
Carmarthen. There are none in Scotland, but
Ireland has nine of them, namely Dublin, Carrick-
fergus, Cork, Drogheda, Galway, Kilkenny,
Limerick, Waterford, and (since 1663) London-
It is interesting to note that the term ' ' county
borough " was applied to Carmarthen in an old
document of William III. the earliest known use
of the name.
There are also three counties of special status,
known as Counties Palatine ; namely Lancaster,
Chester and Durham. Ely possesses certain
royal franchises, and is sometimes erroneously
described as a county Palatine.
Counties Palatine were probably erected at first
because they were adjacent to an enemy's country,
as were Durham and (perhaps) Lancaster to
Scotland, and Chester to Wales ; that the in-
habitants might have administration of justice at
home, and remain there to secure the county from
These Counties Palatine are reckoned among
the superior courts, and are privileged as to pleas,
so that no inhabitant of such counties shall be
compelled by any writ to appear or answer out
of the same, except for error, and in cases of
COUNTIES CORPORATE AND PALATINE 189
A Tudor chronicler, says that in the time of
Edward III. Lancaster, Durham, and Ely, and
Hexhamshire in the western part of Northumber-
land, were reputed counties palatine ; also Chester,
created so by the Conqueror, who gave these
earldoms " to be held as freely as the king held
his crown," and " by this supremacy of liberty "
he made himself barons which might assist him in
The legal status of the County Palatines is
fully defined in Stephen's Commentaries :
Three counties, viz.. Chester, Durham, and Lancaster, are counties
palatine. The two former are such by prescription or immemorial
custom, or at least are as old as the Norman Conquest ; the latter was
created a county palatine by King Edward III., in favour of Henry
Plantaganet, first earl and afterwards Duke of Lancaster : whose
heiress being married to John of Gaunt the King's son, the franchise
was greatly enlarged and confirmed in parliament, to honour John of
Gaunt himself ; whom, on the death of his father-in-law, the King had
also created Duke of Lancaster.
Counties palatine are so called a palatio, because the owners thereof,
the Earl of Chester, the Bishop of Durham, and the Duke of Lan-
caster, had formerly in those counties jura regalia as fully as the king in
his palace ; regalem potestatem in omnibus, as Bracton expresses it.
They might pardon treasons, murders, and felonies ; they ap-
pointed judges and justices of the peace ; all writs and indictments
ran in their names, as in other counties in the King's ; and all offences
were said to be done against their peace, and not as in other places,
contra pacem domini regis. As to which indeed it may be remarked
that by the antient law, in all peculiar jurisdictions, offences were said
to be done against his peace in whose court they were tried : in a court
leet, contra pacem domini ; in the court of a corporation, contra pacem
ballivorum ; in the sheriff's court or tourn, contra pacem vice comitis.
These palatine privileges are similar to the independent regal
jurisdictions usurped by the great barons on the continent during the
weak and infant state of the first feodal kingdoms in Europe.
Take the palatinate of Chester by way of example.
The only part of Wales found assessed to the
English King in Domesday Book was the region
of Mold and Flint, which then formed part of the
great county palatine of Chester. For the Con-
queror had made over this portion of the Welsh
Marches to Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester, with
and some of it apportioned into counties, the
190 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
leave to add to his palatinate as much territory
as he could conquer from the Welsh ; and he had
carried his annexations as far as Rhuddlan Castle.
At that time the Chester palatinate also in-
cluded the part of Lancashire lying between the
Mersey and the Ribble ; but this was afterwards
transferred to the county palatine of Lancaster,
at its creation by Edward III. ; a little earliei
when Wales was being subjugated by Edward I.,
Flintshire portion had been taken out of the
county of Chester, though the Sheriff of Flint was
to attend before the justice of Chester and bring
his accounts to the Exchequer of Chester.
Tersely and succinctly the further history of the
English Palatinates is thus given in Stephen's
It is also to be remarked, that of the counties palatine none of them
now remain in the hands of a subject. For the earldom of Chester, as
Camden testifies, was united to the crown by Henry III., and has ever
since been one of the titles of the sovereign's eldest son ; and the palatine
jurisdiction of Durham which was long vested in the bishop of Durham
for the time being, was taken from him by 6 and 7 Will IV. c. 19.,
(amended by 21 and 22 Viet c. 45) and vested as a separate franchise
and royalty in the crown.
As to the county palatine or duchy of Lancester, it was the pro-
perty of Henry Bolingbroke, the son of John of Gaunt, at the time
when he wrested the crown of King Richard II., and assumed the
title of Henry IV. But he was too prudent to suffer his duchy to be
united to the crown ; lest if he lost the one he should lose the other also.
For as Plowden and Sir Edward Coke observe, ' ' he knew he had the
duchy of Lancaster by sure and indefeasible title, but that his title to
the crown was not so assured : for that after the disease of Richard II.,
the right of the crown was in the heir of Lionel Duke of Clarence, second
son of Edward III. ; John of Gaunt, father to this Henry IV., being
but the fourth son.
" Harry of Lancaster/* when he became King
in 1399 was naturally anxious to have his Duchy
to fall back upon if he should lose the crown, so
he obtained an Act of Parliament which prevented
the lands which go with the Duchy from being
merged or mixed with the lands which go with the
crown. The Crown lands were surrendered by
COUNTIES CORPORATE AND PALATINE 191
George III. on his accession in return for a fixed
salary as King, but by virtue of this old Act of
Henry IV. re-enacted several times the re-
venues of the Duchy of Lancaster, which are de-
rived from property not only in Lancashire, but
in other parts of the country, remain a source
of private income to the King. In 1913 their
value to the King was 61,000.
The origin and nature of the peculiar privileges
belonging to the Palatinate of Lancashire are
curious and interesting. In John of Gaunt, fourth
son of Edward III., and so called from being born
at Ghent, was revived, by declaration of Parlia-
ment in 1362, the title of Duke of Lancaster.
Several royalties were further conferrred upon
him by his father, including to the County
of Lancaster the dignity of a Palatinate. The
terms in which the royal patent was granted are
" We have granted for ourselves and our heir (John) that he shall
have, during life, within the county of Lancaster, his Court of Chancery
and writs to be issued out under his seal belonging to the office of
Chancellor ; his justices both for holding the pleas of the crown, and for
all other pleas relating to common law, and the cognizance thereof,
and all exactions by his writs and offices within the same : and all other
liberties and royalties relating to the County Palatine, as freely and
fully as the Earl of Chester is known to enjoy them within the county
The King's next care was to establish a Court
entitled the Duchy Court of Lancaster for the
administration of all matters affecting the pos-
sessions under the Duchy.
In London, at Lancaster Place, Strand, this
Court is now held, and from thence issue all
patents and commissions of office or dignities,
and all orders or grants relative to the revenues
and limits, and all acts of authority within the
1 92 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
On the site of the Palace of the Savoy was the
ancient residence of the Dukes of Lancaster. It
was so magnificent that according to Knighton,
there was no mansion in the realm its equal in
stateliness and beauty. John of Gaunt lived at
the Savoy in almost regal state.
Under Henry V. the prerogatives, privileges
and possessions of the Duchy of Lancaster, held
by his father, Henry confirmed, and with the
sanction of Parliament it was directed that the
liberties and franchises of this Duchy should be
maintained and exercised for ever, and that the
seal of the Duchy should have force without re-
clamation of the King, or of his officers, and be
used for ever in the business of the Duchy.
Further, ' ' possessions in hereditary right of the
King were separated from the Crown and incor-
porated in the Duchy of Lancaster to be ad-
ministered by the officers of the Duchy." Again,
under Henry V. and Henry VI., the possessions
of the Duchy of Lancaster were added to, and
validity of independent administration extended.
The attainder of Henry VI. by Edward IV.
declared the Duchy of Lancaster forfeited to the
Crown. Nevertheless, an Act was passed " to
incorporate the Duchy of Lancaster, to continue
the County Palatine, and to make the same, parcel
of the Duchy ' vested ' in whole in King Edward
IV., and his heirs Kings of England for ever, but
under separate guiding and governance from the
other inheritances of the crown."
In the reign of Henry VII. another Act was
passed to resume such part of the Duchy lands as
had been dismembered from it in the reign of
Edward IV. and to vest the whole " in the King
and his heirs for ever as amply and largely, and in
like manner, form, and condition, separate from
COUNTIES CORPORATE AND PALATINE 193
the crown of England, and possessions of the same,
as the three Henrys and Edward IV. or any of
them had and held the same."
Henry VIII. very much impaired the revenues,
by his gifts and grants to favourites, and otherwise,
but all the possessions were restored under Mary.
From the reign of Elizabeth the Duchy of Lan-
caster has been considered one of the richest gems
in the Crown of England, and the Sovereigns
have borne the title of Duke of Lancaster,
enjoying ' ' the most famous princliest, and state-
liest of inheritances." But for state purposes
the Duchy has been kept quite distinct from the
regal revenues and possessions.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is a
statesman who changes with the Government
and holds office by letters patent, taking pre-
cedence (if not a peer) next after the Chancellor
of the Exchequer.
The Chancellor of the Duchy, as such, has next
to nothing to do. The Vice Chancellor presides
over the Chancery Court which was left to the
Duchy even by the clean-sweeping Judicature
Act, and the management of the estates is done
by a staff of receivers and solicitors and surveyors.
When he has made an appointment to any vacant
county court judgeship within the limits of the
Duchy, the Chancellor has done the most, if not
quite all, of what he has to do, and the office has
in the past been held by some politician of emin-
ence but of a mind better at the principles than
the details of statesmanship. Nowadays the
Chancellor of the Duchy often fills in his time with
unclassified administrative work.
Although this county palatine came directly
under the Crown, it retained all its privileges, and
it was not until the last century that the ad-
194 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
ministration of justice was assimilated to that of
the rest of England.
With regard to the Isle of Ely, we may observe (says Stephen)
that this was never a county palatine, though some times erroneously
called so. It was, however, a royal franchise ; the Bishop of Ely
having been formerly entitled, by grant of King Henry I., to jura
regalia within the district, whereby he exercised a jurisdiction over all
causes, as well criminal as civil. But by 6 and 7 Will IV. c. 87 (amended
by 7 Will. I V. and I. Viet. c. 53) this secular authority of the bishop
was taken away and vested in the Crown.
There were formerly two other counties palatine,
Pembrokeshire and Hexhamshire (the latter now
united with Northumberland), but these were
abolished by Parliament ; the former in 27 Henry
VIII. the latter in 14 Elizabeth. At the former
period, moreover, the powers before mentioned
of owners of counties palatine were abridged ; the
reason for their continuance, says Stephen, having
in a manner ceased.
And in recent times, alterations have taken
place in regard to the administration of justice
in the counties palatine, which have assimilated
them in that matter to the rest of England. Thus
by ii Geo. IV. and I Will. IV. c. 70 the jurisdiction
of the court of session of the county palatine of
Chester was abolished, and that county was sub-
jected in all things to the jurisdiction of the
superior courts at Westminster ; and by the
Judicature Act, 1873, the jurisdictions of the
Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster and of the
Court of Pleas of Durham were transferred to the
High Court of Justice by that Act established.
COUNTY QUARTER SESSIONS, COUNTY
COUNCILS, AND COUNTY COURTS.
In the counties the two inferior courts of the
land are the Court of Quarter Sessions, with
criminal jurisdiction, and the modern County
Courts for civil cases. They are the principal
of the inferior courts.
In the Court of Quarter Sessions we may recog-
nise the modern form of the judicial powers of the
old Shire-moot. We have seen that formerly the
judicial function was largely exercised by the
Sheriff, the King's representative, one of the three
officials who originally presided over that assem-
bly. Then as the importance of the Sheriff
waned, his judicial powers passed in a large
measure to the Justices of the Peace.
At first these newer officials exercised no
judicial authority at all ; and even when they did
it was only in their corporate capacity. Justices
of the Peace seem to have been appointed in the
first instance to enforce the carrying out of the
oath of peace, which the Archbishop of Canter-
bury laid upon the land in the reign of Richard I.
Afterwards they were elected in the Shire Court,
but at the beginning of the reign of Edward III
they were nominated by the Crown. This is the
system which now holds good, the Crown appoint-
ing on the advice of the Lord Chancellor, who acts
on the recommendation of the Lord Lieutenant
of each county.
196 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
In time the Justices of the Peace came to be
numbered among the most important officials of
the kingdom. Gradually the care of all matters
concerning the countryside the rural areas out-
side the cities, boroughs, and corporate towns-
came to be placed in their hands ; beginning with
the remedial efforts necessitated by the deplor-
able state into which the country had fallen,
through the Black Death (1348-9) ; going on to
the administration of the poor laws of the Tudor
Period ; and coming gradually into the control
of all matters relating to local government.
Magistrates give their services gratuitously,
and have jurisdiction within a certain area, gener-
ally acting for the neighbourhood in which they
reside ; as custodians of the King's peace they
preserve order, put down disturbances, and act
as judges in minor cases.
In 1888 the county magistrates were largely re-
lieved of their old administrative duties, but left
in possession of their judicial functions.
These judicial duties fall into two groups ; the
Appellate, or the hearing of appeals from Petty
Sessions ; and the Original, or the trial of offences
too serious for the courts of summary jurisdiction
to deal with, but not serious enough to demand
trial before a judge of Assize.
The Sessions, as their name would imply, are
held four times a year*, for the trial of lesser
criminal cases in each county ; most of the large
towns, too, hold them, in which the judge, a bar-
rister appointed for the purpose, is known as the
Recorder. In the counties the Court is held
before the Justices of the Peace, of whom one is
"The first whole weeks after October n, December 28, March 31.
and June 24. These Sessions may be adjourned from time to time
and from place to place
COUNTY QUARTER SESSIONS, COUNCILS &c. 197
elected permanent Chairman, and acts as Judge,
though he usually consults the others as to the
sentence. Murders, manslaughters, and other
very serious cases cannot be tried before these
courts, and have to be reserved for the Assizes.
The procedure of this court is very similar to
that observed at the Assizes. At the com-
mencement of the Sessions all the cases go before a
Grand Jury, and the trial takes place before a
A pungent eighteenth century satire on the
functions of this court is contained in some ' ' I,ines
on a Country Quarter Sessions " :
Three or four parsons, three or four squires,
Three or four lawyers, three or four liars ;
Three or four parishes bringing appeals
Three or four hands, and three or four seals ;
Three or four bastards, three or four whores-
Tag, rag, and bobtail, three or four scores ;
Three or four bulls, three or four cows
Three or four orders, three or four bows ;
Three or four statutes not understood,
Three or four paupers praying for food ;
Three or four roads, that never were mended,
Three or four scolds and the Session is ended.
Not the least important county functionary is
the Coroner, whose office is both ancient and
honourable he is so called because he deals
wholly and exclusively with the king and crown,
and yet he was the only county official not ap-
pointed by the crown, being elected (generally for
life) by the body of freeholders.
There are about ten Coroners to each county,
in addition to a number of Borough Coroners.
For the object of local taxation, says the learned
Stephen, the division into counties is of practical
effect and importance ; "for as each parish is
subject to a rate for relief of the poor, so is every
county to a county rate, which is levied on the
occupiers of land within the county under the
igS THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
authority of various acts of parliament and
applied to many miscellaneous purposes." But
as the allocation ard spending of most of this
money was in the hands of the Court of Quarter
Sessions, a nominated and unrepresentative body,
here was an instance of ' taxation without
representation," which called for the attention
of the reformer at an early period of reforming
When the great majority of the population
lived in the country, as they did up to the eight-
eenth century, the power of the country gentry,
or ' ' squires," was enormous.
For thirty years the subject of the adminis-
tration of county affairs by authorities in some
degree representative of the inhabitants of the
rural districts and the country towns and villages
was constantly before the public, the topic being
discussed over and over again among Chambers
of Agriculture and similar bodies. A Bill intro-
duced in 1852 proposed to ignore the Quarter
Sessions and give the control of county business
to boards elected by the Guardians of the Poor.
A more vigorous attempt to place county govern-
ment on a sound footing was made in 1871, when
it was proposed to consolidate the rate and in-
stitute parochial boards, whose chairmen were to
elect from among themselves a certain number
(to be fixed by the justices) of parochial re-
presentatives for each petty sessional division.
The Magistrates in Quarter Sessions were to elect
from among themselves a number of members
equivalent to the total number of parochial re-
presentatives. Of course a property qualification
was to be necessary in both the former of 30
rateable value ; in the latter of 40 per annum.
COUNTY QUARTER SESSIONS, COUNCILS, &c. 199
There were other proposals at various dates for
the constitution of County Boards, and it was
generally noticeable that it was almost invariably
sought to represent two interests the
' ratepayers," by which term the smaller occupiers
were denoted, and the " magistrates" who were
then commonly supposed to be representative of
the owners. Although the ultimate aim of
occupier and owner might be identical, namely the
economical and efficient administration of county
affairs, it was felt that their views and their in-
terests would probably not always coincide the
absentee owner, for instance, might be a source
of trouble in the working of such a system ; and
the justices again were an utterly irresponsible
body, the nominees of a higher authority, equally
non-representative. Of the many crude pro-
posals none became law ; in the meantime the
principle of free and direct election gathered
strength in the public mind. Public opinion
gardually shaped itself into a demand for the free
and unfettered choice of men who were anxious
and qualified to conduct the public business of the
neighbourhood in which they resided, whatever
their status or their calling whether they were
magistrates, peers, clergymen, yeomen, manu-
facturers, farmers, or tradesmen, it mattered not so
long as they were animated by the proper public
The reforming ideas of the nineteenth century
could no longer tolerate the administration of
county affairs by a non-elective body. That the
control of the county police, the management of
main roads, and other matters necessitating the
expenditure of public moneys, compulsorily con-
tributed in the shape of rates, should be in the
hands of the county magistrates, came to be re-
200 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
garded as unsatisfactory. So in 1888 the Local
Government Act was passed constituting an
elective authority called the County Council
to whom these powers were transferred, and many
new ones added.
For the better local governance of the country-
side, and in further vindication of the great English
principle, no taxation without Representation,
the County Councils were created. These popu-
larly elected bodies were to be chosen every three
years, to consist partly of County Councillors and
partly of aldermen elected by the council gener-
ally from their own body, but not so of necessity,
power being given to the councils to go outside
in the exercise of their choice.
1888 County Councils established in England
and Wales (London being made a separate
1889 County Councils established in Scotland ;
1898 County Councils set up in Ireland.
The great towns had long demanded and ob-
tained a reformed municipal government. But
the outside rural districts, the villages and the
towns too small to command a perfect system of
local government of their own, had been adminis-
tered by the county magistrates. These adminis-
trative areas, as they were called, had varied very
much in their size and needs, according as the
county could be classified as agricultural od as
In the latter the density of population and
corresponding wealth, contrasted widely with
the difficulty of raising adequate sums from the
rates in the former wherewith to provide for the
public requirements of the area. Thus the manu-
facturing county of Lancashire was found with
an area very little in excess of that of Hampshire,
COUNTY QUARTER SESSIONS, COUNCILS, &c. 201
to have nearly six times the population, and
more than five tunes the rateable value.
The towns maintained their independence of
the county, the larger boroughs in absolutely
every detail of local autonomy, and the smaller
municipalities generally in those matters which
are considered vital to the principle of local self-
government. Sixty-four towns in England and
Wales which had attained to a population of about
fifty-thousands and upwards, were endowed with
the fuller powers of the first category and were
Originally the basis of population put down for
a county borough was 150,000, which was reduced
to 100,000, and finally to 50,000. It is not sur-
prising that County Councils which have suffered
the dismemberment of their areas, where the most
populous and prosperous of units have grown into
county boroughs, have complained of the hardship
inflicted on them, the county authority being left
with a residue of a poor rural population scarcely
able to provide the money for the necessities of
London which had always occupied a different
position from that of other towns in the kingdom,
was provided with its own County Council con-
sisting of 138 members, and having jurisdiction
over the district till then governed by the Metro-
politan Board of Works, a body which was there-
upon abolished. Of course the city (that small
area in the heart of London, the population of
which did not reach the standard set up for a
county-borough) was left in the enjoyment of its
ancient form of government by Lord Mayor and
The Act of 1888 undoubtedly made a great
advance in the form of efficiency of English pro-
202 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
vincial government, the strength of which, as
compared say with France, is the comparative
freedom from central authority, each County
Council being in essence a provincial parliament.
With our usual fear of sudden and violent change
and our preference for compromise, the control of
the police and other matters relating to the ad-
ministration of justice within the county area, was
vested in a Standing Joint Committee of Quarter
Session and the County Council.
Between the County Courts of the present day
and the early Sheriff's Court there is no historical
The modern County Courts came into existence
in 1846 at which date England was divided into
fifty-six circuits, each containing a certain number
of district courts, which are held at the principal
towns in each circuit. Over each circuit is ap-
pointed a Judge, chosen by the lyord Chancellor
from among barristers of at least seven years'
standing, and who is addressed as " Your
Honour." The principal cases tried in these
courts are claims for debts under 50, and civil
cases in which the amount of damages does not
exceed 50. New functions may be, and are,
added, from time to time. Courts are held at
short intervals and the Judge has the assistance
of a registrar and other officers. A jury of five
persons may be summoned if the amount claimed
exceeds 5, and either of the suitors so wish.
The procedure is simple and inexpensive, and it
is essentially a " poor man's court."
' These antient courts (says Stephen, tracing
the history of the Shire Courts) retain at the pre-
sent day nothing of their former consequence, and
are not now entrusted with the administration of
COUNTY QUARTER SESSIONS, COUNCILS, &c. 203
justice. The County Courts of modern in-
stitution have been nevertheless established in
reference to the old territorial division, there being
for each county one of these courts held in one or
more places within its limits ; also, as regards
crime, the trial is, as the general rule, conducted in
the county wherein the offence is alleged to have
been committed ; and such trials take place either
before the judges and commissioners of Assize,
on their periodical circuits, or else before the
justices of the peace for the county at their
Cornwall and Devon have peculiar courts of
law, of ancient privilege, for the administration
of justice among the tin-miners. They are called
Stannary Courts (from the Latin stannum, tin)
and are held before the Lord Warden and his sub-
stitutes, officers of the royal Duchy.
An independent jurisdiction was given by
William the Conqueror to the Cinque Ports, which
were erected into a sort of palatinate, with a
Lord Warden invested with civil, military, and
naval jurisdiction. Each of the five ports had
its own corporation of twelve jurats with peculiar
powers and privileges ; but within the last century
the ancient organisation of the Cinque Ports has
been broken up, to bring the towns into line with
modern forms of government.
In the bestowal of this Conqueror's privilege
may be traced the foundations of the Royal Navy,
" the senior service," as a recognised national
force. Before the Tudor period the monarch
relied on the service of fifty-seven vessels, each
carrying twenty-one men and a boy, which ships
had to be provided by the Cinque Ports, free of
expense for fifteen days but only after they
had received forty days' notice from the Crown.
204 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
When a greater force was required ships were hired
from merchants at home, or even from foreign
ports such as Dantzig, Hamburg, and Genoa.
When the Spanish Armada was tackled in Eliza-
beth's time, this country sent out 176 ships carry-
ing 14,992 men, but of these only 34 ships and
6,225 men belonged to the Crown.
According to the Report of the Commissioners
for revising and digesting the civil affairs of the
Navy, issued in 1805, there was a sort of naval
force in existence in the time of Henry VII., but
it was not known as the Royal Navy it was
mainly the obligatory contribution of the Cinque
In 1883 an Act to reform municipalities abolished
42 ancient Courts of Record, but four times that
number still exist, though some of them do not
exercise their jurisdiction. Abingdon, for in-
stance, has jurisdiction in personal actions up to
10, but its jurisdiction has been in abeyance since
1836 : Andover and Banbury courts have juris-
diction to 40 : Bedford Court has been in abey-
ance since 1789 ; but these rights are not lost by
mere non-user. Some courts like the Barmote
of High Peak had chartered jurisdiction relating
to mining rights ; but this, and the Barmote of
Wirksworth are now regulated by statute.
Bristol court possesses the power of foreign
attachment ; at Cambridge the Chancellor's Court
had a wide jurisdiction, though since 1856 its
powers in criminal matters have been largely cur-
tailed, and it has since practically fallen into
disuse. At Liverpool there is a Court of Passage
which still carries on an extensive business. In
London the Mayor's Court is an ancient court of
record ; and there is also the Court of Husting
with a special jurisdiction in cases of debt and
COUNTY QUARTER SESSIONS, COUNCILS, &c. 205
Another peculiar jurisdiction belonging to the
city of London is that of the Chamberlain's Court,
dating from the time of Edward VI. It was
instituted to determine disputes between masters
and apprentices, the judges being the Chamberlain
and Vice-Chamberlain of the city.
Salisbury has by prescription a Bishop's Court
with civil jurisdiction, but no trial has taken place
in it since 1816, and it has been in abeyance since
Arundel Court has not exercised jurisdiction
since 1798, or Beaumaris since 1779, and the last
trial in Bath Court of Record took place in 1821.
The Banbury Court had its procedure revived by
the late Sergeant Talfourd when he was Recorder
of that town. Birmingham affords the last in-
stance of the grant of a local court by royal charter,
Queen Victoria favouring that borough in this
respect in 1838. The Recorder of Birmingham is
still judge of that privileged court, though it has
not held a session for many years past.
Like Cambridge, Oxford University has a
Chancellor's Court with exclusive criminal juris-
diction, where the defendant is a member of the
The Hundred Courts have practically all dis-
appeared ; the well-known Salford Hundred Court,
notwithstanding its name, does not come down to
us in unbroken succession from its ancient pre-
cursor of that name. It is a court of record which
has been established by statute in substitution for,
and as an amalgamation of, two ancient courts,
the Salford Hundred Court and Manchester Court
These few instances will suffice to give the reader
a faint idea of the ancient courts possessing a local
jurisdiction, and their status at the present day.
THE GEOGRAPHICAL COUNTIES
The geographers not unnaturally group the
counties according to position. In the first group
are placed the four northern counties which lie
east and west of the Pennines, two on one side,
two on the other, all having a sea-board, though
Westmoreland has not much to boast of. North-
umberland, lying between the Tweed and the
Tyne, consists very largely of sloping moors
between the Pennines and the sea, but
the poorness of the land is more than made
up for by the possession of one of the largest coal-
fields in Great Britain. The county of Durham,
on the same slope towards the North Sea, lies
between the Tyne and the Tees ; it also is rich in
prolific coal measures and other mineral wealth,
which find an outlet through the Wear and the
Tees. On the other side of the divide the
county of Cumberland has its scenery boldly
dominated by mountain and lake here are the
highest mountains in England interspersed with
fifteen of its largest lakes and diversified by the
moorland waste of the Pennines and the fertile
valley of the Eden. Westmoreland is also a
county of mountain, moorland, and lake, and
with the previously named county constitutes one
of the rainy regions of England. As a part of
Northumbria, Westmoreland was once known as
THE GEOGRAPHICAL COUNTIES 207
The counties of the Humber basin include not
only Yorkshire to the northward, but the four
others southward, drained by the Trent, namely
Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and
Staffordshire. Yorkshire comprises the basin of
the Ouse ; it is the largest county in England and
ranks third in point of population ; Lancashire
coming first, and Middlesex second. Over on
the continent may be found kingdoms less in size,
and much inferior in wealth. The Vale of York
is the largest in England. In the North Riding
are the elevated Yorkshire moors ; in the East
Riding the Yorkshire Wolds ; and in the West
Riding are found the coal and iron, and the great
woollen manufacturers, which have filled it with
populous towns and made it one of the busiest
and richest districts in the world.
The county of Nottingham is a flat rolling
country along the lower Trent, whose memories
of old romance in Sherwood forest are now fading
fast before the industrial advances of its rapidly
developing coalfield. Derbyshire, with its tors
and peaks, its grand caverns hollowed in the lime-
stone cliffs, and its rounded hills cut by wild glens,
has been called the English Switzerland ; it pos-
sesses river scenery alorg the Dove and the Der-
went that can scarcely be surpassed in any Alpine
region. With the delightful region of this lime-
stone formation is sometimes associated the pre-
valence of the distressing disease, goitre, locally
known as Derbyshire Neck, and commonly at-
tributed to an excess of lime and magnesia in the
Leicestershire, the smallest of the Midland
counties, is composed chiefly of the valley of the
Soar, and belongs to the Central Plain of England,
across which an extensive view is obtainable from
208 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
the uplands of Charnwood Forest, the only
elevated land within its boundaries.
Staffordshire is a Midland county with twin
coalfields ; that of the north has bred the Pot-
teries, that of the south, with its famous ten-yard
seam, has produced the Black Country. These
two famous industrial regions are separated by a
fertile belt of pleasant agricultural country, which
is never recognised as characteristically
Lancashire and Cheshire belong to the basins of
the Ribble and the Mersey, and lie between the
western slopes of the Cumbrian and Pennine
mountains and the Irish Sea. In North Lan-
cashire the peninsula of Furness is cut off by
Morecambe Bay. South Lancashire has the super-
ficial aspect of barren moorland, but beneath the
surface lies one of the richest coal-cellers in the
kingdom, and hence this county has become the
greatest of England's industrial centres, the
enormous traffic of its cotton manufactures finding
every necessary facility of waterway in the river
Mersey. Lancashire has been known as the
Cotton County since the early seventeenth century.
Geographically it is the most artificially con-
structed county in the kingdom, no natural con-
nection binding together isolated Furness in the
north, the region between Morecambe Bay and
the Ribble anciently known as Amunderness, and
the southern region formerly known officially as
' Between Ribble and Mersey." Furness was
originally part of the Strath-clyde Welsh king-
dom ; Amunderness lorg counted as an outlying
district of Yorkshire ; and the southern part, under
the old names of Blackburnshire and Salfordshire,
belonged to the county palatine of Chester. Not
till the time of Henry III. were all the lands of
THE GEOGRAPHICAL COUNTIES 209
Lancashire resumed by the Crown and made into
an administrative whole, Edmund Crouchback
then being created Earl of Lancaster.
Cheshire consists of a low and rather flat plain
with a light soil, drained by the Mersey, the
Weaver, and the Dee ; from its luscious grasslands
come the famous Cheshire cheese and other forms
of dairy produce ; from its inexhaustible mines
of rock-salt it has been dubbed the " salt-cellar
The six west-midland counties in the basin of
the Severn form a group ; namely Shropshire,
Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Gloucestershire,
Herefordshire and Monmouthshire. The last
two, which lie west of the Severn, were included
in the government of Wales till the time of Henry
VIII. ; Warwickshire is in the basin of the Avon,
the largest tributary of " fair Sabrina."
Shropshire lies amongst the upper waters of
the Severn ; one part of it belongs to the Welsh
group of mountains, another to the Plain of
Cheshire, and a third part belongs to the Central
Plain. Across the western edge of Shropshire
is to be seen the earthen dyke erected between
the Dee and the Wye, by Offa, King of Mercia, in
779, to mark the Welsh frontier. Then the
Salopian plain begins to rise into humps and
domes that stretch westward, till they merge into
the higher peaks of the Welsh mountains.
The county of Worcester is a broad rich valley
bordered on each side by a range of hills ; on the
west by the lovely Malverns, and on the east, the
Clent Hills the latter, the first interruption of
the great Central plain standing up a thousand
feet in the centre of England, and dividing three-
ways the waters of the Trent, the Thames, and the
Severn. The north-east corner of this fruitful
210 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
garden-county joins up to, and takes upon itself
the barren nature of, South Staffordshire's
Warwickshire, fair, pleasant, and ' very
English " in its hedgerow scenery, belongs to the
Central Plain, and is the " heart of England."
Gloucestershire occupies the lower Severn valley,
a fine fertile stretch between the rugged heights of
Dean Forest on the west, and the rich grazing
slopes of the Cotswolds on the east.
The county of Hereford is filled by the larger
part of the basin of the Wye, one of the loveliest
rivers in England ; while Monmouthshire, the
English county which is most Welsh, occupies
most of the basin of the Usk. It is through the
latter also that, as the poet expresses it, the Wye
" slides with all her beauty into Eternity."
The East-Midland counties, or counties of the
Wash, comprise Lincolnshire, Rutland, Northamp-
tonshire, and Huntingdonshire, Bedfordshire, and
Lincolnshire is the second largest of the English
counties, though only half the size of Yorkshire.
The part called the Uplands is laid out for pasture ;
while the Fenland, now mostly drained and given
up to tillage, is a fine corn-land. Because ancient
Lincolnshire, with its vast expanse of fens and
marshes, could provide abundance of fish and
wild fowl it became a land of monastic foundations,
the county of noble abbeys. It contains about
Rutland, the smallest of English counties, has
a population only equal to that of a little market-
town. To its south is Northamptonshire, a long
slip of land which borders on nine other counties
no other touches so many as this.
THE GEOGRAPHICAL COUNTIES 211
Huntingdonshire is another very small county ;
it belongs to the low level of the Fens and once
contained Whittlesea Mere, the largest sheet of
water outside the Lake District ; but this has been
drained and is now added to our Anglian corn-
fields and pasture lands.
Bedfordshire belongs to the basin of the
" slow-winding Ouse," and though it contains
much pastureland, it probably has, in proportion
to its size, more ploughed land than any other
Cambridgeshire also belongs to the basin of the
Great Ouse, which divides it into two districts ;
the south, occupied by grassy chalk downs of the
Gog Magog Hills ; and the north, that part of the
Fenland which retains its old name, the Isle of Ely.
Hereabouts we have the flat marshy region known
as the Bedford Level, comprising the greater part
of the Fens the whole Isle of Ely, about 90
square miles of Hunts, nearly 100 of Norfolk, 47
of Suffolk, I2j of Northants, and the south-east
portion of Lincolnshire, making 703 square miles
in all. Two cuts of canals, the Bedford Rivers,
Old and New, have been constructed from the
borders of Huntingdonshire through the Isle of
Ely, to confluence with river Stoke ; the New River
is ipo feet wide, the Old 70 feet, and both are
navigable for upwards of twenty miles. A large
area of land has been reclaimed for cultivation,
and though the expenditure has been vast, the
results have been worth it. The work was under-
taken early in the seventeenth century by the Earl
of Bedford aided by the celebrated Dutch engineer,
Sir Cornelius Verm uy den, in the face of great
opposition ; the usual outcry against "foreigners "
212 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
The whole of this low-lying area, known as the
Fens, at one time extended to 2,000 square miles,
which tradition says was first overflown by the
sea during an earthquake in the year 368. It
long after remained an inland sea in winter, and a
noxious swamp in summer, and has been drained
gradually by the successive efforts of the Romans,
the Saxons, and the monks of the Middle Ages.
Drainage works on a larger scale were undertaken
in the reign of Henry VII. by Morton, bishop of
Ely, and later a drainage act was passed by the
advice of Lord Burghley in 1601. Since the
making of the Bedford Level, similar works have
been undertaken in 1807, when Rennie made
the Great Level, and again in 1844 when the
Middle Level was made. Notwithstanding which,
great inundations occurered in 1862 and in 1877.
The three Eastern counties include Norfolk
and Suffolk (the two generally known as East
Anglia), and Essex in the basin of the Thames.
Though Norfolk is the fourth largest county in
England, it is scarcely as large as the North
Riding of Yorkshire. The eastern part is so flat
that its rivers spread out into wide lakes and
marshes, called " Broads," which are the home
of many wild fowl. Like Suffolk, it is a good
wheat-growing country. The latter county is also
famous for its sheep and cattle, and a short strong
horse known as the Suffolk Punch. Norfolk was
once our greatest manufacturing county, and its
commercial integrity in olden times gave us the
word ' ' sterling " a sterling pound was a reliable
weight of bullion according to the standard of the
Easterling merchants trading there. If the
ancient parish churches of Norfolk and Suffolk
are found to be excessively large for the villages
they now serve, it must be remembered that before
the Black Death these villages were thriving towns.
THE GEOGRAPHICAL COUNTIES 213
' England has greater counties " than Essex,
sings A. S. Cripps, but
Their place to hers is small.
Low hills, rich fields, calm rivers,
In Essex seek them all.
Omitting Essex, the counties which may be
grouped in the Thames basin are, on the northern
bank, Middlesex, Hertford, Buckinghamshire, and
classic Oxfordshire ; on the southern side, Kent,
Surrey and Berkshire.
The county of Middlesex is the smallest but
one of the English counties ; it is more populous
than Yorkshire, though Yorkshire is twenty times
Hertfordshire is a pleasant county which sends
its waters down long gentle slopes to the lower
lands of Middlesex and Essex ; the I^ea flowing
through the centre, from west to east, and then
forming the boundary between this county and
Buckinghamshire contains the Chiltern Hun-
dreds, at one time covered with forests of beech
and oak, but now either cultivated or laid out in
pasture ; also the rich Vale of Aylesbury, which
sends large supplies of milk and butter to the
Oxfordshire and Berkshire are divided by the
winding waters of the Thames. In the latter
is situated the Vale of the White Horse, where
King Alfred fought the battle of Ashdown, broke
the power of the Danes, and kept England a
Christian land the memory of all which is pre-
served in the immense figure of a horse carved on
a green hillside, its bold outline remaining visible
century after century, so long as the chalk is kept
" scoured " of the grass, by the proud men of the
214 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
Surrey, divided into two parts by the North
Downs, is a pleasant land of hill and dale, noble
parkland, and wide spreading heath, all within
easy reach of the Londoner.
Kent has a boundary line of sea and river on
three sides ; on the west, the fourth side, it is
entered by the North Downs, which become
broader and broader, till they terminate in two
sea-ends, known respectively as the North Fore-
land and the South Foreland. The county has
three well-marked districts ; the high upland of the
Downs ; the centre which grows hops, corn, and
cherries ; and the low marshy districts which are
characteristic of both its north and its south
Kent as " a sea-salted, wind- vexed promon-
tory " sticking itself out into the sea, has been
curiously compared with the county of Fife in
the sister kingdom of the north both were made
the landing-places of early missionary monks
of whose enterprise we have reminders in the
ancient cities of Canterbury and St. Andrews ;
and more curious still both have for a coat of arms
a white horse over the legend, " Invicta " the
watchword of an unconquerable spirit common to
The four southern counties comprise Sussex,
Hants, Wilts, and Dorset.
Sussex is divided into three well-marked belts,
the Weald, the South Downs, and the narrow
strip of coast. The Weald was once covered
with dense masses of forest, though it is now
mostly under tillage. The South Downs are a
range of broad, round-backed hills, grass-grown
to the top, and famous for their mutton pro-
ducing qualities. The sheltered coast-line is well
dotted with sea-side resorts.
THE GEOGRAPHICAL COUNTIES 215
Hampshire is a large, fertile and well-wooded
county between the Thames Valley and the
English Channel. In the north the Hampshire
Downs run eastward where they divide into the
North Downs of Surrey, and the South Downs of
Sussex. By the British it was called Gwent, ' ' the
country of downs."
The four counties of South-east England, the
corner from Kent to Hants, is a pleasant land of
the old Saxon Weald, the rolling Downs, and the
chartered marshes of ancient Romney :
' ' I'm in love with all these three,
The world and the Marsh and the Down Countrie ;
Nor I don't know which I love the most
The Weald or the Marsh or the White Chalk Coast."
Wiltshire is entirely an inland county, " of
billowy surface," consisting of upland tracts and
table-land that send waters away to the Thames,
to the Severn, and the English Channel. The
largest of its pastoral chalk downs is Salisbury
Plain, a bleak stretch of greensward occupying
nearly 300 square miles. The highest of its
chalk hills is Inkpen-Beacon, which rises where the
three counties of Wiltshire, Hampshire, and
Berkshire meet, and from which point four ranges
strike out the Chilterns running into the East
Anglian Heights, the North Downs towards
Surrey and Kent, the South Downs towards
Sussex, and in opposite direction the Downs of
Dorsetshire is another chalky county of small
population. Between the North Downs and the
South Downs of Dorset lies the Trough of Poole,
a barren waste that yields nothing but blue clay,
large quantities of which are sent to the Stafford-
216 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
The three south-western counties are Somerset,
Devon, and Cornwall the last-named, however,
repudiates the name county and styles itself a
Somerset is a county of very varied aspect, its
hills and dales, its dark woods and clear streams,
presenting landscapes of ever-changing charm and
diversity. On the west a branch of the Exmoor
runs out of Devonshire ; in the middle are the
Quantock Hills ; and on the east are the Mendips,
whose rocks yield to the miner lead, copper, and
lyovely Devonshire, or " leafy Devon," is the
land of glowing colour, with its red earth and
masses of green foliage ; its azure sky and purplish
seas ; its cliffs of pink and grey marble, lighted up
by ferns, and flowers, and softened by graceful
creepers ; where villages nestle amidst orchards,
and pretty cottages are gay with bushy myrtles
and climbing fuchsias ; where busy vales alternate
with great silent moors, and never a scene presents
itself that fails to charm the eye of the beholder.
In the north is Exmoor, in the south Dartmoor,
and between these two gloriously natural wilds,
lies a broad, beautiful, and well-cultivated plain,
Cornwall, sometimes called West Wales,
stretches out like a horn of land with stern and
rocky coasts, into a wild and stormy sea. The
river Tamar, which divides it from Devon, makes
almost an island of it ; and in other ways it is as a
The counties have even been classified by the
statistical seismologist, from which it would
appear that the most " unshakable counties " are
Northumberland and Durham, which are prac-
tically immune from earthquake. The county
most subject to seismic disturbance is said to be
THE GEOGRAPHICAL COUNTIES 217
Hereford, for in the cathedral city alone over
200 chimneys were fractured in the earthquake of
Wales in area is about one-twelfth of Great
Britain, and one-seventh the size of England.
Its twelve counties may be divided into two equal
groups, six in North Wales, and six constituting
Anglesey, the island county, joined to the main-
land by bridges, is the only one in Wales which
can be described as low and flat. Carnarvonshire,
opposite to it, is the most elevated, not only in
Wales, but in South Britain, containing Snowdonia,
which is literally the Hill of Snow. In shape it
is a long headland of the hardest and oldest rocks,
which seems to hold half the western sea in its
Denbighshire, containing the romantic Vale of
Llangollen, is the delightful Wild Wales of George
Borrow. Flintshire, though small in area, is
rich in minerals ; its deposits of coal, iron, lead, and
zinc have attracted a dense and busy population.
Montgomeryshire is the most thinly populated
county in Wales, notwithstanding that it possesses
mines of lead and copper ,'and quarries of stone and
When the Lordships Marcher passed away under
the reforming hand of Henry VIII., and the
ancient feudal territories were made into new
Welsh counties like Denbighshire and Mont-
gomeryshire, or were tacked on to already existing
Welsh or English shires, they became subject
to English law. As the lords clung to many of
their feudal privileges, difficulties afterwards arose
in dealing with Welsh " manors." One place,
Dinas Mawddwy, had ani nteresting history. Its
former immunities from English law made it the
218 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
resort of thieves and adventurers, and the doings
of the red-haired robbers of the Mawddwy make a
lurid chapter in Welsh history. Henry VIII.
tacked on this Alsatia to the county of Merioneth,
but the wild natives did not appreciate the customs
of " shire ground," and expressed their feelings
by hanging a judge, Baron Owen, when he rode
on circuit there.
Merioneth is very beautiful, but very rainy.
It is one of the most sparsely populated counties
in England and Wales, and contains a larger area
of mountain land than any other. This fact im-
pressed the I7th century author of " Le Fidele
Conducteur pour le Voyage d' Angleterre," who
writes that " Merioneth is composed entirely of
mountains. These are so high and so close to-
gether that the shepherds guarding their flocks
on the heights, who can talk with ease among
themselves from one mountain top to another,
must spend a day's journey if they wish to meet
and embrace those with whom they converse in
Cardiganshire sweeps with a crescent of moun-
tains along the open bay to which it gives its name,
and into which the rugged capes of Pembroke-
shire stand out further. Here is Milford Haven,
the grandest natural harbour in Great Britain,
with sea-room to protect the whole British navy,
and so land-locked as to shelter it from every wind
that blows. The population of Pembroke is not
entirely Welsh there is a district called Little
England-beyond-Wales, in which a colony of
Flemings was settled by Henry I.
Radnorshire, on the eastern slopes of the Plin-
limmon range, is mostly bleak upland and marsh,
and the least populous part of South Britain.
Brecknockshire, or Brecon, is also inland, and
THE GEOGRAPHICAL COUNTIES 219
Glamorganshire, which can be described as a
microcosm of Wales, is the most populous and
most wealthy of all its counties and is second in
point of size. The Vale of Taff is the busiest in the
world, with its iron-works, coal-mining, smelting
furnaces, and other allied industries. Carmarth-
enshire, the largest of the Welsh counties stands
partly in this busy industrial region and shares
in its wealth.
To memorise the names of all the English
counties, when such an exercise was thought to be
educational, the following Hexameter was con-
structed : ,
, Nor cum-dur : we la-york : che-de : not-linc :
shrop-staf-le-nit norf :
Her-wor-war-northa : Bed Mnt-camb-suff : mon-
Som-wilt-berk-Middlesex : corn-dev-dors-hamp-
Such as are contiguous southward are unjoined,
as in we la.
Such as are contiguous eastward are hyphened,
This absurd metrical verse was used as an ' ' aid
to memory " in the public schools of the country
a century ago ; it is given in Grey's ' ' Memoria
Technica " and Lowe's ' ' Memories."
Although earlier in these pages it has been
declared that the term ' province " has no
obvious meaning in this country, it cannot be said
that we fail to recognise " provincialism," in the
sense of that unsophistication which comes of
living remote from the centres of art and culture.
The phrase, ' He comes from the Shires,"
implies provincialism, when used by Londoners
and residents of the home counties, and is gener-
ally applicable to the natives of the inland shires
and those more remote from the capital. There
is said to exist an old and deep-rooted antagonism
between the Saxon and Jutish kingdoms of the
south east, and the Anglian kingdoms of Mercia
and the north, which exhibits itself in the use of this
and similar phrases, expressive of contempt and
pity for inferior manners and morals. In Norfolk
and Suffolk, however, which were distinctly of
Anglian origin, the half-educated people, ignorant
of geography, describe other parts which they
believe less blessed and less advanced than their
owrj, as ' ' down in the sheers." The East Anglian
always adopts the tone of contempt when he speaks
of a " sheere's man." The people of Norfolk,
Suffolk and Essex almost invariably allude to
their portion of England as " the three counties,"
and all the rest as " the shires."
At one time the shires were considered by East
Anglians the extremest limit of civilisation. " Oh
SHIRE PROVINCIALISM 221
no, my son he ain't a-gooin* tew India he's a-
gooin' father than that ; he's a'gooin' inter the
The true Sussex man, again, divides the land
into two great divisions Kent and Sussex are
one, all the rest of the country are " the shires."
Such is the attitude of mind assumed by the spirit
of local patriotism in various parts of the kingdom.
The ' ' home counties " are those containing and
surrounding London, as Middlesex, Essex, Kent,
Surrey, and sometimes Hertfordshire and Sussex,
and thus in the legal world the " home circuit "
of the judges of assize, is that having the capital
for its centre.
During the Civil War a combination was formed,
called the Associated Counties, the object of which
was to keep the war out of these districts and to
raise a force for the Parliamentarian faction.
These counties were Essex, Cambridge, Norfolk,
Suffolk, and Hertford (1642), and subsequently
Huntingdon and Lincoln.
In former days any man who had not the good
fortune to be born in the counties close around
London was dubbed a Shire-man, and when be-
trayed by his mode of speech, was regarded as next-
door to a foreigner.
A " man from the shires," especially from those
north of London was one who was regarded as a
' ' provincial," as a slow, stupid fellow. Pro-
vincialism implies the inferior standard of culture
that comes of a remoteness from the capital ;
as on the other hand the derivation of such words
as "civility" and "urbanity" implies the
superior influences of town life.
At the present day, however, there is a tend-
ency towards absorbing the vitality of the pro-
vinces, and turning it into a superficial smart-
222 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
ness, into the sterility of mere Cockney assurance.
At the best, this could only eventuate in a glut
of ability at the centre, and a dreary waste of plod-
ding mediocrity in the provinces.
In the phrase " shire horse" we have fairly
good evidence that at a comparatively early
period the word " shire" connoted the country-
side, as it was that royal judge of horseflesh,
Henry VIII., who ordered the breeding of ' ' strong
horses in the English shires " ; and to that end
imported Turkish and Spanish stallions to improve
the native stock.
In each county often existed a separate and
distinct group of thought; and life was largely
conditioned by the distance of one county from
another, in a time when travelling was difficult
and intercommunication rare.
To the most casual observer a difference is
always noticeable between the manners of the
natives of the north and those of the southern
counties' folk. Whether it arises from a closer
association with continental peoples, or whatever
the cause, there is always a more polished and
pleasanter manner with the southerners than with
north-country people. The northerner is noticed
to be brusque, abrupt, and even outwardly rude
in his manners, though on closer acquaintance it
may be found that the rudeness is more apparent
than real, that beneath the surface many sterling
good qualities are to be found.
The harshness of the northerner is more than
compensated for in the grit of the Lancastrian,
whose natural shrewdness, of a more disinterested
nature than that of the Yorkshireman, has pro-
duced the proverb " What Lancashire thinks
to-day, England thinks to-morrow."
SHIRE PROVINCIALISM 223
It has been sought to divide England into two
parts by drawing a line westward, from the mouth
of the Trent ; to claim distinctive characteristics
for those north and south of this line of demarca-
tion. Thus a Canadian authority on Emigration
has said that 95 per cent, of the failures among
English settlers in Western Canada came from
the counties south of such a line. On the other
hand an eminent Oxford authority on literature
has declared that no one born north of the Trent
could hope to become a master poet. These vague
generalities are scarcely worth consideration.
But it must be recognised that between the
northern and the southern counties there was the
wide belt of ancient Mercia, and the Mercian tem-
perament while free of all Celtic influences was
given a double Teutonic strength by the infusion
of so much Danish blood. This is the true
ethnological dividing line.
The subject of provincial dialects is too wide
to be dealt with here, but of most countrymen
" men from the shires " it may truly be said,
" Thy speech betrayeth thee."
The Northumbrian burr, or " cinder in the
throat " has been supposed to be the last trace of
the mode in which the Saxons pronounced words
beginning with R as when Ripon was pronounced
COUNTY ATTRIBUTES AND
Some counties have acquired a reputation for
what they produce, or are supposed to have pro-
duced ; others from the typical characteristics
by which its inhabitants are recognised in the
popular mind. Some have a traditional re-
putation for one thing, some for another, and thus
a county-name becomes a distinguishing adjective.
To honour first human culture, we may start
with the patriotic avouchment of the soldier-hero-
poet, Rupert Brooke
For England's the one land I know,
Where men with Splendid Hearts may go ;
And Cambridgeshire, of all England,
The Shire for Men who Understand.
To which rival counties might retort that such
eminence is largely an imported virtue, a virtue
to which all the other shires make willing con-
All north-countrymen are proverbially" long-
headed and cannie," but Yorkshire men stand out,
even among them for cuteness The traditional
Yorkshire motto is said to be
See all, hear all, say nowt ;
Eat all, drink all, pay nowt ;
And if tha does owt for nowt,
Do it for thisen.
In slang " a Yorkshire warehouse " stands for
a shop or business-place where the customer is
likely to be cheated or overreached. To " put
COUNTY ATTRIBUTES AND CHARACTERISTICS 225
Yorkshire on a man," is to overreach him in a
deal. ' Born in Scotland and bred in York-
shire would cheat the devil," says another pro-
A Yorkshireman's coat of arms, according to
an old saying, consists of " A flea, a fly, and a
magpie " a flea, because it will bite anybody,
and so will a Yorkshireman ; a fly, because it will
drink with anyone, and so will a Yorkshireman ;
and a magpie because it will chatter with anyone,
and so will a Yorkshireman. Another version
substitutes a flitch of bacon for the magpie
' because it is no good till it is hung."
The burlesque blazonry of this heraldic jest is
described in Notes and Queries (Seventh Series,
1888) ; beneath this amusing description is
A Yorkshire Man's Coat of Arms.
A magpy behold, and a Fly and a Flea,
And a Yorkshireman's qualifications you'll see ;
To Backbite and Spunge, and to Chatter amain.
Or anything else, Sir, by which he can gain.
The Horse shews they Buy few, though many they steal.
Unhanged, their worth nought, does the gammon reveal,
But let Censure stand by, and not bias the Mind
For Others as bad as the Yorkshire you'll find.
In explanation of the rhyme it may be added
that in the arms are included " a ham pendant,"
and a ' ' Demi-horse " for a crest ; the motto be-
neath the whole being " Qui capit ille habet."
Nor is the sister county considered to be far be-
hind in the attribute of business cunning.
" Lancashire law, no stakes, no draw," is a saying
to avoid the payment of a debt when only verbally
County nicknames in the shape of epithets have
been applied to the natives of various counties
from a variety of reasons, more or less cogent
generally less ; as, being characteristically de-
226 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
scriptive, oftener in a contemptuous sense than
otherwise ; or, in derision of some characteristic
product of the place.
Here are specimens
" Buckinghamshire bull-dog."
" Cambridgeshire Camel."
" Cheshire Cat."
" Cheshire chief-of-men."
" Devonshire prowe " (?) proud.
' ' Dorsetshire gobbler."
" Essex calf."
' ' Gloucestershire a Cotswold lion " (i.e., a sheep)
" Hampshire hog."
" Herefordshire broadhorn."
" Hertfordshire hedgehog."
" Huntingdon sturgeon."
" Kentish long-tail."
" Leicestershire bean-belly."
" Lincolnshire bag-pipe."
' ' Middlesex hay digger " (or clown)
" Norfolk dumpling."
' ' Northampton snob " (or cobbler)
" Nottingham lamb " (i.e,, a rowdy)
" Rutland white hare."
" Somersetshire Chewton bunny."
' ' Suffolk Silly Suffolk."
" Wiltshire moonraker."
" Yorkshire tyke" (tyke may mean a sharp dog, or
contrariwise, a clownish rustic. The word
" tyke" is derived from the Celtic tiac " a
Sometimes these " pious opinions" of county
attributes are put into rhyme
Cheshire for men,
Berkshire for dogs,
Bedfordshire for naked flesh,
And Lincolnshire for bogs.
Derbyshire for lead,
Devonshire for tin,
Wiltshire for hunting plains,
And Middlesex for sin.
Another county rhyme runs in this wise
Nottingham full of hogs ;
Derbyshire full of dogs ;
Leicestershire full of beans ;
Staffordshire full of queans !
COUNTY ATTRIBUTES AND CHARACTERISTICS 227
Staffordshire people spell the last word
' queens," of course. Here is another rhyme
of county comparisons
Hampshire hogs ; Berkshire dogs ;
Yorkshire bite ; London white.
Yet another is
Bedfordshire bull- dogs,
Buckingham^ great fools !
The origin of the phrase, " Grinning like a
Cheshire cat " has never been satisfactorily ex-
plained. It is a fact that Cheshire cheeses were
once moulded in the shape of a cat, bristles being
inserted to represent the whiskers. But what was
a Cheshire cat ? In the coat-armour of Hugh
Lupus, the mighty earl of Chester, there occurred
a wolf's head, which might possibly have been
mistaken for that of a grey cat. But a " cat's
face " was more probably seen in the arms of the
city of Chester which empales the lions of England.
The old armorists always drew this emblem like a
leopard, and as it was affronte or full-faced, it
might easily have been mistaken for a grinning
Lincolnshire men, and sometimes also the fen-
men of the contiguous counties, were nicknamed
' yellow bellies," or ' ' frogs," from the amphibious
kind of life they led. " The drone of the Lin-
colnshire bagpipes" this instrument was in-
digenous to East Anglia long before Scotia knew it
which was Falstaff's simile for melancholy, is
supposed to be a cryptic reference to the croak-
ing of its frogs.
It is said to be a biological fact that Lincoln-
shire folk have a head which in size is noticeably
below the average dimensions of English skulls ;
228 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
but this cannot satisfactorily be connected with
habits of environment.
In explanation of the epithet " moon-raker,"
a local legend tells of a Wiltshire farmer's wife
who took a rake to rake the reflection of the moon
from the river, under the delusion that it was a
In Bishop Hall's Vigidemiarum (Oxford 1753)
He gives me leave, and thanks, too, in his heart.
Two words for monie, Darbyshirian wise ;
(That's one too manic) is a naughtie guise.
Who looks for double biddings to a feast
May dine at home for an importune guest.
To be " Derbyshire wise " is not to need two
biddings to a feast in Bishops Hall's time the
hospitality of the Derbyshire people would not
allow them to take a first refusal.
A local couplet says
Derbyshire born and Derbyshire bred.
Strong in the arm and weak in the head.
This the natives naturally regard as libellous,
and say the correct version in the vernacular
ends " wacken in th' yed:" that is, wide-awake
in the head.
' Hertfordshire kindness " is an ironical ex-
pression, signifying a kindness one does to himself,
or a good turn rendered for a good turn received.
Fuller in his " Worthies" explains the proverb
as a mutual return for favours received ' It
being observed that the people in this county at
entertainments drink back to them who drink to
to them." Swift in the second Dialogue of his
' Polite Conversation " uses the phrase
Neverout. My Lord, this moment I did myself the honour to drink
to your lordship.
Lord Smart. Why then that's Hertfordshire kindness.
COUNTY ATTRIBUTES AND CHARACTERISTICS 229
A feeble kind of wit has sometimes tried to pun
on Shire names.
' Stafford law " is a slang expression for beating
with a staff. Or, put in another form, one who
has ' ' had trial in Stafford Court " is one who had
received a sound cudgelling for his pains.
To " go to Bedfordshire " is baby-talk for go
He who has a troublesome cough is humorously
dubbed " a native of Berkshire."
There is a saying current in Cambridgeshire that
' The bailiff of Bedford is coming." It is applic-
able to the River Ouse, which runs through Bed-
ford, because when it is swollen with rain and over-
flows its banks it generally causes an inundation,
bringing down suddenly abundance of water.
By this saying persons are warned to drive off
their cattle, lest they should be impounded by the
' bailiff of Bedford," or, in other words, drowned.
A number of counties affect pet-names, and
some have acquired nick-names. ' Of all elo-
quence a nickname is the most concise," says
Hampshire, trading on the supposed derivation
of its name from the Saxon " ham." boasts itself
the " Home-shire of England," claiming to be the
" Cradle of Saxon rule in England."
The Isle of Wight, though legally a part of this
county, holds itself aloof from it, and exhibits an
old prejudice against " overners " or " overers "
from the mainland. Then the gibe against the
island is that it never produced " a good horse,
a wise man, or a pretty woman." That's as may
be. But it is a fact that the female population
is remarkably below that of the opposite sex, and
in a proportion not known elsewhere.
230 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
Berkshire is sometimes " Breezy Berks" and
sometimes " the Royal county," because it con-
tains Windsor Castle, the ancient residence of
a long line of sovereigns. Than " in Berkshire
beechen woods " where could royalty find more
soul-reposing privacy ?
Shakespeare's county is ' woody Warwick-
shire," and is still beautiful with the noble rem-
nants of the Forest of Arden.
' That shire which we the Heart of England
well may call," according to Michael Drayton, is
Warwickshire is divided into the Arden and the
Feldon by the river Avon. North of the river
is the woodland remnant of the ancient Forest of
Arden ; south of it is the Feldon or open country,
from which the trees were all felled when civilisa-
' Warwick woods are sweet," sings John
Buckinghamshire is rightly called ' Beechy
Bucks," containing as it does, among other charm-
ing woodland resorts of like character the famous
Burnham Beeches it is a county of many charms
for picknickers, and within easy reach of the great
Norfolk has been described as one big goose-
green interspersed with villages and hamlets.
' High Suffolk," or the woodlands, is the in-
land portion of that county famous for its ex-
Whether it boasts of the distinction or not, Rut-
land is the smallest county ; and it was not alto-
gether inappropriate that there should have been
published in 1746 " Tom Thumb's Map of Rut-
COUNTY ATTRIBUTES AND CHARACTERISTICS 231
Nottingham is the county of " Merrie Sher-
wood," where beneath the greenwood tree the bold
Robin Hood and the heroic Cceur-de-Lion played
their legendary pranks in the picturesque days of
old ; and where those bygone days of chivalry
and romance are still recalled by the presence of
the series of stately homes popularly known as
" the dukeries."
Devonshire is justly allowed to be " the Shire
of sea-kings," having emblazoned on the roll of
fame the names of so many of her gallant sons
Drake, Grenville, Raleigh, Frobisher, Hawkins,
Davis, the Gilberts, and not a few others of lesser
note. These were the sea-dogs who made the
spacious times of Queen Elizabeth so glorious, and
laid the foundation of England's sea-power.
Middlesex, though originally a Kingdom, is
the smallest but one of all the English counties ;
though Yorkshire be more than twenty times
larger, it is more populous than the northern
1 county of broad acres," because it contains
the greater part of the vast metropolis. Middle-
sex is sometimes referred to as " rural London."
Macaulay declared " An acre in Middlesex is
better than a principality in Utopia."
Cornwall is the " delectable duchy " and enjoys
the proud distinction of being a duchy in itself,
and a royal one to boot.
It is the English Riviera. The native poet
I love thee, Cornwall, and will ever
For why ? thine equal knew I never !
Another Cornish poet sings of
A sweet soft breeze by Cornish seas, the blue Atlantic gleaming
The rugged cliffs, the fishing skiffs that lazily lie dreaming.
So much for its climate. Concerning its soil
we have the sayirg
232 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
Cornwall will bear a shower every day.
And two on Sunday.
The ancient kingdom of Cornwall, which is be-
lieved to have stretched inland far enough to in-
clude a portion of Somerset, had a long line of
kings, most of them Christian and in deadly an-
tagonism to the pagan West Saxons ; among them
were Cador, Blederic, Ivo, and Bletius.
Legend hath it that a tract, now submerged forty
fathoms beneath the waves, once connected
Land's End with the Scilly Isles. This was the
' sweet land of Lyonesse," the mythical country
from which came good King Arthur.
The last Earl of Cornwall was John of Eltham,
youngest son of Edward II. In the following
reign Cornwall became a duchy the first in Eng-
land by act of parliament, Edward the Black
Prince being invested Duke of Cornwall by the
ceremony of conferring a wreath, a ring, and a
silver rod. Since that time the title Duke of
Cornwall has successively devolved to the heir
apparent of the King of England.
Somerset, ' the land of home and shrine,"
has been called " the most English of counties."
Its story is the epitome of English history ; its
lake-dwellings at Glastonbury go back beyond
the ancient Britons, and its legend of Joseph of
Arimathea has its roots in the Christian era ;
it was there Saxon Alfred broke the Danes, and
Monmouth's pathetic rabble were scattered ;
nowhere have fact and legend, down to the days
of Pickwick and Beau Nash, mingled themselves
so pleasantly to the English taste, than in the
history of " rare Somersetshire."
Zummerzet vor zeen'ry vair,
Of water, wood and land ;
Zummerzet where volk do speak
Zo volk can understand.
COUNTY ATTRIBUTES AND CHARACTERISTICS 233
The characteristics of the sister county, Dorset,
are said to be ' ' homeliness and humbleness,"
where boastfulness has given way to lovableness ;
its pastoral charms and rural simplicity live in
the hearts of the nation, or at least the reading
portion of it, as the delightful Wessex country
of the great novelist, Thomas Hardy. The Dorset
dialect has a literature of its own.
Cheshire, the gateway of North Wales, obviously
took its name from the county-town. There is a
Chester of Castria took the name
As if that Castria was the same.
Between Cheshire and Lancashire there appears
to exist an affinity which may, or may not, be the
outcome of their adjacency. In modern times
this is expressed in the similarity of many of
their industrial pursuits, but in olden times it
possibly had its roots in the identity of theii
feudal obligations. This is shown in the old
recruiting ballad of King Henry V., at the time of
Agincourt, which begins with
Go call up Cheshire and Lancashire.
In this he King was making no invidious com-
parisons between the martial spirit of the various
counties ; he was merely making the first call on
his own personal royal appanages, for he was.
Duke of Lancaster, and Earl of Chester and Derby.
Flintshire is the smallest of the Welsh counties,
and Glamorganshire contains Cardiff, the Welsh
Carnarvonshire is a county of watering-places
and Monmouthshire a county of castles and abbeys,
Cardiganshire has a hinterland behind the pic-
turesque shores of Cardigan Bay that, not un-
deservedly, has been called the Garden of Wales.
234 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
Pembrokeshire, or at least the southern portion,
has been called Little England beyond Wales,
owing to the settlement of a colony planted there
by Henry I. in the I2th century though it was
not a colony of Englishmen but of Flemings !
Radnorshire was called by Thomas Fuller a
' chequered county," on account of the striking
contrast presented by the fruitfulness of the
eastern and southern parts, and the roughness and
unevenness of the mountains to the north and
A county sometimes lends its name to a com-
modity, or a quality, or even to an operation.
' Staffordshire blue " is another name for
Wedgwood blue, a characteristic hue of the
famous ware produced in that county.
' Kentish fire " is rapturous applause, or
' three times three and one more." The ex-
pression originated (says Brewer) with Lord
Winchelsea, who proposed the health of the Earl
of Roden, on the I5th August, 1834, and added,
" Let it be given with the Kentish fire." In
proposing another toast he asked permission to
bring his Kentish Artillery into action again.
Chambers' Encyclopaedia states that the phrase
arose from the protracted cheers given in Kent
to the No-Popery orators in 1828-9.
Lore and Legend of the marvellous kind not in-
frequently enter somewhat largely into these
The lore of Kent is extensive, and its legends
are many ; as might be expected from the im-
portance of its position. It even boasts, like
Ireland, a saint who charmed away its snakes,
and ordained that even imported ones should die
there. Thus the I5th century chronicler, William
Caxton : ' ' Thanatos, that is Tenet, is a ylonde
COUNTY ATTRIBUTES AND CHARACTERISTICS 235
besydes Kent and hath the name Thanatos, of
deth of serpentes, for ther ben none. And the
erth thereof sleeth serpentes yborn in other londes.
There is a noble corn land and fruitful. It is
supposed that this ylonde was haalowed and
blessed by St. Austyn the first Doctour of English-
Kent, by its situation, was always the gateway
of invasion which always came from the ancient
east ; through it also ran the highway of com-
munication between this country and the outside
world. Its legendary lore is therefore not with-
out allusion to this great historic fact.
A "Kentish man " and a " man of Kent " are not
quite the same thing. The former is applied to one
resident in West Kent ; but a man of Kent is one
born east of the Medway. These men went out
with green boughs to meet the Conqueror, and
obtained in consequence a confirmation of their
ancient privileges from the new king. They
called themselves the"Invicti" (the unconquered) .
This fanciful claim of the easterlings to set
themselves up above their brethren of the west is,
it is needless to say, quite baseless. East Kent
from its position often formed the British van-
guard, and bore the brunt of every invader's
attack ; but the boast that the ' ' men of Kent "
were never conquered cannot be substantiated.
The earliest bishoprics were generally co-ex-
tensive with the kingdoms ; the two sees of Can-
terbury and Rochester denote that for a time at
least there were separate rules in east and west
Kent. The terms East and West Kentings were
preserved until the fall of the Saxon monarchy.
When the Conqueror marched from Dover
towards London he was stopped at Swansconope
by Stigand at the head of the Men of Kent, all
236 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
with oak boughs on their brawny shoulders, pre-
sented as emblems of peace, on condition of his
preserving inviolate the Saxon laws and customs
of Kent ; or else they were ready to fight unto the
death for them. William agreed to their terms.
From this arose the traditional distinction be-
tween the Men of Kent and Kentish Men ; the
former being the Jutish " Invicti " of the eastern
division, the latter the dwellers between Rochester
and London, a more mixed population, owing to
the incursions of many settlers. The Saxon
Chronicle has allusions under date 853 and 865
to the " Men of Kent " fighting in Thanet (that
is, in East Kent) against the Danish pagan in-
vaders. Under date 902 and 999 mention is
made of forces in West Kent under the name of
Kentish men. These distinctions evidently
existed before the Norman Conquest and the sur-
vival of Gavelkind Tenure and other Free Kentish
customs lends some colour to the legend.
" The tailed men of Kent " was an epithet of
derision once applied to the inhabitants of this
county. At first it appears to have originated
with, and been confined to, the Kentish family of
Le Chat, one of whom cut off the tail of Becket's
horse as the great churchman was riding through
Stroud (Rochester). The saint's vicious assail-
ant, says the legend, was excommunicated, and
his posterity cursed with " long tails."
Judging by the various literary allusions to it,
the legend had a wide-spread popularity. Thus
Andrew Marvel in " The Loyal Scot "
For Becket's sake, Kent always shall have tails.
As Becket, that good saint, sublimely rode
Headless of insult, through the town of Strode.
COUNTY ATTRIBUTES AND CHARACTERISTICS 237
In Drayton's " Polyolbion " we read
Kent first in our account doth to itself apply.
Quoth he, this blazon first I<ong tails and liberty.
The Golden Legend says that Augustine and
his followers were pelted out of Strode in Kent
with the ' ' tayles of thorneback or lyke fysshes,"
in consequence of which the saint invoked judg-
ment on the inhabitants. The discerning critic
says this episode really took place at Cerne in
Dorsetshire, and is " another story " altogether ;
anyway the men of Strode were said to be born,
not with fishes' tails, but horses' tails.
In the reign of Queen Elizabeth Kent was so
notorious for highway robbery, that the word
Kent came to signify a " nest of thieves." As
thus, Taylor the Water Poet (1630)
Some bookes are arrogant and impudent ;
So are the thieves in Christendome and Kent.
Coming down to the present day, Kent is claimed
as " the real Dickens county." What says the
great novelist himself of the county he loved so
1 ' Kent, Sir everybody knows Kent apples, cherries, hops and
As an Englishman's feeding is not the least
part of his life, it is by no means surprising that
certain counties have acquired a reputation, some-
times of a doubtful kind, in the domain of food
production and culinary achievement.
Where are to be found such high merit of tooth-
someness as in Devonshire cream and Kentish
cobs ? of culinary perfection as in Yorkshire
pudding and Norfolk dumplings ? of fine breeding
as in White-faced Hereford cattle, Black Berk-
shire pigs, or in Lincolnshire sheep (except in the
latter case of " improved Leicesters.") or of fine
238 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
feeding as in a Hampshire hog or a Durham ox ?
Sometimes the pride of productiveness cry-
stallises into rhyme
The Downs are sheep, the Weald is corn,
You be glad you are Sussex born.
Of sheep, however, no one county possesses
the monopoly of excellence. The " White
Dorsets," with their twisted horns, and the " Old
Norfolks," with faces black or mottled, have some
claim to fame, while ' Shropshires " and
' ' Hampshires " are by no means out of the
A " Norfolk capon " is a red herring ; and the
nickname certainly contains an implied com-
pliment to the Yarmouth fishery. The ' ' Norfolk
dumpling " is also very humble fare, consisting of
a ball of dough and yeast boiled about twenty
minutes, and lighter than the " Sussex pudding "
of plain boiled paste. ' Cheshire cheese " has
a well-deserved world fame won for it by the rich
pastures of the Vale Royal of England ; and if
' Dorset butter " is not widely known outside the
metropolis, it is because the Londoner in his
millions would not be without his " best Dosset."
There is a dialect song of the " Four counties "
which enumerates their characteristic products
in this rollicking chorus
Dorset gives us butter and cheese,
Devonshire gives us cream,
Zummerzet's zyder zure to please
And set your hearts a-dream ;
Cornwall from her inmost soul,
Brings tin for the use of man,
And the four of 'em breed the prettiest girls
So damme, beat that if you can !
Everybody has heard of Cornish pasty, baked
in the shape of a torpedo, and containing a re-
markable number and diversity of ingredients
COUNTY ATTRIBUTES AND CHARACTERISTICS 239
pork, rabbit, beef, kidney, potatoes, parsley,
onions, bacon, and what not. Hence the saying
' The devil will not come into Cornwall for fear
of being put into a pie."
Of Essex it was written by John Norden in
" This shire is moste fatt, frutefull, and full of profitable
thinges, exceeding (as farr as I can finde) anie other shire, for the
general! comodities, and the plentie."
Says old Thomas Fuller, ' In Kent are all
things that are to be found elsewhere, but more
and better." It is ' ' the garden of England,"
or at least one of them ; and is generally allowed
the boast, " No hops like Kentish hops."
Some counties have their names associated with
some characteristic product. ' Worcestershire
weeds " are elm-trees, which grow as prolifically
in that county as oaks in Sussex or aspens io
Berkshire. And Essex, like Worcestershire, can
show its elm trees, noble in size and graceful in
contour, by the thousand.
About the close of the sixteenth century certain
English products had begun to acquire quite a
national reputation for the excellence of their
quality. These were mostly foodstuffs, and
among them were Suffolk milk, Cambridge butter,
and Gloucestershire cheese. For ham there was
no place like Hampshire, and for pasties none
could compare with those of Cornwall. Notting-
hamshire was famous for its ales, and Bedford-
shire for its malt. Essex had a reputation for its
calves, and Lancashire for its kine. Leicester-
shire produced the finest beans. There was no
wheat so white as that of Middlesex, and no pears
so juicy as those of Worcestershire. Cheshire
was widely known for its salt, and Lincolnshire
less so for its eels. Incidental to these re-
240 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
putations a Bedfordshire man was dubbed a
' Malt-horse," a L,iecestershire man a ' ' Bean-
belly," and a Hampshire man a " Hog."
Dr. King, a culinary authority of the seven-
teenth century, descanting on ' The Art of
Cornwall squab pie, and Devon white-pot brings ;
And Leicester beans and bacon, food of kings.
Of the last-named dish it may not be out of
place to quote an anecdote which shows the high
estimation in which it is held by some palates, not
necessarily Leicestershire, but certainly critical.
When the I/>rd Mayor, sheriffs, aldermen, etc.,
of the City were once seated round the table at a
public and splendid dinner at Guildhall, John
Wilkes called out, ' ' Mr. Alderman Boydell, shall
I help you to a plate of turtle or a slice of the
haunch ? I am in reach of both, Sir." ' Neither
the one nor t'other, I thank you, Sir," replied the
alderman. ; " I think I shall dine upon the beans
and bacon which are at the end of the table."
' Mr. Alderman Moreley," continued the cham-
berlain, " which would you choose, Sir, venison
or turtle ? " " Sir, I will not trouble you for
either ; for I believe I shall follow the example
of my brother Boydell, and dine on beans and
bacon," was the reply. On this second refusal
the old chamberlain rose from his seat, and, with
very much astonishment in his countenance, curled
up the corner of his mouth, cast his eyes round the
table, and, in a voice as loud and articulate as he
was able, called " silence ! " which being obtained
he thus addressed the chief magistrate, who sat
in the chair : ' My Lord Mayor, the wicked
have accused us of intemperance, and branded us
with the imputation of gluttony. That they may
COUNTY ATTRIBUTES AND CHARACTERISTICS 241
be put to open shame, and their profane tongues
be from this day and date utterly silenced, I
humbly move that your Lordship is the proper
officer to record on our annals that two aldermen
of the City prefer beans and bacon to either turtle
soup or venison."
Kent brewed famous ales even before it grew
hops. Giraldus Cambrensis eulogised Kentish
ale so long ago as the time of Henry II. During
the reign of Henry VI. this particular brew was
the subject of a curious edict which forbade any
man in the county to make more than 100 quarters
of malt into ale for his own use at one time. To
this singular regulation has been attributed the
fact that the vast quantities of ale found in the
cellars of the gentry of the county at the time of
Jack Cade's rebellion, which began in Kent, went
far to foment and increase the boldness and
ferocity of the rioters.
It is not often that a well-known fare has its
demerits crystallised into a proverb, but Suffolk
has achieved that distinction. The stony cheese
upon which the farmers of this county fed their
labourers in the eighteenth century was declared
by the poet Bloomfield ' too hard to bite."
Hence arose the saying, " Hunger will break
through stone walls or anything except Suffolk
cheese." In " Suffolk White " (its famous breed
of sheep) perhaps the present-day county may be
allowed to have redeemed its character, and
there was certainly no sturdier breed of English
steeds than the old " Suffolk Punches."
More than one county claims to be the ' ' Garden
of England," to say nothing of the Isle of Wight's
pretensions in this direction. The strongest
THE STORY OP THE SHIRE
rivals for the distinction are Kent and Worcester-
shire, both hop-growing districts and both famous
for their orchards.
The characteristics of a county may sometimes
be inferred from the spirit of its Folk Songs. In
1893 The lyeadenhall Press (London) issued a useful
pioneer work of its kind," English County Songs."
COUNTY PATRIOTISM AND COUNTY
Local independence in the shires has begot local
pride, and throughout the centuries has en-
couraged that form of local patriotism which
expresses itself in developing local institutions
with all the strengthening characteristics of a
Local patriotism crystalises quite as frequently
around the county of one's nativity as it does
around one's native city ; as witness the existence
in London, and other great cities, of " County
Associations," instituted for the regular assembling
of inhabitants drawn from some particular shire,
just for the simple pleasure of a social intercourse
that recalls the familiar places and faces of a
well-remembered childhood. And nothing in
life, perhaps, is more pleasurably reminiscent than
to live again, if only for a brief space, within sound
of one's native dialect, with its characteristic
twang and all its peculiarities of intonation !
Mr. Thomas Hardy, the eminent novelist, in
addressing the Society of Dorset men in London,
said : ' ' No more curious change has come
over London social life of late years than the rise
of that almost total disregard of provincialism
among its constituents and casual sharers which
nowadays pervades the city.
' In former times an unfamiliar accent was im-
mediately noted as quaint and odd even a
244 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
feature of ridicule in novels, memoirs, and con-
versations of the date. So that, while it was
the aim of every provincial, from the squire to
the rustic, to get rid of his local articulation at
the earliest moment, he now seems rather to
pride himself on retaining it being, in fact,
virtually encouraged to do so."
Dorset is the scene of Hardy's immortal
' Wessex " stories, and as the readers of his
great play ' The Dynasts " are aware, Dorset
has played its part in the drama of reality, for
Dorset people were very nearly concerned in the
Napoleonic wars, as they had been at an earlier
era with the Spanish Armada. Indeed, in every
epoch Dorset men have been in the forefront of the
nation's most honourable achievements. To its
natives the county is " Dorset dear."
In London a number of the English County
Societies have recently amalgamated for increased
social and patriotic facilities. Those already
affiliated include The Royal Society of St. George,
East Anglians, Cornish, Cumberland and West-
moreland, Channel Islanders, Devonians, Glouces-
tershire, Hampshire, Men of Kent, and Kentish
Men, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Surrey, Somerset
Men, Men of Sussex, Vectensians (Isle of Wight),
Warwickshire Folk, Wiltshiremen, and Worcester-
There is the Society of Dorset Men in London
and a few others outside the affiliation. Then
there is the Surtees Society, with its headquarters
at Northallerton, a learned literary body which
concerns itself with everything relating to the
history and social life of those parts of England
and Scotland between the Humber and the
Firth of Forth on the East, and the Mersey and
COUNTY PATRIOTISM AND COUNTY RIVALRIES 245
Clyde on the West, " a region which constituted
the ancient kingdom of Northumbria." This
Society was founded in 1834 an( i has published
' County Feasts," as they were formerly called,
have been regularly established in I/mdon from
the earliest decades of the seventeenth century.
Some counties Devon and Cornwall, for instance,
are perhaps more clannish than others, but
numbers of them have not failed to cultivate
their local patriotism by instituting in the city
of their adoption, wherever it may be, some kind
of annual re-union for the renewing of old mem-
ories, for recalling the fondly remembered scenes
of a by-gone youth in some distant shire.
God gave all men all earth to love,
But since our hearts are small
Ordained for each one spot should prove
Beloved over all.
Mr. Hilaire Belloc, who has made Sussex all his
own, says " Note you, many kingdoms and
counties are prodigal of their names, because their
names are of little account and in no way sacred,
so that one will give its name to a cheese and
another to a horse, and another to some kind of
ironwork or other, and another to clotted cream,
or to butter, and another to something ridiculous,
as to a cat with no tail. But it is not so with
Sussex, for our name is not a name to be used like
a label and tied on to common things, seeing that
we were the first place to be created when the world
was made, and we shall certainly be the last to
remain " and then somewhat inconsistently with
such proud and prejudiced patriotism he adds
" there are only two things in Sussex which
Sussex designs to give its name to, and the first
is the spaniel, and the second is the sheep."
246 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
But if among the common things be reckoned
iron, then the best of that commonplace but useful
metal was made in this county for quite a century
or two before the coal-smelted iron of Stafford-
shire became famous. Sussex ironwork, especi-
ally in the shape of old bygones, such as fire-backs,
is much sought after by connoisseurs. Our ex-
travagant eulogist, Mr. Belloc, while ignoring
the ' ' iron-age " of that southern county, calls
Sussex " the captain ground and head county of
the whole world " which surely is county
patriotism in excelsis.
Sussex generally is proudly patriotic in a quieter
way, as for centuries it shared with its more pro-
minent neighbour the honours and the respon-
sibilities long attaching to the Cinque Ports, two
of which are in the county.
Dover, Sandwich, and Winchelsea,
Ronmey and Rye, the five ports be.
Nowhere does county patriotism burn more
fiercely than in Nottinghamshire, the county of
Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest. Here the
territorial spirit has bred the famous Notting-
hamshire Archers who fought together so long ago
as 1138, when under Peverel, Lord of Nottingham,
and custodian of the castle, they fought at the
Battle of the Standard and in the next century
at Falkirk and Bannockburn. In the I4th
century they were conspicuous for their bravery
at NevilTs Cross, Cressy and Poictiers, but exactly
five centuries ago, at Agincourt, they fought for
the first time on record as Sherwood Foresters,
their flag being described by Drayton, the Eliza-
bethan poet :
Old Nottingham, an archer clad in green,
Under a tree, with his drawn bow that stood,
Which in a chequered flag far off was seen :
It was the picture of bold Robin- Hood.
COUNTY PATRIOTISM AND COUNTY RIVALRIES 247
County patriotism may be commendable when
it gives us a New Hampshire in the United States,
or another Cornwall at the Antipodes, but when
it seeks to exalt itself by the depreciation of a
neighbouring county it assumes a form of county
consciousness which makes little appeal.
Pride leads to self-comparisons, and not in-
frequently engenders rivalry. The local rivalries
of various counties are amusing in the peculiar
forms they assume.
If size alone gave the pre-eminence, Yorkshire,
' the county of broad acres " would be an easy
County rivalries are wide-spread, as indeed are
other local jealousies ; and they find many modes
of expression. One in the Midlands is parti-
cularly invidious without suggesting any reason
for making the comparison " It shines like
Worcestershire against Gloucestershire " is a
saying decidedly esoteric on the face of it though it
may have its explanation in the river that flows
through both of them.
Substitute the names of almost any two adjacent
counties for those of Cornwall and Devon in the
following doggerel, and it will pass current as
the expression of local rivalry in almost any part
Cornwall was Cornwall when Devon was a pup,
Cornwall will be Cornwall when Devon's busted up.
The natives call Devon " the Queen of the
There is a Cheshire proverb expressive of pro-
vincial pride ' ' Better wed over the mixon than
over the moor " ; that is, an alliance with a family
close at home (mixon is a local term for a dung
heap) is more desirable than one over the moor-
lands of Staffordshire, through which the long road
248 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
to London wound its way. It was a feeling upon
which old gentry acted by contracting inter-
marriages to perpetuate ancient friendships.
By the contrasting epithets ' Lancashire
Witches" and " Cheshire Cats," the eighteenth
century beaux of the former county were said
to toast the ladies of these neighbouring shires.
Cheshire largely comprises the " Vale Royal
of England," where cows are more in evidence
A man with little fight in him is said to be " as
valiant as an Essex lion," an " Essex lion " being
an innocent calf. To this depreciatory reference
the local retort is
Essex you say, is famed for calves ;
We thank you really for your pains,
For this you prove in our behalves
We're famous most for head and brains.
As Essex is a flat marsh-drained region, it is
easy to interpret ' Essex stile " as the nick-
name for ' ditch." Thus the local proverb
Many a man beguiles,
Essex is flat, though Norfolk and Lincolnshire
on the whole are flatter ; but its Saltings, as those
marshes along the Thames Estuary are called,
give a healthier glow and a fiercer appetite than
any inland moorland. It has been dubbed the
Cinderella County " : yet its poets are eulogistic-
England has greater counties,
Their place to hers is small.
Low hills, rich fields, calm rivers !
In Essex seek them all
Essex, where I that found them
Did but lose them all.
Essex men are popularly supposed to be " much
married men." The theory is that they commonly
COUNTY PATRIOTISM AND COUNTY RIVALRIES 249
take wives from outside their own county, and that
the Essex marshes are particularly fatal to
married women, the result being that Essex men
frequently have a succession of wives some five
or six, and instances of double that number have
Properly understood the phrase ' ' Silly Suffolk"
is not derogatory. The adjective does not connote
foolishness, but holiness. The term applied origin-
ally was ' ' selig," the Saxon word for sacred ; and
the county was " Selig Suffolk " because in olden
times it was renowned for the number and beauty
of its churches. " Silly Suffolk," however, is
the term which has captured the popular fancy,
and as William Hazlitt says, ' ' a nickname is the
hardest stone the devil can throw at a man."
The self-sufficiency of the small self-contained
and locally administered areas is seen in the
diversity of local custom, but in none more so
than in the absence of any common or national
standard in a matter so important as that of
weights and measures. At one time the weights
and measures varied in some detail or other, in
nearly every county in England ; till, in the
interests of trade, uniformity of standard had to be
enforced by Act of Parliament some 30 or 40 years
In different markets so common a commodity
as butter was sold by the pound which was
reckoned variously as containing 16, 17, 18 or
20 ounces, according to the custom of the locality.
In the era of the flail before the threshing machine
was thought of, 24 sheaves of coin were called a
thrave in the northern counties ; in some parts
half that number, or if of wheat, were so called.
250 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
To formulate rules or systems of reckoning
would be impossible though the method of com-
putation by scores seems to have been one more
generally favoured. In weight this was evidently
done to assimilate the reckoning with the ' ' long-
hundred-weight " of 120 pounds ; in Cheshire,
for instance, it was easy to reckon that cheese
at sixpence a pound was sixty shillings a hundred-
weight, and 60 a ton. In the sale of wheat alone
some 25 local weights and measures are in use ;
12 different bushels, 3 different hundredweights,
13 different pounds, 10 different stone, and 9
different tons. A quarter of oats may mean
anything from 304 Ibs. to 5281bs.
Troy Weight, still in use for the more precious
commodities, is really London Weight, its name
being derived from Troy-novant, the ancient name
of the capital. While this weight prevailed in the
strictly commercial circles of London, that known
as Avoirdupois was good enough for the rest of
the country. Avers is an old French word for
goods in general, and poise means weight ; so that
Avoirdupois was the weight in use for all goods
and chattels of ordinary daily dealings.
In the old days a varying standard mattered
but little, the transactions being almost entirely
local. But it would not be wise nowadays to
encourage this spirit of individuality, the best
interests of a commercial country with a world-
wide trade imperatively demanding a common
and uniform standard of weights and measures.
This is where the self-sufficiency of Shiredom fails.
The ancient counties, being merely geographical
districts, had neither banners nor corporate seals.
On the formation of County Councils a few years
back, the new authorities were sorely exercised
to discover satisfactory and appropriate armorial
insignia. The county having had no corporate
existence was not capable of bearing arms. A
city or town which was a county in itself, or a
duchy like Cornwall, of course possessed armorial
There were spurious arms in plenty. The
topographers of the last few centuries had often
adorned their works with the arms of the ancient
earls ; and ' ' heraldry shops " and other irres-
ponsible persons published sheets of ' county
arms," which were generally those of some prin-
cipal town, or referrable to the arms of the first
or some distinguished earl ; but in every case they
were unauthorised and quite wrong.
To many counties it was easy to attach certain
fanciful designs which might be appropriately (if
illegally) used as badges.
Such unauthorised designs had in many cases
already found their way on to the buttons of
county constabulary, and elsewhere that a dis-
tinguishing county badge had become neces-
Most County Councils at their formation
avoided the fees which amount to upwards of 76
252 COUNTY BADGES
demanded by the College of Heralds for a legal
grant of arms, and with praiseworthy economy,
supplied themselves with bogus armorial bearings.
The approved method of arriving at the desired
result seems to have been to appropriate, with
some slight modification, the arms of the county-
Thus we find Cumberland using a travesty of
the arms of Carlisle, Westmoreland an imitation
of the Appleby arms, and Devonshire a per-
version of those of Exeter. The same unscrupu-
lous methods of appropriation were followed by
Cambridgeshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and
many others. Berkshire just altered the seal
of Reading, and Bedfordshire the seal of Bedford,
while that of Dorset County Council was suggested
by the seal of Melcome Regis. Lancashire worked
up the arms of the town and duchy of Lancaster ;
Cheshire altered to its own taste the arms of the
earldom of Chester. Hampshire seized upon the
arms of Southampton, and just by way of variety
reversed the colours.
By way of Heraldic novelty Wiltshire intro-
duced Stonehenge into its coat armour, and
Nottinghamshire went one better by blazoning a
lace-making machine upon its shield. And so
the game of inventing sham heraldry went merrily
forward at the epoch when the modern County
Councillor brought the new enlightenment into
an expectant world. There were others who,
with a spice of originality, sought for the local
emblems of old tradition to work up into heraldic
charges, which they no doubt thought could be
adopted with some claim to armorial appropriate-
To the mind which had first to grapple with the
problem, it naturally occurred that Kent would
COUNTY BADGES 253
find an appropriate emblem in the White Horse
of Hengist the same charge is found in the arms
of Hanover. With equal confidence Lancashire
adopted the Red Rose, and Yorkshire the White
Rose, the rival emblems of the two great Plan-
The White Horse of Kent naturally recalls the
name of ' ' White Surrey," the horse which, ac-
cording to Shakespeare, Richard III. had saddled
for the field of Bosworth. It has been suggested
that the name of Crookback's charger had nothing
to do with the county of Surrey, the misleading
word being simply Chaucerian spelling of Syria
(Surrie) that it was customary to speak of a
' white Syria horse " just as it was to speak of
a " Barbary roan " an explanation which is in-
genious, if not convincing. The badge of the
old Earls of Surrey was a White Horse, and it is
to-day one of the supporters to the shield of the
Duke of Norfolk, Earl of Arundel and Surrey.
The proper badge of the county of Surrey is a
White Horse holding an acorn in its mouth ; or,
alternatively a Swallow.
The Red Rose of Lancashire is the Rose of Pro-
vence, assumed by the earls and dukes of Lancaster.
The White Rose of York was the badge of the
Dukes of York, derived from the alliance with the
De Cliffords, and borne by the latter family in
memory of Rosemundia (the Rose of the World ")
Clifford, the mistress of Henry II.
Northumbria's floral emblem is sung thus by
the local poet
Northumbria's emblem, O tender the hue,
Of its chalice at eve and dawn dimmed with dew.
Aloof on the mountain and crag-crested fell.
Northumbria's emblem, the bonnie bluebell.
254 'THE STORY OP THE SHIRE
The so-called arms of Cornwall (fifteen bezants)
are simply the device of the ancient earls of Corn-
wall. This coat of a field sable with fifteen
bezants in pale 5, 4, 3, 2, i, or, was borne by
Condurus the last earl of Cornwall of British blood
in the time of William I. Mr. Rodway contends
that there should be ten bezants in pale, and
that really they are Poix (peas) from the arms of
Richard, Earl of Cornwall and Poic-tou.
Dugdale's Baronage begins a list of the mythical
earls of Cornwall with Gorlois, who held the
earldom in the time of Uther-Pendragon, King of
the Britons. The King quarelled with, and slew
Gorlois, for the sake of his wife, Igerna, whom he
afterwards married, and who thus became the
mother of the famous King Arthur.
For many of these interesting items of heraldic
lore we are indebted to Mr. Alfred Rodway, the
well-known Birmingham herald ; he also names, or
suggests, the following list of appropriate emblems
which might be used as county cognisances.
For Bedford, a Black Eagle, derived from the
De Courci family ; for Berks, a Wheat-sheaf and
Sickle, from the Hungerford family ; for Devon, a
Blue Dragon or Lion rampant, from the De
Redvers family ; for Rutland, a Horse-shoe, from
the De Feirars family ; and for Westmoreland, a
Dun Bull, which was the badge of the old earls.
In quite a number of instances the county
cognisance has been borrowed from the armorial
bearings of its titular earl, or of some landed noble
who has been lorg and closely associated with its
history. Legends and proverbs have even grown
up associating the name, or the arms of some
dominating family, with the county on whose soil
they have so long been settled.
COUNTY BADGES 255
Bucks finds an appropriate emblem in a White
Swan, gorged and chained proper, the badge of
the Mandevilles, derived from the Fitz-Sweyns
(Swans) and afterwards used by the Staffords,
dukes of Buckingham. Cheshire has its Garb
or Wheat-sheaf, borrowed from the arms of
Ranulph de Blondeville, Earl of Chester. Glou-
cestershire has the Keys of St. Peter, a Boar's
head, and also the arms of the De Clares who were
Earls of Gloucester "Or. three chevrons gules."
Leicestershire claims a Castle, and a Pimpernel
Flower (of five leaves); the Castle being liar's
Castle, the Pimpernel belonging to Robert Fitz
Pernel, Earl of Leicester.
Essex appropriately displays Three Seaxes
(Saxon swords) and Middlesex also fittingly adopts
a Seaxe ; Hunts rejoices in a Huntsman, a Buck,
and a Dog, either a rebus, or allusive to Robin
Hood, Earl of Huntingdon. Notts emblazons
a Bugle-horn, stringed proper, also evidently com-
memorative of bold Robin Hood. Oxon shows
an Ox fording a River, and Cambridge displays a
Bridge over the Cam. Lincolnshire is represented
by a Golden Fleur de Lys, the badge of the Virgin,
patron of the diocese ; Norfolk by the Crowns of
St. Edmund, the old banner sometimes used by
East Anglia ; Durham by the cross of St. Cuthbert,
its patron ; and Cumberland by a Saltire, the cross
of Cospatric. For Dorset there is an ancient
Galley, and the same for Monmouthshire, although
the latter sometimes adopts the Red Rose of
Lancaster. Northants borrows the device of its
county-town, a Castle between two lions rampant ;
and lastly, Northumberland sometimes displays
the Bear of Bernicia.
There was not any, but that more or less
Something had got, that something should express.
256 THE STORY OP THE SHIRE
sang Michael Drayton. Thus in his ' ' Agincourt "
Stout Warwickshire, her ancient badge, the Bear ;
Wor'ster, a Pear-tree laden with the fruit ;
A Golden Fleece, and Hereford doth wear ;
Stafford, a Hermit in his holely suit ;
Shropshire, a Falcon tow'ring in the air ;
And for the shire whose surface seems most brute,
Derby, an Eagle, sitting on a root,
A swathed Infant holding in her foot.
A legendary Earl of Warwick was called Arth'
that is, " the Bear," because he was so strong of
limb ; when a mighty giant came against him he
slew him by just pulling up a tree by the roots,
stripping it of its branches, and using it as a club.
This is one version of the origin of the Bear and
Ragged Staff ; more probably the derivation is
from one Urso d' Abitot.
Shakespeare alludes to the ragged staff as the
cognisance of his native county in ' ' 2nd Part
of Henry VI.," V. i.
Now, by my father's badge, old Neville's crest
The rampant bear chained to the ragged staff.
The Worcestershire device, ' A Pear-tree
fructed " is said to have been borne by its bowmen
at Agincourt. Drayton in his Polyolbion has the
"Quoth Worcestershire again, 'and I will squint the pear',"
And Leland ("Collectanea") describing the
properties of the shires of England, commences
The property of every shire,
I shall tell you and ye shall hear
Herefordshire, shield and spear
Worcestershire, wring the pear.
In the coronation year of George V. a con-
troversy arose concerning the Worcestershire
county arms. It was suggested by the Standing
Joint Committee that a new county badge should
COUNTY BADGES 257
bear the nondescript blazonry of the Malvern
Hills in the back-ground, and a pear-tree and a
river ; and that the three black pears should be
given up because they rightly belonged to the city
of Worcester and not the county. The suggestion
almost needless to say, was not received at all
favourably. The Pear of Worcester seems to
have been derived from the old Benedictine
quarter of the city known as Pirie.
Herefordshire boasts two symbols, the Golden
Fleece and the Shield and Spear ; the latter being
the attributes of Deo Herr, an old Teutonic leader.
It will be recalled that Here-ford signifies the
' army ford," the crossing where shield and spear
were brought into play.
Staffordshire uses the Stafford Knot, like two S's
interlaced, the family badge of that noble house,
clearly a misappropriation of a personal cognisance
to corporate uses ; just as Warwickshire adopted
the Bear and Ragged Staff, once the insignia of
the great earls of Warwick.
A second Staffordshire badge is a Hermit,
commemorative of the legendary St. Bertelin, a
disconsolate prince who retired from the world
and took up his abode in " the wilderness of
Bethney," now the site of Stafford ; of which town
he is the patron saint.
Proud Salop boasts a Golden Falcon, a Leo-
pard's Head, and a White I/ion. The recent
grant of arms to the County Council gives the
leopard's head ; the others are Yorkist badges
borrowed from the Earl of March (i.e, .the Welsh
As previously noted (Chapter VIII.) the Earls of
Derby took their title from West Derby in Lan-
cashire, the earldom being a secondary title to
the Duchy of Lancaster ; and the badge of the
258 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
Eagle and Child, otherwise the Bird and Bantling,
has no reference whatever to the County, but
belongs to the Stanley family (Earls of Derby),
who derived it from the Lathoms. A silly legend
has been manufactured for this badge, but Mr.
Alfred Rodway is distinctly of opinion that it came
originally from the Kilchecks or Kilchicks, and
was really a rebus on the name of that family.
The badge directly allusive to the derivation of
the name Derby, as it is given in Chapter VIII.,
is " a deer emparked " ; manifestly a rebus.
According to popular tradition the Hampshire
badge of a Rose and Crown was granted by Henry
V. to certain troops, raised in this county, for the
gallantry they displayed at the Battle of Agin-
court, in 1415. More correctly, the badge should
be Three Roses, two argent, one gules. The
county uses the same as Southampton, the coat
assigned by Tudor heralds to Bevis of Hampton
and ' ' three lions passant were the arms of
The battle of Agincourt, if we accept the dictum
of Drayton, was prolific in devices which are not
A silver tower Dorset's red banner bears
The Cornish men two wrestlers had for theirs.
We read also that Sussex " bore a black lion
rampant, sore that fled, with a field arrow darted
through the head."
The men of Surrey appeared with ' ' cheeky
blue and gold, which for brave Warren their first
earl they wore " ; while the Devonshire band were
distinguished by " a beacon set on fire." The
cognisance of Somerset was ' ' a virgin bathing in a
spring;" and the men of Gloucestershire ap-
propriated their city's arms, " In gold, three
COUNTY BADGES 259
bloody chevernels." The Londoners and Middle-
sex men " as one, were by the red cross and
dagger known " ; and the men of Essex marched
under Queen Helena's image for that she, the
British wife of the Emperor Constantine, was the
founder of Colchester. Cambridgeshire flaunted
' a bay upon a mountain, watered with a
shower " ;
Suffolk, a sun half risen from the brake,
Norfolk, a triton on a dolphin's back.
The Wiltshire warriors appeared under " a
crowned pyramid :" :
Berkshire, a stag under an oak that stood,
Oxford, a white bull wading in the flood.
Above the men of Rutland waved ' ' an ermine
ram," and those of Leicestershire carried aloft
' a bull and mastiff righting for the game." The
county of Bedford exhibited " an Eagle perched
upon a Tower" ; Northamptonshire, " a Castle
seated high, supported by two Lions " ; and
Huntingdon, a youthful hunter with a chaplet crowned.
In a py'd lyam leading forth his hound.
by ' ' lyam " may be understood a leash. This
device is not so unfamiliar, nor is the one at-
tributed to ' Old Nottingham," namely ' an
archer clad in green, under a tree, with his drawn
bow." Also for Hertfordshire we have the canting
device of " two harts that in a river play " ; and
the lore of another county is recalled by the em-
blazonry on the Kentish streamer, of " a wood,
out of whose top an arm that held a sword,"
and " above only one word, Unconquered."
(see p. 235). As Hertford in Saxon was Heort-ford
or Harts'-ford, the arms of the town are " a hart
couchant in water " and the county badge is some-
times a White Hart, and sometimes a " Red
Hart fording a brook, and a Castle. "
260 THE STORY OP THE SHIRE
For Lincolnshire a ship was ' most neatly
limned, in all her sails, with flags and pennons
trimmed " : Yorkshire had ' ' a flaming lance,"
while the device of the sister county, Lancashire,
was ' ' through three crowns three arrows smeared
Cheshire had ' ' a banner square and broad,
whereon a man upon a lion rode " : Westmore-
land's device was " a ship wracked, lying fired
upon the sand " : Durham's uplifted standard
bore her proud ecclesiastical charge of "a mitre
crowned with a diadem." For the two farthest
counties, the fighting men of Cumberland unfurled
their blazonry of ' an armed man," and the
Northumberland borderers theirs of ' ' two lions
fighting " both devices deeply significant of the
amenities of life in that disturbed region.
If there is a quarter to which one would natur-
ally look for all those popular symbols traditionally
associated with a county, it is surely to the regi-
mental badges of a territorial army, employed
thereon to identify each regiment with the locality
of its origin. But the search would be very largely
in vain, most of these military badges recording
regimental achievements on the field of action,
rather than territorial origin.
A study of the official chart of army badges
published by Messrs. Gale and Polden, Aldershot,
is exceedingly disappointing in this respect. An
expert herald, like Mr. Alfred Rodway, can dis-
cover on it little or nothing of " local " interest.
The commonest device introduced is the ancient
Dragon of the Saxon and other Counts of the
various districts in England, all, of course, derived
from the Roman Dragon of Red Gold.
COUNTY BADGES 261
The Wessex Dragon was Red Gold
The Northumbrian Red
The Cymric (Cumberland) Red
The Warden of the Marches Red
The Mercian* Gold
The Dyved (Pembroke peninsula) Green
The Devonian Yellow
The Sussex Black
The Sussex Dragon is that of the old Counts ot
the Saxon Shore, and the Dragon of the Lords
Warden of the Marches is that of the Roman duke
of Britain (Dux Brittanarium). The Roman
standard-bearer was called, from this standard,
" draconarius." Mr. Rodway observes that although
the Norman (de Redvers) who was made Earl of
Devon is said to have borne a Yellow Dragon,
it was probably the old Red Dragon of the Cymri
brought from Scotland by the third Cymric wave
when they conquered the Damnonian peninsula
Harold displayed a Dragon banner at Hastings,
and as late as Henry III. it was a royal standard.
By the exercise of diligent care and keen in-
sight, the long association of other emblems with
local insignia might, perhaps, be traced. For
instance, a connection between the Bear of
Bernicia, with the Bear on Edward I.'s seal for
Berwick-on-Tweed, might possibly be established.
The old coins of the Bretwaldas bore the crude
impression of a Bear. The prevalence of this
symbol is really remarkable, being discernible in
the shield of Penarth (the last syllable of which
is arth, from the Greek Arcturus, ' a bear ")
and the arms of the Ardens (Arthens). The same
quadruped is heraldically persistent in dozens
of other instances in which the place-name or the
sur-name of the ruler will frequently be found to
betray the traditional connection.
262 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
Few of the Welsh counties have authentic
badges, but the Three Golden Eagles of Carnar-
vonshire are significant of the imperial origin of
Carnarvon in Segontium, the most westerly
station of the Romans, and one visited by the
Emperor Constantine. The ancient name of the
town, Cser Custeint apparently indicates some
connection with this Emperor. The Eagle tower
of the castle is claimed as a Roman vestige.
Michael Dray ton in hij stirring poem,
' Agincourt," quotes the Eagles of Carnarvon,
and also fits each of the other eleven Welsh
counties with a battle standard. The poet gives
to Pembroke a Boat being rowed by a Lady in a
great Bay, no doubt allusive to the magnificent
harbour there : to Cardigan, a Mermaid sitting on
a Rock : to Denbighshire, a Neptune with his
three-forked Mace : and to Carmarthen, a Rood
whereon an Old Man leans and points at a star
doubtless intended for Merlin, " namer of the
town." To Glamorgan he appropriates ' a
Castle high, from which a Flame shoots up into the
sky " ; to Monmouth, Three Crowns imperial,
supported with three armed arms : to Brecknock,
a Warlike Tent upon whose top perches a Watch-
ful Cock ; to Radnor, a Mountain of high ascent,
thereon a Shepherd keeping his flock : to Flint-
shire, a Workmaid, in her summer weed, with
Sheaf and Sickle : to Montgomeryshire, a Prancing
Steed ; and, lastly introducing the most character-
istic of all the Welsh animals, Merioneth is given
Three Dancing Goats against the Rising Sun.
These, if not according to all the canons of
heraldry, show some fertility of imagination.
THE COUNTY FAMILY
That the " county family " is still a power in
the land is apparent from one of the most recent
pieces of legislation, whereby the control and
welfare of the newly created Territorial Army
has been committed, not to the democracy which
constitutes the great bulk of it, but to the county
magnates, whose high social position is presumed
to carry more weight, than mere numbers could
do, in any movement of national voluntary effort.
It is a testimony to the dominating influence
of county patronage that it has been deliberately
preferred, as a foundation on which to establish a
national army, to the broad-bottomed basis of
popular patriotism. And in actual experience
has not the administration of the great Territorial
Army by the invaluable Territorial County
Associations proved an unmitigated success, even
under the stress of a great war ? Also in the
great public schools and universities there are
invariably established officers' Training Corps, the
assumption being that the youths at these in-
stitutions belong to the " ruling class," and are
fitted by birth or status to hold positions of au-
The official dignitaries of the county are the
Ix>rd Lieutenant, the High Sheriff, and the Justices
of the Peace. The limits of their jurisdiction
are always accurately known, for the county
boundary is the most enduring of English divisions.
264 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
For a long time it has been customary to
select the ruling powers of a county from its
resident nobility and gentry ; as a rule the lyord
Lieutenant from the former, and the High Sheriff
from the latter.
Though " Shrievalty expenses" are (or have
been) notoriously high, as a rule it is the ambition
of the English country gentlemen to serve this
honourable office one year of his life.
To be High Sheriff and ' ' ride in a golden
coach " ; to look forward to having it recorded
on monumental tablets in the parish church that
Johannes Such-a-one, armiger, had been " high
sheriff of this county in such and such a year " ;
this has been the most frequently cherished ideal
of many a noveau riche attempting to found a
The claim to the distinction of being accounted
a county family was in former days founded on
documentary evidence substantiating the undis-
turbed possession of real estate over a number of
generations. But the rule is much relaxed in
these days of commercial competition, when the
mere holding of real estate is rot so profitable as
it was, and when an industrial plutocracy is
generally ready to buy out the impoverished old
landed families. To buy an estate, settle upon it,
and for the holder (in the first or the second genera-
tion) to have filled the office of High Sheriff, is
now almost sufficient to confer the status of a
" County society" is typical for its class ex-
clusiveness. Till recent times even the com-
mission of the peace was supposed to be reserved
by them for the squirearchy, and in the eighteenth
century the " justice of mean degree " was not to
THE COUNTY FAMILY 265
be tolerated. Not only was nomination made,
or suggested, by the judges of assize, for the office
of High Sheriff, but also^for suitable additions to
the county magistracy. But this was when an
enormous power was wielded in every branch of
local government by nominated bodies when
in fact, there was a recognised ruling class, and
the democracy was as yet inarticulate. As yet
the elective principle had not been allowed to
keep pace with the ever-growing requirements of
modern local government.
When the fictionist has sought to create the
ideal country gentleman, he has invariably de-
picted him as dutifully responsive to every de-
mand the ' ' county " makes upon him to the
calls upon his time, his purse, his resources. For
instance, that delightful character, Sir Roger de
Coverley, Steele and Addision's conception of the
perfect country gentleman of the sixteenth cen-
tury, is a justice of the quorum as a matter of
course, and one who fills the chair at quarter-
sessions with dignity and marked ability. We
learn, too, that he has served his turn as sheriff
and ' ' rode in procession at the head of a whole
county, with music before him, a feather in his hat,
and his horse well-bitted." We could expect
nothing less of the worthy knight, who is held up
to us as the model of the fine old English gentle-
Tennyson illustrates the old county stock in his
" Sea Dreams," presenting the type in
Sir Aylmer Aylmer, that almighty man,
The county god
Saw from his windows nothing save his own,
266 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
and who belonged to
These old pheasant-lords,
These partridge- breeders of a thousand years,
Who have mildewed in their thousands doing nothing
The foolish Justice Shallow of Shakespeare is
not intended to be a fair sample of the county
magistracy which, for centuries, has upheld the
dignity and reputation of Quarter Sessions-
Mastering the lawless science of our law,
That codeless myriad of precedent.
The highest type of a pure blooded territorial
family is traditionally supposed to be the Norfolk
Howards ; and from that legendary reputation, a
witty slang applied their name to the worst kind
of blood-sucking body vermin. In which con-
nection it is curious and amusing to note that,
in 1863, a person named Bugg actually changed
his name by legal process to Norfolk-Howard.
The duchy of Norfolk has been held by the
Howards for a long period, and they are descended
from several ancient princes who inherited the
earldom and duchy.
All the same, the Howards are not of the ancient
Norman nobility. Ancient lineage, the real old
families, are oftener found among the gentry (and
sometimes even among the peasantry) than in the
peerage ; and there are Saxon families in several
counties who can trace their pedigrees beyond the
Conquest. The ancient Norman nobility were
practically exterminated by the thirty years'
Wars of the Roses, and when Henry VII. called his
first parliament there were only twenty-nine
temporal peers to be found. Of these twenty-
nine but five remain.
THE COUNTY FAMILY 267
It is interesting to note that one county, Lan-
caster, has left its name to a foreign title of
nobility. The Counts of Lancastro are an ille-
gitimate branch of the royal house of Portugal,
deriving descent from George de Lancastro, natural
son of King John II. The name was assumed in
remembrance of the descent of the royal Portu-
guese family from John of Gaunt, duke of Lan-
caster, through his daughter Philippa, wife of
King John I.
The ' ' County family " tradition of Old England
is to be traced in many of the social conventiona-
lities of Virginia and other southern states, where
the ideas of caste distinction belonging to Eliza-
bethan and Stuart times prevail, in a modified
form, to this day.
Leaving aside these antiquated prejudices, the
worthier influences of English shire government
are to be recognised wherever the Englishman has
settled himself abroad in the newer parts of the
world. Wherever the English language is spoken
and the English flag is flying overhead, in the
most distant parts of the world, we find the idea
of the Shire prevails the Commonwealth of
Australia has its shire and borough areas, and the
great western dominion of Canada just as natura-
lly divides its provinces into counties, though
strangely enough, while in the United States the
Sheriff, most ancient of local functionaries, re-
mains the most prominent of executive officers, in
the Colony the authorities have invented, as an
intermediary through which the provincial legis-
latures may deal with each county area, an official
known as the County Warden.
268 THE STORY OF THE SHIRE
The great fact observable is, that the idea of the
Shire is always present. And in the working of
this idea we see the orderly mind of the English-
man, wherever he is placed, beginning with the
small immediate practicalities of local govern-
ment, and growing to the great ; proceeding quite
logically, with the confidence acquired, from the
simple to the complex, from the concrete to the
abstract ; basing his idea of statecraft on the en-
during motives of religion, national defence, the
mutuality of civic life, and the common weal.
America, allusions to
36, 105, 267
Angles 245, 30, 50, 74
Arrays, military ... 169 173
Assizes 103, no, 124, 153,
16068, 196 7
' ' Associated Counties "... 221
Bedford level 211 12
Belgae 389. 40, 424
Bernicia 24, 26, 28, 57, 255, 261
Berwick 62, 187, 261
Bishop's Court 205
Borders, see Marches
Borough-towns 145 6
Bretwalda 29, 261
Brutus 44, 76, 86
Burghal Centres 78,115
Cassivelaunus 37 8
Central Criminal 165
Chamberlain's Court ... 205
Chancellor's Court ... 204 5
Church, its influences
64, 98, 107 8, m, 128 9
Cinque Ports 203 4
Communal interests ... no
Constables ... 109 10, 158
Count (title) 94 5, 97
County Borough 201
County Keeper 124
Court of Passage 204
Danlelagh, Danelaw ......' 70
Danes, Danish influence
2 . 30. 33. 556.
58, 60, 65, 92,
102, 213, 232
Deman, Doomsman ... 108
Durham 26, 57, 79t 93', 255
52 5. 945. no 12,
122 130, 131 140
"English" 30 i
Exchequer 131 140, 143, 150
Family bond, or tie of Kinship
84, 89, 95, 100 i, 106
Farm (or Feorme) 132
Folk Moot 106, 112, 119, 142
' ' Forty-shilling Freeholder "
X 44 5
Fyrd (Ancient Militia)
loo, 127 30, 1734
Hereditary office 68, 95, 123
Home Counties ... 162, 221
Hundred, Hundred Courts
7'. 99 ii. IQ 6.
1089, 113 14,
126, 129, 138, 141,
Hustings 112, 204
Hwiccas 28, 54. 77
Jury, Jurors 1134. I2 5 7.
154, 156, 202
Jury, Grand 197
Jutes (Goths) 23, 28, 30, 50, 74
Knights of the Shire
113, 141, 149
Lindsey 24, 53, 103, 187
London 27,31,44,53,117 21,
150, 164, 175, 200
130, 168 176, 195, 263
Lord Mayor 119 21
Lothian 58, 59, 61, 63 4
171, 175, 189,
195 6, 198,263
Marches and Borderlands
25, 27. 58 63, 70 2,
93, 98, 124, 189,
217 8, 262
Military Service 34, 128 30,
170, 174, 260, 263
Militia 174 5
Motes (or Moots) 106, 109, 112
106, in 12, 131, 142
Normans, Norman influence
30, 32 3, 60, 87, 129
Offa 29, 53, 209
Old Sarum 27
Pale (Irish) 73
Parliament 66 7, in 13,
Parish (or Priests' Shire)
99, 116, 128, 210
Pendragon 49, 254
Phoenicians 41, 76
Picts 64, 86, 88
Posse Comitatus 12930
54, 87, 182, 206, 208
104, 195, 205, 266
Ridings 103, 149, 163, 175, 183
Royal Navy 204
106, 112 14, 126, 142, 195
Shire Reeve (or Sheriff)
63. 65, 72, 92, 94,
102, 107 8, no,
Soke 102 4
Standing J oint Committee
Stannary Court 203
Strathclyde 27, 59, 208
Tallies (Exchequer receipts) 134
99101, 108 9, 116
Trithing 103, 120
Wapentake 102, 183
32, 52, 54. 57. 76, 189
Wessex ... 29, 30, 51, 52,
57. 74. 92, 244
Winchester 31, 117
Witan 99, 102, in 12, 131
Printed in England for Heath Cranton Limited
by Allison and Bowen Limited, Stafford
JS Hackwood, Frederick William
The story of the shire
PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE
CARDS OR SLIPS FROM THIS POCKET
UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LIBRARY