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To Facilitate the collection of taxes, and to assist the administration of justice, the Anglo Saxons divided territory under their control into administrative areas. These area's were known as the Shire, the equivalent of a modern county, and which was under the control of the 'Shire-Reeve' or Sheriff, the most important legal officer in every county, and who was responsible to the Exchequer for the collection of taxes, and also since the twelfth century, was responsible for all prisons and the trial of prisoners, and the Hundred.

The term 'Hundred' is generally thought to have been derived from an area of 100 hides, the 'hide' being the amount of land which would support a peasant family, an extended group of several generations, including grandparents as well as married sons and their children. There is a wide variation in the estimated acreage of the hide, anything from 40 to 140 acres. The Hundred provided a convenient unit for calling out the the local defence force, as well as for the collection of taxes. Meetings of the Hundred Court, which was concerned with the maintenance of law in the area, were at first held in the open air at regular intervals of four weeks so that everyone would know about them and there would be no need to issue a summons to appear. The shire and the hundred courts dealt with serious crimes and also ensured that everyone was registered as a freeman or tenant of the lordship within which he lived. Within each hundred the maintenance of law and order was placed in the care of small groups known as 'tithings', possibly originally involving ten people, though the derivation is not certain. Frequently the hundred fell into private hands and its court was held with those of the landed estates which, with their lords and tenants, both free and servile, were known as manors. Each tithing was responsible for all that went on in its own small area. It reported or arrested any of its members who committed crimes. If the suspect ran away, the tithing had to raise the 'hue and cry' by shouting and blowing horns. Members of the tithing had to attend the lord of the manor's court to present the offenders and see that they were punished, or were themselves fined for failing to do so. Twice a year, representatives of each tithing attended the Hundred Court to give a report of the behaviour of their members, and to admit as new members all males who had reached the age of 12 years. The hundred and its courts gradually declined in importance as its jurisdiction came into the hands of lords of the manor and royal justice was extended through the Assize courts.

By the eight century the Saxon system of Parishes had been set up, although it was not until some time in the twelfth century that their boundaries were finally established. Witheridge Parish originally covered an area of over 11,000 acres, which, as well as the present parish, in the early days included the lands which constitute the modern parish of Templeton as well as three outliers. These were detached areas of Witheridge: Yeatheridge, Little Witheridge, and the area later known as "the South Quarter". The latter included land at Nomansland, Mencine, Eastway, Westway, Upcott (with Batson and Shillaton, Berrycleave, Little Newhouse, Woodington, Henceford, Mill Barton, Stourton Barton, Westcott, Marchweeke, Hele Barton, Hele Lane Hamlet, and lands at Cann Mill - although, it must be emphasised, not all of these farms would have existed during Saxon times. Templeton remained in Witheridge parish until the fourteenth century when it became a separate parish, but the other outliers remained part of Witheridge until the nineteenth century when they were incorporated into the surrounding parishes. As well as becoming a parish, Witheridge was also made the head of a hundred of the same name by the Saxons. This was an administrative unit, and was possibly used for taxation purposes. The Witheridge Hundred covered an area of 80,000 acres and stretches from Bishops Nympton to Chulmleigh, eastwards to Cruwys Morchard, then north to Oakford. It was governed by a Hundred Court, which usually met monthly, and was originally attended by all the free tenants within its boundaries. It is a lasting compliment to the Saxons that these two great organisations, parishes and hundreds remained fundamental to the administration of England for so long.

The Hundred of Witheridge is above all others Hundreds, the Hundred of small thanes. It contains not a single ancient crown lordship, not a single borough. The Hundreds of Blacktorington, Shebbear, Braunton and Plympton contain each of the many thanes Lands, but the Hundreds of Witheridge seem almost exclusively made up of them. With the exception of Bishop's Nymton and King's Nymton, Chumleigh and Cruwys Morchard, there is hardly an estate which can have held the position what is now termed a manor. Nearly all are the cotliffs or quillets of small thanes ranging from 50 to 100 acres, and where several thanes held them together, the several thanes are not manorially subordinated, but held in parage. Two thane lands are enumerated (in Domesday) as added to the Royal estate of Witheridge, one to that of King's Nymton, one to Thelbridge, and one to Creacombe. One estate at Worlington was made up of the land of two thanes, another, West Worlington, with Aston, the Affetone of Episcopal registers, had formerly been the land of twelve thanes, yet another Worlington represented the land of three thanes, To Washford Pyne a thane's land has been added. Three of the lands in Little Washford, the outlier of Witheridge, consisted of the land of six thanes.

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It looks as if the great Down Wood (Donewold), which formerly stretched away from Exmoor south-westwards as far as Dartmoor, like a wedge dividing the county into two portions, was at no very distant date before Domesday an almost wholly uninhabited waste, partly moor, partly wood, with only here and there a settler's clearance, and that the four great intakes of King's Nymton, Bishop's Nymton, Chumleigh and Cruwys Morchard were of comparatively recent origin. The legend therefore, which tells of Chumleigh as having once been King Aethelston's park is no doubt substantially correct, if only it is understood as conveying that King Aethelston was wont to hunt over Chumleigh or evere it was 'towned', when it was as yet part of the forest unenclosed.

Such in the words of Reichel (D.A.TL.XXX, p.391) was the state of pre-Domesday Witheridge so far as we can read it. The account goes on to make it clear how it is that there were so many Domesday manors in what is now the parish of Witheridge, and how it is that their identification is so difficult. Reichel devoted forty pages of Volume XXX of the Transactions of the Devonshire Association to the Hundred of Witheridge, and his own alterations in the margin of his copy have been extremely helpful in this matter of identification.

White's Directory of 1850 says that the Hundred of Witheridge is a fertile district of hill and valley, of irregular shape, averaging around 15 miles in length and nine in breadth, in the Northern Division of Devon, Archdeaconry of Barnstaple, and Deaneries of South Molton and Chumleigh, except Templeton Parish, which is in the Archdeaconry of Exeter, and Deanery of Tiverton.

1595 - George Southcombe from Rose Ash, one of the Constables of the Hundred of Witheridge was riding his colt to Witheridge Fair on Midsummer day when he came upon two men fighting with swords, he rode at them requiring peace, his colt reared threw him and he was killed. He was buried at Rose Ash 27 June 1595; (Devon Transactions Vol XXXII Rose Ash) Found by Revd Castlehow.

As assessment and certificate made the 31st day of May 1780 by Robert Throne, William Lake, James Partridge and Samuel Wilcocks, appointed assessors for the Parish aforesaid of the money raised by virtue of an Act of Parliament and made in the twentieth year of his present Majesty's reign intituled an act for granting an aid to his Majesty by a Land Tax to be raised in Great Britain at the rate of four shillings in the pound for the service of the year 1780.

LAND TAX (1692 - 20th C) Originally levied to fund William 111's was against Louis X1V, it was later used to establish voting qualifications in the period when the right to vote was based on property ownership. Very few records survive pre 1780, and post 1832 records are of little use with many landowners commuting any tax by payment of a lump sum equivalent to c.15 years tax. (Electoral Registers began in 1832, naming all who were entitled to vote) Surviving records are mostly held at local County Record Offices.

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Last Edited 03/07/2006    Copyright © 2000-2006 Witheridge

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