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Hundred

Chewton Hundred MapA hundred was a unit of government that was in use from the Saxon era, if not earlier, up to Victorian times.  Chewton Mendip, marked by the yellow dot, was the centre of a hundred. The map on the left  is an extract from a map by Emanuel Bowen printed in 1777. It was based on a map first drawn in 1750. It is reproduced courtesy of the Somerset Archeological and Natural  History Society (SANHS). A complete copy of this map is provided with Edmund Rack’s Survey of Somerset published by SANHS. Click on the map to enlarge it.
 Countries were divided into shires, or counties and counties were divided into Hundreds. A Hundred was then divided into 10 tithings or that is how the system may have started. The primary functions of a hundred were to raise an army, maintain order and collect taxes
The map shows that two other hundreds extend into the centre of the Chewton so that villages very close to Chewton Mendip such as Litton and East Harptree were excluded from the Chewton Hundred. This was probably based on the division of the mining rights and the access to water for those mining areas.
What the extract does not show is that there is a detached part of the Chewton Hundred about 10 miles to the west which includes Brockley and Kingston Seymour. There is no obvious reason for this anomaly but mining interests is one theory. Another theory is that the Bishop of Bath & Wells may have owned relatively small parcels  land on the Mendips which were grouped together for administrative purposes.
 Alfred the Great reformed the system which had already become chaotic with land assigned to military men and the clergy. The military men were responsible for providing a hundred fighting men when needed and to administer law and order within the hundred. He he was also responsible for collecting taxes from the hundred. The Saxons held their courts or ‘moots’ in the open but some form of manor house was needed to accommodate the man who controlled the hundred.
The church held some land to support themselves and feed the poor. They held the land under ‘common law’ and this conflict between the law of the laity and the clergy persisted until Victorian times.
The word ‘Parish‘ was first used in Saxon times but The Normans deliberately broke up the Saxon land holdings to prevent any knight becoming too powerful.
 Hundreds lost their military significance during the medieval period but they still formed the basis of legal, tithe and tax administration until the 19th century when modern parish councils were introduced.
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