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3.4. Of the partition of England into shires and counties. Chap. 4.

Of the partition of England into shires and counties. Chap. 4.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 _IN reding of ancient writers, as Caesar, Tacitus, and others, we find mention of sundrie regions to haue béene some|time in this Iland, as the No|uantae, Selgouae, Dannonij, Gadeni, Oradeni, Epdij, Ce|rones, Carnonacae, Careni, Cornabij, Caledonij, Decantae, Logi, Mertae, Vaco|magi, Venicontes, Texali or Polij, Denani, Elgoui, Brigantes Parisi, Ordouici aliàs Ordoluci, Cornauij, Coritaui, Catieuchlani, Simeni, Trinouantes, Deme|tae, Cangi, Silures, Dobuni, Atterbatij, Cantij, Regni, Belgae, Durotriges, Dumnonij, Giruij, Murotriges, Seueriani, Iceni, Tegenes, Casij, Caenimagni, Segon|tiaci, Anca [...]tes, Bibroci, and Kentishmen, and such like. But [...] the seuerall places where most of them laie, are not yet verie perfectlie knowne vnto the learned of these daies, I doo not meane to pro|nounce my iudgement vpon such doubtfull cases, least that in so dooing I should but increase coniec|tures, and leading peraduenture the reader from the more probable, intangle his mind in the end with such as are of lesse value, and things nothing so like|lie to be true, as those which other men haue remem|bred and set downe before me. Neither will I speake oughts of the Romane partitions, & limits of their legions, whose number and place of abode, except of the Uictorian and Augustane, is to me vtterlie vn|knowne.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 It shall suffice therfore to begin with such a groundAlfred brought England into shires, which the Britons diuided by cantreds, and the first Sax|ons by fami|lies. as from whence some better certeintie of things may be deriued, and that is with the estate of our I|land in the time of Alfred, who first diuided England into shires, which before his daies, and since the comming of the Saxons, was limited out by fami|lies and hidelands, as the Britons did the same in their time, by hundreds of townes, which then were called cantreds; as old records doo witnesse.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 Into how manie shires the said Alfred did first make this partition of the Iland, it is not yet found out, howbeit if my coniecture be anie thing at all, I suppose that he left not vnder eight and thirtie, sith we find by no good author, that aboue fifteene haue beene added by anie of his successours, since the time of his decease.Shire and share all one. This prince therefore hauing made the generall partition of his kingdome into shires, or shares, he diuided againe the same into lathes, as lathes into hundreds, and hundreds into tithings, or denaries, as diuers haue written; and maister Lam|bert following their authorities, hath also giuen out, saieng almost after this maner in his description of Kent;

The Danes (saith he) both before, & in the time of king Alfred, had flocked by the sea coasts of this Iland in great numbers, sometimes wasting and spoiling with sword and fire, wheresoeuer they might arriue, and somtime taking great booties with them to their ships, without dooing anie further hurt or damage to the countrie.
This inconuenience conti|nuing for manie yéeres togither,Englishmen noisome to their owne countrie. caused our husband|men to abandon their tillage, and gaue occasion and hardinesse to euill disposed persons, to fall to the like pillage, as practising to follow the Danes in these their thefts and robberies.
And the better to cloake their mischeefe withall, they feigned themselues to be Danish pirats, and would sometime come a land in one port, and sometime in another, driuing dailie great spoiles (as the Danes had doone) vnto their ships before them. The good king Alfred therefore (who had maruellouslie trauelled in repelling the barbarous Danes) espieng this outrage, and think|ing it no lesse the part of a politike prince, to root out the noisome subiect, than to hold out the forren aduer|sarie: by the aduise of his nobilitie, and the example of Moses (who followed the counsell of Iethro his fa|ther in law to the like effect) diuided the whole realme into certeine parts or sections, which (of the Saxon word Schyran, signifieng to cut) he termed shires, or as we yet speake, shares, or portions, of which some one hath fortie miles in length (as Essex) and almost so manie broad, Hereford foure & twentie in length, and twentie in breadth, and Warwike six and thirtie in length, &c: and some of them also conteine ten, twelue, thirteene, sixtéene, twentie, or thirtie hun|dreds, more or lesse, as some hundreds doo sixteene, twentie, thirtie, fortie, fiftie or sixtie townes, out of which the king was alwaies to receiue an hundred able men to serue him in the warres, or a hundred men able to be pledges, and ouer each of the portions he appointed either an earle or alderman,Earle and alderman. or both, to whome he committed the gouernement of the same. These shires also he brake into lesser parts, whereof some were called lathes, of the word Gelathian, which is to assemble togither; other hundreds, for that they enioied iurisdiction ouer an hundred pledges; and o|ther tithings, bicause there were in each of them to the number of ten persons, whereof euerie one from time to time was suertie for others good abearing. He prouided also that euerie man should procure himselfe to be receiued into some tithing, to the end, that if anie were found of so small and base a credit, that no man would become pledge or suertie for him, he should foorthwith be committed to prison, least o|therwise he might happen to doo more harme abroad. Hitherto master Lambert.
By whose words we may gather verie much of the state of this Iland in the time of Alfred, whose institution continued after a sort vntill the comming of the Normans, who chan|ged the gouernement of the realme in such wise (by bringing in of new officers and offices, after the ma|ner of their countries) that verie little of the old re|giment remained more than the bare names of some officers (except peraduenture in Kent) so that in these daies it is hard to set downe anie great certeintie of things as they stood in Alfreds time, more than is re|membred and touched at this present.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 Some as it were roming or rouing at the name Lath,What a lath is doo saie that it is deriued of a barne, which is called in old English a lath, as they coniecture. From which spéech in like sort some deriue the word Laistow, as if it should be trulie written Lath stow, a place wherein to laie vp or laie on things, of what|soeuer condition. But hereof as yet I cannot abso|lutelie be satisfied, although peraduenture some like|lihood in their iudgements may séeme to be therein. Other vpon some further consideration affirme that they were certeine circuits in euerie countie or shire conteining an appointed number of townes, whose inhabitants alwaies assembled to know and vnder|stand of matters touching their portions, in to some EEBO page image 154 one appointed place or other within their limits, espe|ciallie whilest the causes were such as required not the aid or assistance of the whole countie.Léetes. Of these lathes also (as they saie) some shires had more, some lesse, as they were of greatnesse. And M. Lambert séemeth to be of the opinion, that the léets of our time (wherein these pledges be yet called Franci plegij of the word Free burgh) doo yeeld some shadow of that politike institution of Alfred. But sith my skill is so small in these cases that I dare not iudge anie thing at all as of mine owne knowledge, I will not set downe anie thing more than I read, least I should roue at ran|don in our obscure antiquities, and reading no more of lathes my next talke shall be of hundreds.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 The hundred and the wapentake is all one, as I read in some,Hundred or wapentake. and by this diuision not a name apperti|nent to a set number of townes (for then all hun|dreds should be of equall quantitie) but a limited iu|risdiction, within the compasse whereof were an hun|dred persons called pledgesDenarie or tithing. (as I said) or ten dena|ries, or tithings of men, of which ech one was bound for others good abering, and laudable behauiour in the common-wealth of the realme. The chiefe man likewise of euerie denarie or tithing was in those daies called a tithing man,Tithing man in Latine in Latine Decurio, Decurio. but now in most places a borsholderBorsholder. or burgholder, as in Kent; where euerie tithing is moreouer named a burgh or burrow,Burrow. although that in the West coun|trie he be still called a tithing man, and his circuit a tithing, as I haue heard at large. I read furthermore (and it is partlie afore noted) that the said Alfred cau|sed ech man of frée condition (for the better mainte|nance of his peace) to be ascribed into some hundred by placing himselfe in one denarie or other, where he might alwais haue such as should sweare or saie vp|on their certeine knowledge for his honest behauior and ciuill conuersation if it should happen at anie time, that his credit should come in question. In like sort I gather out of Leland and other, that if anie small matter did fall out worthie to be discussed, the tithing man or borsholder (now officers, at the com|mandement of the high constable of which euerie hundred hath one at the least) should decide the same in their léetes, whereas the great causes were re|ferred to the hundreds, the greater to the lathes, and the greatest of all to the shire daies, where the earles or aldermen did set themselues, & make finall ends of the same,Twelue men. according vnto iustice. For this purpose likewise in euerie hundred were twelue men chosen of good age and wisedome, and those sworne to giue their sentences without respect of person, and in this manner (as they gather) were things handeled in those daies. Which waie the word wapentake came in vse, as yet I cannot tell; howbeit the signification of the same declareth (as I conceiue) that at the chiefe towne the soldiers which were to serue in that hun|dred did méet, fetch their weapons, & go togither from thence to the field, or place of seruice by an ordinarie custome, then generallie knowen amongst them. It is supposed also that the word Rape commeth a Ra|piendo, as it were of catching and snatching, bicause the tenants of the hundred or wapentakes met vpon one or sundrie daies & made quicke dispatch of their lords haruest at once and in great hast. But whether it be a true imagination or not as yet I am vncer|teine, and therefore it lieth not in me to determine a|nie thing thereof: wherefore it shall suffice to haue touched them in this maner.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 2 In my time there are found to be in England fourtie shires,Fortie shires in England thirtéene in Wales. and likewise thirtéene in Wales, and these latter erected of late yeares by king Henrie the eight, who made the Britons or Welshmen e|quall in all respects vnto the English, and brought to passe that both nations should indifferentlie be go|uerned by one law, which in times past were ordred by diuerse, and those far discrepant and disagreing one from another: as by the seuerall view of the same is yet easie to be discerned. The names of the shires in England are these, whereof the first ten lie betwéene the British sea and the Thames, as Poly|dor also dooth set them downe.

  • Kent.
  • Sussex.
  • Surreie.
  • Hampshire.
  • Barkeshire.
  • Wilshire.
  • Dorsetshire.
  • Summerset.
  • Deuon.
  • Cornewall.
There are moreouer on the northside of the Thames, and betwéene the same and the riuer Trent, which passeth through the middest of England (as Polydor saith) sixtéene other shires, whereof six lie toward the east, the rest toward the west, more into the mddest of the countrie.
  • Essex, somtime all forrest saue one hundred.
  • Middlesex.
  • Hartfordshire.
  • Suffolke.
  • Norffolke.
  • Cambridgeshire in which are 12 hundreds.
  • Bedford.
  • Huntington wher in are foure hun|dreds.
  • Buckingham.
  • Oxford.
  • Northampton.
  • Rutland.
  • Leircestershire.
  • Notinghamshire.
  • Warwike.
  • Lincolne.
We haue six also that haue their place westward to|wards Wales, whose names insue.
  • Glocester.
  • Hereford.
  • Worcester.
  • Shropshire.
  • Stafford.
  • Chestershire.
And these are the thirtie two shires which lie by south of the Trent. Beyond the same riuer we haue in like sort other eight, as
  • Darbie.
  • Yorke.
  • Lancaster.
  • Cumberland.
  • Westmerland.
  • Richemond, wherein are fiue wapen|taxes, & when it is accomp|ted as parcell of Yorkeshire (out of which it is ta|ken) then is it reputed for the whole Riding.
  • Durham.
  • Northumberland.
So that in the portion sometime called Lhoegres, there are now fortie shires. In Wales furthermore are thirtéene, whereof seuen are in Southwales:
  • Cardigan, or Cereticon.
  • Penmoroke, or Penbrooke.
  • Caermardine, wherein are 9. hundreds or commots.
  • Glamorgan.
  • Monmouth.
  • Breckenocke.
  • Radnor.
In Northwales likewise are six, that is to saie
  • Angleseie.
  • Carnaruon.
  • Merioneth.
  • Denbigh.
  • Flint.
  • Montgomerie.
Which being added to those of England yéeld fiftie and thrée shires or counties, so that vnder the quéenes Maiestie are so manie counties, whereby it is easilie discerned, that hir power farre excéedeth that of Of|fa, who of old time was highlie honored for that he had so much of Britaine vnder his subiection as af|terward conteined thirtie nine shires, when the diui|sion was made, whereof I spake before.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 This is moreouer to be noted in our diuision of shires,Od parcels of shires. that they be not alwaies counted or laid togi|ther in one parcell, whereof I haue great maruell. But sith the occasiõ hath growen (as I take it) either by priuiledge or some like occasion, it is better briefe|lie to set downe how some of these parts lie than to spend the time in séeking a iust cause of this their od EEBO page image 155 diuision. First therefore I note that in the part of Buckinghamshire betweene Amondesham, & Be|consfield, there is a peece of Hartfordshire to be found, inuironed round about with the countie of Buckingham, and yet this patch is not aboue three miles in length and two in breadth at the verie most. In Barkeshire also betwéene Ruscombe and O|kingham is a péece of Wilshire, one mile in breadth and foure miles in length, whereof one side lieth on the Loden riuer. In the borders of Northampton|shire directlie ouer against Luffeld a towne in Buck|kinghamshire, I find a parcell of Oxfordshire not passing two miles in compasse.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 With Oxfordshire diuerse doo participate, in so much that a péece of Glocestershire, lieth halfe in Warwikeshire & halfe in Oxfordshire, not verie far from Horneton. Such another patch is there, of Glo|cestershire not far from long Compton, but lieng in Oxford countie: & a péece of Worcestershire, direct|lie betwéene it & Glocestershire. Glocester hath the third péece vpon the north side of the Winrush neere Falbrocke, as Barkeshire hath one parcell also vp|on the selfe side of the same water, in the verie edge of Glocestershire: likewise an other in Oxford|shire, not verie farre from Burford: and the third o|uer against Lach lade, which is parted from the main countie of Barkeshire, by a little strake of Oxford|shire. Who would thinke that two fragments of Wilshire were to be seene in Barkeshire vpon the Loden, and the riuer that falleth into it: whereof and the like sith there are verie manie, I thinke good to giue this briefe admonition. For although I haue not presentlie gone thorough with them all, yet these may suffice to giue notice of this thing, wherof most readers (as I persuade my selfe) are ignorant.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 But to procéed with our purpose. Ouer ech of theseLieutenants. shires in time of necessitie is a seuerall lieutenant chosen vnder the prince, who being a noble man of calling, hath almost regall authoritie ouer the same for the time being in manie cases which doo con|cerne his office:Shiriffes. otherwise it is gouerned by a shi|riffe (a word deriued of Schire and Greue, and pro|nounced as Shire and Reue) whose office is to gather vp and bring his accounts into the excheker, of the profits of his countie receiued, whereof he is or may be called Quaestor comitatus or Prouinciae. This offi|cer is resident and dwelling somewhere within the same countie, and called also a vicount, Quasi vica|rius comitis or Procomes, in respect of the earle (or as they called him in time past the alderman) that bea|reth his name of the countie, although it be seldome séene in England, that the earle hath anie great store of possessions, or oughts to doo in the shire whereof he taketh his name, more than is allowed to him, through his personall resiance, if he happen to dwell and be resident in the same.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 In the election also of these magistrates, diuerse able persons aswell for wealth as wisedome are na|med by the commons, at a time and place appointed for their choise, whose names being deliuered to the prince, he foorthwith pricketh some such one of them, as he pleaseth to assigne vnto that office, to whome he committeth the charge of the countie, and who herevpon is shiriffe of that shire for one whole yeare, or vntill a new be chosen. The shiriffe also hath his vnder shiriffe that ruleth &Undershi|riffes. holdeth the shire courts and law daies vnder him, vpon sufficient caution vnto the high shiriffe for his true execution of iustice, preseruation from impeachment, and yéelding of ac|compt when he shall be therevnto called. There are likewise vnder him certeine bailiffes,Bailiffes. whose office is to serue and returne such writs and processes as are directed vnto them from the high shiriffe: to make seisure of the goods and cattels, and arrest the bodies of such as doo offend, presenting either their persons vnto him, or at the leastwise taking sufficient bond, or other assurance of them for their dutifull appea|rance at an appointed time, when the shiriffe by order of law ought to present them to the iudges accor|ding to his charge.High consta|bles. In euerie hundred also are one or more high constables according to the quantitie thereof, who receiuing the writs and iniunctions from the high shiriffe vnder his seale, or from anie o|ther officers of the prince, either for the prouision of vittels or for other causes, or priuat purueiance of cates for the maintenance of the roiall familie, doo forthwith charge the petie constables of euerie towne within their limits,Petie consta|bles. with the execution of the same.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 In each countie likewise are sundrie law daies holden at their appointed seasons, of which some re|taine the old Saxon name, and are called Motelagh,Motelagh, Shiriffes turne. of the word motes and law. They haue also an other called the shiriffes turne, which they hold twise in their times, in euerie hundred, according to the old order appointed by king Edgar (as king Edward reduced the folkmote ordeined by king Arthur to be held yearelie on the first of Maie, vntill the first of e|uerie moneth) and in these two latter such small mat|ters as oft arise amongst the inferior sort of people, are heard and well determined. They haue finallie their quarter sessions, wherein they are assisted by the iustices and gentlemen of the countrie, & twise in the yeare gaile deliuerie,Gaile deliue|rie or great assises. at which time the iudges ride about in their circuits, into euerie seuerall countie (where the nobilitie and gentlemen with the iustices there resiant associat them) & minister the lawes of the realme, with great solemnitie & iustice. Howbeit in dooing of these things, they reteine still the old or|der of the land in vse before the conquest. For they commit the full examination of all causes there to be heard, to the consideration of twelue sober, graue, and wise men, chosen out of the same countie; and foure of them of necessitie out of the hundred where the action lieth, or the defendant inhabiteth (which number they call an inquest) &Inquests. of these inquests there are more or lesse impanneled at euerie assise, as the number of cases there to be handled dooth craue and require, albeit that some one inquest hath often diuerse matters to consider of. And when they haue (to their vttermost power) consulted and debated of such things as they are charged withall, they re|turne againe to the place of iustice, with their ver|dict in writing, according wherevnto the iudge dooth pronounce his sentence, be it for life or death, or anie other matter what soeuer is brought before him. It is also verie often séene, that such as are nominated to be of these inquests, doo after their charge recei|ued seldome or neuer eat or drinke, vntill they haue agréed vpon their verdict, and yeelded it vp vnto the iudge of whome they receiued the charge; by meanes whereof sometimes it commeth to passe that diuerse of the inquest haue béene welneere famished, or at least taken such a sickenesse thereby, as they haue hardlie auoided. And this commeth by practise, when the one side feareth the sequele, and therefore con|ueieth some one or more into the iurie, that will in his behalfe neuer yéeld vnto the rest, but of set pur|pose put them to this trouble.

Certes it is a common practise (if the vnder shi|riffe be not the better man) for the craftier or stron|ger side to procure and packe such a quest, as he him|selfe shall like of,Atteinct. whereby he is sure of the issue be|fore the charge be giuen: and beside this if the matter doo iustlie procéed against him, it is a world to sée now and then how the honest yeomen that haue Bona fide discharged their consciences shall be sued of an atteinct, & bound to appéere at the Starre chamber, with what rigor they shall be caried from place to EEBO page image 156 place, countie to countie, yea and sometime in carts, which hath and dooth cause a great number of them to absteine from the assises, & yeeld to paie their issues, rather than they would for their good meaning be thus disturbed & dealt withall. Sometimes also they bribe the bailiffes to be kept at home, whervpon poore men, not hauing in their pursses wherewith to beare their costes, are impanelled vpon iuries, who verie often haue neither reason nor iudgement to per|forme the charge they come for. Neither was this kind of seruice at anie time halfe so painefull as at this present: for vntill of late yeares (that the num|ber of lawiers and atturneies hath so exceedinglie increased, that some shifts must néeds be found and matters sought out, whereby they may be set on worke) a man should not haue heard at one assise of more than two or thrée Nisi priùs, but verie seldome of an atteinct, wheras now an hundred & more of the first and one or two of the later are verie often per|ceiued, and some of them for a cause arising of six pence or tweluepence. Which declareth that men are growen to be farre more contentious than they haue béene in time past, and readier to reuenge their qua|rels of small importance, whereof the lawiers com|plaine not. But to my purpose, from whence I haue now digressed.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 Beside these officers afore mentioned, there are sundrie other in euerie countie, as crowners, whose dutie is to inquire of such as come to their death by violence, to attach & present the plées of the crowne, to make inquirie of treasure found, &c. There are diuerse also of the best learned of the law,Iustices of peax & quo|rum. beside sun|drie gentlemen, where the number of lawiers will not suffice (and whose reuenues doo amount to aboue twentie pounds by the yeare) appointed by especiall commission from the prince, to looke vnto the good gouernement of hir subiects, in the counties where they dwell. And of these the least skilfull in the law are of the peace, the other both of the peace and quo|rum, otherwise called of Oier and Determiner, so that the first haue authoritie onelie to heare, the o|ther to heare and determine such matters as are brought vnto their presence. These also doo direct their warrants to the kéepers of the gailes within their limitations, for the safe kéeping of such offendors as they shall iudge worthie to commit vnto their custo|die there to be kept vnder ward, vntill the great assi|ses, to the end their causes may be further examined before the residue of the countie, & these officers were first deuised about the eightéene yeare of Edward the third, as I haue béene informed.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 They méeting also & togither with the shiriffes, doo hold their aforesaid sessions at foure times in the yeare,Quarter sessions. whereof they are called quarter sessions, and herein they inquire of sundrie trespasses, and the common annoiances of the kings liege people, and diuerse other things, determining vpon them as iustice dooth require. There are also a third kind of sessions holden by the high constables and bai|liffes afore mentioned,Petie sessi|ons. called petie sessions, where|in the weights and measures are perused by the clarke of the market for the countie, who sitteth with them. At these méetings also vittellers, and in like sort seruants, labourers, roges, and tunnagates are often reformed for their excesses, although the bur|ning of vagabounds through their eare be referred to the quarter sessions or higher courts of assise, where they are iudged either to death, if they be taken the third time, & haue not since their second apprehen|sion applied themselues to labour, or else to be set per|petuallie to worke in an house erected in euerie shire for that purpose, of which punishment they stand in greatest feare.

I might here deliuer a discourse of sundrie rare customes and courts, surnamed barons, yet maintei|ned and holden in England: but for somuch as some of the first are beastlie, and therefore by the lords of the soiles now liuing conuerted into monie, being for the most part deuised in the beginning either by malicious or licentious women, in méere contempt and slauish abuse of their tenants, vnder pretense of some punishment due for their excesses, I passe ouer to bring them vnto light, as also the remembrance of sundrie courts baron likewise holden in strange maner; yet none more absurd and far from law than are kept yearlie at Kings hill in Rochford, and ther|fore may well be called a lawlesse court, as most are that were deuised vpon such occasions. This court is kept vpon wednesdaie insuing after Michaelmasse daie after midnight, so that it is begun and ended before the rising of the sunne. When the tenants also are altogither in an alehouse, the steward secretlie stealeth from them with a lanterne vnder his cloke, and goeth to the Kings hill, where sitting on a mole|hill he calleth them with a verie soft voice, writing their appéerance vpon a péece of paper with a cole, hauing none other light than that which is inclosed in the lanterne: so soone as the tenants also doo misse the steward, they runne to the hill with all their might, and there answer all at once, Here here, wherby they escape their amercements: which they should not doo if he could haue called ouer his bill of names before they had missed him in the alehouse. And this is the verie forme of the court deuised at the first (as the voice goeth) vpon a rebellion made by the tenants of the honour of Raibie against their lord, in perpetuall memorie of their disobedience shewed. I could be|side this speake also of some other, but sith one hath taken vpon him to collect a number of them into a particular treatise, I thinke it sufficient for me to haue said so much of both.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 And thus much haue I thought good to set downe generallie of the said counties and their maner of gouernance, although not in so perfect order as the cause requireth, bicause that of all the rest there is nothing wherewith I am lesse acquainted than with our temporall regiment, which (to saie truth) smal|lie concerneth my calling. What else is to be added after the seuerall shires of England with their anci|ent limits (as they agreed with the diuision of the land in the time of Ptolomie and the Romans) and commodities yet extant, I reserue vnto that excel|lent treatise of my fréend W. Cambden, who hath trauelled therein verie farre, & whose worke written in Latine shall in short time (I hope) he published, to the no small benefit of such as will read and peruse the same.

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