A hundred is an administrative division that is geographically part of
a larger region. It was formerly used in England, Wales, some parts of
the United States, Denmark, Southern Schleswig, Sweden, Finland,
Estonia and Norway. It is still used in other places, including South
Australia, The Northern Territory, and Germany.
Other terms for the hundred in English and other languages include
wapentake, herred (Danish and
Bokmål Norwegian), herad (Nynorsk
Norwegian), hérað (Icelandic), härad or hundare (Swedish), Harde
Satakunta or kihlakunta (Finnish), kihelkond (Estonian) and
In Ireland, a similar subdivision of counties is referred to as a
barony, and a hundred is a subdivision of a particularly large
townland (most townlands are not divided into hundreds).
2.1 Hundred courts
2.2 Administrative functions
2.3 Chiltern Hundreds
4 Nordic countries
5 United States
7 See also
The use of "hundred" for a division of a county has what the OED
describes as an "exceedingly obscure" etymology. It may once have
referred to an area of 100 (or possibly 120) hides, though a "hide" is
not a specific area: instead it was conceptually the amount of land
required to support a family. Alternatively it may have been based on
the area liable to provide 100 men under arms, or because it was an
area originally settled by 100 men at arms. There was an equivalent
traditional Germanic system, in
Old High German
Old High German a huntari, a division
of a gau (and described as early as AD 98 by
Tacitus - the centeni),
but the OED believes that the link between the two is not established.
See also: List of hundreds of
England and Wales
Also known as:
Map of the Hundreds of Staffordshire, c. 1650. North is to the right.
Cornwall in the early 19th century.
England a hundred was the division of a shire for military and
judicial purposes under the common law, which could have varying
extent of common feudal ownership, from complete suzerainty to minor
royal or ecclesiastical prerogatives and rights of ownership. Until
the introduction of districts by the Local Government Act 1894,
hundreds were the only widely used assessment unit intermediate in
size between the parish, with its various administrative functions,
and the county, with its formal, ceremonial functions.
The term "hundred" is first recorded in the laws of
Edmund I (939-46)
as a measure of land and the area served by a hundred court. In the
Midlands, they often covered an area of about 100 hides, but this did
not apply in the south; this may suggest that it was an ancient West
Saxon measure that was applied rigidly when
Mercia became part of the
newly established English kingdom in the 10th century. The Hundred
Ordinance, which dates to the middle of the century, provided that the
court was to meet monthly, and thieves were to be pursued by all the
leading men of the district. The name of the hundred (called
"wapentake" in the Danelaw) was normally that of its meeting-place.
During Norman times, the hundred would pay geld based on the number of
hides. To assess how much everyone had to pay, a clerk and a knight
were sent by the king to each county; they sat with the shire-reeve
(or sheriff), of the county and a select group of local knights.
There would be two knights from each hundred. After it was determined
what geld had to be paid, the bailiff and knights of the hundred were
responsible for getting the money to the sheriff, and the sheriff for
getting it to the Exchequer.
Above the hundred was the shire, under the control of a sheriff.
Hundred boundaries were independent of both parish and county
boundaries, although often aligned, meaning that a hundred could be
split between counties, or a parish could be split between hundreds.
Exceptionally, in the counties of
Kent and Sussex, there was a
sub-division intermediate in size between the hundred and the shire:
several hundreds were grouped together to form lathes in
rapes in Sussex. At the time of the Norman conquest of England, Kent
was divided into seven lathes and
Sussex into four rapes.
The system of hundreds was not as stable as the system of counties
being established at the time, and lists frequently differ on how many
hundreds a county had. In many parts of the country, the Domesday Book
contained a radically different set of hundreds from that which later
became established. The numbers of hundreds in each county varied
Leicestershire had six (up from four at Domesday), whereas
Devon, nearly three times the size, had 32.
Over time, the principal functions of the hundred became the
administration of law and the keeping of the peace. By the 12th
century, the hundred court was held twelve times a year. This was
later increased to fortnightly, although an ordinance of 1234 reduced
the frequency to once every three weeks. In some hundreds, courts were
held at a fixed place; while in others, courts moved with each sitting
to a different location. The main duty of the hundred court was the
maintenance of the frankpledge system. The court was formed of 12
freeholders, or freemen. According to a 13th-century statute,
freeholders did not have to attend their lord's manorial courts, thus
any suits involving them would be heard in a hundred court.
For especially serious crimes, the hundred was under the jurisdiction
of the Crown; the chief magistrate was a sheriff, and his circuit was
called the sheriff's tourn. However, many hundreds came into
private hands, with the lordship of the hundred being attached to the
principal manor of the area and becoming hereditary. Helen Cam
estimated that even before the Conquest, over 130 hundreds were in
private hands; while an inquest of 1316 found that by that date 388 of
628 named hundreds were held, not by the Crown, but by its
subjects. Where a hundred was under a lord, a steward, the chief
official of the
Lord of the Manor
Lord of the Manor and a judge, was appointed in place
of a sheriff.
The importance of the hundred courts declined from the 17th century,
and most of their powers were extinguished with the establishment of
county courts in 1867. The remaining duty of the inhabitants of a
hundred to make good damages caused by riot was ended by the Riot
(Damages) Act 1886, when the cost was transferred to the county police
rate. Although hundreds had no administrative or legal role after
that date, they have never been formally abolished.
From the 11th century in England, and to a lesser extent from the 16th
century in Wales, and until the middle of the 19th century, the annual
meetings of hundreds had varying degrees of power at a local level in
the feudal system. Of chief importance was their more regular use
for taxation, and six centuries of taxation returns for the hundreds
survive to this day.
Groupings of hundreds were used to define parliamentary constituencies
from 1832 to 1885. On the redistribution of seats in 1885 a different
county subdivision, the petty sessional division, was used. Hundreds
were also used to administer the first four national censuses from
1801 to 1841.[doesn't that make 5?]
By the end of the 19th century, several single-purpose subdivisions of
counties, such as poor law unions, sanitary districts, and highway
districts, had sprung up, which, together with the introduction of
urban districts and rural districts in 1894, mostly replaced the role
of the parishes, and to a lesser extent the less extensive role of
Several ancient hundred names give their name to modern local
The steward of the
Chiltern Hundreds is notable as a legal fiction,
owing to a quirk of British Parliamentary law. A Crown Steward was
appointed to maintain law and order in the area, but these duties
ceased to be performed in the 16th century, and the holder ceased to
gain any benefits during the 17th century. The position has since been
used as a procedural device to allow resignation from the British
House of Commons as a (formerly) remunerated office of the Crown.
The Wapentake[a] was the rough equivalent in the
Danelaw of the
Anglo-Saxon hundred. The word is possibly derived from a meeting
place, usually at a crossroads or by a river, where one's presence or
vote was taken by the brandishing of weapons. According to some
authorities, weapons were not brandished during a Norse assembly
(known as a þing) but were allowed to be taken up again after the
assembly had finished. It is also possible that it was just citizens
who were entitled to possess weapons who were allowed to take
part—an idea perhaps suggested by references in the Germania of
Tacitus or current practice in the Swiss canton of Appenzell
Danelaw counties of Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire,
divided into wapentakes, just as most of the remainder of
divided into hundreds.
In Yorkshire, a Norse wapentake usually replaced several Anglo-Saxon
hundreds. This process was complete by 1086 in the North and West
Ridings, but continued in the East Riding until the mid 12th century.
In some counties, such as Leicestershire, the wapentakes recorded at
the time of
Domesday Book evolved into hundreds later on. In others,
such as Lincolnshire, the term remained in use. Although no longer
part of local government, there is some correspondence between the
rural deanery and the former wapentake or hundred, especially in the
East Midlands, the Archdeaconry of Buckingham and the Diocese of York
(see, for example,
Beltisloe or Loveden).
White (1882), Directory for Lincolnshire, p. 94 described
the wapentakes as "now of little practical value". Their potential
functions had been taken over piecemeal by other units such as
electoral districts, Poor-Law unions and so on.
The term ward was used in a similar manner in the four northern
counties of Cumberland, Durham, Northumberland and Westmorland.
Irish counties were divided into baronies.
See also: Cantref
Cantrefi (sg. Cantref)
Cwmwd; plural cymydau; English "commote"
Maenor (plural: maenorau) or maenol (plural maenolydd or maenolau)
Cantrefi of Wales
Wales an ancient Celtic system of division called cantrefi (a
hundred farmsteads; singular cantref) had existed for centuries and
was of particular importance in the administration of the Welsh law.
The antiquity of the cantrefi is demonstrated by the fact that they
often mark the boundary between dialects. Some were
originally kingdoms in their own right; others may have been
artificial units created later.
Each cantref had its own court, which was an assembly of the uchelwyr,
the main landowners of the cantref. This would be presided over by the
king if he happened to be present, or if he was not present, by his
representative. Apart from the judges there would be a clerk, an usher
and sometimes two professional pleaders. The cantref court dealt with
crimes, the determination of boundaries, and inheritance.
Map of medieval Denmark, showing herreder and sysler. The entire
country was divided into herreder, shown outlined in red. Coloured
areas show Jutland's syssel divisions. Zealand's four ecclesiastic
sysler are not included.
The term hundare (hundred) was used in
Svealand and present-day
Finland. The name is assumed to mean an area that should organise 100
men to crew four rowed war boats, which each had 12 pairs of oars and
a commander.
Eventually, that division was superseded by introducing the härad or
Herred, which was the term in the rest of the Nordic countries. This
word was either derived from
Proto-Norse *harja-raiðō (warband) or
Proto-Germanic *harja-raiða (war equipment, cf. wapentake).
Similar to skipreide, a part of the coast where the inhabitants were
responsible for equipping and manning a war ship.
Hundreds were not organized in Norrland, the northern sparsely
populated part of Sweden. In Sweden, a countryside härad was
typically divided in a few socken units (parish), where the
ecclesiastical and worldly administrative units often coincided. This
began losing its basic significance through the municipal reform of
1862. A härad was originally a subdivision of a landskap (province),
but since the government reform of 1634, län ("county") took over all
administrative roles of the province. A härad functioned also as
electoral district for one peasant representative during the Riksdag
of the Estates (Swedish parliament 1436–1866). The häradsrätt
(hundred court) was the court of first instance in the countryside,
abolished in 1970 and superseded by tingsrätt (modern district
Today, the hundreds serve no administrative role in Sweden, although
some judicial district courts still bear the name (e.g. Attunda
tingsrätt) and the hundreds are occasionally used in expressions,
e.g. Sjuhäradsbygden (district of seven hundreds).
It is not entirely clear when hundreds were organised in the western
part of Finland. The name of the province of Satakunta, roughly
meaning hundred (sata meaning "one hundred" in Finnish), hints at
influences from the times before the Northern Crusades,
Christianization, and incorporation into Sweden.
As kihlakunta, hundreds remained the fundamental administrative
division for the state authorities until 2009. Each was subordinated
to a lääni (province/county) and had its own police department,
district court and prosecutors. Typically, cities would comprise an
urban kihlakunta by themselves, but several rural municipalities would
belong to a rural kihlakunta. In a rural hundred the lensmann (chief
of local state authorities) was called nimismies ("appointed man"), or
archaically vallesmanni (from Swedish). In the Swedish era (up to
1809), his main responsibilities were maintenance of stagecoach
stations and coaching inns, supplying traveling government personnel
with food and lodging, transport of criminal prisoners, police
responsibilities, arranging district court proceedings (tingsrätt),
collection of taxes, and sometimes arranging hunts to cull the wolf
and bear population. Following the abolition of the provinces as an
administrative unit, the territory for each authority could be
demarcated separately, i.e. police districts need not equal court
districts in number.
The term herred or herad was used in
Norway between 1863 and 1992 for
rural municipalities, besides the term kommune (heradskommune). Today,
only four municipalities in western
Norway call themselves herad, as
Ulvik and Kvam. Some Norwegian districts have the word herad in their
name, of historical reasons - among them
See also: List of hundreds of Sweden
Counties in Delaware,
New Jersey and
Pennsylvania were divided into
hundreds in the 17th century, following the English practice familiar
to the colonists. They survive in
Delaware (see List of Delaware
Counties and Hundreds), and were used as tax reporting and voting
districts until the 1960s, but now serve no administrative role: their
only official legal use is in real-estate title descriptions.
The hundred was also used as a division of the county in Maryland.
Maryland was formed in 1836 by taking the following
hundreds from Baltimore County: North Hundred, Pipe Creek Hundred,
Delaware Upper Hundred,
Delaware Lower Hundred; and from Frederick
County: Pipe Creek Hundred, Westminster Hundred, Unity Hundred, Burnt
House Hundred, Piney Creek Hundred, and Taneytown Hundred. Maryland's
Somerset County, which was established in 1666, was initially divided
into six hundreds: Mattapony, Pocomoke, Boquetenorton, Wicomico, and
Baltimore Hundreds; later subdivisions of the hundreds added five
more: Pitts Creek, Acquango, Queponco, Buckingham, and Worcester
Following American independence, the term "hundred" fell out of favour
and was replaced by "election district". However, the names of the old
hundreds continue to show up in deeds for another 50 years.
Some plantations in early colonial
Virginia used the term hundred in
their names, such as Martin's Hundred, Flowerdew Hundred, and West and
Bermuda Hundred was the first incorporated town
in the English colony of Virginia. It was founded by Sir Thomas Dale
in 1613, six years after Jamestown.
While debating what became the Land Ordinance of 1785, Thomas
Jefferson's committee wanted to divide the public lands in the west
into "hundreds of ten geographical miles square, each mile containing
6086 and 4-10ths of a foot". The legislation instead introduced
the six-mile square township of the Public Land Survey System.
Main article: Lands administrative divisions of Australia
In South Australia, land titles record in which hundred a parcel of
land is located. Similar to the notion of the South Australian
counties listed on the system of titles, hundreds are not generally
used when referring to a district and are little known by the general
population, except when transferring land title. When the land in the
region of the present Darwin, in the Northern Territory, was first
surveyed, the territory was administered by South Australia, and the
surveyed land was divided up into hundreds. The
(Sydney) was also allocated hundreds in the nineteenth century,
although these were later repealed. A hundred is traditionally one
hundred square miles or 64,000 acres (26,000 ha), although
boundaries following local topography often means this is not
Henry de Bracton
Hundreds of Denmark
List of hundreds of
England and Wales
List of hundreds of Sweden
Moot mound, the meeting place of an Anglo-Saxon hundred
Old English wǣpen(ge)tæc, from Old Norse vápnatak, from vápn
'weapon' + taka 'take', perhaps with reference to voting in an
assembly by a show of weapons.
^ "Status definition: Hundred". Administrative Units Typology. Vision
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^ a b c d e Mapping the Hundreds of
Wales in GIS, UK:
University of Cambridge Department of Geography, 2008-06-06, retrieved
^ Miller, Sean (2014). "Hundreds". In Lapidge, Michael; Blair, John;
Keynes, Simon; Scragg, Donald. The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of
England (2nd ed.). Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell.
p. 249. ISBN 978-0-631-22492-1.
^ "Summary". Landscapes of Governance: Assembly Sites in England,
5th-11th Centuries. UCL Institute of Archaeology.
^ a b c Bartlett, Robert (2000). J.M.Roberts, ed.
England Under the
Norman and Angevin Kings 1075 -1225. London: OUP. pp. 165–167.
^ G. C. Coulton, Medieval Panorama (Cambridge 1938) p. 367
^ a b c Mortimer, Ian (2011). The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval
England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century. Simon and
Schuster. ISBN 9781439112908.
^ Mortimer. Time Traveller. p. 308. fn.14
^ H. Cam, Law-Finders and Law-Makers (London 1962) p. 59 and p. 67-70
^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Hundred". Encyclopædia
Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
County Courts Act 1867 (30 & 31 Vict. c. 142) s.28
Riot (Damages) Act 1886
Riot (Damages) Act 1886 (49 & 50 Vict. c. 38), s.2
^ a b "Wapentake". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 13 July
^ The Complete Sagas of Icelanders, V, Leifur Eiríksson .
^ The Origin and Situation of the Germans. Chapter XI. by Tacitus,
translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb.
^ "Introduction: Lost vills and other forgotten places". Final
Concords of the
County of Lincoln: 1244–1272. 1920.
pp. L–LXV. Retrieved 23 September 2013. .
^ Addy, John (1963). Archdeacon and Ecclesiastical Discipline in
Yorks., 1598-1714. York, England: St Anthony's Press. pp. 4–5.
^ Davies, John; Jenkins, Nigel; Baines, Menna; Lynch, Peredur I.
(2008), The Welsh Academy Encyclopedia of Wales, Cardiff: University
Wales Press, p. 113, ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6
^ "259 (Svensk etymologisk ordbok)". Runeberg.org. 2009-07-30.
^ "The Hundreds of Delaware". USA: University of Delaware. 1999-08-30.
Archived from the original on 2011-05-19. Retrieved 2010-01-31.
^ Tyler, Lyon G (Jan 1896), "Title of Westover", William and Mary
College Quarterly Historical Magazine, 4 (3): 151–55 .
^ "A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional
Documents and Debates, 1774 - 1875", Journal of Continental Congress,
Library of congress, 27: 446, May 28, 1784 .
^ "Origin of the Term 'Hundred'". Place Names Committee. Darwin, AU:
NT Government. 2017. Retrieved 2018-04-07.
^ "Land Survey and Disposal". Atlas of South Australia. AU: SA.
2004-04-28. Archived from the original on 2009-07-15. Retrieved
Designations for types of administrative territorial entities
Common English terms1
Local government area
Combined statistical area
Metropolitan statistical area
Micropolitan statistical area
Free imperial city
Royal free city
Indian government district
Regional county municipality
Mountain resort municipality
Special administrative region
Federal capital territory
Organized incorporated territory
Autonomous territorial unit
Local administrative unit
Exclusive economic zone
Free economic zone
Special economic zone
Other English terms
Non-English or loanwords
Kunta / kommun
Arabic terms for country subdivisions
Muhafazah (محافظة governorate)
Wilayah (ولاية province)
Mintaqah (منطقة region)
Mudiriyah (مديرية directorate)
Imarah (إمارة emirate)
Baladiyah (بلدية municipality)
Shabiyah (شعبية "popularate")
Second / third-level
Mintaqah (منطقة region)
Qadaa (قضاء district)
Nahiyah (ناحية subdistrict)
Markaz (مركز district)
Mutamadiyah (معتمدية "delegation")
Daerah/Daïra (دائرة circle)
Liwa (لواء banner / sanjak)
City / township-level
Amanah (أمانة municipality)
Baladiyah (بلدية municipality)
Ḥai (حي neighborhood / quarter)
Sheyakhah (شياخة "neighborhood subdivision")
English translations given are those most commonly used.
French terms for country subdivisions
Greek terms for country subdivisions
apokentromenes dioikiseis / geniki dioikisis§ / diamerisma§ /
nomos§ / periphereiaki enotita
demos / eparchia§ / koinotita§
§ signifies a defunct institution
Portuguese terms for country subdivisions
Historical subdivisions in italics.
Slavic terms for country subdivisions
krajina / pokrajina
oblast / oblast' / oblasti / oblys / obwód / voblast'
opština / općina / občina / obshtina
powiat / povit
selsoviet / silrada
voivodeship / vojvodina
guberniya / gubernia
starostwo / starostva
Spanish terms for country subdivisions
Historical subdivisions in italics.
Turkish terms for country subdivisions
ağalık (feudal district)
reya (Romanian principalities)
voyvodalık (Romanian provinces)
1 Used by ten or more countries or having derived terms. Historical
derivations in italics.
See also: Census division, Electoral district, Political division, and
List of administrative division