The Bradford Hundred

The modern parishes of the Bradford Hundred

In southern England, a Hundred was the administrative division below that of the Shire, or County. The name was probably originally related to the area of land nominally required to support a hundred eligible families. Hundreds and Shires came into being in the Saxon period, perhaps as early as the 7th century.

Bradford’s Hundred Court was nominally held by the Abbess of Shaftesbury, but was in fact presided over by the her Reeve or Steward. It may have been held in Bradford, at the capital manor of the Abbey’s estates where the Manor Court was held, although some records suggest it may have been held in Leigh. Most of its business would have concerned various aspects of land-holding and disputes between individuals and between individuals and their lord. Unfortunately, the records of the Hundred Court were lost when the Abbey was dissolved.

The area of the Bradford Hundred covers the Ancient Parish of Bradford (modern Atworth, Bradford, Holt, Limpley Stoke, South Wraxall and Winsley) plus Broughton Gifford, Monkton Farleigh and Wingfield. Westwood and Chalfield had different histories in the middle ages.

Winsley Tithingman's truncheon 1798

Winsley Tithingman’s truncheon 1798

The next level of administration down was the Tithing (or Tything), which began as the area of land that supported ten families. Cases were presented to the Hundred Court by the representative of the Tithing, the Tithingman.

Cases could also be presented by the Hundred to the higher Shire (County) Court, which was presided over by the Shire-Reeve (Sheriff).

After the dissolution of the abbey in 1539 the Hundred continued to exist until quite recent times, being gradually eroded by local government and legal changes.