Whorwellsdown (hundred)
Whorwellsdown was a hundred of the English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

A county is a jurisdiction of local government in certain modern nations. Historically in mainland Europe, the original French term, comté, and its equivalents in other languages denoted a jurisdiction under the sovereignty of a count A county is a jurisdiction of local government in certain...

 of Wiltshire
Wiltshire is a ceremonial county in South West England. It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. It contains the unitary authority of Swindon and covers...

, lying in the west of the county to the south of the towns of Bradford on Avon
Bradford on Avon
Bradford on Avon is a town in west Wiltshire, England with a population of about 9,326. The town's canal, historic buildings, shops, pubs and restaurants make it popular with tourists....

 and Melksham
Melksham is a medium-sized English town, lying on the River Avon. It lies in the county of Wiltshire.It is situated southeast of the city of Bath, south of Chippenham, west of Devizes and north of Warminster on the A350 national route. The 2001 UK census cited Melksham as having 20,000...

 and to the north and east of Westbury
Westbury, Wiltshire
Westbury is a town and civil parish in the west of the English county of Wiltshire, most famous for the Westbury White Horse.-Name:The most likely origin of the West- in Westbury is simply that the town is near the western edge of the county of Wiltshire, the bounds of which have been much the same...

. An arm of the hundred reached several miles southwards into Salisbury Plain
Salisbury Plain
Salisbury Plain is a chalk plateau in central southern England covering . It is part of the Southern England Chalk Formation and largely lies within the county of Wiltshire, with a little in Hampshire. The plain is famous for its rich archaeology, including Stonehenge, one of England's best known...

, with a detached portion, a tithing of Tilshead, lying high on the Plain about five miles east of the southern arm of the rest of the hundred. At its western end, it reached as far as the Somerset
The ceremonial and non-metropolitan county of Somerset in South West England borders Bristol and Gloucestershire to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east, and Devon to the south-west. It is partly bounded to the north and west by the Bristol Channel and the estuary of the...

 county boundary.


At the time of the Domesday Book
Domesday Book
Domesday Book , now held at The National Archives, Kew, Richmond upon Thames in South West London, is the record of the great survey of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086...

 (1084), the hundred contained Romsey Abbey
Romsey Abbey
Romsey Abbey is a parish church of the Church of England in Romsey, a market town in Hampshire, England. Until the dissolution it was the church of a Benedictine nunnery.-Background:...

's manor
Manorialism, an essential element of feudal society, was the organizing principle of rural economy that originated in the villa system of the Late Roman Empire, was widely practiced in medieval western and parts of central Europe, and was slowly replaced by the advent of a money-based market...

s of Steeple Ashton
Steeple Ashton
Steeple Ashton is a village and a civil parish in Wiltshire, England.-Description:Steeple Ashton today is a busy village. It has an award winning local shop, run by a small army of volunteers, a thriving pub, a football team, an active Trust supporting the Church which organises events, a day...

 and Edington
Edington, Wiltshire
Edington is a small village and civil parish in Wiltshire, England, about five miles east of Westbury.The parish includes two principal settlements, Edington village and Tinhead, which lies between the main village and Coulston and contains the parish's only surviving public house, The Paulet Arms...

, together with other estates at Edington, Coulston
Coulston is a village and civil parish in Wiltshire, England, five miles North East of the town of Westbury, just north of the B3098 road....

, Keevil
Keevil is a village and civil parish in Wiltshire, England. The parish population has varied little since 1801.After the Second World War the barracks of RAF Keevil were used as a temporary home for Polish refugees. Today the small Ministry of Defence airfield at RAF Keevil is used for gliding at...

, and Tilshead
Tilshead is a small village located in Wiltshire, in England. It lies approximately midway between the villages of Shrewton and Market Lavington, and is located at the source of the River Till. Its population in 2001 was 359, down from a peak of 989 inhabitants in 1951.. The White Barrow long...

. Steeple Ashton then included West Ashton
West Ashton
West Ashton is a village civil parish in Wiltshire, England. It is two miles south of Trowbridge, on the A350 road between Melksham and Yarnbrook bypassing Trowbridge....

, North Bradley
North Bradley
The village of North Bradley, Wiltshire, England, lies between the towns of Trowbridge and Westbury, and is now separated from the former by only a couple of fields.Most of the hamlet of Yarnbrook is part of North Bradley...

 and Southwick
Southwick, Wiltshire
Southwick is a rural village southwest of the county town of Trowbridge, Wiltshire, in England. It is separated from Trowbridge only by the Southwick Country Park, which consists of of open fields. The majority of the village lies south of the A361, which runs through the village, linking...


In 1831, the hundred included Steeple Ashton (with West Ashton), North Bradley, East Coulston, Edington, Keevil, and the tithing of South Tilshead.


The lordship of the hundred may have been included in King Edgar's grant of Steeple Ashton to Romsey Abbey, as in the 13th century the abbesses of Romsey claimed they held it by a gift of Edgar. However, King Henry I
Henry I of England
Henry I was the fourth son of William I of England. He succeeded his elder brother William II as King of England in 1100 and defeated his eldest brother, Robert Curthose, to become Duke of Normandy in 1106...

 granted the hundred to the abbey subject to an annual rent of forty shilling
The shilling is a unit of currency used in some current and former British Commonwealth countries. The word shilling comes from scilling, an accounting term that dates back to Anglo-Saxon times where it was deemed to be the value of a cow in Kent or a sheep elsewhere. The word is thought to derive...

s to the sheriff of Wiltshire
High Sheriff of Wiltshire
This is a list of High Sheriffs of Wiltshire.Until the 14th century the shrievalty was held ex officio by the castellans of Old Sarum.-To 1400:*1066: Edric*1067-1070: Philippe de Buckland*1085: Aiulphus the Sheriff*1070–1105: Edward of Salisbury...

, a grant later confirmed by King Stephen
Stephen of England
Stephen , often referred to as Stephen of Blois , was a grandson of William the Conqueror. He was King of England from 1135 to his death, and also the Count of Boulogne by right of his wife. Stephen's reign was marked by the Anarchy, a civil war with his cousin and rival, the Empress Matilda...

, so it is also possible that the first grant to the Abbey was by Henry I. The hundred and the holding of its court remained with the abbey until 1538, when the Dissolution of the Monasteries
Dissolution of the Monasteries
The Dissolution of the Monasteries, sometimes referred to as the Suppression of the Monasteries, was the set of administrative and legal processes between 1536 and 1541 by which Henry VIII disbanded monasteries, priories, convents and friaries in England, Wales and Ireland; appropriated their...

 intervened and they passed to the Crown
The Crown
The Crown is a corporation sole that in the Commonwealth realms and any provincial or state sub-divisions thereof represents the legal embodiment of governance, whether executive, legislative, or judicial...

. In 1547, the hundred was granted to Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset
Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset
Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, 1st Earl of Hertford, 1st Viscount Beauchamp of Hache, KG, Earl Marshal was Lord Protector of England in the period between the death of Henry VIII in 1547 and his own indictment in 1549....

. Following his attainder
In English criminal law, attainder or attinctura is the metaphorical 'stain' or 'corruption of blood' which arises from being condemned for a serious capital crime . It entails losing not only one's property and hereditary titles, but typically also the right to pass them on to one's heirs...

, the hundred returned to the Crown, and in 1565 it was granted to Humphrey Skelton and Nicholas Holbourne. By the end of the 16th century it was in the ownership of the Paulets
Marquess of Winchester
Marquess of Winchester is a title in the Peerage of England. It was created in 1551 for the prominent statesman William Paulet, 1st Earl of Wiltshire. He had already been created Baron St John in 1539 and Earl of Wiltshire in 1550, also in the Peerage of England...

, lords of the Edington manor of Edington Romsey.

Apart from their privileges in the hundred's courts, the lords of the hundred also had a number of rights in woods
Ecologically, a woodland is a low-density forest forming open habitats with plenty of sunlight and limited shade. Woodlands may support an understory of shrubs and herbaceous plants including grasses. Woodland may form a transition to shrubland under drier conditions or during early stages of...

 and commons
Common land
Common land is land owned collectively or by one person, but over which other people have certain traditional rights, such as to allow their livestock to graze upon it, to collect firewood, or to cut turf for fuel...


Hundred court

The earliest surviving records of proceedings in the hundred court date from 1261 and 1262. Matters presented by each of the tithings include hue and cry
Hue and cry
In common law, a hue and cry is a process by which bystanders are summoned to assist in the apprehension of a criminal who has been witnessed in the act of committing a crime.By the Statute of Winchester of 1285, 13 Edw. I cc...

, bloodshed
Bloodshed may refer to:* Bloodshed , a supervillain in the Marvel Universe* Bloodshed , a 2005 film directed by Jim McMahon* Bloodshed , 2004 compilation album by Krisiun* Bloodshed Software, the developers of Dev-C++...

, and disputes between parties about such matters as debt
A debt is an obligation owed by one party to a second party, the creditor; usually this refers to assets granted by the creditor to the debtor, but the term can also be used metaphorically to cover moral obligations and other interactions not based on economic value.A debt is created when a...

 and breach of contract
Breach of contract
Breach of contract is a legal cause of action in which a binding agreement or bargained-for exchange is not honored by one or more of the parties to the contract by non-performance or interference with the other party's performance....

. In the 13th century, the abbesses of Romsey held a hundred court every three weeks, but between 1412 and 1538, when the final abbess's court was held, there was a great decline in business. The court continued to be held by later owners. By the end of the 16th century the two constable
A constable is a person holding a particular office, most commonly in law enforcement. The office of constable can vary significantly in different jurisdictions.-Etymology:...

s for the hundred were appointed by the Quarter Sessions
Quarter Sessions
The Courts of Quarter Sessions or Quarter Sessions were local courts traditionally held at four set times each year in the United Kingdom and other countries in the former British Empire...

, and Tithingmen were still appearing to make their presentments in the 18th century.

When the hundred court was granted to Romsey Abbey by Henry I, he granted "all pleas belonging to it". However, what belonged to the court was uncertain. In 1233 litigation ensued between the Abbey and Ela, Countess of Salisbury
Ela, Countess of Salisbury
Ela of Salisbury, 3rd Countess of Salisbury was a wealthy English heiress and the suo jure Countess of Salisbury, having succeeded to the title in 1196 upon the death of her father, William FitzPatrick, 2nd Earl of Salisbury...

, the sheriff, over the extent of the Abbey's jurisdiction, and the abbess was forced to recognize the sheriff's right to two 'tourns' a year, to include all pleas of the Crown, the view of frankpledge
Frankpledge, earlier known as frith-borh , was a system of joint suretyship common in England throughout the Early Middle Ages. The essential characteristic was the compulsory sharing of responsibility among persons connected through kinship, or some other kind of tie such as an oath of fealty to a...

, disputes about beasts taken against pledge, and assizes of bread and ale. The abbey thus retained actions for debt, pleas of battery
Battery (crime)
Battery is a criminal offense involving unlawful physical contact, distinct from assault which is the fear of such contact.In the United States, criminal battery, or simply battery, is the use of force against another, resulting in harmful or offensive contact...

 and medley
-Sports:*Medley swimming, races requiring multiple swimming styles*Medley relay races at track meets-Music:*Medley , multiple pieces strung together*"Medley" -People:...

 where there was no allegation of felony
A felony is a serious crime in the common law countries. The term originates from English common law where felonies were originally crimes which involved the confiscation of a convicted person's land and goods; other crimes were called misdemeanors...

, actions over the injury of cattle
Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius...

 and horse
The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus, or the wild horse. It is a single-hooved mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today...

s, and other matters where there was no king's writ
In common law, a writ is a formal written order issued by a body with administrative or judicial jurisdiction; in modern usage, this body is generally a court...

. The Abbey later agreed to pay an additional rent to acquire some of the sheriff's rights, so that in 1289 its rent was £4, but the sheriffs continued to hold their two tourns in the hundred court until the 16th century.

In 1708, the hundred court was held at Tinhead
TinHead is a platform video game developed by Microprose U.K. and published by Ballistic and Spectrum HoloByte for the Sega Genesis. It was designed by Michael Berlyn. It was released on 1993 in North America. A SNES and Amiga ports was scheduled to 1994 but cancelled.-Story:On the edge of the...

. Apart from Keevil, all the tithings of 1261 were still attending the court in the 18th century.

Origin and survival of the name

Whorwellsdown was originally the name of a low hill near Crosswelldown Farm, at the point where the ancient parishes of Steeple Ashton, Edington, and Bratton meet. Early records show that the hundred court was held there under an oak
An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus , of which about 600 species exist. "Oak" may also appear in the names of species in related genera, notably Lithocarpus...

 or thorn tree.

The hundred shared a poor law union
Poor Law Union
A Poor Law Union was a unit used for local government in the United Kingdom from the 19th century. The administration of the Poor Law was the responsibility of parishes, which varied wildly in their size, populations, financial resources, rateable values and requirements...

 with neighbouring Westbury
Westbury, Wiltshire
Westbury is a town and civil parish in the west of the English county of Wiltshire, most famous for the Westbury White Horse.-Name:The most likely origin of the West- in Westbury is simply that the town is near the western edge of the county of Wiltshire, the bounds of which have been much the same...

, a single Westbury and Whorwellsdown Union Workhouse
In England and Wales a workhouse, colloquially known as a spike, was a place where those unable to support themselves were offered accommodation and employment...

 being located at Eden Vale, Westbury, with accommodation for some 134 people.

The name of Whorwellsdown remained in everyday use in Wiltshire into the 21st century to mean the wider area of the hundred. From 1872 to 1934 the name was part of that of the Westbury and Whorwellsdown Rural District. Up to the 1960s there was also a petty-sessional division called Whorwellsdown. Until the end of Wiltshire County Council
Wiltshire County Council
Wiltshire County Council was the county council of Wiltshire in the South West of England, an elected local Government body responsible for most local government services in the county....

in 2009, one of the council's electoral divisions was called 'Whorwellsdown' or 'Whorwellsdown Hundred'. Despite these continuing uses, by the 21st century there was no consistency about the local pronunciation of the name.

External links

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