What is this – Bookham part of Effingham? And what is a ‘Hundred’? There always has had to be a way of collecting taxes, of ruling and maintaining law and a ‘Hundred’ was part of one of the systems. England for many centuries has been divided up into shires or counties and then subdivided further into smaller administration areas. Today we have the counties and councils. With ‘Hundreds’ we are going back to a scheme introduced first in Saxon times, AD 600 to 1000 and still meaningful until just some 140 years ago.
A ‘Hundred’ in Saxon times was the division of land, independent of parish boundaries, under a ‘Hundreds’ Man’ or ‘Hundred Eolder’ and defined to be enough land to sustain approximately one hundred families. Above the ‘Hundreds’ was the shire (in many cases which coincided with county) under a shire-reeve or sheriff.
What is now Surrey had fourteen such divisions one of which was the Effingham ‘Hundred’ was actually a ‘Half Hundred’ as it was only judged to be able to sustain 50 families. The Effingham ‘Hundred’ consisted of Effingham itself together with Great and Little Bookham. Later, not long after the Doomsday Book, the ‘Hundred’ was stated to include two places named as ‘Driteham’ and ‘Pechingeorde’ neither of which can now be identified. Driteham is thought to have been a settlement to the north of Effingham (near Pickett’s Hole on the North Downs?) but Pechingeorde remains a mystery. There is a Dirtham Lane in Effingham but there appears to be no close connection.
Those 50 families should be compared now with the present population of the ‘Hundred’. Bookham alone has some 5,500 dwellings. It must be remembered though that a ‘family’ long ago would be a whole family unit living together, with several generations and many children.
‘Hundreds’ themselves were divided into ‘tithings’ which contained ten households each with a ‘Hide’. This unit of land enough to sustain one family varied between say 15 to 30 acres (6 to 12 hectares) depending whether it was good or bad agricultural land.
Another expectation from this overall system was its ability to raise an army to defend the country. Each ‘Hundred’ was expected to be able to raise twenty good soldiers.
The system of ‘Hundreds’ was not as stable as the system of counties and lists frequently differ on how many ‘Hundreds’ a county has. The number of ‘Hundreds’ in each county varied wildly, for example, Leicestershire had six (up from four at Domesday), whereas, Devon nearly three times larger, had thirty-two. Some ‘Hundreds’ were in private hands under a lord, others under the crown.
One of the principal functions of the ‘Hundred’ became the administration of law and the keeping of the peace and a ‘Hundred’ court by the twelfth century was held regularly, initially twelve times a year and later every two or three weeks. One of the main duties of the ‘Hundred’ court was maintaining of a system whereby units of ten households (tithings) were bound together to be responsible for conduct within the tithing. The system was known as ‘frankpledge’. A ‘tithing-man’ was responsible for crime in their tithe and for nominating the criminal to the court.
Tithes or one tenth of whatever was produced had to be paid by each household and these were collected in a ‘tithe barn’ one of which stands to this day in Manor Farm in Manor House Lane . We are fortunate to have in Bookham one of the finest examples of a tithe barn and it may well be one of the largest in existence today. It covers 4,500 sq ft – a vast building. It has been maintained in first class condition with its beautiful oak beam structure. It is open to view at Heritages weeks and it is well worth a visit. The tithe stalls can be seen inside the barn where the tithe goods were stacked and stored. It is very impressive.
Until the dissolution of the monastries by Henry VIII the tithes of our area were paid to the Abbott of Chertsey who was allocated this whole area of North West Surrey. Only remains are to be found now of the Abbey. Nowadays we would be only too glad to pay only ten per cent of our income to taxation instead of the 20 to 40 percent together with VAT and local taxation.In the period of the middle 1800s groupings of ‘Hundreds’ were used to define parliamentary constituencies. Although ‘Hundreds’ had no administrative or legal role now, they have never been formally abolished. So when you go down the road to Effingham remember our close ties.