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existed during the Heptarchy, and, therefore, long anterior to the reign of Alfred.
An intermediate division between the shire and the hundred, arose in some counties, as the districts termed Lathes in Kent, and Rapes in Sussex, each of which contains several hundreds. These subordinate divisions had formerly their separate officers, called lathe-reeves and rape-reeves. The division of a county into three of these intermediate jurisdictions, introduced the distinction of Trithings, which still subsist in the county of York, under the corrupted appellation of Ridings.*
While treating of the divisions of England in the Saxon period, it may not he irrelevant to make a few observations on that division termed a parish, which, in regard to this country, owes its origin to the same era. The precise date at which this ecclesiastical division was first introduced, is involved in equal uncertainty with the civil distribution of the country. While archbishop Parker and Camden attribute the measure to archbishop Honorius, about the year 636, Sir Henry Hobart † considers that parishes were first erected by the council of Lateran, which was held in 1 179. The truth seems to be, that they were graAnally formed as Christianity spread itself in the island; and they appear to have been originally co-extensive with manors.
It is observed by Blackstone, on the authority of Selden, that, in the early ages of Christianity, there “was no appropriation of ecclesiastical dues to any particular church; but every man
The number of counties in England and Wales has varied at different times. They are, at present, forty in England, and twelve in Wales. of these, three are called counties palaline, viz. Chester, Durham, and Lan. caster. Several cities and towns are counties corporate, possessing grants of the privilege of forming counties of themselves. Of this description are twelve cities and five towns. The cities are London, Chester, Bristol, Coventry, Canterbury, Eseter, Gloucester, Litchfield, Lincoln, Norwich, Worcester, and York. The towns are Kingston-upon-Hull, Nottingham, Newcastle-l-ponTyne, Pool, and Southampton.
+ Hob. 296. Blackst. Vol. I. p. 112.
was at liberty to contribute his tithes to whatever priest or church he pleased, provided only that he did it to some; or, if he made no special appointment, or appropriation, thereof, they were paid into the hands of the bishop, whose duty it was to distribute them among the clergy, and for other pious purposes, according to his own discretion.'
The laws of king Edgar, which were promulgated about the year 960, clearly recognise the existence of established parochial districts,t and direct that the tithes of land should be paid to the church of the parish in which they are situated. Churches, for the accommodation of their tenants, were, assuredly, built by the great proprietors of land, as eivilization and security were added to the blessings arising from a conversion to Christianity. Hence, parishes were formed: and thus (in the first instance from the operation of the laws of Edgar) churches were endowed. These divisions are, therefore, of divers limits and extent, usually varying with the property of the lord who first built the church, and endowed it with the tithes of his manor, or manors. § Some
. Comment. Vol. I. Seld. of tith. 9. 4. &c. + By the term Parish may be understood " that circuit of ground which is committed to the charge of one parson, ur vicar, or other minister, having cure of souls therein.” Comment. Vol. I. p. 110. In the early ages of Christianity, the terms parish and diocese appear to have had a similar ap plication.
This may account for the circumstance of an ancient church being generally found near the manor house. The distinction of Nother churches oco eurs as early as the laws of king Edgar, or about the year 960. It appears that any lord who possessed a private chapel within iis demesnes, having Cemetery, or consecrated place of burial, might allot one third of his tythes to the maintenance of the officiating minister. Hob. c. 2. Blackst. Vol. I. p. 112.
$ In the northern counties, thirty or forty square miles is no onusual area of a parish. Parislies, in the north, average at seven or eight times the area of those in the southern counties. The limits of the country parishes, from the conflicting rights of tythe-owners, and the perambulations ordained by ide canon law, seem to hare been peed ly ascertained, and appear to be
districts still remain extra-parochial, having originally possessed no peculiar appropriation of tythes. *
ON THE LAWS OF THE ANGLO-SAXONS.—The legal code introduced by the Anglo-Saxons is deserving of peculiar attention in this place, as it forms the basis of the laws prevailing through each division of history that will be subsequently noticed; and is, in itself, an object of great interest and curiosity.
It has been observed, and with apparent justice, that to our Saxon ancestors we may consider ourselves indebted for the spirit of liberty and independance that has since characterised the inhabitants of this island; and which, by regarding with a jealous eye the prerogatives of the crown, has produced a judicious misture of freedom and authority, that has gradually established the august and envied fabric of the British constitution. ť
That the Saxons, on their arrival in Britain, had no written laws, but were governed by certain customs, which had been the rule of conduct to their ancestors for many ages, appears to be universally allowed. This seems to have been the case with all the northern nations who over-ray, and subdued, the different provinces of the Roman empire. The acquaintance with letters, produced by their successful irruptions into more favoured climes, enabled them to reduce their traditional customs into writing; Q2
nearly the same as now established, in the Taxatio Ecclesiastica, compiled in the reign of king Edward the First, A. D. 1488—-1292. This observation will not, however, apply to the town parishes; which, froin increase of population, and other causes, were, in former times, continually varying in number and extent. The number of parishes and parochial chapelries now in England and Wales, is stated at 10,674. Popul. Abstr. 1811.
• These districts are usually found to have been the site of religious houses or of ancient castles, whose owners may be supposed, in rude times, to have resisted any interference with their authority within the limits of their residence. Pop. Ab. 1811. + Introduction to Bawdwen's Translat. Domesday, p. 7.
Tacit. de morib. German. c. 19. Henrg's Hist. Brit. Vol. III. p. 389.
and this emanation from one common source, has caused a striking similarity to prevail between the ancient laws of all the states formed by the permanent establishment of those warlike tribes.* The division of this island into various petty states, produced, however, by insensible degrees, variations between their respective laws; " yet held they all an uniformity in substance, differing rather in their mulcts than in their canon; that is, in the quantity of fines and amercements, than in the course and frame of justice.”+
The intelligent eye of Alfred, which surveyed the remotest corner of his newly cemented kingdom, perceived the inconveniences resulting from these discrepancies in its municipal regulations; and having completed the arrangement of its internal divi. sions, he reduced the oustons of the several provinces to a gene. ral standard, by compiling his Dome-book, or liber judicialis. This he appears to have digested for the use of the court-baron, hundred and county-court, the court-leet, and sheriff's-tourn; tribunals established by Alfred, for the local distribution of justice, but which were all subject to the inspection and control of the king's own courts, which were then itinerant, being held in the royal palace, and attending the person of the king in his progresses through his dominions. I This invaluable work, the preservation of which would have thrown such desired light on the institutions of that early period, is said to have been extant so late as the reigo of Edward the Fourth, an age in which, from the invention of the art of printing, it was likely to be handed down to posterity; but, amid the civil contentions whieh then convulsed the kingdoin, it unfortunately disappeared.
The irruptions, and ultimate establishment, of the Danes in England, introduced new customs, and caused the code of the
• Vide Lind. Cod. Leg. Antiq. Wilkins Leges Saxon. Hen. Hist. Vol. III.
+ Reliquæ. Spelman. p. 49.
Blackstone's Comm. Vol. IV. p. 411.
celebrated Alfred to fall into disuse in many parts. About the beginning of the eleventh century, there appear to have been three distinct systems of laws prevailing in different districts : the Mercen-lage, or Mercian laws, which were observed in many of the midland counties, and those bordering on the principality of Wales, and which, therefore, possibly contained many of the ancient customs of the Britons; the West-Saxon.lage, or laws of the West-Saxous, which obtained in the southern and western counties of the island, from Kent to Devonshire, and were, probably, the same as the laws of Alfred, being the municipal law of that portion of the kingdom, including Berkshire, the seat of his peculiar residence; and the Dane-lage, or Danish law, which was maintained in the rest of the midland counties, and, also, on the eastern coast, the part most exposed to the visits of that piratical people. *
From these various discrepant customs, the compilation of one uniform law, or digest of laws, was commenced by king Edgar, and completed by king Edward the Confessor; which appears to have been little more than a new edition, or fresh promulgation of Alfred's code, or Dome-book, with such additions and improvements as the experience of a century and a half had sug. gested; particularly by the incorporation of many of the British, or Mercian, customs, and the most approved of those introduced by the Danes. These were the laws so fondly cherished by our ancestors in succeeding ages, and which subsequent priuces so often promised to keep and restore, in order to obtain popularity when pressed by foreign emergencies or domestic discontents. A great portion of those maxims and rules of law, which, at Q3
• Hale's Hist. Comm. Law. 5.. Blackst. Comm. Vol. I. p. 65. It must be observed, ihat the above opinion, as to a diversity of laws obtaining in three distinct districts, is controverted by Bishop Nicholson ; who contends, in the preface to Wilkins's edition of the Saxon laws, that the “ word lage, mistaken by the Norman writers for their ley, or loi, in reality signifies ditio, or jurisdiction.”
+ Blackst. Comm. Vol. I p. 66. Ib. Vol. IV. p. 419.