6th August 1844. Is it Ward, Rape, Lathe or Soke?


Today’s Post shows, if nothing else, how slowly the process of administrative change, regarding counties, has happened in Britain since Saxon Times. 

It also highlights how much control the Church had over temporal matters, until the 19th century, and the variety of names  for land area.

Please see Addendum for more details about this.

It was Today in 1844, that the quaintly titled Counties (Detached Parts) Act received its Royal Assent, which was to see the demise of many antique counties, notably Bedlingtonshire, Norhampshire, Islandshire, Hexamshire which along with the Farne Islands, were all to be subsumed under Northumberland.(1)

Others such as Craikshire and Allertonshire became part of the North Riding, whilst Howdenshire went to the East Riding of Yorkshire; Hullshire became part of Hull whilst Winchcombeshire was integrated in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire. (2)

As part of the Act, hundreds of parishes became part of another county. The Monmouthshire Parish of Welsh Bicknor went to Herefordshire, which in return acquired the hamlet of Bwich Trewyn, a move which today would cause untold trouble, bearing in mind the disparity in benefits, such as free NHS prescriptions in Wales.

The Act also eliminated many ‘Outliers’ or ‘Exclaves’ of English and Welsh Counties for Civil purposes, though some areas had already been reorganized in the 1832 Reform Act, which had abolished these anomalies for parliamentary constituencies.

Constabularies established under the 1839 County Police Act also had jurisdiction over detached parts of other counties.

The Act of 1839 had allowed JP’s to act for exclaves surrounded by their county which later were transferred and incorporated into their ‘rightful’ existing Hundred, Wapentake. Ward, Rape or Lathe. However it still meant that many parishes were split between two counties; a typical British muddle!.

The Divided Parishes Act, and The Poor Law Amendment Act (1882), rectified many of these anomalies, but still in 1901 it left Stanground in Huntingdonshire, The Soke of Peterborough and the Isle of Ely isolated; not to be fully integrated into the adjacent counties until the mid-20th century.(2)

(1) 1844 (7 & 8 Vict) C.A.P. LXL (2) 1901 Census of England and Wales General Returns, Admin.Counties and County Boroughs.

(2) Durham lost large areas to Northumberland. However after the 1844 Act seven counties still had exclaves until the Local Government Act 1894 and there were large detached blocks of Warwickshire and Worcestershire still interspersed with Gloucestershire until 1931. Flintshire in Wales had two exclaves as late as 1974.


Most counties were divided into Hundreds in Saxon times though Wales had its Cantrefs. Some had wards, Sussex had its Rapes, Kent its Lathes (a Jutish connection), whilst Yorkshire had its Ridings divided into Wapentakes.

The Soke of Peterborough managed to keep its independence until 1965, along with the Isle of Ely, which from 1107 to 1837 was under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Ely, who appointed a Chief Justice and exercised temporal power within the Liberty of Ely.

Henry I created Ely as a County Palatinate, which existed until 1535/6, but the Liberty of Ely Act of 1837, ended its secular powers and now became part of Cambridgeshire. However despite the introduction of elected County Councils in 1888, the local MP Charles Selwyn fought to retain Ely as a separate Administrative County in 1889, but though its abolition was proposed in the 1947 Boundary Changes, this was not acted upon until 1965.

Ref: Pics from wikipedia.org

Ref: wikipedia.org/ Parliamentary Boundaries Act 1832

Ref: Liberty of Ely Act 1837 (7 Will 4 & 1) Vict c 53.

Ref: Town and County Boundaries-first decisions of the commission Times 2 May 1947

Ref: wikipedia.org./wiki/counties_(detached_parts)_act_1844 and came into effect on 20.10.1844.



The old County of Richmondshire in Yorkshire which after the Conqueror’s Harrowing of the North, became the Duchy of Brittany, Honour of Richmond and was a Barony,County and Dukedom in turn.


The old County of Hexhamshire which became part of Northumberland.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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