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The Hundred Rolls

The Hundred Rolls are a census of England and parts of what is now Wales taken in the late thirteenth century. Often considered an attempt to produce a second Domesday Book, they are named for the hundreds by which most returns were recorded.

The Rolls include a survey of royal privileges taken in 1255, and the better known surveys of liberties and land ownership, taken in 1274 - 5 and 1279 - 80, respectively. The two main enquiries were commissioned by Edward I of England to record the adult population for judicial and taxation purposes. They also specify the services due from tenants to lords under the feudal system of the time.

Many of the Rolls have been lost and others have been damaged, but a minority survive and are stored at the National Archives in Kew. Where they survive, they are a major source for the period. Those known in the early nineteenth century were published in 1818, while more recent discoveries are being collated by the University of Sheffield.

The Hundreds

Originally, when introduced by the Saxons between 613 and 1017, a hundred had enough land to sustain approximately 100 households, defined as the land covered by one hundred "hides", and was headed by a hundred-man or hundred eolder. He was responsible for administration, justice, and supplying military troops, as well as leading its forces. Within each hundred there was a meeting place where the men of the hundred discussed local issues, and judicial trials were held.

Hundreds were further divided: larger or more populous hundreds were split into divisions (or in Sussex, half hundreds). All hundreds were divided into tithings, which contained ten households. Below that, the basic unit of land was the hide, which was originally enough land to support one family but later became a unit of assessment to taxation and indicated the profitability of the land with no necessary relationship to its area.

During Norman times the hundred would pay geld based on the number of hides. To assess how much everyone had to pay, a clerk and a knight were sent by the king to each county, they sat with the shire-reeve (or sheriff), of the county and a select group of local knights. There would be two knights from each hundred. After it was determined what geld had to be paid, then the knights of the hundred and the bailiff of the hundred were responsible for getting the money to the sheriff, and the sheriff to the Exchequer.

Above the hundred was the shire, under the control of a sheriff. Hundred boundaries were independent of both parish and county boundaries, although often aligned, meaning that a hundred could be split between counties, or a parish could be split between hundreds.

The system of hundreds was not as stable as the system of counties being established at the time, and lists frequently differ on how many hundreds a county had. In many parts of the country, Domesday Book contained a radically different set of hundreds from that which later became established. The numbers of hundreds in each county varied wildly. Leicestershire had six (up from four at Domesday), whereas Devon, nearly three times larger, had 32.

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All the information here should only be used as a guideline and must not be relied on as primary evidence.