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Enjoy the assembled Content Reproduced from VCH Oxfordshire XVIII (2016), available online at www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol18 part of which is dedicated to The Spring Line Villages below the Chilterns. Please make any contributory comments using your email address and submit these to the Editor for inclusion.
The Chiltern Hundreds
It has been regarded as denoting simply a Division of a Hundred Hides of Land; as the District which furnished a Hundred Warriors to the Host; as representing the original Settlement of the Hundred Warriors; or as composed of a Hundred Hides, each of which furnished a Single Warrior‘
A Hundred was a traditional Division of an English County: the Oxford English Dictionary says that the etymology is “exceedingly obscure”.
The Hide was an English Unit of Land Measurement originally intended to represent the amount of Land sufficient to support a Household. It was traditionally taken to be 120-acres (49 hectares)
The Hide was divided into 4-Yardlands or Virgates. It was hence nominally equivalent in area to a Carucate.
The South-West Chilterns have long been a thinly Settled area, forming an Upland Buffer Zone between surrounding Lowland Regions. Despite its peripheral location and a rather difficult Terrain, this part of Oxfordshire has never been self-contained. It was also a connecting point: a small but increasingly important Hub of Communications and Economic Life which was firmly tied to its surroundings. From Prehistory the Chiltern Hills formed a shared Resource and Communication Route, used by those living beyond the Scarp Face as well as by inhabitants of the Dip Slope and the Thames Valley. By Roman Times the Southern part of the Hills, though remote from major Centres, included several Villa Sites, and was crossed by Roads &Tracks which formed part of a Network connecting the West of England & the Midlands with the South-east & London. Most remained important Routes for Communication & Trade for many Centuries. In the later Anglo-Saxon Period, the Henley Area belonged to the large Royal Estate of Bensington, linking it with Benson and the Clay Vale across the Chiltern Hills. The partial break-up of the Bensington Estate before the Conquest created smaller Estates which formed the basis of the later Parish structure, stretching up into the Hills from the Lowlands beyond the Northern Scarp, and from the bottom of the Dip Slope. From an early Period, however, the most powerful Link with the outside World was the Thames, which acted as a Corridor for the movement of People, Goods & Ideas. In the high Middle Ages, the area’s longstanding connection with the Lowlands to the North was subordinated to increasingly important Economic ties with London, some 65-miles East along the River, which then & long after provided the easiest Transport Route for heavy materials.
Until at least the time of the Domesday Survey, there were 18-Hundreds, each in a Group of 3 probably by 1086, and so shown in a Document of the late 13thC.
5 – Ploughley Hundred
Unlike most of the other Oxfordshire Hundreds, which were named after Vills, Ploughley took its name from a Barrow in Fritwell Parish in the extreme North-West of the Hundred. The 1st element of the name may be pohhede, meaning boggy, or Pohhede, a personal name derived from Pohha. The 2nd element is hlaw, a Tumulus. Dr Robert Plot noted this Tumulus and William Stukeley described it in 1776 as ‘a curious Barrow, neatly turned like a Bell, small & high‘. It lay just inside the County & the Hundred, beside the Portway, a pre-Roman Trackway, running Northwards into Northants. The Barrow was levelled before 1845, but in that year, according to Blomfield, Bones dug up on its supposed Site were transferred to a new Mound about 50-yds away, which was partly in the Garden of the Bear Inn. It includes the 32 Oxfordshire Parishes and the Bucks Parish of Lillingstone Lovell, which continued to make up the Hundred until the mid-19thC. In addition, there is Fulwell, at that time a Parish. With the exception of Newton Purcell & Souldern, all the Parishes were Domesday Vills. Twelve Hamlets, including the Bucks Boycott, are also described.
7 – Bullingdon Hundred
Of the 14-Hundreds, which until the 19thC were the Main Administrative Divisions of the County, Bullingdon was one of the Larger and was the most Central. The names of the Villages composing it, owing to the general absence of Hundredal rubrications in the Oxfordshire Domesday, are not known until the end of the 13thC. From that date, until the Boundary of the Hundred was Mapped by the 18thC Cartographers there has been little if any, alteration in its Outline. It is clear that the Boundaries shown on Richard Davis’s Map of 1794 were originally dictated in part by the County Boundary and by Natural Features. The Hundred reached on the East to the Bucks Border; on the West, the Rivers Thames & Cherwell formed the Boundary for part of the way, but instead of turning East along the Course of the River Ray the Line followed an Artificial Course South of the River so as to exclude the Township of Noke, only joining the Ray again South of Oddington. It then proceeded North & East towards the Bucks Border along the Ray and one of its Arms. On the South, the Boundary followed an artificial & irregular line, cutting the Parish of Nuneham in 2, until it reached the River Thame, which it followed for a short distance. On the extreme South-East, it made an elongated Loop so as to include Tiddington, and by so doing cut the Hundred of Thame into 3-parts. The eccentric Line in the North & South suggests that there had been a considerable reorganisation of the Hundred since its 1st Creation. The Baldons, for instance, may have been transferred from the Hundred of Dorchester, which comprised all the other Townships whose Churches had been Founded from Dorchester. Noke may have been excluded from Bullingdon for Tenurial reasons since in 1204 the Abbot of Westminster established his Claim to the Liberty of Islip to which part of Noke belonged and which itself lay in Ploughley Hundred. Another alteration in the Boundary may have taken place in comparatively late times. The Western Boundary on Davis’s Map follows the Cherwell from its confluence with the Thames, leaving Oxford to the West, but until the end of the 12thC or even later, when the North Gate Hundred seems to have been formed, the environs of Oxford must have been in Bullingdon. The Boundary would then have followed the Western Arm of the Thames and have included Binsey, Medley, & Oseney.
8 – Thame Hundred
Ascott, Great Milton, Little Milton, Thame, Tetsworth, Waterstock
The rich Pastures of the Thame Valley have made the Landscape pleasing and the District notable for its Dairy Produce. Brewer writing in 1813 remarked that no other part of the Country was ‘more amenable to Agriculture’. This richness of Soil, the excellence of the Stone Quarries at the Miltons and the good Communications, particularly with the Capital, were probably the main factors that attracted so many Gentle Families to the District both in the Medieval & later Periods. Chief among them were the Quatremains & Clerkes of North Weston, the Merchant Dormers of Thame and later of Ascott, the Wenmans of Thame, the Bruleys, Crokes, & Ashhursts of Waterstock, the Pettys of Tetsworth, and the Families of De Louches, Camoys, Radmylde, Grene, Cave, Calfhill (Caulfield) & others at Great & Little Milton.
9 -Dorchester Hundred
Culham, Clifton Hampden, Burcot, Dorchester, Overy, Chislehampton, Stadhampton, Drayton (St Leonard), Holcombe & South Stoke
The Hundred is 1st mentioned in Domesday Book, where most of it forms part of the Bishop of Lincoln’s Fief. Most of the Oxon Estates of the Bishop, which clearly represent the pre-Conquest Endowment of the See of Dorchester, were grouped in the 3-Hundreds of Banbury, Thame, & Dorchester. In Domesday Book the assessment of the Bishop’s Hundreds of Banbury & Thame is given as 100-Hides each; that of Dorchester Hundred is only 95, of which 5 lay outside the Bishop’s Fief. It will, however, be argued that the original assessment of the Hundred was 100-Hides and that by the time of Domesday 5-Hides, which still formed part of the Bishop’s Fief, had been transferred to the neighbouring Hundred of Bullingdon. The arrangement of these Estates in 3-Hundreds is strikingly reminiscent of other Episcopal Triple Hundreds. The most Famous is the Bishop of Worcester’s Triple Hundred of Oswaldslow and another is connected with the Bishopric of Sherborne. These groupings seem to have been made in the 10thC, probably in Edgar’s Reign, for the provision of Ships for Naval Defence. Traces of similar groups of 3-Hundreds have been noted in Warks, where they are connected with the provision of Ships, and in Bucks & Cambs. The origin of Dorchester Hundred as a grouping of Estates which were probably acquired piecemeal over a long period of time explains its scattered nature. It is impossible to determine the constituent parts of the Hundred in Domesday but there seems to be no reason for assuming that the 11thC Hundred was very different from the Hundred in the 13thC when it comprised the Bishop’s Manor of Dorchester and nearby sub-Infeudated parts of the Bishop’s Estate, as well as several detached Estates at South Stoke, South of Wallingford, Fifield in Benson, & Epwell on the County Boundary about 6-miles West of Banbury.
The 1st detailed description of the Hundred was made in 1279. As the beginning of this Survey is mutilated it is not possible to reconstruct the whole Hundred with certainty. As far as can be seen it then comprised the Bishop’s Demesne Manor of Dorchester extending over a wide area, including Overy, Drayton, Burcot, Clifton, Chislehampton, & Stadhampton, and several Fees held of the Bishop, including Nicholas of Burcot’s Fee in Drayton (including Holcombe) & Clifton, William de Baldindon’s 2-Fees in Clifton, Baldon, Burcot, & South Stoke, Philip le Moyne’s Fee in Clifton, Burcot, & South Stoke, a 1/10th-Fee in Burcot held by Geoffrey of Lewknor, and a ½-Fee held by Laurence de Louches in Chislehampton & Little Milton. The detached Estates, also held by the Bishop in Chief, were South Stoke & Woodcote, held by Eynsham Abbey, Fifield in Benson, held by Philip de Hoyville, and a Fee at Epwell held by Robert Danvers. There was also 1-Fee in Chislehampton that belonged to the Hundred but was of the Honour of Dudley and not the Bishops. In the 14thC subsidy returns the Hundred is taken to include Dorchester, Drayton, Burcot, Clifton, Chislehampton, South Stoke, Woodcote, & Epwell. In 16thC subsidies, Culham is added to the Hundred. The Hearth Tax returns of 1665 show that the Hundred remained substantially unchanged, the only alterations being that Exlade, a part of South Stoke, is mentioned separately. By the time of the 19thC Census returns Epwell had been transferred to Banbury Hundred although Fifield (in Benson Parish) remained in Dorchester Hundred until 1881 when it was transferred to Ewelme Hundred.
10 – Ewelme Half Hundred
The name Ewelme Half-Hundred became established from the 13thC. Benson (part of), Britwell Salome, Brightwell Baldwin, Britwell Prior, Chalgrove, Cuxham, Easington, Ewelme, Great Haseley, Ickford (part of), Nettlebed, Newington (including Berrick Prior, Britwell Prior, Brookhampton, Holcombe, Nuffield, Swyncombe, Warborough, Warpsgrove.
The 14-Rural Parishes covered occupy a varied Landscape in South-East Oxfordshire, straddling both the Clay Cale beneath the Chiltern Scarp, with its nucleated Villages & (historically) large Open-fields, and the contrasting Chiltern Uplands with their dispersed Settlement, early Inclosure, and extensive Wood-pasture. Despite those contrasts, close ties across the area have been a recurrent theme, reinforced by long-established Routeways, Economic interdependence, and (in the early Middle Ages) by the unifying influence of a large Royal Estate focused on Benson, which extended across the Chilterns. The Estates fragmentation between the 9th & 13thC’s created the modern Parish structure, while the area’s Inclusion within a single administrative Hundred (known initially as Benson Hundred) reflects Benson’s early importance.
Benson Hundred was Established by 1086, when it belonged, with the other 4 ‘Chiltern Hundreds’, to the Benson Royal Estate. By then it was already designated (and remained) a ‘Half Hundred’, although Domesday Book rated its later constituents at 121½ above Hides in all, comprising an area of some 25,096 acres. The name Ewelme Hundred was substituted piecemeal from the 1230s, reflecting Benson’s decline as a Royal & Administrative Centre and, almost certainly, the location of the Ancient Hundredal meeting place within what was by then the separate Lordship & Parish of Ewelme.
11 – Pyrton Hundred
Part of Ibstone, Pyrton, Pishill, Shirburn, South Weston, Stoke Talmage, Watlington, Wheatfield
The absence of a Tithingman for Assendon seems to be explained by the fact that Pishill, as on other occasions, includes the Tithings of Pishill Venables & Assendon: later records sometimes refer to ‘Pishill alias Assendon‘. Also Stonor cum Assendon in Tax Assessments.
The small area with the letter ‘A’ is a detached part of Newington Parish in Ewelme Hundred. In the 19thC, the Hundred covered 14,190 acres and was thinly populated, having only 3,525 inhabitants in 1841. It was composed of the Parishes of Pishill, Pyrton, Shirburn, Stoke Talmage, South Weston, part of Wheatfield, and the Market-town of Watlington. The Ancient Trackway, the Icknield Way, running at the Foot of the Chiltern Hills divides the Hundred into 2 and roughly separates the highlands from the lowlands. The soil & landscape are very varied: to the South-East are the Chalk Hills of the Chilterns, covered with Beechwoods & rough Pasture; to the North-west, which is mainly flat & hedged, lie clay Arable Fields & Meadows which, although there was much early Inclosure, were not completely Inclosed & Hedged until the 1st decades of the 19thC. The Plain has always produced comparatively rich crops: Arthur Young, to take one Observer, when crossing from Thame by way of Stoke Talmage to Goldor in Pyrton, noticed ‘much good pasturage‘ and ‘very fine open-field arable‘. The Hills in the 19thC, though cultivated in parts, were chiefly used as sheep-walks. The Hundred was wholly given over to Agriculture, for Watlington had no Industry of any importance and lived mainly by its Market, Shops, & Inns.
In the early 19thC Lewknor Hundred had an Area of 19,780 acres and a Population of 5,416. Throughout the greater part of its history, its Villages have been principally engaged in Agriculture, and until the 19thC, Open-field Farming was generally practised. Arthur Young, writing in 1809, described the Country at the Foot of the Chilterns between Tetsworth & Stokenchurch as Open-field with ‘exceedingly good soil’, a brown, strong loam & moist bottom which gave good Wheat Crops. Sheep Farming was extensively practiced since the Hill Slopes provided plenty of rough grazing. The marginal character of some of the Hill Land probably accounts for the early disappearance of several Medieval Hamlets such as Linley, Plumbridge, & Studdridge.
In 1852 Cadmore End was detached from Fingest to form, with parts of Lewknor & Stokenchurch, a separate Ecclesiastical Parish.
13 –Langtree Hundred
Contains the Parishes of Bix, Caversham, Harpsden, Henley-upon-Thames, Grays Rotherfield, Peppard Rotherfield, & Shiplake, with part of the Parish of Sonning. The area of the Hundred is about 23,000 acres. Langtree is an Ancient Hundred in the South-East of the County of Oxfordshire established during the Anglo-Saxon era. It was used to organise the local Militia, apportion Taxes & maintain Roads. It was especially important in apprehending Criminals and had a Hundred Court for local Trials. Since the end of the 19thC, its functions have been assumed by other divisions of Government. It is currently dormant.
The Hundred included the Ancient Parishes of Checkendon, Crowmarsh Gifford, Goring-on-Thames, Ipsden, Mapledurham, Mongewell, Newnham Murren, North Stoke, & Whitchurch-on-Thames. The Hundred did not include the Parish of South Stoke, which was a detached part of Dorchester Hundred, surrounded by Langtree Hundred.
14 – Binfield Hundred
A Hundred in Oxford, in the extreme South-East, extending from the Chilterns to the Thames. It contains 7 Parishes and part of another: Bix, Caversham, Harpsden, Henley-upon-Thames, Grays Rotherfield, Peppard Rotherfield, & Shiplake, with part of the Parish of Sonning. Population 9,598. Houses 1,962. Binfield is now part of South Oxfordshire District. One of the 15 Hundreds or subdivisions of the County of Oxford, situated in the South-Eastern part of the County, and Bounded on the North by the Hundreds of Ewelme & Pyrton; on the East by the Counties of Bucks & Berks; on the South by the County of Berks; and on the West by the Hundred of Langtree (13)
Until the late 13th or early 14thC, the Hundred of Ashendon was divided into the 3 Hundreds of Ashendon, Ixhill & Waddesdon.
The Hundred of Ashendon contained Ashendon, Chearsley, Grendon Underwood, Hogshaw, Ludgershall, Oving, Quainton, Winchendon & Wotton Underwood.
The Hundred of Ixhill comprised Aston Sandford, Boarstall, Brill, Chilton, Long Crendon, Dorton, Ickford, Ilmer, Kingsey, Oakley, Shabbington, Towersey & Worminghall.
The Hundred of Waddesdon included the Claydons, Grandborough, Fleet Marston, North Marston, Pitchcott, Quarrendon, Waddesdon & Woodham.
In 1086 Ashendon Hundred was assessed at 112-Hides 1-Virgate, Ixhill (Tichesele) at 116-Hides 3-Virgates & Waddesdon Hundred at 89-Hides 3-Virgates. The distinctive names of the Hundreds of Ixhill & Waddesdon gradually became obsolete, and only 4 references to them have been found in the 16th & 17thCs, the latest occurring in 1665.
Of the names given in the List of Parishes & Hamlets, those of Hogshaw, Fulbrook, Kingswood, Boarstall, Kingsey, Pitchcott, Westcott & Woodham are not found in the Domesday Survey. Towersey occurs as Eie & Boarstall, Kingsey & Kingswood were later subdivisions of the Royal Domain of Brill. The following places mentioned in Domesday are not included in the List: Beachendon in Waddesdon Parish, Sortelai formerly in Shipton Lee, Addingrove in Oakley. Most of the names of the 31 Parishes occur in 16thC assessment lists and all are enumerated in some belonging to the 17thC.
Hundred of Cookham
Containing the Parishes of Binfield, Cookham & Sunninghill
At the date of the Great Survey, the Royal Manor of Cookham formed part of the Hundred of Beynhurst. Binfield & Sunninghill were apparently not separate Vills at this date. Cookham remained in the King’s Hands and before the middle of the 13thC had been formed into a separate Hundred, the neighbouring Royal Lands, except Bray, which was already a Hundred in 1086, having by this time been Granted out of the Crown. Besides forming a Hundred of itself Cookham was associated with Bray as the Head of the 7-Hundreds of Cookham & Bray which formed the 7-Hundreds of Windsor Forest. The Custody of ‘the 7-Hundreds‘ is found in the 13thC in the same hands as the Manors of Cookham & Bray, but later, in the 14thC, it was Granted separately. In 1268 Roger de Fryht is returned as ‘Bailiff of the 7-Hundreds of Beynhurst, Ripplesmere, Charlton, Bray, Cookham, Sonning & Wargrave.‘ Eight years earlier the same 7-Hundreds are entered under the Heading ‘The Liberty of the 7-Hundreds‘ for which a special Coroner was appointed. Probably the Court of the 7-Hundreds of Cookham & Bray eventually took the place of the separate Hundred Courts. Court Rolls of the 7-Hundreds of the Reign of Henry V show one Court held for places in Ripplesmere, Beynhurst & Charlton Hundreds and Payments & Suit of Court for Manors held of the King in Beynhurst & Charlton Hundreds are found owing to the 7-Hundreds of Cookham & Bray. The Court Rolls above mentioned show that the Courts were then held at Beyndon Hill & Bare Oaks. The Hundred of Cookham appears to have been generally treated separately for purposes of Assessment and was a separate Administrative area. From the 14thC onward the Parishes of Cookham, Binfield & Sunninghill are regularly returned under it.
During the 17thC there were constant disputes between the Parishes as to the proportion of Taxation within the Hundred, the inhabitants of Sunninghill complaining that they were assessed as a 6th instead of a 12th part of the Hundred and that they were ‘mean men, their Grounds barren and the Deer seldom out of them,’ whereas Cookham & Binfield were occupied by Men of Great Estate.
Hundred of Stoke
Is one of 3 Hundreds which became collectively known as the Chiltern Hundreds around the 13thC, the others being Desborough Hundred & Burnham Hundred. Even before this time these individual Hundreds had become possessions of the Crown and were nominally Stewarded as a Royal Bailiwick. The Hundreds lost their collective ‘Chilterns‘ Title having become separately Leased though retaining their individual Administrative Status as Buckinghamshire Hundreds. Meanwhile, the role of Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds persisted in name only becoming an appointment of the House of Commons.
The County of Buckingham was divided into 18-Hundreds at the time of Domesday Survey. At the close of the 13thC however, they had become consolidated into 8 Groups of 3-Hundreds.
Hundred of Aylesbury
Contained Aston Clinton, Aylesbury, Buckland, Broughton & Hulcott, Ellesborough, Halton, Great Missenden, Little Missenden, Stoke Mandeville with Hallinge, Wendover, & Weston Turville.
Hundred of Risborough
Included Princes & Monks Risborough, Horsenden&Bledlow.
It has been suggested however that neighbouring Hundreds had already become more closely associated in the 11thC so that by the end of the 14thC the Original or Ancient Hundreds had been consolidated into 8 Larger Hundreds.
The Parishes contained in the other 2 Hundreds varied, however, at different times; in 1316
Hundred of Stone
The Hundred of Stone at 1316 contained Dinton, Haddenham with Cuddington, Great Hampden, Hartwell & Little Hampden, Great Kimble, Little Kimble, Stone, & Upton. Dinton Parish spread into the 2 Hundreds of Desborough & Ashendon, the Liberty of Moreton being in the former and Aston Mullins & Walldridge in the latter Hundred.
Practically no change has taken place in the Bounds of the 3 Hundreds since Domesday Book, but the Parishes of Cuddington, Little Hampden, Hulcott & Lee are not named in the Survey. Marlow, however, seems to have been included under the Hundred of Stone in the entry of Walter de Vernon’s Lands, but this was probably merely an omission of the Heading of Desborough Hundred, since elsewhere in the Survey Marlow is placed in the last-mentioned Hundred. The Liberty of Brand’s Fee in Aylesbury Hundred is in the Parish of Hughenden in Desborough Hundred.
The 3 Hundreds of Chiltern were Stoke Hundred, Desborough Hundred, & Burnham Hundred. Despite their collective name only Desborough Hundred was located within the area defined by the Chiltern Hills in Bucks. The Area had been Crown Property as early as the 13thC.
Even as early as the 11thC the 3 Hundreds of Desborough, Burnham & Stoke seem to have been grouped together, and by the middle of the 13thC were known as the 3 Chiltern Hundreds. In 1086 Desborough Hundred was assessed at 122-Hides 2½-Virgates, Burnham at 100-Hides & Stoke at 112-Hides 2-Virgates. The Parishes of Beaconsfield, Chalvey, Chenies, Fingest, Fulmer, Hedgerley, Hedsor, Langley Marish, Penn, Radnage & Wexham are not named in the Domesday Survey. The Hamlets of Boveney in Burnham, Bockmer in Medmenham, Ditton, a detached part of Stoke Poges, Tylers [Green] in Penn & Lyde in Wooburn have separate entries, Upton was included under the King’s Lands. Eton has been transferred from Burnham to Stoke Hundred and Farnham Royal from Stoke to Burnham Hundred.
Hundred of Stoke
Containing the Parishes of Colnebrook, Datchet, Denham, Eton, Fulmer, Hedgerley, Horton, Iver, Langley Marsh, Slough, Stoke Poges, Upton-Cum-Chalvey, Wrexham, Wraysbury.
Coleshill, a detached part of Hertfordshire, is now included in Burnham Hundred. Stokenchurch, which is locally in Desborough Hundred, was transferred from Oxfordshire to Buckinghamshire in 1896.
Hundred of Desborough
Containing the Parishes of Bradenham, Fawley, Fingest, Hambleden, Hedsor, Hughenden, Ibstone, Gt Marlow, Lt Marlow, Medmenham, Radnage, Saunderton, Stokenchurch (Bucks since 1896), Turville, Wooburn, High Wycombe, West Wycombe.
In 1852 Cadmore End was detached from Fingest to form, with parts of Lewknor & Stokenchurch, a separate Ecclesiastical Parish whose Advowson is in the Gift of the Bishop of Oxford. On the Formation of Cadmore End Parish in 1852, Fingest was attached to Ibstone,
The Hundred of Burnham
Containing the Parishes of Amersham, Beaconsfield, Burnham with Lower Boveney, Chalfont St Giles, Chalfont St Peter, Chenies, Chesham, Chesham Bois, Dorney, Farnham Royal with Hedgerley Dean & Seer Green, Hitcham, Penn, Taplow
As early as the 13thC, if not before, the Chiltern Hundreds were appurtenant to the Crown and were Administered as a Royal Bailiwick. In 1653 they yielded yearly in hidage £28-5s-1d and in other payments £5-10s. In 1824 the Hundreds of Desborough & Stoke appear to have been leased to Francis Godolphin Osborne, Ancestor of the Duke of Leeds.
By the middle of the 13thC, there was a 2nd Royal Bailiwick of Chiltern Hundreds, comprising the Oxfordshire Hundreds of Binfield, Langtree, Lewknor, Pyrton and the Half Hundred of Ewelme, distinguished as the 4½ Chiltern Hundreds.
Accounts made in connection with their Administration are extant, dating between 1270 & 1485, but the last reference to them as the Chiltern Hundreds that has been found occurs in 1521.
The Office of Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds has long been a purely nominal one. The passing of the Place Act in 1742 made it possible to use this Appointment for Parliamentary purposes as a pretext for enabling Members of the House of Commons to Resign their Seats. This has been done often, several times in one Session, since 1750, when John Peel resigned his Seat in this way. Particulars about Applications by Members for this Office and the Form used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in making the Appointment were printed by the House of Commons in 1846.
Members of Parliament (MPs) sitting in the House of Commons in the United Kingdom are technically not permitted to Resign their Seats. To circumvent this Prohibition, MPs who wish to give up their Seat can ask to be appointed to an “Office of Profit under the Crown“, disqualifying them from sitting as an MP. While Offices of Profit are no longer Disqualifying in general, various specified Offices that no longer have any Duties associated with them still cause Disqualification from & Vacation of the Seat. Two Offices are specified as Disqualifying for this purpose: the Crown Steward & Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds and of the Manor of Northstead.
Early OS Map of Oxford County
Reproduced from VCH Oxfordshire XVIII (2016), available online at www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol18