Definitions of the terms used to describe areas of
land and habitation in the county of Yorkshire.
This page (and its associated pages) deals with the following
- A sub-divison of any of the countries of the United Kingdom.
Yorkshire is(was) by far the largest county in the U.K. and has,
since the Domesday survey (1086) contained around 10% of the
population of England (which gives it a larger population than
Scotland). You will find the following terms used for Yorkshire:
- The County of Yorkshire
- The County of York
- and occasionally just "York", as in "married
in Doncaster, York, England".
- but never the American way: "Yorkshire
- It should be noted that an English county is the equivalent
of what would be a state in countries such as the USA.
- Uniquely, Yorkshire was, previous to the much disliked 1974
re-organisation, sub-divided into 3 Ridings (from the Norse word
"Thriding"), the North Riding, the East Riding and
the West Riding (but see also below about the Ainsty wapentake).
Administratively, each Riding was autonomous, each having its
own County Town.
- A sub-division of a Riding, equivalent to the southern counties'
"Hundred" and became obsolete around the year1900.
The word was probably derived from an assembly or meeting place,
usually at a cross-roads or near a river, where a vote was taken
by a show of weapons, "weapon touch". Some of the wapentakes
were further divided for simpler administration. Some wapentakes
were not contiguous (i.e. they have detached parts), see the
map of the wapentakes for
details. The names of the wapentakes with their Ridings were
- North Riding:
- Allertonshire, Birdforth, Bulmer, Gilling East, Gilling West,
Halikeld, Hang East, Hang West, Langbaurgh (East and West), Pickering
Lythe, Rydale, and Whitby Strand.
- East Riding:
- Buckrose, Dickering, Harthill (Bainton beacon, Holme beacon,
Hunsley beacon and Wilton beacon), Holderness (North, Middle
and South), Howdenshire, Ouse & Derwent. Additionally, not
in any wapentake was the Borough and county of Kingston upon
- West Riding:
- Agbrigg & Morley (Agbrigg division, Morley division),
Barkston Ash, Claro (Upper and lower), Ewcross, Osgoldcross,
Skyrack (upper and lower), Staincliffe (East & West), Staincross,
Strafforth and Tickhill (upper and lower).
- Additionally, the Ainsty Wapentake:
- This wapentake contained an area to the south of York, and
may or may not include the City of York. It has variously been
attached to the West Riding and the East Riding through history.
For the period when the Genuki pages are set, it is assumed to
be detached from all the Ridings and has a section of its own.
- this term is used in two different situations:
- 1. To describe a sub-division of a wapentake,
e.g. Harthill, Bainton beacon division.
- 2. To describe the electoral divisions set
up under the Redistribution of seats act, 1865. Each electoral
division contained one or more wapentakes. The electoral divisions
were as follows:
- North Riding: Cleveland, Richmond, Thirsk & Malton,
- East Riding: Buckrose, Holderness, and Howdenshire.
- West Riding: divided into three parts:
- Northern part: Skipton, Keighley, Shipley, Sowerby, and Elland.
- Eastern part: Ripon, Otley, Barkston Ash, Osgoldcross, Pudsey,
and Spen Valley.
- Southern part: Batley, Normanton, Colne Valley, Holmfirth,
Barnsley, Hallamshire, Rotherham, and Doncaster.
- Please note that the English definition and the American
definition differ considerably.
The popular English meaning is taken to be any large town, or
any place with a Cathedral (and hence a Bishop). The actual meaning
is a town that has received the title of "City" from
the crown, and is usually the seat of a Bishop (but not necessarily
- A densely populated area, typically smaller than a city and
larger than a village. The point at which a village becomes a
town is not well defined!
- The administrative headquarters for a county. In the case
of Yorkshire, there are three county towns, one for each Riding:
Northallerton for the North Riding, Beverley for the East Riding,
and Wakefield for the West Riding. Contrary to popular belief,
there are no civil administrative offices for the county of Yorkshire
as a whole (not even in York!).
- Very variable! A group of people/houses invested with certain
powers for regulating their own affairs, such as repairing roads,
providing for the poor, etc. A township may consist of a single
town, one or more villages and/or hamlets, or (in mountainous
areas in particular) scattered single houses.
- A small group of houses, smaller than a town and larger than
a hamlet (another ill-defined term).
- A unit of English territorial organisation, originally of
the nature of a feudal lordship. It now consists of the lord's
demesne if any (house and land for his own personal use) and
of lands occupied by tenants, from which he has the right to
exact certain fees or fines, and within which he has certain
- A liberty was a manor, or group of manors, or other area
lying outside the juristriction of the sheriff. It had a separate
Commission of Peace.
- a small group of houses (4 or 5 for instance) smaller than
a village and without its own church.
- A valley through which a river flows, usually (but not always)
named after the river, e.g. Swaledale, Airedale (but not Wensleydale
- named after a parish, but sometimes known as Yoredale or Uredale
after the river Ure ).
- The Yorkshire Wolds are the only range of hills in (what
was) the East Riding.
- The district under the jurisdiction of a Bishop.
- An archdeaconry is the office or jurisdiction of an archdeacon
and forms part of a diocese
- The district under the jurisdiction of a Dean. (There will
be several in a diocese).
- An ecclesiastical parish
- The district under the jurisdiction of a priest. The Genuki
parish pages are all of this type of parish. The parishes were
very stable for a good 300 years before 1832.
- A civil parish
- The smallest unit of local government. These only came into
being after 1832. All the Genuki parish pages relate to before
this date, and so include no civil parishes as such.
- is a parish or church which is exempt from the jurisdiction
of the bishop in whose diocese it is located.
- Literally, the bounds or jurisdiction of a chapel. A parish
may contain one or more chapelries, each of which may or may
not have a licence to conduct Baptisms, Marriages and Burials.
If the chapel did not have licence, then these ceremonies would
be conducted at the parish church.
For further information, please see the Church
of England Hierarchy page.
A Glossary of old words
and unusual words used within the Genuki Yorkshire pages.
Church of England Hierarchy.
Tana Willis Johnson's What
is a wapentake
Tana and Brian Pears' The
divisions and sub-divisions of England and its counties
of the North Riding (1890)
of the East Riding (1892)
of Yorkshire (1892)
Written by Colin Hinson, in co-operation with Liz Agar
who shares the blame for any incorrect definitions!
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[Last updated at 08.56 on Thursday, 24 January 2013, by Colin Hinson ©2008]