The north of England had some huge parishes, such as Rochdale (which included part of Yorkshire) and Halifax. So big that for practical purposes they were divided into townships – Halifax had over 20. In the West Riding townships became the main units of local government when this began to be systematically organised in the 19th century.
It has, however, been suggested that in fact the basic unit was actually the township, and that parishes were merely combinations of townships made for ecclesiastical purposes*.
Even if this is the case, the township was not the smallest unit, for many were further subdivided. The first edition of the Ordnance Survey 6-inch maps published in the middle of the 19th century names all these subdivisions and marks their boundaries.
Sub-divisions had various names, frequently simply Divisions, sometimes Hamlets. The names of these divisions could be simple, very often Upper, Middle and Lower or some such combination.
The Saddleworth Meres were subdivided thus and several boundary stones survive showing these names. The one illustrated here marks the boundary between the Middle Division of Lords Mere and the Upper Division of Shaw Mere. It stands opposite the Old Bell Inn on the A62 at Delph.
Huddersfield Township was divided into self-governing Hamlets: Bradley, Deighton, Fartown, Marsh and Huddersfield itself. When the first Huddersfield Improvement Act of 1820 drew a circle, 1200 yards from the Market Place, to denote the Improvement Area there was uproar in Marsh which stood to lose half its territory.
Some have more exotic names, an example being Slaithwaite in the Colne Valley. A stream, Bradshaw Clough continuing as Merrydale Clough, runs roughly west to east through the township, joining the River Colne in what is now the village centre. This stream marks the boundary between the two parts of the township, Sun Side and Holme Side. Holme Side was named from the small settlement of Holme, but there is no evidence of a place-name giving rise to Sun Side: this was to the north, and perhaps got more sunshine than its north-facing neighbour.
Another term we encounter is Constablewick, or Constablery: a district under a constable. [Constables, like surveyors, were often appointed annually]. Adel, for example, comprised two constablewicks, while a guide-stoop cum boundary stone on Penny Pot Lane now on the outskirts of Halifax refers to the Constablery of Killinghall. Part of Killinghall Township was in the Constablery of Nidd.
Clay House in West Vale, Greetland, has a number of old boundary stones rescued from their original locations, and several of these name township divisions.
* D J H Michelmore: Township and tenure in M L Faull and S A Moorhouse, eds: West Yorkshire: an archaeological survey to A D 1500, vol 2: the administrative and tenurial framework; Wakefield: West Yorkshire M D C, 1981, pp 235-239.
RWH / August 2021