Disputes over boundaries range from the international down to the local – from the arguments that racked Latin America following independence in the 19th century to innumerable arguments locally between townships over unwarranted incursions, either by animals or people.

At least 300,000 Paraguayans lost their lives in the so-called Paraguayan War (or War of the Triple Alliance) in the 1860s, and Paraguay lost a lot of territory.  The break-up of the West Riding in 1974 was perhaps less hotly opposed, and did not lead to bloodshed, but was just the most recent of several centuries of disputes.

Here are a few of them.

In 1614 the free-holders of the Manor of Oakworth, near Keighley, bought an area of land on Oakworth Moor, off the road to Wycoller and Colne.  The Manor of Colne, however, claimed some of this land was theirs.  Despite the Oakworthies claiming, logically enough, that the border – a county boundary – was the watershed, the commission set up to investigate concluded that they were wrong.  And since the Manor of Colne was part of the Duchy of Lancaster, and the Duke of Lancaster was the king, the commissioners obviously knew which side their bread was buttered on. One piece of evidence, however, was the so-called Hanging Stone or Water Sheddles Cross.  Marked as an antiquity by the Ordnance Survey, while Historic England think it probably 19th century and therefore a replacement, this stands on what is still the Lancashire-Yorkshire boundary.  The boundary line is today marked by boundary stones, though many of these say “K C 1902” – presumably denoting Keighley Corporation’s ownership of the land by their nearby Watersheddles Reservoir.  1

LB: Lingards boundary

Lingards was a very small township in the Colne Valley hemmed in by, clockwise from the east, Linthwaite, Meltham and Marsden.  It was later absorbed into Slaithwaite on the north side of the river.  Arguments about the boundary between it and Meltham flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries.  Again it featured moorland, probably as featureless then as it is now, but Lingards had very little while Meltham’s was “spacious”; and again a watershed was claimed as the logical boundary. A plan of 1627 attempted to resolve the dispute though evidence suggests it rumbled on until at least 1641.  A row of boundary stones had been erected, and the boundary today is marked by nearly a dozen stones, incised LB on one side and MB on the other.  One is pictured here. Although these probably date from the 19th century, they are perhaps a reflection of the earlier dispute. 2 

Fixby and Rastrick, 1711

To the north of Huddersfield, on Bradley Road the A6107, and now surrounded by a brick wall, is a stone which reads HERE PARTS FIXBE AND RASTRICKE 1711 — pictured left.  Another stone once stood on the same road, not far away, which read HERE PARTS BRADLEY AND FIXBY.  These were occasioned not by a dispute over bleak moorland, but over road-mending – another major source of disagreements.  In this case the problem was exacerbated by different judgments by separate authorities: the Manor of Wakefield ordered repairs by one township, and the County Sessions by the other.  In 1641 a judgment by the County (which had taken over the Manor’s responsibilities) ordered the townships each to repair the disputed stretch of road in alternate years, but it is not clear why it was another 70 years before one of the boundary markers was erected.  Another stone, now in the Tolson Museum and dated 1761, marked the boundary between Bradley and Firtown (Fartown) – two hamlets in the township of Huddersfield.  This may also be a result of boundary disputes. 3

Langfield’s: keep off!

The townships in the Upper Calder Valley generally have water-courses as their boundaries, reaching up to the watersheds with the surrounding valleys and on the west with Lancashire.  Langfield is one of the exceptions, sharing a long moorland boundary with Sowerby township.  It is a peculiar shape, having what one might term a panhandle to the south.  Its boundaries have been disputed for centuries: there are references to problems as far back as the 14th century, and there was litigation in the early 17th century.  Finally, in the 19th century, the boundaries were fixed by the Ordnance Survey while preparing the first edition 6-inch maps published in the 1850s, though their work was also challenged.  A few boundary stones can be found on the moor, including one, pictured here, on which are chiselled the words “This common doth belong to L…”.  The rest of the word Langfield has been erased, perhaps by someone who thought it didn’t. 4


  1. J J Brigg: A disputed county boundary in The Bradford Antiquary, August 1933, new series part 26, pp 1-16.   
  2. George Redmonds: The Lingards and Meltham dispute in his Slaithwaite places and place-names (Lepton: G R Books, 1988), pp 42-47.
  3. W B Crump: Huddersfield highways down the ages (Huddersfield: Tolson Memorial Museum, 1949), pp 119-122.
  4. Nigel Smith: Township boundaries and commons disputes in the South Pennines: Langfield and the case of the Mandike in History in the South Pennines: the legacy of Alan Petford (Hebden Bridge: Hebden Bridge Local History Society, 2017), pp 1-32.

RWH / Nov 2021