The ancient parish of Halifax was the second largest in area in England (after Rochdale). It comprised 23 townships, though two – Elland-cum-Greetland and Hipperholme-cum-Brighouse …
Boundaries have always mattered to people, and still arouse passions: many today still cannot accept that Saddleworth is in the alien county of Greater Manchester – and we are happy to include the many stones in Saddleworth (and in those other parts of the old county lost in 1974) in our Yorkshire database.
The old counties were divided into districts commonly known as ‘hundreds’ – areas capable of providing 100 men if conflict arose. In Yorkshire (and certain other counties) these districts were known as wapentakes – a Scandinavian term possibly relating to the displaying of weapons.
Boundaries tended to follow the course of rivers or hilltop ridges, as they did for the next subdivision, the parish. In the relatively unpopulated or infertile parts of the North some parishes, eg Halifax and Rochdale, were very large, and further subdivided into townships. Some townships were themselves subdivided into smaller districts: Huddersfield, for example, was split into hamlets, and a boundary marker now in the Tolson Museum marks the boundary between two of these, Bradley and Firtown (Fartown).
Some boundary markers, such as the Bradley/Fartown stone, were erected following boundary disputes. Disputes could arise for many reasons, but one was the obligation on the parish/township/hamlet to keep its roads in good repair – from an act of Parliament of 1555.
The 19th century saw the beginnings of the local government system that survived until 1974, with the creation of municipal boroughs, urban sanitary districts (local boards), Urban and Rural District Councils, County Councils and County Boroughs. Yorkshire has examples of stones erected by all these different bodies, such as the one on the left.
The 19th century also saw the building of many new parish churches, and these all had precisely defined boundaries, often marked by boundary stones. On the right is one such chapelry boundary stone: S St T DC stands for Stanningley St Thomas District Chapelry.
For more information and photographs click on the links to articles below.
RWH / updated March 2012