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Wapentake

WAPENTAKE, anciently the principal administrative division of the counties of York, Lincoln, Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Rutland, corresponding to the hundred in the southern counties of England. In many cases, however, ancient wapentakes are now called hundreds. North of the Tees, Sadberg in Durham is the only district which was called a wapentake, and the rest of the ancient administrative divisions of the three northern counties were called wards. The word wapentake seems to have been first applied to the periodical meetings of the magnates of a district; and, if we may believe the 12th century compilation known as the Leges Edwardi, it took its name from the custom in accordance with which they touched the spear of their newly-appointed magistrate with their own spears and so confirmed his appointment. Probably it was also usual for them to signify their approval of a proposal by the clash of their arms, as was the practice among the Scandinavian peoples. Wapentakes are not found outside the parts of England which were settled by the Danes. They varied in size in different counties ; those of Yorkshire, for instance, being very much larger than those of Lincolnshire. As a general rule each wapentake had its own court, which had the same jurisdiction as the hundred courts of the southern counties. In some cases, however, a group of wapentakes had a single court. It should be noticed that the court was styled wapentagium' simply, and not curia wapentagii.

See Sir Henry Ellis, General Introduction to Domesday Book; W. W. Skeat, Etymological English Dictionary; W. Stubbs, Constitutional History; and H. M. Chadwick, Studies on Anglo-Saxon Institutions (1905). (G. J. T.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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