The Hundred Of West Derby


The hundred of West Derby was an ancient division of the historic county of

Lancashire, in northern England. It was sometimes known as West -

Derbyshire, the name alluding to its judicial centre being the township of

West Derby (the suffix -shire meaning the territory was appropriated to the

prefixed settlement).


It covered the southwest of Lancashire, containing the ancient ecclesiastical

parishes of Walton, Sefton, Childwall, Huyton, Halsall, Altcar, North Meols,

Ormskirk, Aughton, Warrington, Prescot, Leigh, Liverpool, Wigan, and -

Winwick. It corresponds roughly to areas of Merseyside north of the

River Mersey and also covered parts of modern West Lancashire Borough,

Wigan Borough, Warrington Borough and Halton Borough.


At the time of the Domesday Survey this hundred consisted of the three -

hundreds of West Derby, Warrington, and Newton.  At what date the last

two were united with West Derby to form the present hundred is not known,

but it occurred before the reign of Henry II, probably early in that of Henry I.

The hundred is bounded on the west by the Irish Sea and River Mersey from

the Snoter Stone at Hundred End on the Ribble estuary to Hale Head;

thence on the south by the Mersey  to Glazebrook, from which point,

north-west to Arley Hall, it is bounded on the east by Salford hundred.

From Arley Hall it is for the most part divided from Leyland hundred on the

north by the River Douglas until near Rufford Hall, whence the boundary runs through Martin Mere (now drained) in a north-westerly direction to the above-named Snoter Stone. The township of Aspull in Wigan lies in the hundred of Salford.


Around the chief manor of West Derby with its castle, supposed to have been built by Roger of Poitou, lay a number of manors belonging to the demesne of the county. At the Conquest these included, in addition to the chief manor of West Derby, six berewicks embracing the vills of Thingwall, Liverpool, Great Crosby, Aintree with part of Walton, Everton, Garston with Aigburth, and Hale with Halewood, the whole containing four hides or twenty-four carucates of land.  By the end of the twelfth century this demesne had undergone some change by the inclusion of part of Walton, Wavertree, part of Formby, Altcar, Raven Meols, Ainsdale, and Uplitherland, which had been held by thegns before the date of the Domesday Survey; and by the grant of some portions of West Derby, Great Crosby, Walton, Wavertree, Formby, Raven Meols, Ainsdale, and Uplitherland to be held by serjeanty and at fee farm; and Aintree, Garston, and Aigburth in thegnage or free alms; whilst the preconquest thegnlands of Toxteth, Smithdown (or Smeedon) and a portion of Knowsley, called Croxteth,  were afforested and put into the forest created by Roger of Poitou, or by Henry I. At the same time the whole of the parishes of Childwall, Huyton, Walton, Sefton, and Aughton, all Prescot parish except the vills of Penketh, Windle, and Rainford, and all Halsall parish except the vills of Barton and Halsall, were put within the metes of the forest.


The demesne land and forest gave to the castle and manor of West Derby an importance, as a centre of administration in Lancashire south of the Ribble, equal to that held by Lancaster, the nominal caput of the county and honour, in the northern part of the county. This importance was increased by the proximity of the port of Liverpool, founded by King John, and the intercourse with Cheshire by sea and by the passage or ferry between Liverpool and Birkenhead. A court leet with view of frankpledge for the hundred of West Derby, called the Wapentake Court, was held every three weeks before the steward of the hundred, having jurisdiction over the greater part of the hundred, the only exceptions being the demesne lands of the barony of Warrington and lordship of Widnes. The proceedings consisted of the presentment of minor offences, the breach of by-laws, small personal actions usual to a hundred court, and the recovery of debts amounting to less than 40s. Halmote courts were also held for the demesne manors of West Derby, Wavertree, and Great Crosby.


The king, or the lord of the honour and county, had his own bailiff of the king's bailiwick of West Derby, who accounted for the perquisites of all county courts and sheriff's tourns held within the hundred, and for wardships, reliefs, and other casual feudal issues. The office of bailiff of the wapentake was quite distinct; this bailiff was the principal officer of the sheriff, and his duties were to guard the peace of the hundred, make attachments, collect the socage and fee-farm rents of the hundred, castle-guard rents, and perquisites of the wapentake courts, levy amercements and take distresses, and render every year an account of the issues of his bailiwick.  From the reign of King Stephen to that of Henry IV the latter office was held by the family of Walton of Walton-on-the-Hill by inheritance. In the fifteenth century the master-forestership of West Derby became hereditary in the Molyneuxes of Sefton, who also held the stewardship.


In 1825 the hundred court leet continued to be held within a month of Easter and Michaelmas; it had jurisdiction, concurrently with the sessions, in all criminal cases. The hundred court, held from three weeks to three weeks, had jurisdiction in certain personal actions under 40s. in value. The steward of the hundred, or his deputy, presided at these courts.


Henry III on 18 October, 1229, granted all the land between Ribble and Mersey, including the vill of West Derby with the wapentake and the forest, the borough of Liverpool, the vill of Salford with the wapentake, and the wapentake of Leyland, to Ranulf, earl of Chester and Lincoln, to hold in fee by rendering yearly at Michaelmas a mewed goshawk or 40s.  The assized rent of the demesne, with the service of the tenants holding in thegnage and at fee farm, and sake fee of the military tenants within the hundred, then amounted to £46 16s. 2d. (fn.  Upon the earl's death, in 1232, without issue this fee descended to William de Ferrers, earl of Derby, in right of Agnes his wife, one of the sisters and co-heirs of the earl of Chester.


In 1226 the earl of Derby had a warrant for an allowance of £100 a year for keeping ward of the castles of Lancaster and West Derby, and of the county.  He appears to have assumed larger judicial powers between Ribble and Mersey than the grant to the earl of Chester conveyed, and also to have infringed the rights and liberties of the men of that region, especially in respect of the forest; in consequence he was temporarily dispossessed of this fee.  The earl died in 1247,  having predeceased his wife but a few weeks. That he was the builder of Liverpool Castle may be inferred from writs of 19 January, 1235, for an aid to be made to him for the strengthening of his castle of Liverpool, and of 10 November, 1247, directed to the escheator beyond Trent to deliver to William de Ferrers the lands which had been Agnes de Ferrers', and the castles of West Derby and Liverpool.


In 1251 the new earl had a charter of free warren in all his demesne lands in the manors of Liverpool, West Derby, Everton, Great Crosby, and Wavertree.  The same year he applied for leave to hold pleas of the forest in his forest between Ribble and Mersey, but there is no evidence that this was granted. In 1253 he was empleaded in the king's court by the men of the hundred for illegally forcing upon them a gryth-serjeant of his own election, whom they by custom ought to elect by the consent, and under the advice, of the sheriff. Process was terminated by the earl's death in 1254. From this time, until Robert, his son and heir, attained his majority, the land between Ribble and Mersey was committed to Edward the king's son.


In 1263 Robert de Ferrers took proceedings against a number of people in this hundred for offences in his forest against the deer.  He took an active part in the Barons' rebellion, and was pardoned in 1265 after submission, but rebelled again, and was defeated at the battle of Chesterfield early in 1266. Subsequently he was totally disinherited by Parliament, his lands being taken into the king's hands, and granted to Edmund, the king's second son, afterwards created earl of Lancaster. On 30 June, 1267, the king granted to his said son the honour, county, castle and town of Lancaster, and all the king's demesnes in the county, which gift included the hundred of West Derby.


From this date to the present day the hundred has followed the descent of the honour of Lancaster, subsequently of the duchy of Lancaster, and is now vested in His Majesty King Edward VII, as duke of Lancaster.

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