What is a wapentake?

The following information is taken principally from Basic Facts about Family History in Yorkshire, by Pauline M. Litton, and recommended as an absolute must-have to anyone researching Yorkshire Ancestry. It is published by the Federation of Family History Societies, price £1.70 UK, £2.00 O/s surface, £2.60 O/S air, from the FFHS Publications Dept, 2-4 Killer Street, Ramsbottom, Bury, Lancs BL0 9BZ.

Besides being divided into three Ridings, East, North and West (a Riding being derived from the Norse word "thriding," meaning a third part) Yorkshire was further sub-divided into administrative areas called Wapentakes - the Danelaw equivalent of an Anglo-Saxon Hundred in most other counties. The word derived from an assembly or meeting place, usually at a cross-roads or near a river, where literally one's presence or a vote was taken by a show of weapons. Maps of the Ridings showing Wapentakes are in Protestation Returns 1641-42 by J.S.W. Gibson and Alan Dell, published by the Federation of Family History Societies 1995. You will need to know which Wapentake a place was in if you wish to search such records as the Hearth Tax and Land Tax or Militia and Muster Rolls. Here is the full list of former Wapentakes with the principal places in each.....

EAST RIDING - Buckrose (Settrington, Sledmere); Dickering (Filey, Bridlington); Harthill(Beverley, North & South Cave, driffield, Market Weighton, Pocklington); Holderness (Hornsea, Holderness Peninsula); Howdenshire (Howden); Ouse & Derwent (Escrick).

NORTH RIDING - Allertonshire (Northallerton); Birdforth (Thirsk); Bulmer (Crambe, Easingwold, Huttons Ambo); Gilling East (Danby Wiske; Middleton Tyas); Gilling West (Richmond, Swaledale); Hallikeld (Leeming, East & West Tanfield); Hang East (Catterick, Masham); Hang West (Wensleydale); Langbaurgh East (Middlesbrough; Guisborough; Lythe); Langbaurgh West (Stokesley; Yarm); Pickering Lythe (Pickering; Scarborough); Ryedale (Helmsley, Malton); Whitby Strand (Whitby).

WEST RIDING - Agbrigg & Morley (Bradford, Dewsbury, Halifax, Huddersfield, Leeds suburbs, Wakefield); Barkston Ash (Selby, Tadcaster); Claro (Ripon, Knaresborough); Ewcross (Dent, Ingleton, Sedbergh); Osgoldcross (Pontefract, Goole, Snaith); Skyrack (Leeds); Staincliffe (Keighley, Settle, Skipton, Stainburn); Staincross (Barnsley); Strafforth and Tickhill (Doncaster, Rotherham, Sheffield).

* NOTE: York and Hull were not part of any Wapentake, or officially of any Riding, being regarded as separate authorities - the Town and County of Kingston upon Hull and the City and County of York - though many directories generally include them with the East Riding. An area known as the Ainsty, a district to the west of York, was until the 15th century a Wapentake of the West Riding but since then has come under the jurisdiction of the City of York.

The much reviled and nonsensical 1974 local government reorganisation made a real dog's breakfast of the historic county of Yorkshire, which another recent reshuffle has only partially corrected. Here was how the "modern" county administration lined up post-1974.....

CLEVELAND - part of the old North Riding centred on Middlesbrough.

HUMBERSIDE - much of the East Riding and parts of the old West Riding (Goole-Snaith area), centred on Beverley. This later became North Humberside but in 1996 the Mickey Mouse county of Humberside was thankfully despatched into some bureaucrat's filing cabinet, hopefully never to be heard of again, and the area reverted to being called the East Riding of Yorkshire.

NORTH YORKSHIRE - much of the North Riding (most of The Dales area, Malton, Pickering, Scarborough, Whitby etc), the northern parts of the old West Riding (Ripon, Skipton, Settle etc), and the most northerly parishes of the East Riding centred on Northallerton.

SOUTH YORKSHIRE - the southern part of the old West Riding, with 4 Metropolitan City or Borough Councils (Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield). (Note - there NEVER was a South Riding).

WEST YORKSHIRE - the rest of the old West Riding, with 5 Metropolitan City or Borough Councils (Bradford, Calderdale [Halifax], Kirklees [Huddersfield], Leeds and Wakefield).

Certain border areas were transferred from Yorkshire altogether.....

Dent/Sedbergh area to Cumbria. Barnoldswick/Slaidburn area to Lancashire Saddleworth area to Greater Manchester Bowes/Ronaldkirk area to Durham

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