The hundred of Downton in 1831 was an aggregate of the hundred of Downton
and the hundred or liberty of East Knoyle. It consisted of four physically
separate pre-Reformation parishes, Downton and Bishopstone in the southeast of the county and East Knoyle and Fonthill Bishop in the south-west. (fn. 1)
All the parishes except Fonthill were large, and the hundred contained some 25
villages and was divided into 13 administrative tithings. There were 4 medieval
chapelries, and in the 19th century 6 additional civil parishes were recognized and
4 new ecclesiastical districts were created.
Downton hundred originated in grants of immunity for lands assessed at 100 hides,
or of the land with its immunity, by Anglo-Saxon kings to bishops of Winchester. (fn. 2)
The private hundred thus established, and the wide range of administrative and
judicial liberties later held in respect of it, passed with the see. (fn. 3) The 100 hides was the
assessment of a possibly unbroken tract of land extending from Downton in the Christchurch Avon valley perhaps far up the Ebble valley. Tenth-century alienations reduced
the lands to the estates, later parishes, of Downton and Bishopstone but not the
assessment or the bishops' liberties. The composition of the hundred was thereafter
unaltered, and within it no lord inferior to the bishop withdrew his men from it. The
rector of Downton and later the impropriators of the rectory held the only separate
view of frankpledge. At least from the early 13th century the bishops held no court for
the whole hundred but the tourns held for both Downton and Bishopstone, each
attended by the tithingmen of several tithings, were like those of hundreds. (fn. 4)
About 1084 East Knoyle was in Mere hundred and Fonthill Bishop was in Dunworth
hundred. (fn. 5) In the 13th century the bishops of Winchester, lords in both places,
succeeded in withdrawing their men from those hundreds. (fn. 6) They took liberties similar
to those enjoyed for Downton hundred and for both places exercised them in a tourn
held for what by 1249 was called the hundred of East Knoyle. (fn. 7) Neither the lordship
nor the composition of that hundred, which included Hindon, was changed. For
purposes of privately exercised jurisdiction the hundred or liberty of Knoyle continued
into the 19th century, but for other purposes its constituents had been added to
Downton hundred by the 18th century. (fn. 8)
Downton Hundred c. 1840
|| V.C.H. Wilts. iv. 328.
|| Eric John, Orbis Britanniae, 108–11; Helen M. Cam,
Law-Finders and Law-Makers, 28, 62–3.
|| See pp. 43–4.
|| See pp. 15–16, 43–4. Rights of jurisdiction were alienated from the see in the mid 16th cent, by lease and royal
|| V.C.H. Wilts. ii, pp. 180–1, 208–9.
|| Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii (1), 234.
|| Crown Pleas, 1249 (W.R.S. xvi), p. 187.
|| e.g. Q. Sess. 1736 (W.R.S. xi), p. 137.