History of Staffordshire

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The historic county of Staffordshire included Wolverhampton, Walsall, and West Bromwich, these three being removed in 1974 to the new county of West Midlands. The resulting administrative area of Staffordshire has a narrow southwards protrusion that runs west of West Midlands to the border of Worcestershire. Further, the city of Stoke-on-Trent was removed in the 1990s to form a unitary authority, but is still considered part of Staffordshire for ceremonial purposes.

The historic county had an area of 781,000 acres (1,250 sq. miles) and at the first census in 1801 had a population of 239,153.[1]

The county probably first came into being in this form in the decade after the year 913; that being the date at which Stafford - the strategic military fording-point for an army to cross the Trent - became a secure fortified stronghold & the new capital of Mercia under Queen Æthelflæd.

Historically, Staffordshire was divided into the five hundreds. The origin of the hundred dates from the division of his kingdom by King Alfred the Great into counties, hundreds and tithings. From the beginning, Staffordshire was divided into the hundreds of Totmonslow, Pirehill, Offlow, Cuttleston and Seisdon.[2]

Hundreds of Staffordshire
Hundreds of Staffordshire

The hundredal division of Staffordshire differs markedly from that of the counties to the south and west in showing far greater stability. All the Domesday hundreds are kept practically unchanged down to modern times. Also in the size of the hundreds. The Staffordshire hundreds, five in number, are on the whole far larger than any in the adjacent counties; more especially as regards northern Staffordshire. The two hundreds in the south-west are of more normal extent. It seems to be due chiefly to the nature of the county. Northern Staffordshire is to a large extent moorland, which must have been unattractive to early settlers. It is noteworthy, as showing where the centres of these hundreds lay, that the meeting-places of the two northern hundreds (Pirehill and Totmonslow) are in the extreme south of the respective hundreds. Southern Staffordshire was largely a forest-district. The southern part of Seisdon hundred was covered by Kinver Forest, and large parts of the two hundreds in the central part of the county, those of Cuttleston and Offlow, must have been occupied by Cannock Forest. The cultivated areas of these hundreds must in early days have been considerably smaller than at present.[3]

The County symbol, the Staffordshire Knot, is seen on an Anglian stone cross that dates from around the year 805. The cross still stands in Stoke churchyard. Thus the Knot is either i) an ancient Mercian symbol or ii) a symbol adopted from the Celtic Christianity, Christianity having been brought to Staffordshire by Lindisfarne monks from the year 650.

References[edit]

  1. ^ History Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire, by William White, pub. Sheffield, 1834
  2. ^ A topographical history of Staffordshire, by William Pitt, pub J. Smith (Newcastle -under-Lyme), 1817; page 13
  3. ^ The English Hundred Names, by Olof Anderson, Lund (Sweden), 1934. Page 144

Further reading[edit]

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