Where did the name Calehill come from?

 

It came from an old administrative division of Kent, the Hundred of Calehill, which still had at least a notional existence until as late as 1977.

In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Calehill like this:

CALEHILL, a seat, a subdistrict, and a hundred in Kent. The seat is in Little Chart parish, 5 miles WNW of Ashford; and has belonged to the Darell family since the time of Henry IV. The subdistrict is in West Ashford district; and contains Little Chart parish, and five other parishes. Acres, 22,535. Pop., 5,311. Houses, 1,007. The hundred is in the lathe of Shepway, and conterminate with the subdistrict.

Calehill House in Little Chart is still on Ordnance Survey maps. There have been at least three houses known as Calehill here. The estate belonged to the Darell family from 1410 until the C20. To the south-east of the building now known as Calehill House are the ruins of the original house, built by Sir John Darell who died in 1438. These are of stone rubble and include a fifteenth-century window of two cinquefoil-headed lights. In the eighteenth century another house was built by Philip Darell to the south-east (subsequently demolished), and the older building fell into ruins.

So; the Hundred of Calehill.

What precisely was a Hundred?

 

In England a hundred was the division of a shire for military and judicial purposes under the common law. Until the introduction of districts by the Local Government Act 1894, hundreds were the only widely used assessment unit intermediate in size between the parish, with its various administrative functions, and the county, with its formal, ceremonial functions.

The term "hundred" is first recorded in the laws of Edmund I (939–46) as a measure of land and the area served by a hundred court. In the Midlands, they often covered an area of about 100 hides, but this did not apply in the south; this may suggest that it was an ancient West Saxon measure that was applied rigidly when Mercia became part of the newly established English kingdom in the 10th century. The Hundred Ordinance, which dates to the middle of the century, provided that the court was to meet monthly, and thieves were to be pursued by all the leading men of the district.

During Norman times, the hundred would pay geld based on the number of hides. The hide, from the Anglo-Saxon word meaning "family", was, in the early medieval period, a land-holding that was considered sufficient to support a family. This was equivalent to 60 to 120 old acres (approximately 30 modern acres (120,000 m²)) depending on the quality of the land. To assess how much everyone had to pay, a clerk and a knight were sent by the king to each county; they sat with the shire-reeve (or sheriff), of the county and a select group of local knights. There would be two knights from each hundred. After it was determined what geld had to be paid, the bailiff and knights of the hundred were responsible for getting the money to the sheriff, and the sheriff for getting it to the Exchequer.

Above the hundred was the shire, under the control of a sheriff. Exceptionally, in the counties of Kent and Sussex, there was a sub-division intermediate in size between the hundred and the shire: several hundreds were grouped together to form lathes in Kent and rapes in Sussex. At the time of the Norman conquest of England, Kent was divided into seven lathes.

Hundred courts
Over time, the principal functions of the hundred became the administration of law and the keeping of the peace. By the 12th century, the hundred court was held twelve times a year. This was later increased to fortnightly, although an ordinance of 1234 reduced the frequency to once every three weeks. In some hundreds, courts were held at a fixed place; while in others, courts moved with each sitting to a different location. The court was formed of twelve freeholders, or freemen. According to a 13th-century statute, freeholders did not have to attend their lord's manorial courts, thus any suits involving them would be heard in a hundred court.

For especially serious crimes, the hundred was under the jurisdiction of the Crown; the chief magistrate was a sheriff, and his circuit was called the sheriff's tourn. However, many hundreds came into private hands, with the lordship of the hundred being attached to the principal manor of the area and becoming hereditary. Helen Cam estimated that even before the Conquest, over 130 hundreds were in private hands; while an inquest of 1316 found that by that date 388 of 628 named hundreds were held, not by the Crown, but by its subjects. Where a hundred was under a lord, a steward, acting as a judge and the chief official of the lord of the manor, was appointed in place of a sheriff.

The importance of the hundred courts declined from the 17th century, and most of their powers were extinguished with the establishment of county courts in 1867. The remaining duty of the inhabitants of a hundred to make good damages caused by riot was ended by the Riot (Damages) Act 1886, when the cost was transferred to the county police rate. The jurisdiction of hundred courts was curtailed by the Administration of Justice Act 1977.

Administrative functions
From the 11th century in England, and to a lesser extent from the 16th century in Wales, and until the middle of the 19th century, the annual meetings of hundreds had varying degrees of power at a local level in the feudal system. Of chief importance was their more regular use for taxation, and six centuries of taxation returns for the hundreds survive to this day.

Several ancient hundred names give their name to modern local government districts. And now, one gives its name to a Parish.