The Anglo-Saxon Origins of The West Midlands Shires


Provincial organisation in late Anglo-Saxon England consisted of discrete territories organised to promote both defence and the maintenance of essential public works.

In Mercia the territories comprised its shire structure: the regime through which defence, public works, governance, taxation, and administration of justice were undertaken.

The territories which ultimately became Staffordshire, Shropshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, and Herefordshire have Anglo-Saxon origins. A close look at the last three shires suggests the possibility of a territorial organisation dated to the British period, with bounds discernible in the Anglo-Saxon shire structure.

The system of local government which existed over the greater part of England at the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066 had two tiers: the shire and the hundred. There is much debate about when these two structures were first in evidence in the west midlands and the more prevalent view is that they probably originated in Wessex and were later imposed early in the tenth century after the West Saxons annexed western Mercia.

KEYWORDS: Anglo Saxons, Mercia, Shropshire, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire

Download the Full Article (PDF)


Anglo Saxons