The Hundred of Esselei/Bishop's Sutton
In 1086 The Hundred of Esselei included Sutton (Ropley), West Tisted and Bramdean. At this time Headley was under Neatham Hundred but was reckoned as part of Esselei. At some time before 1207 the Hundred became known as Sutton Hundred and by 1316 included Sutton Ropley, Headley, West Tisted, Bramdean, Bighton and the borough of Alresford.
Garry Allam, Bishop's Sutton Heritage
Bighton was originally a detached part of Chuteley hundred near Basingstoke. Alresford soon became a Liberty and no longer in Bishop's Sutton Hundred and between 1831-41 Headley was being included in the Hundred of Alton. The Bishops of Winchester who were Lords of the Hundred held a tourn at Bishop's Sutton every Hock-tide and Martinmas from 1207.
The Hundred was an administrative area dating from at least the Saxon era and continued in use until the 1890’s. It was a county division falling between Parish/Manorial and County/Shire. The term Hundred is hard to pin down but probably refers to a measurement of land based on a hundred hides. The term Hide is equally as vague as in early times a Hide was the area of land needed to support a peasant family (the area would obviously vary dependent on the quality of the land or the size of the family).
After the Conquest, the hide seems to support 4 families. Alternatively a Hundred could be an area of land settled by one hundred men at arms or an area of land that could provide for one hundred men at arms and just to confuse the issue even more it is possible that the Hundred might not be 100 (Short Hundred) but a Long Hundred which was 120 or 6 score. What ever its' origins it obviously applied to an area of land. Bigger than a parish, smaller than a county.
Each Hundred held a court usually monthly sometimes in the same place and some would alternate the venue around the Hundred. A hundred was not necessarily a fixed area and over the centuries often changed area and name. The main purpose was the administration of law, keeping of the peace and was used to collect taxes. By the middle ages the court comprised of 12 freeholders/freemen; but by the 17th century the courts had been mainly superseded by the County Courts and their last remaining function of the Hundred’s inhabitants (to make good riot damage) ended in 1886. The last vestiges of the Hundreds wasn’t ended until 1977.