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In Englandmarker, township (latin - vill) usually means a village or hamlet. A township may (or may not) be co-terminous with a chapelry, manor, or other minor area of local administration.


In many areas of England, the basic unit of civil administration was the parish, generally identical with the ecclesiastical parish. However in some cases, particularly in northern England, there was a lesser unit called a township, being a subdivision of a parish. This could happen for several reasons:
  • In some parts of northern England, the parishes were too large to be managed conveniently. For example, Sheffieldmarker constituted a single parish, which had six townships in it - Ecclesall Bierlow, Brightside Bierlow, Attercliffe cum Darnall, Nether Hallam, Upper Hallam, and Sheffield itself. Walley parish, in Lancashire, contained 47 townships and extended over 430 square kilometres (105,000 acres).
  • There or elsewhere, occasionally, different parts of a parish were in different hundred or counties.
  • Sometimes, one township included parts of several different parishes, as in Heworth near Yorkmarker, which included parts of the parishes of St Saviour, St Cuthbert and St Giles.

The local historian, Dorothy Silvester, has identified a "parish line", which divided northern from southern counties of England and Wales (Denbighshire, Shropshiremarker, Staffordshire, Derbyshiremarker, and northern Yorkshiremarker,) North of this line, parishes tended on the whole to be large, containing several townships. However, south of this line, parishes tended to contain single townships.

A township appointed overseers of the poor and surveyors of highways in the same way as a parish and they financed their obligations by levying a rate, in the same way as parish officials.

The original definition of a Civil Parish was any place in respect of which a rate could lawfully be levied. This meant that townships became civil parishes.

Township is to be distinguished from:
  • Vill - traditionally, amongst legal historians, a vill referred to the tract of land of a rural community, whereas 'township' was referred to when the tax and legal administration of a rural community was meant.
  • Parish - originally the area served by a particular church.
  • Chapelry - the 'parish' of a chapel, that is a church without full parochial functions.
  • Tithing - the basic unit of the medieval Frankpledge system.
  • 'Township' is however sometimes used loosely where one of these is meant.

Modern use

The use of the term township persisted, and townships have recently been revived as a name for subdivisions of boroughs in northern England. For example, the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdalemarker has township committees, and the Metropolitan Borough of Wiganmarker divides the borough into ten townships, which each have a township forum. Wirral is divided into forty-four, for planning purposes.

In Sheffield, Mosborough ward—which includes the districts of Halfway, Mosborough village, Waterthorpe, and Westfield—is one of the 28 electoral wards in City of Sheffield,located in the eastern part of the city and is one of the wards that make up the Sheffield Attercliffe parliamentary constituency. The area is often referred to as Mosborough Townships, although this usage does not have any administrative purpose.



  • P. Riden, Record Sources for Local History (Batsford, London 1987), 92-99.

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