Ancient parish

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Ancient parishes were divisions linked with the manorial system, with ancient parishes and manors often sharing the same boundaries.

In England, regional churches (‘minsters’) were founded in the 7th and 8th centuries which were home to groups of priests who served large parochiae (ecclesiastical Latin). From the 10th to 12th centuries these large areas were broken up into as many as 5 to 15 smaller areas as feudal landowners built local churches to serve the needs of themselves, their families and their tenants. These smaller territories, often coterminus with the manorial holdings, developed into a formal parochial system in the 12th century.[1]

During the 19th century ancient parishes diverged into two distinct units. The Poor Law Amendment Act 1866 declared all areas that levied a separate rate —extra-parochial areas, townships, and chapelries— become Civil parishes as well. The parishes for church use continued unchanged as Ecclesiastical parishes. The latter part of the 19th century saw most of the ancient irregularities inherited by the civil system cleaned up, with the majority of exclaves abolished.


  1. "parish" in Edmund Wright (ed.), A Dictionary of World History (2nd ed., 2006, Oxford University Press) via Oxford Reference Online (eISBN: 9780191726927) accessed 26 December 2012.