Monday 31 October 2022

The Three of Hundreds Chiltern - "Taking the Hundred"

Parish Map of the Chiltern Hundreds courtesy of British History Online

On 21st October 2022 Christian Matheson MP for City of Chester resigned his Parliamentary seat by being appointed by Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the post of Crown Steward and Bailiff of The Three of Hundreds Chiltern, he had "taken the hundred".  

Appointment to the position of Crown Steward and Bailiff of The Three of Hundreds Chiltern is a procedural device to allow Members of Parliament to resign from the House of Commons. Since MPs are technically unable to resign, resort is had to a legal fiction. An appointment to an "office of profit under The Crown" disqualifies an individual from sitting as a MP. Several offices were used in the past to allow MPs to resign, only the Crown Stewardships of the Chiltern Hundreds and the Manor of Northstead are in present use.

The Hundreds were local authority areas that they were set up during the late Saxon period across most of what became England and Wales, Rapes in Sussex the land of the South Saxons and Wapentake in areas of Medieval Scandinavian occupation and Wards in Northumbria and the other northern counties. 

Other MPs who have used applying to the Chiltern Hundreds included John Stonehouse who faked his own death in 1974, lived in Australia for several months and was arrested in Melbourne on 24 December 1974. He was extradited to the UK and convicted on 18 counts of theft and fraud, sentenced to seven years' imprisonment. He resigned as an MP on 27 August 1976 by way of application to become a steward of the Chiltern Hundreds. Another was John Profumo used the same method of resigning his seat in the House of Commons on 6th June 1963. 

The first application to become a Steward was John Pitt MP for Wareham, his application was on 25th January 1751. The most recent is Christian Matheson MP. Since January 1751 there have been 1073 MPs who have resigned their Parliamentary seat by applying to be Crown Steward and Bailiff of the three Chiltern Hundreds.

Tony Blair applied to The Three of Hundreds Chiltern and David Cameron chose the Manor of Northstead to leave to Commons after they relinquished their Premierships. 

The interest for the history of Eton Wick is that the Three Hundreds covered the south of Buckinghamshire are Burnham, Desborough and Stoke. The Stoke Hundred included the parishes of Colnbrook, Datchet, Denham, Eton, Fulmer, Hedgerley, Horton, Iver, Langley Marish, Stoke Poges, Upton-cum-Chalvey, Wexham, Wyrardisbury. Eton was initial within the Burnham Hundred.

Eton Wick may still only be a relatively small community it is part of the Chiltern Hundreds that still has a place in the UK's political life.

More details can be found on Wikipedia.

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