Riding (country subdivision)

A riding is an administrative jurisdiction or electoral district, particularly in several current or former Commonwealth countries.[1]


The word riding is descended from late Old English *þriðing or *þriding (recorded only in Latin contexts or forms, e.g., trehing, treding, trithing, with Latin initial t here representing the Old English letter thorn). It came into Old English as a loanword from Old Norse þriðjungr, meaning a third part (especially of a county) – the original "ridings", in the English counties of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, were in each case a set of three, though once the term was adopted elsewhere it was used for other numbers (cf. farthing). The modern form riding was the result of initial th being absorbed in the final th or t of the words north, south, east and west, by which it was normally preceded.[2][3][4]

A common misconception holds that the term arose from some association between the size of the district and the distance that can be covered or encircled on horseback in a certain amount of time (cf. the Walking Purchase).


The term was used in Australia as a division of some shire councils, similar to a ward in city, borough, town and many shire councils.[5]


The term was used in 19th century Canada to refer to subdivisions of counties.

In Canadian politics, "riding" is a colloquial term for a constituency or electoral district. Officially, "electoral district" is generally used, although government documents sometimes use the colloquial term. In colloquial Canadian French, a riding is known as comté, i.e., "county", as the electoral districts in Quebec were historically identical to its counties; the official French term is circonscription.

The Canadian use of "riding" is derived from the English local government term, which was widely used in Canada in the 19th century. Most Canadian counties never had sufficient population to justify administrative subdivisions. Nonetheless, it was common, especially in Ontario, to divide counties with sufficient population into multiple electoral districts, which thus became known as "ridings" in official documents. The term was used in the legal description of the electoral districts of Canada West, which were grandfathered, by means of a schedule to the new constitution, as the electoral districts for the first elections to the new Canadian House of Commons, immediately following Confederation. Soon after Confederation, the urban population grew (and more importantly, most city dwellers gained the franchise after property ownership was no longer required to gain the vote). Rural constituencies therefore became geographically larger through the 20th century and generally encompassed one or more counties each, and the word "riding" was then used to refer to any electoral division.

The local association for a political party, which legally is known as an "electoral district association", is often referred to as a riding association.



The ancient county of Yorkshire had three ridings,[4][6][7] North, West and East, originally each subdivided into wapentakes which were created by the Vikings.

The Yorkshire ridings were in many ways treated as separate administrative counties, having had separate quarter sessions and also separate lieutenancies since the Restoration. This practice was followed by the Local Government Act 1888, which made each of the three ridings an administrative county with an elected county council. These county councils, along with the ancient lieutenancies, were abolished in 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972.

A local government area East Riding of Yorkshire was created in 1996, but this does not cover the entire area of the former East Riding and includes areas from the historical West Riding.

According to the 12th century compilation known as the Leges Edwardi Confessoris, the riding was the third part of a county (provincia); to it causes were brought which could not be determined in the wapentake, and a matter which could not be determined in the riding was brought into the court of the shire.[2]

There is abundant evidence that riding courts were held after the Norman Conquest. A charter which Henry I granted to the Church of St Peters at York mentions wapentacmot, tridingmot and shiresmot (-mot designates popular assemblies), and exemptions from suit to the thriding or riding may be noticed frequently in the charters of the Norman kings. As yet, however, the jurisdiction and functions of these courts have not been ascertained. It seems probable from the silence of the records that they had already fallen into disuse early in the 13th century.[2]

Although no longer having any administrative role the ridings of Yorkshire still play a part as cultural entities – they are used for the names of a number of groups and organisations and some people in Yorkshire associate themselves with one riding or another (see West Riding of Yorkshire#Current usage and Yorkshire Ridings Society). Winifred Holtby's 1936 novel South Riding and its adaptations were set in a fictional fourth riding. The title of the novel trilogy Red Riding by David Peace, set in Yorkshire, is a play on the word.


The Parts of Lindsey, one of the Parts of Lincolnshire, also possessed ridings, in this case the North, West, and South ridings.


The Grand Jury (Ireland) Act 1836 empowered the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to divide Irish counties into ridings with separate assizes held in different towns.[8] This was to allow County Tipperary to be divided in 1838 into a North Riding and South Riding, because the county town of Clonmel was inconveniently far south for jurors from the north.[9] Nenagh became the North Riding's assize town.[10] The ridings became separate administrative counties, with minor boundary adjustments, under the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898,[11][12] and were redenominated as counties "North Tipperary" and "South Tipperary" under the Local Government Act 2001.[13] They were merged back into a single County Tipperary by the Local Government Reform Act 2014.[14]

County Cork had been divided in 1823 into East and West Ridings for quarter sessions and petty sessions,[15] but not for assizes, and so had a single county council after the 1898 changes.[12] County Galway from 1837 had East and West Ridings for Royal Irish Constabulary and county surveyor purposes.[12] The Cork and Galway ridings became largely obsolete after independence in 1922,[12] although the names "Cork East[/West] Riding" were used for the relevant Garda Síochána (police) divisions into the 1990s.[16]

New Zealand

Ridings existed in rural New Zealand in the late 19th and early to mid 20th century as part of larger county councils in the area. For example, The Taranaki County Council was divided into three separate ridings: Moa (south), Omata (west) and Waitara (east).[17]

As use of the automobile became more popular with the improvement of roads, combined with the concurrent trend of urban drift (c. 1950s), the ridings were either merged back into their parent councils or separated off into county councils in their own right. The Taranaki County Council's three ridings eventually split, with the Omata Riding remaining part of the Taranaki County Council, the Moa riding merging with the Inglewood Borough Council and the Waitara Riding becoming part of the Clifton County Council.[18]

In 1989 these were again merged reorganised into district and/or city councils. For example, the above three all merged with the New Plymouth Council and Waitara Borough Councils to form the New Plymouth District Council.



Ridings are originally Scandinavian institutions.

In Iceland the third part of a thing which corresponded roughly to an English county was called þrithjungr. The island of Gotland and the Swedish provinces Närke and Hälsingland were also divided into þrithjungar instead of hundreds.

In Norway, the þrithjungr seems to have been an ecclesiastical division.

See also

The term farthing is analogous for quarters of a county. Gloucestershire was once divided into farthings. In Tolkien's fictional world of Middle-earth, the Shire is divided into four farthings, into the Fourth Age.



  1. ^ Merriam Webster Online
  2. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Ridings" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 23 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 319.
  3. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, second edition, edited by John Simpson and Edmund Weiner, Clarendon Press, 1989, twenty volumes, hardcover, ISBN 0-19-861186-2.
  4. ^ a b Online Etymology Dictionary – riding. URL accessed 21 April 2007.
  5. ^ "Ivanhoe riding, shire of Heidelberg, counties of Bourke and Evelyn [cartographic material]". National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ "The Yorkshire Ridings". The Yorkshire Ridings Society. Retrieved 2017-12-03.
  7. ^ About Yorkshire – The Yorkshire Ridings. URL accessed 21 April 2007.
  8. ^ Murphy 1994 p.291; "Grand Jury (Ireland) Act, 1836 ss.176–177". electronic Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 21 August 2018.
  9. ^ Murphy 1994 p.251
  10. ^ Murphy 1994 p.91
  11. ^ Murphy 1994 p.109
  12. ^ a b c d Potter, Matthew (2012). "'Geographical loyalty'? Counties, palatinates, boroughs and ridings". History Ireland. 20 (5): 24–27. JSTOR 41588745. Retrieved 21 August 2018.
  13. ^ "Local Government Act, 2001 s.10(4)(a)". electronic Irish Statute Book (eISB). Retrieved 21 August 2018.
  14. ^ "Local Government Reform Act 2014 s.9(1)(b)". electronic Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 21 August 2018.
  15. ^ "4 George 3 c.93". Public General Acts and General Synod Measures. 47. Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales. 1823. p. 199.; "Cork Baronies and Towns". A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland. Samuel Lewis. Retrieved 21 August 2018.
  16. ^ "Written Answers. - Garda Graduates". Dáil Éireann debate. 30 October 1991. Retrieved 21 August 2018.; "An able commissioner in a time of need". The Irish Times. 3 February 2001. Retrieved 21 August 2018. He subsequently became chief superintendent in charge of the old Cork East Riding Division, which has since been split into the two divisions of Cork City and Cork East.; "Indictable Offences per 1,000 population by Garda Divisions - 1991" (PDF). Report on Crime, 1991. Garda Síochána. August 1992. p. 6.
  17. ^ "Taranaki County Council". nzetc.org.
  18. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20051215171135/http://www.nzart.org.nz/NZART/awards/NZART_NZ_Counties_Map.pdf


  • Cleasby, Richard. Icelandic Dictionary.
  • Craigie, W. A., ed. (1914). "Riding sb.1". Oxford English Dictionary. 8 (1st ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 689. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  • Dugdale, William (1846). Caley, John (ed.). Monasticon Anglicanum. VI. Part I, Part II,
  • Liebermann, Felix (1888–89). Die Gesetze der Angelsachsen. Halle.
  • Murphy, Donal A. (1994). The two Tipperarys: the national and local politics, devolution and self-determination, of the unique 1838 division into two ridings, and the aftermath. Regional studies in political and administrative history. Relay. ISBN 9780946327133.
  • Stubbs, William. Constitutional History of England.

External links

Electoral district (Canada)

An electoral district in Canada, also known as a "constituency" or a "riding", is a geographical constituency upon which Canada's representative democracy is based. It is officially known in Canadian French as a circonscription, but frequently called a comté (county).

Each federal electoral district returns one Member of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons of Canada; each provincial or territorial electoral district returns one representative—called, depending on the province or territory, Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), Member of the National Assembly (MNA), Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) or Member of the House of Assembly (MHA)—to the provincial or territorial legislature.

While electoral districts at both the federal and provincial levels are now exclusively single-member districts, multiple-member districts have been used in the past. Alberta has had a few districts that returned from two to seven members: see Calgary, Edmonton and Medicine Hat. British Columbia had a mix of multiple-member districts and single-member districts at the provincial level until the 1991 election, and Prince Edward Island had dual-member districts at the provincial level until the 1996 election.

Since 2015 there have been 338 federal electoral districts in Canada.

In provincial and territorial legislatures, the provinces and territories each set their own number of electoral districts independently of their federal representation; although the province of Ontario currently defines most, but not all, of its provincial electoral districts to align with federal boundaries, no other province does so, and even Ontario maintains a few variances from federal boundaries.

Elections Canada is the independent body set up by Parliament to oversee Canadian federal elections, while each province and territory has its own separate elections agency to oversee the provincial and territorial elections.

Howler (error)

A howler is a glaring blunder, typically an amusing one.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines howler, "3.3 slang. Something 'crying', 'clamant', or excessive; spec. a glaring blunder, esp. in an examination, etc.", and gives the earliest usage example in 1872. Eric Partridge's Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English says; the 1951 edition of Partridge defined it in part as: "... A glaring (and amusing) blunder: from before 1890; ... also, a tremendous lie ... Literally something that howls or cries for notice, or perhaps ... by way of contracting howling blunder."Another common interpretation of this usage is that a howler is a mistake fit to make one howl with laughter.


Riding is a homonym of two distinct English words:

From the word ride:

Equestrianism, riding a horse

Riding animal, an animal bred or trained for riding

Riding hall, a building designed for indoor horse riding

Ridin', a song by ChamillionaireFrom Old English *þriðing:

Riding (country subdivision), an administrative division of a county, or similar district

Electoral district (Canada), a Canadian term for an electoral district

Riding association, Canadian political party organization at the riding level

Riding officer, a name once used for customs officials who patrolled for smugglers on beaches and other informal landing spots

Common Riding, an event celebrated in some Scottish towns to commemorate the guarding the boundaries of the town's common land by local men


Ridings may refer to:

Ridings (surname)

Riding (country subdivision), an area of government, a division of a county or an electoral district

The Ridings School in Halifax, West Yorkshire, UK

The Ridings High School near Bristol, UK

Ridings FM, a radio station serving the Wakefield District of West Yorkshire, England

Yorkshire Ridings Society, a group calling for the wider recognition of the historic borders of Yorkshire

Two Ridings Community Foundation, an English charity in Yorkshire

Ridings Mill, Virginia, an unincorporated community in the United States

Tenth (country subdivision)

A tenth was a geographic division used in the former American Province of West Jersey, to divide a larger region into smaller administrative divisions. Despite seemingly related names, tenths are not directly related to hundreds, other than both being administrative divisions.

Victoria County History

The Victoria History of the Counties of England, commonly known as the Victoria County History or the VCH, is an English history project which began in 1899 and was dedicated to Queen Victoria with the aim of creating an encyclopaedic history of each of the historic counties of England. In 2012 the project was rededicated to Queen Elizabeth II in celebration of her Diamond Jubilee year. Since 1933 the project has been coordinated by the Institute of Historical Research in the University of London.

Designations for types of administrative territorial entities

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.