1) Often referring to regions or districts of varying sizes.
Country is a word that was brought here by the Normans but had its origin in the Latin contra
that is ‘against’. It was a word therefore which described what lay in front of a person, the landscape that is: from this developed a number of related meanings, including what is possibly now its best known definition, that is a nation or state. In many contexts country formerly referred more often to regions or districts of varying sizes: in a Cheshire glossary of 1887 the point was made that ‘two adjoining parishes might be spoken of as different countries’ and much earlier, in 1534, the author of a book on husbandry said that ‘In Leycestershyre, Lankesshyre, Yorkeshyre … and manye other countreyes, the plowes be of dyvers makinges’. In 1547, when George Carter of Grinton wrote Yt Ys my mynd that when Jeffrey my sonne commeys into the countre that he … shall gyve Janet my dowghter 13s 4d, he no doubt meant when Jeffrey returned to Grinton parish. Such ‘countries’ might be defined in a wide variety of ways
by the topography, by manorial allegiance or by regional occupations, and they were likely to have their own customs and practices. In the early 1500s, for example, before the growing influence of statutory law, wills and deeds regularly contained phrases such as ‘after the use of the contre’ or ‘after the costome of the contre’. When a West Riding man named John Thewlis was arrested in Chester, c.1530, he was accused of counterfeiting, and put into prison. He could have expected severe punishment but was released after the mayor and recorder of the city received letters from Sir Henry Savile of Thornhill, more or less demanding that the man be set free. The wording more than hints at corruption, for Sir Henry suggested to them that they shuld beare there lawfull favour unto Thewles as he might do likewise for them in his cuntrye. It would be interesting to know whether this was the clothier John Thewlis whose name later features in The Caernarvonshire Quarter Sessions Records as an established English burgess.