1) A linear measurement of land which contained lead ore: the length varied from one region to another but was generally about 30 yards (R&J57).
It dates from the thirteenth century in Derbyshire but Yorkshire examples are much later: 1504 To William my son a more mere at Coupperthwaite whith [sic] I bought of Thomas Metcalfe
1554 unto John Taillor my servaunt in recompence of his service two meares of grounde ... next adyoineng to William Collinge grove and his fellowes, Langthwaite
1642 the ferst finder of any new vaine to have 2 mairs of length set forth by the barmaister, Grassington.
2) In the West Riding ‘mere’ in the sense of boundary developed a related but quite distinct meaning, serving to identify a territory rather than a boundary.
Saddleworth and Holmfirth offer the most comprehensive evidence: Saddleworth was divided into four territories called Friar Mere, Lord’s Mere, Quick Mere and Shaw Mere but the only early reference noted is Frear Meere in 1468. This may identify the ‘mere’ as the land in Saddleworth which belonged to Roche Abbey. In Holmfirth, another ‘forest’ territory, the subdivisions of the ‘graveship’ were also called ‘meres’, and here we have earlier examples, e.g. 1327 Cartworthmere, Scholemere
1331 Hepworthmere. Later these places would be described as ‘hamlets’ and later still as townships. The element occurs also in Slaidburn where the earliest examples noted are Knollesmere in 1500 and Riston Meere in 1551. At the Quarter Sessions in 1720 a causeway which passed over Bowland Knotts was said to belong to three meers equally amongst them being all within one township: they were named as Rishton Grange Meer, Essington Meer and Hamerton Grange Meer. Although Hammerton was actually a distinct place-name in the parish, recorded independently in 1086, it is possible that three of the territories identified connections with the local families named Hamerton, Knowles and Rishton alias Rushton. Rushton Hill in Easington may commemorate Rishton Grange Mere. Similar references are found over a relatively wide area: 1317 Carltonmere in Royston
1539 Soureby mere, Halifax
1586 Remyngton Meare and 1590 Thurlestone Meare. This use of ‘mere’ has not been explained satisfactorily. For example, the circumstances in which Thurlstone mere is recorded make it clear that it was actually a discrete area within Thurlstone township: David Hey described it as a subdivision of the township, possibly the name given to ‘the rough common pastures on the edge of the moors’, but he was unable to define its limits or exact meaning. Stephen Moorhouse commented on the Holmfirth names, saying that this use of ‘mere’ represented an extension of the word’s meaning but he remained uncertain how to interpret it. The earliest example in which this ‘extended’ meaning has been noted is in an undated thirteenth-century charter: this records a grant to Kirkstall Abbey by Ernaldus filius Petri de Neuhale [Newall in Bolling], of land which extended from an oak tree juxta Sumerwell … ad diuisas de Birle et de Birlemere. Domesday listed only Birle and it is possible that ‘mere’ in this case testifies to a subsequent parochial division of its territory. East Bierley and North Bierley are neighbours but the former became part of Birstall and the latter part of Bradford. The prefixes East and North have not been found before this reference to Birlemere and it means we cannot be certain which of the two Bierleys was the original settlement. Similarly, Shelf was in the parish of Halifax but a part of it lay within the manor of Bradford and the term Schelfemere found in another early but undated document is probably an acknowledgement of that distinction. In fact, the term was characteristic of Wakefield manor, for example: 1439 Schypedene in Northowromemer. The distinction in this case was probably made because the lower part of Shibden was in Southowram.
3) A word of Old English origin which means ‘boundary’ and occurs in numerous Yorkshire place-names, typically as a specific.
A charter of 1202-3 for Langbar near Ilkley has references to places named westmerethorn, merebec and merestan: Bolton Priory’s expenses in 1316-7 included 10s pro fossura circa le Meredyk. It remained in use as a vocabulary item: 1457 inter devisas et metas, Newland CR
c.1490 the whyche syke was wonte ... to be drawyn with a plough for a mere on that syde, Sand Hutton
1632 the meares, stones and bounders between Horton and Wibsay. As a verb it is noted in the OED a.950, with other references from 1507, and numerous Yorkshire examples date from the latter period: 1501 a parcell ... of a medowe ... lymitted, meyred and bounded, Barkisland
1562 marked, staked and meared furthe, Southowram. Surviving place-name examples are: Mearbeck, Mear Clough and Mear Gill.