Rape (county subdivision)

A rape was a traditional sub-division of the county of Sussex in England. Their origin is unknown, but they appear to predate the Norman Conquest. The Victoria History of the County of Sussex is organised by these divisions.

Each rape was split into several hundreds.


One suggested origin of the word is in the Icelandic territorial division hreppr, however this is rejected in the New English Dictionary. Another is from the Saxon rap, a rope, since ropes were used to mark out territory.

Norman organisation

By the time of the Domesday Book, Sussex was divided into Arundel, Bramber, Chichester, Hastings, Lewes and Pevensey rapes. Each was centred on a castle, had a single sheriff and ran as a strip, north-south, from the Surrey border to the English Channel. The castles of Arundel, Bramber and Lewes were sited on positions overlooking the rivers Arun, Adur and Ouse respectively, while those at Chichester, Hastings and Pevensey overlooked the coast. This formation was a creation of William I of England, presumably designed to protect routes to Normandy.


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