The ‘Hundred’ used in the Top End of the Northern Territory and South Australia originates from the English Local Government feudal approach to the subdivision of land between the village and the shire.
The name ‘Hundred’ itself dates back to William the Conquerer and Edward l and it is believed that a Hundred was the land occupied by a group of people who provided one hundred warriors for the national army. When Edward constituted the Hundreds of Northamptonshire, they were deemed to consist of ‘a hundred hides of land’. The hide was believed to be an area measured by means of a leather thong and probably the forerunner to the surveyor's chain. It provided about 30 acres of land held without prejudicing the owner's rights to the common land nearby. Ten (10) families of freemen made a ‘Tithing’ and 10 tithings made a Hundred.
Whilst NSW established a County and Parish system to administer their land, South Australia, as a separate Colony, devised their own distinct title system in which they borrowed the English term and adopted it for an area:- to consist of 100 sq miles, one-third more or one-third less.
In a 1860 report of the Select Committee of SA Commissioners, Samuel Davenport stated:
Hundreds were first introduced into this Colony to regulate commonage rights and rights of pasturage and the name Hundred was adopted, not that there could be any analogy between that and the Hundred in England, but because in the subdivision into Hundreds each was intended to contain 100 sq miles.
Following the explorations of John McDouall Stuart into the north of Australia, South Australia was granted control of the "Northern Territory of South Australia" by Queen Victoria under Letters Patent dated 6 July, 1863.
It was this approach that the South Australian Colonial Government brought to its annexed Territory when Palmerston (Port Darwin) and its hinterland were surveyed for sale to Adelaide and English buyers in 1870. The major survey carried out under the control of GW Goyder in 1869 was based on a series of Town Land Sections in Palmerston (½ acre in size) and country sections (½ square mile in size). One hundred or more sections and other Crown land were framed into a series of 16 Hundreds.
The majority of the 14 Hundreds in the County of Palmerston were proclaimed in September 1871 with a further 2 Counties (Disraeli - Marrakia area; and Gladstone - Roper River) created in 1873.
Further information on Hundreds can be obtained from the Department.