In British history, a hundred is a division of a county. The Chiltern hundreds are Stoke, Desborough, and Burnham, in Buckinghamshire. At one time the Chilterns, i.e., the hills between Bedford and Hertford, etc., were much frequented by robbers, so a steward was appointed by the Crown to put them down. The necessity has long since ceased, but the office remains; and, since 1740, when a Member of Parliament wishes to vacate his seat, one way of doing so is by applying for the stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds; for no member of Parliament may resign his seat, but if he accepts an office of profit under the Crown he is obliged to be re-elected if he wishes to remain a member. The Stewardship of the Manor of Northstead (Yorks) is used in the same way. The gift of both is in the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; it was refused to a member for Reading in 1842.
The Stewardships of Old Sarum (Sussex), East Hendred (Berks), Poynings (Sussex), Hempholwic (Yorks), were formerly used for the same purpose, as were (till 1838) the Escheatorships of Munster and Ulster.