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A hamlet is a type of settlement. The definition of hamlet varies by country. It usually refers to a small settlement in a rural area, or a component of a larger settlement or municipality. Hamlets are typically unincorporated communities.
The word comes from Anglo-Norman hamelet(t)e, corresponding to Old French hamelet, the diminutive of Old French hamel. This, in turn, is a diminutive of Old French ham, possibly borrowed from Germanic. Compare Dutch heem, German Heim, Old English hām and Modern English home.
In Canada's provinces, hamlets are usually small unincorporated communities within a larger municipality, such as many communities within the single-tier municipalities of Ontario or within Alberta's specialized and rural municipalities.
Canada's two largest hamlets – Fort McMurray (formerly incorporated as a city) and Sherwood Park – are located in Alberta. They both have populations well in excess of the 10,000-person threshold to incorporate as a city. As such, these two hamlets have been further designated by the Province of Alberta as urban service areas. An urban service area is recognized as equivalent to a city for the purposes of program delivery and grant eligibility.
During the 18th century, for rich or noble people, it was up-to-date to create their own hameau (hamlet) in their gardens. They were a group of some houses or farms with rustic appearance, but in fact very comfortable. The best known in the Hameau de la Reine built by the queen Marie-Antoinette in the park of the Château de Versailles. Or the Hameau de Chantilly built by Louis Joseph, Prince of Condé in Chantilly, Oise.
Lieu-dit (local name) is another name for hamlet. The difference is that a hamlet is permanently inhabited, but a lieu-dit is not (in winter for example, or when the lieu-dit is only an important road crossing).
In Germany hamlets are called weiler (German: [ˈva͡ɪlɐ]). They are often part of bigger villages and municipalities. Most German hamlets are situated in Bavaria, Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse. In the low Saxon dialect of northwestern Germany hamlets are called Bauerschaft, pl. -en.
In Romania hamlets are called cătunuri (singular: cătun), and they represent villages that contain several houses at most. They are legally considered villages, and statistically, they are placed in the same category. Like villages, they do not have a separate administration, and thus are not an administrative division, but are part of a parent commune.
In the four national languages hamlets are known as Weiler (German), hameaux (French), frazioni (Italian) and fracziun (Romansh). A hamlet is always part of a larger municipality or may be shared between two municipalities. The difference between a hamlet and a village is that typically a hamlet lacks a compact core settlement and lacks a central building such as a church or inn. However, some hamlets (Kirchwiler) may have grown up as an unplanned settlement around a church. There is no population limit that defines a hamlet and some hamlets have a larger population than some of the smallest municipalities. Generally there are no street names in a hamlet; rather, addresses are given by hamlet name and a number. House numbers might start at one side of the hamlet and continue to the other side or may have no clear organization.
A hamlet may form or have formed a Bürgergemeinde (legal place of citizenship regardless of where a person was born or currently lives) and may own common property for the Bürgergemeinde.
In the United Kingdom, the word 'hamlet' has no defined legal meaning, although hamlets are recognised as part of land use planning policies and administration. A hamlet is traditionally defined ecclesiastically as a village or settlement that usually does not have its own church, belonging to a parish of another village or town. In modern usage it generally refers to a secondary settlement in a civil parish, after the main settlement (if any). Hamlets may have been formed around a single source of economic activity such as a farm, mill, mine or harbour that employed its working population. Some hamlets, particularly those that have a medieval church, may be the result of the depopulation of a village.
The term hamlet was used in some parts of the country[clarification needed] for a geographical subdivision of a parish (which might or might not contain a settlement). Elsewhere, these subdivisions were called "townships" or "tithings".
In the Scottish Highlands the term clachan, of Gaelic derivation, may be preferred to the term "hamlet". Also found in Scotland more generally is "fermtoun" used in the specific case of a settlement of agricultural workers' homes.
In Northern Ireland the common Irish place name element baile is sometimes considered equivalent to the term "hamlet" in English, although baile would actually have referred to what is known in English today as a townland that is a geographical locality, not a small village.
In New York, hamlets are unincorporated settlements within towns. Hamlets are usually not legal entities and have no local government or official boundaries. Their approximate locations will often be noted on road signs, however.
A hamlet usually depends upon the town that contains it for municipal services and government. A hamlet could be described as the rural or suburban equivalent of a neighborhood in a city or village. The area of a hamlet may not be exactly defined and may simply be contained within the ZIP code of its post office, or may be defined by its school or fire district. Some hamlets proximate to urban areas are sometimes continuous with their cities and appear to be neighborhoods, but they still are under the jurisdiction of the town. Some hamlets, such as Levittown in the Town of Hempstead, with a population of over 50,000, are more populous than some incorporated cities in the state. Others, like The Bellmores in the Town of Hempstead have a population of 16,218.
In Oregon, specifically in Clackamas County, a hamlet is a form of local government for small communities, which allows the citizens therein to organize and co-ordinate community activities. Hamlets do not provide services such as utilities or fire protection, and do not have the authority to levy taxes or fees. There are four hamlets in Oregon: Beavercreek, Mulino, Molalla Prairie, and Stafford.
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