The following is a draft explanation of the concept of a hamlet, within the Kingdom of Lochac. It is posted for comment and questions from the populace. A first finished version of this will be prepared after the populace have had sixty days to provide comment, at Rowany Festival 2016.
A hamlet is a social group within the game, but is not a formal SCA entity in the same sense as a Shire, Canton or Barony. It has a minimum membership of five people. It is easiest to think of a hamlet as the next step up from a household - but it is distinct from a household because, once established, it is a recognised entity that is not tied to any one person or family. A hamlet can exist within the territory of a Barony or a Shire, but a hamlet cannot be created inside a hamlet. Hamlets are created by the Crown, under advice from the Kingdom Seneschal and, if they are within a Barony, the relevant Baron and Baroness.
The hamlet can and should register its name and badge. The badge of a hamlet does not feature a laurel wreath - it is a populace badge registered by parent territory. The members of the hamlet are advised to give consideration to how that badge would look in future, if converted to a device with a laurel wreath added. As a populace badge, the arms registered do not belong to any one individual (or household). These will be subject to the standard approval processes by the College of Heralds.
There are no society officers required, and no formal reporting required for a hamlet. A hamlet should appoint a village leader, to act as point of contact with the parent group, but this is not subject to the same approval processes as the appointment of a seneschal. It is in the hamlet's interests to ensure that the person they select as their representative is able to work well with the parent group's seneschal, and has good relations with everyone in the group. A hamlet may not have a bank account, or hold kingdom funds (except in transit, in accordance with reeves' procedures).
Hamlets are eligible for group awards, such as Pride of Lochac.
Activities solely within a hamlet are not classed as society events. They do not attract event membership or kingdom levies, and do not have to be announced in the Lochac Calendar. They are also not protected by the Society's insurance - they are purely social gatherings among members, run at the members' own expense and risk. If the hamlet wishes to run an event which is open to people outside the hamlet, for which they need to be covered by the Society's insurance, or for which they will be charging an attendance fee, that will be an SCA event and they must be sponsored by their parent Barony or Shire. Those events must be announced in the Lochac Calendar, or through the parent group.
Territory is semi-assigned. A hamlet identifies territory that denotes the village boundaries, subject to approval by the Seneschal of the parent group, and the relevant Crown representative. Anyone living within that territory will henceforth have the option to declare themselves a villager of the hamlet. However, the formal assignment of the territory for counting membership numbers remains with the parent group. Individuals and households are not obliged to become citizens of the hamlet, and may instead announce that they effectively live on a farm or estate outside the village, continuing to be members only of the parent group.
If the group dissolves or drops below five members, the hamlet is declared deserted (probably by plague). Subsequent people playing in the same geographic area will have the option of re-using the name, as if they had moved into the deserted buildings. If the members of a dissolving hamlet wish to have the arms struck, so that the name and device cannot be used again in future, they will need to petition the parent group to do so.
A hamlet may put themselves forward at any time to become a shire or canton. At this point the standard procedures and rules for establishment will be applied, and the selection of officers will be subject to the usual rules, including endorsement by the parent group's relevant officers. The hamlet will need to appoint officers to the minimum positions required under law, and those officers will be required to submit reports on a quarterly basis for a period to be decided by the Kingdom Seneschal and the seneschal of their parent group, typically not less than one year. Activity targets may also be agreed. During this period the members of the hamlet will have the option of referring to themselves as an incipient shire or canton, or continuing to refer to themselves as a hamlet. The responsibilities and reporting requirements of the officers will remain the same in each case, but the leader of a hamlet will continue to be referred to as a village leader (or any other title agreed within the group and with the parent group), not as a seneschal.
If a hamlet (or incipient shire or canton) has assigned officers and been set a target activity or reporting period by the parent group, this target must be met for consecutive quarters. A break in activity or reporting will restart the probation period.
A registered Canton or Shire may elect to become a hamlet by a poll of the members, and with the approval of the Kingdom Seneschal and, for Cantons, the Baron and Baroness of the parent group. The Kingdom Seneschal may elect to keep the group as a Shire or Canton in suspension, pending the appointment of officers.
A hamlet is not required to produce a regular chronicle, but nor is it entitled to its own website within the Lochac domain. Any events of note within the hamlet should be posted to the relevant parent group's journal or website. The members may elect to set up a social networking site or circulate a newsletter for their own convenience.