Northmen & Vikings

EngliscHeritage

THE SEA ROVERS

 

The coastlands of Denmark and Norwy are fretted with fjords which carry salt water far inland. Whether shallow with shelving shores, as in Denmark, or deep, flanked by steep mountains and with flat land only river mouths, as in Norway, they form sheltered nurseries for seamen. Off the mainland coasts of both countries long sandpits, or a fringe of islands, provide homes for fish-farmers whose life is very closely linked with the sea. Skill in seamanship and boat-building characterised the Anglo-Saxons and Frisians both in their homelands and in Britain. Yet from the eighth to tenth centuries the greater skills and superiority in sea power lay with the Danes and the Norsemen. Their seaborne raids and immigration to north-west Europe were never countered by seaborne reprisals on the Viking countries. Trading towns began to set up in Scandinavia about 800 and trade goods are likely to have been carried largely in Viking ships. When raiding and looting were followed by trading, piracy also became a common Viking activity.

 

Finds of boats in Jutland and in England show that even large boats were being built without masts and sails until the seventh century. The Sutton Hoo ship, buried about 650, lacked a mast. Although longer than any known Viking ship, being eighty feet long and fourteen feet amidships, this craft was propelled by nineteen pairs of oars. Both the Greeks and Romans used sails, and in 560 a Byzantine historian described the English as barbarians who depended wholly on oars. But Scandinavian rock carvings of the sixth to eighth centuries show that masts and keels were slowly evolving and by the eighth century the Vikings led as shipbuilders and navigators. Plentiful Scandinavian spruces were available to make masts. Viking leaders were buried in their ships; these are better preserved in Norwegian than in British boat burials. The reconstructed Oseberg and Gokstad ships, finely housed in Oslo, are among the most impressive of the world`s museum exhibits. The Oseberg ship, a ninth-century boat built for use in sheltered fjords,is seventy feet long and over seventeen feet amidships. The ocean-going Gokstad ship is seventy-six feet long with a similar breadth. She was built about 950 and in 1893, a replica crossed the Atlantic in twenty-eight days.

 

These ships were clinker-built. Each plank had its lower edge over-lapping that below it, and to which it was fastened by clinched nails, although originally sinews were used. If the planks had to be flush along the boat`s sides, they could be mortised into each other. This was a feature of carvel-built boats, which were used later by the Vikings, but were more common in the Mediterranean. Fast Tudor ships built there were called caravels. The Vikings used iron nails, rivets and plates on ocean-going craft, cows` hair and sheep`s wool were used for caulking, and the hull was tarred. Warships might be brighty painted above the waterline. Shields were sometimes carried along the gumwale, though on the Gokstad and other ships they covered the holes for the oars and had to be placed elsewhere when the ship was being rowed. The Viknigs were not the first, or last, seamen to place animal heads on the prows and sterns of their ships, but their gilded dragons with gaping mouths made their dragon-ships fearsome craft. Faroe islanders` boats still carry vestiges of high Viking prows. The Oseberg ship, which was not a warship, has a splendidly carved and curled prow which matches in its beauty some of the other treasurescontained in this burial.

 

Sweden, the most advanced Scandinavian country, concentrated her efforts during the Viking Period on trade with the Baltic lands and Russia. Denmark and Norway raided and traded in north-west Europe. The Mediterranean peoples, weakened by dissension between the Orthodox and Roman Churches, had not united to confront Islam.Mohammedan warriors had crossed the Straits of Gibralter in 711, conquered Iberia, and advanced until they were halted by Charles Martel at Poitiers in 732 and hurled back to the Pyrenees. In the early ninth century the Carolingian Empire was at its most powerful. Charlemagne had fortified his north coasts; his frontier reached the Elbe, and Godfred of Denmark had built the isthmian barrier known as the Danevirk to keep him out of Jutland. Charlemagne`s Empire seemed impregnable, and finding weaknesses in Britain during sparodic raids before 800, the Vikings made their main attacks there. Twenty years after 814, when Charlemagne died, a weak and disunited France was heavily attacked.Before the Viking Period, a few centuries of increased warmth in Scandinavia had allowed cultivation to expand northwards and upslope. In Norway farme were built in the seventh century on the high fjell, on what are now only summer pastures. These seventh-century farms were deserted in the Viking Period when permanent settlement retreated to alluvial patches of fjords and lakes, and to coastal farmlands which were usually limited in extent. The pagan Vikings practiced polygamy and prided themselves on the numbers of their sons. Over-population could be partly countered by killing off unwanted babies by exposure, but because of the right of primogeniture there was still a surplus of daring and footloose young men who had to take to the sea to raid and trade. Accounts of the size of the Danish and Norse armies may have been exaggerated by those who bore the brunt of them, but the Scandinavian population undoubtedly swarmed at this time in such numbers that neither Denmark nor Norway could support it. There is no evidence that a deterioration of the Scandinvian climate was responsible for the outflow of her armies and families.

 

Overpopulation in Scandinavia produced a dangerous situation for Britain, which lacked the strength and unity of the Carolingian Empire. Offa of Mercia, the most powerful of her several kings, who might have halted the Vikings, died in 796. Southern England had no outstanding leader; Northumbria and Scotland were too weak to organise resistance. The Norse and Danish Vikings at first raided those British coasts which were mostly readily accessible to them, the Norse coming to Northumbria and Scotland, and the Danes to south-east England. Women accompanied some raiders and by the mid-ninth century families from both countries were settling in fair numbers in Britain.

 

The Vikings raided the Wessex coast in 785, Lindisfarne monastery in 794. The Jarrow raid was unprofitable and the Norsemen went next to northern Scotland and eventually round it and into the Irish Sea. In north and west Scotland the Norsemen found an island-fringed land with its mountains split by fjords. It was similar to their own country, a land which also turned its face to the sea. Their own land, Norge, North Way or Norway, took its name from their western seaway which linked the scattered communities between the North Cape and Oslo fjord. A comparable seaway, the Atlantic route, existed along the west coast of Britain; they used it and established widely dispersed garrisons and communities along it.

 

There may have been some Norse settlement in the Northern Isles before the eighth century. The Shetland Isles closely resemble many Norwegian islands while the more fertile red soils of Orkney would have bee new to the Norsemen; they settled both over the centuries and used them as stations on their long sea routed. When the Vikings came to the north and west of Scotland the coasts were already peopled by farmers who lived in decaying wheelhouses, in corbelled stone, or beehive, huts, and in thick-walled duns or defended homesteads. Among them lived Celtic priests from Ireland who are remembered by papa place-names. Monasteries like Iona housed larger groups of monks.

 

At Jarlshof in Shetland, Viking families from More and Trondelag, which lies north of More, around Trondheim, (many early Vikings came from these two provinces), built the last village on a site which was first settled about 2,000 B. C. Their descendants occupied Jarlshof for five centuries, replacing farm buildings, but using the Viking farmsteads until the thirteenth century when a new farmstead was built nearby. They raised stock, grew corn and kiln-dried it, trapped wild-fowl, collected their eggs and fished. Their economy must have been comparable to that carried on from the black houses of the Western Isles, homesteads not unlike Viking farms. The Norwegian for soapstone is klebber. It is fireproof and could be carved into household containers and loomweights (kle in Old Norse). Soapstone was widely worked by the Vikings in Norway and exported to Denmark. Shetland`s soapstone may have been one of its attractions for the Norsemen and Kleberg and Clibberswick are among many place-names of norse origin there.

 

Jarlshof, in the lee of Sumburgh Head, the southernmost Shetland promontory, was owned in the fifteenth century by Sir David Sinclair of Sumburgh. He was chief magistrate of Shetland and captain of the palce guard in Bergen. This fine west Norwegian Hanseatic city still has citizens with Scottish surnames. Orkney was as well settled as Shetland by the Vikings and the Northern Isles ceased to be Scandinavian politically only in 1468 when Christian I of Norway and Denmark pledged them to James III of Scotland as part of his daughter`s dowry. The islanders` variant of the Viking tongue, the Norn speech, lasted in Orkney until the mid-eighteenth century and for a little longer in Shetland. From 1940 to 1945 Shetland was the base from which boats far smaller than the longships, but manned by Norwegians as brave as their Viking ancestors, went back to the coasts of occupied Norway.

The names given by Viking settlers to physical features and farms survive throughout the Northern Isles. Homesteads are bister, setr or by. Cattle folds are quoy or garth; and brekka (slope), hamarr or klettr (cliff or rocky bank), eid (isthmus), gja (ravine), vagr nad vik (bay or inlet) can all be matched in Norway today.

 

The Norse system of odal tenure was transplanted to the Northern Isles, and although the redemption of odal rights occurred in the twelfth century largely to provide funds for the building of St. Magns` Cathedral, it lingered there until 1587. If a man wished to sell odal land, that is enclosed arable and meadowland held by the family, he must first offer it to his own kinsmen. If it were sold out of the family, his next of kin could redeem it from the purchaser, at the selling price, within a limited time. According to the Gulathing Law this was a year in Norway. In Sark, in the Channel Islands, the custom of primogeniture in inheritance of the family farm, and the right of anyone within a degree of kinship to buy back a farm sold outside the family at its selling price, within a year and a day, have persisted to our own time. These customs were mentioned in 1584 after Helier de Carteret, of St. Ouen in Jersey, became lord of the newly founded manor of Sark. They are a legacy from earlier centuries as are the names of islets like Brecqhou and Jethou and of the larger Channel Islands which lie off the Vikings` Duchy of Normandy, which have the –ey suffix (oy means island in modern Norwegian).

 

Attempts to reduce odallers in Norway to semi-feudal status, such as those made by Harald Fairhair in the ninth century, probably contributed to the outflow from Norway. The system gave security to freemen in the community; comparable tenures were found at this time in Celtic lands where inherited land was also inalienable against the kindred.

Norse names were given to Viking settlement areas on the northern mainland of Scotland south of Pentland (Pictland) Firth. Caithness is Katteness and Sutherland is the land south of it. From their island bases, whosehigh cliffs provided good lookouts, the Vikings spread their raids and settlements. Iona wasraided in 795, 802 and 806, Kintyre in 797, St. Patrick`s Isle, at Peel, on the west coast of the Isle of Man, in the same year. There were also raids on the Irish coast and settlement by noble families in the Western Isles. One effect of Viking pressures on Scotland was the unification of the Picts and Scots under Kenneth MacAlpin in 844. South-east Scotland, still part of the Northumbrian kingdom, was not included then and was brought into the Scottish kingdom in 1018 by Malcolm II.

 

The Isle of Man, because of its strategic position in the northern Irish Sea and its intervisibility with Ireland, Galloway and Cumbria, was well settled by the Vikings. They used harbours like that of Ramsey, where the upland core of the island runs down to its northern sand and gravel plains. Boat burials like those of western Norway, and mostly of tenth-century date, have been found within and outside the islands` churchyards, notably at Jurby, Kirk Michael and Maughold, in the northern half of the island. More Viking runic inscriptions have been found in the Isle of Man than in the rest of Britain, and when the Norse were converted and influenced by Irish craftsmen, they set up fine crosses in the island. Tynwald, the Manx parliament, is the only legislature whic has been maintained since Viking times; the Icelandic Thing is a recent revival. Viking long-houses have been found in the centre of the Isle of Man.

Boat burials also occur on the west Scottish coast and in the Hebrides. These were the Sudroya, as distinct from the Northern Isles, and with Oya Man gave rise to the medieval bishopric of Sodor and Man. It was first under the archbishop of Trondheim, a fertile area whence many of the settlers came, then under York, and the Manx portion is still the bishopric of Sodor and Man.

 

Raiding by Norsemen in Atlantic Britain was followed by over-wintering, by the establishment of military bases like Dublin, in 841, and then of colonies in the north-west of England plus north-west and north Scotland, with some of the Isleswhere Vikings settled. Around wales their probable island bases have names like Anglesey (Ongulsey), Priestholm, Bardsey, Ramsey and Skokholm, and they would have used the great Pembrokeshire harbour which they described as Melrfjord, a fjord with sandbanks, now Milford Haven. A clinker-built longship was found in the Usk estuary in 1878; one of the last Viking raids used this river in 1087. In south Pembrokeshire, Gower and the Vale of Glamorgan, place-namessuggest that some Norsemen settled as farmers and traders; among them may have been mercenaries hired from Dublin garrison by Welsh princes. Swansea, whose medieval form was Sweynesye, may first have developed as a Norse trading village on the Tawe estuary. Cardiff. Haverfordwest and cardigan all traded with the Vikkings of Ireland, exchanging slaves, horses, honey, corn and malt for wine, furs and whale oil. A hoard of English and Arab coins, minted between 899 and 927, was lost or hidden by a Viking trader at Bangor in north-west Wales.

In face of the Vikings the English were led by Alfred. In Wales, the same threat brought a measure of unity under Rhodri Mawr of Gwynedd, who reigned in north-west Wales until his death in 878. Well described as Great, these leaders and their sons defeated the Vikings and gave their peoples a period of peace and friendship. A grandson of Rhodi Mawr, Hywel Dda (the Good), reigned from 916 to 950 in friendship with Alfred`s son and grandson. Hywel was accepted as the leading Welsh prince and he enforced loyalty to the English Kings. Like Alfred he was a lawgiver and compiled the legal code which was used in Wales until the Act of Union in 1536.

 

Traces of Norse colonies of the tenth and eleventh centuries are numerous in the three Lake District counties and in the adjoining Pennine dales. Memorial stones fashioned by Norse-Irish craftsmen are found here. The high cross at Gosforth, near the west Cumberland coast, is the best known. The people of north-west England and Norway today use words like fell (fjell), foss for waterfall and gate for street. Thwait has its equivalent in the Norwegian tveit, a clearing, or a meadow in a wood. All are common elements of place-names in the Lake District and in the coast plains and valleys around it.

 

Outside the areas already mentioned South Wales, north-west England, west and north coasts of Scotland, the coastal fringes and their hinterlands were unaffected by the Vikings. In Cornwall, peaceful stock-rearing communities existed on the coast in the tenth century at Mawgan Porth, four and a half miles north of Newquay, at Gwithian and other sites round St. Ives Bay, and at Gunwalloe on the west coast of the Lizard peninsula. Frisian traders coming there in search of tin brought with them bar-lip pots from the lower Rhineland. Several generations of Cornish villagers copied these pots which have two lips with a bar to protect the thongs by which they were suspended over the fire. Mawgan Porth must have been only one of many British settlements which were delivered from the fury of the Northmen. When it was overwhelmed by gale-driven sand the villagers moved inland to St. Mawgan. They might have done so earlier had the Vikings been a constant menace.

 

Island bases served well for the early raids by small groups of ships. By the mid-ninth century larger invasion fleets were bringing Viking armies into estuaries like those of the Thames and Seine, and penetration of the interior by highly mobile forces began. Coastal fortresses were built for overwintering, then and later. By the late tenth century large ane well-engineered base camps were being built in Denmark for the armies of leaders like Cnut. Trelleborg, near the west shore of Zealand, has sixteen large barrack buildings within its main ramparts and fifteen others between the main and outer ramparts. This fortress dates from 975 to 1050 and Swein Forkbeard`s army could have gone from it to conquer England. Warham Camp, near Wells-next-the-Sea, on the north Norfolk coast, is possibly one of the Vikings` East Anglian base camps. The boat-shaped form of the Trelleborg barrack buildings may have originated in the days when crew hauled their boats ashore and sheltered under them. Similar Danish fortresses have been found on the shores of Limfjord and Mariager Fjord in Jutland, and in the centre of Odense, the capital of the island of Fyn.

 

Danish warfleets attacked the Isle of Sheppey in 835, East Anglia in 841 and in 851 the Danes wintered in Thanet. Fourteen years later they returned to Thanet, made peace with Kent, and then the Great Army wintered in East Anglia. In their campaign, from 865 to 875, their mobility, based on commandeered horses, gave them control through-out the Lowland Zone and in Northumbria. III-aramed Saxon thegns, who gave military service to minor kings in return for lands to which they quickly returned, were no match for the Danish armies. The young and scholarly Alfred of Wessex retreated to the Isle of Athelney in hte Somerset marshlands. Here he organized an army of thegns who also rode to battle (both sides fought on foot) and were versed like the Danes in surprise attacks. He later built warfleets nad outmatched them on the sea.

 

Alfred has been compared with Charlemagne who may have been his model. As a child he wastaken to Rome by his father and was well-versed in Latin as well as English. His efforts to revivify learning after wartime devastaton, and to dignify the common language, were most remarkable. He codified the English laws and initiated the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle which recorded each year`s events until the Norman Conquest. He made London a strong fortress. Like Charlemagne he fought successfully against the pagans, and he and his sons made Engalnd a united kingdom. The Wessex royal family provided a line of very able leaders in the ninth and tenth centuries in Egbert, Alfred (871-899), his son Edward the Elder (900-924), his daughter Ethelfleda and Edward`s son Athelstan (924-940). The last three re-conquered the Danelaw and Alfred`s great-grandson Edgar (955-975) inherited a relatively peaceful and prosperous England.

 

Alfred`s army advanced in 878 from Somerset to defeat the Danes under Guthrum at Ethandun, possibly Eddington, north-east of Warminster. By the Treaty of Wedmore, which followed, Alfred persuaded Guthrum to be baptised and to live in peace in the Danelaw. Its western frontier was defined as a line from the lower Thames and Lea (leaving thnce up to the Lune and across to the lower Tyne. There, lands in the south of Northumbria had been shared out among an earlier Danish army. Bernicia, the Northumbrian sub-kingdom beyond the Tyne, was outside the Danelaw and was for centuries the prey of peoples living both north and south of the Tyne.

In the Danelaw the Danes lived in a Scandinavian federation as freemen under their own earls, laws and customs. After 918 the Danelaw south of the Humber came under the English king as did, two years later, the Viking kingdom of York. Many of the Vikings of York were merchants and the port had its own coinage. The town prospered and by 1000 had a population of about 8,000. The walls of the port of Chester were repaired by a Viking merchant. The functions of these ports would have been those of contemporary trading towns which have been excavated around the Baltic and along Oslo Fjord. The “five boroughs” of the Danelaw, all former Roman towns, were both military and trading centres. Lincoln, Stamford, Leicester, Derby and Nottingham centred on their riversides and on their earthern fortress mounds. Other towns, like Thetford, had similar strongholds.

 

The reconquest of the Danelaw was carried out by establishing garrisons similar to those five boroughs. Afterwards Athelstan was secure as king of Wessex, Mercia, Northumbria, the Danelaw and parts of Cornwall. Norwegians from Dublin menaced his brothers, who succeeded him, but England was free from Danish raids until 980. However, after this date southern England and Cheshire were menaced in the reign of Ethelred the Unready, who became king after the murder of his half-brother king Edward the Martyr, who was assasinated by his step-mother and magnets at Corfe castle in Dorset, when he arrived there on his own for refreshment, whilst hunting on the Isle of Purbeck, Ethelred had him reburied at Shaftsbury abbey later in his reign. In 991, Olaf Tryggvason, later the king of Norway, invaded with a fleet of nearly a hundred ships. The practice of buying peace for payments of silver then started. The payments of Danegeld, which brought only temporary respite, are estimated to have increased from £10.000 in 991 to £48,000 in 1012, and most of this silver enriched Scandinavian rather thanEnglish estates. The inept Ethelred ordered a massacre of all Danes in England in 1002, during which Swein Forkbeard`s sister Gunnhild was murdered. Swein Forkbeard, the Danish king, raided the Thames and made an unsuccessful attack on London, which was then well organised by her merchants and independent of the official capital, Winchester. Swein returned in 1013, to the Humber, and after reconquering the Danelaw was followed by his son Cnut.

 

After Ethelred`s death, Edmund, son of the former king, became king of England 23rd April 1016 and of Wessex, he became known as `Ironside` , `because of his valour` in resisting the Danish invasion led by Cnut, he fought five battles against the Danes, ending in defeat against Cnut on 18th October at the battle of assandun, caused mainly by the defection of Eadric Streona who laed the Mercians, Cnut had him killed because of his treachery. After the defeat Edmund and cnut met and agreed to divide the kingdom, Edmund taking Wessex whilst Cnut took the rest, but then life took a twist with the sudden death of Edmund who died mysteriously oon 30th November, the Witan confronted with this situation excepted Cnut as the King of England, the first Danish king to do so.

 

Cnut became the first of the Danish kings of England. Cnut did not regard England as a colony but as his main kingdom. He was as able as many of his Wessex predecessors and in his peaceful reign, but he was ruthless to make sure he got what he wanted, the English and Danes were reconciled by the recognition of the equal validity of the languages, by cnut`s appointment of Anglo-saxons to high office in the Church and by his use of Anglo-Saxon laws. He paid off his Danish army with about £80,000 of Danegeld, rather than with confiscated Anglo-Saxon lands. Cnut made peace with al rulers except Duke Robert of Normandy. When he died in 1035, his kingdom of Denmark, Norway, England and the Hebrides was split up and England was first by Hardacnut and, after 1042, by hishalf-brother Edward the Confessor.

Viking armies assaulted Britain in the year of the Norman Conquest and even after it. In 1066 a fleet of 250 ships assembled in Orkney and, led by Harald Hardrada and Tostig the deposed Earl of Northumbria with his men, brother of King Harold, they went up the Humber and Ouse. They captured York but were beaten by the English knig Harold at Stamford Bridge. William the conqueror carried out a “scorched earth” policy in northern England after 1066 which united Anglo-Sxon and Danish forces. They captured Ely and Peterborough but the Danes were bought off by William I and went back to Denmark.

 

The terrible energy of theVikings was transmuted in the time of Cnut into wise administration of an increasingly prosperous kingdom. The Danelaw was becoming anglicised and the population of England was increasing. Deforestation occurred everywhere as villages and large clearings were made. When the Domesday Book was drawn up to survey property which might yield defence taxes like Danegeld, a minimum of 60,000 people lived in East Anglia. Norfolk and Suffolk had eight towns of up to 5,000 people and 1,365 taxable locations. Ipswich and Norwich thrived on trade nad by the late eleventh century Norwich had a population of at least 6,600 and about twenty-five churches, many of which had Danish dedications. Thetford, defended by ditches and a great mound, was a town of about 5,000, the second largest in East Anglia. The Rhineland sent millstonesto many towns in south-east England. If wood became scarce, peat was available in the Fens and in the marshes behind the Yare and Bure estuaries. The cutting of fen peat, which produced the Broads, increased until it reached its medieval peak. Coastal saltpans continued to be worked.

 

The Domeday Survey of East Anglia lists 84,000 sheep, 18,000 pigs and over 7,000 goats. Cattle would be numerous and draught oxen common. Oats, wheat and peas were grown, deer and wild boar hunted; fish and shellfish came from the rivers and the sea. This economy must have been widespread during the tenth and eleventh centuries and many families must have become increasingly prosperous and numerous in spite of the burden of Danegeld payments.

 

In the Danelaw freemen predomimated. Fines for murder were imposed there according to the status of the victim; elsewhere in England it was the rank of the murdered man`s master whuch was taken into account. Settlers from Scandinavia, if they were wealthy, kept slaves for the harder work. Slaves were bought and sold, as they were by the Anglo-Saxons, and were still being sent overseas from Bristol as late as the eleventh century. Some freemen were poor men owing service and dues to landowners, but they owned their own land. These free peasants, the sokemen, might be bound to large estates or sokes but their landholding, however small, gave them more freedom than a medieval feudal peasant. The patches of land given to free men in the Danish armies, which varied with rank and service, often took the name of the owner, with the suffix –by to denote his homestead. It often came to mean a village, and settlements with -thorp suffixes were originally dependent villages made as offshoots of earlier settlements. Both suffixes are common in place-names in the former Danelaw and in the East Midlands and Scandinavian farmers still refer to their farmsteads as their tofts.

 

The Danelaw was divided into hundreds, perhaps of ploughs or warriors originally, and administered form wapentakes. Wapentakes is a Danish word and refers to the brandishing of arms when members of the Thing met. It came to mean the district from which members of the Thing were drawn and became synonymous with hundred. The hundreds of Norfolk and the wapentake of Lincolnshire have largely Danish names.

 

When Alfred`s son Edward and his daughter, the Lady Ethelfleda of Mercia, reconquered the Danelaw, they established a network of fortified boroughs as they pushed eastwards. Some boroughs were ruined towns which had been founded by the Romans, others, like Oxford and Wallingford, were new strategic centres. These boroughs, and the Danelaw boroughs which the English took over, became administrative and military headquarters of shires. Lincoln, Derby, Nottingham, Leicester, Northampton, Huntingdon, Cambridge and Bedford shires originated in this way. The shires of Anglo-Saxon Wessex were also incorporated into the shire system. The boroughs were peopled by burgesses who held their tenements at a fixed rent from the king. The Domesday Survey names over seventy boroughs, but there are many omissions, including London and Winchester.

Boroughs became trading centres, and if they lay on navigable rivers and on former frontiers between kingdoms and their hinterlands containing areas with contrasting land uses, important fairs developed within or beyond their walls. St. Giles Fair at Oxford, between Mercia and East Anglia are early examples. Boroughs, furthermore, had their own mints. King Athelstan, in laying down the number of moneyers that each should have, gave one to the smallest, the ports three each, Winchester six, Canterbury seven and London eight moneyers. The dies were distributed from London.

 

In Bede`s day London was already re-established as a busy port, and when England was peaceably linked with the Scandinavian homelands of the sea rovers, London position gave her advantages over south-coast harbours. Danish merchants settled in London and emerged in the eleventh century not merely as traders but as kingmakers. London provided £10,500 of the Danegeld which Cnut collected to pay off his army. The Danish merchants founded churches dedicated to St. Olaf, and, outside the city wall, to St. Clement Danes` and had their own sokes granted by the king within the city. Merchants from Cologne and other Rhineland cities also settled in London, as did Frisians from Flanders. Frisians had traded to many British shores during the centuries of Viking raiding and Alfred engaged many of them to man his fleet. Nobles, and prelates such as the bishops of Norwich and Worcester, had houses in London. Such houses, in London and other towns, later came to be na investment rather than points through which supplies could go to country estates; the abbess of Barking, for example, had twenty-eight houses in London. But what ever their function, these homes of merchants were within the city walls.the movement outsidethe walls of London, and the beginnings of a dichotomy vital for English history, started when Edward the Confessor built his palace and his abbey west of, and beyond, the city walls.

 

Within the boroughs many householders had substantial crofts, and outside them they held strips in common arable fields and meadows, and shares in the common pastures. The link with the countryside would be further strengthened by street traders and by countryfolk coming to the fairs and markets began to be built in the cities for men to drink their gild. In Athelstan`s reign there was a peace guild in London to suppress theft; guilds existed in the late eleventh century at Canterbury, Dover and Winchester. Guilds later fostered civic unity in many boroughs.

King Alfred aided recovery of the Church from wartime pillage and his sons created nwe sees such as Wells and Crediton and completed the minster which he had planned at Winchester. As the Danelaw was reconquered and the Danes there converted, the English kings granted estates in it to the Church. The archbishop of York was given lands in Nottinghamshire on which Southwell Minster was founded. Monasteries devastated by the Vikings were not always rebuilt. When Northumbria was reconquered, the see of Lindisfarne was moved to Chester-le-Street, once an important fort on the Roman road to Hadrian`s Wall. This see was centred on Durham after 995.

The tenth century saw a great Benedictine revival in north-west Europe. The learned Dunstan, who became archbishop of Canterbury in 960, was mainly responsible for England`s part in it. The archbishops of Canterbury and York, in contact with the reorganised monasticism, founded, with the support of the nobility, new monasteries such as Ramsey in Huntingdonshire, Cerne Abbas in Dorset, Eynsham in Oxfordshire and the abbey of Burton-on –Trent. Ruined abbeys like Thorney, Peterborough and Ely were rebuilt. Monks replaced secular clergy in these abbeys and the quality of parish priests, many of them poor men, gradually improved. Cnut, son of the pagan Swein Forkbeard, made many gifts to Benedictine abbeys, enforced the payment of tithes to support the churches and finally suppressed pagan elements which were lingering in the Danelaw. His contemporary, Olaf of Norway, who became the patron saint of Norway`s young church, was attended by English priests who were part of a missionary effort of long standing there.

 

The Vikings were raiders and pirates, but they were also skilled navigators who made wide conquests and established colonies far distant from their homelands. Had the longships of the Vikings been larger and more speedy, and their political organization less liable to fragmentation under weak kings, England might have kept her links with Scandinavia across the North Sea. But the last Danish kings were inept men, and Edward the Confessor, king of England, looked across narrower seas to Normandy and promised the succession to Duke William, this was also claimed that King Harold the last crowned king of the English promised the same, whilst he was an earl, when he was stranded in Normandy, But they could not do this as it was the Witan, who have the final decision on who was to be crowned as king, which they did in crowning Edgar the Atheling, when king Harold fell at the battle of Senlac ridge/Hastings, but unfortunately this did not last and the Atheling became a hostage to the Normans and England passed into the orbit of France. The sea rovers were confined to their homelands by the Norman cousins and after some last Norse raids on England and Wales this activity ceased. The Duke of Normandy took the crown of England from the hands of the archbishop of York and crowned himself whilst his troops butchered many hundreds of people outside Westminster abbey.

 

The Vikings contributed to the ethnic amalgam of Britain which in their day already had Celtic, Roman and Anglo-Saxon components. They readily adopted new ways and new skills. In Normandy the descendants of Viking settlers became great church-builders and built the splendid abbeys of Caen and Jumieges. There was also a remarkable twelfth-century phase of buildings in Denmark. The Vikings and their Norman descendants had a more lasting influence on Britain than on any other European country. The streams of experience which came together in Britain produced results far beyond a summation of their respective traditions. A certain amount of objectivity, and with it of original initiative, is apt to emerge from contacts of peoples if hostility is not too bitterly continued. Contacts of diverse traditions give a measure of liberation from the heavy hand of established and enforced custom and belief, whatever, the new regime brought in the new Roman Catholic church who had finally split from the Orthodox church in the 1050s and built new churches and castles to suppress the population, together with such things as large areas of forests ie The New Forest with their own laws so breaking up the economy of England, thus making it harder to combat the invader, plus feudalism. This created a division within the society which lasts up to today. Also the first time the Jewish people officially came here as they were the money lenders for the invasion of England, and Archbishop Stigand who was in place at the time, after being used was imprisoned dieing not long after, to be dismissed from history like king Harold by the Normans, it was a part of their propaganda of their so-called rightful claim for the English crown.

 

The death of William the Conquerer. Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Peterborough MS). “Also, in the same year, before the assumption of St. Mary. (August 15), king William went from Normandy into France with an army, and raided against his own lord, Phillip the king and killed a great many of his men, and burned down the town of Mantes and all the holy minsters which were inside the town…. This thus done, the king William turned back to Normandy. He did a pitiful thing and more pitiful happened to him. How more pitiful. He became ill and that afflicted him severely”

 

He received a mortal injury when his stomach was internally injured by the pommel on his saddle.

Orderic, who had grown up in England as a boy, was aware of William`s cruelty against the English, and may well have heard a first-hand account of his death. He has the dying man confess.

” I treated the native inhabitants of the kingdom with unreasonable severity, cruelly oppressed high and low, unjustly disinherited many and caused the death of thousands by starvation and war, especially in Yorkshire…. In mad fury I descended on the English of the north like araging lion, and ordered that their homes and crops with all their equipment and furnishings should be burnt at once and their great flocks and herds of sheep and csttle slaughtered everywhere. So I chastised a great multitude of men and women with the lash of starvation and, alas! Was the cruel murderer of many thousands, both young and old, of this fair people.”

 

When William died, commending himself to the Virgin, the wealthier in attendance immediately left, anxious to protect their property now that the king was dead. His sons, Rufus rushed off to be crowned king of England, whilst his elder brother Robert, who had been in rebellion against him and fought with his father`s enemy, the king of France, was given Normandy.

Those who stayed behind says Orderic.”Seized, the arms,vessels, clothing, linen and all the royal furnishings, and hurried away leaving the king`s body almost naked on the floor of the house.” What goes around comes around!

His body was taken to Caen and buried in the Abbey-aux-Hommes.

“Cold heart and bloody hand now rules the English lands”