Settlers in Northumbria


Settlers in Northumbria


The early settlers in the kingdom of Bernicia, which included the country from the Firth of Forth to the Tees, were known as Beornicas, and those who occupied Yorkshire were called Deiri or Deras. These latter, like the Jutes of Kent, adopted the name of the Celtic tribe they displaced. There is strong evidence that Frisians settled numerously in Northumbria under the Anglian name, and evidence also that among the Anglian and Frisian settlers in Yorkshire there were Goths and other known various tribal names. That some of the Angles were of Gothic or Scandinavian extraction is proved by the early runic inscriptions on fixed stone monuments still existing in ancient Northumbria. That some of the settlers on the north-east coasts were also known as Jutes is probable from early references to them.



The descendants of these early colonists in the North of England and the South-East of Scotland were, in the seventh century, brought within the Kingdom of Northumbria, which in consequent centuries was conquered and recolonised by the Danes, Northmen, and their allies. The descendants of the earlier stock who survived these wars were absorbed among the later colonists of a kindred race, and the Anglian kingdom became merged into a Anglo-Danish kingdom. It is, consequently, hard to find survivals distinctive of the earlier tribal settlers in the northern counties apart from those of the later Scandinavian colonists who had so much in common with them in ethnological characteristics, customs, and even in language. The Old English people of the northern counties had, at the close of the Saxon period, well-marked characters, closely approaching to the Scandinavian, owing to the large immigration from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and probably also from the other Baltic coasts, which differentiated them from the people of the southern and midland counties. There is little historical evidence concerning these counties to assist us in an inquiry into the successive immigrations, except the facts that Anglians and their allies came first, and that they were followed by a larger immigration from Scandinavians and their allies.



In the evidence which the survival of old customs of inheritance or traces of them may supply, the existence of an early system of primogeniture is perhaps the most important. The custom of the eldest son having some preference or birthright exists in the North of England in the time of Bede, and is mentioned by him.(1) As already stated, it still exists in Norway, where it has come down in its essential features from a remote antiquity. Two ancient laws relating to the succession of land exist in that country,? So old that their origin is lost. These are the asaedesret, or homestead right, and the odalsret, or allodial right. The asaedesret is the right of the eldest son to inherit the farm after his father, he, however, being obliged to pay the other heirs their share of the estate, the value of which is given by the father, or else it is estimated below its valuation. If the father has left no son, his eldest daughter inherits.(2) Odalsret, as previously mentioned, is the right when a farm has to be sold of any member of the family to buy it, or if sold to a stranger, to redeem it within ten years at the price paid, with the additional cost of any improvements that may have been made. We are only concerned at presentin the consideration of the first of these laws- the right of the eldest son to inherit the farm. This early custom of primogeniture could not have been first introduced into the North of England by Norwegian settlers in the ninth century, for it is mentioned by Bede, who died in 735, it is clear that it existed there before they came. That the north-eastern counties of England and the Lowlands of Scotland were chiefly occupied by Anglian tribes is generally admitted. The Regiam Majestatem, or ancient laws of Scotland, tell us that succession by the eldest son was the custom in the case of knights, but among socmen the custom was to divide the heritage among all the sons, if from ancient time it had been divided. These considerations point to the probability that some of the Anglian tribes must have introduced both customs into ancient Bernicia. Northern tribes, who were afterwards called Norwegians, but perhaps earlier by some tribal name, may have brought in primogeniture. In considering this we should remember that King Alfred tells us the Angles came from the lands on both sides of the passage into the Baltic. It is necessary to remember that there was a custom of rural primogeniture existing in England centuries before the feudal system prevailed. Our early chroniclers who tell us of Angles and Saxons say little of their customs, but the information they give can be supplemented by the traces of the customs which still exist, or which are known to have existed, in parts of England and parts of Northern Europe from which the settlers came. The rural primogeniture of which traces remain in the North of England, especially in that it secures the succession to the eldest daughter in default of sons, that it cannot reasonably be doubted they had a common origin among the early tribes of Norway or adjacent parts of Scandinavia. It is unreasonable to suppose that a body of colonists, whether in ancient or modern time, would settle in any particular locality and afterwards proceed to invent their customs. We know how in the case of modern colonies the settlers take their laws and customs with them. So it must have been in regard to the customary law of rural primogeniture, with a reversion to the eldest daughter, among some of the early Anglian or Scandian colonists in the North of England. What the tribal names of these people were it is perhaps now impossible to discover.

As we stand on one of the higher mountains south of Keswick, a great part of the ancient lordship of Derwentwater is spread out before us. In this region, which still retains so many characteristics of its Norse settlers, traces are found, in the extensive districts of Castlerigg and Derwentwater, of this Norwegian custom of rural primogeniture, under which, in default of sons, the eldest daughter succeeds to the inheritance.(3) The same rule survives, or did within recent times, in other lordships in Cumberland, Westmorland, the Isle of Man, at Kirkby Lonsdale, and in Weardale in the county of Durham. The evidence of Norwegian settlement on the north-western coasts of England is so widely spread that the custom no doubt formerly prevailed on many manors of these districts, where it traces are now lost. Something almost identical with its existed in the city of Carlisle under the name of cullery tenure. The cullary tenants of this city were seised of certain customary estates of inheritance, consisting of houses and shops, etc., which they held of the mayor, aldermen, and citizens as the lords of the city. They are admitted to these estates and paid a small annual quit-rent. On the death of a cullary tenant, in the absence of sons, his eldest daughter succeeded him as sole heiress of his customary tenement,(4) instead of, as in the case of a freehold, all his daughters as coheiresses. The surviving name of places around Carlisle point strongly to their Norwegian origin, and there can be no doubt that this curious tenure which prevailed in the city is a primitive one, which , like others in Cumberland, can be traced to Norway.

In considering its origin and survival, we must remember that customs were the law of our Teutonic forefathers. To alter a custom which had come down from a remote antiquity was so great an innovation that it may reasonably be concluded such a charge would not be made except under the pressing needs of altered conditions of life. Between the custom of rural primogeniture and those of equal division and of succession by the youngest son there is so great a difference that they must have had separate origins among different races of people. In the North of England, as elsewhere, there can be little doubt that in many cases all traces of these early customary laws, which at one time prevailed in certain districts or manors, have now been lost. We can, however, trace the partible customs as having existed among the ancient socmen of South of Scotland, and rather extensively in Yorkshire, and in Tynedale and Reedsdale in Northumberland,(5) while that of junior right prevailed at Leeds,(6) and was not, apparently, unknown in ancient Bernicia over the border.(7)

It is not difficult to imagine that when a place was occupied at an early time of people of more than one race having their own different systems of inheritance, these customs would in the course of time become blended as the population became mixed in descent. This may, perhaps, have been the origin of the ancient system of inheritance which prevailed at Tynemouth. It was an old port to which ships of Angles, Goths, Frisians, and Northmen would all be likely to have come, and not improbably early merchants or others of these nations settled there. Those who were Frisians or Goths, having a custom of partible inheritance in their own lands, would naturally follow the same, and those who were Northmen, having some form of primogeniture and succession by the eldest daughter in their land, would naturally continue to follow this custom. In process of time these customs, which maybe supposed to have prevailed at Tynemouth, apparently became blended, and that of the Goths and Frisians, who perhaps, were the more numerous section of the inhabitants, became the more prominent. The custom of descent in Tynemouth is, or was, partible inheritance among sons only ; in default of sons, the eldest daughter came into the inheritance for her life, and afterwards the next heir male who could derive his title through a male.(8) In considering this curious succession it is necessary also to remember that the custom of inheritance among the Angles was marked by a strong preference for the male line, such as that which has survived at Tynemouth shows.

In addition to those places in Yorkshire where the custom of partible inheritance has survived to modern times, as at Pickering, Domesday Book supplies us with information concerning the land in Holderness and other parts of the country which was held in parcenary at the time of the Survey. By the old general law of the country land could only be held in parcenary by females, but by the custom of gavelkind males might hold their lands collectively by descent to all males equally.(9) Whether in Kent or elsewhere, the title of parceners accrued only by descent.(10) To hold land in parcenary was, therefore, an ancient custom, and that land was held by this custom in many parts of the East Riding and elsewhere in Yorkshire at the end of the Saxon period is a circumstance which assists us in endeavouring to discover traces of ancient settlers of different races. In the south ofEngland, as we have seen, a great deal of the land in the Isle of Wight and in the New Forest which was colonised by Jutes was held in parcenary at the time of the Norman Survey, and Jutes are admitted to have been Goths or Frisians, or both. Among the Goths, but interspersed by a diversity of local usages, the custom under which estates were administered by a single heir for all the heirs grew up and spread through parts of Germany and countries where Gothic influence prevailed.(11)

The survival of the custom in England points, therefore, to people of Gothic or Frisian descent, or to German people of some other tribe or nation. It may, however, have been Danish, for, among Saxons and Danes the ordinary course of descent was to all the sons.(12) As, therefore, we can trace Norwegian settlements in parts of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, and Hertfordshire in the custom of succession by the eldest daughters in default of sons, so by this parcenary system in Yorkshire we can trace people of Gothic extraction and others who were Frisians or of some German race. In addition to the cases recorded in Domesday Book where holdings in parcenary were found in Yorkshire, the custom of partible inheritance, more or less resembling gavelkind in Kent, prevailed on at least some of the lands which formed the fees of Richmond, Pickering, and the great fee of the Archbishop known as that of St. Peter`s, York.(13)

Pickering is mentioned in Domesday Book by the ancient clan-name of the people living in the district round it, Picheringa. On this great manor the evidence of Gothic settlement is supported by another custom which also existed there, that of freedom from distraint.14) It has been mentioned that this was incidental to gavelkind in Kent. The custom in that county, as already stated, was not merely partition among all the sons equally, but comprised several subsidiary privileges of great interest. Freedom from distress for debts was one.(15) By the records of the Court of King`s Bench, Hiliary Term 20 Edward III., it is shown that the lands within the Fee of Pickering were partible among the males,(16) and Pickering also had freedom from distraint. The old name of Goathland, anciently written Gothland, still survives on the north of Pickering Moor, and was perhaps a boundary name. It is marked Gothland on an old map of Pickering of the seventeenth century, published in the first volume of the North Riding Record Society. In the case of Pickering we thus have three circumstances pointing to a settlement of Goths-viz., the custom of partible inheritance, freedom from the general law of distress, and the survival of the name Gothland. Early records, both English and those of kindred nations, point to a time when distress was almost the universal form of civil remedy. The laws of the Visigoths, however, prohibited this remedy, and in Kent, in London, and in Pickering the people enjoyed by custom freedom from it in the recovery of debts or rents. They were probably all of Gothic descent ; and here references maybe made to what has been said of the –by places which abound in the East Riding. These are Gothic as well as Danish, and some of them in Yorkshire may have been derived from settlers who were Goths.

The earliest of all the settlements in the northern counties, if we may trust the account concerning it, was that of people of the same race or races as the people of Kent, who are said to have formed settlements on the north-eastern coast under their Kings Octa and Ebissa(17) in the fifth century. There certainly were early settlements made by the Angles, and later ones by the Danes and Norwegians. That of the Norse in the north of Cumberland was probably one of the latest, for the northern parts of Cumberland and Westmorland were still occupied by the Celts, while their southern parts and the districts of Furness and Cartmel had passed to Teutonic settlers of some kind, using the word Teutonic in its widest sense as including Scandinavians. The name Ulpha in the valley of the Duddon, and another Ulpha in Cartmel, near the mouth of the river Kent, appears in the name of Ulphilas, the Bishop who translated the Gospels into Moeso-Gothic. The customs of Kendal also points to Goths among its early settlers, and as there were Goths in Kent, and they were skilled in navigation, there appears nothing improbable in a Kentish migration, which would account for the ancient of Kentishmere. Kendal is the name of the most extensive parish in Westmorland, comprising twenty-four townships or constable wicks, among which are Kentmere and Helsington. This name Helsington in a district where there is other evidence of the settlement of Goths maybe considered in connection with the Helsings, the name of the people of Helsingja-land in Sweden. The manorial tenants of Kendal held their lands by military obligation and on payment of certain rents, but, like the ancient Visigoths, they were not liable to distraint for the recovery of them.(18) Partible inheritance cannot be proved to have been the custom at Kendal, but in the will of Henri Fissher of that place, dated 5th November, 1578, we appear to have a trace of it. He says : `Mye evidences to be safflie kept under twoo locks and kyes in my study at Helssington, and at the full aige of my sonnes to be divided according to their rights.`(19)

The customs relating to the widow`s dower that prevailed in South Westmorland and North Lancashire are varied. In the Barony of Kendal the widow of a customary tenant was entitled to the whole of her husband`s customary estate during her widowhood.(20) In some other parts of the south of Westmorland she receives half the estate. Similarly, at Much Urswick, Kirkby Irleth, Lowick,(21) and Nevill Hall in Furness, the widow was entitled to half the state during widowhood. By the old common law of the country she was entitled to only a third share, and at Clitheroe to a fourth, as was the custom among the ancient Lombards. The Kendal dower custom is the same as existed so largely in Sussex and on manors elsewhere, as in the vale of Taunton, where junior inheritance prevailed. The half dower custom is the same as that of Kent, and points to settlements of Goths and Jutes.

The north of Lancashire and south of Westmoreland were included in the West Riding at the time of the Domesday Survey, and apparently had been considered a part of the kingdom of Deira, or Yorkshire, since the seventh century. In 685 `the land called Cartmel and all the Britons there` was given to Cuthbert by one of the early Kings, form which record it maybe considered certain that Celtic people survived there among the early Teutonic settlers. The early church dedications to St. Wilfred at Standish, Preston, and Ribchester, and to St. Cuthbert at Kirkby Irleth, were received from their Yorkshire connection.(22) The colonists of North Lancashire and South Westmoreland appear to have come partly from Yorkshire and partly by sea. Some of them would probably be Northumbrian Anglians, and others of Jutish extraction. The remains of early stone crosses at Whalley and at Burnley, of the same style as those found in other parts of ancient Northumbria, are traces of the early Anglian connection of these parts of Lancashire, and the runic inscription found at Lancaster supplies confirmatory evidence of this connection.

Close to Lancaster there are distinct traces of a later settlement of Norse, for around Heysham and Halton the hills are called fells, the pools are tarns, the streams becks, the farms are thwaits, and the island rocks are skears.(23)

As regards the early customs of partible inheritance which prevailed over large districts of Yorkshire, Glanville`s remarks in the time of Henry II. Must be remembered-viz., that partible inheritance was only recognised by the law-courts of his time on those manors where it could be proved that the land always had been divided. Consequently, as this custom was allowed to continue on many manors of the great lordships of Richmond, Pickering, and St. Peter`s York, it must have been a custom of immemorial usage, and proved to the satisfaction of the law in the twelfth century. This points to the conclusion that these areas were originally by Goths and Frisians among the Anglian settlers of Yorkshire. The proof lay in an actual inspection of the subdivided lands, which must have born their testimony, as well as in the sworn evidence of witnesses. The partible land of the Dalecarlian people of Sweden, who are descendants of the Northern Goths, show at the present day similar evidence of this immemorial usage. The custom could not have been general throughout England, because it was allowed to continue in comparatively few places. If it had generally prevailed , its antiquity could have been proved, and the custom preserved by appealing to the evidence of partition on the surface of the fields themselves.

The old place-names in the northern counties point to people of many tribes as having taken a part in its settlement. If we confine our attention to old Anglo-Saxon names of places, which had their origin in all probability from people bearing tribal names who settled there, we shall be able to make a considerable list. Such a name as Hunmannebi clearly points to a settler and his family or kindred who was a Frisian of the Hunsing tribe-i.e., he was a man of the Hunni race mentioned by Bede. In the same way, other names indicate Frisians, called by their national name ; others whe were either Frisians of the Brocmen tribe, or of the German tribe of Boructers, who are also mentioned by Bede as among the tribes from which the Old English were descended. Such a name as Boructer might easily be shortened by use into Broc. The Chaucians or Hocings are probably represented by the survival of a number of Choc- or Hoc- names of places. Here and there we meet with the Engle name, and a few which appear to have been derived from people known to their neighbours as Saxons. Among other places bearing names derived from settlers of various ancient races are those in Dan and Dene, which point to Danes ; Norman, which points to Norse ; Suen, which points to Swedes ; Goth, or Goda, which indicates Gothic people ; and Wend or Winter names, which indicate Vandal settlers. Among the old place-names in Northumberland are the fifteenth-century names Waringford and Wynt`ingham, denoting a Waring and a Wendish settlement.(24) Winterset is an old place-name in the parish of Wragby.

Borough-English or junior right is known to have prevailed at Leeds,(25) the only places in the northern counties where it has been traced. Its prevalence there in the midst of a kingdom such as Yorkshire was, settled at first by people called Anglians, and largely occupied later on by people commonly called Danes or Norse, is a very remarkable circumstance, for, so far as known, none of these had a custom. Leeds is in Airedale, and was apparently the chief place in the old district known in Saxon time as Elmet. The district is mentioned by Bede as the `Regio Loidis` or the region of Leeds, Elmet being mentioned by the same early writer as a silva or woodland.(26) If from the occurrence of the custom of junior right at Leeds we may consider that it prevailed elsewhere in this region, then, as the custom is an old one, and it could not have been that of Anglians or Danes or Norwegians, it probably was brought by a fair race of people. Seeing that succession by the youngest son to the whole inheritance is not a Welsh custom, it is not probable that the junior right which prevailed at Leeds could have been derived from a survival of the old British stock. Moreover ,the racial characters of the Airdale people, as described by Beddoe, point to descent from a fair race. This subject takes us back to the time when Elmet was first brought under subjection by King Edwin in the seventh century. Beddoe considers it probable that new settlers of a fair stock were introduced, and it is remarkable that an old name, Wendall Hill, for an earthwork at Berwic, in Elmet, still survives.(27) There are some old place-names in addition to this one in the northern counties which may have had their origin from Wendish settlers, relatively few in number, but still significant. Wendesbery(28) and Wandesford(29) in Yorkshire,(30) Wenslawe, and Wendeslaghe,(31) are names of this kind. Wensleydale and Old Wennington, in the north of Lancashire, may also be of the same origin.

There is evidence of the survival in Northumbria of people of Celtic descent, who were subsequently absorbed among the English race of the northern counties. The historical information on this point concerning Cartmel has been mentioned. The probability of a mixture of Celts among the Scandinavian settlers of Cumberland is also great. The Northumbrian Priest-law, which mentions the penalty for the practise of heathen rites by a King`s thane, affords evidence of the survival of people in Yorkshire of British descent, who were known as Wallerwente. Heathenism in some of its rites survived long in the North. A thane who was accused of heathen practices was fined according to the Priest-law ten half-marks, unless he could prove his innocence by thirty oath-helpers, ten of whom must be named by himself, ten by his kindred, and ten others must be Wallerwente.(32) These Wallerwente, as their oaths were taken in evidence, must have been freemen. They were apparently men of another race, and chosen for this legal process on that account, as native Celtic inhabitants living among others of Teutonic descent, and whose testimony as native Christians would be specially acceptable in such cases. This recognition of descendants of a remnant of the old Celtic people is of interest, seeing that the oldest name for what is now Yorkshire-viz., Deira-is Welsh, and derived from its Celtic inhabitants, the Deira, or their country.(33)

It is well known that two very remote successive immigrations of Celtic people into Britain can be traced-viz., those of the Round Barrow period, who are also known as the men of the Bronze Age ; and the later Brythons, from whom in the main the Welsh are descended. From the examination of the bones of the men of the Bronze Age, which are met with but sparingly-for cremation was their common mode of disposing of the dead-they are known to have been a broad-headed and large-limbed race. The later Celts are not characterised by his head form. The survival among living people here and there of representatives of the broad-headed type is an interesting ethnological circumstance. As might be expected, it is chiefly in the most mountainous part of England-viz., in the remote parts of Cumberland-that traces of this race may still be met with. The type is, according to Beddoe and Ripley, marked by being `above average in height, generally dark in complexion, the ehad broad and short, the face strongly developed at the cheek-bones, frowning or beetle browed, the development of the brow ridges being especially noticeable in contrast with the smooth, almost feminine softness of the Saxon forehead.`(34) In Cumberland there had been going on a fusion between the decendants of the Norse and those of these more ancient Cumbrians, some of the descendants of whom are now fair in complexion.(35)

The settlement of Frisians in Northumbria is probable from the historical evidence of Procopius, who says that `three very numerous nations possess Brittia, over each of which a King presides, which nations are named Angeloi, Phrissones, and those surnamed must the island, Brittones.` Some of these Phrissones must have settled in the northern counties of England and in the south of Scotland, for the Firth of Forth is called by Nennius the Frisian Sea, and part of its northern coast was known as the Frisian shore.(36) The name Dumfries appears also to afford a trace of the same people.

It is reasonable to conclude that in the settlement of the coasts of the North-East of England and the South of Scotland by the Angles their neighbours the Frisians took a large part. Even at the present time the resemblance between the Frisians dialects and Lowland Scotch is in some respects very close. As we have seen, Octa and Ebissa, with whom as leaders the early settlements in Northumbria are connected, have characteristic Frisian names ending in a. The early kingdom of Beornicas including the Lowlands, and these people had a Frisian name. Halbertsma refers to the name Beornicas as having been derived from the Frisian word bearn, denoting men, used possibly in the sense of descendants.(37)

There are in Yorkshire old place-names which point directly to Frisians, such as Fristone in the West Riding, mentioned in Domesday Book ; Freswick, an old place in the North Riding ;and Frismarsk, or Frysemersh, a lost place that formerly existed in Holderness.(38) It is probable there was a very early colony of Frisians in this district, for Ptolemy mentions a race of people resident there whom he calls the Parisi.(39) The Teutonic equivalent of Parisi is Farisi, and the probability is that these were a colony of Frisians from the opposite coast. This identification of the Parisi of Ptolemy as Frisians is supported by some remarkable circumstances pointing to a Frisian migration to the country of the Humber. Holderness had an alternative name, that of Emmertland, andamong the ancient river names of the northern part of Old Saxony or Frisia was the Emmer or Ambra,(40) which we now call the Ems. Along the course of this river the tribal Ambrones, or people of the Emisga pagus, lived.(41) These Ambrone are mentioned by Roman writers. From the consideration of all the circumstantial evidence connected with them and with Holderness, the settlement of Frisians of this old tribe at an early date near the mouth of the Humber is practically certain. It was from this tribe that in all probability the Humber received its name, after that of the Ambra in their old country. It should also be remembered that Paulinus is said to have preached for forty days among certain old Saxons. We know he did carry on this mission among the people south of the Humber, and these may have preserved their old tribal designation of Ambrones, or old Saxons, until that time.

The Holderness dialect, which has probably come from more than one source, is one of the most interesting in Yorkshire, for it shows variations in vocabulary in different parts of the district. It has usually only one form of the verb for the three persons, many participles ending in –en or-in, many adjectives ending in –ish or-fied, and no possessive case.(42) The pronunciation of the place-names in some of the northern parts of England at the present time strongly points to Frisian settlements. In Northumberland there are many places whose names end in ham, but, with the exception of Chillingham, they are all pronounced as if ending in –um, like the terminal sound so common in the present place-names of Friesland. In the Cleveland district of Yorkshire, also, examples of the same kind occur, in which the local pronunciation making names ending in –um is very marked. Thus, Yarm is pronounced Jarum ; Moorsholm. Morehusum ; Acklam, Achelum ; Lealholm, Laclum or Lelum ; Airsome, Arusum ; and Coatham, Cotum, and so on.(43) A similar pronunciation of names in Sussex has been referred to in the chapter relating to that county.

There can be no doubt that Frisians was one of the dialects used by the settlers in the northern counties, and that many Frisian words passed into the Anglian speech. As late as 1175 we find a Frisian dialect separately mentioned by Reginald, a monk of Durham.(44) In referring to the eider-duck, he says these birds are called lomes by the English, but eires by the Saxons and inhabitants of Frisia.

The dialect of Northumberland and on Tyneside shows important differences form that in the middle and south parts of Durham and Yorkshire.(45) This helps to prove that when the Danes overran and conquered Northumbria it was chiefly in Yorkshire they settled. The country north of the Tyne was left, apparently, more in the occupation of the descendants of the original colonists. The old Northumbrian dialect was the language of the Anglian and Frisian settlers from Aberdeen to the south of Yorkshire. When Yorkshire was recolonised by Danes and their allies, a modified dialect arose. The evidence of the place-names affords striking testimony to the extent of the Danish settlements. North of the Tyne the terminations –ham and –ton are conspicuous, while –by, which abounds in the East Riding, does not occur. The streams in Northumberland are called burns, and not becks, as in the Scandinavian districts of the northern counties. The pronunciation of the word `the` is not clipped in Northumberland into `t,` as it is in the Danish districts of Yorkshire and Lancashire. The contrast in this respect between Northumberland and Tyneside on the one hand, and the south of Durham and East Riding of Yorkshire on the other, is very marked.(46) there are, however, some traces can be found in Northumberland of Norse colonists of a kind different from those of the Danes in the East Riding, although traces of Angles and Frisians are most in evidence.

The Firth of Forth, mentioned by Nennius as the Frisian Sea, and a part of its northern shore known as the Frisian shore, must have had an early connection with the Friians, although, as Skene says, `the great bulk of immigrants are Anglians.`(47) This is of interest in reference to the people of Northumberland, a county in which traces of Frisian occupation are strong. It is known that Frisians came to Britain among the Roman military, and Skene says that `of the Saxons who settled in Britain before the year 441, the colony which occupied the northern district about the Roman wall were probably Frisians.` This may well have been the case, and the traces of people of this race which the Northumberland place-names supply may therefore be of older date than the time of Hengist and Horsa. There may, indeed, have been settlements in the time of the Roman Empire of both Frisians and their allies the Chaucians. This view possibly receives support from the discovery in Northumberland of a Roman alter,(48) bearing the inscription `Deo Cocidi`- a reference, perhaps, to a supposed Chaucian divinity.

The name of the river Coquet and others, apparently connected with Chaucians, maybe traces of a settlement before the end of the Roman rule in Britain. A garrison of Frisians was certainly located on Hadrian`s Wall early in the fifth century.(49)

The Roman place-names Hunno(50) has been identified with Sevensdale in Northumberland, and that named Cocuneda civitas(51) with Coquet in the same county.(52) In the Bolden Book relating to the tenancies held under the Bishop of Durham in the eleventh or twelfth century we find old place-names that are apparently traces of settlers who had Frisian names, such as Hunwyk and Hunstanworth. The same record also affords instances in which brothers held land jointly, and of other parceners more or less resembling the holdings in Kent. In connection with these Hun names, it is of special interest to note the existence of a Roman station called Hunnum in Northumberland. As an old tribe called Phundusii is mentioned by Ptolemy living near the mouth of the Elbe, not very far from the later Frisian districts, inhabited by the Hunse or Hunte, the name in connection with the Frisian garrison.

If further proof were wanted of Frisians among the Angles of this part of England and the adjacent coast of Scotland, the remarkable inscribed stone found at Kirklistone, Edinburghshire, would supply it. Stephens describes it as a heathen stone of the fourth or fifth century, bearing roman letters and words to commemorate a fallen chieftain, with a name so rare that it has only been found three times in English literature and once in Northern. It has also his father`s name, a rarer one still. Both these names are Frisian, and are still found among modern Frisian personal names.(53) The inscription, by dividing the letters into words, reads : `In oc tumulo iacit Vetta (filius) Victi.` The name Wyttenham in Northumberland, apparently derived from a similar name Witte, is mentioned in the Hundred Rolls. Sweet has pointed out another linguistic connection of the Anglians of Northumbria with the Frisians. He says that the Anglians dialect was characterised by a special tendency to throw off the final n in names.(54) Of this many examples maybe found among old place-names of the Northern counties, and the early personal names connected with them, some of which have been referred to. It was also a Frisian characteristic.

In his `history of Cleveland,` Atkinson tells us of four places whose ancient nameswere Englebi, of two whose old names were Wiltune, and of two named Tollesbi. They may have been named after heads of families who bore tribal names. The Tollenzi on the Tollensee were a Wendish tribe.(55)

In considering the evidence relating to the settlement of people of different races in the North of England, that afforded by bthe runic monuments is of the first importance. The Anglian runes are the older Gothic with modifications, and their modifications were made on English soil. This points to Goths among the so-called Anglian settlers, or Angles from Swedish Gothland. In any case, the knowledge of runic writing must have been brought into Northern England by early settlers from Gothland or countries near it. The Frisians who formed settlements in Northumbria, on the contrary, had no knowledge of runes.

In one of the old Norse records we are told of Old Northumbria, that `Nord-imbraland is for the most part inhabited by Northmen. Many of the names are in the Norraena tongue Grimsbaer (Grimsby), and Hauksfljot (Hawkflot), and many others.`(56) This refers to the older and larger Northumberland, and includes, apparently, part of South Humberland or Lincolnshire. The earliest runic inscriptions of old Northumbria are not within the limits of the present county, but are within the Kingdom of the Northumbrian Anglians. Among them are those on the Bewcastle column in north-west Cumberland, and on the Ruthwell cross in Dumfries. The date of the Bewcastle (57) monument is about A.D.670, and the words used in the inscription on the Ruthwell cross show that it cannot weel be later than the middle of the eighth century.(58) The inscriptions on the Collingham cross in Yorkshire, and on a slab found at Lancaster, have been assigned to the seventh century.(59) All these and others are inscriptions of the Anglians, and not of the later Danes or Norse, whose runic letters differed in some instances from those of the earlier Anglian.

One of the Old English tribes that can be clearly recognised in Northumbria is that of the Lindisfarne. This name was not originally given to the island off the Northumrian coast, but to a strip of country along it. Lindisfarne-the Lindis, which was the old name for the Low, and the Waran, that run into the sea a little north of Bamburgh.(60) This island was the island of the Lindisfarne people or territory, as mentioned by Bede. This small Anglian tribe is one of the interesting of which ant trace has come down to us. Its rulers derived their origin form Woden, through a line of mythological ancestors of their own,(61) and it is not improbable that their island was known as Halig or Halige ,the Holy Isle, before they came Christians, for the Continental Angles and Frisians had a Holy Isle off their coast, and it still retains the name of Heligoland. The Wends of the Baltic coast also had their sacred island-viz., Rugen-where their chief pagan temple was situated. The possession of a sacred or holy isle for their pagan rites was, therefore, probably considered by the pagan Angles who settled in Northumberland as part of their religion ; and after their conversion the sacred isle of the pagan time was selected for the site of the Christian monastery.

Some of the old shire and district names in the northern counties were apparently derived from Scandinavian and other tribal names. Hallamshire appears to have got its name from a manor mentioned in Domesday Book as Hallun. As this district is called a shire, and this as a designation for a district is Scandinavian, Hallun may not improbably have been connected in its origin with the people from Halland, in the south-west of Sweden, and within the limits of Old Denmark. Gillingshire, also, for Gilling Wapentake in Yorkshire, appears to be a Scandinavian name. Gylling, an island in Halogaland, is mentioned in the Northern Sagas.(62) One thing, therefore, is certain in reference to old settlements in the northern counties, that we find districts which contain many traces of Norse near others in which traces of Anglians have survived. There may have been a connection between the name Rossendale in Lancashire and the Wrosn tribe of the Pomeranian coast. As the settlement of Norse and their allies in Lancashire was probably late, the possibility of such a connection is strengthened by the known association of Danes and Norse with the Jomberg Wends of Pomerania.

The Yorkshire Domesday names Scotona, Scotone, Englebi, and Engleston, point to family settlements of people who were Scots and Engles. Similarly, there can be little doubt that the Domesday names Danestorp, Danebi, Wedrebi, Leccheton, and Lecchestorp, point to settlers who were Danes, Wederas or Ostrogoths, andLechs, who were their allies. Traces of Swedes are met with in the old names Suanebi in Yorkshire and Suenesat in Agremundreness in Lancashire,(63) and other names similar to those of tribal allies of the Dane maybe traced.

The name Wensleydale and the old Semer names which it contains suggest some connection with Wends, and this is strengthened by the folk-lore. A special characteristic in the folk-lore of the Northern Slavs is that of magic horses, of which many examples occur in Russian Folk-tales.(64) In Wensleydale folk-lore the kelpie or waterhorse comes up occasionally out of the water,(65) and, like the Russian horses, is a wonderful beast. The place-name Semer also occurs in Cleveland, near Stokesley,(66) and Domesday Book tells us of Semaer in the North Riding and Semers in the West Riding, these names being, apparently, of old Wendish origin, from zieme, the land. Their parallels maybe found in Slavic countries, and other examples of their occurrence in Wiltshire and Sussex have already been mentioned.

The earliest frontier between the Kingdoms of Northumbria and Mercia on the west of the Pennine Range, along the Mersey, appears to have been subsequently altered to the Ribble. There is some documentary evidence relating to this later boundary. In 923 King Edward ordered a body of Mercians to take possession of Manchester, and to repair and fortify it.(67) We read, also, that the northern limit of Mercia was Hwitanwylles geat,(68) which maybe identified with Whitwell in the upper part of the valley of the Ribble. Whitaker`s researches point to the Ribble as having been an ethnological frontier.(69) The Fylde, between the mouths of the same river and the Lune, exhibits evidence of Scandinavian settlements. Its name maybe compared with the Norse Fjelde, the name for the Norwegian wastes. The Lancashire Fylde consists even at the present time of a great extent of more or less peaty soil, commonly called moss. Dane pad, or path, the name for an old road across it, Angerholm, Mythorp, Eskham, and other place-names in the district, are distinctly Scandinavian.

When we remember that the Anglian Kingdom of Northumbria was conquered by Northmen, and was a Danish Kingdom for about 200 years, until reduced in status to one of the great earldoms of the later Saxon period, we naturally expect to find more characteristic remains of Dane and Northmen than of the earlier Anglians. Some interesting evidence of the agricultural customs of Northmen connected with the old farmhouses called onsteads survived in Northumberland as late as 1827, and may still survive in part. The customs maybe ancient, even if the farms are comparatively modern. They are scattered over a large part of that county, at a distance of two or three miles from each other, and from the villages or towns. In these onsteads the farmers resided with their dependents. Immediately adjoining them a number of cottages were situated, proportionable in some degree to the size of the farms. They are, or were, inhabited by the steward, the hind, and in some instances by the bondagers, who have, or had, their cottages at a small rent, and are entitled to a certain quantity of potatoes. The wages of the steward and hinds were chiefly paid in kind, and they had their cottages rent free, with hay or grass for one or two cows and other privileges, and a small sum of money.(70)

The system in Norway is very similar to this. The farms have houses for housemen, with enclosed land to each, that extends to the keeping of two cows and six sheep all the year round, and to the sowing of a certain quantity of corn and potatoes. A small general rent is paid for these holdings. In this system the main object provided for is that the labourer maybe able to live on the produce of the land.(71)

We may recognise the Scandian or Danish influence in the northern counties in some of the ancient designations of the tenants mentioned in the Bolden Book of Durham, such as Cotmanni and Malmanni, the former corresponding to the cottars of southern counties. The Danes commonly used the word manni(72) in names of this kind. The characteristic termination –hope or –op in place-names is found in many instances in the west of Northumberland – Bowhope, Ramshope, Wickhope, Blenkinsop, Killhope, and Hawhope being examples. The significance of these –hope names will be discussed in the chapter relating to the Welsh border. The word –side, also ,which is a characteristic in the Cumberland names, is found in the western parts of Northumberland, such as Hesleyside, Whiteside, Wheelside, and Monkside. These point to a similarity in dialect, and hence probably in race. The place-names, such as booth, shield, and scale, are more frequently met with in the northern counties than elsewhere. They had their origin, probably, in summer huts, commonly erected by pastoral people among the hills or on the upland wastes, for temporary abodes while pasturing their cattle away from their permanent homesteads, as is the custom in Norway at the present time.

The descendants of Danish or Norse settlers maybe distinguished in Lancashire as late as the time of Domesday Survey by the statements that some of them paid their rents in the Danish computation. Thus, in many places between the Ribble and the Mersey each carucate of land paid a tax or tribute of two ores of pennies.(73) The ore was a Danish coin of the value of sixteen pence, and later of twenty pence. Similarly, it maybe noted in the ancient Northumbrian Priest-law that the fines mentioned are in half-marks, also of old Northern origin.

People of the same descent maybe recognised in the land register of the monastery of Hexham, which tells us of `husbands` and `terrae husband.`(74) These husbands were no doubt descended from Northern settlers known as bondi, a name still used for the peasant proprietors of Scandinavia.

The race characters shown at the present time by the people of Northumberland are, according to Beddoe, strongly Anglian, and can be well seen in the rural population around Hexham.(75) The Northumberland people are, in the main, above the average English size. It is on evidence that a regiment of men of that county standing in close formation occupies more space than an average regiment of the same number. The old race in north Durham is also Anglian in the main. The North and East Ridings of Yorkshire have an Anglo-Danish population, the prevailing types being Anglian and Danish. Phillips describes these people as tall, large-boned, and muscular, with a visage long and angular, fair or blonde complexion, blue or gray eyes, and light-brown or reddish hair.(76) In the more elevated districts of the West Riding he describes the people as robust in person, of an oval, full, and rounded visage, with a nose often slightly aquiline, a complexion some what embrowned or florid, brown or gray eyes, and brown or reddish hair. This brown, burly breed Phillips thought to be Norwegian, but Beddoe considers it to be a variety of the Anglian race, as it abounds in Staffordshire, which is a very Anglian county.

In the plains of Yorkshire, Durham, and Northumberland the old agricultural arrangements of the townships appear to have been largely those of the nucleated villages or collected homesteads. This corresponds to that now prevailing in Holstein, part of Schleswig, which was within part of the Anglian country, a circumstance that points to the plan of collected homesteads having been introduced into these parts of the northern counties by people of that race. On the other hand, on both sides of the Pennine Range isolated homesteads have largely survived in both west Yorkshire and east Lancashire, and these are probably traces of ancient Celtic occupation. The homestead arrangements inthese districts have much in common with those found in Cumberland and in Wales.


1Beda, `life of St. Benedict,` s. xi.

2Du Chaillu, P. B., `The Land of the Midnight Sun,` ii. 289.

3Elton, C. I., `Law of Copyholds,` p. 134.

4Nanson, W., Cumberland and Westmoreland Antiquarian and Archaeol. Soc. Transactions, vi. 305, 306.

5Gray, W., `Chorographia ; A Survey of Newcastle, 1649,` p. 26.

6Elton, C. I., `robinson on Gavelkind,` 243.

7Regiam Majestatem.

8Elton, C. I., `Law of Copyholders,` pp. 128, 134.

9Reeve`s `history of English Law,` edited by Finason, ii., 587.

10Ibid., ii. 589.

11Cecil, Evelyn, `Primogeniture,` p. 114.

12Ibid., 27, quoting Hale.

13Elton, C. I., `Robinson on Gavelkind,` p. 157.

14`Honor and forest of Pickering,` vol. iii.

15Maine, Sir H., `Early Institutions,` 269, 270.

16Elton, C. I., `Robinson on Gavelkind,` p. 33.

17Nennius, edited by Gunn, W., p. 183, notes.

18Ferguson, R. S., `history of Westmoreland,` 118 – 122.

19`Wills and Inventories of the Archdeaconry of Richmond,` edited by Raine, J., p. 284.

20Nicholson and Burns, `history of Westmoreland and Cumberland,` 24.

21Harland and Wilkinson, `Lancashire Folk-Lore,` 281 – 284.

22Fishwick, H., `History of Lancashire,` 15, 200, 201.

23March, H. C., Lancashire and Cheshire Arch, Soc., ix. 50, 51.

24Placita de quo Warranto, 586, 591.

25Elton, c. i., `Gavelkind,` Index.

26Beda, `Hist. Eccles.,` lib. Ii., chap. xiv.

27Whitaker, T. D., `History of Leeds,` 152.

28Cal. Rot. Pat. (Henry III.) p. 152.

29Cal, Inq. Post-mortem, ii. 18.

30Ibid., ii. 125.

31Ibid., ii. 72.

32Seebohm, F., `Tribal Custom in Anglo-Saxon Law,` 399.

33Rhys, J., `Celtic Britain,` 112.

34Ripley, W. Z., `Races of Europe,` 309.


36Skene, W. F., `Celtic Scotland,` i. 192.

37Halbertsma, J. H., `Lexicon Frisicum.`

38Cal. Patent Rolls, 1340 – 1343, p. 449.

39English Dialect Society, `Glossary of Holderness,` p. 2.

40Monumenta Germaniae, i. 166, 167.

41Ibid., ii. 386.

42English Dialect Society, `Glossary of Holderness,` p. 6.

43Atkinson, J. C., `Glossary of the Cleveland Dialect.`

44Reginaldi Monachi Dunelm. Libellus, chap. xxvii.

45English Dialect Society, `Glossary of Northumberland,` viii.

46English Dialect Society, `Glossary of Northumberland,` ix.

47Skene, W. F., `Celtic Scotland,` ii. 192.

48Ferguson, R., `the River-names of Europe,` 85.

49Notitia Imperii, and Wright, t., Lancashire and Cheshire Historic. Soc., viii. 141.

50Notitia Imperii


52Pearson, C. H., `historical Maps,` quoting authorities.

53Stephens R. G., `Old Northern Runic Monuments,` i. 60.

54Sweet, H., `Dialects and Prehistoric Forms of Old English,` Philol. Soc. Transactions, 1875 – 6, 560, 561.

55Latham, R. G., `Germania of Tacitus,` Prolegomena, xvii.

56`The Heimskringla,` by Sturluson, trans. By Laing, ii. 6.

57Stephens, G., loc. Cit., vol. i., 398.

58Sweet, H., `Oldest English Texts,` 125.

59Ibid., 124 – 130.

60Proceedings Soc, Antiquaries, Newcastle – on – Tyne, iii., p. 401.

61Grimm, j., `Teutonic Mythology,` iv. 1711.

62`The Heimskringla,` by Sturluson, trans. By Laing, ii., 180.

63Dom. Bk.

64Ralston, W R. S., `Russian Folk – Tales,` 243 – 258.

65Gomme, G. L., `Ethnology in Folk – Lore,` 78.

66Abbrev. Rot. Originalium, vol. i., 181.

67Anglo – Saxon Chronicle.

68Ibid., A. D. 941.

69Whitaker, T. D., `History of Whalley,` 4th Ed., 52.

70Mackenzie, E., `View of the County of Northumberland,` ii., pp. 52, 53.

71Laing, Samuel, `Journal of a Residence in Norway,` ed. 1851. Pp. 101, 102.

72Di Chaillu, P., `Viking Age,` i. 23.

73Domesday Book, quoted by Fishwick, H., `History of Lancashire,` 54.

74Nasse, E., `The Agricultural Community,` translated by Oudry, p. 71.

75Beddoe, J., `Races in Britain,` 249.

76Beddoe, J., `Races in Britain,` 250.


Taken from the book = `Origin of the Anglo-Saxon race`

Author T. W. Shore.