Includes – Cumbria (Cumberland and Westmorland), Durham, Lancashire, Northumberland and Yorkshire.
The three eastern counties of this area – Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland-formed the core of the old Anglian kingdom of Northumbria. This arose from a partial unification of two earlier kingdoms; Diera, which covered most of Yorkshire between Humber and Tees, and Bernicia, originally between Tees and Tweed. Deira was founded, or rather grew up, in the second half of the fifth century. Bernicia arose out of Anglian settlements at Bamborough in 547. Little is known of their early history. The earliest known great leader to arise in this region was Athelfrith, King of Bernicia, 593-616. He extended his frontiers northwards to the Forth and westward to the Irish Sea. He married the daughter of Alle King of Deira, and ruled Deira as well from 600 approx onwards. He was the real founder of the historic Northumbrian kingdom. He was killed in battle against Radwald of East Anglia at the river Idle near Doncaster.
Northumbria fortunately had five of its first six Kings were of outstanding ability and personality, and all but the first were Christians. Under the second ruler, the great Edwin, 616-32, brother-in-law of Athelfrith and son of Alle, Northumbria reached the height of its political power. Edwin’s overlordship was accepted throughout the whole country, Kent being the only one of the Anglo-saxon/Englisc kingdoms which did not formally acknowledge it, In 625 Edwin married Athelberg, a daughter of the Christian Athelbert of Kent and Bertha of Paris. Athelberg was accompanied north by the priest and his companions who preached the Gospel in Northumbria, eventually converting Edwin to the faith in 627. Paulinus became the first bishop of York, and Bede records that four churches were built during his ministry; one of wood at York for Edwin’s baptism; a square stone one on the same site (enclosing the earlier wooden one), which was completed by Edwin’s successor Oswald; one at Campodunum, possibly Doncaster, probably of wood as it was burnt soon afterwards, and a stone one at Lincoln which, roofless, was standing in Bede’s day, 731 approx. It seems likely that Paulinus had with him masons from Kent, for at this early date the northern Anglians could hardly have built stone churches, their whole building tradition being in timber.
Paulinus’s ministry lasted only seven years. He and Queen Athelberg fled the kingdom to Kent after Edwin’s death in 632 and did not return. Edwin was defeated and killed at the battle of Hatfield, near Doncaster, fighting against the British Cadwallon, Prince of Gwynedd, and his ally the Heathen Penda of Mercia.
The next King was Oswald, St. Oswald, son of Athelfrith, who reigned from 633-41. He had lived for some years in exile at Iona and it was he who invited Aidan from Iona to form his monastery at Lindisfarne in 634. Oswald defeated and killed Cadwallon at the battle of Hefenfelth, or Heavenfield, near Hexham in 633, It was before this battle that Oswald erected a large wooden cross nearby, which was a prototype of the carved stone standing crosses which became the characteristic expression of the plastic art of the early Anglo-Saxon/Englisc period. According to Bede this was the first christian symbol to be erected in Bernicia. He writes definitely as though it was still in existence in his time, some hundred years after its erection. Oswald was himself defeated and killed by Penda of Mercia at Maserfelth, probably near Oswestry, in 641.
Oswald was succeeded by his brother Oswy in Bernicia only (as Deira was occupied by Penda) until he defeated and killed Penda and his ally Athelhere of the East Angles at the Winwaed, a stream near Leeds, in 654. After this he ruled a reunited Northumbria until his passing in 670. From this time on Northumbria lost its supremacy of all England to Mercia under Wulfere, the Christian son of Penda, 657-74. Henceforth Northumbrian military and political activities were confined to north of the Humber, much to the benefit of the kingdom, for it allowed that internal consolidation which paved the way for the magnificent Anglo-Irish/Hiberno-Saxon art of Northumbria which began to develop about this time. It was Oswy/Oswiu’s reign that the Synod of Whitby was held in 664 at which, due largely to the efforts of Wilfrid of Ripon and the King himself, the Roman method of calculating the date of Easter and the Roman tonsure were accepted as official. As a result of this many of the Celtic/British Orthodox clerics returned to Iona or Ireland and the Roman Orthodox church eventually replaced the Scoto-Celtic teaching of Lindisfarne.
Oswy/Oswiu’s son and successor Ecgfirth, 670-85, was killed fighting the Picts at Nechtanesmere, near Forfar, in 685, a disaster from which recovery was slow and perhaps never complete.
Aldfrith, brother of Ecgfrith, who reigned from 685 to 704, gave stability to his almost ruined country. Bede wrote that Aldfrith ‘ably restored the shattered fortunes of the kingdom, though within boundaries’ and the historian Stenton that the learning of the age of Bede was possible only through the work of Aldfrith in ‘the critical years following the battle of Nechtansmere’. Aldfrith, like his greater successor Alfred the Great, was a considerable scholar and a patron of the arts, and under him the church established its position securely in Northumbria. He was educated in the Celtic/British part of Wessex under the Celtic Aldhelm, Abbot of Malmesbury, who had been a pupil of Theodore and Hadrian at Canterbury and was not therefore entirely Celtic/British in outlook. Before Aldfrith became King he had spent some years studying Celtic culture/British in Ireland and Iona. He was indeed a celtic scholar of Distinction and originality. It was in his reign that learning and art reached their peak of distinction in the Northumbrian monasteries.
The Lindisfarne Gospels were produced under Bishop Eadfrith 700 approx, and the ‘Codex Amiatinus’ was one of three complete bibles ordered to be written by Ceolfrith, Abbot of Jarrow, 690-716. The earliest and the finest and finest of the great standing crosses, those at Ruthwell in Dumfries and Bewcastle in Cumberland/Cumbria, are dated to 690 approx and so would belong to the reign of Aldfrith; and the construction of this great series of carved monuments went on undiminished in Aldfrith’s and later reigns, as well as much church building. Stenton writes of Aldfrith; ‘He was undoubtedly one of the most learned men in his own kingdom, and it is probable that his influence on the development of Northumbrian learning was much greater than appears on the surface of history. He is the most interesting member of the remarkable dynasty to which he belonged, and he stands besides Alfred of Wessex among the few Old Engisc Kings who combined skill in warfare with desire for knowledge.’
The Kings who came after Aldfrith were all Politically obscure, but a few were of great piety and probably exerted a greater influence on the development of culture than their political obscurity would indicate. Thus, Ceolworth, 729-37, otherwise almost unknown, was ‘the most glorious King’ to whom Bede dedicated his famous book ‘A History of the Englisc church and people’ in 731. Ceolworth abdicated in 737 and ‘entered the monastery of Lindisfarne; he gave to (the monks of St. Cuthbert his royal treasures and lands, that is to say Bregesne (possibly Brainshaugh, near Warkworth) and Werceworde, (possibly Warkworth), with their appurtenances (accessories), together with the church he had built there, and four others vills also, Wudecetre (possibly Woodhorn), Hwitingham (possibly Whittingham), Eadulfingham (possibly Whittingham), Eagwulfingham (possibly Eglingham).
Ceolworth’s successor Eadbert, 737-58, also abdicated to live as a monk in the monastery of his brother Ecgberht/Egbert, Archbishop of York. This Ecgberht, who had been a pupil of Bede and was later the teacher of Alcuin, founded the school at York which was later built up and developed by his kinsman Athelbert, also later Archbishop of York. Though Ecgberht the substance of Bede’s teaching was transmitted to a group of scholars, including Alcuin, who rapidly made York a prime centre of Englisc scholarship. Through Alcuin the work of Bede, via York, was a contributory factor, and an important one, in the revival of Western learning under Charlemagne. Charlemagne invited Alcuin in 782 to become head of his Palace School at Aachen, and later made him Abbot of St. Martin’s at Tours, 796-804, a monastery which Alcuin converted into a great centre of learning.
This export of religion and culture to western and north-western Europe is an essential part of the story. Northumbria was not a small outlaying kingdom which developed a brilliant art, culture, architecture and sculpture in isolation. It could not of course have developed very far, if at all, in isolation It influenced and was influenced by, it grew up in cultural association with, the Celtic learning of Ireland and south-west Scotland. Later its scholars and missionaries went abroad to Europe and founded monasteries which also became centres of learning, and which in turn influenced the art and architecture of these Islands. Thus, Willibrord from Northumbria spent more than forty years, from 690 approx, among the Frisians and founded the famous Abbey of Echternach, near Trier 710 approx. Later from the other end of England Boniface of Devon did similar and even more effective work among the west Germans between 719-754, and founded the great Abbey of Fulda 744 approx. His work has been stated to be the most important single influence on the history of Europe that any Engliscman has ever exercised (Christopher Dawson).
The great achievements of Northumbian culture, though rendered possible, or at least facilitated, by the outstanding personalities and patronage of the Northumbrian Kings, were brought about by four great churchmen whose work resulted in what has been called the Heroic Age of Anglo-Saxon/Englisc Church in the eighth century. These men were Benedict Biscop, 628-90, Wilfred of Ripon, 634-709, Bede of Jarrow, 763-735, and the great organiser and ecclesiastical statesman Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury, 668-90. Theodore indeed has been described as ‘the first man in Englisc history to whom we fittingly give the name statesman’. He not Augustine, was the true founder of the organised Anglo-Saxon /Englisc Church. He made his authority effective throughout the whole country. He cut several dioceses out of the single unwieldy one of Northumbria and brought them under the authority of Canterbury. Bede has been sufficiently referred to the above. His genius was in letters, theology and above all in history. He was not the only Englisc historian and the greatest of his age; his equal did not appear again for five hundred years. But apart from his very great general influence on culture he had no direct influence on architecture or on church building.
Benedict Biscop and Wilfred, both members of royal houses, were great builders. They must be regarded as the initiators of church building in stone in Northumbria. Benedict Bishop made six journeys to Rome, bringing back pictures, books treasures for the churches he intended to build. He also brought masons, glaziers and other craftsmen from Gaul to help him build ‘more Romanorun’ i.e. in the manner of the Romans, in stone.
The spread of Christianity throughout Northmbria, in fact throughout all England, was surprisingly rapid and extensive, and the conversion of Kings and nobles apparently genuine and sincere. The Kings became great patrons of the arts. They supplied lands and endowments for church buildings and were fortunate in that there was great ecclessiatics to take full advantage of this great opportunity. Also at this time, at this early time England was not a unified country but comprised seven politically separate kingdoms, those of the so-called Heptarchy, developing culturally along their own lines, although of course deeply influenced by the not very dissimilar cultures of their neighbours.
Later, after the first great series of Danish invasions was over, and Alfred had reorganised his part of the country, and after his son Edward ‘the Elder’ and grandson ‘Athelstan’ had re-conquered the Danelaw and so created one country, England, a new wave of church building as Christianity took a new lease of life, again under royal patronage, the patronage of Edgar, Canute and Edward ‘the Confessor’. With once again with great ecclesiastics to take full advantage this time with St. Dunstan, St. Athelwold of Winchester, St. Oswald of Worcester and York, one may add Edward the confessor himself-were able to build monasteries and churches, in a truly national style in late Anglo-Saxon/Englisc period.
Kings of Bernicia
Son of Eoppa, fortification of Bamburgh.
Eldest son of Ida.
son of Ida.
Brother of Athelric.
Son of Ida.
His son led the Bernicians to a great victory over Aedan mac Gabhrain at Degsastan in 603.
Ruler of Rheged to the west who with other warlords besieged Hussa at the island of Lindisfarne in c580 but was betrayed and slain.
Added the neighboring Kingdom of Deira due to a marriage but was slain at the battle of the river Idle.
Edwin of Deira, 616-633
Succeeded to the throne on the victory of river Idle, given to him by king Raedwald of East Angles.
Son of Aethelfrith who acceded the throne on the passing of Edwin, but was slain by the Briton Cadwallon a year later.
Another son of Aethelfrith, reunited Deira and Bernicia when he succeeded his brother in 634, but he was slain when fighting Penda of Mercia at the battle of Maserfield, near Oswestry, west of Shrewsbury.
Younger brother of Oswald took the throne after the slaying of his brother, greatest victory at the battle of Winwaed when Penda of Mercia was slain and joining Bernicia and Deira forever to form
Kings of Deira
The only thing known of him is from the Anglo-Saxon chronicle that gave him a pedigree from Woden.Aethelfric of Bernicia, 588-593
Possibly a sub-king put on the throne by his son Aethelfrith.
Aethelfrith of Bernicia, 593-617
Became King of Deira through his wife, slain at the battle of the River Idle where Edwin took the throne of Deira.
Became King of both Deira and Bernicia after victory at the battle of the River Idle. Edwin was slain with his son at the battle of Hatfield chase (Heathfield) by the Briton Cadwallon of Gwyned and Penda of Mercia.
Attempted to hold Deira after the death of Edwin but was slain by the Briton Cadwallon of Gwynedd, whom he was besieging.
Oswald of Bernicia, 634-642
He reunited Bernicia and Deira after he defeated and slew Cadwallon of Gwynedd at the battle on the Deniseburn, known as Heavenfield, near Hexham, but was later slain by Penda of Mercia.
Succeeded Oswald to the throne of Deira but was slain by Gilling in 651 on the orders of Oswiu/Oswy of Bernicia.
Son of Oswald, of Bernicia, possibly a sub-king put in by his uncle or by the Mercians.
Kings of Northumbria
Brought the Kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira together to form Northumbria. Presided over the synod of Whitby.
Son of Oswy, died fighting Picts which severely weakened Northumbria from then on.
Half brother of Ecgfrith, restored a shattered Northumbria within smaller boundaries.
Eadwulf I 705
King for a few months, but his support soon vanished and he was exiled to either Dal Riata or Pictland.
Osred I 705-716
The child son of Aldfrid, whose government was controlled by Bishop Wilfred and Ealdermen, Osred died young.
A young man when gaining the crown, but did not last long
Brother of Osred or possibly half brother.
Adopted heir by Osric, a distant cousin, deposed in 732, but quickly restored, finally abdicated to enter Lindisfarne.
Brother of Ecgbert, Archbishop of York, abdicated to become a monk.
Son of Eadberht, murdered by his servants and bodyguards.
Aethelwald moll 759-765
Seized throne after Oswulf’s murder, but was deposed by a Witenagemot of Northumbrian nobles.
Married Osgifu daughter of Oswulf, later deposed and exiled, fled to the Picts.
Aethelred I 774-779
Son of Aethelwald moll, straw man compared to his father, very soon deposed with the in fighting in Northumbria.
Aelfwald I 779-788
Possible son of Oswulf, but was murdered by an Ealderman.
Osred II 788-790
Son of Alhred,but he did not last long even though he united the competing factions in Northumbria, forcibly tonsored.
Aethelred II `restored` 790-796
His second reign, just as troublesome as before who was eventually murdered. Alcuin blamed Aethelred and his nobles on the sack of Lindisfarne by the Vikings.
Friend of Alcuin a monk from York, but he was a violent man, who was abandoned by the royal court after 27 days in power, exiled to Lindisfarne.
Eardwulf II 796-806
Little to record of his reign, except the continued in fighting within Northumbria, deposed in 806.
Aelfwald II 806-808
Followed Eardwulf after his deposition, but only lasted two years when he was deposed himself.
Eardwulf II ‘restored’ 808-810
Restored to the throne with help of Charlemagne, but only reigned for two years.
Little is known of his reign, offered terms of obedience and subjection to Ecgbert ‘King of all England/Wessex’ in 829.
Aethelred II 840-844 (854-858)
Son of Eanred, expelled in favour of Redwulf
Redwulf 844 (858)
He reigned less than a year died fighting the Vikings.
Aethelred II ‘restored’ 844-848 (858-862)
Restored after the death of Redwulf, was assassinated few years later.
Osberht 848 -867
Little is known of his reign deposed in 862.
Took the crown from Osberht, who could have been his brother, both died fighting the Vikings of York in 867.
There is confusion on the dates from Aethelred onwards with new evidence these could be their actual dates of reign.
With all the infighting in Northumbria going on for over a century the Vikings saw and used this opportunity to invade Northumbria and very nearly conquered the whole of England. These now named are the Viking King of York and beyond, in this is the English Kings who eventually defeated the Vikings.
Siegfred (Sievet) 893-896
Aethelwald of Wessex 900-902
Sihtric Caoch 921-926
Guthfrith Sihtricson 926
Aethelstan ‘King of England’ 926-939
Anlaf I Guthfrithson 940 -942
Anlaf II Quaran 942-944
Edmund and Eadred ‘Kings of England’ 944-947
Eric blood axe 947-948
Anlaf II Quaran ‘restored’ 949-952
Eric blood axe ‘restored’ 952-954
Saint John’s Church
Escombe, Nr Bishop Auckland, Durham
Saint Peter’s Church
Heysham, Nr Morecombe, Lancashire
Saint Gregory’s Minster
Kirkdale, North Yorkshire
HISTORY OF LANCASHIRE
The Romans began the conquest of Britain in 43 A.D., almost a century after Julius Caesar had first crossed the Channel from Gaul. Five years fighting gave them control of most of the south-eastern half of Britain, and by 60 A.D., Suetonius Paulinus had carried the conquest as far as Chester and North Wales. But the Romans did not hold the south-east sufficiently strongly to justify so rapid an advance. The revolt of the Iceni under Queen Boudicca forced Suetonius Paulinus to rush his troops south again order to defend London, and not until the 70s did the Romans attempt to conquer the backward Brigantes who occupied most of northern Britain. In the early days of the conquest the Romans had found the Brigantes under their queen, Cartimandua, amenable and co-operative, but before 70 A.D., these early Iron-Age Britons had become hostile and troublesome. Between 71 and 74 the Ninth Legion built a fort at York (Eburacum) and pushed north-westward as far as Carlisle (Luguvallium). This campaign established Roman control north of Lancashire. In 78 Agricola brought the Twentieth Legion, Valeria Victrix, to Chester (Deva). After he had subdued the Ordovices in North Wales, he led his soldiers across the Mersey by the ford at Latchford, and marched north towards the Ribble and east towards the Pennines. He soon built earth ramparts to defend the small garrisons he left at Ribchester (Bremetennacum), Manchester (Mamucium), and Overborough (Galacum), and during the next three years his men constructed rough roads to link these forts to Carlisle, Illey (Olicana) and York. Agricola himself led the relentless march to the north. By 82 A.D., he was across the Tay, and in 84 A.D., he won the decisive battle of Mons Graupius against the Caledonians in the Eastern Highlands of Scotland.
So far the Romans had done little but march straight through the area we now call Lancashire. The Roman historian, Tacitus, son-in-law of Agricola, described how the Romans ‘with sudden attacks and punishments’ terrified the Brigantes. ‘When Agricola had alarmed and terrified them sufficiently, he next tried the effects of good usage and the attractions of peace.’ Certainly his officers forced the Brigantes into road-making and trench-digging. Everything was done to keep the advance going. But Agricola was recalled in 84 A.D., and under the Emperors Trajan (98-117) and Hadrian (117-138) the plan to conquer the northern Highlands was abandoned. Hadrian’s Wall (122-128) eventually restricted the area of Roman occupation, and made it necessary to have safe and good roads leading to it from the legionary centres of Chester and York. Therefore during the first half of the second century the roads through Lancashire were increased in number and made more permanent . The old forts were made bigger and stronger, stone walls or timber palisades replaced earth ramparts, and additional strong points were built at Wilderspool, Wigan (Coccium), Walton-le-Dale, Kirkham, Lancaster and possibly at Colne. This Roman consolidation and expansion at first prompted the Brigantes to resist whenever they could. It is recorded that Antoninus Pius, who succeeded Hadrian as emperor in 138, had to suppress a revolt in the north, but the Brigantes could do little against the military superiority of the Romans. To the Romans Lancashire was unattractive because of its climate and its distance from Europe, and there is little evidence that Roman civilians ever settled there. No sites of Roman villas have been found in Lancashire. Some ex-soldiers married local girls and stayed on to farm in the Ribble valley and probably in the neighbourhood of Mamucium. Some Roman traders may have lived for short periods in or near one of the bigger forts, but most Romans who came to Lancashire were active soldiers on defence duties. Once they had finished their tour of duty they moved elsewhere, and were no more permanent than British soldiers are today in Germany. Lancashire is poor country for the archaeologist. Industrial development during the last three hundred years has destroyed or overbuilt much of the evidence the archaeologist would like to discover. New knowledge of the fort of Manucium has been found under cellar floors of warehouses near Knott Hill station and by rescue digs when nearby property was rebuilt. At Walton-le-Dale excavation had to await the convenience of the market gardeners who occupied the site. The Roman sites at Lancaster, Wigan, Warrington, and Ribchester are thick with property. Even so, during the last hundred and fifty years some interesting Roman finds have been made. Inscribed altar-stones and tomb-stones have been found at Lancaster, Ribchester, Warrington and Manchester, and preserved in local museums. Various Roman coins and pieces of jewellery have been dug up, and the Walton site has yielded a large quantity of Samian ware, which is red glazed pottery imported from Europe. In 1796 an elaborately-carved bronze helmet was discovered at Ribchester, and last century there were unearthed a bronze statuette of Jupiter at Manchester, a bronze bust of Minerva at Warrington, part of a Roman altar at Wigan, and various stretches of the original gravel surface of Roman roads, usually about thirteen feet wide/3.9m. Since 1945, there have been enlightening excavations at Lancaster, Manchester, Castleshaw, Walton, Kirkham, and Ribchester.
The Anglian Settlement
Archaeology has been able to discover little about the settlement of the Angles in Lancashire. Celtic writers were too vague and general to be of much help, and the Anglo-Saxon chroniclers, so informative about busier and more important areas, make few references to the area which became Lancashire. However, place-name and fortunately this is strong enough to form a reasonably clear picture of what took place.
The Angles came into Lancashire from the east, from Yorkshire (Deira) and from Northumberland and Durham (Bernicia). About 570 A.D., small family groups began to cross the Pennines, and settle on fairly high ground in the Lune and Ribble valleys, and so isolated sites clear of the marshland on the coastal plain. The ‘inga’ place-names such Billing, Melling, Billinge, these are places early in the period, Melling is the place-name where the followers or family of Mealla settled; Billinge, an early name but not necessarily ‘inga’ in form, means either the home of Bylla’s family, or the home of the people on the hill, or, simply the place on the hill. The ‘ingaham’ names such as Aldingham, Whittingham, Padiham suggest a second wave of settlement about 600 A.D. Most likely both these settlements were peacefully made. But with King Ethelfrith of Berncia, the conqueror of Deira, came war. He made two armed thrusts westwards. The first probably came down the Lune valley towards Morecombe Bay and ended in 603 A.D., with victory for the Angles at Degsaston, an undiscovered battle-site. The second crossed the Pennines further south, and drove through Manchester area and across the Mersey before achieving a triumphant climax in the decisive defeat of the British at Chester in 615 A.D. A third wave of Anglian colonists followed on the heels of this military conquest. The ‘ingaton’ names such as Pennington, Eccleston, Warrington, Whittington indicate some of their places of settlement. From that time until the eleventh century the Angle population in Lancashire steadily increased. It is not possible to say how many settlements they made. More than two hundred ‘tun’ names of this later period have been identified with certainty, but many more must have been obliterated by Norse and Danish names in the following centuries.
It is hard to discover whether the Angles and Romano-British inhabitants of Lancashire lived peaceably together or not. Gildas a Celtic writer, described the Anglian invasion as ‘a fire from the East which burned sea to sea’ and ‘did not die down until, consuming almost all the island that stood above ground, it licked the Western Ocean with its red tongue’. Even Bede the Anglian historian wrote of Ethelfrith’s conquest as ruthless, and told how the Angles viciously attacked a large group of non-combatant priests who accompanied the British soldiers at Chester. On the other hand certain facts suggest that the angles at least tolerated the Britons. Some codes of Anglo-Saxon law gave the British a lowly but recognized standing; some Angles of leading families were given British personal names, a fact which suggests intermarriage between the Angles and British; and the revival of Celtic art after the Anglian invasion shows that British craftsmen were able and probably encouraged to continue their work.
In Lancashire more than fifty British place-names have survived. Almost all of them are found south of the Ribble, centred round Wigan and Manchester. There are none at all in the Lune valley which the Angles made a principle area of settlement, and, with the exception of Ince Blundell, none in the coastal area of south Lancashire, which the Norse later occupied in force. Wigan is derived from a British personal name, ‘Treales’ from a British habitation name, and ‘Makerfield’ from a British district name, but most of the others are topographical manes, embodying such British words as ‘pen’ (hill), ‘cet’ (wood), ‘ince’ (island in the marsh), ‘ecles’ (church) or ‘cader’ (hill-fort). These topographical names were often accepted by the Angles, not always with full understanding of the meaning of the British word. Thus to ‘pen’ they added their own name for ‘hill’ to produce Pendle, and later generations even added a third ‘hill’ to give us ‘Pendle Hill’. Similarly to ‘cet’ was added ‘wood’ to give ‘Cheetwood’, now an area in Manchester. The Angles and Norse distinguished isolated British communities with such names as ‘Walton, Ulnes Walton and Brettargh Holt. In those areas there could not have been any British settlements, or else such a designation as ‘Walton’, ‘the settlement of the British’. would have no point.
The Celtic Britons could not prevent the English from steadily making themselves masters of the area between the Mersey and Morecombe Bay, even though they managed eventually to convert their new masters to Christianity. By 900 A.D., English control was strong enough to subdue the many new Scandinavian settlements in the area.
Apart from several small finds of Anglo-Saxon coins, three hoards have been found in Lancashire; one at Little Crosby near Liverpool in 1611, one on Halton Moor near Lancaster in 1815, and one at Cuerdale near Preston in 1840. The last contained no less than ten thousand silver coins and almost a thousand ounces of silver ingots, all packed into a leaden chest. The treasure is thought to have been hidden away by the Danish army in its flight before Edward the Elder in 911 A.D. most of the coins were Danish and had been minted in York, but among them were almost a thousand coins of Alfred the Great and about fifty of Edward the Elder.
Danes and Norsemen
The seventh century was the golden age of Northumbria. Originally consisting of two independent kingdoms, Bernicia and Deira, it was united in 605 A.D., and during the reign of Edwin expanded into the most powerful of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. It stretched from the Humber to the Forth and the western coast and included the isle of Anglesey and Man. But in the following century Mercia replaced it as the most important English kingdom, although Northumbria continued for some time as a principle seat of learning and literary activity. In the ninth century the leadership of the English passed from the Mercia to the kingdom of Wessex.
Therefore on Wessex fell the heaviest burden of organizing resistance against the Danish invasions, which began with isolated raids on the east and south coasts of England in the later years of the eighth century, but which developed into damaging campaigns inland during the next hundred years. In 865 A.D., the Great Army of the Danes landed in East Anglia intent on beginning a permanent conquest of England. By 874 A.D., the king of Mercia – the present-day Derbyshire, Leicester and Northamptonshire – the Danes were already establishing settlements. Most of south-western Northumbria (i.e. Lancashire) escaped these devastating attacks, but place-names in the Manchester area, such as Hulme, Oldham (Aldhulme), Flixton, Urmston, and Hulme near Winwick, reveal the north-western fringe of Danish settlement. The track of this invasion can be traced back through eastern Cheshire in such place-names as Cheadle Hulme, Holmes Chapel, Hulme Walfield, Kettleshulme, Knutsford and Toft.
About 900 A.D., however, the western coast of Northumbria and the north-west of Mercia were invaded by many boatloads of Norsemen, who sailed from northern Ireland and the Isle of Man. The forefathers of these invaders had journeyed from Scandinavia round the north of Scotland to find new homes in the Western Isles and in Ireland. Many had become Christians. To Lancashire these Norsemen appear to have come as fairly peaceful settlers. The position of their homesteads and the evidence from ‘Domesday Book’ suggest that they were living as friendly neighbours with the Angles, and often were content to farm inferior land.
Undoubtedly there were occasional skirmishes especially in the early stages of the settlement, but the Norse filtered into Lancashire rather than invaded it. Their language came to be dominant in many districts of the area for several generations. For years after the French-Norman Conquest Lancashire men were measuring land not in Anglian hides and yardlands, but in Norse carucates (or ploughlands) and bovates (or oxgangs), and reckoning values not by the English silver penny but by the Norse ora. Even as late as the twelfth and thirteenth centuries many a Lancashire boy was christened Stainulf or Thurstan or Siward as his Norse ancestors had been.
Norse and Danish place-names often took alike. ‘Kir(k)by’ or ‘Ormskirk’ could be either Norse or Danish in origin. But so many place-names in western Lancashire have distinctive Norse characteristics that it is not difficult to show that this extensive Scandinavian settlement was Norse not Danish. There is no doubt about place-names such as Scarisbrick, Norbeck, Lowgill, Brinscall, Scales, Ashlack or Nettleslack, and some place-names, such as Goosnargh, Grimsargh, Anglezarke and Becconsall, are even partly Irish as well as partly Norse.
After the death of Alfred the Great the defence of England fell chiefly on the shoulders of two of Alfred’s children, Edward the Elder, the new king of Wessex, and AEthelflaed, Lady of the Mercians. Brother and sister built a series of defensive forts. The fort at Runcorn, situated at the base of the present Runcorn railway bridge, itself called afterAEthelflaed, guarded the Mersey at one of its narrowest points. In 919 A.D., the year after AEthelflaed’s death, Edward built forts at Thelwall and at Manchester to strengthen the English position in the Mersey valley, and eventually forced the Norse army in Yorkshire to surrender. AEthelstan, his son, did even better. He carried the fight north of the Ribble, and in 937 A.D., at the battle of Brunanburgh, the site of which is still unknown, he defeated an important coalition of his enemies, and was everywhere acknowledged as king of the English. Brunanburgh marked the beginning of a most welcome period of peace, which lasted until 980 A.D. Then a new series of Danish attacks, which culminated in Canute’s conquest of England, renewed the struggle.
Until the days of Edward the Elder and AEthelstan, the Mersey had been the boundary between the kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria. But in the general settlement after Brunanburgh, the Ribble became the new southern limit of Northumbria, and the land between the Ribble and the Mersey passed into the hands of the king. He kept it separate from Mercia, and in the following century it did not become part of the earldom of Mercia. It remained as a royal domain until after the French-Norman Conquest.
The coming of Christianity
The Christian gospel reached Britain well before the last century of the Roman occupation; but, with the exception of two Roman coins bearing Christian symbols, archaeologists so far have found nothing to suggest that there could have been Christian communities as early as this in the area we now call Lancashire. On the other hand there are several reasons for believing that soon after the departure of the Romans, Christian missionaries began to convert the native Romano-Britons, and, later, the Anglian settlers who crossed the Pennines from Deira. First, there is a persistent legend that St. Patrick (c 389-461) was once wrecked off the shore of Morecombe Bay. Legend can be most misleading, but today on a cliff-head at Heysham stil stands in ruins of St. Patrick’s Chapel, built by the Angles probably before the year 800 A.D. Hard by St. Patrick’s Chapel the Angles built a second church dedicated to St. Peter, a striking proof that the early Christians held this site particularly sacred. Secondly, about 1200 A.D., one of the monks of Furness Abbey recorded that, in the middle of the sixth century, Bishop Kentigern of Glasgow had led a Christian crusade from Cumberland to Wales mostly along the seashore, a journey which must have taken him into dozens of west Lancashire settlements. Thirdly, in the second half of the seventh century, Bishop Wilfred of Ripon wrote not only of ‘those holy places in divers regions which the British clergy had deserted’ in the face of the Anglian invasion, but also of the lands and buildings in the Ribble valley and in Cartmel, which the kings of Northumbria had presented to the Church. Fourthly, the presence of the British word ‘ecles’, a church, in such place-names as Eccles and Eccleston, suggest the existence of Christian communities before, or at least in the early stages of, the Anglian settlement. Moreover, there is the evidence of the dedication to Anglian saints of at least five pre-Conquest churches (at Winwick, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lytham, Preston and Halton in the Lune valley), and the existence of Anglian crosses at Whalley, Lancaster, Bolton and other places, all of which strengthens the impression that there was a lively Christian Church working in Lancashire at least as early as the seventh and eighth centuries.
Irish Christians, the followers of St. Columba and St. Aidan, were the pioneer missionaries of this Church, but after the Synod of Whitby in 663 A.D., Celtic and Roman Christians joined forces. York became the administrative centre of the Northumbrian church, but when AEthelstan seized the land between the Ribble and the Mersey, he transferred his conquest into the Mercian diocese of Lichfield. There it remained until the creation of Chester diocese in 1541, but the church in northern Lancashire continued to be administered from York.
The Norse settlers who swarmed into Lancashire about 900 A.D., left behind them evidence of their Christian activity. As the Angles did before them, they too marked their sacred places with stone crosses. A Norse cross can usually be recognized by its chain-pattern decorations, its carved snakes and dragons, and its wheel-head, or circle of stone running between the arms of the cross. Good examples of Norse stone crosses, now weather-worn and broken, can be seen at Winwick, Lancaster, Halton and Urswick; and at Heysham and Bolton-le-Sands still remain crudely-decorated stone Norse tombs known as hogbacks. These date from about the year 1000.
Christianity did not entirely drive out the old pagan beliefs. On the cross at Halton one side of the cross-shaft carries a sculptured representation of the Ascension of Christ, but the opposite side unmistakably depicts the pagan story of Stigurd the Volsung. Small stone crosses were used for marking important graves, but a preaching cross primed a customary place of worship until labour and material were available to build a church on the site. The investigators who compiled ‘Domeday Book’ in 1086 mentioned fifteen churches in Lancashire, and referred indirectly to two others. In the north they recorded churches at Tatham and Tunstall and implied that there were churches at Cartmel and at (Kirk) Lancaster. In Amounderness they stated there were three churches, probably Kirkham, Poulton and St. Michael-on-Wyre. South of the Ribble they named churches at Blackburn, at Walton, St. Mary’s at Whalley, St. Mary’s at Manchester, St. Michael’s at Ashton-under-Lyne, St. Oswald’s at Winwick, St. Elfin’s at Warrington, and the ‘church of the manor’ of Newton wapentake, which was probably Wigan church. They also spoke of priests holding land both at Childwall and in Leyland wapentake. But since the investigators did not set to record churches, their list is incomplete. It does not include the churches at Preston, Lytham, Melling, Halton, Bolton-le-Sands and Heysham, which certainly were then in existence, nor those at such places as Ormskirk, Garstang, Sefton, Eccles and Prescot, which were probably pre-Conquest in origin.
Domesday Survey and Lancashire
Twenty years after the battle of Senlac Ridge/Hastings, the Duke now pronounced himself king held a detailed enquiry into the way in which land was owned and taxed in England. he sent out officials into all parts of England except the most northerly areas to ask questions about the extent of land under the plough, the number of plough-teams, mills and fishponds, and to record owners and value of all estates both in 1066 and 1086, the year in which the enquiry was being made. This information arranged by counties was recorded in two volumes of ‘Domeday Book’, nearly 1700 pages all told. Lancashire does not appear because the county did not even exist as an administrative unit, but the one and a half pages concluding the description of Cheshire are headed between the Ribble and the Mersey, and the parts of Lancashire north of the Ribble are included in the Yorkshire section. The detail given is patchy and at times difficult to understand, but these three pages of Latin, with their abbreviations and strangely-spelt names, are the earliest surviving description of the land between the Mersey and the Cumbrian hills.
At the time of the Conquest the royal estate between the Mersey and the Ribble was divided into six unequal divisions called wapentakes by the Norse settlers, and hundreds by the English. Each wapentake took its name from the royal manor within its border. The king’s reeve farmed the manor lands. The rest he divided into small estates or berewicks, to be farmed by thanes, drengs and freemen, who paid rent to the king partly in money in service. In Newton wapentake fifteen drengs farmed berewicks. Each dreng paid the king two shillings rent a year in addition to his customary services. In Warrington wapentake there were thirty-four dengs; in West Derby, sixty-five thanes, and in Salford, twenty-one; and in Blackburn, twenty-eight freemen, and in Leyland, twelve. There royal tenants each farmed two or three carucates of land. A carucate was equal to eight bovates or oxgangs, and, in Lancashire though not elsewhere, six carucates constituted one hide. It is possible to give the equivalent of these measures in acres. Originally a bovate was the area of land which one ox could plough each year, probably about fifteen acres, but by 1086 all these measures seem to have become tax-assessment figures only. The different names by which the tenants were known probably indicated different services and duties, for thanes, freemen and drengs seem to have possessed equivalent social status. Lower down the social scale there were villiens, borders or cotters, and serfs.
Domesday Book paints a picture of south Lancashire as an area of woodland and mosses, in which relatively small patches of land had been cleared and cultivated. Many thousands of acres were described as waste and the plentiful pasture was probably very rough grassland. There were no towns at all. People lived in scattered farmsteads or groups of cottages, and there could hardly have been ten thousand inhabitants in the whole area between the Ribble and the Mersey. Today twice ten thousand spectators are considered to be a poor ‘gate’ for a first-class football match. The land north of the Ribble was divided into two extensive wapentakes, Amounderness, centred upon the manor of Preston, and ‘the king’s land in Euricscire (Yorkshire)’, which included the areas later known as Lonsdale, Kendal, Cartmel and Furness. Before 1066 these lands had belonged to an English noble, Earl Tostig, whom his brother, King Harold, defeated at Stamford Bridge a few days before the battle of Senlac ridge/Hastings. Within five years this northern area had suffered two ruthless invasions, the one in 1065-6 by Tostig’s English enemies, and the other in 1069 when the French-Normans ‘harried the north’ as a punishment for revolt. Domesday Book records that in 1086 only sixteen of the sixty-two berewicks in Amounderness were inhabited, and it gives the impression that Lonsdale was a stricken and impoverished land. The area south of the Ribble could count itself fortunate. In 1086 its estates were assessed at £120 a year, a mere £25 less than their value in the days of Edward the confessor.