Derivation of the Surname RAMSDALE

Part 3: Danish or Norwegian Origin
Published Sources

Old Norse Place-Name Evidence in and around the coastal fringe of North Yorkshire

Part 1 Index: Etymological & Teutonic Sources

  1. Derivation of the Surname RAMSDALE
  2. Etymology
  3. Teutonic Sources
  4. Viking Influence
  5. Danish or Norwegian Origin ?
  6. Topographical and Toponymic (habitation) Surnames
  7. Heraldry
  8. Notes
  9. Møre og Romsdal, Norway
  10. Romsdal to Ramsdale

Part 2 Index: Locative Sources

  1. Ramsdale Hamlet, Fylingdale's Parish, North Yorkshire
  2. Ramsdale Megalithic Standing Stones, North Yorkshire
  3. Lilla Howe Bronze Age Barrow, North Yorkshire
  4. Wade's Causeway, North Yorkshire
  5. Ramsdale Valley, Scarborough, North Yorkshire
  6. Ramsdale & Ramsdell Chapelries, Hampshire
  7. Lilla Howe Bronze Age Barrow, North Yorkshire
  8. Cuerdale Hoard, Preston, Lancashire
  9. Wade's Causeway, North Yorkshire

Part 3 Index: Danish or Norwegian Origin

  1. Danish or Norwegian Origin (published sources) [THIS PAGE]
  2. Danish or Norwegian Origin (table of place-names)
  3. Viking Society Web Publications
  4. Molde Wind Roses
  5. "On dalr and holmr in the place-names of Britain", Dr. Gillian Fellows-Jensen
  6. "The Place-Names of the North Riding of Yorkshire" (1979) A. H. Smith, Volume V
  7. "Hiberno-Norwegians' and 'Anglo-Danes': Anachronistic Ethnicities in Viking Age England" Clare Downham, University of Aberdeen (2009) at pages 157 to 163

Part 4 Index: General

  1. Fylingdales: Geographical and Historical Information (1890), Transcript of the entry for the Post Office, Professions and Trades in Bulmer's Directory of 1890
  2. Fylingdales Parish: Victoria County History (1923) A History of the County of York North Riding Volume 2, Pages 534 to 537
  3. Ramsdale Mill, Robin Hood's Bay, Yorkshire - Postcard Views (circa 1917 to 1958)
  4. Ramsdale Valley, Scarborough, North Yorkshire: Edwardian Postcards (1901 to 1915)
  5. Scarborough, North Yorkshire: Bulmer's History and Directory of North Yorkshire (1890)
  6. Ramsdale Megalithic Standing Stones, Bronze Age Stone Circle, Fylingdales Moor, North Yorkshire
  7. Robin Hood's Bay - published articles regarding its origin
  8. Ramsdale Family Register - Home Page
  9. Whitby Jet - published articles


The area researched was originally confined to 'The Chapelry of Fylingdales' - see map above - first recorded as Figclinge in the 11th century, Figelinge and Fielinge in the 11th and 12th centuries and possibly as Saxeby in the 12th century. It was a parochial chapelry south of Whitby and contained the villages of Robin Hood's Bay and Thorpe, or Fylingthorpe (which was recorded as Prestethorpe in the 13th century) and the hamlets of Normanby, Parkgate, Ramsdale, Raw (Fyling Rawe, 16th century) and Stoupe Brow. Fylingdales Parish covers an area of 13,325 acres (53.92 km2, 20.82 miles2) of land and inland water.

The area researched was then extended beyond Fylingdales Parish to include 'The Liberty of Whitby Strand' comprising, in 1831, the parishes of Whitby, Hackness, Sneaton and the Chapelry of Fylingdales as taken from A History of the County of York North Riding: Volume 2, ed. William Page (London, 1923) at pages 502 to 505 (see map below) and which now includes the parishes of Aislaby (1865), Ruswarp (1870) and Hawsker (1878).

The area researched has been further extended to include (1) Pickering Lythe Wapentake, (2) Whitby Strand Wapentake and (3) Langbargh East Wapentake, described in "The Place-Names of the North Riding of Yorkshire" (1928) A. H. Smith, Volume V, at pages 74 to 157; in particular the littoral parishes comprising the North Yorkshire coast.

England 878 AD The Liberty of Whitby Strand

North Yorkshire Littoral - Parishes

Danish or Norwegian Origin ?

"Robin Hood's Bay lies in the ancient parish of Fylingdales. The name itself is believed to be derived from the Old English word 'Fygela' which meant 'marshy ground'. The first evidence of man in the area was 3000 years ago when Bronze Age burial grounds were dug on the high moorland a mile or so south of the village. These are known as Robin Hood's Butts. Some 1500 years later, Roman soldiers had a stone signal tower built at Ravenscar about the 4th century AD. The first regular settlers, however, were probably Saxon peasants, followed by the Norsemen. The main colonists of this coast were Norwegians who were probably attracted by the rich glacial soil and ample fish, and this is how they survived by a mixture of farming and fishing. The likely original settlement of the Norsemen was at Raw, a hamlet slightly inland, which helped to avoid detection by other pirates." See Robin Hood's Bay - its history and origins. and Robin Hood's Bay - published articles regarding its origin.

Treaty of Alfred and Guthrum (878 - 890)

First concerning our boundaries: up on the Thames (to Learmouth), and then up on the Lea and along the Lea unto its source (at Five-Springs, Wauluds Bank, Leagrave), then straight (north, 18 miles) to Bedford, then up on the (Great) Ouse to Watling Street (A6, 109 miles). This has been taken by many later writers as the boundary of the Danelaw. However, the treaty does not describe it as such, and it appears to be primarily a political boundary, perhaps created in the wake of Alfred's taking of London.

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle tended to call the people in the Danelaw 'Danes'. Interestingly, the 'Danes' are seen to be subjected to the 'Norsemen' which suggests that at this time, 'Danes' refers to the people of the Danelaw, as a distinct concept from "Norsemen" which refers to the Viking warriors.

It is frequently impossible to decide whether a particular word or personal name is of Danish or Norwegian origin. However, place-names on the North Yorkshire coast ending in dale, by and thorpe are indicative of settlement by Norwegian adventurers in the 9th century AD who had joined Danish Vikings in subjugating the whole of northern England (the Danelaw) before settling there as farmers and traders and developing great mercantile cities such as York.

"It is only, I think, by comparison with other districts, and from the history of the old Danes and Norse - not merely as pirates, but as colonists - that we may hope to learn the facts and interpret the remains of the great Viking settlements." per "Norse Place-names in Wirral" (1896) W. G. Collingwood, Saga Book Vol. II at page 147

ON Origins: local place-name evidence

In the Pickering Lythe, Whitby Strand and Langbargh East Wapentakes there are some 8,764 examples of local place-names containing one or more of 503 ON original elements. Where a place-name has two or more ON original elements it is included under both so the total number of examples includes some double, triple and quadruple counting. Examples of such multiple ON element listings are:

In this regard see ON place-name element raw: hrar, bráð 'raw flesh' and rauðr 'red' with (seven) duplicate entries.

The table of local place-names can be found in Part 4 of "Derivation of the Surname RAMSDALE".

Old Norse is the language of Norway in the period circa 750 to 1350 (after which Norwegian changes considerably) and of Iceland from the settlement (circa 870) to the Reformation (circa 1550 - a date that sets a cultural rather than a linguistic boundary). Known in modern Icelandic as Norræna, in Norwegian as Norrønt and in English sometimes as West Norse or Old Icelandic, this type of speech is a western variety of Scandinavian.

Although Icelandic circa 870 to 1550 and Norwegian circa 750 to 1350 are here given the designation 'Old Norse', it would be wrong to think of this language as entirely uniform, without variation in time or space. The form of Scandinavian spoken in Norway around 750 differed in a number of important respects from that spoken around 1350, and by the latter date the Norwegian carried to Iceland by the original settlers had begun to diverge from the mother tongue. Nevertheless, in the period circa 1150 to 1350, when the great mediæval literature of Iceland and Norway was created, there existed an essential unity of language in the western Scandinavian world.

"An Icelandic-English Dictionary" (1874 & 1957) Richard Cleasby and Gudbrand Vigfusson at page 457, entry 36

Norræna (i.e. Norrœna), u, f. the Norse (i.e. Norwegian) tongue … Norrænu bækr, books written in Norse … Norrænu skáldskapr, Norse poetry, Skálda. In the title-page of the earliest Icelandic printed books it is usually said that they have been rendered into the 'Norse', thus, nú hér útlögð á Norrænu, the New Testament of 1540 … II. a breeze from the north …

"An Icelandic-English Dictionary" (1874 & 1957) Richard Cleasby and Gudbrand Vigfusson at page 457, entry 37

Norræna, að, to render into Norse …

"An Icelandic-English Dictionary" (1874 & 1957) Richard Cleasby and Gudbrand Vigfusson at page 457, entry 38

Norrænn (norœnn), adjective Norse, Norwegian … maðr norrænn … Landnámabók. passim; n. víkingrberserkrnorræn lög, Norse laws … norræn tunga, the Norse tongue … II. of the wind, northern; görði á norrænt

"An Icelandic-English Dictionary" (1874 & 1957) Richard Cleasby and Gudbrand Vigfusson at page 457, entry 39

Norskr, adjective, Norse, appears in the 14th century instead of the older Norrænn

Old English is the name given to the language spoken by the Anglo-Saxons in the 5th to 11th centuries.

Basic Pronunciation of Norrœnt mál (Old Norse)

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a as in far dagr 'day'
á as in father ár 'year'
e as in red ek 'I'
é as in said vér 'we'
i short, as in pit fiskr 'fish'
í long, as in eat íss 'ice'
ǫ as in hot ǫl 'ale'
o as in oat stormr 'storm'
ó as in rode sól 'sun'
ø as 'e' in her døkkr 'dark'
ö as 'e' in her björk 'birch'
u as in root sumar 'summer'
u as in root sumar 'summer'
ú as in rude fúss 'eager'
y as in rue yfir 'over'
ý as in feuille ýr 'yew'
Unstressed Vowels
a as stressed a leysa 'release'
i as in city máni 'moon'
u as in wood eyru 'ears'
aa as in awe Thorsaa 'Thor's rivulet'
æ as in mad sær 'sea'
au as in owl brauð 'bread'
ei as in rain bein 'bone'
ey ON e + y (red rue) ey 'island'
œ as in slur œrr 'mad'
b as in buy bíta 'bite'
bb the same sound, but long gabb 'mockery'
c as in keep köttr 'cat'
d as in day dómr 'judgement'
dd the same sound, but long oddr 'point'
ð as in this jörð 'earth'
f (1) as in far 'money'
f (2) as in very haf 'ocean'
ff as in far, but long offr 'offering'
g (1) as in goal gefa 'give'
g (2) as in loch lágt 'low'
g (3) as in loch, but voiced eiga 'own'
gg (1) as in goal, but long egg 'edge'
gg (2) as in loch gløggt 'clear'
h as in have horn 'horn'
j as in year jafn 'even'
k as in call kǫttr 'cat'
kk the same sound, but long ekki 'nothing'
l as in leaf nál 'needle'
ll the same sound, but long hellir 'cave'
m as in home frami 'boldness'
mm the same sound, but long frammi 'in front'
n (1) as in sin hrinda 'push'
n (2) as in sing hringr 'ring'
nn as in sin, but long steinn 'stone'
p as in happy œpa 'shout'
pp the same sound, but long heppinn 'lucky'
r rolled gøra 'do'
rr the same sound, but long verri 'worse'
s as in this reisa 'raise'
ss the same sound, but long áss 'beam'
t as in boat tǫnn 'tooth'
tt the same sound, but long nótt 'night'
v as in win vera 'to be'
þ as in thin þing 'assembly'
x as in lochs øx 'axe'
z as in bits góz 'property'

Source Index

  1. A history of Whitby and Streonshalh Abbey (1817) George Young
  2. An account of the Danes and Norwegians in England, Scotland, and Ireland (1852) Jens Jakob Asmussen Worsaae
  3. Thorstein of the mere; a saga of the Northmen in Lakeland (1895) William Gershom Collingwood Chapter 6 at pages 30 to 38
  4. The Norsemen in Shetland (1896) Gilbert Goudie Saga Book Vol. I at pages 289 to 318
  5. Norse Place-names in Wirral (1896) W. G. Collingwood
  6. An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language (1898) Walter William Skeat
  7. Scandinavian Loan-Words in Middle English (1900) Erik Björkman
  8. The Oldest Known List of Scandinavian Names with their Bearing on Yorkshire Place-Names (1905-06) Jon Stefansson Ph.D., Saga Book IV at pages 296 to 311
  9. Words and Places (1911) Isaac Taylor and J. M. Dent
  10. Middle-English Place-names of Scandinavian origin (1912) Harald Lindkvist
  11. English dialects from the eighth century to the present day (1912) Walter W. Skeat
  12. Early Yorkshire Charters (1914) William Farrer
  13. The Dialects of Hackness (north east Yorkshire) with original specimens, and a word-list (1915) George Herbert Cowling
  14. Norway, I. Virile Ways of the Modern Vikings (circa 1920) A. MacCallum Scott Volume V
  15. Norway, II. From Harald Haarfager to Haakon VII (circa 1920) J. A. Brendon Volume V
  16. The Norse Settlements in the British Islands, Alexander Bugge, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Volume 4 (1921)
  17. The Place-names of Lancashire (1922) Eilert Ekwall
  18. Introduction to the Survey of English Place Names (1924) A. Mawer and F. M. Stenton
  19. Danes and Norwegians in Yorkshire (1925) A. H. Smith, Saga Book Vol. X at pages 188 to 215
  20. Travels with a Sketch Book: the Ouse at Lewes (1931) Donald Maxwell
  21. Robin Hood in the North: a Theory of a Norse Origin to the Legends (1934) Lewis Spence
  22. Saga Book of the Viking Society for Northern Research (1945) "Anglo-Saxon England" reviewed by F. M. Stenton
  23. The Proportion of Scandinavian Settlers in the Danelaw (1945) Eilert Ekwall, Saga Book Vol. XII at pages 19 to 35
  24. The Origin of English Place Names (1960) P. H. Reaney
  25. The Domesday Geography of Northern England (1962) H.C. Darby and I. S. Maxwell
  26. Anglo Saxon England (1971) Sir Frank Stenton
  27. Scandinavian Settlement Names in Yorkshire (1972) Gillian Fellows Jensen
  28. Scandinavian Settlement Names in Yorkshire (1972) Gillian Fellows Jensen - Review by John McN. Dodgson, (1974-7) Saga Book Vol. XIX at pages 339 to 343
  29. Scandinavian Settlement Names in the East Midlands (1978) Gillian Fellows Jensen - Review by A. M. J. Perrott, (1978-81) Saga Book Vol. XX at pages 325 to 328
  30. English Place-Names (1977) Kenneth Cameron
  31. The Place-Names of the North Riding of Yorkshire (1979) A. H. Smith
  32. Settlement and society in north-east Yorkshire A.D. 400-1200 (1987) Ann Elizabeth Reid
  33. Viking Revaluations: Norway (800-1200) (1992) Knut Helle
  34. Viking Revaluations: Norse in the British Isles (1992) Michael Barnes
  35. The Vikings and their Victims: the Verdict of the Names (1994) Gillian Fellows-Jensen at page 31
  36. Missionary Activity in Early Medieval Norway; Strategy, Organization and the Course of Events" (1998) Dagfinn Skre
  37. Language and History in Viking Age England: Linguistic relations between speakers of Old Norse and Old English (2002) Matthew Townend
  38. Domesday Book - A Complete Translation (2003)
  39. Farm-derived units of measurement
  40. Scandinavian place-names in northern Britain as evidence for language contact and interaction (November 2003) A. E. Grant
  41. Power and Conversion: a Comparative Study of Christianization in Scandinavia" (2004) Alexandra Sanmark
  42. What caused the Viking Age ? (2008) James H. Barrett, McDonald Institute for Archæological Research, University of Cambridge
  43. What caused the Viking Age ? (2008) James H. Barrett, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge (conclusions only)
  44. Viking names found in Landnámabók (2012) Sara L. Uckelman
  45. Naming the Landscape in the Landnám narratives of The Íslendingasögur and Landnámabók" (2012) Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough
  46. Hard Justice: Examining Judicial Violence in Viking-Age Scandinavia and England (2013) Keith Ruiter
  47. English is not Normal (13th November 2015) John McWhorter
  48. Performing oaths in Eddic Poetry: Viking age fact or medieval fiction ? (2016) Anne Irene Riisøy
  49. An Encapsulation of Óðinn: Religious belief and ritual practice among the Viking Age elite with particular focus upon the practice of ritual hanging (2016) Douglas Dutton Phd, University of Aberdeen
  50. Viking Scandinavians back home and abroad in Europe: and the special case of Björn and Hásteinn (2018) Stefan Brink
  51. The Earliest Wave of Viking Activity ? The Norwegian evidence revisited (2019) Aina Margrethe Heen Pettersen
  52. Children of a One-Eyed God: Impairment in the Myth and Memory of Medieval Scandinavia (2019) Michael David Lawson
  53. The Swine in Old Nordic Religion and Worldview (2011) Lenka Kovárováa
  54. The Scandinavian Place-names of Lewis (2014)

"A history of Whitby and Streonshalh Abbey: with a statistical survey of the vicinity to the distance of twenty-five miles" (1817) Volume II, Book IV, The Reverand George Young at page 889

Appendix No 1 Extracts from Domesday with the modern names and etymological notes

Land of Earl Hugh

IIII. In Witebi and Sneton, Whitby and Sneaton, (White-bi, see page 242 of this History, Sneton from sned, sloping, and ton) a berewick, there are to be taxed 15 carucates and there may be 15 ploughs. Earl Siward held this for one manor. Earl Hugh has it now, and William de Percy of him. In the demesne 2 ploughs and 10 villans and 3 bordars having 1 plough. Woodland pasture 7 leagues long and 3 leagues broad. The whole plain 3 leagues long and 2 broad. Value T.R.E. £112 now 60s.

To this manor belongs the soke of these places: Figelinge, Fyling (fugel, fowl and ing, a wet place) 1 carucate. Nortfigelin, North Fyling, 5 carucates. Ghinipe, Gnipe-houe, (knipa, to pinch, or a waterfowl; or knippe a bunch?) 3 carucates. Prestebi, Priestby (see page 242 of this History) 2 carucates. Ugleberdesbi, Ugglebarnby (Ugglebert personal name and bi) 3 carucates. Sourebi, Sourby, now called Sneaton-thorpe (sour, an epithet applied to boggy or spungy land, and bi) 4 carucates. Brecca, probably the farm of Brackenrigg beside Ewecote (brake or braken, fern) 1 carucate. Baldebi, Baldby Fields between Whitby and Ruswarp (bald, personal name or bare and bi) 1 carucate. Florun, Flora or Flore, the ancient name of some fields between Whitby and Upgang; hence the name Floregate now Flowergate (see page 480 of this History) 2 carucates. Staxebi, Stakesby (stake or stakes and bi) 6 carucates and 6 oxgangs. Neucha, Newholm (new and ham, the final 'm', as well as 'n', is often omitted in Domesday) 4 carucates.

In all to be taxed 28 carucates and 6 oxgangs and there may be 24 ploughs. Earl Hugh has it, and William of him. It is in a manner all waste; only in Prestebi and Sourebi, which the abbot of York has of William. There are 2 ploughs in the demesne and 8 sokemen with 1 plough and 30 villans with 3 ploughs and 1 mill of 10s and 26 acres of meadow here and there.

"An account of the Danes and Norwegians in England, Scotland, and Ireland" (1852) Jens Jakob Asmussen Worsaae at pages vi, 67, 70, 72, 73 & 76

At page vi (Preface)

Lastly, the Vikings (Isl., Vikingr, a sea-rover, pirate), who played so great a part during the Danish conquests, were not Ví-kings, but Vik-ings (Veék-ings); so called either from the Icelandic Vik (Danish, Vig), a bay of the sea, or from Vig, battle, slaughter.

London, December 15th, 1851

Section VII

Danish-Norwegian Names of Places

… The greater number of names of places in the south of England end in -ton, -ham, -bury, or -borough, -forth or -ford, -worth, &c. These, which are of Anglo-Saxon origin, and which also serve still further to prove the preponderating influence of the Anglo-Saxons in that part, are, it is true, also spread over the whole of the north of England. But, even in the districts about the Thames (in Kent, Essex, Suffolk, and Norfolk) they already begin to be mixed with previously unknown names ending in -by (Old Northern, bỳr, first a single farm, afterwards a town in general), -thorpe (Old Northern þorp, a collection of houses separated from some principal estate, a village), -thwaite, in the old Scandinavian language þveit, tved, an isolated piece of land, -næs, a promontory, and ey, or öe, an isle; as in Kirby, or Kirkby, Risby, Upthorpe and others. As we approach from the south the districts west of the Wash, such as Northamptonshire and Warwickshire, the number of such names constantly increases, and we find, among others, Ashby, Rugby, and Naseby. As we proceed farther north, we find still more numerous names of towns and villages having in like manner new terminations; such as, -with (i.e. forest), -toft, -beck, -tarn (Scandinavian, tjörn, or tjarn, a small lake, water), -dale, -fell (rocky mountain), -force (waterfall), -haugh, or, how (Scandinavian haugr, a hill), -garth (Scandinavian garðr, a large farm); together with many others. The inhabitants of the north will at once acknowledge these endings to be pure Norwegian or Danish; which is, moreover, placed beyond all doubt by the compound words in which they appear.

… The name of the village of Thingwall (Wall, Dan., Vold, a bank or rampart) in Cheshire affords a remarkable memorial of the assizes, or Thing, which the Northmen generally held in conjunction with their sacrifices to the gods; it lies, surrounded with several other villages with Scandinavian names, on the small tongue of land that projects between the mouths of the rivers Dee and Mersey. At that time they generally chose for the holding of the thing, or assizes, a place in some degree safe from surprise. The chief ancient thing place for Iceland was called like this Thingwall, namely Thingvalla (originally þingvöllr, þingvellir or the 'thing-fields').

… In order, lastly, to convey an idea of the abundance of Scandinavian, or Danish-Norwegian, names of places, which occur in the midland and northern districts of England, a tabular view of those most frequently met with is here subjoined from the English maps.

This list … will, with all its deficiencies, clearly and incontestably prove the correctness of the historical accounts, which state that the new population of Danes and Norwegians that immigrated into England during the Danish expeditions, settled almost exclusively in the districts to the north and east of Watlinga-Street, and there chiefly to the west and north of the Wash. Norfolk, Northamptonshire, and Lancashire, have each only about fifty names of places of Scandinavian origin; Leicestershire has about ninety; Lincolnshire alone, nearly three hundred; Yorkshire above four hundred; Westmoreland and Cumberland each about one hundred and fifty.

The colonization has clearly been greatest near the coasts, and along the rivers; it had its central point in Lincolnshire (the Northmen's "Lindisey"), and in the ancient Northumberland, or land north of the river Humber. Yet it was not much extended in Durham and the present Northumberland, each of which contains only a little more than a score of Scandinavian names.

The same table still further shows that the names ending in by, thorpe, toft, beck, næs, and ey, appear chiefly in the flat midland counties of England; whereas, farther towards the north, in the more mountainous districts, these terminations mostly give place to those in thwaite, and more particularly to those in dale, force, tarn, fell and haugh. This difference, however, is scarcely founded on the natural character of the country alone; it may also have arisen from the different descent of the inhabitants. For although in ancient times Danish and Norwegian were one language, with unimportant variations, so that it would scarcely be possible to decide with certainty in every single case whether the name of a place be derived from the Danes or from the Norwegians; yet it may reasonably be supposed that part at least of the last-mentioned names are Norwegian; namely, those ending in:

  • dale (as Kirk-dale, Lang-dale, Wast-dale, Bishops-dale);
  • force (as Aysgarth-force in Yorkshire, High-force, and Low-force, in the river Tees, and in the stream called "Seamer Water");
  • fell (old Norwegian, fjall; Mickle-fell, Cam-fell, Kirk-fell, Middle-fell, Cross-fell);
  • tarn (Old Norse, tjorn, or tjarn, 'a small lake');
  • and in haugh (as in Northumberland, Red-haugh, Kirk-haugh, Green-haugh, Windy-haugh).

Exactly similar names are met with to this day in the mountains of Norway; whilst they are less common, or altogether wanting, in the flat country of Denmark. That Norwegians also immigrated into England, even in considerable numbers, both history and the frequently occurring name of Normanby in the north of England, clearly show; but they appear to have betaken themselves chiefly to the most northern and mountainous districts, which not only lay nearest to them, but which in character most resembled their own country. In this respect it deserves to be noticed, that places whose names end in tarn, and are consequently pure Norwegian, are found only in the most northern counties; and that those in haugh - although there are names of places in Denmark ending in hoi ('hill') - must also, from the form, be Norwegian. They are found exclusively in the present Northumberland, and within the Scotch border.

… That they should have been preserved in such numbers for more than eight centuries after the fall of the Danish dominion in England, and that they should have retained, as it has been shown, the original Scandinavian forms, and that often in a highly striking degree, completely disproves the opinion that the old Danish-Norwegian inhabitants of the country north of Watlinga-Straet were supplanted or expelled after the cessation of the Danish dominion (1042), first by the Anglo-Saxons, and afterwards by the Normans from Normandy; for if such had been the case, the names of places would naturally have become altogether changed and impossible to recognise. As the matter stands it is sufficiently proved that Danes as well as Norwegians must have continued to reside in great numbers in the districts previously conquered by them, and particularly in the north; and consequently that a very considerable part of the present population in the midland and northern counties of England may with certainty trace their origin to the Northmen, and especially to the Danes.

"Scandinavian Loan-Words in Middle English" (1900) Eric Björkman, pages 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 21, 22, 23 & 24


… In this connection … concerning the question whether any of the Scandinavian loan-words in English can be distinguished as being of West-Scandinavian (Norwegian-Icelandic) or of East-Scandinavian (Danish-Swedish) origin …

§ 2. … The .OE. literature, which has come down to us, is, for the most part, written in the West-Saxon dialect and represents the language of the parts of England in which the Scandinavian influence, from well-known historical reasons, cannot be considered to have been very important. We know no English literature, worth speaking of, written in the language of the parts of England where the Scandinavian influence has proved to have been, in later times, of such great importance, dating earlier than the 13th century, and we therefore cannot with any certainty ascertain how many Scandinavian loan-words were to be found in these dialects at different times before the 13th century. Nevertheless, there are some reasons for believing that the stock of loan-words in these English dialects was not so large, say, in the 10th or 11th century as it was in later times. It is to be remembered that the dialects spoken by the Scandinavian settlers continued, for a long time, living a life of their own side by side with the English dialects and that the Scandinavians were for a long time looked upon by the English population as foreigners, speaking a language looked upon as a foreign one although not very different from the dialects spoken by the English themselves. During the periods of the existence of Scandinavian dialects spoken on English soil, many Scandinavian words were introduced into English, owing to the intercourse between the two nationalities, and it is also to be assumed that the Scandinavians themselves adopted many words from English into their own language. Thus it is not in the least improbable that many English words adopted by the Scandinavians and pronounced by them according to the phonological conditions of their language or even altered by popular etymology or by change of suffixes etc., remained in the English dialects which were the result of the amalgamation of the two languages. Thus we may expect to find in the English language, spoken after the amalgamation, many words of English origin but Scandinavian in form. In this way the two languages were gradually amalgamated into one language which was chiefly of English character but very rich in Scandinavian elements. … Before this amalgamation took place the Scandinavians must, for a considerable period, have been bilingual and this may, in connection with the fact that the two languages were closely akin to each other and to a great extent identical in vocabulary, account for the intimate way in which the languages became one.

§ 3. Although an investigation of the Scandinavian influence on English as shown by the M.E. material is somewhat easier than an investigation based on Mod.E. and its dialects, the subject is a very difficult and complicated one. The main difficulties may here be shortly summed up.

  1. The differences in vocabulary between O.E. and the Scandinavian dialects must have been very small … a fact which rendered the amalgamation of the two languages easier. The English and the Northmen could very easily understand each other in their own languages, and the close connection between both nationalities must have caused numerous words to be introduced from one language to another, even without either side noticing that the words adopted did not belong to their original vocabulary. Many words, common to both languages, but differing somewhat in sense, must have adopted the sense of the other language. 1 ) And many words which were becoming or had already become obsolete in one language may have been recalled to life by the influence of the other …
  2. To trace all the influence exercised on one language by the other would be a very difficult and complicated task, even if we had a perfect knowledge of both languages before their coalescence; but what we actually know about the language spoken by the Northmen at these times is very little indeed, as our knowledge of their language chiefly depends on conclusions drawn from literary monuments of much later dates and from modern Scandinavian dialects. Although we have a fairly good knowledge of the West-Saxon literary language, we do not know much of the dialects of the parts of England, where the Scandinavian influence must have been most important, until several hundred years after the Scandinavian invasion. It is a fact that, after the West-Saxon period, numerous words appear in English, which are not found in Old English, but are of a distinctly English stamp and cannot have been introduced from Scandinavian. It is therefore possible that many of the words, considered as Scandinavian, did actually belong to the vocabulary of the dialects not represented by any literary monuments of an earlier date.
  3. There were other differences, of course, than that of vocabulary. Useful conclusions may be drawn from the differences in phonological and grammatical character and structure … But we have reasons for believing that many words in English which show a distinctly English form, have nevertheless been introduced from Scandinavian. It must be remembered that both nationalities held, especially some time after the settlement of the Northmen, a very close intercourse with each other and therefore each side must have had a fairly good knowledge of the language of the other …

So difficult is the subject that many of the questions connected with it will never be solved. Still, the few diiferences that are known to have actually existed between the two languages, enable us to discover a very considerable amount of loan-words. This will sufficiently show how important the Scandinavian influence must have been, and will enable us also to draw some conclusions as to the importance of the Scandinavian influence in instances where there is no direct and accurate evidence of its real dimensions.

The difficulties of the problem, taken as a whole, have been very well characterized by Jespersen, Progress in Language, London 1894, p. 173 f., in the following words:

"As for the language, it should be borne in mind that the tongue spoken by the (Nowegians and) Danes was so nearly akin with the native dialects that the two peoples could understand one another without much difficulty. But it was just such circumstances which made it natural that many nuances of grammar should be sacrificed, the intelligibility of either tongue coming to depend on its mere vocabulary. It is in harmony with this view that the wearing away and levelling of grammatical forms in the regions in which the (Nowegians and) Danes chiefly settled was a couple of centuries in advance of the same process in the more Southern parts of the country. A fully satisfactory solution of the question of the mutual relations of North English and Scandinavian at that time must be regarded as hopeless on account of the small number, and generally inadequate character, of linguistic records; and, unless some fresh sources become accessible to us, we shall probably never learn clearly and unequivocally which points of correspondence in the two languages are attributable to primitive affinities, which others to loans from one language to the other, or, finally how much may be due to independent parallel development in two areas which offered striking analogies in so many essential particulars. But, as I hold, any linguistic change should primarily be explained on the basis of the language itself, while analogies from other languages may serve as illustrations and help to show what in the development of a language is due to psychological causes of a universal character, and what is, on the other hand, to be considered the effect of the idiosyncrasies of the particular idiom."

§ 4. The aim of this treatise will be to give an account of the borrowed Scandinavian words in Middle English - within the limitations mentioned in the preceding paragraph. It will, consequently, deal with loan-words in the proper sense of the word … Still it is often very difficult to decide what is to be called a loan-word and what is only a native word influenced by Scandinavian.

§ 6. As for the dates of the borrowings, it has already been pointed out (p. 7) that we have probably to discriminate between different strata of loan-words. The main part of the loan-words, nevertheless, seems to have been introduced daring the times when the Scandinavian settlers began to give up their original language and nationality, and seems to be a result of the amalgamation of the Scandinavian and English languages, which probably took place in the 11th century and which was, in some parts, perhaps not fully completed until the beginning of the 12th century.

§ 7 … As for the question from which parts of Scandinavia the settlers came … It is well known that Norwegians as well as Danes took part in the invasion. As for their local distribution, it is to be remembered that the settlers in East Anglia and Lincolnshire were, to a great extent, Danes, who seem to have been paramount in these districts, and that the main body of the Norwegians seems to have settled in Northumbria and in the North-West parts of England. That a considerable part of the Scandinavian population North of the Humber was Norwegian, is also rendered probable by the loyalty with which the Scandinavians of Northumbria kept to the Norwegian dynasty of the kingdom of York …

§ 8. The Scandinavian languages are, as is well known, to be divided into two groups: West-Scandinavian (Norwegian, Icelandic, Færoish) and East-Scandinavian (Danish, Swedish) …

Old Norwegian and Icelandic words are generally quoted as 'West-Scandinavian', as it is unnecessary and generally very difficult to discriminate between Old Norwegian and Old Icelandic words, and as both languages were as to their vocabulary and general appearance in old times much the same. As for East-Scandinavian, it will be more convenient to describe the words as 'Danish' or 'Swedish' than as 'East-Scandinavian' it will be more convenient to describe the words as 'Danish' or 'Swedish' than as 'East-Scandinavian'. Very often words are only quoted from Swedish and not from Danish. This depends partly on the fact that the Swedish vocabulary of different periods is better known, at present, than the Danish … partly on the fact, that Swedish is far less advanced in phonetic changes and therefore clearer as to the groundforms of the words than Danish. The quotation of Swedish words, therefore, does not by any means imply that the loan-words in question are borrowed from Swedish. Although Swedes also took part in the invasion (many Old Swedish runic monuments tell us of Swedes who had died in England, e. g. Liljegren 892, from Södermanland), we have few reasons for believing that they were so numerous as to exercise any influence on the English language. And even if they were, we should not be able to tell the Swedish loan-words from the Danish ones, because we know scarcely anything about the differences between Danish and Swedish at so early a date; moreover we have reasons for believing that the two languages were not then sufficiently differentiated to leave any distinctive trace in the loan-words introduced from them into English.

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"Words and Places" (1911) Isaac Taylor & J. M. Dent, pages 126 to 143

Chapter VIII

The Northmen

The historic annals of these conquests are scanty and obscure. But the Norse names which are still found scattered over the north-west of Europe supply a means of ascertaining many facts which history has left unrecorded. By the aid of the names on our modern maps we are able to define the precise area which was ravaged by the Scandinavians, and we can, in many instances, detect the nature of the descent, whether for purposes of plunder, trade, or colonisation. Sometimes, indeed, we can even recover the very names of the Viking chiefs and of their followers, and ascertain from whence they sailed, whether from the low-lying coasts of Denmark, or from the rock-bound fjords of Norway.

Before we proceed to attempt the solution of any of these curious problems, it will be necessary to exhibit the tools with which the historical lock is to be picked. We must analyse and classify the characteristic names which the Northmen have left upon the map.

The most valuable and important of these test-words is byr or by. This word originally meant a dwelling, or a single farm, and hence it afterwards came to denote a village. [Note: a by-law is the local law enacted by the township.] … We find this word as a suffix in the village-names of Denmark, and of all countries colonised by the Danes [Note: it denotes Danish colonisation. In places visited only for purposes of trade or plunder no dwellings would be required]. In … England it is usually contracted into by. In the Danish district of England - between Watling Street and the River Tees - the suffix by frequently takes the place of the Anglo-Saxon -ham or -ton. In this region there are numerous names like Grimsby, Whitby, Derby [Note: in a few cases we have documentary evidence of a change of name consequent upon the Danish conquest. Thus we know that the Norse name of Deoraby or Derby took the place of the former Saxon name of Northweorthig, or Norworth as it would now be written. So the Saxon Streoneshalch became the Norse Whitby] … To the north of Watling Street there are some six hundred instances of its occurrence - to the south of it, scarcely one … The suffix is common both to the Norwegian and Danish districts of England, though it is more frequent in the latter.

Another useful test-word is thorpe, throp, or trop, which we find in Althorpe, Copmansthorpe, and Wilstrop, near York. It means an aggregation of men or houses - a village. This suffix is very useful in enabling us to discriminate between the settlements of the Danes and those of the Norwegians, being confined almost exclusively to the former. It is very common in Denmark and East Anglia, it is very rare in Norway, it does not occur in Lancashire, only once in Cumberland, and very seldom in Westmoreland.

The word toft, which in Normandy takes the form tot, is also distinctly Danish and East Anglian. It is very scarce in Norway … It signifies a homestead or inclosure, and, like by and thorpe, it is an indication of permanent colonisation.

Thwaite, on the other hand, is the distinctive Norwegian suffix. The meaning is nearly the same as the Saxon field, a forest clearing. It is very common in Norway, it occurs forty-three times in Cumberland, and not once in Lincolnshire, while thorpe, the chief Danish test-word, which occurs sixty-three times in Lincolnshire, is found only once in Cumberland.

The Norse garth, an inclosure, which corresponds to the Anglo-Saxon yard, has already been discussed [Note: the Anglo-Saxon yard, and the Norse equivalent garth, contain nearly the same idea as ton. Both denote some place girded round, or guarded. The word tains, a twig, stands in the same etymological relation to ton as the old English word yerde, a switch or rod, does to yard, garth, and garden. The inclosure is named from the nature of the surrounding fence.]

The word beck, a brook, is more frequent in the Norwegian than in the Danish region, and this also is the case with the suffixes -haugh, -with, -tarn, and -dale. The word force, which is the ordinary name for a waterfall in the lake district, is exclusively Norwegian, and corresponds to the Icelandic and Norwegian foss. The word fell is also derived from Norway, where it takes the form field (pronounced fi-ell). It is the usual name for a hill in the north-west of England [Note: the Anglo-Saxon field or feld is from the same root as the Norse fell. A fell is a place where the ground is on the fall; a field or feld is where the trees have been felled. In old writers wood and feld are continually contrasted … the word field bore witness to the great extent of unfelled timber which still remained. With the progress of cultivation the word has lost its primitive force. The word fold is from the same source].

We now come to the words which do not necessarily imply any permanent colonisation by the Northmen. The suffix ford occurs both in Anglo-Saxon and in Norse names, but with characteristic difference of meaning. In either case ford is a derivative of faran or fara, to go. The fords of the Anglo-Saxon husbandmen, which are scattered so abundantly over the south of England, are passages across rivers for men or cattle; the fords of the Scandinavian sea-rovers are passages for ships up arms of the sea, as in the case of the fjords of Norway and Iceland, and the firths of Scotland [Note: while many of our agricultural terms, as basket, crook, kiln, fieam, barrow, ashlar, gavelock, rasher, and mattock, are of Celtic origin, seafaring words, such as cockswain, boatswain, and skipper, are mostly Norse]. These Norse fords are found on the coasts which were frequented for purposes of trade or plunder …

Wick is also found in both Anglo-Saxon and Norse names, but here also there is a difference in the application, analogous to that which we have just considered. The primary meaning in either case seems to have been a station. With the Anglo-Saxons it was a station or abode on land - hence a house or a village: with the Northmen it was a station for ships - hence a small creek or bay (There is, however, an Anglo-Saxon verb wician, to run a ship on shore, to take up a station). The sea-rovers derived their name of vikings, or "creekers", from the wics or creeks in which they anchored. The inland wicks, therefore, are mostly Saxon, while the Norse wicks fringe our coasts, and usually indicate the stations of pirates, rather than those of colonists. Thus we have Wick and Sandwich, in Kent; Wyke, near Portland; Berwick, in Sussex and Northumberland; and Wicklow, in Ireland, all of which occur in places where there are no inland names denoting Norse colonisation.

The names of Northwich, Middlewich, Nantwich, Droitwich, Netherwich, Shirleywich, Wickham, and perhaps of Warwick, although inland places, are derived indirectly from the Norse wic, a bay, and not from the Anglo-Saxon wic, a village. All these places are noted for the production of salt, which was formerly obtained by the evaporation of sea-water in shallow wiches or bays, as the word baysalt testifies. Hence a place for making salt came to be called a wych-house, and Nantwich, Droitwich, and other places where rocksalt was found, took their names from the wych-houses built for its preparation.

Another word which denotes the occasional presence of the sea-rovers is ness or naze, which means a nose, or promontory of land. Thus we have Caithness, Wrabness, Cape Grisnez, near Calais, and the Naze in Norway and in Essex.

We may also detect the visits of the Northmen by the word scar, a face of rock or cliff - from skera, to shear, or cut asunder. Instances are to be found in the names of Scarborough, the Skerries, and Skerryvore. A holm means an island, almost always an island in a lake or river … An island in the sea is denoted by the suffix oe, a, ay, or ey, as in the case of the Faroe Islands; Mageroe, in Norway; Staffa, Iona, and Cumbray, on the western coast of Scotland; and Lambay on the Irish coast.

Furnished with these test-words we may endeavour to trace the various settlements of the Danes and of the Norwegians …

To begin with our own island. As will be seen by a reference to the map, the Danes of Jutland appear to have frequented the south-eastern portion of the island for purposes of trade or plunder rather than of colonisation. This we gather from the fact that the Norse names in this district are found chiefly in the immediate vicinity of the coast, and designate either safe anchorages, or dangerous headlands. We find hardly one solitary instance of the occurrence of the suffixes by, toft, thorpe, or thwaite, which would indicate permanent residence.

London was repeatedly besieged by the Danes. With the hope of capturing the rich and unrifled prize, their fleets lay below the city for many months together. Their stations were at Deptford, 'the deep fiord'; at Greenwich, 'the green reach'; and at Woolwich, 'the hill reach'; so called apparently from its being overhung by the conspicuous landmark of Shooter's Hill. The spits and headlands, which mark the navigation along the Thames and the adjacent coasts, almost all bear characteristic Norse names - such as the Foreness, the Whiteness, Shellness, Sheerness, Shoeburyness, Foulness, Wrabness, Orfordness, and the Naze, near Harwich. On the Essex coast we find Danesey Flats, Langenhoe, and Alresford. Dengey Hundred, in the south-east of Essex, is spelt Daneing in a charter of Edward the Confessor. Prettlewell and Hawkswell, in the same neighbourhood, may probably contain the suffix -ville, which is so common in Normandy; and Thoby, near Ingatestone, Scar House, and Lee Beck, indicate the presence of Danish settlers. In the extreme north-eastern corner of the county we find a little compact Danish colony - planted on a spot well guarded by marshes and the sea. Here we discover the Danish names of Harwich, Holmes Island, Kirby, Thorpe-le-Soken, and East Thorpe. At Walton on the Naze there seems to have been a walled inclosure, to defend the intruders from the assaults of their hostile Saxon neighbours. In the south-eastern corner of Suffolk we have another Walton, probably a second fortified outpost of the Danish kingdom …

At page 137

The Isle of Man, which at one time formed a portion of the kingdom of Norway, must have contained a considerable Norwegian population, as appears from the Norse names of the villages, such as Colby, Greenaby, Dalby, Baleby, Kirby, Sulby, and Jurby.

Editor's note: these Norse place names share the suffix by which the author states above "denotes Danish colonisation" and "is common both to the Norwegian and Danish districts of England, though it is more frequent in the latter".

On the coast we find the bays of Perwick, Fleswick, Greenwick, Sandwick, Aldrich, Soderick, Garwick, and Dreswick, the capes of Langness and Littleness and the islands of Eye, Holm, the Calf, and Ronaldsay; while Sneefell (snow hill), the highest mountain in the island, bears a pure Norwegian name …

In the same way that the Danish names in England are seen to radiate from the Wash, so the Norwegian immigration seems to have proceeded from Morcambe Bay and that part of the coast which lies opposite to the Isle of Man. Cumberland, Westmoreland, Lancashire, and Dumfriesshire contain a very considerable number of Scandinavian names, but comparatively few of a distinctively Danish cast. The Lake District seems to have been almost exclusively peopled by Celts and Norwegians. The Norwegian suffixes, -gill, -garth, -haugh, -thwaite, -force, and -fell, are abundant; while the Danish forms, -thorpe and -toft, are almost unknown; and the Anglo-Saxon test-words, -ham, -ford, -worth, and -ton, are comparatively rare …

At page 138

The Norse haugr, a sepulchral mound, is often found in the names of mountains crowned by conspicuous tumuli. The name of the old Viking who lies buried here is often preserved in the first portion of such local names. Thus, Silver How, Bull How, Scale How, and Butterlip How, are, probably, the burial-places of the forgotten heroes, Solvar, Boll, Skall, and Buthar Lipr.

In Cheshire, with one remarkable local exception, we find no vestiges of Norse colonists. But the spit of land called the Wirral, between the Dee and the Mersey, seems to have allured them by its excellent harbours, and the protection afforded by its almost insular character. Here, in fact, we find geographical conditions similar to those which gave rise to the two isolated Norse colonies at the mouths of the Stour and the Yare, and the result is no less remarkable. In this space of about twelve miles by six there is scarcely a single Anglo-Saxon name, while we find the Norse villages of Raby, Pensby, Irby, Frankby, Kirby, Whitby, and Greasby.

We find also the Norse names of Shotwick, Holme, Dalpool, Howside, Barnston, Thornton, Thurstanston, Birkenhead, and the Back Brook; and in the centre of the district is the village of Thingwall, a name which indicates the position of the meeting-place of the Thing, the assembly in which the little colony of Northmen exercised their accustomed privileges of local self-government.

Editor's note: again, these Norse colony place-names bear the suffix by which the author states (above) denotes "Danish colonisation" …

At page 139

There is a curious exception to the broad assertion that has been made as to the non-existence of Norse names to the south of Watling Street. The sea-rovers, with infallible instinct, seem to have detected the best harbour in the kingdom, and to have found shelter for their vessels in the fjords of the Pembrokeshire coast - the deep land-bound channels of Milford, Haverford,Whiteford and Skerryford, and the neighbouring creeks of Wathwick, Little Wick, Oxwich, Helwick, Gellyswick, Mousselwick, Wick Haven, and Muggleswick Bay. The dangerous rocks and islands which fringe this coast likewise bear Norwegian names; such are the Stack Rocks, Stackpole Head, the Stack, Penyholt Stack, St. Bride's Stack, Stack Island, Skokholm Island, Skerryback, Skerpoint, the Naze, Strumble Head, the Worm's Head, Nash (Naze) Point, and Dungeness (Dangerness). Most of the names on the mainland are Celtic, but the neighbouring islands bear the Norse names of Caldy (Cold Island), Barry (Bare Island), Sully (Ploughed Island), Lundy (Grove Island), Skokholm (Wooded Island), Denney (Danes' Island), Ramsey, Skomer, Burry Holmes, Gateholm, Grassholm, Flatholm and Steepholm.

No less than twenty-four of the headlands on the Pembrokeshire coast are occupied by camps, which we may regard as the first beginning of a Scandinavian occupation of the soil. Round the shores of Milford Haven a little colony of permanent settlers was established in the villages of Freystrop (Freysthorpe), Studda, Vogar, Angle, Tenby (Daneby), Derby, Hasguard, Fishguard, Dale, Lambeth, and Whitsand. Of the Vikings who founded this Welsh colony, Harold, Bakki, Hamill, Grim, Hiarn, Lambi, Thorni, Thor, Gorm, Brodor, Sölvar, Hogni, and Buthar have left us their names at Haroldston, Buckston, Ambleston, Creamston, Hearston, Lambston, Thornston, Thurstan, Gomfreston (the last syllable in these names would seem not to be the Anglo-Saxon ton, but was probably derived from the memorial stone erected over the grave of some departed hero) Brother Hill, Silver Hill, Honey Hill, and Butter Hill, several of which may be the burial-places of those whose names they bear …

At page 141

The chief port of Scilly bears the name of Grimsby, and St. Agnes, the name of the most southern island, is a corruption of the old Norse name Hagenes …

At page 143

The general geographical acquaintance which the Northmen had with the whole of Ireland is shown by the fact that three out of the four Irish provinces, namely, Leinster, Munster, and Ulster, present the Norse suffix ster, 'a place', which is so common in local names in the Shetlands and in Norway.

"Middle-English place-names of Scandinavian origin" (1912) Harald Lindkvist at pages XXIII, XXIV and XXV


Chapter I

Outlines of the history of the earliest Scandinavian settlement in the Danelaw

The earliest evidence of a Scandinavian settlement in England we find in the year 876. Nearly a whole century had then elapsed since the time when, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Vikings first set foot on English soil. During that period, except for the last ten years of it, the Vikings had generally appeared in small isolated bands, which confined themselves to occasional raids and attacks on places situated within easy reach of the coast and their ships.

But in the course of the years circa 865-76 the earlier scattered bands were replaced by great armies, often in co-operation and commanded by prominent leaders whose chief aim was often the conquest of larger or smaller parts of the country. As the first important event of these years is to be noted the expedition to Northumbria (867) which led to the occupation of York. The attempts of the native levies to reconquer the city were frustrated, and for several years York was, with very short intervals, their headquarters and base of operations, soon to become in a sense the centre of the Scandinavian colonization in England.

The next few years witness various ravaging expeditions of the Vikings to Mercia and East Anglia. All eastern England being then practically in the hands of the invaders, they proceeded to reap the fruit of their labours.

In 875 Halfdene marched with an army to Yorkshire which he now brought entirely under his dominion. From Yorkshire he pushed his way beyond the river Tees into the old kingdom of Bernicia, which he cruelly devastated; he even extended his campaign as far as to Cumberland and the adjoining districts, which formed the British kingdom of Strathclyde. It has been suggested by Green (Conquest of England I, 19) that the object of his enterprise was mainly plunder. But it seems likely enough from the events of the next year that he had a greater aim in view, and that his devastations of all the country bordering on Yorkshire were calculated to ensure the undisturbed progress of the colonization he was about to undertake in this county.

For in A.D. 876, the Chronicle says:

'Þy geare Halfdene Norðanhymbra land gedælde, þæt hie syþþan ergende and heora tilgende wæron.'
'That year Halfdan divided the land of the Northhumbrians, and they were ploughing and they were their tilling.'

An official division of the land is thus carried out, in consequence of which a large proportion of the former enemies and pirates settle down as peaceful agriculturists. From the scanty evidence supplied by our sources it is hard to decide the geographical limits of this earliest settlement. But it seems presumable that it comprised chiefly parts of northern and eastern Yorkshire - the most fertile and approachable regions. That it cannot have extended far beyond the Tees may be gathered from what is told above of Halfdene's ravages there.

Editor's note: Halfdan Ragnarsson (Old Norse: Hálfdan; Old English: Halfdene or Healfdene; Old Irish: Albann; died 877) was a Viking leader and a commander of the Great Heathen Army which invaded the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England, starting in 865. According to the tradition recorded in the Norse sagas he was one of the sons of Ragnar Lodbrok, and his brothers included Björn Ironside, Ivar the Boneless, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye and Ubba. He was the first Viking King of Northumbria and a pretender to the throne of Kingdom of Dublin. He died at the Battle of Strangford Lough in 877 trying to press his Irish claim.

The example thus set by the Vikings in the north was soon followed by their tribesmen south of the Humber. Already in the next year (877) an army marched into 'Miercna lond, and hit gerældon sum, and sum Ceolwulfe saldon'. Mercia was thus divided into two parts, one still governed by the native king, and another populated and ruled by the new settlers. Judging from the distribution of the place-names, the nucleus of the latter part may have been the bulk of Lincolnshire, to which were added, in course of time, the adjacent counties (NTT, DBY, LEI &c).

While these social and political upheavals were in progress in central and northern England, the attacks and ravages of the Vikings were still being visited upon the south, where in the meantime Alfred had ascended the throne of Wessex. The heroic efforts of Alfred in the face of the greatest hardships and his ultimate victories put an end to the war in 878; by the Peace of Wedmore, Guþrum, the leader of the invaders, bound himself to receive baptism and to evacuate the kingdom of Wessex. The formal treaty, which dates from one of the next few years, is still extant. It contained certain provisions for the legal position of Englishman and Dane within the two kingdoms, and fixed their boundaries. The common boundary line was to run from the mouth of the Thames to the river Lea, along the Lea to Bedford, from where it followed the river Ouse to Watling Street. All the country east of this line, i.e. the Danelaw, was left in the hands of the Scandinavians.

Only two years later there is an entry in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to the effect that in 880 'fôr se here of Cyrenceastre on Eastengle, and gesæt þæt land, and hit gedæde' ('880: This year the army went from Cirencester to East Anglia, and settled in the land, and apportioned it'). Guþrum then became the first Scandinavian king of East Anglia … The heart of his kingdom was probably formed by Norfolk; further belonged to it Suffolk, Essex, and, though apparently more loosely connected with the rest, portions of the adjacent counties in the west. From this time there existed three separate Scandinavian dominions in England within the boundaries indicated in the treaty: Northumbria (Yorkshire), East Anglia, and, between them, Scandinavian Mercia, of whose political government and general state little is known. This was the district of the Five Boroughs (Lincoln, Stamford, Leicester, Derby, and Nottingham), each of which seems to have had a Jarl and an army of its own; together they may have formed some kind of confederacy … By far the mightiest stronghold of the Scandinavians was Northumbria, where, as we have seen, the settlement started, and where it must have reached its culmen.

The reconquest of the Danelaw was begun by Alfred's son Eadweard, who, by the building of fortresses on a systematic plan, first of all strengthened his own frontiers, whereupon he proceeded to annex, one after another, the neighbouring Scandinavian districts, the possession of which was ensured by new lines of fortifications. In this manner he managed by degrees to subject East Anglia and Scandinavian Mercia with the Five Boroughs to his sway, and shortly before his death he was 'chosen as father and lord' by the Northumbrian peoples, whether English, Danish, or Norwegian … and by the Scots and Strathclyde Welsh. His life's work was carried on and completed by his son and successor Æthelstan (925-40). The details of this reconquest need not be discussed here (see the works of Freeman, Green, and Collingwood, Scandinavian Britain), but a few brief remarks may be made in illustration of what is said in Ch. IV of the Scandinavian local nomenclature in the southern parts of the Danelaw.

What first of all strikes us about the reconquest of the Danelaw under Eadweard and Æthelstan is the comparatively weak resistance offered by the southernmost counties of that territory, and the rapidity with which they seem to have been re-anglicized. This applies more particularly to the 'Danish' regions of Middlesex and Buckinghamshire, to Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, and to the southern portion at least of Suffolk. When, in 921, the joint forces of Huntingdon and northern East Anglia made an attack on Bedford, the population of the latter district kept quiet, and the garrison of the fortress drove off the enemy. It is a significant fact that on the conquest of Nottingham (922) Eadweard garrisoned the fortress there with 'Danes' as well as Englishmen. The Scandinavian element of the population in the counties just mentioned and in those still further north must have been of minor strength and importance and likely before long to be merged in the native majority. This probability is borne out, moreover, by the relative paucity of the evidence of the Scandinavian influence there that has been left on record in the form of social institutions, place-names, and (at least in some counties) personal names. Much the same conclusion may be drawn from subsequent events. By the princes and Danish kings who in the period 988-1016 repeatedly attacked England, East Anglia and the neighbouring districts were clearly looked upon as vital parts of Wessex, and were in consequence mercilessly ravaged. Thus during the raid of Guthmund, Justin and Olaf Tryggweson in 991 (cf. Freeman I, p. 296) Ipswich was sacked, and large stretches of Suffolk and Essex were harried. In 1004 Swein, King of Denmark, sailed with a fleet up the Yare, seized and plundered Norwich, the chief port on the coast, and then he marched inland and ravaged the whole district, in spite of the gallant resistance of the ruler of E. Anglia, Ulfcytel, whose name attests his Scandinavian extraction. In fact, a survey of the Scandinavian attacks on England during the said period shows that - of the Danelaw - E.Anglia, Essex, Middlesex, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire, and Northamptonshire had suffered more or less (Ags. Chron. A.D. 1011). Hence we cannot be surprised that, when England was ultimately (1016) divided between Cnut, King of Denmark, and Eadmund of Wessex, all E. Anglia (together with Essex and English Mercia) was assigned to the latter (cf. Oman, p. 581). Throughout the Scandinavian period it seems to have been more English than Scandinavian with regard to its population, local institutions, and general state of things.

Quite different was the position of Northumbria during all this time. Though formally under the suzerainty of Wessex, it was up to circa 950 governed at short intervals by Scandinavian kings who resided in York; some of them seem to have belonged to the Norwegian Viking colony in Dublin. After the expulsion of Eirik, in 954, Northumbria was ruled by its own earls, whose dependence on Wessex can have been little more than nominal. Together with the northern part of Mercia it seems at one time to have formed an almost exclusively Scandinavian country. The history of the above-mentioned period (988-1016) tells us of hardly any Scandinavian expeditions against these regions (save for the raid in 993, Ags. Chron.). In 1013, when Swein of Denmark landed with his army at Gainsborough with a view to conquering the whole country, he was immediately acknowledged by Earl Uhtred of Northumbria and by all Lindsey. The conspicuously Scandinavian character of this northern part of the Danelaw manifests itself in its political isolation from the rest of England, its own administrative, judicial and social institutions and the prevalence of the Scandinavian element in its population, whose military strength often saved them from being exposed to the attacks from which their countrymen in the south had to suffer. Indeed, the centre of gravity, so to speak, of the Scandinavian influence in England, in all its phases, is to be looked for here, in the counties on the Humber and thereabouts. We shall soon meet with some further facts bearing upon this, in Chapters IV and V.

Chapter II

Geographical extent of the Danelaw according to existing documentary evidence. Outlines of the history of the Scandinavian settlement in north-western England.

… It was observed in Chapter I that the earliest Scandinavian colonization north of the Humber seems to have been confined chiefly to the present Yorkshire. This district previously formed the main part of the old kingdom of Deira, to which probably belonged also the eastern portion of Westmoreland and perhaps part of Cumberland. North of Deira lay the kingdom of Bernicia, which, at the outset of the Scandinavian period, was reduced to the present Northumberland. (The land between the rivers Tees and Tyne - the present county of Durham - appears for a long time to have formed a natural boundary belt between Deira and Bernicia. In the 7th century it was still a wild, inhospitable forest-land under no rule whatsoever …) Contemporaneously the remainder of Cumberland and Westmoreland, together with the adjoining regions in the north, formed the kingdom of Strathclyde, the remainder of the old Welsh dominion of the same name. In 875 came Halfdene's raid on Bernicia and Strathclyde (see above in Chapter I). But, as far as I can judge, this did not lead to any permanent occupation of these regions, as has been assumed by Ferguson (The Northmen &c. pages 7, 14). Bernicia seems in fact during the next two centuries to have remained Enghsh, though united at intervals with Deira under the same earl …

But of more importance is the fact that, from the beginning of the same century, the history of north-western England was closely connected with that of Ireland, or, more exactly, the Viking colonies in Ireland. These had been founded at different dates, mostly by Norwegians, during the latter half of the 9th century (cf. Bugge, Vikingerne I page 139f), and had been rapidly increasing in power and vitality. From there the Vikings undertook frequent expeditions to the coasts of northern England … In the course of the early half of the l0th century a large number of Scandinavians seem to have settled in these parts …

The end of the first millennium thus constitutes a terminus ad quem for the earliest stages of the Scandinavian colonization in northwestern England. Again the terminus a quo is not easily found. R. Ferguson (The Northmen &c. page 11 f) has advanced the opinion that between 945 and 1000 large numbers of Norwegians emigrated from Ireland, and, using the Isle of Man as a stepping-stone, spread themselves over the opposite parts of England. This view seems to have been universally accepted. It is needless to point out that the meagre items of information afforded on this head by our early authorities do not allow of any conclusive inferences even though combined with what may be gathered from the abundant Scandinavian place-nomenclature that is found in these regions.

"The colonization which was an accomplished fact by A.D. 1000 must have been a gradual process that probably covered the greater part of the 10th century, and was continued in the next. The colonists, apparently in the main Norwegians, may have been recruited partly from home, partly from the Vikings who had settled down more or less permanently in Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Atlantic groups of islands. There is no evidence whatever of any organized military conquest, but the immigrants may have arrived in small parties and been suffered to dwell amidst the native Welsh and Anglian population, which probably counted on their assistance in repelling further attacks of the Vikings. The first stage of the settlement on the north-western coast seems to have fallen very early in the said century and possibly comprised parts of Cheshire and, more particularly, Lancashire (Amounderness). Again, as was observed above, it does not seem probable that the previous raid of Halfdene on Strathctyde, in 875, was followed by any settlement …

Chapter III

Principal Old and Middle English sources of the Scandinavian place-names in England

The immediate linguistic consequence of the Scandinavian settlement in England was the production of a copious Scandinavian place-nomenclature in the districts concerned.

… the earliest stages of this settlement belong to the end of the 9th century in eastern and north-eastern England, and to the beginning of the 10th, as it seems, in the north-west. Under such circumstances we cannot expect to meet with any place-names of this description in literature until the first half of the 10th century, at the earliest. Such is indeed the case: I have not found a single reliable instance on record before that time. The sources we have to draw upon for the O.E. period are confined to the public and private instruments which are known under the general name of charters.

… Thus if O.E. literature contributes very little in the way of materials to our subject, things are, however, entirely different as soon as we turn to the M.E. period, which displays an almost unlimited suppty of the evidence desired. To the transitional period between O.E. and M.E. belong the … the original of the Domesday Book, the great survey of the Conqueror. It was compiled, chiefly for fiscal purposes, by royal commissioners, and was apparently finished in 1086. But it should be noticed that none of the original returns of the commission have been preserved. In them the material seems to have been dealt with topographically, hundred bv hundred, while in the compilation embodied in the two volumes which form the so-called Exchequer Domesday, it has been re-arranged and digested, county by county, under the tenants-in-chief. This system of arrangement often renders it a very difficult task to identify the place-names, more particularly when the same name is borne by two or more different places in one and the same county, or when place-names are entered under counties other than those to which they really belong.

Domesday contains a vast number of place-names, of which not a small percentage are of Scandinavian origin. The larger portion of Scandinavian England is included in the survey, but some of the districts belonging to it are not at all, or only partially, dealt with. Northumberland and Durham were left unsurveyed, seeing that, as part of them had been laid waste by the Conqueror and probably the rest by the Scots, they were of no value in the eyes of the commissioners. (Simeon of Durham says there was 'inter Eboracum et Dunelmum nusquam villa inhabitata' (no inhabited town between York and Durham) Historia Regum § 154). Nor do we find there the bulk of Cumberland and Westmoreland, which counties were held by the King of Scots till 1092 when they were incorporated into England by William Rufus (cf. above page XXXI). Only the small southern (Deiran) portions of them were taken with Lancashire north of the Ribble and subjoined to the West Riding of Yorkshire. Lancashire south of this river was included in Cheshire under the title of (the land) 'between the Ribble and the Mersey'. The present Rutlandshire was partly surveyed under Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire.

On the character and value, from a philological point of view, of the varied place-nomenclature which is accumulated in Domesday, some short comments may be made. It should be borne in mind, first of all, that we have here before us a body of mainly English or Scandinavian names entered in an almost exclusively Latin record, which was composed and written by French or Norman scribes. For the compilation of the survey the names were obtained, together with the other information required, from local juries and put down by the commissioners or their scribes in a form adapted to the resources of their French orthography. How far the various spellings were altered in the subsequent process of re-arrangement and repeated copying, cannot be told, but the alterations undergone must have been considerable. For otherwise it cannot be explained why the place-name spellings of DoB so frequently disagree with those which may be adduced from records of about the same date or one not much later. In fact, the spellings in several other 12th century records frequently exhibit forms of a much older character, which, besides, are obviously rendered with more accuracy. Hence it will be clearly seen that when, in the case of a place-name, there is a marked discrepancy between the forms of DoB and those of other early M.E. records, the original etymology cannot be established on the mere evidence of DoB unless the spelling in the latter leaves no room for any doubt, which, under the circumstances, does not occur very often. It is certainly true that in a few cases DoB has preserved the original form of a name which was re-modelled, entirely or in part, during the interval between DoB and the next record in which the name again appears; see, e. g. Altcar page 2, Rogerthorpe and Scorbrough page 15. But, on the whole, the place-nomenclature of DoB can be utilized for etymological purposes only if seen and judged in the light of the spellings of other similar, chiefly M.E., sources.

"Middle-English place-names of Scandinavian origin" (1912) Harald Lindkvist at pages XXXIX, XLIV, XLV, XLVI, XLVII & L (Chapter IV); LI, LII, LVI, LVII, LIX, LX, LXI, LXII & LXIII (Chapter V)

Chapter IV

A short survey of the distribution of the Scandinavian place-names in the various counties of Scandinavian England.

In Chapters I - II the extent of the Scandinavian settlement in England east and north of Watling Street was outlined, as far as this is possible from the imperfect historical materials at our command. Attention was called to the fact that, broadly speaking, this settlement was started successively, although at short intervals, in four separate quarters: in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, East Anglia, and the North-West. It is needless to emphasize that due allowance has to be made for the possibility that, in each case, also the neighbouring counties were involved in this process of colonization at its earliest stages. The following paragraphs will contain an exposition of the distribution and relative frequency of the Scandinavian place-nomenclature enclosed within the boundaries of all the territory in question. In order to render the material better surveyable, from such a point of view, it has proved advisable to examine it under the heads of four divisions: The East Anglian, the Midland, the North-Western, and the North-Eastern. The arrangement suggests itself from the situation and special historical development of each of these divisons, as well as from the general character and distribution of the place-names contained in each of them.

3) The North-Eastern division embraces Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland. It need hardly be said that the first-named county constitutes the nucleus, whereas the two others are of minor importance from our point of view, and may be passed over more rapidly. As was shown in Chapter I, Yorkshire was the scene of the earliest permanent Scandinavian settlement in England, as far as we can trust the evidence of our sources. Together with Lincolnshire it formed the heart of Scandinavian England; like this county it must have remained for centuries an essentially Scandinavian country, where the Scandinavians, being in most parts probably even in numerical superiority, formed the predominant element of the population. [A]

[A] We are told as much by the Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson († 1241), who says in one of his sagas …

"Norðimbraland var mest byggt Norðmǫnnum siðan er Loðbrǫkar-synir unnu landit … Mǫrg heiti landzins eru þar gefin á nórœna tungu, Grímsbœr ok Hauksfljót ok mǫrg ǫnnur"

"the country of the Northumbrians was mostly inhabited by Northmen since Loðbrok's sons acquired the countryMany place-names are given there in the Scandinavian tongue: Grimsby (in Li.), and Hauksfljot (not identifiable; as I suppose, a subsequently lost town on the Humber), and many others."

See Heimskringla I p.170, ed. F. Jónsson, Kobenhavn 1893-1901.

Editor's note: Ragnar Loðbrók or Lothbrók (Old Norse: Ragnarr Loðbrók, "Ragnar Hairy Breeches") was a legendary Norse ruler, king, and hero from the Viking Age being mentioned in several Icelandic sagas and Old Norse skaldic poems.

"The Vikings" (1913) A. Mawer at page 53

The story of the foundation of Normandy is obscure: still more obscure is the origin and history of the leader of the Northmen at this time. Norse tradition, as given by Snorri Sturluson, makes Rollo to be one Hrólfr, son of Rögnvaldr earl of Möre, who was exiled by Harold Fairhair and led a Viking life in the west. Norman tradition, as found in Dudo, made him out the son of a great noble in Denmark, who was expelled by the king and later went to England, Frisia and Northern France. Dudo's account of the founding of Normandy is so full of errors clearly proven that little reliance can be placed on his story of the origin of Rollo.

The Heimskringla tradition was recorded much later, but is probably more trustworthy, and it would be no strange thing to find a man of Norse birth leading a Danish host. Ragnarr Loðbrók and his sons were Norsemen by family but they appear for the most part as leaders of Danes. How Rollo came to be the leader of the Danes in France and what his previous career had been must remain an unsolved mystery.

The ancestral links of Ragnarr Loðbrók to Norway include the following:

  1. his first wife and shieldmaiden (Old Norse skjaldmær), Lathgertha (Old Norse Hlaðgerðr), was "a ruler from what is now Norway" who lived in the Gaula valley in southern Norway;
  2. his third wife, Aslaug Sigurdsdottir (765-842), was born and died in Ringerike, Buskerud, Norway;
  3. the Norwegian King Siward was Ragnarr's grandfather;
  4. his mother, Álfhildr Gandálfsdóttir, born circa 735 in Alvheim, (Bohuslän), Västra Götalands län (Norway), was Queen of Norway and Denmark. She was the daughter of Gandalf Alfgeirsson (Old Norse Gandálf Álfgeirsson), King of Vingulmark (a Viking age petty kingdom in Norway) and Gauthild Alfsdotter, Queen of Vingulmark (Old Norse Vingulmörk, which is the old name for the area in Norway which today makes up the counties of Østfold, western parts of Akershus (excluding Romerike), and eastern parts of Buskerud (Hurum and Røyken municipalities), and includes the site of Norway's capital, Oslo).

"Ragnarr Lothbrók and his sons" (1909) Professor Allen Mawer, Saga Book VI at pages 68, 69 and 75

… materials for reconstructing the life of Ragnar Lothbrók and his sons are as follows:

  1. Ragnar Loðbróks Saga and the Tháttr af Ragnarssonum …
  2. The poem known commonly as "Krákumál" …
  3. The story as found in the ninth book of Saxo's history …
  4. … Sven Aggeson's Danish history of the 12th century, the lost Skjöldunga Saga … and occasional references in other sagas
  5. English, Irish, and Continental annals are full of references to the activities of the sons of Ragnar Lothbrók …

… Before proceeding to discuss these stories we may note that in these three traditions, while Ragnar Lothbrók is represented as king in Denmark, he and his family are very closely connected with Norway. According to Saxo, Regnerus was brought up in Norway, while the Ragnarr of the Saga has many relatives and friends in Norway, and in the Tháttr his realm is made to extend as far as the Dovrefield and the Naze, while his son rules in all Víkinn as well as in Agthir, both of which are in South Norway.

The original stock of Scandinavian settlers here in the late 9th century, must have been considerably reinforced through additional immigration of their countrymen during the next two centuries. It seems fairly certain that also other parts of Scandinavian England then received larger or smaller numbers of such later immigrants, but the main stream must have gone to Yorkshire. Many of these may have come direct from Scandinavia, others frpm the Norwegian colonies in the West, or, more especially, from Ireland, with whose Viking colonies Yorkshire appears to have had a lively intercourse, at all events during the 10th century. That the north-west portion of the county was partly populated and settled from the west, from Lancashire and Westmoreland, is likely enough, even to judge from the distribution of the place-names over the region in question.

The great gateway of the Scandinavians to northern England was the Humber. From the Humber they would be able to proceed by water in two main directions: southwards down the Trent through Lincolnshire, and northwards up the Ouse to York. Or they might prefer going by land, southwards from Barton or Ferriby along the Roman Ermine Street to Lincoln, Huntingdon and further on; northwards by the likewise Roman (?) road that led from the opposite shore to York and as far as to Hadrian's Wall. This accessibility, together with its situation in one of the widest and most fertile plains in England, must from the very beginning have rendered York, and then the surrounding district, particularly desirable in the eyes of the Scandinavians. Throughout the Scandinavian period we find the city of York - the Eoforwic of the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, the Jorvik of the O.Icel. sagas - as the most important administrative, ecclesiastical, and commercial centre in the north. As the seat of the Scandinavian kings and earls of Northumbria it must have sheltered within its walls a large proportion of people of Scandinavian descent. This is well illustrated by the numerous Scandinavian personal names that occur in early M.E. records connected with the city; see e.g. the early 11th century list of ÆIfric's bondsmen, whereabout two thirds of the names recorded are Scandinavian in form, most of the bearers being apparently residents of York or its vicinity.

Further testimony to the same effect is borne by the many street-names of the same orimn to be found in mediaeval York for which see in Chapter V. Even long after northern England had been brought under the sceptre of the Norman kings there seems to have been a brisk trade between York and Scandinavia. Such being the state and position of the capital, we cannot wonder that the local nomenclature of the surrounding county should be greatly influenced by the Scandinavians and, accordingly, reflect a Scandinavian settlement the proportions of which are not equalled anywhere else in England. [B]

[B] This Scandinavian local nomenclature is parallelled in Yo. by a personal one of the same nationality which is more numerous and varied than that of any other county. Only in Yo. have I met with instances of the well-known very usual O.Scand. type consisting of a prænenomen + a patronymic compound ending in -son, -sun, as, e.g. Arngrimr Gudmundarsun in La. I have noted the following partly anglicized instances: Arne Grimsune 12th century Whitby Chartulary; Gamel Grimessuna, Ulf Fornessuna, Uctred Ulfessuna 1189 (letter of Inspeximus 1308) Calendar of the Charter Rolls. Compare also þoreð Gunneres sunu (p. xxxiv) and þurforð Rolfes sune (p.171).

This is true, above all, with regard to the North Riding, of whose M.E. place-nomenclature much has been preserved, even in detail, in the valuable, or rather invaluable, monastic chartularies of Whitby, Guisbrough, and Rievaulx. Scandinavian names abound all over this Riding, being in a great majority especially in the wapentakes of Langbaurgh with Whitby Strand (on this see Ch. V, at the end), Birdforth and Hang. But even the East Riding teems with such names, which in the wapentake of Buckrose amount to more than 50% of the total number; in the wapentakes of Dickering, Harthill, and Howden, too, their percentage is very great, as may be seen from the Nomina Villarum (1316) and the returns of the Poll tax 1378. Of less importance, in this respect, is the West Riding, more particularly the southmost portion, whereas in the wapentake of Ewcross, along the pre-eminently Scandinavian hundred of Lonsdale in Lancashire, and the adjoining Staincliffe, besides in Osgoldcross, along the southern side of the river Air, the Scandinavian place-nomenclature is anything but inconsiderable.

A few remarks may be added about the general features of the Scandinavian place-nomenclature in the county. In almost every part of it we find numerous compounds with the Scandinavian býr (cf. p.3 n.), fors (p.60 n.3), skáli (p.189), wrá (p.197); also compounds with þorp (p.4 n. 3), and toft (p. 208) are frequently met with, especially in the East Riding. Characteristic of the woody, mountainous regions of the North and West Ridings are the many names terminating in þveit (see p.96 f.), gil (p.19 n.), viðr (p.179 n. 2). With regard to the abundance and variety of its Scandinavian nature- and cultivation-names Yorkshire is not surpassed by any other county in England, though it is true the most Scandinavian districts of Lancashire, Cumberland, and Lincolnshire vie with it in this respect.

Passing on to Durham and Northumberland we find a place-nomenclature that exhibits comparatively few traces of the Scandinavians. Here the Scandinavian names do not occur in patches, as was often the case south of the Tees, but are scattered all over the two counties, and are, generally speaking, of little interest. As was to be expected they are most frequent in the southern half of Durham, near the Yorkshire border. Conspicuous are the many instances of the M.E. name Newebiggyng (N.E. Newbigging), from O.W.Scand bygging 'building', which name is certainly found in most northern English counties but nowhere so frequently as here. Judging by the place-names, the Scandinavian settlement in the two counties seems to have been only sporadic in character. Much of it was probably swept away through the incessant ravages of the Scots that these parts had to endure in early M.E. times.

4) The North-Western division includes the present counties of Lancashire, Cheshire, Cumberland and Westmoreland.

If we take a general view of the three north-western counties (Lancashire, Cumberland, Westmoreland) with regard to their Scandinavian place-nomenclature, it cannot fail to strike us how many features they possess in common with Yorkshire. It goes without saying that this similarity of place-names was conditioned, to a very large extent, by that of the natural scenery. But not only the many name-elements that refer to natural characteristics correspond. There are, besides, not a few names which preserve elements of other kinds, for instance pers. names and words relating to religious worship, social customs and institutions, which are to be found only here and nowhere else in Scandinavian England. In several cases these names are of a distinctively O.W.Scand shape. These points will be discussed more fully in Part II of the present work.

Chapter V

Some general remarks on the Scandinavian place-nomenclature in England in Old and Middle English times

The influence of the Scandinavians on the place-nomenclature of England (within the territorial limits before indicated) exhibits itself first of all in the production or introduction of names entirely Scandinavian in form, as well as in the coining of names embodying native and Scand. elements - in other words hybrid formations. But also the native names that existed in the country when the new settlers arrived, or may have come into existence during the succeeding period of amalgamation, were not seldom subject to more or less radical changes and alterations. Occasionally a place with a native name was re-named by the Scandinavians, as, e.g., when the ancient Northworthige of the Anglo-Saxons was changed to Deoraby (now Derby), the spelling of the Ags. Chron., A.D. 917 onwards. Another similar case is represented by the O.E. place-name Streanæshalch, Strenæshalc, recorded under those forms in Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica (see ed. Plummer), but subsequently superseded by the Scand. Prestebi and Witebi (now Whitby), if we may trust a passage in the opening 12th cent. document of the Whitby Chartulary, which describes the newly-founded abbey there as situated 'in loco qui olim Streoneshalc vocabatur, deinde Prestebi appellabatur, nunc vero Witebi vocatur'. Of incomparably more frequent occurrence is the phenomenon that a native name was, wholly or in part, Scandinavianized. The best-known example of this kind is the name of the city of York, the O.E. form of which was Eoforwic; this became Jorvik in the tongue of the new settlers, and the latter form soon took precedence (cf. Zachrisson p. 63). Other striking instances which deserve attention here, are Skyrack (see p. 78), perhaps Snaith (p. 80), and, especially, many of the M.E. names apparently containing O.W.Scand. steinn (see p. 83) and hieimr (p. 62 f.).

When speaking above of the introduction of Scand. place-names into England I had in my mind the possibility that complete names, perhaps sometimes of a type that was no longer productive in Scandinavia, were transplanted to English soil in their fixed traditional Scand. form by immigrants to whom they were familiar of old. It is very likely that such an assumption is sound in the case of many of the Scand. names in England to which exact parallels may be adduced from Scandinavia; see, e.g. Beckermonds p.6, Borrowdale p.7, Litherland p.12, Aigburth p. 37, Raby p. 188, many names terminating in -þveit pp. 96-128, &c. Whether at the time of the Scand. settlement in England O.W.Scand. heimr was productive as a place-name element has been disputed (see p.58). Judging by the M.E. heim-names it did survive at that time though it was very rare. Under such circumstances it would seem that the most remarkable M.E. heim-names, such as the present Fosham, Hollym, Askham, each of which had several doubles in ancient Norway, were imported stereotyped name-material of the kind now under consideration. That a Scand. importation of names, in this sense, may have taken place appears all the more probable when we turn for parallels to other countries, e. g. England and its colonies, and consider how many English names were directly transplanted into North America by the English immigrants in the 17th century and onwards.

Editor's note: as examples of (1) Scandinavianisation and (2) importation of a complete place-name, is is possible that (1) O.N. Raumsdalr (Romsdal) was imported from Norway or (2) O.E. 'hramsa dæl' was Scandinavianised O.N. Raumsdalr giving 'Ramsdale'.

When dealing with the Scand. place-names in England we are in a position to draw up, with some exactness, the chronological limits for the production of a large proportion of them, namely those recorded in Domesday. From the history of the settlement, as it was briefly sketched above in Ch. I-II, it is patent that the terminus a quo must be put at about 900; Domesday professes to have been finished in 1086 (cf. Ellis, Introd. I, 4), which year, accordingly, marks the terminus ad quem, and gives us a period of circa 180 years from which must date the Scand. place-nomenclature of the record. In Domesday, as far as the range of the survey goes, we find all, or most of, the well-known names terminating in -by (cf. p.3 n.), -thorp (cf. p.4 n.), those in -tun that are to be regarded as Scand. (cf. p.7 n. 1), further those in -heim (p. 58 f.), generally anglicized to -ham. All these belong then to the earliest strata of the Scand. nomenclature in this country. But very few thweit- and toft-names appear in the same record, and not one containing wra or skale; the places subsequently designated by them must at the time of the great survey have been waste and uninhabited, perhaps depopulated, or of little or no importance. It is interesting is to notice that the by-names are often to be found in the most fertile districts, especially when these are easily accessible from the sea or some river. See, by way of illustration, the many names of this kind that group themselves in the Leicestershire plain round the river Wreak (cf. p. XLIII), in the pre-eminently Scand. parts of Lincolnshire (wapentake of Calceworth &c., see p. XLII), in the Flegg hundreds in Norfolk (p. XL), and in the great Cumberland plain round the course of the river Eden (p. XLIX). In such regions we meet with the most genuine instances of these names, as a rule compounds with a personal name as 1st member, such as in the Flegg hundreds (quoted from DoB): Alabei (see p.168), Malteby (OD Malti personal name), Ormesby (O.W.Scand. Ormr, personal name), Scroutebei (p.164), Heimesbei (p.63), &c.

… it is a conspicuous feature about the many entirely Scand. by- and thorp-names in England that the 1st member is very frequently a personal name. This applies also to the M.E. tun-names, as far as they have Scand. words for 1st members. The place-names of the former two categories agree, in that respect, with the O.Norw. names of the same description, while the Danish by-names hardly ever contain a personal name, the þorp-names as a rule do … But it is worthy of attention, with regard to the above-mentioned Scand. place-names in England, that in strikingly many cases the 1st member is a surname or nickname, perhaps more often, proportionally, than in the mother countries in the same period …

… Thus when the earliest Scand. place-names in England are composed, in such numbers, with a personal name as first member, this seems to indicate that at the earliest stage of the Scand. settlement in this country the primary social unit was the single family household (single farm) - as in Norway and Iceland - and not the village community.

Editor's note: again, Ramsdale is possibly an example of such place-names.

… Of M.E. nature names which contain Scandinavian elements there is an almost endless host preserved in our charters and other records of a more local character. Among them we meet with names of woods and groves, hills and mountains, valleys, bays and inlets, fens and marshes, fords, &c. Relatively few in number are the names of lakes and rivers … M.E. names of streams and brooks which terminate in -beck without doubt embody O.W.Scand. bekkr and not the native beck (cf. this word in Björkman, Loanwords p.144), more particularly when the preceding member is a Scandinavian word … There is no reason for doubting the Scandinavian origin of such a name as a whole … I will conclude this chapter by devoting some attention to two sets of names which occur, the one in the most Scandinavian town in England, the other in the most Scandinavian district of this country.

York, as having been for a long period practically a Scandinavian town … Of outstanding interest are several old street-names in the city which are of Scandinavian origin, and must be among the earliest Scandinavian names of this kind on record, whether in the Scandinavian mother countries or in their colonies. With two exceptions they all have O.W.Scand., OSwed. gata, O.Dan., gatæ 'road, street', as last member. Most of them are still in use, and will be easily located on any plan within the oldest part of the city; …

… We need not go very far from York to find, in the same county, a region which, as far as the evidence of its place-names goes, might be appropriately described as the most Scandinavianized part of England (cf. p.XLVI). I am referring to the Whitby district - in this case the country lying within a semi-circle of a 6 or 7 mile radius, counting from Whitby as centre. Most of the ground under cultivation is very fertile, which circumstance in itself may have sufficed to attract the new settlers; to this must be added the favourable situation on the sea-coast, which offers good natural harbours or anchorages in sundry places. Within the limits just indicated, almost every place-name seems in early M.E. times to have been Scandinavian in form, and, as a rule, West Scandinavian. Many of the names occurring here are explained in the etymological part below, Ch. 1-7, and the rest will be in Part II. But in order that the reader may form an idea of the aspect presented, with regard to local names, by a thoroughly Scandinavian district in England in the early Middle Ages, I have held it expedient here to draw up a survey of those names, with some very brief etymological notes in cases of such instances as are not included in Ch. 1-7. An exhaustive list of all the names recorded here in the course of the M.E. period would cover many pages, and the compilation of it would at present involve some practical difficulties which would be out of all proportion to the results. I will, therefore, confine myself to giving the certainly very considerable number of most interesting instances which are preserved in one of our earliest and most instructive documents, the so-called Memorial of Foundation in the Whitby Chartulary. According to the Editor of the chartulary this document is 'certainly of earlier date than 1180'. It contains the following Scandinavian place-names belonging to the district:

  • Witebi; O.W.Scand. hvítr 'white', býr 'farm'.

  • Prestebi; O.W.Scand. prestr, 'a priest', býr 'farm'.

  • Overbi; O.W.Scand. ofarr 'above, higher up', býr 'farm'.

  • Nedhrebi; O.W.Scand. neðarr 'lower, farther down', býr 'farm'.

  • Steinsecher; see p.81: Stainsecre Yo. 12th, 13th centuries, Stainsecher circa 1146 (Papal confirmation), Steinsecher, Stainsker 12th century Whitby Chartulary; Steinesacr 1175-76, Steinseker 1179-80 Pipe Rolls; Staynseker 1301 Yo. Subsequently; Staynseker Nomina villarum for Yorkshire 9th Edward II; Staynsekir 1394-95, Staynsyker 1396, Staynseker, -ekerr, Steynsekerr 14th century Whitby Chartulary; now Stainsacre.
    1st member is the O.W.Scand. man's name Steinn (O.E.Scand. Sten), which is of common occurrence in O.W.Scand. place-names; see Rygh, Personnavne. The same name seems to enter into the following M.E. place-names: SteinesbiSteinshaleSteinstune.

  • Thingwala; see p.16: Tingwal Yo. circa 1146 Whitby Chartulary. (Papal confirmation); Thingwala a. 1180 ibid. The place cannot be identified but must be close to Whitby; see J. C. Atkinson in his Introduction to Whitby Chartulary, p. XXII f.

  • Leirpel; see p.71: Leirpel Yo. early 12th century, Lairpel circa 1146, Leirpelle 1351, Lairpell, Layerpelle, Lairepell 1395, Larepoole circa 1540, Whitby Chartulary; now Larpool … 1st member being leir n. 'clay, loam; mud, especially on the beach' (O.E.Scand Ler), or leirr m. 'loamy soil' … Besides leir and leirr there was in O.W.Scand an allied formation leira (or leiri) which signified 'a loam-field, loamy or muddy shore'. Like leirr this latter word is found sporadically uncompounded as a place-name in Norway (see further Rygh, Indl.), and traces of the words occur, too, in Scandinavian England. A document of A.D. 1332 in the Chartulary of Rievaulx speaks of a plot of land in Nalton (Yo.) as 'una perticata terræ … quaelig; vocatur Leir'. It is by no means improbable that this field-name represents O.W.Scand leirr.

  • [Helredale; (?) O.W.Scand. hellir 'a cave' (in rocks), dalr 'valley'].

  • Gnip; cf. O.W.Scand. gnípa 'a steep rock or peak with a beetling upper part'.

  • Hauchesgard; see p. 143: Houkesgarth, Houkesgard, Hauchesgard Yo. 12th century Whitby Chartulary; Houkasgart, Houkesgart, Okesgard, Haukesgard ibid.; Hokesgard 1166-67, Haukesgard 1175-76, Hokesgarth 1179-80 Pipe Rolls; Haukasgarth 12th century Guisbrough Chartulary; Hokesgarthe 1212 Rotuli Chartarum; Houkesgarth 1213 Whitby Chartulary; Haukesgarth 1298 Yorkshire Inquisitions, 1301 Yorkshire Lay Subsidy, 1299, 1308 f. Whitby Chartulary; Haugesgargh Nomina villarum for Yorkshire 9th Edward II; etc.; now Hawsker, near Whitby.
    1st member is genitive of the O.W.Scand. man's name Haukr OSwed. Høker, O.Dan. Høk), which appears as early as La. and was in frequent use in Norway and Iceland; see Lind, E. H. Norsk-Isländska dopnamn ock fingerade namn fran medeltiden. Upsala 1905 f.
    2nd member is O.W.Scand. garðr (OSwed. garþer, O.Dan., garth) in the sense of 'a farm'. Cf. above p.132, under Aistangarthes.
    The name is identical with the appellative haukr, etc. 'hawk'. There are in M.E. records not a few place-names that have Hauk- or Haukes- as 1st member. In almost every county in Scandinavian England, and outside it, we come across compounds such as Haukwell, Haukeswell, Haucherst (Kent), Haukedon, Haukhull etc. By far the largest percentage of these are without doubt of native origin and contain M.E. hauk < O.E. havoc, N.E. hawk. An O.E. man's name of the same form seems not to be known according to Björkman, Personennamen, p.66. But it is most likely that such a name once did exist, although it may have early fallen into disuse, and, like several other O.E. personal names, has survived only in place-names … All this being so, it is clear that we can in no case assign Scandinavian origin to M.E. place-names beginning with Hauk(es), unless spellings with the diphthong written ou, o can be adduced in support. Forms of that kind reflect a very common development of the Scandinavian diphthong in England (cf. on this above p.136 f.), which is well evidenced from Scandinavian loan-words in M.E., and such forms may be regarded as doubtless of Scandinavian origin. Apart from Hawsker, this holds good of the following names: HoucbygHoukeseteHokeswelleHochesuuicHocwellaHochesuordeHowkeswra
    Not far from Hawsker is a place called Hogarth (Hill), which name may be of the same origin. It is stated to be identical with Haukesgarth 1299, 1344 Calendar of the Patent Rolls.

  • Normanebi; perhaps from O.W.Scand. Norðmaðr 'a Northman, Norwegian' (cf. Björkman, Personennamen p.98 f.).

  • Bertwait; see p.103: Bertwait Yo. ante 1180 Berthwait circa 1146 (Papal confirmation) Whitby Chartulary - In the Whitby district. Site unknown. From O.W.Scand. berr, 'bare, naked', (OSwed., Danish bar, O.E. boer, M.E. bar); or perhaps rather O.E., M.E. bere 'barley', N.E. dialect bear, retained only in Scotland, Northumberland, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Shropshire and Suffolk. Also O.W.Scand. ber 'berry' might possibly be taken into consideration.

  • Setwait; see p.121: Setwait Yo. early 12th century Whitby Chartulary. (cf. ibid. p.118 n.); near Whitby. Apparently from O.W.Scand. sjár, sær (M.E. sæ) 'lake, sea'. An exact parallel is the O.Norw. Sæpuæit Björgynjar Kalfskinn (14th century).

  • Snetune; from O.W.Scand. snær, snjár 'snow' ?

  • Hugelbardebi, Ugilbardebi (written Uglebardebi, Uggelbardebi in other 12th century charters ib., DoB has Ugleberdesbi, now Ugglebarnby); from an O.W.Scand. nickname Ugluharði or -barðr 'owl-bearded'. Cf. the compounds given by F. Jónsson, Tilnavne p.207 f.

  • Sourebi; see p.163: Sourebi Yo. ante 1180, Saurebi circa 1150 f, Soureby 1282, 1354 Whitby Chartulary; supposed to be identical with the present Sneaton Thorpe, see Whitby Chartulary p.398 n.

  • Risewarp; O.W.Scand. hrís 'shrubs, brushwood', and varp, recorded in several applications (see Fritzner, and Rygh, Indl.), here like Norwegian dialect varp in the general sense of 'something thrown together, amassed.' The name would thus properly signify a piled-up heap of brushwood.

  • Stachesbi; from O.W.Scand. stakkr 'a stack' (of hay or peat), &c.; or from the same word used as a surname (cf. Kahle, Altwestn. Beinamen p.18o).

  • Baldebi; O.W.Scand. Baldi, personal name, býr 'farm'.

  • Breccha; O.W.Scand. brekka 'a slope'.

  • Flore; O.W.Scand. flórr 'a cow-stall' (see Fritzner).

  • Eschedale; from Eske, the name of the river Esk, possibly identical in origin with the O.Norw. river-name Eskja (see Rygh, Elvenavne); dalr 'valley'.

  • Mulegrif; O.W.Scand. múli 'a jutting rock' (between two dales, &c.); see further p.85 n.3.

  • Agge-milne; from O.W.Scand. Aggi (OD Aggi, OSwed. Agge), a short form of Agmundr, Agvaldr, or perhaps from the same word as Swedish dialect agg 'a contrary current, backwater in a river, especially by the bank' (cf. Norwegian dialect, ag 'surging of waves'); mylna 'a mill'.

  • Fielingam, Fielinga (in other 12th century deeds ib. Figelingam, Figelinge); perhaps plural forms of an O.Scand. patronymic Fyglingr, derived from O.W.Scand., O.Dan. Fugl, OSwed. Fughle; cf. the OSwed. place-name Føghlinge, Hellquist p.32.

  • Hachanesse; O.W.Scand. Haki, personal name, nes 'a ness projecting into the sea'.

  • Dales; perhaps from O.W.Scand. dalr 'valley'.

  • Silfhou; from the O.Dan., man's name Sylve or the feminine Sylfa, Silfa (see Wimmer), and O.W.Scand. haugr 'mound, cairn.'

  • Gaitelei; identical with Gaytelaye, for which see p.53: Gaytelaye ('pastura') Yo. circa 1146 (Papal confirmation) Whitby Chartulary; near Hackness - 2nd member as in Osmotherly, p.4, n.1: 2nd member M.E. leye (O.E. leak) "meadow, pasture'. The spelling lac is well instanced in DoB. and seems to depend on Norman sound-substitution; see further Zachrisson, p.151 f.

  • Stoupe; see p.165: Staupe Yo. tempore Henry I, Stoupe early 12th century feminine, Stowpe 1395, Stoope, Stowpe Browe 1540 Whitby Chartulary; now Stoupe Brow, hamlet and cliff in Whitby parish. From O.W.Scand staup in the sense of 'a steep declivity or slope, a pitch, precipice'. Stoupe Brow is a cliff, according to Bartholomew's Gazetteer 893 ft. high, which towers aloft over the shore at Robin Hood's Bay, and commands a magnificent view. The word staup in the sense just mentioned is only evidenced from Norw. place-names; see e.g. Rygh N.G. V, 444 and XV, 87. It is related by ablaut to the rare verb stúpa 'to stoop', OSwed. stupa 'to fall, tumble headlong'. The primary sense of staup may have been that of a depression or hollow where one is apt to tumble down; cf. the allied O.E. adjective steap 'high, lofty', N.E. steep. In Shetlandic local names staup is applied to a track beaten by the feet of cattle (Jakobsen); cf. Norw. dialect, staup 'a hole in a road, deep rut, cup, goblet', O.E. steap 'a cup, flagon', OHG., MHG. stouf 'Becher, Felsen' (Schade), German Stauff, Stauffen, as names of mountains (see Schmeller, Bayerisches Worterbuch). Whether N.E. dialect stoup 'a deep and narrow vessel for holding liquids, pail for water', etc., is of Scandinavian introduction, is uncertain. Its local distribution - only in some northern counties and east Anglia - is in favour of it. On M.E. stope see Björkman, Loan-words, p.78, with references.

  • Kesebec; from O.W.Scand. kesja 'a spear' = spjót, and bekkr 'a stream'. The name may indicate the course of the beck as being straight; cf. the Norwegian stream-names Flena and Spjota in Rygh, Elvenavne.

  • Bilroche (for Bilrothe; a Papal confirmation dating from circa 1146 ib. has Bilrod); perhaps from O.W.Scand. Bili, personal name, and rjóðr or ruð 'a clearing in a wood' ?

  • Asulvebi; see p.175: Asuluesby, Asuluebi Yo. DoB.; Asulvebi ante 1180, Asolvebi early 13th century Whitby Chartulary; Ascilbi 1278 C. Inquisitions; Asselby, Haselby circa 1280 Whitby Chartulary; Asila-, Asillaby Kirkby; Aselby late 13th century Whitby Chartulary, Rotuli Hundredorum Henry III and Edward I, Testa de Nevill Henry III and Edward I, Nomina villarum for Yorkshire 9th Edward II, 1339 f. Calendar of the Patent Rolls, &c.; Assulby 1487 C. Inquisitions.; Asilby 1394, Aslaby, Aislaby circa 1540 Whitby Chartulary; now Aislaby, near Whitby.

"Early Yorkshire Charters; being a collection of documents anterior to the thirteenth century made from the public records, monastic chartularies, Roger Dodsworth's manuscripts and other available sources" (1914) William Farrer at pages pages 197 & 200

Volume II

At page 197

855. Grant by William de Percy to Serlo the prior, his brother, and the monks of Whitby of the church of St. Peter and St. Hilda of Whitby with the towns of Whitby, Stainsacre, Newholm and Stakesby, the port of Whitby, Hackness, the church of St. Mary (of Hackness) and the church of St. Peter (of Hackness), Northfield, Suffield, Everley, Broxa and Thirley, and tithe of the hall in Upleatham, Wilton and Seamer, and in 5 places in Lincolnshire; also tithe of fish in Eryholme, and the forest, woodlands and pastures belonging to the church of Whitby. Circa 1090-1096. Chartulary of Whitby.

At page 200

The description of some portions of the founder's endowment, recited in the above charter, is confusing. The description of the "lands, possessions, forests, churches, tithes and liberties," which the founder and Alan his son gave, before the former took his way to Jerusalem in 1096, and those which their friends and vassals gave, as set forth in the "Memorial", clears up the confusion and gives a clearer description of the hamlets and places which existed circa 1160 in the manors and towns which formed the corpus of the founder's endowment, and of the augmentation thereof made by Alan his son, and William the grandson of the founder (Chartulary of Whitby, I ; Mon. Angl., i, 410 published in 1879 - "Cartularium Abbathiae de Whiteby" Ordinis S. Benedicti fundatae anno MLXXVIII).

The town and sea-port of Whitby (Witebi), "Overbi" and "Nedhrebi" that is Stainsacre (Steinsecher), Thingwall (Thingwala), Larpool Hall (Leirpel), Spital Vale (Helredale), "Gnip" that is Hawsker (Hauchesgard) (Nype Howe is ¾ mile N. E. of Hawsker), Normanby, Fylingdales, and Fyling Thorpe (Fielinga) and Fyling Hall (altera Fielinga), "Bertwait", "Setwait" (possibly near Billery), Sneaton (Snetune), Ugglebarnby (Hugelbardebi), Sowerby (Sourebi) (near Carr Hall), Ruswarp (Risewarp), Newholm (Neuham), Stakesby (Stachesbi), Baldby Fields (Baldebi), The Breck (Breccha), Flowergate, in Whitby (Florum), Dunsley, the hermitages of Eskdale (Eschedale) and Mulgrave (Mulegrif), the forests which belong to the church of Whitby, the church of St. Mary of the same town with six chapels (Fylingdales, Hawsker, Sneaton, Ugglebarnby, Dunsley and Aislaby) and their belongings, Hagg Mill (Aggemilne) now called Rigg Mill, Cock Mill (Kocchemilne), the mill of Ruswarp, the New Mill, the mill of Fyling (perhaps Bag Mill) the town of Hackness and the two mills and the church of St. Mary of the same town, the church of St. Peter, where our monks served God, died and were buried, High Dales and Low Dales (Dales), Everley, Broxa (Brochesei), Northfield without Danegeld, Silpho (Silfhou), all "Gaitelei" (perhaps between Thirley and Northfield), and the vaccaries of Stoupe and Thirley (Thornleia), Casebeck (Kesebec) and Billery (Bilroche rectius Bilrode); in Upleatham (Uplium) two-thirds of the tithe of grain from the demesne and from Wilton, Seamer and Nafferton, in Lindsey (co. Lincoln) likewise from Immingham, Somerby (Sumerledebi), Stainton -le- Vale, Kirmond-le-Mire (Caprimonte), Ludford, Elkington, Grainthorpe (Saletorp, sic), Covenham and Owmby with Searby (D'Autnebi); half the fishery of Eryholme (Hergum).

"The Dialects of Hackness (north east Yorkshire) with original specimens, and a word-list" (1915) George Herbert Cowling at pages xiii, xix, xx and xxi


The dialect which is here set down is that spoken by agriculturists and their labourers on the Wolds and in the Dales of North-Eastern and Eastern Yorkshire. The district where I have heard the dialect lies within the triangular strip between Whitby, Pickering and Filey. Most of my dialect comes from the neighbourhood of Hackness, a small village on the upper reaches of the Derwent, six miles from Scarborough, and agrees, as far as my ear is a judge, with that which I have heard in Staintondale, Fylingdales, Goathland, and Brompton. The fact that this dialect is widespread proves that we have a genuine dialect to consider, and not a local patois … The basis of the dialect is Old English with a strong blend of Scandinavian words …

The bulk of its vocabulary is English, and many words which the literary language has forgotten still live on. In literary English, the Old English word mōd (mind) has become 'mood'; a similar change in meaning has taken place in the dialect in the synonym hycge, which remains as hig, meaning 'sulks', bad temper. Contrarywise, the dialect has preserved the meaning of rig (O.E. hrycg), our 'ridge,' as back - probably because of the influence of the Scandinavian form hryggr

The Scandinavian element is somewhat difficult to distinguish. When the Danes settled in the -bys and -thorpes of East Yorkshire at the end of the ninth century, they found a speech in the Anglian -tons and -hams which differed but little from their own. It is certain that neither race had much difficulty in understanding the other. An enormous number of words were practically identical, and their idiom and syntax were very much alike. Words differed where Scandinavian had ei and au, corresponding to the English long ā and ēā - O.E. stān against steinn (stone); O.E. lēās against lauss (loose) - or where Scandinavian had th where English had d, as in swarth for sward, or a stopped (hard) g where English bad a spirant (soft) g, as in drag for draw, egg for ey, give for yive; or sk against English sc, as in harsk for harsh, skuttle for shuttle; or a stopped (hard) k instead of a spirant (palatal) c as in kirk for church. Practically the only certain signs of Scandinavian origin in the dialect are the ou (from an earlier au) in loup (leap), lous (loose), etc., and the th in words like garth (yard), swarth (sward).

But though not always apparent, Scandinavian exerted an influence in keeping alive English words; dale and bairn for example might have been ousted by the French valley, and infant or at least by the English child, had not the Scandinavian cognate and similar words given new life to them in the North of England. The Scandinavian pronunciation superseded the English in word-pairs such as snile snail, give yive, slike such, get yete, skrike shriek, gaum yeme. Doubtless both forms existed side by side for generations, and who shall say what subtle choosing preferred the form now in use in the dialect ? Sometimes the English word remains, but with its meaning altered by the corresponding Scandinavian word. The word gift, for instance, as Professor Jespersen points out ("Growth and Structure of the English Language" at page 69) meant a marriage settlement, or a wedding, in Old English; its present meaning, "something given" is due to Scandinavian influence. Plōh in Old English meant a measure of land, as the name of an implement pleäf corresponds to the Old Icelandic plōgr. Bread was a fragment, dream was joy in Old English, their present meaning is Scandinavian.

The Norsemen appear to have practised agriculture in North East Yorkshire. A great number of nouns denoting objects connected with the farm are Scandinavian, such as the following names of implements: hesp (a fastening), heck (a, hayrack), skuttle and skep (trenchers), poke (sack), stang (shaft), and perhaps wagon too, stee (a ladder); and names of outhouses such as lathe (a barn), and dairy, with its sile for filtering milk, and ken for churning its cream. Connected with sheep-breeding are gavelock (bar used in making folds), gimmer and hog, rig-welted (lying on the back of a sheep), and clip (to shear); relating to tillage are mig (manure), skuffle (to harrow); and the plant names, awn (of barley) and kale. From the Scandinavian, too, come gilt (a sow), whye (a heifer), gelding, and steg (a gander). The Danes have left their mark too on the place-names of East Yorkshire, slack (valley), swang, ing (meadow), keld (spring), beck (brook), how (hill), foss (waterfall), are Scandinavian words, and will last longer than the rest of the Scandinavian element, for literary English is driving unwritten provincialisms out of the field …

French and Latin words in English owe their introduction to educated people, and dialect is the speech of the uneducated.

Norway, I. Virile Ways of the Modern Vikings" (circa 1920) A. MacCallum Scott Volume V at pages 3833 to 3845

Climate is an important factor in the development of racial characteristics. The North is a Spartan mother, and her sons are nourished in adversity and indurated to the struggle with nature. Fruits do not drop into their lap. They are trained to stand alone, compelled to exercise foresight. Like the pine that braves the tempest, their fibre is toughened by the struggle for life. The earliest members of the Gothic race to settle in Norway found in these sheltered fjords and narrow valleys and virgin forests plenty of food for those who had the skill and the strength to win it, and when their numbers had multiplied beyond the limits of their food resources they could send forth a breed of men able to find and take what they required elsewhere.

The coast of Norway is one vast sheltered harbour for thousands of miles. It is protected by a continuous belt of islands, large and small, the Skjaergaard, or fence of skerries, through the narrow straits between which ships wind their way as through a canal. Between these islands and the mainland there is a channel or belt of deep water, deeper than the outside ocean. The fjords are not river estuaries, but narrow, deep-sea channels, branching out in all directions until they almost meet, and penetrating sometimes one hundred miles into the interior of the country. Their towering cliffs run down precipitously into deep water.

The interior is a huddle of grey, rounded mountains culminating in the snow-clad heights of the Dovrefjeld and the Jotunfjeld, or Giant mountains. These are not peaked like the Alps. They have been ground down by glaciers, denuded, scraped, harrowed, by the ice plough of the Titans. Some relics of the Ice Age still remain in the shape of glaciers which feed the rivers that pour down the narrow valleys winding between the mountains.

Such a land, and such a coast, were essential for the breeding of such a race of seafarers as the Vikings. The Norwegians are a pure race, preserving all the characteristics of their Viking ancestors, and it is in the light of the Viking age that they should be studied.

Wheat is grown in the south, barley, rye, and oats farther north, but the corn supply has to be largely imported. The rearing of cattle, sheep, and horses is the staple occupation. The pastures are excellent. Among the most familiar features of the Norwegian landscape are the curious pegged posts, like hatracks, dotted over the fields, on which the hay and corn are dried, and the fences of rough wooden laths all slanting upwards.

Harvesting Barley in a Fertile Valley near Trondhjem

Barley makes a successful crop in South Trondhjem, and has been reaped six weeks after sowing, while records show that two crops a year are not uncommon. The ripe ears, cut down with the sickle, are bound into sheaves and stuck one above another to dry on poles, which at a distance look for all the world like rows of sturdy soldiers lined up for parade.

Drying Hay Crops in the Heart of the Norwegian Highlands

So damp is their climate that the Norwegian agriculturalists have considerable difficulty in drying the newly-cut hay; and to enable the air to reach the crop more readily, they erect long, fence-like structures, several feet high, on which the hay is stacked. Sometimes the hay is piled up on separate poles, as is done in the Swiss and Austrian Alps.

Bringing Home the Scanty Herbage Grown on the Heights

So thrifty and painstaking are the Norwegian farmers that every blade of grass on the steep hillsides is cherished for the use of the cattle during the long winter. Clipped and collected annually, these miniature mountain crops are sometimes transferred from their high altitudes to the valleys below by pulleys on long wires, and brought down the fjords to their destinations by boats.

All Hands to the Rakes in the Hay-making Season

The thrift of the Norwegian people is strikingly illustrated in the way they wrest a livelihood from the narrow stretches of fertile land scattered about the valleys and mountains. About nine-tenths of the farmers own their properties - a privilege that adds a zest to toil; while nature does her share, and the vegetation is usually remarkable for the rapidity of its growth.

Only a small proportion of the total surface is suitable for cultivation, and to each farm in the valley there is generally attached an area of mountain pasture. Often these pastures are at a considerable distance from the farm. In winter the cattle are housed and fed in the farm, but every spring sees a migration en masse to the mountain pastures. The herds are driven up the steep mountain paths to the higher valleys by the girls and young women of the farms who remain with them all through the summer, living in one-roomed wooden huts, known as saeters. Much the same system used to prevail in the Scottish Highlands, where the summer pastures were known as shielings. The saeter system is one of the most characteristic and picturesque features of Norwegian country life. It is a strenuous life, for there is much milking and cheese and butter-making to be done.

The men come up at intervals from the farms with horses to carry away the produce. There is joy in the fresh air of spring after the long dark winter. The flaxen-haired, red-cheeked girls are merry at their work and quite fearless of their isolation. They bring their Sunday finery with them, and, though no church bells can be heard for a score of miles, they celebrate the holy day in the bright colours of the national gala costume, which has its characteristic features in every valley. Visits from amorous swains from the farms are not infrequent, and many a marriage follows the saeter season. Public opinion is somewhat lax so long as marriage is assured.

Norway, II. From Harald Haarfager to Haakon VII (ca 1920) J. A. Brendon, Volume V at pages 3877 to 3880

NORWAY, as an organized and independent nation-state, has a very short history. It did not attain to complete autonomy until 1905. The Norwegians, on the other hand, have a long and glorious history, a history full of romance.

At one period, the Norwegians were leading actors on the European stage. They continued as such for three hundred years at least - throughout the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries. Yet in the eighth century Europe hardly knew of their existence; in the thirteenth century they again sank into obscurity. Only recently have they begun to re-emerge.

In the days of long ago - indeed, since time immemorial - a seafaring race, a race of fishermen, had toiled laboriously for a bare subsistence in the winding, rock-bound bays along the coast of Norway. There were not many of these men. Norway is a cold and barren land; even today it can support only a small population. In the far-off ages food was very hard to find; and the clan of one bay had often to rely for the necessities of life upon what it could plunder from the clans of neighbouring bays.

These people made war their sport, but frequently they had to make it their means of livelihood. And they comforted themselves with the belief that he who died peacefully in his bed went to hell - a hell near to the North Pole, colder even than Norway; while he who died fighting, as a man should die, went to Valhalla, and there could fight and drink forever to his heart's content.

Norway at that time was no place for weaklings. Nor was it the place for a king or settled government. For this reason the Norwegians were one of the last of the white peoples to mature. Then suddenly, in the eighth century, they burst upon the world as a race of conquerors.

Had they organized as a nation before they expanded in conquest, they must have made themselves the masters of Europe. Instead, they conquered as they had lived, without order or method; and in the end they dissipated their strength. Only now are they slowly recovering from the reckless expenditure of human energy incurred by their early ancestors. Upon Europe these wild men conferred incalculable benefits. Norway herself, however, could ill afford to lose all that virile blood which her sons lavished to enrich the races of mankind from the Baltic to the Black Sea, from the Gulf of Finland as far westward as America.

The Norwegians, being excellent craftsmen, evolved in course of time a fine ocean-going vessel for deep sea fishing. This was the famous Viking ship. The Viking ship could ride an Atlantic storm and outsail any other type of vessel then afloat. It gave the Norwegians a mastery of the sea such as no people had hitherto possessed. From the latter part of the eighth century onwards for three hundred years, it enabled them to make themselves a very terror to every other European people. Whenever the square sails of a Viking ship appeared on the horizon, the dwellers on foreign coasts fled panic-stricken from their homes, while priests prayed, but prayed in vain, for deliverance from the fury of the Norsemen.

From tribal foray to piracy

Prior to the Viking age, Norwegian fought Norwegian; earls and kinglets preyed one upon another. Gradually as the stronger ousted the weaker, earldoms or kingdoms - call them which you will - increased in size and strength. Inter-tribal frays thus became more hazardous and formidable undertakings. Yet honour - and necessity - still compelled chieftains to 1ive by war. So, unable to make war safely at home, they took to sailing to foreign parts in quest of plunder and adventure.

At first a chief would sail across perhaps to Denmark, or to Flanders, or to Scotland, attack some township or monastery, and then return home with the booty. In course of time, expeditions came to be conducted on more scientific lines. Fortifications were erected at the place of landing, and forays were made thence into the surrounding country. Later still, several chiefs would band together and, discarding the character of pirates, would assume that of conquerors. Even so, the Norsemen effected conquests without method; and, in the end, the vanquished, not the victors, were the gainers. Discipline, the power to endure, the will to achieve - these were the qualities the peoples of Europe acquired from their Viking masters.

Viking ships fraught with terror

During the ninth century an incessant stream of adventurers flowed from Norway. The peoples of the Baltic, the peoples of Scotland, Ireland, France and Spain, even those of the distant lands around the Mediterranean, all learned to dread the coming of the Viking ship. To England, for some inexplicable reason, only a few Norwegians found their way. Old sagas tell us of Norse chieftains who took service under the Saxon kings, and we learn of raids upon the coast, even of expeditions holding up trade and shipping in the Thames. Yet, generally speaking, they left England as a field of conquest to their kinsmen, the Danes; at any rate until the 11th century. For conquest and settlement the Norsemen favoured specially France, Ireland, Scotland and the Scottish Isles.

In 841 they plundered Rouen; in 845 they dared even to sack Paris. A few years earlier a Norse chieftain sailed up to Dublin. "After many sharp fights," according to the old chronicler, Giraldus Cambrensis, "he conquered in a short time all Ireland, and erected, wherever he went, high fortifications of masonry with deep moats, of which many ruins are yet to be seen in the country. At this time too, Norsemen frequently visited the Orkneys, Shetlands, Hebrides, and Faroe islands. There they made permanent settlements. Norse blood still flows freely in the veins of the people of these islands; Norse names are common among them.

At last towards the end of the ninth century Norway produced a really "big" man. Harold Haarfager was his name, or Harold the Fairhaired.

[Editor's note: Harald I Fairhair (Old Norse: Haraldr inn hárfagri; Norwegian: Harald hårfagre), putatively circa 850 to circa 932 - see G. T Zoëga at page 122, fagr-hárr, 'fair-haired'. King Haraldr hárfagri was the son of the petty king Hálfdan svarti whom Haraldr succeeded as king of Vestfold in south-eastern Norway at the age of ten.]. Harold had a clearly defined idea of national unity and having by force of arms established his ascendancy over rival kinglets, he proceeded ruthlessly to reorganize the country on a feudal basis.

False dawn of national unity

To the proud and independent Norse chieftains, feudal obligations and the rule of law were quite intolerable. Why, they asked, should they not rob and plunder ? To rob and plunder had been their unquestioned privilege since none knew when. Why should they pay dues and taxes ? Such charges seemed to them to be humiliating impositions; he who submitted to them, they said, was unworthy to be called a freeman.

Thus Harold, though he made himself master of Norway, lost many of his bravest warriors. Rather than surrender their independence, these men sought homes in foreign lands. Some went to Iceland and took with them a great school of Norse poets. Others went to France - notably Rollo the Walker. Rollo had to be a 'walker'; he could not find anywhere a horse strong enough to carry his weight. Rollo and his followers ultimately accepted Christianity and, circa 912, settled in Normandy. From them sprang those men who later conquered England, Sicily and southern Italy.

While Norway was thus weakening herself by emptying her best blood into foreign countries, the savage earls of the northland continued fiercely to maintain their struggle for independence against Harold Haarfager and his successors. One of the latter, Olaf Tryggvesson (994-1000), became, during his Viking wanderings, a convert to Christianity and, when he ascended the throne, ordained that all his subjects should also be baptized. Ferocious in his Christianity, as in all else, Olaf converted by the sword. Finally, he drove his heathen earls league themselves with the kings of Denmark and Sweden, and was defeated and slain in battle.

End of the Romantic Period

For sixteen years the progress of Christianity was stayed in Norway. Then Olaf Haroldsson (1016-30) came to the throne. He is usually known as Olaf the Saint and, throughout the Middle Ages was the patron saint of Norway. During his reign Norway became a Christian country. More than a century elapsed however, before the Church was organized and given its own archbishop. The second Olaf, like the first, was a strong ruler. As such, he inevitably incurred the hostility of his nobility. Also he incurred the hostility of his powerful neighbour, Canute or Cnut, King of England and King of Denmark. Canute stirred up revolution in Norway; then, as leader of the movement he conquered and made himself master of the land (1028).

Canute's great northern empire did not survive its founder's death. In 1035, a son of Olaf the Saint - Magnus by name - who had taken refuge in Russia, restored the Norwegian throne to the house of Haarfager; and during the next few years the Norwegians showed themselves still to be possessed of national vigour. Not only did they liberate their country from the Danish intruder, but in 1066 made a bold attempt to forestall their Norman kinsmen in the conquest of England.

Anarchy, exhaustion and absorption

The Norwegian invasion was defeated by the English king, Harold, at the battle of Stamford Bridge, in Yorkshire, only three days before William the Conqueror landed at Pevensey. The battle of Stamford Bridge may be said to end the romantic period in the history of the Norwegian people. During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries their story is a dismal tale of racial Suicide. Anarchy held sovereign sway; and, under a feeble monarchy, powerless to control internecine strife, the unruly noblllty of Norway forced those brave fisherfolk, whose enterprise and daring had reshaped Europe, to wage remorselessly a fierce war of extermination on themselves.

In 1319 the house of Harold Haarfager became extinct. The crown of Norway then passed to the Swedish dynasty. Twenty four years later, Margaret of Denmark the widow of the Swedish king, succeeded - by means of the Union of calmar Calmar (1397) - in bringing the three Scandinavian kingdoms under her rule. The union was purely dynastic. Denmark, Norway and Sweden, though they acknowledged the same sovereign, remained separate kingdoms, and in each, owing to the frequent and inevitable absence of the king, the too mighty subject got more and more out of hand.

In 1523, Sweden, under the leadership of Gustavus Vasa, threw off the Danish yoke. Norway could not escape. The people of Norway by this time had exhausted their strength; their natural leaders all were slain. Norway continued as a Danish province until 1814. During these centuries the country had no individual history; its story is all part and parcel of that of Denmark.

"The Place-names of Lancashire" (1922) Eilert Ekwall at pages 241 to 261

III Scandinavians in Lancashire

Place-names wholly or partly Scandinavian abound in Lancashire. Before proceeding to draw conclusions from these names a few introductory remarks are necessary.

We must distinguish between Scandinavian names in a stricter sense, i.e., names given by people speaking a Scandinavian tongue, and names containing Scandinavian elements. The former point to Scandinavian immigration. Names containing or consisting of elements that are well evidenced in ME or MnE dialects, especially hybrids, need not do so. Such elements may have been introduced from neighbouring Scandinavian districts. Many names of this kind are probably quite late. Of course, if names containing elements of this description are numerous in a district there is a strong presumption in favour of direct Scandinavian influence. It is not always easy to distinguish between the two types of names. As a rule those consisting of two Scandinavian elements, especially such as are not known to have been used in ME or MnE dialects, may be looked upon as probably Scandinavian in the stricter sense.

The chief interest attaches to really Scandinavian names. As regards these the following circumstance, which, I believe, is sometimes overlooked, should be borne in mind. In old days place-names were not as a rule given deliberately by the owners of places; they arose spontaneously, so to speak. They were no doubt as a rule given by neighbours, not by owners. It follows that if a Scandinavian name in the stricter sense is found in a district, we may as a rule conclude that the population of the neighbourhood was to a considerable extent Scandinavian. A homestead founded by a single settler or family in an English district would as a rule get an English name, though it might contain the owner's Scandinavian name; the name would be given by English people. I do not think, therefore, that an isolated Scandinavian place-name points, as a rule, to the immigration of an individual or an individual family. It indicates a Scandinavian neighbourhood, which may, of course, have been quite small.

It follows from what has been said that we must be cautious in drawing conclusions from personal names found in place-names. A single immigrant may quite well have had his name attached to a place-name. Further, fashion has always played an important part in the field of personal names. Scandinavian names were no doubt to some extent adopted by English people, and need not always prove Scandinavian immigration.

It is not always possible to distinguish neatly between English and Scandinavian place-names. Some name-elements may just as well be English as Scandinavian, and do not allow of safe conclusions (e.g. beorh - berg, haga - hagi). But we must also reckon with the possibility that English names have been remodelled by Scandinavians, and that Scandinavian names have been Anglicized. Exchange of an English for a Scandinavian name is a well-known phenomenon, exemplified, e.g. in the case of Derby (earlier Norðworðig), Whitby (earlier Streoneshalh). Certain cases of this kind are not found in Lancashire; probable examples are, however, the Kirkbys. But substitution of a Scandinavian element for an English one has in all probability taken place in Bradkirk, Kirkham, Mythop, Staining, very likely in Stainton, Stainall. Early -heim for -ham belongs here.

Anglicizing of Scandinavian names no doubt took place, especially after the Scandinavian language had ceased to be spoken in Lancashire. Fairthwaite (Lo) is Fagher- in the earlier instances; English 'fair' has replaced the Scandinavian fagr. So it is quite possible that Fairsnape originally contained Scandinavian fagr. Hawkshead (Bolton-le-Sands) in the earliest forms has a second element ON hǫfuð, later exchanged for 'head'. Very probable cases in point are Medlar, Sholver. On-water for a probable earlier ON -vatn, see page 192. I have no doubt some other names which look like hybrids were originally purely Scandinavian formations.

I do not deny that deliberate naming of places took place occasionally in the Viking age. There are a few cases in the Landnámabók which point in this direction. Thus it is said (page 11) that Orlygr, in accordance with a vow, called a bay in Iceland Patreksfiǫrðr after bishop Patrick. One Asbiǫrn hallowed his land-nám to Thor and called it þors mǫrk (ib. page 105). Eirikr the Red gave the island found by him the name Greenland, because he thought people would be more anxious to go there if it had an attractive name (ib. 35). There are a few other similar cases. But it is by no means certain that all such stories should be taken to be literally true. The Landnámabók was composed at least two centuries after the events.

The names found in Landnámabók are just such as we should expect to have arisen spontaneously. They are such as Kalmanstunga (named after one Kalman), Kylansholum (from Kylan), Svinadalr (so called because lost pigs were found there), etc. If names had been given to a great extent deliberately, we should expect to find that emigrants often used the names of their old homes in Norway. I have not noticed a single case of this kind in Landnámabók.

Even in present-day England names arise spontaneously. Many farms are now called not by their officially recognized names, but by that of their tenants, "(Mr.) Johnson's", etc. I have come across cases where the old name of a farm seemed to be unknown to people in the neighbourhood.

1. Danish or Norse Names

The Scandinavian element in Lancashire is generally held to be chiefly OWScand; compare Scandinavians, page 8, with references. Yet also a Danish immigration is sometimes assumed to have taken place. The place-names throw some light on this question.

In "Scandinavians", page 8ff., I discuss briefly name-elements that may be used as criteria. As Norse test-words I mention búð, 'booth'; gil, 'gill'; skáli, 'hut'; as Danish ones, bōth 'booth', and to some extent þorp. As regards būth, however, it should be remembered that Northern English ō at a fairly early date developed to a sound often written u, ou. In early Lancashire place-names ō and u seem to be kept well apart, and early spellings such as Buth, Bouth point to ON búð. Similar spellings in late sources are not trustworthy.

Gil does not seem to occur in early Danish or in Danish dialects, while it is common in Norwegian. But Steenstrup, Stednavne, page 96, says gil 'a ravine' occurs in the common Danish names Gilbjerg, Gilbakke, Gilhöj; cf. also Kok, Danske Folkesprog i Sönderjylland 1867, who mentions Gilbjerg (or Gildberg), Gilbro. If this is correct, it is doubtful if gil is a safe criterion. However, no early forms of the Danish names have been adduced, and I do not consider it certain that Gil- is really gil 'a ravine'. In Sweden gil is somewhat better evidenced, but apparently only in the northern and middle parts. On the whole, it seems to me at least that gil points rather to Norse than to Danish origin, especially as the word has not been evidenced in Danish or Swedish dialects in early or late times.

Skáli seems to be exclusively West Scandinavian. Kok's suggestion (opus citatum) that the corresponding Danish word is found in Skalby, Skalberg is surely not correct.

To the elements pointing to Norse origin the following may be added:

Breck (Warbreck, etc.) goes back to ON brekka < brinka. The assimilation (nk > kk) in the dissyllable brekka is considered to be a West Scandinavian phenomenon (compare e.g. Noreen, Geschichte der nordischen Sprachen § 131). The OSwed form is brinka, brœkka being found only in dialects nearly related to Norwegian. Assimilation is found, it is true, in some Swedish dialects, also in the originally Danish ones of Halland and Scania. But the assimilated form has not, to my knowledge, been found in Denmark, either in dialects or in place-names. As regards Scania it should be noticed that, so far as I can find out, brœkka occurs only in the north-western parts, those adjoining Halland. I believe the form has spread from Vestrogothia, which adjoins Halland, and whose dialects are related to Norwegian.

ME slakke, 'valley' < ON slakki seems distinctly West Scandinavian. The corresponding Danish word is slank, 'hollow'. It may be added that English, 'bank', corresponding to ON bakki, Danish banke) is not a criterion of Danish origin; the assimilation nk > kk took place so late that early loans from ON would still have nk.

The common element ergh, 'a shieling' (ON erg < (OIr airge) may perhaps be looked upon as a criterion of Norse colonization, as most of the Scandinavian settlers in Ireland and Scotland were probably Norwegians.

An additional Danish test-word is hulm, 'holm' while holm may be Norse or Danish. The ON form is holmr (holmi). Hulmber (hulmi) is well evidenced in Sweden, e.g., in the place-name orbohulm 1287 (cf. Soderwall), and in personal names, as Hulmo 1298, Hulmgerus 1251, etc. (Lundgren-Brate). The form is found in Danish in the personal names Hulmfrith … and Hulmgyœr in Hulmgyœrthorp (Nielsen). It is common in Danish place-names in Normandy, as Torhulmum 1030, Turhulm 1068, Chetelhulmus 1042 (Fabricius, Danske Minder i Normandiet, p. 303ff). The form hulm occurs occasionally in English place-names, as Hulme, NFK (cf. infra); also in Anglo-Latin hulmus in Prompt. Parvulorum c 1440. It might be objected that hulmr may have been an ON side-form of holmr, which disappeared just as did the u-forms in Sweden and Denmark. But a-mutation of u to o was carried out much more regularly in West than in East Scandinavian (Noreen, opus citatum § 31). In a great many words we find OEScand u as against OWScand o. And the early sources of OWScand languages are much fuller than those of OEScand. The absence of OWScand hulmr, hulmi must prove that the forms were lost early in OWScand dialects.

Conclusions may sometimes be drawn from personal names. On the whole, East and West Scandinavian personal names agree very closely, but there are some exceptions. Examples will be pointed out infra.

2. Danes in Lancashire

As the Danish test-words are few, it is not quite easy to establish to what extent the Scandinavian colonization of Lancashire may have been carried out by Danes. The rare occurrence of the element thorpe rather indicates that the Danish share cannot have been considerable. But conclusions founded on the absence of a certain name-element are precarious. We must make it our object to find out if there is anything at all in the place-names that points to a Danish immigration.

We can then hardly fail to be struck by the remarkable fact that while Scandinavian place-names are comparatively rare in Salford hundred generally, there are several in the southernmost part, and that here hulm is frequent. There are in Flixton parish two townships, Flixton and Urmston, both with names containing Danish personal names. The personal name Flik has only been found in Danish, and Urm is distinctly OEScand (compare page 37).

The form hulm is found in Davyhulme (earlier Hulm) about 1 mile north of Flixton, in Hulme (now in Manchester), Levenshulme, further in the field-name Oldham, in Withington, east of Flixton (Aldehulm circa 1200 CC 731). It is also found in Hulme (Reddish), but this may originally have been Hulme Hall, named from a family. Kirkmanshulme is a doubtful instance; the early forms regularly have -holm. As regards Oldham (Prestwich) and Wolstenholme (Rochdale), forms in -hulm are too rare to be taken into consideration. Besides in the cases mentioned, hulm occurs also in Hulme (Winwick), a good way west of Flixton.

The preservation of the ON name in such an early form as Anlaf proves that the place-name (Anlaves-ergh) must have been adopted by English people at a very early date.

Other Scandinavian names in this district are rare. We may mention Derboth (Barton-upon-Irwell) 1277 LAR, not far from Flixton ; both is ODan bōth.

The considerable number of distinctly Danish names is unparalleled in the rest of Lancashire. We must conclude that there was once a Danish colony on the northern bank of the Mersey, in the district south and south-west of Manchester. It is impossible to establish the extent of this colony. That it embraced Flixton parish seems evident. But names such as Hulme need not prove that it comprised the whole of the district where these are found. The form hulm may have been introduced into the English dialects of the neighbouring country from the Danish language of the colony. Very likely it embraced only the low-lying country between the Mersey and the lower Irwell. This district may have been sparsely inhabited before the time of the Danish immigration. It was isolated at least on three sides from the surrounding country; so here a small Danish colony would have a good chance of retaining its independence.

No Danish colonization has hitherto, so far as I am aware, been proved to have taken place in South Lancashire. But such colonization is quite plausible. The present Lancashire probably belonged to the Danelaw. Even South Lancashire was carucated; its hundreds were sometimes called wapentakes, and Domesday tells us that the thegns of Derby paid their customary dues in ores instead of shillings. The holders of manors in Newton and Warrington hundred are called drengs. These Scandinavian features are probably not due to Norse influence, as the Norse do not seem to have extended their settlements beyond the coast districts.

Mr. Collingwood, Scandinavian Britain, reckons Lancashire to the Danelaw (see map). It does not follow that a Danish colonization ever took place, but the place-names adduced prove that such was the case. The small Danish settlement south of Manchester was no doubt connected with Scandinavian colonies in Cheshire and Staffordshire. This is indicated by the fact that hulm is a common element in Cheshire and occurs in Stafford. The Cheshire hulmes are all east of the Weaver, most in the north-east part of the county.

It might be suggested that the Danish colony alluded to was part of a larger settlement in South Lancashire, and that Edward in 923 wrested Manchester from Danes. There is nothing in the place-nomenclature that justifies such a theory. We should not expect the Danish names to be restricted to such a small area if there had been a considerable Danish settlement round Manchester. But if a Danish colony once existed south of Manchester, it would not be surprising if we could point out another or others in South Lancashire. However, there are no obvious traces of any other. The isolated Hulme in Winwick just mentioned does not allow of safe conclusions. It is just possible that the name Derby (near Liverpool) preserves the memory of a Danish colony. The name, which is not quite easy to explain, might be a replica of the more famous Derby in Derbyshire. If so, it is probably Danish. This suggestion receives some slight support from Toxteth, the name of a neighbouring place. Toki, its first element, is a chiefly Danish name. It was introduced into Norway and Iceland from Denmark, where it was common from the earliest times (Lind). The names Derby and Toxteth may point to an old Danish settlement on the lower Mersey. But, of course, West Derby may have got its name independently of the other Derby, and even if the Scandinavian colonies in West Derby hundred were founded by Norsemen some Danes may well have been among these.

There is one more district in which we may expect to find Danes, viz., the Lune valley. In the neighbouring Kendal district (WES) are no less than five names in thorpe , an unusually large number in the north-west of England. Kendal may have belonged to the Danelaw (Scandinavians, page 5f.). The thorpes certainly indicate Danish colonization. If this is right, there is good reason to believe that the Danes also penetrated into the Lune valley; in fact, they could hardly reach Kendal without crossing it. Now there are two evidently old settlements in the Lune valley with names that look Danish: Hornby and Thirnby. Hornby is not actually on the Lune, but on the Wenning near its junction with the Lune. The first elements of Hornby and Thirnby are personal names which are evidenced only in OEScand sources. These names do not allow of definite conclusions, and no other names in the district are distinctly OEScand. Cracanethorp (Caton) CC 840 is too isolated to carry weight. All that can be said is that there is a priori a certain probability that there were once Danish settlements in the Lune valley, and that Hornby and Thirnby are very likely old Danish names. The majority of Scandinavian place-names in the district are no doubt Norwegian.

As regards the rest of Lancashire there is nothing in the place-nomenclature that gives a right to assume a Danish colonization on a scale similar to that in the Flixton district. All we can do is to point out a few names in both, and isolated instances of thorpe.

The names in thorpe are too rare to be of importance as evidence; þorp is occasionally used in Norwegian place-names, and some isolated examples of it do not seriously tell in favour of Danish immigration. Of course, it is quite plausible that some Danish immigrants have found their way from Yorkshire into eastern Lancashire. There were Danes in the West Riding. Names in -thorpe are fairly frequent in the district near the Lancashire border. See Collingwood, Anglians, page 44. Gawthorpe (Habergham Eaves) might have been named after Gawthorpe near Dewsbury (Goukethorpe 1274; compare Lindkvist p. 141).

3. Norsemen in Lancashire (at page 248)

The results of our investigations concerning a possible Danish element in the Lancashire place-names have proved rather meagre. On the other hand, even a cursory examination of the material tells us that the OWScand test-words are common in various parts of the county. Gill, scale, and slack are widely spread; so is ergh. Breck is common all along the coast, while būth is found only in Lonsdale. There can be no doubt that the Scandinavians in Lancashire must have been predominatingly Norsemen, Norwegians. Consequently the probability is that names which may be OWScand are such rather than OEScand. In the following survey only such names are considered as are or may be OWScand.


Scandinavian names, in a stricter sense, are few. Certain (or fairly certain) cases are Anglezark (Bolton), Sholver (near Oldham), Gawksholme (Rochdale), Brandlesome (Bury; first element a OWScand personal name), perhaps Turton (Bolton), Boysnope (Eccles). The places in question are mostly in the hilly parts in the north or east.

There are, further, a number of names containing Scandinavian elements, mostly hybrids. The Scandinavian elements are words that are in dialectal use in ME or MnE time, at least in the north, as bank, car, gate 'road', holm, mire, scale, slack. Most are found in the hilly districts of Rochdale, Bury, and Oldham, some in Eccles. A few examples will suffice: Schofield, Roughbank, Wolstenholme,le Schorebonk, le Roughslak WhC 658, 698 (Rochdale), Summerseat, Hall Carr, Scout (Bury), Gamelsley, Folescales (Bolton), Oldham, Scowcroft (Oldham), Slack, Hulfkeliscroft CC 680, Walthewyscroft (first element Walthef, a distinctly OWScand personal name) WhC 918 (Eccles). Some more similar names might be added. Only Oldham and Turton are the names of early townships.

Far-reaching conclusions cannot be drawn from this material. Some Scandinavian immigration has no doubt taken place, especially into the northern districts and Eccles, where there was plenty of unreclaimed land to be had. The Norse seem to have come from the north (perhaps from Leyland; names such as Anglezark, Turton may mark the approximate route) and from Norse colonies in Yorkshire (compare Collingwood, opus citatum page 45ff; Goodall page 179).


In the western half, Blackburn parish, there are hardly any Scandinavian names in the stricter sense. Belsetenab may be one; so may Myerscough, if it is an old name. The rest are a few hybrids containing the well-known elements bank, car, gate, holm, etc., or personal names. They are distributed fairly evenly and offer no particular interest. Examples are Blacksnape, Dunscar, Feniscowles, Martholme (a late name), Cronekiskar WhC 101 (Blackburn), Darnalkar ib. 969, le Whiteker ib. 1010, Lyolfesik ib. 1030 (first element an ON personal name), Swaynesmore ib. 1027 (Billington), Scholecroft , Stiholme CC 518f. (Cuerdale), Redecar, Elvynkar 1200-8 DD (Rishton). Examples of names in -car, -gate, -holm are found in VHL vi. (passim). No definite conclusions can be drawn from this material as regards a Scandinavian immigration.

In Whalley parish the Scandinavian element is more marked, but Scandinavian names in the stricter sense are few. Barnside may be one. Ravensholme, Snelleshou, at least seem to consist of two Scandinavian elements. Hay Slacks, Sparth, also Algotholme 1475 CCR (Gr. Marsden; first element ON Algautr; compare Bjorkman, Personennamen, and Lind), may be cases in point. But not one of these is really quite conclusive.

The Scandinavian elements in hybrids are mostly the same as those mentioned under Salford, but some new ones crop up, as eng, gill, how (ON haugr). Such names are found all over the parish without being particularly common anywhere. How occurs in several names of hills, as Blacko, Gerna, Noyna, etc. Other hill-names containing Scandinavian elements are Boulsworth, Stank Top; compare. Brown-brinks. In the material are further mentioned, e.g . Holme, Filly Close, Moor Isles; Icornhurst; Ayneslack; Scholefield; Gambleside; Ormerod. Compare also le Britholm, Meneenge (Altham) WhC 303ff, Woluetscoles (Clitheroe) ib. 1111. Many examples are found in the Clitheroe Court Rolls, as le Halflatt (Chatburn), Bredde Yngs (ibid), Brodholme, the Hogg (Colne). Isolated examples of this kind will be found in VHL vi.

The Scandinavian names as a rule denote minor places, or such as have risen into some importance lately. The only exception is Clitheroe; yet it is not absolutely impossible that -how (ON haugr) may have replaced OE hoh. We must conclude that some Scandinavian settlements were made in this district. The Scandinavians no doubt came from the Craven district and the Upper Ribble valley. In these districts are numerous Scandinavian place-names, not only minor names, but also names of villages and townships. Close to the border of Whalley parish are e.g. Earby, Newby, and a little farther off Bracewell, Carleton, Hellifield, Gargrave, Rathmell, Stainforth. Near the border of Whalley is a Hesketh (S.W. of Bracewell). In these districts are numerous names in gill (Cor-, How-, Ray-, Wycongill), scale (High Scale, W. of Hellifield, Scaleber, near Settle), and at least one ergh (Battrix); also thwaite occurs. This West Yorkshire district must have been colonized to a great extent by Norsemen. These probably poured in from the Lune valley along the Wenning, on which are places with such names as Lawkland, Newby, and into the Kibble valley, along which they spread southwards. This explains why Scandinavian elements are fairly common in the place-names of Whalley, but rare in Blackburn parish.


In the old Warrington hundred are no Scandinavian names in the stricter sense, but there are a few names containing Scandinavian elements, as Scholes, Ridgate, Hopecarr; cf. le Cartegate (Cronton) WhC 817. Interesting names are Laffog (if the first element is ON lǫg) and Lunt, which gives us an example of ON lundr. The material hardly proves that a Scandinavian immigration into this district ever took place.

In the old Newton hundred are found a few names with Scandinavian elements such as Scholefield, Scholes. Turssekar (Hindley) CC 649 seems to contain two Scandinavian words (ON þurs 'giant' and kiarr).

In West Derby hundred proper Scandinavian names are very common. Here they frequently appear as names of townships and villages. On the relation between English and Scandinavian names compare page 237. The following Domesday manors (at least probably) have Scandinavian names: Roby (Huyton); Derby, Kirkby, Kirkdale, Toxteth (Walton); Sefton, Crosby, Litherland (Sefton); Altcar; Uplitherland (Aughton); La thorn, Skelmersdale (Ormskirk, which has a Scandinavian name itself); Formby, Mele, probably Ainsdale (Formby); Argarmeles, Otegrimele (North Meols). LS 1327, 1332 add Aintree (Sefton), Bickerstaffe, Burscough, Scarisbrick (Ormskirk), Crossens (North Meols). To 30 Anglian names of townships or DB 1086 manors correspond some 21 Scandinavian ones. Two or three of these, of course, are somewhat doubtful.

Minor names are to a great extent Scandinavian or partly so. I here draw attention chiefly to names Scandinavian in the stricter sense. In Childwall parish, where all names of early townships are English, we find Aigburth, Brettargh, Thingwall. In Dalton (Wigan) is Laithwaite. In Walton are e.g. Aynesargh, Ingoe, Warbreck. In Halsall are e.g. Cunscough, Eggergate, Harker, also Gettern, the name of a now drained mere (? ON gedda 'pike', and tiǫrn 'tarn'), Murscoh CC 634, Ruthwait ib. 537, Sandwath ib. 532. In Ormskirk are Greetby, Tarlscough, also Nathelarghe (with ergh 'shieling' as second element; compare Scandinavians, page 80). Numerous Ainsdale names in CC 568-94 are Scandinavian. We find names in -hou, as Bleshoudale, Keshou; mel (ON melr), as Quitemeledale; skarth, as Winscarthlithe; slet (ON sletta ), as Elreslete; further, e.g., Lathebot, Stardale (ON stǫrr 'sedge'), Wra. On the interesting names Scartherwlmer, Starhourauen, Gilanre-, Melcanerhou, also Oddisherhe, which show Goidelic influence, I refer to Scandinavians, pages 46, 71, 81. In Ravensmeols is Stangerhau WhC 527 (ON stangarhaugr).

It is obvious that a considerable, systematic Scandinavian colonization took place in the district of West Derby hundred proper, especially its northern part. Scandinavian names are most numerous in the low-lying districts near the sea, which had not till then been to a considerable extent inhabited.


Scandinavian names are numerous in the low-lying western parts, those adjoining the strongly Scandinavianized parts of West Derby. Also the names of old townships are (at least partly) Scandinavian; Becconsall, Hesketh, Croston, Tarleton, probably Bretherton. As regards Croston, however, its situation is not so low that it may not have been an old English settlement. The name may have replaced an old English one.

Of other Scandinavian names may be mentioned: Elremure , Siverthesarge, Thorp (Bretherton) CC 475fL, Sollom (Tarleton); compare also Burnildesgate (ON Brynhildr personal name) CC 464 (Tarleton).

In the rest of Leyland names of old townships are English, but there are some Scandinavian names in the stricter sense: Blainscough, Ellerbeck (stream), Roscoe (Standish), Brinscall, perhaps Snubsnape (Leyland), Ulvedale (Penwortham), Sarscow (Eccleston). Several names contain Scandinavian elements, also some not found in the districts hitherto discussed: Crook (Standish, Leyland), Crocfeld, Crocland (Hoole) CC 451 ff., Lairburnsik, Lairclade (ON leir 'clay') CC 409, 426 (Hutton). Others are: Asland; Limbrick (Standish); Gunnolf's Moors, Scalecroft CC 499 (Leyland), Harekar CC 411, Rokar CC 394 (Penwortham), Walmer (Hoole).

There must have been a Scandinavian colony at least in the western part of the hundred but it very likely comprised parts of the old Anglian territory. The name Gunnolf's Moors, which designated a large inland district, refers to an early owner who, to judge by the name, must have been a Scandinavian chieftain.


In the part later annexed to Blackburn (compare page 232f.) Scandinavian names are rare. Distinctly Scandinavian is Leagram. Partly Scandinavian are Daviscoles, Elmridge.

In Amounderness proper the frequency of Scandinavian names varies. Preston parish is predominatingly English. In the rest of the district Scandinavian names abound. In some parts names of old manors and townships are, to a great extent, Scandinavian.

DB 1086 manors or LS townships with (at least partly) Scandinavian names are: Grimsargh (Preston); Aschebi (Lancaster); Goosnargh, Threlfall, Bryning (earlier Birstath Bryning), Kellamergh, Larbrick, Medlar, Ribby, Westby, Wrea (Kirkham); Norbreck, Warbreck (Bispham); Carleton (Poulton); Hackinsall, Preesall, Staynall, Stalmine (Lancaster); Rawcliffe, Sowerby (St.Michael's); Claughton, Garstang. Scandinavian and English townships are found side by side. In Kirkham and Bispham are several composite townships with names formed of one Scandinavian and one English name, as Westby with Plumpton, Medlar with Wesham, LI Eccleston with Larbrick, Bispham with Norbreck, Layton with Warbreck.

A great many minor names, especially in the northern part, are Scandinavian or partly so. A few interesting names found in early sources are here given; for the rest I refer to the material.

Preston: Clakerkelde (Tulketh) CC 216, Hegergarthe (Cottam) CC 225.

Kirkham: le Blenesgile (first element obscure) CC 230 (Whittingham); Avenamis, Dounanesbrec (first element Dundn , a Goidelic personal name) CC 202 (Newton); Baunebrec (ON baun 'bean'), Flitteholm CC 194ff. (Warton); Aykescof (ON eikiskógr 'oak wood') CC 201 (Preese); Gaseflosland (ON gas 'goose' and perhaps ME flosh 'pool', found Gaw. 1430) CC 190 (L. Eccleston), Watfoth (ON vátr 'wet') CC 166 (Greenhalgh).

Poulton: Helrecar (ON elri 'alders'), le Smithieflat, le Sortebuttes (Sorte - app. from a side-form of ON svartr 'black') CC 148ff.

Lancaster parish (Stalmine, etc.): Arghole (argh 'a shieling' and hol) CC 125, Cockesholm CC 95, Cumbelhou (ON kumbl 'a memorial') FC ii. 246, Harekar CC 97, Keldebrech FC ii. 240, Mourhulles (ON maurr 'ant'; for hulles compare Moor Isles, page 82) CC 106, Staynbrige CC 99, Stanreys (second element ON hreysi 'cairn') CC 124, Yarlesmyre (ON jarl 'earl' and myrr 'mire') LC 372, terram Ithunœ (ON Iðunn personal name) CC 124 (Stalmine with Staynall). Colecros CC 67, Kirkegate ib. 68, Midelare CC 77, Nab FC ii. 234, Serholm CC 80, Vlvegraregate (for Ulvegrave - 'wolf-pit') CC 82 (Preesall with Hackinsall).

St. Michael's: Kirkeflat CC 181, Serlescales (ON Sørli personal name) CC 178.

Garstang: Stanrays CC 265 (Bilsborrow); Calder-, Cros-, Timbergate CC 254f. (Claughton); Ounespull (ON Aun personal name; compare Lindkvist page 157) CC 270 (Kirkland); Belanespot (OIr Beolan personal name; compare Scandinavians, page 70), Tilverd- heimholm 1220-46 CC 280 (Garstang); Leyrsic, Ferm-, Pilatewra, Sourbut (compare Sowerby) CC 292fE.

Cockerham (Forton): Eskebec (ON eski 'ashtrees') CC 298, Scrikebee, Uluebec CC 365ff., Netlekar ibid 343, Heskehoueth (compare Escowbeck, page 168) CC 367, Le Rayse, Stanrays ibid 359f., Scamwathlithestordes (ON storð ) ibid 355, Goscopetheit, Leikethaites, Lintthvaitbroc, Musethuait, Slathwaitheuid, Ulvethwait ibid 344ff., Grafsuinesknikel (written -kinkel; compare Motonknycyll CC 389; ON grafsvín 'badger' and knykill 'lump', etc.; compare Faroese knykil 'lump, small hill or rock') CC 342 (1185-1200).

Of course, there are in early sources numerous English names of fields and the like.

There is a statement which has been taken to prove that there was a Scandinavian population in Amounderness circa 930, viz., in the twelfth century "Lives of the Archbishops of York" (Historians of the Church of York, Chron. and Mem. ii. 339), which tells us that Æthelstan granted to the cathedral church of St. Peter the whole of Amounderness "quam a paganis emerat" ("how from paganism bought"). Whether the statement is true or not, the place-names tell us that there must have been a very considerable Scandinavian population, which spread over the greater part of the district. Some parts, especially the low-lying northern (north-western) districts, seem to have been first colonized by Scandinavians. The whole district was named from a Scandinavian chieftain.


Most old townships (manors) of this district have English names (page 240). A few, however, have Scandinavian names: Swainshead, Skerton, Torrisholme, perhaps Caton (Lancaster), Arkholme, perhaps Farleton (Melling), Claughton; Ireby (Thornton), probably Leck (Tunstall), Kellet (Bolton), all of which are in DB 1086, further Wray, Wrayton (Melling) LS. On Hornby, Thirnby, see page 247.

Minor names are to a great extent Scandinavian. Only some examples not dealt with in the material are here given. The material is somewhat uneven because some townships are better represented in early sources than others.

Cockerham: Haghekar, Launland (compare Laundal 'hidden valley' NG ix. 210), Linholm, Quitebrek, Quitstorth, Raysefeld, Stanrays, Ragarthout (ON hǫfuð), Tratherig (ON trǫð 'fold', etc.) CC 76211.

Lancaster: Kelderise, Morhaus (ON maurr 'ant' and haugr 'hill'), Reysbrec, Sondholm (? for Soud-, ON sauðr 'sheep'), Skynerisflatte CC 801ff. (Scotforth); Scheldulvesbuttes, Skeltholvesflat (ON Skiǫldulfr personal name), Seflat, Houkeshout, Sulstainfete, (perhaps ON sul(a) 'pillar', steinn 'stone', and fit 'water-meadow'; le Tern, toftum Haraldi, Tranewath (Ashton) CC 785ff. Beiskebrec, Grocflat (Stodday) CC 810f ; Bolehagge, Capilbrek (ME capel 'horse', ON kapall < OIr capall) FC ii. 171 (Skerton); Mourhouwes (ON maurr 'ant') CC 817 (Bowerham); Buthebanck, Grenebanc, Kirkebanke, Tuneker, Swinsti-, Torneholm, Stanrais, Spanrig (ON spann 'chip', etc.), Welslet, Thistelthuait CC 826ff (Caton); Fite, Ulvesthweit 1202 LF (Gressingham).

Claughton: Sletholmbec, Felebrigge (ON fiǫl 'board'), le Hau (ON haugr), Thistelwat CC 883ff.

Heysham: Staynkeldeker, Litelcrosseslak FC ii. 277ff, Drake-, Ormesholm LC 292.

Halton: Nithinghou (ON níðingr 'villain') FC ii. 168, Sygerithwath ibid ('ford of Sigríðr') ibid 162.

Melling: Ravenescrosse (stated to be Ravens Close east of Wennington LI ii. page 122) 1323 LI,Gabbanarghe (compare Scandinavians page 79), Wynefel (app. 'whin fell'), Esphouet, Aspohuth (ON espi, ǫsp 'aspen, -s' and hǫfuð 'hill'), Dalslakland, Gayle, Swinemure CC 900ff. (Wennington).

Tatham: Stanheir (ON eyrr 'gravel-bank'; compare Lindkvist page 133), Prestewat CC 931ff.

Tunstall: Langauenam , Haverbergh (ON hafri 'oats' or hafr 'ram'), Brakanwra CC 897f (Leck).

Whittington: Bramfite (ON fit 'water-meadow'), Gildehouet (ON hǫfuð 'hill', Mir-, Rathornthuait, Lonewat ('Lune ford', ON vað) CC 941ff.

Bolton-le-Sands: Kelde-, Thistelle-, Quitebrec CC 916, Gaselandes LC 177, Braithemire, Engemyre, Wyndscarthmire LC 180ff, 231, Santh(e)-, Sonthpul (for Sauth-, South-, ON saudr 'sheep') FC ii. llOff, Gratwait, -thwat CC 919, Mikelthwayt FC ii. 143, Natewra CC 920 (Bolton). Southecoteflatte (ON saudr 'sheep'), Stanrays, Herteseyl (ON hiarta-seyla 'stag pool'; compare NoB viii 88f.) CC 905 ff (Kellet).

Warton: de Hothweit LAR, Hewthwaite 1845 VHL viii. 166 (Camforth); Ellerholm (now Eldrams), Sout(he)hou (ON sauðr 'sheep'), Staynhusslac 1246-71 EHR xvii. 294 (Warton); Hokereytherig (? ON haukahreiðr 'hawk's nest') 1246 LF (Yealand).

Dalton: Arkillesthorn (ON Arnkell personal name), Soudhusthorn (ON sauðhús 'sheep-cote') 1228 LF.

The examples adduced, which might be considerably added to, tell us there must have been a very considerable Scandinavian immigration into Lonsdale proper. The Scandinavians seem to have spread all over the district. The colonization of the hilly parts seems to be chiefly due to them.


The Cartmel district seems to have been sparsely inhabited before the Scandinavian time (page 240). The Scandinavian element in the place-nomenclature is strong; it is really easier to enumerate the English than the Scandinavian names. The name Cartmel seems to be Scandinavian. Of Domesday manors only Kirkby (=Cartmel) has a Scandinavian name, but by 1332 the Scandinavian names Allith waite and Holker have taken the place of Newton and Walton as the names of the townships. For minor names the early material is very scanty, and we must be content with a reference to the names given in the material.

The Furness district is better represented in early sources. Of Domesday manors only Sowerby has a distinctly Scandinavian name, but the names Stainton and Ulverston at least show Scandinavian influence, and Killerwick has a Scandinavian first element. Of early townships Kirkby Ireleth has a Scandinavian name. The name Furness is no doubt Scandinavian.

Names of later townships or villages (in High Furness), on the other hand, are preponderatingly Scandinavian: Blawith, Coniston, Haiwkshead, Lowick, Subberthwaite, Torver, etc. Names of minor places and also those of streams, lakes and hills, are mostly Scandinavian, as seen from the material. Some of the elements have not been met with in the districts discussed hitherto, as ON kleif (Claife), látr (Hulleter), oddr (Greenodd), skriða (Scrith waite).

Of names found in early sources the following may be mentioned:

Dalton: Melbrek, Fermeribouthe, Leyrgile, Langeslak, Staynonesterne, Stermanwra FC i, Ingrithcros 1262-3, Gyle circa 1225 FC ii, Cros-, How-, Oldelathflat, Scalbank, Grenethwaytmedowe 16th century FC ii.

Aldingham: le Calfecar, Layrepotbankes, Brakanthwayt 1419 CR.

Pennington: Brakanbank, Kirke-, Mos-, Terneflat, Aykehamer (ON eik 'oak' and hamarr 'cliff'), Grenemire, Lairpot 1332 FC i.

Urswick: le Sletehaw 1282 CWNS xii. 235 (first element perhaps ON slettr 'even').

Kirkby Ireleth: Gunildebrigge (ON Gunnhildr personal name), Saurchales (ON saurr 'mud' and scale), Fog(he)wra 1 FC i. (Angerton). First element ME fogge, MnE fog 'aftermath'; long grass left standing in the fields during winter, etc.' (Lindkvist, page 200). Fog is identical with Norwegian dialect fogg 'tall, thin grass', especially growing on wet soil (Ross). Fog is probably a Scandinavian word. Note le Ose de Sterispul FC i. 321, where Ose must be ON óss 'mouth of a river'.

For High Furness early sources are very scanty.

Of particular interest in this district are names containing a Scandinavian genitive form combined with an English second element. A certain case is Osmotherley. Possible cases are Elterwater and Windermere, but in these a Scandinavian name for 'lake' may have been replaced by an English word. A name such as Osmotherley presupposes a mixed speech in which Scandinavian inflexions were kept, but in which the vocabulary was partly English.

It need hardly be said that a very considerable Scandinavian colonization has taken place in Furness. High Furness seems to have been in old days an almost purely Scandinavian district. Compare on English names in this district page 240f.

To sum up, the place-names tell us that, before the Norman Conquest, the coast districts all the way from the Mersey estuary to the Duddon and some inland districts must have had a very considerable Norse population. There are good reasons to believe that the immigrants came, not straight from Norway, but from Norse colonies in Ireland, Man, the Hebrides, and Scotland.

This latter fact accounts for the remarkable Celtic (Irish-Gaelic) influence found in the Scandinavian place-nomenclature, and which I have dealt with in my book Scandinavians and Celts. Thus the common element ergh, 'a shieling', is OIr airge. To the Lancashire examples pointed out in the book quoted may be added some fresh ones (Barker, Bethecar, perhaps Houkler Hall, Robsawter). Some OIr personal names are found in place-names, as a rule combined with Scandinavian elements; examples will be found under Becconsall, Beacons Gill, Bethecar. Sometimes the order between the elements of compounds is inverted in accordance with Celtic usage. The Lancashire examples of this type are few and mostly somewhat doubtful. An additional (and, in my opinion, safe) case is Croskelloc 1260-76 FC ii. 777 (orig.), in Ulverston. The first element of this name is OIr cros (ON kross, ME cross). The second may be identical with the personal name Chelloc quoted by Björkman, Namenkunde, and identified by him with Chetelog LV (< ON Ketillaug, etc.). Another possible source is ON Kiallakr < OIr Cellach.

Hardly any light is thrown by place-names on the time of the Scandinavian immigration. There is good reason to believe that it took place in a fairly late period of the Viking age, very likely from about 900. A Scandinavian emigration from Ireland to Cheshire is known to have taken place immediately after 900 (901 or 902). A similar period is likely for the Scandinavian settlements in Lancashire (e.g., in Amounderness). If the Irish-Gaelic elements in place-names may be taken to prove that the immigrants had been to some extent influenced by Irish civilization and speech, an earlier time than about 900 is hardly to be reckoned with.

It has been suggested that the Scandinavian immigration into the north-west of England was of a peaceful nature, and that no systematic conquest of the district took place. The place-names to some extent seem to point in this direction. Scandinavian names are most numerous in districts which seem to have been practically uninhabited before the Viking age, e.g., the low-lying districts of West Derby, Leyland, and Amounderness and the Lonsdale and Furness fell districts. This might seem to indicate that the Norse were content to settle in districts before unoccupied. I do not think this conclusion is necessarily correct. Also against the theory of peaceful immigration seems to tell the general improbability that such extensive settlements as those which must have taken place, for instance, in the Liverpool district and in Amounderness should have been permitted by the previous inhabitants if they were in a position to prevent them. However, if Lancashire (or the greater part of it) belonged to the Danelaw, a strong Scandinavian immigration without a previous conquest is plausible. There were very intimate relations between the Scandinavians in York and Dublin in the time before and after 900, as a result of which a stream of Norse settlers poured into Northumbria (Yorkshire). On this point reference may be made especially to A. Bugge, Vikingerne ii. 255ff, Oman, page 495. Under the circumstances it is extremely probable that Norse from Ireland also founded settlements on the west coast, and did so with the consent or even the encouragement of the kings of York. If A. Bugge should be right in his suggestion (opus citatum ii. 317) that Amounderness was named after Agmund Hold, who was killed in 911 during a Northumbrian raid in Mercia (Chron. D), this theory gains in probability. The position of a hold was intermediate between that of an earl and a thegn. A hold may very well have been head of Amounderness. They may have settled in waste districts or bought land from previous inhabitants, just as settlers in Iceland often did.

How long did a Scandinavian language continue to be spoken in Lancashire ? This question cannot be definitely answered. The well-known runic inscription of Pennington, however, indicates that a Scandinavian language of some sort was in living use as late as the twelfth century in the Pennington district. The place-names do not throw much light on this question. It is true some place-names show a somewhat late form, as -breck, -slack (ON brekka, slakki), but the assimilation nk > kk at any rate took place before 1000; compare Finnur Jónsson, opus citatum page 264. The only place-name known to me that seems to be of value for the present purpose is Stanraysinum (written Stau-) LC 184 (Bolton-le-Sands), which apparently contains the Scandinavian suffixed article; the word seems to be ON steinhreysi 'cairn'. As the origin of the suffixed article seems to date from about 1100 (Noreen, Geschichte der nordischen Sprachen § 207) this example would seem to show that in the district of Bolton-le-Sands a Scandinavian language was spoken at least as late as about 1100.


1. Place-names referring to old roads, buildings, and the like

Names containing OE strœt, strēt, as Stretford, Stanistreet, as a rule refer to Roman roads and have been of value in determining the exact lines of such roads. Thus Street-fold, in Moston, Street-yate, in Royton, mark the line of the road from Manchester to Oldham and the north-east (Whitaker, Manchester i.138). At Street in Leyland no Roman road has been found, so far as I know. A search for one might very well be worth while.

Other memorials of the Roman time are names in -caster, -chester (compare page 9) and port (Alport, Portfield).

Old forts have often given name to places, and names containing a word such as burh often give hints as to where old forts are to be looked for. Burrow (on the Lune) and Castercliff (Bl) are named from old forts. The name Tilberthwaite (Lonsdale hundred) (olim Tillesburc) indicates that there was a fort at the place, and its site has been determined with much probability by Mr. Collingwood. Burrow south of Lancaster was probably named from a lost fort, as were no doubt Arbury, Burscough (West Derby hundred). But not all names in burh were named from forts; compare page 8. Some names in -borough (as Flookborough, Newburgh) refer to boroughs.

Names such as Eccles, Eccleston, in my opinion indicate that there were British churches in the places so called. It is true there are no traces of an old church at Eccleshill or Eccleston (Amounderness hundred), but many old churches have disappeared. Eccleston in Prescot parish adjoins Prescot, where the old parish church is. No doubt Eccleston originally embraced Whiston, from which Prescot was carved out as a rectory manor.

Bradkirk (Amounderness hundred), Kirkstead, Kirkhead, Kirkpool (Lonsdale hundred) contain the word kirk and refer to lost churches. The disappearance of the wooden church at Bradkirk is no matter for surprise. The church may have been of a type similar to that at Greenstead in Essex (compare Reallexikon ii. 557f.). Old documents mention churches or at least chapels of even flimsier material than boards. Thus, according to the Register of Lanercost, a chapel of wickerwork was made about 1050 at Triermain in Cumberland; compare the Register of Wetherhal, page 224.

On the name Abbeystead, see page 172.

It is doubtful if there is any place-name alluding to a place of heathen worship. The Anglians were probably Christianized soon after their immigration into Lancashire. The Norse may have been to some extent so even before they came to Lancashire. Some of the colonists of Iceland who came from the British Isles are stated to have been Christians. Compare Finnur Jónsson opus citatum page 17ff (especially page 43). There is one place-name, however, now lost, which may refer to a heathen place of worship: Harhum 1298 LI (West Derby); compare Harumcar 1228 C1R, Hargunkar 1228 WhC. This must be the dative plural of OE hearg '(heathen) temple; idol', or ON hǫrgr 'heap of stones; heathen place of worship'; compare the place-names OSwe Hargh, ODan Hörg 1145, Horgh (now Hör in Scania; Falkman). But the meaning may be simply 'heap of stones'. What renders it rather plausible, however, that the meaning may be that of 'temple' is the fact that Harhum must have been close to Thingwall. In CIR 1228 the perambulation of the forest of West Derby begins at "the broad apple-tree" in Harumcar, and ends at Thingwalacres.

Singleton, Chingle Hall, New Chingle Hall, were named from shingled roofs. The use of shingles must have been exceptional in Lancashire.

2. Names referring to old institutions, social classes, etc

Only a few isolated cases can be adduced here.

Some places are shown by their names to have been local meeting-places. Spellow (West Derby hundred) is a case in point. Moothills are mentioned, e.g, in Carnforth (Moothaw VHL viii. 166), Kellet (Mouter or Mootka ibid 141). Compare also Schyrokes, page 173).

Thingwall, near Liverpool, was a Scandinavian thing-place.

Laffog (West Derby hundred) may have been named from an oak at which a court of justice was held.

At Hesketh (south-west of Preston) was a Scandinavian racecourse. Hesketh is a common place-name in northern England. Horse-racing was a favourite sport with the Norse in Norway and Iceland.

Several place-names allude to old systems of defence, beacon hills and the like. Probable old English names of this kind are Warton (Amounderness and Lonsdale hundreds) and Wardle (Salford hundred). On Wuerdle, near Wardle, see page 57. The two Warbrecks date from Scandinavian times. Lookout hills are often alluded to in place-names; compare Tottlebank and Tootal Hill, near Longridge.

Of social classes the following are mentioned in place-names:

King (OE cyning or ON konungr): Kingley, Conishead, Coniston, Cunscough. The last two obviously contain the Scandinavian word. Cunscough may be later than the conquest of South Lancashire by King Edward. But Coniston must have been named from some Scandinavian king.

Earl: Yarlside (two), Yerleskelde, Yarlesmyre seem to contain the ON jarl 'earl'. The names cannot well be later than the time when North Lancashire was under Northumbrian earls.

Gerēfa: see Gerefholm, page 186.

Ceorl: Chorlton (Salford hundred), Chorley (Leyland hundred). Compare ON Karl in Carleton (Amounderness hundred).

Thrall: ON þrœll is found in Threlfall (Amounderness hundred) and Trailholme (Lonsdale hundred) (which see).


3. Personal names in place-names

In his admirable book on Berkshire place-names, page 25ff., Professor Stenton, in discussing the personal element in local nomenclature, gives it as his opinion that a personal name in a place-name has a seignorial implication. As, before the Conquest, the land between the Ribble and the Mersey was parcelled out in small manors held by thegns or drengs, and the same was very likely the case with the rest of Lancashire, we might expect to find personal names plentiful in the names of old Lancashire names of townships, villages, and hamlets. A few notes on the personal element in Lancashire place-names may therefore be of interest. As the names in question can be easily picked out from the lists on page 234ff a full discussion will not be necessary.

In Salford hundred the only English names of early townships that have or may have a personal first element are Edgeworth (very doubtful) and Hundersfield. I do not count names such as Tottington, because these, in my opinion, contain a genitive plural (Totinga tún). More often we find personal names in other names, as Balderstone, Chorlton (with Hardy), Elton, Ard-, Bes-, Gothers-, Whittleswick. These may be old manors.

In other parts of Lancashire personal names are more common in place-names. Thus in Blackburn we find Balderston, Osbaldeston, Witton, Livesey, Worston, Huncoat, Chatburn, Simonstone, Oswaldtwistle, Worsthorn. In West Derby they are also more numerous than in Salford. There are, e.g. in the old Warrington hundred, Atherton, Rixton, Woolston, Bed-, Rainford, Rainhill, Tyldesley; in the old Newton hundred, Abram (first element a woman's name), Winwick, Winstanley; in West Derby proper, Harleton, Woolton, Halsall, Knowsley, Wibaldeslei. For the rest of the hundreds I refer to the lists on pages 234ff.

To the examples from Blackburn and West Derby a few more might be added. Anyhow, the number of place-names with a personal first element is comparatively small. The percentage is much smaller than in Berkshire, where more than half the names enumerated by Stenton page 45ff have a personal first element. But I do not think definite conclusions can be drawn from the comparatively rare occurrence of place-names with a personal first element in Lancashire. Even in a strongly manorialized district the majority of place-names might very well have as first elements a descriptive word. On the other hand, it is not necessary to assume that a personal name in place-names has always a seignorial implication. Many villages have no doubt developed from insignificant beginnings, e.g., from clearings or small farmsteads. The later village would often retain the old name of the place, which would frequently contain the original squatter's name. Nor need a personal name in a place-name always imply ownership. There are numerous instances in Landnámabók of localities named from some person who was killed or perished there. A Lancashire example of this kind is Deadwinclough, though in this case the valley was named from a nameless woman.

Scandinavian names fairly often contain personal names. We may mention Flixton, Turton, Urmston in Salford, Ainsdale, Argarmeles, Scarisbrick, Skelmersdale, Toxteth in West Derby. Here we must remember that the Norse usually lived in isolated homesteads, not in villages, and probably settled to a great extent in homesteads also in England. The names mentioned, as a rule, probably refer to freehold homesteads, and hardly have a seignorial implication in a stricter sense.

4. Flora and fauna in place-names

Many tree-names are found in place-names, e.g., alder (Ollerton, etc.), aspen (as Aspden), birch (as Birch, Birtle, Birtenshaw, Bescar, etc.), elm (see wice, page 20), hazel (Hazelrigg, etc.), holly (Hollinworth, etc.), linden or lime (Lindale), mountain ash (Wickenlow), spruce fir (perhaps in Sabden), sallow (Salford, Salesbury, etc.), willow (Withington, etc.). The beech does not occur in names.

Particularly frequent in place-names is ash (OE œsc, ON askr), not only in minor names, as Ashhurst, Eskrigg, etc., but also in names of old townships. There are several Ashtons. This might be due simply to the common occurrence of the ash in Lancashire. But there are probably other reasons. Not only was the ash in the old days a very valuable tree, but it is also fastidious as regards soil. Very likely it was known that where ash trees grow, there the soil is generally good. Moreover, the ash was, in the old days, looked upon as a holy tree. A charter in BCS 476 (A.D. 854) mentions "quendam fraxinum quem imperiti sacrum vocant" (An ash-tree which the ignorant call holy) (Taunton, Somerset). For further examples reference may be made to Bugge, Studier over de nordiske Gude- og Heltesagns Oprindelse, page 499. For this reason people would settle where ash trees grew or plant ash trees at their homesteads. Similar considerations may account for the considerable number of names containing the word oak.

Thornbushes or hawthorns have given name to several places: Thornham, Thornton, Thurnham, etc. The thornbush and hawthorn also used to be looked upon as holy. On holy thorns and hawthorns in Sweden, see Sahlgren, NoB viii. 56f. A thornbush at a homestead or village would, therefore, naturally give rise to a place-name.

Names of animals frequently occur in place-names, especially those of woods, hills, streams, and the like. We may mention hart and hind (in Hartshead, Hindley, etc.), roe (Roeburn, Royle, Read), badger (Brockholes, Brock Hall, Badsberry, etc.), marten (Marshaw), grampus (Walney). Urswick seems to contain OE ūr 'bison'. Many names contain the word wolf (or ON ulfr), as Wolf Fell, Wolfenden, Wolfhole Crag, Woolden, Ulvedale. On Ulvegravegate see page 252. Names of birds in place-names are, e.g. crane (Cranshaw, Carnforth, Tarnacre, etc.), crow (Crawshaw), hawk (Hawkshaw). Compare also Dunnockshaw, Tewitfield, Warcockhill.

5. Names referring to agriculture, etc

The chief industries in old Lancashire were agriculture and cattle-farming. Names alluding to these pursuits are numerous. Only a few need be pointed out.

Several names contain the name of a cereal, as barley, OE bere, or ON bygg (Barley, Barlow, Barton, Borwick, etc.; Bigland, Bigthwaite), rye (Royley, Royton, Ryley, Renacres, Ruthwait, page 250, etc.), wheat (Wheatley). I have found no names with OE ātan 'oats' (except one or two field-names), and only two or three with ON hafri (Haverthwaite, Haverigg, Haverbreck). Perhaps oats were so commonly cultivated that a name alluding to them would not have been distinctive enough. No conclusions should be drawn from these names as regards the extent to which the various cereals were cultivated. But it is extremely interesting to find that barley and wheat must have been cultivated from an early date in places where they are hardly ever grown now, e.g. in the highly situated parts of the old Forest of Pendle (Barley, Wheatley).

It is of some interest to find that the old Scandinavian and Celtic custom of sending cattle away to shielings in the summer must have been introduced into Lancashire. The numerous names in -ergh and -set originally denoted shielings. But many of these at an early date developed into permanent settlements. Several erghs are among Domesday manors.

The name Orgrave proves that iron-mining was carried on in Furness before the Conquest. The two Orrells were possibly named from iron mines. Millstone quarrying may be alluded to by such names as Quarlton, Quernmore.

Place-names referring to hunting or fishing seem to be chiefly Scandinavian: Ingoe, Waitham, Waitholme. The word cockshoot 'a glade through which woodcocks, etc., might dart so as to be caught by nets stretched across the opening' (first exemplified in NED in 1530) is found early in Lancashire place-names (Kocsute, Kockesuteheved 1180-1200 CC 607), which proves that this method of catching birds is of high antiquity.

6. Folk-lore, etc

Only a few isolated names contain allusions to popular beliefs or customs. Of interest are names containing OE þyrs 'giant, goblin' (Thirsden, Thursclough; compare Thurescloch CC 647, in Hindley) or ON þurs the same (Thrushgill, etc; compare page 182). The words, as will be seen, are always combined with such words as mean 'a ravine' or 'a fen'. Alden may contain OE œlf, ielf, 'a fairy'. On Grimshaw see page 76. Dragley apparently means 'the dragon's mound', and may refer to some local legend. Compare also Drakeholm, page 253.

Halliwell was named from a holy well. On Wiswell, see page 77.

Cunliffe, if the alternative explanation suggested page 73 is correct, refers to an ancient method of curing sickness.

Very few names testify to a feeling for natural beauty. Examples are: Breightmet, Facit, Fallowfield (Heaton). Scandinavian names such as Fairthwaite, Fairsnape, Winsnape, may belong here, but it is quite possible that the adjectives fagr, vœnn, have rather the more original sense of 'good, excellent', than that of 'beautiful'.

"Introduction to the Survey of English Place Names" (1924) A. Mawer and F. M. Stenton, Cambridge University Press at pages 55 to 92

Chapter IV

The Scandinavian Element by Eilert Ekwall


The Scandinavians in England

THE Danish attacks on the coasts of England commenced in earnest about 820. About the middle of the century the Danes began to winter in England. After some years of raiding, during which the enemy wintered now in Kent (851), now in East Anglia (866), now in Mercia (868), now in Northumbria (869), systematic settlements began to be made. In 876 Healfdene (Halfdan), the leader of the Danish army, 'dealt out the lands of Northumbria, and they began to plough and till them'. Next year a settlement was effected in Mercia, doubtless in the district later dependent on the Five Boroughs. In 88o the army settled in East Anglia and divided the land among themselves. The extent of the original settlements is not known. Some of the territory occupied seems to have reverted shortly to English authority. The boundary between the Danes of East Anglia and the English, fixed by Alfred and Guthrum's Peace, which was concluded in 886, was to follow the Thames, the Lea to its source, a straight line from that point to Bedford, and then the Ouse as far as Watling Street.

The reconquest of the Danelaw really began with the Peace of 886. A large part of Essex was retaken in 913. The East Anglians followed three or four years later - the exact dates of the reconquest of the various districts are, of course, somewhat uncertain. The whole of Mercia was in English possession in 919. After that date it is hardly to be supposed that any fresh Scandinavian settlements were made south of the Humber. The bulk of the Scandinavian place-names in these districts must have been given by the Danes who settled between 877 and 919, and their descendants.

The kingdom of York, which may be supposed to have embraced Yorkshire, and parts of the adjoining districts, remained independent much longer. The men of York submitted to Æthelfled in 919, but on her death in the same year they may have regained their independence. In 924 the men of Northumbria, English, Danish and Norwegians alike, made submission to Edward. In the following years the Scandinavians of Northumbria were now independent, now under the English crown, till at last in 954 they finally drove out their Norse king and submitted to Eadred. During its spells of independence York was in close connection with the Viking kingdom of Dublin.

Probably somewhat later, from about 900 onwards, a Scandinavian immigration took place on the west coast, in Cumberland, Westmorland, Lancashire, and Cheshire. The information to be obtained from early sources with reference to this immigration is scanty, but there is good reason to suppose that the settlers in these parts were chiefly Norwegians, who came over from older colonies in Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Hebrides. It is known that there was an intimate connection between the kingdom of York and the Norse kingdom of Dublin before and after the year 900. It is possible that the Norwegian immigration on the west coast was to some extent due to it.

The later Scandinavian raids and conquests were hardly of much importance from our point of view, and may be disregarded.

The information to be gleaned from early sources on the Scandinavian settlements in Britain is insufficient to enable us to form an opinion on the nature of the settlements, their geographical extent, the approximate proportion of Scandinavians to the English in the various districts, and the like. Scholars have endeavoured to throw light on these questions by various means. Archaeology and anthropology have been called to their assistance. It has been shown that in certain districts a Scandinavian territorial division has replaced the old English; that a fresh system of land measurement was introduced; that early records tell us about a new social system; that Scandinavian judicial customs have taken the place of the earlier English; that a Scandinavian coinage (mark, ore) was introduced. The remarkable number of small freeholders and free peasants in Danelaw districts, in contrast to the rest of England, has justly been attributed to the Scandinavian conquest. Last, not least, the evidence of place‑names has been adduced.

The importance of place-names for the question under discussion was apparently first recognised or at least demonstrated by the Danish scholar, Worsaae, in his book Minder om de danske og nordmeendene i England, Skotland og Wales, Copenhagen, 1851 (English translation, 1852). Later works that make use of this kind of evidence are Taylor, Words and Places, 1864, and Names and their Histories, 1896; Steenstrup, Normannerne, Copenhagen, 1876-82; Alexander Bugge, Vikingerne, 1904-6; Collingwood, Scandinavian Britain, 1908; Mawer, The Vikings, 1913. Of works dealing with separate districts may be mentioned especially Robert Ferguson, The Northmen in Cumberland and Westmorland, 1856, and Streatfeild, Lincolnshire and the Danes, 1884.

A special work devoted to Scandinavian place-names in England is being published by Dr Harald Lindkvist, of whose Middle English Place-Names of Scandinavian origin the first part was published at Uppsala in 1912. This is an important and scholarly work, but the point of view from which the place-names are dealt with is mainly linguistic. The bulk of the volume treats of Scandinavian place-names containing a Scandinavian inflexional form, the diphthongs ei, au, ey, and the vowels á, ý, ó. The introduction, on the other hand, deals fully with questions of a general character, such as the distribution of names. It need hardly be said that Dr Lindkvist's book has been of great help in the writing of the present chapter.

As Professor Mawer, in the second part of the present volume, is going to deal fully with the chief elements in English place-names, including those of Scandinavian origin, only a very brief survey is given here, except in the case of the two most important elements, and a general reference is given to the second part. It has seemed desirable, however, that at least a brief survey of the Scandinavian elements should introduce the present chapter, if for no other reason than to bring home to the reader the very rich and varied character of that element.

Elements found in Scandinavian place-names

The most important Scandinavian word for 'a village' or 'a homestead' found in place-names is by (ODan. by, ON bœr, býr). Names in -by are found in all the counties where a considerable Scandinavian settlement took place. By is extremely rare as a common noun in English, and there is reason to believe that all or practically all English place-names in -by are Scandinavian in the strictest sense. Apparent exceptions will be discussed infra. By alone is never used as a place-name. The first element is often a personal name; the same is often the case with Swedish names in -by. The theory that the form -by proves Danish origin cannot be upheld. Names in -by are common in the Wirral district, where a Norwegian settlement must be assumed. The DB form -be (-bei), which has been held to reflect the usual Norwegian bœr, is found also in the eastern districts, and it should be noticed that English y occasionally appears as DB e, ei.

Next in importance is thorp. There was also an OE þorp (þrop), and some names in -thorp are no doubt English, but the great frequency of names in -thorp in the Danelaw as compared with other English counties shows that there the majority of thorpes must be Scandinavian. Danish thorp means 'a hamlet, a daughter settlement from an older village'. This is no doubt the meaning also of the element in Scandinavian place-names in England. That many of the places with names ending in -thorp are of comparatively late origin is suggested by their situation on very low-lying land. The first element is not rarely a Norman name. Particularly significant is the circumstance that in many cases thorpes were named from an adjacent village, evidently the earlier settlement. In Nf we find Burnham and Burnham Thorpe, Saxlingham and Saxlingham Thorpe, Shouldham and Shouldham Thorpe. Similarly, in Sf there are Ixworth and Ixworth Thorpe; in Lei, Barkby and Barkby Thorpe; in Nt, Mattersey and Mattersey Thorpe. The circumstance adduced also explains why Thorp is so common as a place-name without any distinctive addition, and why combinations such as Osmundistone cum Parva Thorpe, Colton cum Thorpe (1316 Feudal Aids) are frequently met with. Colton cum Thorpe is 'the village of Colton with its hamlet (thorpe)'.

Other important Scandinavian elements usual in names of villages or homesteads are rare. OScand. staþir (plural) is common in Icelandic names, while Danish names with this element would seem to belong to an early stratum. Some names found in Norwegian districts in England, as Croxteth, Toxteth (La), may contain this element. Scandinavian names in -heimr probably belong to the time before the Scandinavian settlements, and it is doubtful if the element occurs in England except as a result of Scandinavianisation of English names in -ham. The elements hús and tún are common to English and Scandinavian. The distribution of names such as News(h)am (-husum) rather suggests that they are to no small extent Scandinavian. ODan. -tún is rare in place-names, and names in -tún in Danelaw districts should probably be looked upon as English, even if they have a Scandinavian first element. But in Iceland names in -tún are common, and there is no reason to doubt that the Norwegian settlers in England might have used the element.

Scandinavian elements denoting 'a hut, a shieling' are: booth; lathe, 'a barn'; scale, 'a hut, a shed.' Dialect seat, 'a dwelling, a pasturage', common in names of old shielings, as Swainshead (La), seems to be ON sætr, 'a shieling.' Elements denoting 'a piece of land, 'a pasture', or the like, are: eng, 'meadow'; flat, 'a shot or furlong'; garth, 'an enclosure'; sleet, 'a flat meadow'; thwaite, 'a clearing, a meadow', etc., common especially in the north-west, but by no means rare in Danelaw districts.

Scandinavian elements are particularly common among so-called nature-names, a great many of which, however, have developed into names of villages or homesteads. Words for 'hill, hillock, mountain' are: bank (also 'bank of a river'); breck, 'slope, hill'; fell; how, 'mound, hill, mountain'; hoveth (ON hofuð, ODan. hoved), lit. 'head,' but also 'hill' and promontory'; nab, 'a peak'; lythe, 'a slope'; meol, 'a sand-hill'; rig, 'a ridge'. Of occasional occurrence are ON gnípa, 'a steep hill', as in Knype (We), Knipton (Lei), ON kleif, 'a steep hill', as in Claife (La). Words for 'a promontory': ness, at least partly Scandinavian; odd, as in Greenodd (La). Words for 'island': holme; scar, skerry; ON eyrr, 'a sand-bank', as in Ayre (La). Many names in -ey no doubt contain Scandinavian ey.

Words for 'a valley': gill and its cognate ON geil, 'a narrow ravine'; grain, 'branch of a valley'; scarth, 'a pass'; slack, 'a shallow valley'; wray, 'a corner'. Words denoting 'a forest, wood, grove': with (as in Tockwith (Y)); skew, scough (ON shógr); lund (often changed to -land); storth, 'brushwood'; hagg, wood marked out for felling'. Words for 'moor, heath, marsh': car, 'wet ground'; mire; ON saurr, Danish sør, sor, mud, wet ground' (as in Sowerby); ON heiðr, 'heath' (as in Heith, Heid, early forms of Lincoln Heath).

Words denoting 'a stream, a lake' or the like: ON á, 'river,' as in Greta, Ayton (Y); beck; ON loekr, 'a brook' (perhaps in Leck (La), Leake (Nt)); force; tarn; keld, 'a spring'; wick, 'a bay '; crook, 'a bend'; -min, -myn, as in Airmyn (OScand. mynni, 'mouth of a river').

Words for 'a road, a passage': gate (common in the street-names of many towns); wath, 'a ford'; ON eið, 'unnavigable part of a river' (as in Knaith (L)). Words for landmarks: OScand. hreysi, 'a cairn' (as in Raisbeck (We)); OScand. varði, varða, 'a cairn'; OScand. , 'a landmark, a boundary line' (as in Raby); stang,'a pole'.

Names of animals: OScand. geit, 'goat'; griss, 'pig'; hestr, 'horse'; ikorni, 'a squirrel'; maurr, 'ant'; trani, 'a crane'; refr, 'a fox' (as in Reagill (We); ulfr, 'wolf'.

Names of trees and plants: OScand. askr, 'ash-tree'; eik, 'oak'; ling; seave, 'rush'; star, 'sedge'.

Various: OScand. leir, 'clay'; steinn, 'stone'.

Adjectives: OScand. blár, 'dark, blue'; breiðr, 'broad'; forn, 'old'; grár, 'grey'; hár, hör 'high' (as in Hognipp, Hugnype, old forms of High Knipe (We)); lágr, 'low'; skammr, 'short'; rauðr, 'red'; vâtr, 'wet'.

Scandinavian personal names are of course common in place-names. A valuable special work dealing with Scandinavian personal names in England is Bjorkman's Nordische Personennamen in England, Halle, 1910, to which the same author's Zur englischen Namenkunde, Halle, 1912, is in reality a supplement.

Danish and Norse test-words

The majority of the elements enumerated and also of the personal names found in place-names are common to Danish and Norwegian. But some may be looked upon as fairly safe indications of either a Danish or Norwegian provenance as the case may be. thorp is very rare in Norway and Iceland, and a frequent occurrence of names in thorp is a sign of Danish colonisation. böth is a Danish form. So is hulm, a rarer side-form of holm, which is both Danish and Norwegian. toft is rather Danish than Norwegian. Norwegian test-words are breck, buth (ON búð), gill, scale, slack, also ergh (cf. supra, 34). But by, as has already been pointed out, is not a safe criterion. Also thwaite has been held to be a Norwegian test-word. No doubt the element is most common in districts that were probably colonised by Norwegians, but the element was also used in Denmark. The personal names had better be used with some caution, especially as the early Danish personal names have not been collected sufficiently fully.

Pages 34 and 35:

… The Scandinavian settlements in the north of England are to no small extent due to Norwegians who had come over from Celtic lands in the West, Ireland, the Isle of Man, etc., where Norwegian colonies were founded at an early date. Norwegian colonies are found especially in the north-west of England, but to some extent elsewhere. They seem to belong on the whole to the tenth century. The Norwegians in Ireland would be influenced by Celtic language and civilisation. They adopted many Celtic words and names. Some of the latter are well evidenced in Iceland, which was partly colonised by Norwegians from Ireland and the western islands. There is reason to assume that the Norwegians who settled in the north-west of England had been to some extent Celticised, and to them may be ascribed the introduction of many Goidelic names and place-name elements into England.

Of place-name elements introduced in this way the most obvious case is ergh, 'a shieling', from Ir. airghe, Gael. airidh, 'a shieling'. The element is common in Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire - Birker, Mosser, Salter, Winder, etc. (Cu), Docker, Mansergh, Ninezergh, Skelsmergh, etc. (We), Arkholme, Anglezark, Docker, Goosnargh, Grimsargh, Torver, etc. (La), and occurs more rarely in Cheshire (Arrow in Wirral) and Yorkshire (as Battrix, Feizor, Golcar, West Riding; Argam, Arram, Arras, East Riding; Eryholme, North Riding). The distribution of this word and the fact that it is so frequently combined with Scandinavian elements point decisively to introduction through the medium of Scandinavians. Some of the erghs are among Domesday manors. This proves that the element must have been introduced early, no doubt by the original Scandinavian settlers.

Ir. cro, 'a sheepfold', may be the source of Crew, near Bewcastle, and the first element of Crewgarth (Cu). Cross is also a very probable example. It is found in place-names most frequently in the parts of England where Scandinavians are known to have settled, and it is combined chiefly with Scandinavian words. But introduction into Anglo-Saxon direct from Ireland is possible. Ir. cnoc, 'a hillock', seems to be the source of Knock (We) and to occur in some other names.

Finghall (Y) (Finegala DB), if it is correctly identified by A. Bugge (Vikingerne, II, 278) with Fine na n-Gall, 'the district of the Northmen', the name of a district in Ireland, is very interesting, for it must then have been transplanted from Ireland into Yorkshire, very likely by Scandinavians. A somewhat similar example is the name Diuelin-, Dyuelynstanes, which denoted some locality in York (Fountains Cartulary). Diuelin- is apparently the Scandinavian form of Dublin (Dyflinn), or else the OE form of the name (Dyflin).

Numerous Goidelic personal names are evidenced in place-names, many obviously of Scandinavian origin. Examples are: Corc in Corby (Cu), Duban in Dovenby (Cu), Glassan in Glassonby (Cu), Mael Maire in Melmerby (Cu, 2 Y), Maelchon in Melkinthorpe (We), Beccan in Becconsall, Bekansgill (La), Dubgall in Duggleby (Y), Colman in Commondale (Y), Crossan in Corsenside (Nb).

That the Norwegian settlers were to no small extent Celticised is seen from other remarkable facts. The Norwegians in Cumberland to some extent used the Goidelic way of forming patronymics, as is seen by the expression Thorfynn Mac Thore, 'Thorfinn son of Thore', found in an eleventh century charter (Gospatric's charter). They also adopted the Celtic way of forming compounds with the defining element last (cf. p. 27), as shown by certain compound place-names in Cumberland and Westmorland, also, though more rarely, in Lancashire. Examples are: Bek Troyte, later Troutbeck, 'the beck of Troite'; Briggethorfin, 'Thorfinn's bridge'; Brigsteer, 'Styr's bridge'; Setforn, 'Forni's shieling'. Some formations of this kind have a Scandinavian first and a Goidelic second element, as Gillcamban, Setmurthy, Becmelbrid.

It is possible that with the Norwegian immigrants were a number of Irish people, presumably as serfs or servants. But it seems improbable on general grounds that such an element could have been very strong. If there had been a very strong Goidelic admixture in the Scandinavian population we should also expect a considerable number of purely Goidelic names in the north-west. But this is not so. The Goidelic element in the place-nomenclature is bound up in a very marked way with a Scandinavian one. Names such as Ireby, Ireton no doubt point to a certain amount of Irish immigration, but it is by no means certain that these names always mean 'the village of the Irish'. Iri was used as a personal name in Iceland. Also Iri might have been used as a sort of nickname of a Scandinavian who had come from Ireland.

Various types of Scandinavian influence

In trying to draw conclusions from place-names it is of importance to realise clearly that the Scandinavian influence on the English place-nomenclature took various forms, and that the same conclusions should not be drawn from all names revealing such influence. Many place-names can be proved definitely to have been coined by Scandinavians, that is by people speaking a Scandinavian tongue. We may call these Scandinavian names in the strictest sense. They prove a Scandinavian immigration into the district where they occur. Others contain a combination of a Scandinavian and an English element. Most of these may be looked upon as English formations, having been made by English people out of an English and a Scandinavian word. Such names reveal Scandinavian influence, and they often prove a Scandinavian immigration into the district where they are found, but their value as evidence is not nearly as great as that of Scandinavian names in the strictest sense. Thirdly, English names often appear in a Scandinavianised form. This type offers particular interest, and will be fully discussed.

It is not always possible to distinguish neatly between these types. The Scandinavians and English, who lived side by side, spoke languages nearly akin, and many elements are common to both languages. But a close examination shows that in practice the difficulty alluded to is not so frequently met with as might be supposed.

(pages 61 to 64 omitted pro tem …)

… Among Scandinavian names in a stricter sense may also be counted the majority of names containing two Scandinavian elements, even if they contain no unequivocal Scandinavian inflexional form. Also a good many hybrids, which will be noticed further on, may be reckoned among strictly Scandinavian names in so far as they in must have been formed by Scandinavians.

Refashioning of English names by Scandinavians

When Scandinavians settled in an English district, they would to a large exlent adopt names already in use, but in many cases these names contained unfamiliar sounds or combinations of sounds. Sound-substitution would then take place. Sometimes a Scandinavian word would replace an English synonym. Both phenomena are of very frequent occurrence, and a great many apparently hybrid names on closer inspection turn out to be purely English in origin, though more or less Scandinavianised. In a great number of cases such Scandinavian adaptations have ousted the old form. It is obvious that these phenomena testify to a very strong Scandinavian influence.

Substitution of Scandinavian sounds for English ones has often been assumed by previous students. Especially it has frequently been pointed out that sk has often replaced OE sc. The OE sc in most cases passed into sh, a sound unknown to early Scandinavian languages. The sk- found frequently in English place-names must be due to foreign influence, and no doubt we have chiefly to reckon with Scandinavian influence. In some cases sk has no doubt replaced OE sc owing to the inability of Scandinavians to pronounce the sound. A certain case is Skyrack (Y), the name of a wapentake, which represents OE 'oak where the shire moot was held'. Shireoaks occurs elsewhere in England as a place-name, while the word corresponding to OE scir is not found in Scandinavian languages. Moreover, the DB spelling Siraches points distinctly to a form with Sh-, which was thus still in use in the eleventh century.

Another safe case is Scalford (Lei) (Scaldeford DB), clearly 'the shallow ford.' There is no Scandinavian word corresponding to OE sceald. Plausible examples are also the following. Skillington (L) (Scillintune in a charter of circa 1066, Schillintune DB). Some names in skip- seem to contain OE scip, a side form of sceap, 'sheep,' as Skipton (Y) (Scipitone DB, Scipeton Simeon of Durham), still famous for its sheep-markets, Skipwith (Y) (Schipewic DB, but Schipuith in the twelfth century). In neither case is derivation from skip, 'ship', plausible. Skipwith has also had OE wic replaced by Scandinavian viðr, 'forest.' Scopwick (L) is probably a Scandinavianised form of OE sceapwic, 'sheep farm.' Here also the stressed vowel (originally a; cf. Scapeuic DB) seems due to Scandinavian influence. Skiplam (Y) is Shipnum, Scipnum in early sources; it appears to be the dative plural of OE scipen, 'byre'. Skirlaugh (Y) (Scherle, Schires-, Scirelai DB) is no doubt identical with the well-known name Shirley (OE scir, 'bright' and leah, 'clearing'). The form of the second element may be due to the same influence; cf. Braithlagh, an early form of Bradley (We). Matlask (Nf) (Matelasc, -esc DB) may be OE mæðel-asc, 'ash where the moot was held'; cf. OE mæðelstede, 'council-place'.

Germanic g, c were sometimes palatalised in Old English, as in child, yellow. The change was unknown to the old Scandinavian languages. There is some diversity of opinion as to whether palatalisation took place in Northumbrian, but it seems to be getting more and more widely recognised that in most positions palatalisation is a universal English sound-change. At least before e a g was no doubt palatalised all over England. The G- in Gilling (Y) (In Getlingum Bede) is therefore probably due to Scandinavian influence. Keswick (Cu, Nf, Y) is probably identical with Cheswick, Chiswick, from OE cesewic, 'cheese farm'. Kildwick (Y) seems identical with Childwick (Herts). In both cases the k is probably due to Scandinavian adaptation. The names cannot be Scandinavian, and the normal English development ought to have been Cheswick, Childwick.

In Scandinavian languages there was no medial or final d in words except when long (i.e. doubled) or after certain consonants, as l, n. An English d in such a position would be apt to be replaced by a ð or possibly dd or t. An ð has taken the place of OE d in Mythop (La), Meathop (We), from OE midhop, while Midhope, Middop (Y) retain the OE d. Goathland (Y) (Godeland, Gotheland, early twelfth century) is probably an OE Godan land. Goodmanham (Y) (Godmundingaham Bede) appears occasionally in early sources as Guthmunde(s)ham. The form -forth for -ford may at least partly be due to Scandinavian influence. Louth (L), perhaps Hludensis monasterii in Simeon of Durham, is on the river Lud, from which it no doubt took its name. Probably the old name of the stream was identical with Loud (La), and Louth is due to Scandinavianisation, but a definite decision is impossible in the absence of certain OE forms.

In Scandinavian languages w never occurred before u, having been lost early in that position. In the pronunciation of Scandinavians an OE Wulfherestun would therefore necessarily become Ulfer(e)stun. Ulverston (La) probably got its form in such a way.

Substitution of a Scandinavian synonym for an English place-name element is extremely common. The few OE documents preserved from Danelaw districts allow us to prove such substitution in a surprisingly large number of cases.

Scandinavian konungr (kunungr) has replaced OE cyning in Coniscliffe (Du), found as Ciningesclif in ASC, as Cincgesclif, circa 1050. Very likely the same phenomenon has taken place in other names, as in Conishead (La). OE ea, 'river', corresponds to ON á. Eamont (Cu) is æt Eagemotum in ASC. The usual medieval form which has replaced the English name is Amot, and this is ON ámót, 'junction of streams'. Modern Eamont probably goes back to Amot. OE heafod corresponds to ON hofuð, ODan hoved, 'head'. Howden (Y) is found in a document of 959 as Heafuddæne and the like, but in DB as Houeden, Hovedene. It is difficult to see how the change from heafod- to hoved- can be explained unless we assume that the Scandinavian form has replaced the English one.

OE circe has been supplanted by Scandinavian kirk in Peakirk (Nth) (æt Pegecyrcan, KCD 726).

OE stan corresponds to Scandinavian steinn. A great number of names have as first element Stain-, as Stainburn, Stainland, Stainley, Stainton. (cf. Lindkvist, opus citatum 82 ff). Stainburn in Otley appears as Stanburne (printed by Birch as -burhe) in a charter of 972 (BCS 1278) and in DB. Stainley near Ripon is Stanleh in the same OE charter, Stanlege in one of circa 1030 (YC 7), Stanlei in DB. We may further note that Stainland is Stanland in DB, Stainton by Tickhill is Stantone and Staintone, ib. Obviously the names are English, and Stain- is due to Scandinavian influence. It can hardly be doubted that, in general, names in Stain- that have as second element an English word (as Stainfield (L), also Staining (La) are in reality OE names in stan-. So also Rudston (Y) (Rodestan, -stein DB), in which the English form has eventually been victorious, is clearly OE rod-stan, 'rood stone'. The place was named from a monolith near the church.

OE wet, 'wet', seems to have been replaced by OScand. vátr in Watton (Y), which appears in Bede as Ueta dun, but in DB as Wattune. At least an English change of e to a is difficult to account for.

Not quite so clear is the case with Beckwith (Y), which appears in an OE charter of 972 (BCS 1278) as Becwudu. If Bec- is OScand. bekkr, 'brook', the original name was probably Bekkviðr, and OE -wudu shows substitution of the OE word for the Scandinavian one. But Bec- may have some other etymology.

Occasionally an OE word has been supplanted by a synonymous but not etymologically corresponding word. Holbeck (Nt) appears as holan broc in a charter of 956 (YC 2). Badby (Nth) is Baddan byr(i)g five times, Baddan by twice in an original charter of 944 (BCS 792). The original form was evidently Baddanburg. Similar cases are no doubt Naseby (Nth), Quenby (Lei) (Navesberie, Queneberie DB).

Substitution of the same kind has doubtless taken place in many other cases, though it cannot be proved in the absence of OE forms. Thus Eagle (L) (Aclei, Akeley, Aycle DB) may be taken to represent OE Acleah, whose first element was replaced by Scandinavian eik, 'oak'. Braithwell (Y) (Bradeuuelle DB) and Brayton (Y) (Breiðetun, circa 1030) very likely go back to forms with OE brad, 'broad', later replaced by Scandinavian breiðr. OE circe has no doubt sometimes been supplanted by Scandinavian kirk in other names than Peakirk, as in Bradkirk, Kirkham (La). OE east may well have been replaced by Scandinavian aust in some names, such as Owston, Owstwick. Gateforth, though appearing as Gæiteford, circa 1030, is probably an OE gataford, 'goats' ford'. The common -heim for -ham in early sources is no doubt due to Scandinavianisation. OScand. meðal, 'middle', has probably replaced OE middel in some names, as Methley (Y) (Medelai DB), Melton (Y) (Middeltun, Midel-, Medeltone DB), perhaps Methwold (Nf) (Methelwade, Mateluualde DB). Melton (Sf) is actually Middelton, Meðeltone in a charter of 1060 (Thorpe, 590 f). Scandinavian rauðr, 'red', frequently appears combined with clif. As Scandinavian klif is a rare word, it seems plausible that at least in some instances Rawcliffe (Rockliffe, etc.) is a Scandinavianised form of the common Red-, Radcliffe (OE readaclif). Both elements have been Scandinavianised in the thirteenth century form Askebek (communicated by Professor Stenton) for the stream on which Ashbourne (Db) stands.

Anglicisation of Scandinavian names

We may add here a few remarks on the reverse phenomenon, which accounts for a good many apparent hybrids. Sound-substitution no doubt took place to a great extent when the Scandinavian place-nomenclature was assimilated to the English. But this process of assimilation extended over a long period of time, and it is not always easy to distinguish sound-substitution from English sound-development. Moreover these cases offer comparatively small interest, as apparent hybrids have rarely arisen in this way. By way of example we may here mention Ash- for Scandinavian Ask- (in Ashby, from earlier Askeby, etc.), which was later associated with English ash.

Substitution of an English for a synonymous Scandinavian element, on the other hand, has often taken place. Late changes due to popular etymology are not here considered.

Scandinavian aust,'east', has been replaced by east in East Riding, in DB Oustredinc, Estreding. The Kirkstead Cartulary has Oustbec and Estbec as the name of the same brook. No doubt the original name was Austbek. Scandinavian fagr, 'fair', was the original first element of Fairthwaite (La), as shown by forms such as Fauerwayt, Fagherthwayt in early sources. A sound-change of Fagr- to Fair- is not absolutely impossible, but at least it is evident that the name is no hybrid. Very likely the Scandinavian word is the original element of other names in Fair-. An old Scandinavian word for 'four' (ON fiurir, ODan fyuræ or fyræ) was originally the first element of Forehoe Wapentake (Nf), as indicated by the regular spelling Feorhou in DB, later replaced by Fourhow. OE feower does not account well for the old form. The second element of the name is Scandinavian haugr, 'mound'. The name means 'the four mounds'. To OE neowe, 'new', corresponds OScand. nýr. It cannot be doubted that many names such as Newby originally had as first element the Scandinavian word, later refashioned to New-. Newball (L) is identical with the well-known Scandinavian name Nýbøle, later Nibble, Nöbble, etc. The word bøle, 'homestead', is otherwise unknown in England, and a hybrid formed with it and the English new is highly improbable. The earliest known example of the name, Neobole in the Lindsey Survey, which would seem to represent a Scandinavian Nȳubøle (plural), corroborates this. It is possible that early spellings such as Niehusum, Nietona DB, Nehusum 1182-5 (YC 199) for Newsham, Newton (Y), or Nehus, Neus (twelfth century) for Newhouse (L) go back to Scandinavian forms such as Nȳuhūs, the new houses'. Newbigging (Cu), pronounced 'Nibbican', and Nibthwaite (La), apparently from Nýbý-, or Nýbúð-þveit, are perhaps cases in point, but the early spellings have the English form New-.

There are many other cases where similar transformation is plausible, though there are no early forms that can be adduced in corroboration. Thus some names in -burgh, -borough, with a Scandinavian first element, very likely originally contained the Scandinavian borg. A very plausible case is Flamborough (Flaneburg DB). Also Flookborough (La) may be mentioned. Denby (Db, Y), 'the village of the Danes', may well be an adaptation of a Scandinavian Danabýr. But a form Dænir, with i-mutation by the side of Danir, occasionally occurs also in Scandinavian. It is extremely probable that Scandinavian vatn has been replaced in some names of lakes by water. This is particularly plausible in the case of Elterwater (La), which has as first element a Scandinavian genitive form and is a counterpart of Scandinavian Elptarvatn, 'lake of the swan'. Also Windermere, earlier Winandermere, 'the lake of Winand', may well represent a Scandinavian Vinandarvatn.

Sometimes, when we find an English and a Scandinavian element used side by side in a place-name, it is impossible to decide which is the original one. Examples are East Keal, called Estrecale in DB, Oustcal in the Lindsey Survey, Eastburn (Y), called Austburne in DB, later Estbrunne, East Marsh (Y), Austmersk, Oustmersc DB. Hawkshead and Ramshead Bolton-le-Sands (La) appear equally early as Houkeshout, Ramshouth and Haukesheued, Ramesheued; we do not know if OE hēafod or ON hǫfuð is original. OE geard, 'yard', and Scandinavian garth are sometimes found in the same name. In some cases we have to reckon with the possibility that different names were used from the first by the English and Scandinavians in a district. An extremely interesting case is Bleasby (Nt). The modern name, of course, goes back to an OScand. Blesaby. But in the earliest known reference to the place the name appears as Blisetun, Blisemere (charter of 956 in BCS 1029 and 1348). The latter must represent the English forms of the name, used side by side with Blesa- or Blisaby. Birkland (Nt) appears in early sources as Birkelund and Birecwde (communicated by Professor Stenton).


The preceding sections will have shown that hybrids in a real sense are not by any means so common as might have been expected or as, at first glance, they seem to be. But of course hybrids there were and in large numbers. But it should be borne in mind that hybrid names were formed not only by English, but also by Scandinavian speakers. Many hybrids are demonstrably Scandinavian, being formed by Scandinavians from an English (or pre-Scandinavian) and a Scandinavian element.

Here belong first of all names containing a pre-Scandinavian place-name, especially a river-name, inflected in the Scandinavian way. Examples are: Allerdale (Cu), in the earliest form Alnerdall, 'the valley of the Ellen' (in early sources Alne, Alen), Ennerdale (Cu), 'the valley of the Ehen' (in old sources Eghen), Nidderdale, 'the valley of the Nidd', Miterdale (Cu), a place in the valley of the Mite, literally 'the valley of the Mite'. Dunnerdale (La) is probably 'the valley of the Duddon'. In old sources are further found: Alwennerdale (Nb), 'the valley of the Allen', Hwerverdale (Y), 'Wharfedale' (Simeon of Durham), Nidderminne (Y), 'the mouth of the Nidd'.

Unequivocal analogous cases with an English personal name inflected in the Scandinavian way are not on record, but in all probability forms such as Aldulvebi, Adredebi, Bernedebi (for Audleby, Atterby, Barnetby (L), which contain OE Aldwulf, Eadred, Beornnoð, are perfectly on a par with the above-mentioned Salmundebi, etc., and are examples of the ODan. genitive in -a from -ar. No doubt other names in -by with an English personal name as first element may be looked upon as really Scandinavian. Also other names with a pre-Scandinavian place-name as first element may be judged of in the same way, as Airedale, Airmyn (Y), Burscough (La), 'the forest at Burh' etc.

Certain examples of Scandinavian hybrids containing English loan-words of other kinds are the two remarkable Osmotherleys (La, Y). Both have as first element the genitive Asmundar (from Asmundr), the second element being OE hlāw and lēah respectively. These words must have been adopted early by Scandinavians. Windermere may belong to this category. Stixwould (L) is probably a further example. The first element is Scandinavian Stīgr. The form Stix-, in spite of Stigesuuald DB, seems to be due to the Scandinavian genitive Stīgs. The second element is OE wald. Other examples of this type are doubtful. It has been suggested that Hinderwell (Hildrewelle DB) and Ilderton (Nb) (Hildertona, twelfth century) contain Hildar, the genitive of ON Hildr (feminine personal name), but the etymology is not certain. Some names not containing Scandinavian inflexional forms no doubt belong here. Thus the common name Willoughby in some instances probably contains OE welig, 'willow' which would consequently seem to have been adopted early by Scandinavians. But all Willoughbys do not contain the word willow. Some may have as first element a personal name Viglaugr or Vigleikr. There is a Willoughby, possibly one of the Lincolnshire ones, which appears as Willabyg, circa 1066 (Thorpe, 595). Cf. also infra, 81.

English hybrids

Hybrids formed by English people from one English and one Scandinavian element are of course extremely frequent. We may here distinguish, at least theoretically, two categories. Among names of villages and names found in early sources the most common type of hybrid is that containing a Scandinavian personal name combined with an English element, for instance, Grimston, Helhoughton, Kettlestone, Thurgarton (Nf), Claxton, Thurlaston, Thurmaston (Lei), Thurstonfield (Cu), Thursfield (St), from Scandinavian Grímr, Helgi, Ketill, etc., and Engl. tūn, feld. Names of this kind do not occur with the same frequency in the various parts of Scandinavian England. They offer a good deal of interest, as will appear presently. They are analogous to Scandinavian hybrids such as Audleby. They need not indicate that the said Scandinavian personal names had been adopted by English people. As a rule they probably imply that Scandinavians had settled in districts chiefly inhabited by English people. The Scandinavian villages or homesteads were named by English neighbours from Scandinavian owners.

The other type, though a good deal more common, is much less interesting, because it is rare among names of villages, which we may look upon as on the whole the earliest place-names. This type embraces names consisting of a Scandinavian common noun and an English word. Most names of this kind denote minor places, fields, brooks and the like, and they probably arose to a great extent after the Scandinavian languages had ceased to be spoken in England. The words found in such hybrids are mostly such terms as beck, car, booth, thwaite, loft, which were introduced at a comparatively early date into English and became part and parcel of the English vocabulary. Hybrids of this kind, as has been already hinted, have small value as evidence of a Scandinavian settlement. Words such as beck, booth may be supposed to have spread at an early date to districts where Scandinavian settlements were never made. The conclusions as regards the Scandinavian immigration found in the later sections of this article are founded mainly on Scandinavian names in the strictest sense, Scandinavianised English names and hybrids of the type Thurgarton.

The fact that real hybrids, that is such hybrids as are not due to later modification, are rare among names of villages and in general among old names, is important, because it shows that at the time when the village names arose the Scandinavian and the English elements were on the whole kept well apart. There is reason to believe that if a place-name contains an element that may be either English or Scandinavian, as bergh, hus, land, this element is probably English if the other element is English, Scandinavian, if the other element is Scandinavian. We should not take it for granted that such elements (bergh, hus, etc.) are necessarily English when they occur in names of English places.


The following sections will deal chiefly with the distribution of Scandinavian place-names in England. In drawing conclusions from the material, certain broad principles should be borne in mind.

In the period of the Scandinavian invasions place-names were not generally, as now, given deliberately by the inhabitants of the places themselves. They arose spontaneously, unconsciously. They came to be attached to places, so to speak. The name that presented itself most naturally, whether derived from some local characteristic, the owner's name, or some other circumstance, came to be used in referring to the place. At first alternative names might be used - thus Whitby is said to have been once also Prestebi - but one would soon oust the others. The names would be given rather by neighbours than by the inhabitants of places. Place-names thus indicate the predominant nationality of the population of a district. A Scandinavian place-name need not indicate that the place had Scandinavian inhabitants. If a few Scandinavians or Scandinavian families settled in an English district, the probability is that they would leave at most very slight traces on the place-nomenclature. The names of some of them would perhaps be attached to some place-names of English formation. In this way would arise names such as Thurgarton, Kettlestone, mentioned in a preceding paragraph. On the other hand, the occurrence of Scandinavian place-names in the strictest sense, or Scandinavianised names in a district, proves it to have been strongly Scandinavian. We may draw this conclusion even if the majority of place-names are English, for the Scandinavians evidently to a very great extent adopted names already in use. Whether Scandinavian names of the type in question indicate a numerical superiority of Scandinavians may be open to doubt. At least at the time of the earliest settlements the political supremacy might well outweigh a numerical inferiority. But a strong Scandinavian element must have existed where Scandinavian place-names occur. A single Scandinavian place-name indicates a Scandinavian district, not the settlement of an isolated Scandinavian or Scandinavian household. A district in this sense would not of course be tantamount to a large unit, a hundred or the like. A small cluster of homesteads might suffice to give rise to Scandinavian place-names.

Because place-names were in the old days not given deliberately, transference of actual place-names from Scandinavian countries has probably not taken place to any great extent. Of course, similarity of situation might occasionally remind settlers of their old home and cause a place to be named from a Scandinavian homestead or village, but certain cases of such transplantation of Scandinavian names have not yet been pointed out in England.

Editor's note: Romsdal and Raumsdalr could be such an example.

There is a remarkable Old English document which tells us that what has been said in the preceding paragraphs is not mere theoretical speculation, and which shows that a considerable Scandinavian immigration may leave quite slight traces on the place-nomenclature. It is the document printed as No. 1130 in Birch's Cartularium Saxonicum, which dates from about 972-992, and deals with lands acquired by Bishop Æthelwold at the refoundation of Medeshamstede (Peterborough) abbey. It gives considerable numbers of names of men selling parcels of land to the bishop, witnesses to the sales and sureties for a good title. The district of the transaction is north-western Northamptonshire, the neighbourhood of Stamford and Oundle. The persons mentioned are local landowners. Altogether some seventy names are mentioned. Of these twenty-eight are certainly Scandinavian, the rest being English or possibly English. But it is possible that the English personal nomenclature was more varied than the Scandinavian, and what we want really to know is the proportion of persons with English and with Scandinavian names. It is impossible to find this out definitely, because the various persons are only occasionally distinguished by the addition of a title or by-name. We must therefore be content to take each name to represent only one person, unless there is a distinctive addition to show that different persons are meant, as Ulf Eorles sune, Ulf Clacces sune, Grim on Castre, etc. We then get sixty-nine (or, if Bishop Æthelwold, Abbot Ealdulf and Alderman Æthelwine are counted, seventy-two) persons with English, thirty-seven with Scandinavian names. This way of calculation is slightly more to the advantage of the Scandinavian element than the other. People with English and with Scandinavian names are living in the same village. As a rule father and son both have English or Scandinavian names, but there are some exceptions, as Leofsie Yurlaces sune, Æthestan Catlan sune. It is worthy of notice that the Scandinavian way of forming the patronymic, Catlan sune, is used, not the English in -ing.

We may confidently assume that the people with Scandinavian names were on the whole descendants of Scandinavians who had settled in the district about a century earlier. The considerable percentage of Scandinavian names must indicate a Scandinavian immigration of some importance. We might therefore expect to find numerous Scandinavian place-names in this district. That expectation is not fulfilled. The old document mentions a good many villages. All have purely English names, except Anlafestun, which has a Scandinavian first element, and Maxey, whose first element, Maccus, may be an Irish-Scandinavian personal name; Finnesthorpe may, but need not be, Scandinavian. At present very few place-names in the district are Scandinavian. Two or three of the few names in -thorpe, especially Gunthorpe and Apethorpe, seem to be strictly Scandinavian names. Peakirk has been Scandinavianised. Maxey has just been accounted for. In this district, then, the Scandinavian element, though evidently considerable, was not strong enough to affect the place-nomenclature very much.

A comparison may be made with a document of about 1050 (YC), in which the festermen of bishop Ælfric are given. The number of persons enumerated is about seventy-five. Only some eighteen of these seem to have undoubtedly English names. Some nine of the names are corrupt or of doubtful provenance. At least forty-five of the festermen seem to have undoubtedly Scandinavian names. Eight place-names are mentioned. Four of these are English (Cawood (Ca- in Cawood is possibly Scandinavian), Hambleton, Burton, Hillam), two are Scandinavian (Barmby, Kirkby), while Brotherton is a hybrid and Brayton is very likely a Scandinavian adaptation of an OE brãdatûn. The district is that of Snaith and Sherburn-in-Elmet, where Scandinavian and Scandinavianised place-names are numerous, while English names are no doubt in the majority. Here the Scandinavian immigration was strong enough considerably to modify the place-nomenclature.

The remarks made will have shown that the interpretation of the place-name material is a very intricate task. They will also have shown that the absence of Scandinavian place-names in a district need not prove that no Scandinavian immigration took place. It can only tell us that no very great immigration took place.

If Scandinavian settlements were made in a district not at all or only sparsely inhabited before, we may assume that the Scandinavian element in the place-nomenclature would be much stronger than if they were made in districts with a numerous English population. There would be no or few English place-names for the settlers to adopt.

Scandinavian place-names have no doubt to a great extent replaced earlier English ones. But there are very few cases actually recorded. The only really safe instance is Derby, which has taken the place of an earlier NorOworerig. Whitby is said to have been formerly Streoneshalh, but the latter is possibly to be identified with Strensall. Yet there can be no doubt that Whitby had a name before the Scandinavian time, though we do not know what it was. Probable cases of a change of the kind in question are many names such as Crosby, Kirkby, for it is improbable that all places with such names date from the Viking Age.

Distribution of Scandinavian names. Danish names.

There is a priori the probability that Scandinavian place-names in the Danelaw are, on the whole, of Danish extraction. This is corroborated by the large number of thorpes found in most Danelaw counties. Other test-words are of little importance. booth plays an insignificant part in the eastern districts, and hulm is rare.


Danish names form a marked characteristic of the place-nomenclature of Yorkshire, where the first Scandinavian settlements on a large scale were made. These names are found in all parts of the county, and in great numbers in the level districts of the East Riding, which we may suppose the Danes first 'dealt out'. A careful investigation of the Scandinavian element, in comparison with the English element, will give extremely interesting results. But in Yorkshire we have also to reckon with Norwegian names. The Yorkshire names include numbers of strictly Scandinavian names, especially names in -by, many Scandinavianised names, and other names interesting from our point of view.

Durham and Northumberland

From Yorkshire the Danes passed into Durham and Northumberland, but a considerable number of Scandinavian names is found only in the southern part of Durham. Near the Tees are found several names in -by (Aislaby, Killerby, Raby, Selaby, Ulnaby). There are some also in the Wear district (as Ornsby, Raceby, Rumby). The Scandinavian settlements in Durham were not nearly so considerable as those in Yorkshire, but by no means insignificant. But in Northumberland Scandinavian names are relatively few. The majority consist of or contain words adopted early into northern dialects, as Crookham, Kirkhaugh, Toft House, Walker, Haining, Newbiggin. Even Copeland probably represents a common noun, kaupland, 'bought land', used in the dialect. Some contain a Scandinavian personal name, as Dotland, Gunnerton, Ouston. Under the circumstances the probability is that doubtful names should rather be explained as English than as Scandinavian.

It is extremely doubtful to what extent Danes settled in Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire. Here a Norwegian colonisation took place, and the Danish settlements that may have been made in the districts would be merged in Norwegian ones. There is the possibility that the fairly numerous names in -thorpe in the Kendal district of Westmorland owe their origin to Danish settlements, and the same may be true of Homby and Thirnby in north Lancashire, whose first elements point to Danish rather than Norwegian origin. A small Danish colony must have existed near Manchester, on the northern bank of the Mersey, as indicated by the names Flixton and Urmston (Flik, Urm are Danish, not Norwegian), Hulme, Oldham (formerly Aldehulm) in Withington, Levenshulme and one or two others. The colony also embraced the adjoining part of Cheshire, where several Hulmes are to be found. In other parts of Cheshire Danish names are very rare.


The Danes settled in large numbers in parts of the Midlands, the counties of Lincoln, Nottingham, Leicester, Derby, Northampton, Rutland, which include the district of the Five Boroughs. In all these Scandinavian names are plentiful. On some of these counties more detailed information will be given in the sequel. In Northamptonshire Scandinavian names are somewhat scattered, but the majority are found in the north-western part, on both sides of Watling Street, where there are several names in -by. Stafford may also be included with this group, though Scandinavian names are few. Hulme, near Stoke-upon-Trent, and Swinscoe may be mentioned. There are also a few names with a Scandinavian word or personal name as first element, as Croxton, Drointon (from Drengetun), Gunston. Warwickshire is also comparatively free from Scandinavian names, but the parts along the border of Leicestershire and Northamptonshire form an exception. Just west of Watling Street are found several typically Scandinavian names, such as Monks Kirby, Rugby, Willoughby, Toft, Wibtoft.

Norwegian names

It has already been suggested (p. 56) that the Scandinavians in Cumberland, Westmorland, and Lancashire were chiefly Norwegians, who had migrated from colonies in Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Hebrides. This theory is corroborated by the testimony of place-names. Norse test-words are frequently found in the place-names of these districts, as ON búð (in Bowderdale (Cu), Bouth (La)), gil (common), skáli (as Sosgill (Cu), from Saurescale, Scales (La)), brekka (as Larbrick, Warbreck (La)), slakki, etc. Names in -ergh (cf. supra, 34) are common.

Cumberland and Westmorland

In Cumberland and Westmorland the Scandinavian element in the place-nomenclature is very considerable. The distribution of the Scandinavian element has never been investigated in detail. Norwegian names are to be found all over the districts. The hilly tracts of the Lake District seem to have been first colonised by Scandinavians. Very few old names of English origin are to be found there. Characteristic elements of the district are fell, thwaite, tarn, wray. (Editor's note: the same applies to a large area of North Yorkshire surrounding, and including, Fylingdales.)


In Lancashire Norwegian place-names abound all along the coast. In the narrower northern parts they are frequent all over the district; in the hilly tracts old names are mostly Scandinavian, while in the more low-lying parts village names are on the whole preponderantly English. In the more southern parts Norwegian names are common only along the sea. They are frequent in the Hundreds of Leyland and (the western part of) West Derby, but comparatively rare in those of Blackburn and Salford and the rest of West Derby. They are most common in very low-lying districts, which may be supposed to have been uninhabited before the Viking Age. But they are by no means restricted to such parts. In Amounderness Hundred we notice the interesting fact that several townships have composite names consisting of one Scandinavian and one English name, as Westby with Plumpton, Little Eccleston with Larbrick, Bispham with Norbreck, etc.


A Scandinavian immigration into the Wirral peninsula of Cheshire can be exactly dated. An Irish source tells us that King Ingemund had been expelled from Ireland and eventually had land given to him and his followers by Æthelfled, the Lady of the Mercians, near Castra, i.e. Chester. The event must have taken place immediately after the year 900 or 901. The colony then founded has left its mark in the numerous Scandinavian names in Wirral. There are several bys: Frankby, Greasby, Helsby, Irby, Kirby, Pensby, Raby, Whitby. Thingwall is in the centre of the district, and other Scandinavian names occur, as Meols, Tranmere (ohm Tranemel), Ness, Neston, Storeton, Thurstaston.


From Cumberland, Westmorland, and Lancashire the Norwegians penetrated into the adjoining counties, especially Yorkshire, where they must have been very numerous in the West Riding and the western part of the North Riding. Names in -gill, -scale, -breck are common. There are some erghs, as Battrix, Feizor, Golcar. The extent of the Norwegian colonisation and its relation to the Danish settlements cannot be determined without a special investigation. Also the western parts of Durham and perhaps Northumberland were reached by Norwegian settlers. There are names in -gill at least in Durham, as Snaisgill (olim Snelesgile) near the Tees.

Editor's note: the assertion that Norwegians penetrated into Yorkshire from Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire does not hold true for the North Riding coastal region for the reasons explained below [1].

The Danelaw

Some Norwegian immigration is to be assumed also in the Danelaw proper. This is indicated by names such as Normanby, Normanton, 'the village of the Norwegians', found in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Derby, Leicester, Nottingham, and Rutland. Such immigration is particularly to be reckoned with in East Yorkshire, where it is easily accounted for by the intimate relations between York and Dublin in the tenth century. Names in -ergh occur here. The elements breck, búð, scale, slack occur occasionally. In Cleveland, near Whitby, was formerly a place The Breck (Brecca DB). On Scorbrough, see supra, 61. Burnolfscales in Guisborough and Raufscales in Kildale are mentioned in the Guisborough Cartulary. Grenesdaleslack in Willerby, Halle-, Refholeslac in Huggate, are in twelfth century documents in YC 1230, 1264. Other examples could be added.

It has been suggested that the Norwegian immigration was on the whole of a peaceful nature, not implying a previous conquest. The fact that Scandinavian names in the western counties are most common in hilly or very low-lying districts, which we may suppose to have been waste land before the Viking Age, may seem to point in this direction. But the general remarks in the earlier paragraphs of this section should render us cautious in drawing such a conclusion. The Scandinavians did not settle exclusively on land before unoccupied, and they formed colonies of their own in old English districts. The name Thingwall (near West Derby) tells us of a Scandinavian colony in the Liverpool district with a thing-place of its own. Amounderness Hundred was named from a Scandinavian chieftain. The statement of the Irish chronicle about the Scandinavian settlement in the Wirral district, according to which Ingemund had land given to him by Æthelfled, is not sufficient proof of a peaceful settlement, for the chronicle goes on to say that Ingemund shortly turned his weapons against his benefactress and began to besiege Chester.

Wales etc

A few notes may be added on the Scandinavian names in Wales and on the islands off the south coast of England. It is impossible to determine to what extent such names may be due to Danes or to Norwegians. Scandinavian names of islands, skerries, and headlands are particularly common. Anglesea and Priestholm in North Wales seem to be Scandinavian, and the same may be true of Orme's Head in north and Worms Head in South Wales. Several islands off the Pembroke coast have Scandinavian names: Gateholm, Grassholm (olim Gresholm), Ramsey, Skokholm (Stokholm, Scokholm, thirteenth century, very likely originally Stokkholmr), Skomer (olim Skalmey). Midland Isle was formerly Middleholm. Two skerries in St Bride's bay are called Black and Green Scar. An island Trellesholme is mentioned in 1327. A headland on the mainland is called Nab Head (cf. ON nabbr, nabbi, 'point'), and a bay at Milford Haven is Angle (perhaps ON ongull, 'hook'). In Glamorgan we find Sker Point (olim Sker) and Tusker Rock (apparently Thurse scar). Blakescerre and the like in old sources may refer to one of these. Finally two islands in the Bristol Channel, now reckoned with Somerset, Flatholme and Steepholme, are to be mentioned. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle under the date 918 tells us that Danish vikings occupied Steepholme for a time.

Names like these do not, on the whole, owe their origin to Scandinavian settlements. They show us a Scandinavian influence of a new kind. They are to be looked upon as sailors' names. Islands, headlands and the like were important landmarks and would often be used as temporary shelter. It is no wonder that the Scandinavian vikings gave names early to such. But what is very interesting is that such names were so frequently adopted and have been preserved to the present day. It is quite possible that Alexander Bugge is right in his conjecture (Vikingerne, II, 334 f.) that the Scandinavians who gave these names were rather traders than vikings.

But Scandinavian settlements were to some extent founded also in Wales. It is very difficult, however, to distinguish Scandinavian from English names. In Pembroke Fishguard (Scand. fiskigarer) and Freysthrop look Scandinavian. In Glamorgan Scandinavian names are well evidenced. Swansea (Sweynesse 1153-83, Sweinesei 1210) seems to be Sveins ey. Laleston, formerly Lageleston, contains the nickname Lageles, which is ultimately Scand. loglauss, 'lawless'. Crokeston was formerly near Laleston. But Scandinavian names are best evidenced in the Cardiff district. A street in Cardiff is called Womanby, formerly Hundemanby. Near the town are Homri, formerly Hornby, and Lamby, formerly Langby; the latter, it is true, is in Monmouthshire, just over the border. There must have been a Scandinavian colony of some importance in the Cardiff district. From this Scandinavians seem to have penetrated some way inland, as indicated by three place-names in Herefordshire: Arkstone, Swanston, Thruxton.

It is interesting to find at least two place-names in the Isle of Wight with Scandinavian personal names as first elements: Brenson (Brandestone DB) and Swainston.

The preceding survey has necessarily been of the briefest. In a careful and detailed study of the Scandinavian place-names of the various districts it will be necessary to establish the distribution of names in detail. Such an investigation will indicate to what extent Scandinavians settled in various parts, the nature of the settlement, the relations between Scandinavian and English names and so on. It has been thought advisable in this survey to examine a little more in detail the districts. This will give us an opportunity of touching upon various questions bound up with the main problem and of showing how different Scandinavian influence can be in various districts. It will also give us an opportunity of testing some of the suggestions made in the preceding sections.

Special survey of (a) Norfolk and Suffolk

In Suffolk the Scandinavian element is not very prominent. Scandinavian names in the strictest sense are few. They are to be found mostly in the low-lying districts at the mouth of the Waveney, where there are two names in -by (Ashby, Barnby), Lowestoft, Lound, also some names in -tun with a Scandinavian first element, as Carlton, Flixton, Gunton, Somerleyton. Some examples are found farther inland, along or not far from the Waveney and the Little Ouse: Wilby (somewhat doubtful), Coney Weston (Cunegestuna DB), Thrandeston, Thwaite, Wickham Skeith. Near Bury St Edmunds is Thingoe Hundred, in which is Risby. In the rest of the county there are hardly any Scandinavian names in the strictest sense. Colneis (Hundred) on the coast (in which is a village named Eyke) is perhaps an exception. Some names, such as Flowton, Gosbeck, Kirton, Thurlston, Thurston, which are at least partly Scandinavian, are found here and there, mostly in the coast districts.


In Norfolk the Scandinavian element is much more pronounced, but we can draw a distinction between the hundreds in the east, on the lower Waveney and the Broads, especially Flegg, Loddon, Clavering, Henstead, North and South Erpingham Hundreds, and the rest of the district. In the east names in -by are frequent. There are Filby, Herringby, Mautby, Ormesby, Scratby, Stokesby, Thrigby, Ashby, Billockby, Clippesby, Hemsby, Oby, Rollesby in Flegg; Ashby in Loddon; Aldeby, Kirby in Clavering; Kirby in Henstead; Alby, Colby in South Erpingham. Also other typically Scandinavian names occur, as Crostwick, Crostwight, Felbrigg, Haddiscoe, Repps, Rockland. Hybrids with a Scandinavian personal name as first element are found, but are not characteristic of the place-nomenclature. We may mention: Carleton, Hillington (Helgatun), Skeyton, Thurgarton, Thurlton, Thurton. Scandinavianised names are Keswick, Matlask. In the remaining hundreds names in -by are remarkably scarce. There are Tyby (Eynesford Hundred, and Wilby in Shropham - not a safe instance - the DB) forms are Wilebey, Wilgeby, Willebeith). Other Scandinavian names in the stricter sense are: Guestwick (from -thwaite), perhaps Colkirk, some names of hundreds (on which see infra), and several names in -thorpe, as Alethorpe, Algarsthorpe, Bagthorpe, Besthorpe, Bowthorpe, Flockthorpe, Gasthorpe, Gunthorpe, Ingoldisthorpe, Rainthorpe, Sculthorpe, Swainsthorpe. We may add Boyland (olim -lund), Holme, Rockland, Keswick, Scarning. Hybrids with a Scandinavian personal name as first element are very common, as Aslacton, Carleton, Croxton, Garveston, Grimston, Helhoughton, Kettlestone, Kilverstone, Reymerston, Scoulton, Thuxton.

The lists given are not quite complete, but they embrace the majority of Scandinavian or partly Scandinavian names of villages. They bring out clearly the difference in character between the Scandinavian elements in the east and the rest of the district. The former is characterised by bys, the latter by thorpes and hybrids of the type Thurston. The obvious inference would seem to be that the Scandinavian colonies were founded in the first instance in the tracts on the lower Waveney and that from there settlers found their way up along the rivers. But what we know of the Scandinavian colonisation tells us that this must be a wrong conclusion. The victorious army would not march right through Norfolk and settle on the lower Waveney. More probably the centre of the settlements would be Thetford, where the army had wintered in 870. The explanation of the curious distribution of Scandinavian place-names is probably simply this. The Scandinavians settled about equally thickly all over (or over most of) the district. But in most parts there was a considerable English population, and the Scandinavians were not numerically strong enough to affect the place-nomenclature very seriously except in the very low-lying district on the lower Waveney, which was probably not much inhabited before the Scandinavian time. In most of the districts the Scandinavians to a great extent adopted names already in use, but when new settlements were founded, probably at a somewhat later period, these often got names with suffixed Thorpe. It is possible that the large number of Scandinavian names in the lower Waveney district may to some extent be due to a later influx of Scandinavian settlers, who might have been induced to come over after the conquest had been made by the army. In point of fact it is somewhat difficult to believe that the army can have been numerous enough to account for the very extensive Scandinavian colonisation in England, and a reinforcement by later settlers from Denmark is plausible, but there is no necessity to adduce this explanation in order to account for the place-nomenclature of the Waveney district.

In Suffolk the Scandinavian settlements on a large scale must have been restricted to certain parts, especially the southern bank of the Waveney. Smaller settlements were probably made in various parts. The hundred name Thingoe (with Risby) points to a colony with its separate thing in the district of Bury St Edmunds.

Scandinavian place-names are not very common in the fen districts (Holland), but extremely numerous in the other parts, Kesteven and Lindsey. In some of these parts the Scandinavian element predominates over the English. Most strongly Scandinavian are the Wolds district (inclusive of the adjoining lower land to the east, on the sea, and to the west) from south of Horncastle to the Humber, and south Kesteven; as a third district we may add that on the lower Trent. In other parts the Scandinavian element is less dominant.

(b) Lincolnshire

The Scandinavian place-nomenclature of Lincolnshire is characterised by the remarkable number of names in -by and the rare occurrence of hybrids. There are a good many names in -thorpe, mostly with a Scandinavian first element, but not nearly as many as names in -by. It is noticeable that they are particularly common in the very low-lying coast districts, which indicates that they are on the whole later settlements. The bys are rarely on very low land. Streatfeild's theory that the thorpes were the earlier and more important settlements is not well founded. Some of the thorpes are on very low ground indeed. Scandinavianised names are numerous in Lincolnshire.

In trying to account for the distribution of the Scandinavian names, it will first of all have to be borne in mind that the first settlements would be made by the army in the central parts, for instance Lincoln, from which Roman roads branched out in all directions, and Stamford. The settlements were not founded, as Streatfeild held, by Scandinavians landing on the coast and penetrating inland. The different frequency of Scandinavian names in the various districts is no doubt due to more circumstances than one. Considerations of a military nature would play an important role in the earliest colonisation. It would be desirable that the host could be easily collected and quickly moved from one spot to another. The chief means of communication were the Roman roads, and it is evidently not due to chance that there seems to be a certain connection between Scandinavian place-names and the Roman roads. From Lincoln two roads ran south, Ermine Street to Stamford and Castor, and King Street over Digby and Sleaford to Bourne and Castor. Names in -by are thick on the map, as even a cursory glance will show, along both roads and in the country between them. This is the strongly Scandinavian Kesteven district. North of Lincoln Ermine Street continues to Winteringham, following the eastern side of the Edge, the long narrow ridge east of the Trent. Here names in -by skirt the eastern side of the road, being rarer on the western side, except near the mouth of the Trent. Another road ran from near Lincoln north-east till it joined the road from Horncastle to Caistor and the Humber. This last road followed a ridge of the Wolds. Along these roads the Wolds and the coast districts were easily reached. It should further be borne in mind that large tracts are very low-lying and would be uninhabitable or unattractive. This is the case with the broad Witham valley, which has been completely drained only in recent times, parts of the Ancholme and Trent valleys, and some of the coast districts. The highest parts of the Wolds (above 450 ft.) were for obvious reasons avoided. If we consider these circumstances, the distribution of the Scandinavian names does not offer much that is at all remarkable. Of course, it cannot be expected that settlements would be made with exactly the same thickness everywhere.

It is true the comparatively rare occurrence of Scandinavian names in the Trent valley (except its northernmost part) and the prominence of the Scandinavian element in the Wolds, 'the bleak hills', as Streatfeild terms them, is striking, at least at a first glance. Here it should be remembered that it is by no means self-evident that the Trent valley would be particularly attractive even where it was not liable to floods. The soil seems to be poor in parts of the district. On the other hand, the soil in the Wolds is said to be quite good, and the district might have special attractions, such as large forests with plenty of timber and opportunities for hunting. The relative thickness of the English population would also be of importance. In districts where there was a strong English population, the Scandinavian element would not assert itself in the place-nomenclature so easily as it would in parts sparsely inhabited. Very likely the Wolds were not much inhabited in the pre-Scandinavian time. The extent of the Scandinavian colonisation in the various districts may not have varied quite so much as the place-names seem to indicate.

In Lincolnshire we see the Scandinavian influence at its highest. No doubt Scandinavian names have to a considerable extent displaced Old English ones. The strength of the Scandinavian element is particularly brought out by the proportions between strictly Scandinavian names and hybrids such as Carlton. The latter type is extremely rare. Only a few examples have been met with, as Branston, Carlton, Normanton, Barkston in Kesteven, Carlton in the South Riding, Carlton, Scampton in the West Riding, Croxton in the North Riding. This indicates a strong ascendancy, perhaps even a numerical superiority of the Scandinavian over the English population, at least in parts of the district.

The Scandinavian element is very strong in some parts of Leicestershire, being less prominent in others. Leicester was one of the Danish strongholds, and we might expect to find Scandinavian place-names in greatest frequency in the surrounding district, There are certainly bys and thorpes all round Leicester, but not in very large numbers. The most strongly Scandinavian district is that east and north-east of Leicester, the Wreak valley and the uplands north and especially south of the said river. This is the rich Melton Mowbray district, roughly Framland and East Goscote Wapentakes. The centre of the district would seem to have been Melton Mowbray, in the time of Domesday the head of a large soke. The name Melton itself is a Scandinavianised form of OE Middeltun. The thing-place of Framland is no doubt indicated by the name Great Framlands near Melton Mowbray. In this district the Scandinavian place-nomenclature is of exactly the same nature as in the most Scandinavianised parts of Lincolnshire. Names in -by abound, while thorpes and hybrids of the type Normanton are relatively few. The great number of Scandinavian names is particularly striking because it is obvious that the district, even that of the uplands, must have been thickly populated before the arrival of the Scandinavians, as shown by the numerous English place-names.

In the remaining districts Scandinavian names are more scattered. Evidently the Scandinavian settlements were not so important in them. But a number of names in -by are found clustered in various parts, and there is reason to believe that the Scandinavian colonisation was fairly considerable all over Leicestershire.

In Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire the Scandinavian place-nomenclature is quite different in character from that of Lincoln or Leicester. The characteristic feature of the Scandinavian element is the prevalence of names in -thorpe and hybrids of the type Thurgarton over names in -by. As regards Nottingham, it is first noteworthy that there are few names in -by and strictly Scandinavian names generally in the hundreds east of the Trent on the Lincoln border. Names in -by are most common in Bassetlaw Wapentake, north Nottinghamshire, but the district is large, and the nine bys are scattered in small clusters: Bilby, Barnby and Ranby; Scrooby and Serlby; Budby, Thoresby and Walesby. The Scandinavian settlements would seem to have been made chiefly west of and not very far from the Trent. Inland the number of Scandinavian names decreases.

In Derbyshire the Scandinavian element in the place-nomenclature is still less prominent. A notable exception from the general rule, however, is Repton Hundred, south of the Trent. Here are in a small area three bys (Bretby, Ingleby, Smisby) and the interesting Foremark (earlier Fornwerk, 'the old fort'). The district adjoins Leicestershire; just over the border, in that county, are Appleby, Ashby de la Zouch, Blackfordby, the lost Kilwardby. These bys clearly form a cluster indicating a compact Scandinavian colony. In the rest of Derby hybrids of the type Thurvaston preponderate. In the south-western part, this type seems to be the only one represented in the Scandinavian place-nomenclature.

Evidently the Scandinavian colonisation of Nottingham and Derby cannot have been as considerable as that of Lincolnshire. But, on the other hand, it should not be underrated. Taken together, the names in -by or -thorpe, and other strictly Scandinavian names and Scandinavianised names are not so very few, and they are found with greater or less frequency over these counties. All that can be said with certainty is that the Scandinavian element, in most of the districts, was outnumbered by the English element.


Scandinavian institutions, etc. - Wapentakes, Ridings

The Scandinavians introduced new divisions of land. The old division into hundreds was largely replaced by that into wapentakes, found in Lincoln, Rutland, Leicester, Derby, Nottingham, (Northampton - where the double hundred of Nassaburg, Nth, between the Nene at Peterborough and the Welland at Stamford is described as a wapentake at an early date), Yorkshire, Lancashire, Durham (Sadberge wapentake in south Durham, often mentioned in early sources), apparently also in Cheshire and Cumberland. The division into Ridings, still in use in Yorkshire, and formerly also in regard to Lindsey, is Scandinavian, as indicated by the name, OScand. firittjungr. The division has counterparts in Scandinavia, the most striking analogy being that of the Island of Gotland, which was formerly divided into three thrithings, each with its thing, a division still in force for ecclesiastical purposes. A division into bierlows or byrlaws instead of townships was used in some parts of the north (Lancashire and Yorkshire); the addition Bierlow found in some names, as Brampton, Ecclesall, Brightside Bierlow, is a memorial of the old division. The source seems most probably to be an old Scandinavian byjarlog, corresponding to Swedish byalag, 'village community'. Also the division of land into carucates instead of into hides may be mentioned here. It is found in Derby, Nottingham, Lincoln, Leicester, Rutland, Lancashire, Yorkshire, also in Norfolk and Suffolk, and may once have existed elsewhere.

Hundreds and wapentakes frequently have Scandinavian or Scandinavianised names. This is a clear indication of the Scandinavian ascendancy. It is of especial importance that Scandinavian names of hundreds are frequent in Norfolk, where the Scandinavian element in the place-nomenclature is not quite so strong. In Yorkshire several names of wapentakes have names in cross, often with an obvious Scandinavian first element, as Buckrose, Ewcross, Osgoldcross, Staincross, and the lost Sneculfcros (DB). Other Scandinavian names are Hallikeld, Holderness, and Agbrigg. Gilling, Skyrack, Staincliff are at least Scandinavianised. In Lincolnshire, as might have been expected, cases are numerous: Aslacoe, Aswardhurn (Aswardetierne DB, 'the thornbush of Asvarðr), Aveland (Avelunt DB), Calceworth (Calsvad DB, i.e. Kalf's vað), Candleshoe (Calnodeshou DB), Gartree, Haverstoe (Hawardeshou DB), Langoe, Lawress (Lagulris DB, Lagolfris Lindsey Survey), Louthesk (at least Scandinavianised, esk seems to be OScand. eski, 'ashtrees') Ness, Skirbeck, Walshcroft (Walescros DB), Wraggoe (Waragehou DB). In Leicestershire we find Framland (Franelund DB). From Northamptonshire may be mentioned Neueslund DB; from Nottinghamshire, Lith, Oswardebec (DB). Norfolk examples are: Forehoe, Gallow, Greenhoe, Grimshoe, Brothercross, Guiltcross, Wayland (Wanelund DB), perhaps Flegg (Flec DB). A certain Suffolk instance is Thingoe (Thingehou DB), and Colneis may be another. From Lancashire may be adduced West Derby, Amounderness, and the old district names Cartmel and Furness.

It is an interesting fact that in many cases the name of a hundred has as first element a personal name found also as part of the name of a place in the hundred. Examples are particularly numerous in Lincoln: Aswardby in Aswardhurn, Calceby in Calceworth, Candlesby in Candleshoe, Hawerby in Haverstoe, Walesby in Walshcroft, Wragby in Wraggoe, perhaps Hawthorpe in Aveland. A possible Yorkshire example is Bugthorpe in Buckrose. In cases like these the same person must have given his name to the village and hundred. The explanation may be, as suggested by Alexander Bugge (Vikingerne,II, 326 ff.), that the thing-place was on the land of the chief of the district. This seems very probable in the case of Calceworth, which was no doubt named from the ford close to Calceby, where we must suppose the thing-place to have been. But the names in -how may well refer to grave-mounds. In Scandinavia it is usual for names of hundreds to have names in -haugr with a personal name as first element, and it is supposed that the mounds were grave-mounds, on which things were held. If this explanation may be applied to the English hundred names in -how, the names are very interesting, because they must go back to a time when the Scandinavians were heathens, that is, to a very early time indeed, Professor Stenton (Charters relating to the Gilbertine Houses of Sizle etc., Lincoln Record Soc. XVIII, XXXV.) draws this conclusion from two extremely interesting cases found by him, viz. Leggeshou, a place in Legsby, and Katehou in S. Cadeby. The places were evidently mounds in the territories of the said villages. These mounds did not give name to wapentakes. Another interesting name is Lawress, formerly Lagolfris. The second element is hris, 'brushwood, grove'. The first is evidently a personal name. It is tempting to derive it from an old Scandinavian Lag-Ulfr, analogous to Icelandic names such as Laga-Ulfliótr, Log-Skapti, etc. Well known lawmen, called Ulfliótr, Skapti, were distinguished by the addition of Laga- or Log- to their names.

Old Scandinavian thing-places are often commemorated by place-names. Thingwall (Ch and La) are well-known counterparts of Yingvellir in Iceland and Tingvalla in Sweden. A third Thingwall, near Whitby, is mentioned in old sources (Tingwal, Thingwala, twelfth century). A Scandinavian þinghaugr is the source of Thingoe (Sf) (already mentioned), and of Finney Hill, near Northallerton (Thyngowe, Thynghou in old documents). A Thingou in Frisby (Lei) and Thinghou in L are mentioned in old sources.

Drengs, holds etc

The Scandinavian social system differed in many respects from the Old English one, and many changes were introduced by the Scandinavian settlers. We find the Scandinavian drengs commemorated in place-names such as Drinkstone (Sf), Dringhoe (Y), Drointon (St). A hold was in rank beneath a jarl. Very likely Holderness was named from a hold. The free landholder was a bóndi; this word enters into names such as Bonby (L), Bonbusk (Nt), Bongate (We). A freed man was a leysingr, but as the word was often used as a personal name, we cannot say whether names such as Lazonby mean the homestead of the leysingr' or 'Leysing's homestead'. A serf was called þræll. Many names contain this word, as Threlfall, Trailholme (La), Threlkeld (Cu).

Agricultural terms

Old manorial records and the like tell us that the Scandinavians introduced new customs of husbandry or at least many new names of old customs. In Lincolnshire, for instance, the nomenclature of the village institutions is largely Scandinavian. The homestead was a toft. The enclosed arable was the wang. A share in the common field is often called a deil (OScand. deill). Stang is often used as a measure of land instead of rood. The meadow is, of course, often eng. An enclosure from the waste is an intake (cf. OScand. inntaka) or in some places an avenam (OScand. afnám). A shot or furlong is sometimes called a flat (ON flotr, etc.) and this element is common in place-names. A full investigation of field-names and the like, especially in those parts of Scandinavian England where names of villages are mostly English, will probably often tell of a strong Scandinavian influence also where there are few Scandinavian names of other kinds. In some parts of the north place-names tell us that the Scandinavians introduced the old Celtic and Scandinavian custom of sending cattle away to shielings in the summer. Names in -ergh, -booth and (some in) -set originally denoted shielings, many of which, however, at an early date developed into separate settlements.

Religious beliefs

The Scandinavians in England were no doubt converted early to Christianity, and it is no wonder that there are very slight traces in place-names of the ancient Scandinavian religion. Names in Thor-, Thur- have sometimes been held to contain the name of the heathen god Thor but they have undoubtedly the personal name Thor, Thur as first element. Ullock in We, according to Lindkvist, contains the name of the god Ullr. It has been shown, however, that the original form is Ulvelaik, from ON ulfaleikr, 'wolves' play', i.e. 'place where wolves play'. The only plausible examples of place-names containing the names of Scandinavian deities that have so far been adduced are Othenesberg, an earlier name of Roseberry Topping (Y), and Wayland (Nf). The former very likely means 'Othin's hill', but early spellings with Ou- may possibly point to ON Auðunn as first element. Wayland (olim Wanelund) is supposed by Alexander Bugge to have as first element the gen. of ON vanir, the name of a kind of deities. But Wane- may also represent an unrecorded personal name.

But there are possibly other traces of Scandinavian heathendom. On names in -how some remarks have already been offered. Names of wapentakes ending in -lund, as Aveland (L), Framland (Lei), show that things were often held in groves. The reason may very well be that the groves were originally heathen sanctuaries. In old Scandinavia groves were places of divine worship. Also other names in -lund and the names Lound, Lund themselves may in some cases refer to sacred places. The situation of such places may possibly sometimes give a hint as to whether such may be the case. The usual name for a heathen temple in Iceland was hof. It is possible that Hoff (We) took its name from an old hof in this sense.

Here may be mentioned a custom which recent research has shown to have a cultural origin or at any rate to have been connected with a heathen cult, viz. horse-racing. Many places in Sweden have names referring to old horse-races, as Hästeskede, Skee, etc., which contain the OScand. skeið, 'race-course'. It has long been seen that there are similar names in England, viz. Hesketh (L and Y), Hesket (Cu, on the Petterill), Hesket in the Forest (Cu), Hesket Newmarket (Cu), all from OScand. hestaskeiði, 'race-course'. Here no doubt also belong Wickham Skeith (Sf) (south-west of Eye), Brunstock (olim Bruneskayth) near Carlisle, and the lost name Skeyth, which designated a place outside Leicester. Whether the races held at these places had anything to do with a heathen cult or not, they are of Scandinavian origin and testify to the popularity of horse-racing among the Scandinavians in England.

Popular beliefs survived the introduction of Christianity much longer than the heathen gods and their worship. Names containing such words as elf, thurse may date from quite a late period. Names with the word thurse (ON þurs, 'giant') are quite common; the second element is usually a word for ravine or fen. Thrushgill (L) is a case in point. Professor Mawer is inclined to believe that Troughburn (Nb) (Trollop 1352) contains ON troll, 'goblin'. Another example may be Trow Gill near Ingleborough Cave, a remarkable opening in the limestone.

Survival of Scandinavian speech

How long did a Scandinavian language continue to be spoken in England? Any evidence that may throw light on this important question should be carefully collected and sifted. The Scandinavians in England have left very few monuments and inscriptions behind. This is very remarkable in view of the fact that the custom of erecting runic monuments was very prevalent in Scandinavia about the time of the Scandinavian settlements in England. In Man, Scandinavian runic monuments dating from the eleventh century are numerous. One inscription in curious deteriorated Norse, however, is preserved in Lancashire, the well-known Pennington tympanon. It seems to date from the twelfth century. It proves that a Scandinavian language was spoken in Furness at least as late as 1100. The inscriptions on a dial-stone found at Skelton in Cleveland (date eleventh century) and on a stone in Thornaby-on-Tees church (from about 1100) are badly mutilated and do not tell us much about the Scandinavian dialect in north Yorkshire, but they seem at least to point to a late survival of the Scandinavian language in these districts. Also a Scandinavian inscription on the wall of Carlisle cathedral, dating, it is said, from the twelfth century, is preserved.

Place-names may tell us something of value when the material has been fully collected. Here only a few scattered notes can be given.

It is a remarkable fact that in Cumberland, especially in the Carlisle district, there are a number of names in -by with a Flemish or Norman personal name as first element, as Allonby, Aglionby, Lamonby, Rickerby, 'the by of Alein, Aguillon, Lambin, Richard'. These names arose as a consequence of the Flemish settlements in the time of William Rufus, after the conquest in 1092. These names cannot have been coined by Flemings or Normans, as Lindkvist thinks. Even if there are some names in -by in Normandy, the word by had doubtless gone out of use among the Normans long before the Norman Conquest. The names were not given by the Flemish or Norman settlers, but by the earlier inhabitants of the district. They show that by was still a living place-name element, and this seems tantamount to saying that Scandinavian was still spoken round Carlisle about 1100. The Scandinavian runic inscription at Carlisle tells us that there is no improbability in this theory. The same is the explanation of the names Halnaby and Jolby in north Yorkshire, if they are really so late as has been recently suggested by Col. Parker (Yorkshire Archaeol. Soc. Record Series, LXII Introduction). Jolby, of course, has as first element the Norman name Johel, and cannot be earlier than about 1100. There is no reason to believe that the names arose much later than about 1100. Jolby must have been in existence about 1170 at the latest. Halnaby was certainly not named from the Halnath de Halnaby, who flourished about 1200. Acharius de Halnaby, who is often mentioned in early sources, must have belonged to an earlier generation, and have flourished about 1175. In the early part of the twelfth century a Scandinavian language may well have been spoken in some outlying parts of Yorkshire.

Certain sound-developments found in place-names point to a somewhat advanced stage of the Scandinavian language in England. The changes of eo to yo and ea to ya to be seen in York (from Eoforwic) and Yatstainswad from Eadstan-, found in a twelfth century text, seem to be comparatively late. The curious sound-substitutions to be observed in Shunner Howe, Shawm Rigg (Cleveland district) presuppose a late Scandinavian change. Shunner Howe (from OScand. Siónarhaugr) is Senerhou in early documents, later Shunnerhow. The latter form cannot have developed from Senerhou; the only possibility seems to be that it represents a later loan, after Scand. Sio- had become Sjo-, for which English Sho- was substituted. Shawm Rigg is in an early source Halmerig. It seems to be an OScand. Hjalmhryggr. Here Sh- was substituted for Hj- just as it was in Shetland for earlier Hjaltland. We cannot date these Scandinavian sound-changes, but they presuppose a development of the Scandinavian language in England.

The curious phenomenon found in Norwegian dialects, which consists in the assimilation of a stressed vowel to the unstressed vowel of the next syllable (as vuku from viku), seems to occur in English place-names. Tarlscough, Tarlton (L), Tharlesthorpe (Y) contain the form Tharaldr from earlier Thoraldr. In Norway the form Tharald has not been evidenced earlier than about 1400. Of course it must be earlier, as it is found in England from about 1188, but it cannot be of very old date.

Alexander Bugge, Norse Settlements, p. 14, has pointed out the remarkable phrase oust in wra found in a Lincolnshire charter of the time of Henry II. The phrase is slightly Anglicised from Scand. aust í vrá. Two very similar cases are found in the Bridlington Chartulary, viz. Bartholomew Suth in by (Speeton (Y)) and Robert de Suthiby (Edenham (L)). Suth in by is an Anglicised form of Scand. suðr í bý, 'south in the village', and de Suthiby preserves the original form still better, except that the prep. de has been added. Such survivals suggest that a living Scandinavian language had been in use at a not very remote period.

Robin Hood in the North: a Theory of a Norse Origin to the Legends (1934) The Yorkshire Post, Tuesday 16 January at page 6

By Lewis Spence

Mr. E. L. Guilford, in a lecture the other day, suggested that there was no concrete evidence to support the legends of Robin Hood "probably only a robber in Sherwood Forest, about whom the deeds of others centred."

The adventures of bold Robin Hood and his merry men are by no means confined to Sherwood, nor are they even limited to English soil. It would indeed have been strange had the traditions of a figure of such outstanding mediaeval popularity failed to overflow into the neighbouring shire of York, when Northumbrian lore is full of his legends, and Scotland can boast of as many tales and ballads concerning him as of its own William Wallace, and can point to at least two localities as the grave of one of his followers.

The odd thing is that while notices of Robin Hood's appearances in Yorkshire are of comparatively late origin, those relating to his activities in North Britain are to be found among the early passages of Scottish literature. But as we shall see, good reasons exist for such a condition of things, and it is not at all necessary to invent a Scottish exile for the romantic outlaw, even though his "game and play" was so popular at Edinburgh as to cause the most serious annoyance to the Reformers so late as 1565.

Evidence in 1779

It is Charlton in his "History of Whitby and Whitby Abbey", published at York in 1779, who affords us the best modern view of the movements of Robin Hood in Yorkshire. He tells us that in the latter years of the twelfth century Robin "resided generally in Nottinghamshire or the southern parts of Yorkshire". But his robberies became so flagrant and the popular outcry against him so loud that the whole nation grew alarmed at last, and troops were despatched from London to apprehend him.

Unable to cope with the royal forces, the outlaw effected a retreat northward, crossing the moors which surrounded Whitby and gaining the sea-coast, where he provided himself with a number of small fishing vessels by which he could make his escape if necessary. The place where his boats were kept in residence was the spot still known as Robin Hood's Bay, in the waters of which he and his men indulged in fishing. In the neighbourhood he set up butts or marks, where his band practised archery, so that they might not grow rusty in the use of the long bow. But, adds Charlton, the site commonly attributed to these butts, when excavated in 1771, was found to have been a pagan burial-place, although it seems probable that Robin used the low tumuli which covered the graves as suitable eminences on which to place targets.

Stretching a Long Bow

It is in another "History of Whitby", by the Rev. George Young, published in 1817, that a deed of superhuman might is attributed to this bandit as a part of local tradition. We are informed that Robin and his trusty henchman Little John went to dine with one of the abbots of Whitby, and being desired by the prelate to try how far each of them could shoot an arrow, they loosed their shafts from the top of the abbey. The arrows fell on the west side of Whitby Lathes, "beside the lane leading from thence to Stainsacre, that of Robin Hood falling on the north side of the lane, and that of Little John about a hundred feet farther on the south side of the lane."

In the spot where Robin's arrow is said to have lighted stands a stone pillar about a foot square and 4 feet high; and a similar pillar 24 feet high marks the place where John's arrow fell. The fields on the one side are called Robin Hood Closes, and those on the other Little John Closes.

Whitby Laithes, Manor House, Little John Field, Robin Hood Field, Stones (site of)
[NZ 92023 09574]

Tradition inevitably describes Robin Hood as "Earl of Huntingdon". But the researches of Gough at the end of the eighteenth century made it clear that his earldom had a popular sanction only, and indeed was nothing more than a nickname. The period of Robin's supposed career is generally fixed as between the years 1160 and 1247, during which time Malcolm IV, William the Lyon, and Alexander II, kings of Scotland, were undoubted holders of the title successively. As is well known, David I of Scotland became Earl of Huntingdon in right of his wife Matilda, the widow of Simon de St. Liz Earl of Northampton and Huntingdon, and in 1127 did homage to Henry I of England in respect of this title. This, of course, accounts for the great popularity of Robin Hood in Scotland, where his legend was probably introduced by Scots who had heard it at Huntingdon.

But it is much more interesting to probe into the distant and possibly mythological origin of the famous forester than to speculate as to his nobility or lack of the same. Accurate historical notices of him are entirely wanting, and although it is not unlikely that the traditions respecting him may have become confused with the adventures of a veritable bandit who, with his followers, infested Sherwood Forest, many of the circumstances associated with them seem to point to a mythical origin for this romantic figure.

Norse Origin?

In the first place his name is not a little suspect. Though usually spelt as "Hood", "Hude", or even "Whood", it is more rarely found as "Ood" and "Ooth". Now this may be only the old English "wod" or "wood", meaning "wild" and indeed Robin is surnamed "wild" by at least one ancient Scottish poet, while another alludes to him as "waith", that is "wild" or "wandering".

But it seems more probable to the writer that the name, especially in its forms of Ooth and Whood, has reference to Odin Odhin, or Othin, the Allfather of Norse mythology the Anglo-Saxon form of whose name was Woden, and who was originally the wind which bloweth where it lists. For Woden was the old wind-god, associated in later legend with the wild huntsman, and from him the royal Saxon houses of Deira and Bernicia claimed descent, and Deira as everybody knows, was a territory practically co-extensive with Yorkshire.

Moreover, Odin was known to the later witchcraft of the northern counties as Hudikin, the prophetic familiar spirit. What more probable than that the cult and worship of the ancient god of the Angles and Danes of the North was, on the adoption of Christianity, forced to take refuge in the recesses of Sherwood, where legends of the deeds of its principal figures would remain for generations?

There is traditional evidence, too, that Robin, and his men were not regarded as persons of mortal bulk. Hector Boece, describing the grave of Little John "in Murray Land" says that he was fourteen feet in height and the limbs of his body in due proportion. Indeed the old chronicler claimed to have examined his haunch-bone, in the "mouth" of which, he says, he was able to place one of his arms!

Will Scarlet may, indeed, be a modern form of the name of Odin's brother Vill, and "Maid Marian" a corruption of Mardoll, one of the ancient names of Freya, his wife, while Allan-a-Dale might be equated with Ullr, the famous archer-god, who dwelt in the yew-forests, whence he procured the wood for his bows, and who took Odin's place when absent. In the course of ages the Norse pantheon, imprisoned in the green shadows of Sherwood, would emerge in the popular fancy as mere "foresters." beneficent to the descendants of those who had worshipped them, terrible to the Norman supplanters of their faith.

But one must not wander too far upon the sands of surmise, and this provisional reading or an ancient story clamours for the aid of further faithful research. The hypothesis, however, is given here for what it, is worth, and local examination of records and place-names may effect much in its favour, or assist in its demolition.

The Yorkshire Post, Wednesday 24 January 1934

The Robin Hood Tradition

Further Speculations on its Origin

Sir, Mr. Lewis Spence's article in "The Yorkshire Post" of January 16 is of exceptional interest to students of local history and folklore. In it he suggests that the origin of the Robin Hood tradition is mythological and connected with the Norse religion which, as Yorkshire place-names show, flooded the county until Christian times, and in which Odin was the chief divinity. He puts his suggestions no higher than conjecture and as subject to correction, but they appear reasonable, and the following remarks, which also are offered tentatively, may help to support them and to explain the name of the town from which I write.

First, Yorkshire place-names testify to the wide diffusion in the county of the Scandinavian religion and the names of the gods of its pantheon. Wensleydale is Wotan's Dale, and appropriately contains Asgard (now Aysgarth), the Norse equivalent to the garden of Eden. Thor left his name at Thirsk, Thoralby, Thurstonland, and Thurgoland; Freia had her shrines at Fryston, Fridaythorpe and Frizinghall, each of these places having been a primitive religious centre. But the chief god Odin or Wotan, who, in Mr. Spence's submission, became anthropomorphised into Robin Hood, seems also to have provided Huddersfield with its name. Huddersfield is pretty certainly Hood's or Odin's field, and in local speech is still called "Hoodersfeld" or "Uthersfeld." Domesday Book gives it as Odersfeld Oder being a form of both Odin and Uther (who, by the way, was the demigod father of another legendary hero, King Arthur, or Ar-Thor); its site is usually regarded as having once been the property of a primitive landowner named Oder, whereas more probably it was the "field" (district or parish) of Odin worship; no doubt, too an important centre, since near the town are also found Woodsome (Hood's home), Woodhouse (Hood nawse, or ridge), and Woodhead (Hood's hill or headland), whilst Robin Hood's reputed grave is at Kirklees, near Mirfield, where once stood a Christian monastic house and probably a pagan altar before that. The Yorkshire tongue has twisted "hood" into "wood" as it converts "home" into "whom". And the Huddersfield district seems to be in respect of place-names more redolent of Robin Hood and Odinism than the Sherwood Forest, with which Robin is popularly associated.

The name Odin takes many other forms than Hood; it links up with the Irish "Aodh", the Hebrew letter "Yod" and the English "God" and even "Buddha" is an Eastern variant of Wotan; thus pointing to some primeval root-name for Deity which has undergone numerous local modifications. From Odin we also get the word "odd" as applied to a person who holds unusual views, and which was formerly "wood". "He is wood" occurs in Shakespeare, and means mad, fanatical; but earlier still it probably meant an Odin-worshipper, or as one might say, in the dialect, a "Hoodersfielder".

The Arthurian Legend

Next we have to account (as Mr. Spence partially does) for Odin worship becoming reduced and travestied into the legend of Robin Hood and his bandits. This is not difficult when we recall the parallel Arthurian legend, which is recognised as a solar myth re-expressed in terms of Christian chivalry. King Arthur and his knights impersonate a divine ruler and his officers governing the world (or round table). Similarly the legend of Robin Hood is myth expressed in terms of forestry and one appropriate to an uncivilised age when England was so densely wooded that, as Macaulay said, a monkey, swinging from tree to tree, might have travelled from Newcastle to London without touching ground.

Robin Hood was Odin writ small and personalised; his "merry men" correspond with Arthur's knights; they went about protecting the forest tribes from wild beasts, keeping the peace and redressing human ills. Later, in time, as the land became civilised, their beneficent activities became satirised as banditry and, with changes in religion, the old gods and saviours were regarded as reprobates and outlaws. In all religions one finds a chief god or demigod with a bevy of subordinates who execute his orders; even Christianity has its central Master and twelve apostles; so that, here again, we trace a common root idea underlying all religions, the more advanced ones taking over and reproducing the. main features of the earlier. One may go farther and suggest that in Little John, Robin Hood's favourite comrade, there is a possible equating with John, the "beloved disciple"; whilst pretty certainly Maid Marian is to be identified (like the Irish Brigit) with the Virgin Mary. Close to Robin Hood's reputed grave is Mirfield, which may be Mary's field, just as Prizinghall is "Frela's Ing" (or field), one of Freia's other names having been Mardoll.

Finally, Robin Hood's traditional feats of archery may well be due to the literalising of a religious idea. Divine influences, like the solar rays, are always found symbolised by arrows shot by the Sun-god (Ra or Apollo); even the Hebrew Psalmist praying for deliverance from his enemies uses the phrase "Shoot out thine arrows and destroy them". So when we find stones (as at Whitby, Kirklees, and elsewhere) indicating the places where Robin Hood's and Little John's arrows fell, we may reasonably infer them as marking the site of an ancient religious cult and associate them with such similar stones as the "Devil's Arrows" at Boroughbridge. Once they were pagan religious centres, but upon our country becoming Christianised these old stones came to be regarded as sinister and attributed to ancient powers of evil.

Yours, etc., W. L. Wilmshurst

Gledholt, Huddersfield, January 19.

"Saga Book of the Viking Society for Northern Research" Volume XII Proceedings 1937 - 1945, University College London at pages 19 to 35

"The Proportion of Scandinavian Settlers in the Danelaw" by Eilert Ekwall

A great deal has in been written on the Scandinavian settlements England, and their history may nowadays be considered to have been cleared up in its main outlines. For brief accounts of the present stage of research I may refer to my two articles: The Scandinavian Element in Introduction to the Survey of English Place-Names (1924), and especially The Scandinavian Settlement in Historical Geography of England before 1800 (Cambridge, 1936). But important questions still remain unanswered, particularly those dealing with the relative numbers of the Scandinavian settlers and the nature of the settlements.

It has sometimes been asserted that the Scandinavian settlers cannot have been so very numerous, and that they were assimilated at an early date to the native English population. Others have advanced a contrary opinion. Though it is impossible to attain definite results on points of this nature, yet there are facts which give valuable indications. Some of these facts will be briefly set forth in the following notes.

The great numbers of Scandinavian place-names in certain parts of England indicate that the Scandinavian settlers in such parts must have been numerous. But they do not afford figures of a definite or even approximate kind. They may also be in a way misleading. The Scandinavian element in the place-nomenclature of the Lake District proper, to take an example, is very strong indeed and seems to indicate that the Scandinavian settlers must have far outnumbered the English population. But there is good reason to suppose that the Scandinavian language lived on for a long time, doubtless for some generations, in the remote parts of the north-west and Scandinavian place-names there continued to be formed for at least a couple of centuries. These names therefore do not give a definite indication as to the relative numbers of the original settlers.

There is reason to suppose that in the Danelaw the Scandinavian settlers on the whole became amalgamated with the English population far earlier than in the north-west. Most of the Scandinavian place-names there probably arose at the time of, or not much later than, the original settlements. Even in these districts the proportion of Scandinavian names is so considerable that the number of settlers cannot have been insignificant.

In Yorkshire alone there are some 250 names in -by together with numerous other Scandinavian names, and many old English names appear in a Scandinavianized form. In Lincolnshire there are nearly 250 names in -by, and the Scandinavian influence is apparent in many other names. But it is not certain that even in the Danelaw the numbers of Scandinavian place-names give an accurate idea of the Scandinavian settlements. There is good reason to believe that Scandinavians frequently settled in villages which have retained their old English names. This is indicated by the numerous Scandinavianized place-names. Such names contained sounds or combinations of sounds unfamiliar to the Scandinavians. Names which offered no such difficulties might be adopted by the Scandinavians without a change. But though Scandinavian place-names do not allow definite conclusions, they are of very great value as indications of the distribution and relative intensity of the Scandinavian settlements. For a full discussion of these questions I refer to the articles just mentioned. The evidence of place-names, fortunately, can be supplemented by other evidence.

Some indication of the relative numbers of Danish settlers in the Danelaw is given by personal names. The earliest sources do not give much help. There are few Old English charters from the Danelaw. Yet there are some important exceptions. One is the well-known document printed in Birch, Cartularium Saxonicum no. 1130, which mentions a good many people living in the district of Peterborough circa 972-992.

The Scandinavian element in the place-nomenclature is not very considerable here; yet, 37 out of some 110 persons mentioned have Scandinavian names. Another document is one of circa 1050, which contains Bishop. Elfric's festermen (Farrer, Early Yorkshire Charters, no. 9). The district in question is that of Snaith and Sherburn in Elmet in the West Riding of Yorkshire, a very strongly Scandinavianized district. 45 out of circa 75 individuals have Danish names. Some other late Old English charters may be added. The charters by Eadgar from 958 to 963 in Early Yorkshire Charters no. 2 ff. (Birch, 1029, 1044, 1052, 1112 f), referring to Nottinghamshire and south Yorkshire, have numerous witnesses with Scandinavian names, most occurring in more documents than one. Certainly Scandinavian are: Oscytel, archbishop of York, Gunnere, Halfden, Leot (Leod), Morcare, Oskytel, Urm, all duces, Arkitel, Cytelbearn, Dragmel, Forno, Hrowald (Rold), Sumerled, Dor (for Dor), Durkitel, Durmod, Thurferð, Ulfketel, all ministri. Presumably these were earls or thegns in Danelaw districts. Some scraps of evidence may be gleaned from sources such as Symeon of Durham, the Life of St. Cuthbert, the Liber Vitæ Dunelmensis, where people with Scandinavian names are recorded. But the numbers of names are not sufficient for any definite conclusions.

The Domesday Book does not afford very much help here. It generally gives only the names of the chief tenants, not those of small landholders. Yet the number of tenants with Scandinavian names is considerable in the Danelaw counties. A cursory examination of the names of tenants in Lincolnshire in the time of Edward the Confessor gives as result that there are some 140 Scandinavian names, some 80 English, while a few are obscure. I have not ventured to try to determine the numbers of individuals with English and with Scandinavian names, as many persons held land in more villages than one.

Evidence for the names of the smaller landholders in the Danelaw is offered by twelfth and early thirteenth century charters issued by people belonging to the class of free landholders, and by lists of tenants in early landbooks. Most valuable for our purpose are the collections of charters from Lincolnshire, which have been published by Professor F. M. Stenton, especially his Danelaw Charters (Documents Illustrative of the Social and Economic History of the Danelaw, London 1920) and the abstracts of charters in his Free Peasantry of the Northern Danelaw (Published in Bulletin de la Société Royale des Lettres de Lund. Lund, 1925-6). No material of quite equal value is available for other Danelaw counties. The documents in the collection of Northamptonshire charters published also by Professor Stenton, are chiefly royal or feudal charters. The Early Yorkshire Charters, published by Dr. Farrer, contain a good deal of relevant material, but it is scattered and difficult to judge. The earliest Assize Rolls and Feet of Fines are sometimes helpful.

In drawing conclusions from this kind of material, it must be remembered that the documents are comparatively late, few being earlier than the latter half of the twelfth century, and that personal nomenclature may be supposed to have undergone some changes in the time from circa 900. Fashion plays an important part in the field of personal names. Just as Old English names were almost totally superseded by French ones not long after the Norman Conquest, so it is probable that Scandinavian names may have been adopted by English people and vice versa. It is worthy of notice that it can often be shown that people belonging to the same family, in the eleventh or twelfth century, could have names of different provenance. Thus in the Lincolnshire Domesday are mentioned four brothers, who held land in Beesby and Newton le Wold, with the names Ingemund, Oune, Edric and Eculf. Oune is certainly, Ingemund probably Scandinavian, while Edric is certainly English, and Eculf probably so (OE Ecgwulf). Among lawmen of Lincoln in 1086 are mentioned Ulbert and his brother UIf; Ulbert is OE Wulffbeorht, while Ulf is presumably OScand Ulfr. In the lists of those who had sake and soke in Lincolnshire in the time of Edward the Confessor, we note Godric son of Toruert, Adestan son of Godran, Toli son of Alsi, where Godric, Adestan, Alsi are English (OE Godric, Eðelstan, Ælfsige), Turuert, Godran, Toli are Danish. Sometimes it is not easy to determine the provenance of personal names. In the same list we find Achi son of Siward and Wilac his brother. Achi is Odan Aki. Wilac may be ODan Wiglek or an unrecorded OE Wiglac, while Siward may be OE Sigeweard or OScand Sigvarðr.

However, even if the value of the figures given in the sequel must not be over-estimated, yet the fact that Scandinavian names are extremely common in documents of the kind under discussion is significant.

In the introduction to the Danelaw Charters, p. cxiv ff., Professor Stenton gives the number of individuals with Danish names in the charters embodied in the collection as more than half the number of those recorded (266 out of 507), and a good many of the remaining 241 have names of doubtful provenance. The Scandinavian names are stated to be 119.

In Free Peasantry, which contains abstracts of numerous charters from various parts of Lincolnshire and some also from other Danelaw counties, Professor Stenton gives no figures for the personal names. An examination of the material from Lincolnshire gives the following results. The grantors of these charters, which generally date from about 1200 or the early thirteenth century, in the greater number of cases have Norman names, but their fathers (mothers) or grand-parents generally have English or Scandinavian names.

The charters thus tell us something about the personal nomenclature about the middle of the twelfth century. Out of the individuals with English or Scandinavian names mentioned, some 240 altogether, about 160 have Scandinavian, about 80 English names. It is true that possibly in some cases the same person may have been counted twice. The number of names used is not so large, altogether some 70 Scandinavian, some 50 English.

Professor Stenton, Introduction to Danelaw Charters p. cxiv, remarks that "an analysis of the native personal names occurring in the Lincolnshire Assize Rolls of 1202 shows 215 Scandinavian against 194 English forms".

A few notes may be added on Yorkshire names. Charter no. 64 in Early Yorkshire Charters mentions a good number of persons from Markingfield in the West Riding (1135 - 53). We find the following Scandinavian names:

Ragnilda, Audkill, Gamel (and Suan his father), Slainulf, Thor (father of Acca), Rainkill (and Stainbern his father), Ketel, Ulf, Orm, Wallef, (father of Uctred), altogether 12 Scandinavian names. There are only 5 English names: Osbertus, Siward (father of Ketel), Heremer (father of Orm), Uctred, Acca. The remaining names are Norman.

Another important charter is no. 931 in the same collection, dating from 1100 to circa 1115, which enumerates a number of landholders in the North Riding. Scandinavian names are here:

Ilvilling, Colbrand, Leising, Turkil, Thurkil (and Thorald his father), Thorne (father of Crinan), Leot, Askil, Halthor, Kille (and Erchel his father), Swartebrand, Arkil (and Thurkil his father), Forni (father of Helrandus).

Crillan is Irish and may be looked upon as Irish-Scandinavian. This gives us 16 Scandinavian names. English are:

Quenilda (mother of Turkil), ?Athele (father of Leot), Aldred (and his father Siward), Sceldfrithe, Frithegist, Duda, at most 7. The rest of the names are Norman; Melgric may be corrupt.

I have examined the names in the Yorkshire Fines (1199 to 1214) (Surtees Soc. 94). English and Scandinavian personal names are about equal in number, about 40 each, but the number of individuals bearing Scandinavian names is slightly higher than that of individuals with English names (circa 75 as against circa 60).

Valuable material for Norfolk is found in the collection of charters published by J. R. West in Abbey of St. Benet of Holme (1020 - 1210) (Norfolk Record Society 2), but time has not permitted a careful examination of it. Of the unpublished Castleacre Cartulary (Norfolk), Mr. D. C. Douglas, in the introduction to Feudal Documents from the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds (1932), p. cxxi, footnote 4, tells us that "of the names of men of native ancestry in the twelfth-century charters in this cartulary (Harl. MS. 2110) about 40% are of Scandinavian origin."

In the volume just quoted Mr. Douglas publishes a most interesting document, The Feudal Book of Baldwin, Abbot of Bury St. Edmunds, 1065 - 1098. It is to be hoped that some similar documents relating to some more strongly Scandinavianized part of the Danelaw than Suffolk will come to light. The Feudal Book is about contemporary with Domesday Book. It gives the names of the free peasants of a number of Suffolk villages belonging to Bury St. Edmunds. In Suffolk the Danish colonization, to judge by place-names, does not seem to have been nearly as strong as in Lincolnshire or Yorkshire. This is borne out by the personal names in the Feudal Book. Of about 700 individuals mentioned, according to the editor, only some 60 have Danish names, i.e. 8½%. The names of Danish origin are given in the Introduction, p. cxviii f.; they number 40. But very likely some names of obscure origin should be added to this number. And some certainly Scandinavian names have been inadvertently omitted by the editor, as Osbern, Osgot, Sparhauoc, Suein, Turgod, probably Ormer, though this may be OE Ordmær. The following names borne by fathers of tenants should also be added: Dag, Gangulf, Grimulf; Puse [1] (Godric Pusesune), Scanche. It is also a noteworthy fact that in the cases where the father's name is given, this is in several cases Danish, while the son's is English, in at least 14 cases. The opposite case is far rarer (3 or 4 examples). This seems to indicate that in Suffolk English personal names began early to be adopted by Scandinavians. It is of interest to find a fairly large percentage of Scandinavian names in Coney Weston, whose name is English Cyningestun, Scandinavianized. To 11 English names correspond 6 Scandinavian (Brother, Ulfchetel, Turchetel, Lefchetel, Suein, Odin).

[1] For Puse, cf. the ON by-name Posi; identical with ON posi, OSwed. upsi, 'a bag'.

An important criterion for the relative numbers of Danish settlers in the Danelaw is offered by the proportion of sokemen recorded in Domesday. A sokeman was mostly of a humble position economically. In Lincolnshire in the eleventh century he might own a whole plough-team or more but there are cases where he only had one ox or even less. Professor Stenton, in the Introduction to the Lincolnshire Domesday, p. xx, says that the ordinary sokeman or villein was a man of two or three oxen. But, unlike the villein, the sokeman was a free man. Professor Stenton has discussed the problem of the sokeman in various publications, and he holds that

"the sokemen of the Danelaw represent, as a class, the rank and file of the Scandinavian armies which had settled this district in the ninth century" (Free Peasantry p. 79).

It is very probable that this view is correct. The sokemen of the eleventh century would then on the whole be the descendants of the late ninth century Danish settlers, while we should have to suppose that the villeins and bordars represent the native English peasant class. Supposing this to be in the main correct, the following facts will be found to be of importance.

In Free Peasantry, pp. 77 ff., Professor Stenton gives the percentages of sokemen to villeins and bordars in each Lincolnshire wapentake. The percentages vary from roughly 73 to 20% of the peasant class. The lowest figures are those in Elloe wapentake, in the Holland division, where there are no Danish village names. The highest percentages are recorded in those wapentakes where the greatest numbers of Danish place-names are found, as in Bradley and Ludborough Wapentakes in the North Riding, or in Bolingbroke, Candleshoe, Gartree, Hill, Louth Eske in the South Riding. In these districts there are thick clusters of villages with names in -by. In Leicestershire from 50 to 27% of the peasants were sokemen. The highest percentage is found in Framland Wapentake, where place-names testify to a very thorough Danish colonisation. In Nottinghamshire, the figures are from 52 to 10%, the highest percentage being found in Newark Wapentake.

The numbers of sokemen are not given for Lincolnshire, but for Leicestershire Professor Stenton gives the number in Domesday as nearly 2,000, while Nottinghamshire has more than 1,500 recorded (Danes in England, p. 16). Here we get concrete figures, which give some idea of the numbers of Danish settlers. No doubt the figures are too small, for it is unlikely that all the sokemen or villeins got recorded in Domesday. No exact figures for Lincolnshire are known to me, and I have not had time to undertake a calculation. But the following figures for parts of the county may be illustrative. The sokemen on the King's land recorded are alone about 1,275, while the villeins and bordars numbered nearly 1,000. An examination of Bolingbroke Wapentake, which is only a small portion of the Lindsey division, gave as result some 550 sokemen, as against some 165 villeins and 60 bordars. The figures for Loveden Wapentake in Kesteven are some 410 sokemen, some 350 villeins and 115 bordars. It is clear that the total number of sokemen in Lincolnshire must have been far higher than that in Leicestershire. The sokemen must have numbered several thousands, and this figure would not include women and children.

Of course, the figures for 1066 may have been a good deal different from those of about 900. But if we may assume that the sokemen on the whole represent the descendants of the Danish settlers, the villeins and bordars those of the English peasants, and also that the proportion between the two classes of peasant had remained on the whole unchanged, the conclusion must be that the Danish settlers in Lincolnshire and some other districts were about equal in number with the earlier population. It is true we do not know that all the sokemen in Domesday were really of Danish descent. It is quite possible that also some English peasants reached that status. On the other hand we are hardly justified in assuming that all villeins and bordars in the Danelaw were of English descent. There is every reason to suppose that some Danes had joined the unfree class [2]. All we can say with certainty is that the Danish element must have formed a very considerable part of the population in the Danelaw.

[2] This would particularly be probable in the case of the Danish freedman (liesing), whose wergeld was the same as that of the English ceorl on gafol-land. (Treaty between Alfred and Guthrum)

The results of the preceding discussion raise questions as to the nature of the Scandinavian settlements. Did the Scandinavians in England settle in villages or in single homesteads? The Norwegians nowadays usually live in homesteads, not in villages, and there is every reason to suppose that they have done so from of old. They settled in homesteads in Iceland, and we may assume that they followed their old custom when they settled in England. The Norwegian settlement in the north-west of England may well have been chiefly of a peaceful nature, carried out with the permission of the earlier population. The Danes, on the other hand, have always lived in villages, so far as our evidence goes. One would suppose that they would not give up this custom when they settled in England, where compact settlements would seem to have been an act of common prudence. Yet it seems to have been tacitly understood sometimes that the Danish settlements in the Danelaw were generally single homesteads. For the name-type characteristic of the Danelaw is -by, and -by in place-names is often held to mean 'farm'. Thus Dr. Smith, in Place-names of the North Riding, regularly renders -by by 'farm', except for such names as Birkby , Danby, Ingleby, whose first element is the genitive plural of a folk-name ("the village of the Britons, Danes, English"). Even Kirkby is taken to mean 'farm by the church', Whitby, 'Hvitis farmstead'. On the other hand thorp is regularly rendered by 'village', e.g. in Ganthorpe, Howthorpe, Ravensthorpe. Only Towthorpe, perhaps owing to an oversight, is rendered by 'Tofi's farm'.

It is not easy to understand why -by is thus regularly taken to mean 'farm', thorp 'village'. In Danish by is the regular word for 'village', while thorp was used of a dependent hamlet, which, of course, often came to develop to an independent village. In Scania, formerly a part of Denmark, thorp in place-names must have denoted a farmstead, and the same was the case in Sweden. In Modern Swedish, torp even denotes a 'croft'. Thus it is obvious that in Danish districts in England we expect names in -by to have denoted villages, while those in -thorpe were given to farmsteads or dependent hamlets belonging to an older village. It would be more correct really to translate -by by 'village', thorpe by 'farm' than the other way round. In Norwegian districts, on the other hand, thorp was hardly used, and by may quite well have meant 'a farm', as Old Norse býr (bær) denoted both 'a farm' and 'a village'. The meaning 'farm' is even more probable, for in Norwegian place-names by normally means 'farm'. In the North Riding, where the Scandinavian settlements were mostly Danish, the probable meaning of by is 'village'.

But there is one circumstance which may seem to tell against this theory, viz ., the fact that names in -by mostly have a personal name as first element. There are no doubt a good many exceptions. Some names in -by have as first member a word denoting a natural feature or the like, as Aby, Dalby, Ashby, Skewsby, Wauldby, Kirby, Kirkby. This is the normal type in Denmark and Sweden. Others contain a folk-name or similar word in the genitive plural, as Birkby, Danby, Ingleby, Irby, Normanby, Flotmanby, Hunmanby, or an adjective, as Newby, Whitby. Barrowby, Borrowby, by the way, go back to Old Scandinavian Bergabyr, whose first element I now think is a folk-name derived from berg, 'hill' ('the village of the people on the hill') [3]. However, names in -by with a personal name as first element are decidedly in the majority.

[3] Cf. Sahlgren, Namn och Bygd, vol. 23, p. 194, who takes a name such as Swedish Berga to be a folk-name 'hill people'.

Unfortunately, no material is available that gives us direct information on the original status of Scandinavian settlements. But Domesday Book may give some hints. I have again chosen the Lincolnshire part of Domesday for an investigation. The Yorkshire part, for well-known reasons, is not so helpful as might be wished. Lincolnshire had not suffered from devastation at the time of the Norman Conquest, and the material for that county is easily accessible in Canon Foster's excellent edition of the Lincolnshire Domesday (Lincoln Record Society, 19). An examination of the material reveals some important facts.

In his illuminating introduction to Canon Foster's edition, Professor Stenton shows that the figures for the carucates ascribed to villages are largely conventional. The scheme was "framed by men who felt that a village ought to be assessed either at exactly twelve carucates or at some fraction or multiple of this sum" (p. xi). If a village is assessed at 12 carucates, we can thus only conclude that it was for fiscal purposes assessed at that figure. A very large village was generally assessed at 24 car.; a large village at 12, a medium-sized one at 6, a smaller one at 3, and so on. The number of carucates assigned to a village thus indicates its general size. A closer examination of the figures shows that old villages with English names, especially names in -ham, as Bassingham, Hougham, Metheringham, are fairly often assessed at 24 car. There are very many 12-car. villages, especially with names in -tun, as Barkston, Branston, Broughton, Dry Doddington, Dorrington, Edlington, etc., and an about equal number of 6-car. villages. A good many are assessed at lower figures, especially 4 or 3 car., and not a few have 2, 1½, 1 car., or even lower figures.

Turning now to villages with Scandinavian names, we find that those with names in -by on the whole show lower figures than those with English names. Only Coleby (in Boothby) and Rauceby are of the largest type. There are several 12-car. villages, as Boothby, Graffoe, Digby, Dunsby (Flaxwell), Gonerby , Kirkby, Laythorpe, Scrivelsby, Thealby , Thurlby (near Lincoln), Welby. Numerous 6-car. villages occur e.g: Barnoldby, Beelsby, Beesby (Haverstoe), Candlesby, Mavis Enderby, Miningsby, S. Ormsby, Osbournby, Roxby, Scamblesby, Scremby, Stainby, Ulceby, Whisby. Several are assessed at 5 or 4 car., but the greatest number at 3 car. or slightly more, as Aunsby, Asgarby (near Spilsby), Beesby in the Marsh, etc. Several have two car. or slightly more, a few only 1½ or 1 car. (e.g. Claxby St. Andrew, Clixby, Fonaby, Fulsby, Ailby, Aisby (in Corringham), Legsby.

We may add that Fishtoft and Timberland are assessed at 12, Langtoft at 6 car. Villages with names in -thorpe are generally small. Only a few are assessed at 3 car. or more, and of these some are doubtless English. Some are very small indeed.

The general result is that villages with names in -by were not as a rule small villages in the middle of the eleventh century, even if few were very large ones. And it is important to note that many of the 24- or 12-car. villages have names with a personal name as first element, e.g. Coleby, Rauceby, Dunsby, Gonerby, Thealby , Thurlbv . Most of the 6-car. villages have names of that type.

A few notes may be added here on the carucage of Leicestershire villages in the Leicestershire Survey of about 1125. In Leicestershire -bys are generally assessed at about 6 carucates. But Saltby (inclusive of Bescaby) has 20 car., Sileby 15½, Somerby 14, Ashfordby 13, Gaddesby 12½, Rearsby, Welby 12, Freeby, Sysonby 9, Ab Kettleby 9, Stonesby 8; all these have a personal name as first element. Killerby with 3 car. forms an exception. We may add that Kirby Bellars has 24 car., Beeby 12, Great Dalby 12, Frisby 11, Hoby 11½. The thorpes are generallv small, thus Boothorpe 1, Oakthorpe ½, Osgathorpe ½ car. The figures for the -bys are generally somewhat higher than for the Lincolnshire ones.

It is obvious that the results of the investigation are really valid only for the middle of the eleventh century. The figures show that places with names in -by were villages at that time, and most of them villages of a respectable size. We cannot, of course, conclude that the conditions of circa 1050 altogether correspond to those of circa 950 or 900. No doubt some villages had grown as regards population, but it is also possible that some had gone down. It is likely that the total population of Lincolnshire had increased in the 150 years between goo and 1050, but we should hardly assume that the increase had been very large. If nativity was high in those days, so was doubtless the rate of mortality. And the increase of the population has to account also for the secondary settlements, those on uplands and in fen-land. The Lincolnshire thorpes are largely on low land along the coast and probably represent a later period in the history of settlements. It is unlikely that the villages of circa 1050 on the whole go back to homesteads of circa 900.

If the Danish settlements in Lincolnshire and Leicestershire were chiefly villages, it is obvious that the settlers must have been many times more numerous than the Scandinavian place-names are. And we should, of course, not assume that Scandinavians settled only in those villages which have Scandinavian or Scandinavianized names. A village of 3 or 6 carucates had room for a good many people. Two bovates, i.e. a quarter part of a carucate, was a normal holding for a sokeman in the eleventh century. If this holds good for the time about 900, a village of 3 carucates would support some 12 to 20 settlers with their families. A few examples from Domesday Book will illustrate this:

It remains to account for the remarkable fact that many villages (even large ones) with names in -by were named from one particular person. This may seem surprising in view of the fact that all the freemen in the Danish army are supposed to have looked upon themselves as equals. Indeed, according to the treaty between Alfred and Guthrum the wergelds of any Danish freeman was to be equivalent to that of an English thegn (1,200 shillings). But in reality it cannot well be doubted that an army like the Danish one must have been organized, and that some men were in a more responsible position than others. Professor Stenton has emphasized the military nature of the Danish settlement. He holds that the Danish landowners were essentially an army established on the soil. At the original settlement some large villages may well have been allotted as manors to leaders of the army with their followers. This would naturally account for some of the large villages with names in -by that have a personal name as first element. In other cases villages would be allotted jointly to a group of men, and it is a reasonable supposition that one among these was in some sense a leader, who was responsible for the rest or was their spokesman. We may also suppose that the settlers were not all equal economically. Some more provident people would be able to contribute more capital or a larger number of oxen for the plough than the others. In cases like these villages might well have come to be named from one particular person, even though they were theoretically held in common by a group of settlers.

"The Origin of English Place Names" (1960) P. H. Reaney at pages 171, 175, 185 to 190

Chapter Seven

The Scandinavian Element

Some Common Elements

… The element -by is extremely common wherever the Scandinavians settled in England, particularly in Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and the North Riding of Yorkshire. Names in -by imply a considerable Scandinavian-speaking population in the district. It is not necessarily, as has sometimes been suggested, a certain sign of Danish origin, for it is common in the Wirral where the settlers were Norwegians. In Norway the word meant 'homestead, in Denmark 'a village'. In England the usual meaning is 'village' … About two-thirds of the names are compounded with personal-names, mostly Scandinavian …

Danish Test-Words

… it is frequently impossible to decide whether a particular word or personal-name is of Danish or Norwegian origin. Both by and thorp were used alike in East and West Scandinavia, whereas in England, whilst by was clearly used by Norwegians, thorp may be regarded as a sign of Danish settlement. But some few terms can definitely be assigned to one or other of these races.

The Norwegian Settlement

Vague and unsatisfactory as it often is in its details, the story of the Anglo-Danish conflict has been the theme of chroniclers and historians for centuries. Our knowledge of the Norwegian settlement of the north-west, on the other hand, is limited to a fragment of an obscure Irish annal, preserved only in a seventeenth-century manuscript, itself a copy of some unknown manuscript, first printed in 1860 (vide F. T. Wainwright, Ingimund's Invasion (English Historical Review, LXIII (1948), pp. 145-169). This Irish tradition seems to have originated in a contemporary chronicle of events and there appears to be no reason why we should not accept its outline of events as genuine history. Briefly, it records that the Norsemen left Ireland (probably in 902) under Ingimund, a Viking leader, and after a vain attack on north Wales, he approached Æthelflæd, sister of King Edmund and Lady of the Mercians, whose husband Æthelred was ill, and obtained permission to settle near Chester, 'where he would build huts and dwellings, for he was at this time weary of war'. But when he saw the wealth of the city and the choice land around it, he desired to possess them and he persuaded 'the chiefs of the Lochlanns and the Danes' to attack Chester. Their assault on the city failed, but that these Norsemen remained and settled in the district is abundantly proved by surviving place-names. Both Danes and Norwegians took part in the settlement. The 'Lochlanns' were the descendants of the Norwegians who had colonized Ireland in the early ninth century. They had become partly Celticised, were pagans and were joined by Irishmen known as 'Gall-Ghaidhir', a term current for a short time in the ninth Century for a native Irishman who had abandoned Christianity and joined the Norsemen. 'They were Scoti and foster-children to the Northmen … a people who had renounced their baptism, and they were usually called Northmen, for they had the customs of the Northmen, and had been fostered by them, and though the original Northmen were bad to the churches, these were by far worse'.

These Irish Norwegians had adopted Irish names, formed their patronymics in the Irish fashion, Thorfinn mac Thore, had borrowed Irish words and formed many of their place-names in the Irish way, with the defining element last' (vide pp. 69-70). But they had not abandoned their native language or their Norwegian personal-names. In Cheshire, ON erg, a borrowing of Gaelic airigh, Mir airghe 'a shieling' survives in Arrowe, where the term is found frequently in field-names like Broad Arrowe, Smiths Arrowe, etc. The mysterious Noctorum may contain OIr cnocc 'a hillock'. Norse elements such as brekka, gil, slakki, and others are found in field-names in the Wirral. The only certain example of Danish influence is Frankby, which contains the ODa Franki, corresponding to OWSc Frakki.

It is clear there was a compact colony of Scandinavians, chiefly Norwegians, in the Wirral, where there are eight names in -by, including West Kirby, named in distinction from an eastern Kirby, now Wallasey, Pensby, a hybrid, 'the village at Pen', a Celtic name, Whitby and Greasby, a Scandinavianisation of OE Grafes-byrig (Gravesberie 1086) 'fort by the grove'. Irby is Erberia, Irreby circa 1100, 'fort of the Irishmen', a name given by Anglians to a settlement of Irish-Norwegian Vikings, with a later substitution of ON by for OE burh as Scandinavian speech became more common in the district. The early forms of Caldy, Calders 1086, Caldera circa 1245, 'cold islands', and of Red Stones, Arnaldsheire 1358, 'Arnald's islands', containing the ON plural eyiar, are evidence of the persistence of Scandinavian speech. Larton and Storton contain ON leir 'clay' and stórr 'big'.

This Norwegian settlement in the east of Cheshire is separated by almost the width of the county from a small Danish settlement in the west, where we have five examples of the Danish hulm (Hulme, Kettleshulme, etc.), Toft, and Scandinavian personal-names in Rostherne (Rauðr) and Croxton (Krókr). These are to be associated with the Danish settlement farther north, near Manchester, and are probably due to settlements of Danes beyond the boundary fixed for Ceolwulf's English Mercia.

On the settlement of the rest of the north-west history is silent, but place-names prove its strength and its extent. It stretched along the coastal areas north of the Mersey to Westmorland and Cumberland, and east, beyond the Pennines, into the West and North Ridings of Yorkshire. In Lancashire, south of the Ribble, it is chiefly along the coast, near and north of Liverpool, where we find traces in Roby, West Derby, Formby and Kirby, with Crosby (OIr cros, ON kross), undoubted Norse elements in Anglezark and Sholver 'the shielings of Anlaf and of Skialgr', whilst breck, scale and slack are common in minor and field names. Litherland is a pure Scandinavian name, ON Hlðarland 'wood on the slope', retaining the genitive ending -ar, as is Aintree (ON eintré 'lonely tree'), whilst Sefton is a hybrid, 'rush farm' (ON sef).

North of the Ribble, Norwegians settled throughout Amounderness and Lonsdale South of the Sands, in the lowlying lands near the coast and the rising land to the east. Scandinavian field-names are particularly numerous. Typically Norwegian are Grimsargh and Kellamergh 'shielings (erg) of Grímr and of Kelgrímr', Larbrick, Norbreck and Warbreck (brekka). Ireby on the Yorkshire border was a village of Irish Norwegians.

In Westmorland, in the old barony of Kendal, many typical Norwegian names are found among others of English origin. Common Norse elements occur in Haverbrack 'oat-hill' (ON hafri, brekka), Howgill, Leasgill, Mansergh 'Man's shieling' and Skelsmergh 'Skialdmar's shieling' (ON erg). Brigsteer is an inversion compound, 'Styr's bridge'. Norse features are found round Lowther and Ullswater in Tirril, Tyrerhge, a compound of ON tyri 'dry, resinous wood' and erg, Winder 'wind(y) shieling' and Reagill 'fox valley' (ON refr 'fox').

Irish-Norwegian influence is particularly strong in Cumberland, with inversion compounds in Aspatria 'Patrick's ash', Gillcambon 'ravine of Carnbán', an OIr personal-name, Kirksanton (St Sanctán, an Irish saint), and Tarn Wadling, Terwathelan 1285, 'the tarn of Gwyddelan "the little Irishman"' In some of these names Scandinavian inflexions are preserved: Brotherilkeld, Butherulkel, an inversion compound, with the OWSc plural búðir 'Ulfkell's booths', a formation paralleled by Scarrowmanwick, Scalremanoch, containing skálir, the plural of OWSc skáli 'shepherd's summer hut', compounded with either OIr Maenach or manaich, genitive singular of manach 'a monk'. Common Norse elements are found in Birker 'birch shieling' (birki, erg) and Cleator 'cliff shieling' (klettr, erg); ON gil 'ravine, narrow valley', is common, as in Gill, Gillhead, Gillfoot, Catgill, Scale Gill, etc.; skáli, too, is common: Scales, Scaleby, Skelgill, Bowscale and Seascale. There are some 70 names in -by, including Aldby 'old village', Crosby, Langwathby 'village by the long ford', Sowerby 'farm on marshy ground'. Many of these contain OIr personal-names, others are late, containing post-Conquest names, as in Parsonby, Johnby, etc.

From Cumberland and Westmorland the track of these Irish-Norwegians can be traced by place-names over the Pennines into the North Riding and from Lancashire into the West Riding of Yorkshire, where they must have been numerous in the Craven district. Here we have the Norwegian erg compounded with a Scandinavian personal-name in Battrix (Boðvarr's shieling) and Golcar (Guthlaugr) and with an OIr personal-name in Feizor and Fixby (Fiach). Other Norse elements occur in Raygill, High Scale and Scalebed. In the North Riding, in the western half, in Gilling, Richmondshire and Langbargh, there is very definite evidence of extensive Norse settlement, as well as on the coast near Whitby, the latter, no doubt, reached directly from the North Sea. These Irish Vikings, on their way east, quickly came into contact with the earlier Danish settlers and in places there was a considerable mixture of races, Norwegian, Danish and Anglian. The western limit of Danish settlement seems to have been in the neighbourhood of Danby on Ure and Danby Wiske, whilst its chief strength was in the half-circle of wapentakes round York, where thorpes are common, whilst the gills are almost entirely in the west.

The Norwegian movement from the north-west into Yorkshire culminated in 919 in the capture of York by Ragnall mac Bicloch, who was the first of a series of Irish Viking kings of York which lasted for thirty-five years, during which constant intercourse must have been maintained between Yorkshire and Ireland, with a constant increase of Irish-Norwegian settlers all along the route. In the western dales, in Lower Teesdale and in the Cleveland district the Scandinavian place-names are strikingly similar to those of the Lake District. We have pure Scandinavian names like Roxby 'Rauðr's farm', Upsall, from ON up-salir 'high dwellings', identical with the Swedish Uppsala, and Sowber Hill 'sunny hill' (ON sólberg); Scandinavian inflexions in Osmotherly, Skelderskew, ON Skjaldarskógr 'wood of Skjoldr', and in the DB form of Upleatham, Upelider (ON hliðir, nom. plur.), the modern form deriving from the dative plural hliaum; OIr personal-names are found in Gatenby (Gaithen) and Melsonby (Maelsuithan); with abundant evidence of Norse influence in minor names and field-names. Scarborough is one of the few place-names of which we know the exact origin. From the Kormakssaga we learn that two brothers Thorgils and Kormak went harrying in Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland. 'They were the first men to set up the stronghold which is called Scarborough'. From two poems which Kormak addresses to his brother, we know that Thorgils was nicknamed Skarði 'the hare lip', hence the Scandinavian form of the name, Skarðaborg, found also in English as Scartheborc circa 1200, later Scareburgh (1414). Thorgils died in 967; the brothers' expedition to England took place immediately after their return from one to Russia in 966, so that Scarborough must have been founded late in 966 or in 967.

The mixture of races is well illustrated by such names as Danby, Normanby and Ingleby, each of which occurs three times in the North Riding. These denote villages of Danes, Norwegians and Angles and can have been given only by Scandinavians in districts where these races were in a minority. Irby is similarly a village of Irishmen, whilst Irton is the 'farm or village of the Irishmen', both emphasising that Irishmen were outnumbered in the neighbourhood, at Irby by other Scandinavians, at Irton by Anglians. There are no Normanbys in Cumberland and Westmorland, where the Scandinavian population was overwhelmingly Norse, nor are there any parallels in the East Riding, where the Scandinavians were almost entirely Danish in origin. In the West Riding we have Denaby and two examples of Denby, with another in Derbyshire. All have been tacitly accepted as synonyms with Danby, 'Denby was evidently a settlement of Danes in a predominantly English region'. If so, the name would have been bestowed on the village by speakers of English who would not have used the Scandinavian word by. Danes are unlikely to have named one of their own villages 'the village of the Danes'; in any case they would have used the Danish form, Danby. Denby is derived from Dena-by and Denaby from Deniga-by, both containing genitive plural forms of OE Dene 'a Dane', the compound being one of an English inflected form with a Scandinavian element, a type for which there is no parallel except where the first element is a personal-name. A solution of this problem may, perhaps, be found when the place-names of the West Riding have been fully surveyed.

Normanton, found four times in Nottinghamshire, thrice in Derbyshire and in Leicestershire, and also in Rutland and the West Riding, is an English name given to a place inhabited by Norwegians in a district where Anglians were more numerous. Normanby, found four times in Lincolnshire and three times in the North Riding, was a village where Norwegians lived among an overwhelming Danish population. The distribution of these names is interesting and unexpected. They provide evidence for Norwegians in the eastern Danelaw who could hardly be Vikings from Ireland. They may have been Norwegians who had joined the armies of Halfdan and Guthrum, and the scanty evidence of their presence in the eastern Midlands may be due to the known hostility between Danes and Norwegians. The capture of York from the Danes and the establishment of a Norwegian kingdom would not conduce to friendly relations, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of the tenth century not only gives proof of the internecine feuds between them but also provides evidence of similar hostility farther south. A poem interpolated in the Chronicle for the year 942 tells of the overrunning by King Edmund of Wessex of the Five Boroughs - Leicester, Lincoln, Nottingham, Stamford and Derby - and how the Danes there had previously suffered under the yoke of the Norsemen, in bonds of captivity until King Edmund redeemed them. The poem does not celebrate, as was once thought, the freeing of these boroughs by an English king from Danish tyranny, but the freeing of the comparatively christianised Danes in these boroughs from the cruel domination of later heathen Norse invaders, of whom we may, perhaps, have a reminder in the Normantons and Normanbys of this area.

"The Domesday Geography of Northern England" (1962) H.C. Darby & I.S. Maxwell, pages 85 to 163 & 450 to 454

Chapter II

Yorkshire: The North Riding

By I.S. Maxwell, M.A.

… The Yorkshire text presents us with many difficult problems - occasional entries that seem incomplete, duplicate entries that do not agree, formulae giving curious measurements - but the greatest frustration arises from the large number of composite or linked entries in which the information about two or more places is combined into one statement. There are such entries in the folios for many counties, but they form a special feature of the Yorkshire folios …

… Not all linkages are relevant to this geographical analysis. Some, for example, involve only assessment or value, and they present no problem because no maps of these items have been compiled. Nor do linkages that involve only waste holdings present any problem. Fig. 23 has therefore been drawn to show only those linkages relevant to the present study. With these in mind, suitable areas have been devised so that all holdings in a composite entry are contained within a single division, in order to ensure that the density maps of population, plough-teams and plough-lands are realistic. With the same object in mind, appropriate methods have also been adopted for plotting other items of information - wood, meadow and mills. With the aid of these methods of presentation we may perceive at least the broad outlines of the geography of the Riding in the eleventh century …

Settlements and their Distribution (at page 92)

The total number of separate places mentioned for the area now included in the North Riding of Yorkshire seems to be approximately 649. This figure includes York (which was not in any of the Ridings and has been arbitrarily placed with the North Riding) and the nineteen places in Halichelde wapentake (which at the time of the Survey was in the West Riding) that are now in the North Riding. It excludes Filey which, at the time of the Domesday Survey, was in the North Riding and was surveyed with that Riding but which is now in the East Riding, and also Eskdale (mentioned in connection with the fief of Robert de Bruis) because the name appears to refer to a district rather than to a place: 'And in Eskdale 12 carucates and 2 bovates; namely, in Danby 6 carucates, and in Crunkly Gill 3 carucates, and in the 2 Hangtons 2 carucates, and in Lealholme 10 bovates' (333) … The total of 649 places includes some seventy about which we are told hardly anything. Vills recorded as waste have, as might be expected, very brief entries and these have not been included in this total of seventy …

… Not all the 649 names appear as the names of villages on the present-day map of the North Riding. Some are represented by hamlets and farmsteads, some by the names of minor topographical features, some merely by slight traces on the ground, while others have disappeared entirely … Sometimes, the position of a Domesday vill is now indicated only by mounds and other traces left on the ground … Lastly, other Domesday vills have left no direct evidence, either by names or by sites, of their former locations …

… On the other hand, a few villages on the modern map are not mentioned in the Domesday Book. Though they are widely scattered, they are mostly located in two areas which it would appear had not been settled by the eleventh century. Firstly, except in the valley of the River Esk, the North Yorkshire Moors appear to have been uninhabited in Domesday times. Here, the settlements from which the modern parishes take their names apparently came into existence at a later date. A list of these names, showing their first recorded occurrence, confirms this: Broxa (1090-6), Goathland (1108-14), Rosedale (1130 - circa 1158), Ruswarp (1145-8), Silpho (1145-8), Bilsdale (1153-9), Farndale (1154-63), Westerdale (1154-81), Rievaulx (1157), Sleights (1223), Commondale (1273) and Harwood Dale (1301).

Editor's note: to which list can be added "YN Ram(m)esdal 1240 (Yorkshire Feet of Fines)" from "The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names" (1960) Eilert Ekwall at page 380.

It would thus seem that the main settlement of this area took place in the century after the Norman Conquest, though the process continued for at least a further hundred years … Lastly, there do not appear to have been any names in the North Riding that were mentioned in pre-Domesday documents, but were omitted from the Inquest only to reappear at a later time …

Figure 26 shows that certain areas of the North Riding had a considerably higher concentration of settlement than the average for the whole of the Riding as a whole; and in many of these areas the siting of the settlements was very closely related to the underlying geology. There were three districts where the concentration of settlements was greatest. Firstly, there was the area stretching north and north-east from York as far as the southern margin of the North Yorkshire Moors. In general, the siting of the villages here does not seem to have been greatly influenced by geology, and the settlements are to be found on all the Triassic and Jurassic rocks that outcrop in this part of the Riding … There was also a belt, some 3-4 miles wide, of Domesday vills stretching along the coast between the mouth of the River Tees and Whitby, but there were relatively few settlements on the coast between Whitby and Scalby where the North Yorkshire Moors approached the coast.

Those parts of the North Yorkshire Moors and the Pennines that are more than about 800 ft. above sea-level were the main areas in the North Riding with little or no settlement in Domesday times but, in addition, there appear also to have been a few smaller areas in which there was virtually no settlement …

The Distribution of Prosperity and Population (at page 101)

(2) Plough-lands

(3) Plough-teams

(4) Population

The main bulk of the population was comprised in the two categories of villeins and bordars. In addition to these main groups there were sokemen and also a miscellaneous group that included priests, rent-payers (censores) and just 'men'. No serfs are mentioned for the Riding. The details of these groups are summarised in the table on page 119 … Definitive accuracy rarely belongs to a count of Domesday population, and all that can be claimed for the present figures is that they indicate the order of magnitude involved. These figures are those of recorded population, and must be multiplied by some factor, say 4 or 5, in order to obtain the actual population; but this does not affect the relative density as between one area and another. That is all that a map such as Fig. 3o can roughly show.

It is impossible for us to say how complete were these Domesday statistics. It does seem as if some people had been left uncounted. The absence of population from the waste vills is understandable, but, as we have already seen, there are occasional vills with teams at work but with no recorded population, which suggests omission, though we cannot be certain of the significance of this. Certainly, we cannot assess the degree of error such entries involve. But, on the whole, the perplexities are comparatively few, and the main categories of workers on the land stand out quite clearly.

(5) Values

The concluding entry for a Domesday holding usually states its 'value' both in 1066 and in 1086, but not for an intermediate date as in some counties; and the 1066 value is almost always given before the 1086 value. The value of some holdings remained the same at the two dates and this was stated either by repeating the same figure or by using the phrase Modo similiter. But the value of most holdings changed. While some showed an increase that was usually small, the great majority showed a decrease that was usually considerable. Where the value had decreased to nothing, or almost nothing, the land was normally said to be waste.'

… Many entries seem to be incomplete and, in a very large number, there is no reference to either or both of the values. Holdings waste in 1086 sometimes have a 1066 value entered for them and sometimes not … Sometimes, when no value is recorded for a holding, it would appear to be included with other totals … they may well have had no 1086 value because they were both waste …

(6) Measurements

Near the end of many entries there is a statement about the size of the holding. The units employed are leagues and furlongs and, where the two dimensions differ, the larger is always recorded first. Where they are the same, the dimensions are usually repeated … For ten entries only does the formula become 'n leagues in length and as much in breadth' or 'n leagues in length and the same in breadth'. The meaning of these measurements is obscure and they present certain difficulties.

In the first place, it is difficult to see what exactly is implied by these measurements. Whatever was the length of a league, it seems to have comprised 12 furlongs. But this does not take us far. How did the Commissioners envisage shape in estimating length and breadth ? What relation did these linear measurements bear to area ? We cannot tell. But we do know that for many counties, including Yorkshire, a similar type of measurement was used to record the size of woodland. It was also used occasionally in Yorkshire and elsewhere for recording the amount of meadow. Dimensions are also included in the fourteen North Riding entries that refer to open land, field and arable field; all but one of these also contain a reference to wood or underwood.

Editor's note: 1 furlong = ⅛ mile (660 feet or 220 yards). 12 furlongs = 1½ miles.

… The second difficulty … is to decide whether the dimensions recorded for a manor also covered its dependent vills … In the third place, the dimensions sometimes seem to cover a number of places geographically quite separate … Fourthly, it is impossible to see why these measurements were recorded for some places and not for others. No amount of arithmetical dexterity can bring the measurements into relation with the resources of their respective holdings …


Composite entries with linked places are so frequent, and the number of places involved in a linkage is often so considerable, that it would be unrealistic to divide the totals of each group of linked holdings among its constituents. The result of any such division would be to invalidate the symbols that were plotted for individual places: maps showing the distribution of plough-teams and population by settlements have therefore not been drawn for the North Riding. If the linkages crossed the units used for calculating densities, those densities would also be invalidated. The delimitation of the twenty artificial divisions shown on Figs. 27-30 has therefore been determined not so much by variations in soil and relief as by the distribution and pattern of linked entries; the divisions have been so devised that the holdings of each composite entry are contained within a single division. The artificial nature of the units has been increased by the fact that their boundaries have been drawn to coincide with those of civil parishes in order to make possible a statistical analysis of the information; and many parishes (perhaps most) stretch across more than one kind of soil and country. Clearly, therefore, these artificial units do not provide an ideal basis for distinguishing degrees of variation over the face of the country, but, at least, they enable some of the major contrasts to be discerned.

On Figs. 27-30, three areas have been excluded from the calculation of densities because they contained no Domesday vills, but whether these areas were unused in the eleventh century we cannot say. This adjustment may produce some inaccuracy but only to a very slight degree and it cannot affect the general picture.

Of the six recurring standard formulae, those relating to plough-teams and population seem most likely to reflect something of the distribution of wealth and prosperity throughout the Riding in the eleventh century. Even they are not without some degree of uncertainty, but, if they cannot be trusted in detail, they are, at any rate, useful enough for drawing broad contrasts. When the distributions of plough-teams and population are compared, certain common features stand out (Figs. 28 and 30). The most noticeable of these are that all the densities are low and that variations throughout the Riding are small; there is no great difference between areas of maximum and of minimum density of plough-teams, between those of highest and of lowest population density. It also seems that, in general, the areas with most people were those with most plough-teams, and those with a sparse population coincided with the areas having few plough-teams. Fig. 27, showing the distribution of the density of plough-lands, shows a pattern very similar to that of the two other maps, the chief difference being that the density of plough-lands is almost always greater than the density of plough-teams: but in view of the doubtful nature of the plough-land entries, the implications of this map are uncertain.

Within these small variations it is possible, when crossing the Riding from west to east, to distinguish three main areas of contrasting density. The first area lay in the Pennines to the west; this was an upland region which had very low densities that in parts fell to zero. Secondly, in the centre, lying approximately between the Pennines on the west and the North Yorkshire Moors on the east, the lowland of the Vale of York had densities not high but markedly higher than those of the remainder of the Riding: the area to the south of Richmond had unusually high densities. The third area was in the east of the Riding: this mostly had very low densities which in places fell to zero.


Types of entries

The amount of woodland on a holding in the North Riding was normally recorded by giving its length and breadth in terms of leagues and of furlongs … Sometimes one set of woodland measurements is found in a combined entry covering a number of vills … This … seems to imply, although not necessarily, some process of addition whereby the dimensions of separate tracts of wood were consolidated into one sum. But it is quite impossible to know how this woodland was distributed amongst the various vills, and so on Fig. 31 the measurements in these linked entries have been plotted for the first-named vill only, and the other places in the entry have each been indicated merely by a separate symbol: (the wood in a composite entry has always been plotted for the first-named place, in addition to any other wood that is mentioned in a separate entry for that place. If any vill (other than the first-named) in a linked entry also has wood entered for it in a separate entry, that wood has been plotted instead of the conventional symbol). Once again, whatever minor inaccuracies are thus introduced, they cannot greatly affect the general picture of the distribution of woodland as shown on the map.

The type of wood most frequently recorded in the North Riding was wood for pannage (silva pastilis). Of other kinds, the most common was underwood, silva minuta being mentioned in twenty entries for twenty-four places. Coppice (silva modica) was also mentioned in three entries for three places. It is very difficult to know whether or not these two terms were meant to express the same thing but they are indicated by the same symbol on Fig. 31. Of the twenty silva minuta entries, nine give the size of the wood in terms of two linear dimensions, while for the eleven others no dimensions are recorded.

There are five entries that refer simply to silva without mentioning pannage, and dimensions are recorded for four of them …

The three types of woodland already referred to - pasturable wood, underwood and wood - are linked in thirteen entries with certain other terms: with open land, field and arable field. These entries have been included in the category of 'other mention of woodland' when compiling Fig. 31.

Lastly, certain other types of wood were also mentioned very occasionally … 'wood, not for pannage (silva non pastilis)' … useless wood (silva inutilis) and, finally, 'neither meadow nor wood' (nec pratum nec silva).

Distribution of woodland

Woodland, as Fig. 31 shows, was distributed very unevenly throughout the Riding … There was another, smaller area of woodland along the coast between Skelton and Whitby which, locally, stretched up into Eskdale …

Perhaps the most striking feature of Fig. 31 is the large part of the Riding with no recorded woodland. For the Pennine region in the extreme west and for the North Yorkshire Moors, this might well have been expected. But the complete absence of woodland, according to the Domesday Inquest, in the area between the Cleveland Hills and the River Tees is somewhat surprising. The same is true of the area just north of York, but the lowlands of the Vale of Pickering may well have been too marshy for much wood.


Types of entries

The meadow entries for the North Riding are comparatively straightforward; the formula is normally 'n acres of meadow' (n acrae prati) … More usually, however, the amounts are small, being normally between 5 and 10 acres. The figures are sometimes round numbers that suggest estimates … A certain vagueness can also be detected in part of the entry for Whitby (305) and in that for Hutton Magna (309); at Prestby and Sowerby, two of the eleven sokelands of Whitby, there were xxvi acrae prati per loca … On the other hand, there are some entries that give the impression of being actual amounts … Where, for one place, more than one entry records meadow, the individual amounts have been added together and the total acreage has been plotted on Fig. 32. The meadow in a linked entry has been plotted for the first-named place only, but all the other places in the entry have also been indicated by a separate symbol in order to show the possible places in which meadow may have been situated. No attempt has been made to equate Domesday acres with those of the present day. They have been treated merely as conventional units of measurement, and Fig. 32 has been plotted on that assumption.

Distribution of meadowland

Fig. 32 shows that the meadowland of the North Riding was to be found chiefly along certain river valleys and in the principal vales … many of the vills near the coast, from Whitby to the mouth of the Tees, had some meadow … from York northwards about as far as Thirsk, was completely without meadow; so were the valleys of the North Yorkshire Moors …


Fisheries (piscariae) are recorded for 1086 in connection with only two places in the North Riding, and there was also mention of the site of a fishery. Neither fisheries nor eels are mentioned in connection with mills in the Yorkshire folios …

There is nothing particularly noteworthy about these entries except, perhaps, the fact that they are so few and that there is no indication of any one place having more than one fishery (note: this contrasts with the two other ridings).

The three vills with a fishery or the site of a fishery were all situated in the north-west of the Riding (note: also, they were all three held by Count Alan). It is impossible to believe that these three Domesday entries represent the total fisheries of the North Riding in the eleventh century. There must have been many other places with fisheries - for example, in the Vale of Pickering. All that the Domesday evidence does is to show that river-fisheries did play a part in the economy of some villages. Nothing is said about sea-fishing.


Perhaps the most striking feature of the Yorkshire folios is the very large amount of waste that they record - a terrible testimony to the efficacy of 'the harrying of the north' by the Normans during the winter of 1069-70. 'Seventeen years later, the marks of this devastation were to be seen on every page of the Domesday Survey; many pages present hardly anything else': H. C. Darby, An Historical Geography of England before 1800 (1936) at page 170. But though it was the Normans who were mainly responsible for this wasting, the ravages of the Danes and Scots in 1069 and 1070 were also partly to blame.

As many as 217 places were wholly waste and 150 were partly waste, a total of 367 out of the 639 places recorded in the Text. In other words, between 57% and 58% of the vills in the North Riding were wholly or partly waste. And this figure is certainly on the conservative side because it makes no allowance for those fairly numerous places where, although waste is specifically mentioned, the form of the entries suggests that probably they were also waste. For example, the complete entry for Troutsdale (300) states: 'M. in Troutsdale Archil [had] 2 carucates for geld. Land for 1 plough'; no waste is recorded, but it seems reasonable to think, as no other information is recorded, that it was waste. This type of entry is found for some sixty places, which means that in all probability no less than two places out of every three in the North Riding were in fact wholly or partly waste.

The vills of the North Riding had suffered different fates, and it is possible to distinguish five categories … Firstly, there were many vills that must have been wholly waste in 1086 … The second type comprises those vills where waste is recorded for some holdings only, but for which nevertheless no population is mentioned … Thirdly, there are those vills … for which neither waste nor population is entered. It seems that the information recorded in the Domesday Book is incomplete, but in spite of this we are probably correct in concluding that vills in this class were at least mainly waste. The fourth category, the partially waste vills with some population, really includes two slightly different kinds. On the one hand, there are vills … where one holding in the viii was waste and had neither population nor value, while the other holding had no waste and possessed not only population but also both a 1066 and a 1086 value. On the other hand … there may be some specific mention of the fact that the land was only partly waste. Lastly, there are those vills … for which there is no mention of waste in any entry and for which population, plough-teams and values are recorded.

It is not possible to be certain of the precise meaning of the phrase Wasta est, but the majority of the entries in the Yorkshire folios seem to convey the fact that a waste holding had no population, no teams and no value in 1086. Most waste entries conform to this interpretation.

Even when a holding was 'waste' it was not necessarily completely devoid of resources or value, as some forty entries for the North Riding show. Representative entries relating to such holdings are set out below:

Aislaby (Langeberge) (305): ii carucae possunt esse … Ibi vi acrae prati. Silva pastilis i leuga longa et i lata … T.R.E. x solidos et viii denarios. Modo wasta est

Most of these entries are similar in form to those for Aislaby … though waste, they possessed wood or meadow, but these gave the holding no value in 1086 … Occasionally, however, these resources were of profit and were assigned a value for 1086 … These, and other holdings similar to them, have been regarded not as 'partly waste' but as entirely waste in the sense both that all their arable land seems to have been waste and that they had neither plough-teams nor population. They do not necessarily appear as wholly waste' on Fig. 33 because some of the places had other holdings with plough-teams and population in addition to their devastated land.

Distribution of waste

Fig. 33 shows that the waste vills were especially frequent on the flank of the Pennines and in the northern part of the Vale of York from just north of Thirsk northwards to the Riding boundary. Much of the coastal area, from Fyling to the mouth of the River Tees, had a considerable amount of waste, and there was also some just north of the city of York. The Vale of Pickering and the coastal areas to the east had many partially waste vills. The largest area without much waste was probably the land lying west of the River Swale, between Richmond, Masham and Leyburn. The absence of waste in this part of the Riding corroborates the suggestion already made that this was probably the most prosperous district. This is also apparent if we compare the map showing the distribution of waste (Fig.33) with that of inhabited and uninhabited vills (Fig. 34). There were relatively few uninhabited vills in the area west of the River Swale just referred to, and in the south-east of the Riding. Conversely, they reached their greatest numbers in the extreme west of the Riding, in the northern portion of the Vale of York, in the area between the River Tees and the Cleveland Hills (except just near the scarp-foot) and along the coast from Fyling to the mouth of the River Tees. The correspondence of these distributions is perhaps best shown on Fig. 35 which combines all this information.

Various attempts have been made to explain the significance of the distribution of Domesday waste. In a pioneer work relating to southern England, F. H. Baring maintained that a reduction in value indicated wasting and hence the passage of the Conqueror's army from the Battle of Hastings to the submission of London - F. H. Baring, 'The Conqueror's Footprints in Domesday', Eng. Hist. Rev. xiii (London, 1898), pp. 17-25. In a similar way, J. Beddoe and J. H. Rowe suggested that the distribution of Domesday waste in Yorkshire might have been the result - direct or indirect - of the passage of the Conqueror's army during the harrying of 1069-70. The conclusions of T. A. M. Bishop emphasise the fact that there may have been no simple relationship between the routes followed by the Norman army and the areas of most waste:

The condition of Yorkshire as a whole; for which the ravages of the Danes and Scots in 1069 and 1070 were partly responsible, must be set down mainly to the methodical destruction carried out by the French in the winter of 1069-70; but if the condition of particular areas is assumed to be directly traceable to their operations, it must appear remarkable that William's army should have indulged in no more than sporadic devastation of large parts of the plain, while carrying fire and sword to remote upland settlements.

per T. A. M. Bishop, 'The Norman Settlement of Yorkshire' in Studies in Mediaeval History presented to Frederick Maurice Powicke, ed. by R. W. Hunt, W. A. Pantin and F. W. Southern (Oxford, 1948), pp. 1-14. T. A. M. Bishop, opus citatum pages 2 and 3. In a footnote to this passage Bishop does seem to provide the most likely explanation for the large number of waste vills that we have already noted in the north of the Riding, when he writes:

The Scots invaded north Yorkshire in 1070, and depopulated "Cleveland" (i.e. the plain immediately south of Middlesbrough) and Teesdale (there is some evidence that this included upper Teesdale as well as the westward continuation of the Cleveland plain)."

To all this we can agree, even though this explanation obviously does not account for all the waste that the Domesday Book records.

Bishop suggests that the waste holdings of 1086 did not indicate the tracks of the destroying armies, but that they were the result of a movement of people, between 1070 and 1086, from unfavourable areas to the wasted holdings of more fertile districts. As an instance of such migration and colonisation, Bishop postulates a movement of population from Swaledale, Wensleydale and their secondary dales down to parts of the Richmondshire plain. He further suggests that such migrations were not spontaneous movements of the peasantry from the poorer land to the better, but movements initiated and controlled by the various new owners of the vills that had been wasted. He sees one indication of this in the fact that while one holding in a vill was waste, another, belonging to a different tenant-in-chief, had its full complement of population and of plough-teams …

Bishop also points to the fact that, at any rate for the larger fiefs, there was usually a marked difference between the more remote upland portions which were generally under-populated, and the lowland parts which were normally well peopled. By contrast, those landholders whose fiefs were mainly in the lowland areas had the population of no undevastated vills upon which to draw; their estates therefore were under-developed and thinly populated, and showed an unusually great decline in value between 1066 and 1086. As an example he cites the lands of Count Alan and of one of his tenants, Robert de Musters. Count Alan's land as a whole was mainly

"divided between nearly deserted western uplands and partly inhabited eastern plain; the only part of the North Riding which included a considerable number of depopulated upland villages, it had recovered over 40%. of its pre-Conquest value, while the rest of the North Riding had recovered less than 15%." (Fig. 36).

This relative prosperity was in striking contrast to that of Robert de Musters who

"had not been enfeoffed with any upland manors. His Yorkshire fee consisted of ten estates all lying in the fertile plain between the Swale and the Ure; nine of these were waste in 1086."

A further clue to the history of the Yorkshire manor in the period 1066-1086 may, according to Bishop, be derived from a consideration of excess plough-teams, population and values. He thinks that in those vills where there was a relatively large population and excess teams, and where the value had risen between 1066 and 1086, the population was probably relatively long established and was possibly comprised of survivors or descendants of pre-Conquest inhabitants. But on the other hand, in those vills where, though the population was relatively large and there were excess plough-teams, there had been a big decline in value between 1066 and 1086, the population had probably arrived but recently and had not yet advanced far in clearing and cultivating an area that had perhaps remained waste for some years after 'the harrying of the north'.

All this evidence, taken as a whole, suggests the following conclusions. Initially, 'the harrying of the north' in the winter of 1069-70, coupled with the ravages of both the Danes and the Scots in 1069 and 1070, resulted in the wasting of many vills. Some at least may have been repopulated from those vills that escaped devastation; and these latter in turn became waste. As no intermediate value is given for the Yorkshire holdings, we have no direct evidence for the location of the wasted vills of 1070. In view of the wide variations in different holdings of the same lord at the same place, and also of the fact that the prosperity of the lowland vills of different fiefs does not always seem to have depended upon an association with upland vills, we cannot postulate with certainty a wholesale migration from upland to lowland - See pp. 450-454 below. Some migration may well have taken place between the wasted vills and those that escaped devastation, but the evidence is not conclusive enough to enable us to say exactly what occurred when King William's forces ranged over the Riding.


Mills are mentioned in 1086 in connection with only 22 out of the 649 Domesday settlements in the North Riding: this figure of twenty-two has been arrived at by counting as one those entries where 1 mill was recorded in a linked entry for more than one place. In a composite entry covering a number of vills, the mill has been plotted for the first-named place. Their annual value was normally stated in shillings, and ranged from mills worth only 2s. each as, for example, at Dalby (Bolesford) (314), up to those which were worth 10s., as at Stokesley (331). Most of the entries were in the form i molendinum n solidorum, but a few specifically stated that the mills rendered a certain sum of money; land at Sowerby (Gerlestre) (299), for example, was cum molendino quod reddit xx solidos. No eel renders are given for any mill and no fractions of a mill are recorded …

All the twenty-two North Riding settlements with mills had only each; there were no groups of 2, 3 or more mills, as were found in the two other Ridings.

Fig. 37 shows how the mills were mainly aligned along the streams, but their general distribution, as opposed to the location of individual mills, is not quite what might be expected. The areas that probably had the most arable and the most dense population were not always the areas with the most mills; and conversely the areas that appear to have had the most mills were not those with the most arable or with the densest population … And, on the other hand, what happened about milling in the area around York, an area with no mills at all? Was the grain of villages without mills ground by hand, or taken elsewhere? Or is the Domesday record incomplete? While this last is not by any means an easy question to answer, the relative infrequency with which mills are recorded for the North Riding might lead us to suspect that in this respect, at least, the returns are very far from being complete.


Urban Life

Miscellaneous Information

Hardly any miscellaneous information is recorded in the North Riding entries. But the entry for Crooksby (311), which lies in the Pennines in a valley off Wensleydale, mentions moors: morae sunt ibi. Moors must have formed part of the land of very many North Riding wills, but why there should be only this exceptional reference to them in this Riding it is quite impossible to say.

Regional Summary

(3) The North Yorkshire Moors

This upland region is built of Jurassic rocks, but there is a great difference between these and the Jurassic rocks of the south of England. Here, in the north, limestones are subordinate and the dominant rocks are grits, sandstones and shales. Though deeply dissected with narrow valleys, the region as a whole lies mostly more than 800 ft. above sea-level, rising in places to over 1,400 ft. In view of its general inhospitable character, the complete absence of Domesday vills is not surprising. How, or if, the region was utilised by the surrounding vills, we cannot say.

(7) The Coastal Fringe

Between the North Yorkshire Moors and the sea is a narrow coastal belt, generally some five miles or so in width except where tongues of lowland project westward up the valley of the Esk and the headwaters of the Derwent. Most of this area is covered with Boulder Clay. Except in the central part of the region, settlements were fairly numerous, but many of those in the north were uninhabited or waste in 1086. The density of teams nowhere rose above about 0.3 per square mile and that of population above 1. There was a fair amount of wood, especially in the north; the limited amount of meadow was entirely in the north, which also had the only mill in the region.

Chapter VIII

The Northern Counties (by H.C. Darby, Litt.D.)

Waste (at pages 450-454)

… The harrying was even more terrible than the specific references to waste might lead one to suppose.

It is one thing to regard the waste holdings of 1086 as being a consequence of William's campaigns; it is another thing to explain the relationship between cause and effect. F. H. Baring, in 1898, attributed the frequent post-Conquest reduction in values in southern England to the passage of William's forces. "It is obvious", he wrote, "that a large army living, as his did, on the country it passes through must move on a wide front and leave a broad strip of ravaged country behind". By analogy one might assume that the waste holdings of the north marked the 'footprints' of the Conqueror's forces, not only the incidental waste caused by a marching army but the deliberate ravaging in which it indulged. In southern England, most of the damaged holdings had recovered wholly or in part by 1086, but the desolation of the north was so complete that it was still evident in 1086. As Baring recognised, these ideas involve 'an element of conjecture'. The evidence certainly does not lend itself to interpretation in any rigid manner. There was not one army but several forces, and there must also have been foraging bands. And, again, local vicissitudes, for ever unknown to us, must have caused the depreciation or the wasting of this or that locality. But although it is impossible to mark on a map the exact routes taken by William's armies, the widespread damage they inflicted may well be directly reflected in the entries that now confront our eyes. Such is the argument based upon analogy with the lesser destruction that occurred in the south of England.

It has been held, however, that there is no simple and direct relationship between the distribution of waste holdings and the ravaging of William's soldiers in northern England. In particular, the presence of so many waste vills in the Pennine region has seemed to be strange; "it must appear remarkable that William's army should have indulged in no more than sporadic devastation of parts of the plain, while carrying fire and sword to remote upland settlements" (T. A. M. Bishop, 'The Norman Settlement of Yorkshire' in Studies in Mediaeval History presented to Frederick Maurice Powicke, ed. by R. W. Hunt, W. A. Pantin and F. W. Southern (Oxford, 1948), pp. 2-3.) It is Mr T. A. M. Bishop's view that the harrying took place mainly in the lowland districts, and that between 1079 and 1086 the peasantry of the vills of the uplands migrated to the empty vills in the more fertile plains; "many places shown as uninhabited in the survey were not devastated in 1069 and 1070 but abandoned between 1070 and 1086". The migration was not a spontaneous one but comprised a number of movements each initiated and controlled by a particular landowner for the benefit of his own estates. In support of this most interesting theory Mr Bishop points to a number of facts, and his ideas must now be discussed.

In the first place, there was much variation between the estates held by different people in the same vill. Thus at Rudston in the East Riding there were three holdings each assessed at 8 carucates. The holding of Richard de Surdeval (307) was waste; so was that held by Ralph Pagenel (325b), but Uctred's holding (331) had 5 villeins and 2 teams, and was worth 10s. On the other hand, it must be pointed out that there were sometimes wide variations in the different holdings of the same lord at the same place. Thus at Humburton in the North Riding one (330) of Gospatric's estates was waste, while the other (330) was tilled by 7 people with 3 teams and was worth 8s. It may therefore be inconclusive to read too much into the condition of the holdings of different lords at the same place.

In the second place, Mr Bishop says that there was a marked difference between the upland and lowland holdings of the same fief; the former were waste and the latter were mainly inhabited. This was in contrast to the greatly reduced condition of the holdings of those fiefs entirely or almost entirely in the lowland. Thus Ilbert de Laci's lands in the West Riding were divided between a waste group very largely in the uplands (i.e. over 400 ft.) and an inhabited group in the lowlands (Fig. 18). Count Alan's fief in the North Riding showed a similar contrast (Fig. 36). Moreover, very many of the lowland holdings of both fiefs were characterised by an excess of teams, and yet some had decreased in value between 1066 and 1086. It is probable that the inhabitants of such holdings had recently arrived and had not yet advanced far in clearing and cultivation. Ilbert de Laci's lowland holdings as a whole were worth 56% of their 1066 value, and those of Count Alan were worth 49%. Drogo de Bevrere's fief, in contrast, consisted entirely of lowland holdings in Holderness; these were almost all without excess teams and the fief as a whole had fallen to as low as 17% of its 1066 value.

There were, on the other hand, some entirely lowland fiefs that were no less prosperous than the lowland portions of those which straddled both lowland and upland. Hugh fitz Baldric's holdings were all or almost all below 400 ft., and yet they were characterised by excess teams and, as a whole, had declined to only 70% of their 1066 value (Fig. 133). Mr Bishop explains this by inferring that "as sheriff from 1069 to some time after 1080 Hugh had used his office to strip his master's estates of implements, cattle and men". Roger de Busli's fief was also mainly lowland in character; its holdings were likewise characterised by excess teams and they had declined to only 58% (Fig. 134). Mr Bishop explains this by suggesting, amongst other things, that some of the inhabitants had possibly come "from that portion of his fee which extended into north Nottinghamshire". We must add, however, that de Busli's Nottinghamshire estates at some 110 places were worth as much as 82% of their 1066 value, and that his Derbyshire estates at seven places were worth as much as 79%.

Clearly there must be much that is conjectural about any attempt to reconstruct the events of 1070-86; and any discussion that involves plough-lands is hindered by the possibility - Maitland's 'horrible suspicion' - that there might be a conventional element about them, or about some of them. We must add that there may be nothing intrinsically improbable in the wasting of 'remote upland settlements'. They were not as remote as all that, being almost all below the 800 ft. contour. Relatively inaccessible places in hostile country are those often most in need of subduing, because the plains can be more easily held. We have evidence of William's march across the Pennines, and of the hunger and dissatisfaction of his troops, in the wet winter of 1069-70. The devastated settlements of the uplands, that is of agriculturally marginal land, would be likely to carry longest the imprint of their harrying.

If only the folios for Yorkshire (and also those for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire) stated the values of holdings at the time when their Norman holders received them, we would then know what was the distribution of waste circa 1070 as opposed to that in 1086, and so could argue much more clearly about these matters. Fortunately we have this information for one northern county. The Cheshire folios state values for three dates - for 1066, for 1086, and for an intermediate date. From this information, we see that the devastation of Cheshire in 1070 was considerable, and that waste vills were abundant in upland and lowland alike (Fig. 104). By 1086, many of the lowland vills had recovered, but the upland vills still lay waste.

On balance, therefore, we must regard the presumed migration in Yorkshire during 1070-86 as being possible but difficult to prove conclusively. That some migration did take place between wasted and non-wasted vills is very likely. J. Beddoe and J. H. Rowe, in 1907, thought that "some of the Norman owners had lands in other counties, whence they have transferred some of the superfluous, or at least not greatly needed, population". Something of this sort might well have taken place in Yorkshire itself, but to what extent we cannot say. Nor, in the absence of further evidence, can we say that the upland vills were relatively untouched by William's armies.

Whatever the precise vicissitudes that lay behind the entries of the Yorkshire folios, the fact of large-scale desolation is certain enough. Fig. 132 leaves us in no doubt about the importance of devastation as an element in the economic geography of northern England in the eleventh century.

Appendix I at pages 458 & 459

The Yorkshire Folios, by I.S. Maxwell, M.A.

The Domesday Entries

The Summary (folios 379 - 382)

… It is likely that the Summary follows the order of the original returns more closely than the Text does. This is because it records the entries wapentake by wapentake or hundred by hundred, and was not (as the Text was) arranged according to the tenants-in-chief. Consequently, the entries in the Summary are arranged in a much more geographical order than are those in the Text. As an example of this, Fig. 135 shows all the entries entered in the Summary under Langeberge wapentake (380b). The wapentake is divided into three sections in the Domesday Book, and it can be seen from the map that the places recorded in these three sections lie in three geographically distinct blocks. The first entry in the first section, Figlinge (Fyling), (1 on Fig. 135) refers to the south-easternmost vill in Langeberge wapentake, while the last entry in the third section, Rontun (East Rounton), (114 on Fig. 135) refers to the vill situated farthest to the south-west. Furthermore, Fig. 135 clearly shows that many of the places were entered in a definite, geographical order.

Editor's note: we are here concerned with the first 14 entries which are, in "order of the original returns", as follows:

  1. Figlinge (Fyling Hall)
  2. Nortfigelin (Fylingthorpe)
  3. Ghinipe (Gnipe Howe)
  4. Witebi (Whitby)
  5. Prestebi (Prestby - lost)
  6. Normanebi (Normanby)
  7. Sneton (Sneaton)
  8. Uglebedesbi (Ugglebarnby)
  9. Sourebi (Sowerby - lost)
  10. Brecca (Breck - lost)
  11. Baldebi (Bauldbyes - lost)
  12. Florun (Flowergate - lost ?)
  13. Staxebi (Stakesby)
  14. Neueham (Newholm)

"Anglo Saxon England" (1971) Sir Frank Stenton at page 239

VIII The Age of Alfred

… The Norwegians were the furthest of the three peoples from any sense of political unity. The narrowness of their habitable lands, which made for their political disunion, was already impelling individuals to seek fortune or settlement oversea, and the first Scandinavian raiders who touched the English coast undoubtedly came from Norway. Between 786 and 802 three ships' companies from Horthaland put into shore at Portland, and killed the reeve of Dorchester, who rode up to ask their business. In 793 Lindisfarne was plundered by raiders from the north, and Jarrow was visited in the following year. But the main body of Norwegian adventurers passed round the north coast of Scotland to Ireland, establishing intermediate colonies in the Shetlands and Orkneys, Caithness and Sutherland, and the Hebrides. It was not until the tenth century that any considerable Norwegian settlements were founded in England, and they were only the result of a secondary migration from Norse colonies previously established in Ireland …

Editor's note: perhaps explaining the possible migration of individuals from Romsdal "to seek fortune or settlement" in and around Ramsdale.

"Scandinavian Settlement Names in Yorkshire" (1972) Gillian Fellows Jensen at pages 189 to 194 and 231 to 236

VII. The distribution of the settlements with Scandinavian and scandinavianised names

8. The nationality of the Scandinavian settlers

Since the distribution of the Scandinavian place-names, in YW and YN suggests that some of the settlers there were Norwegians who came across the Pennines from Lancashire and the Lake District, it seems advisable to examine all the other evidence which can help to determine the nationality of the settlers in the county as a whole.

Very occasionally the place-name itself indicates a settlement of Norwegians or Danes. In YN there are four Normanbys, indicating settlements of Norwegians, and an Irby, which probably indicates a settlement of Norwegian vikings from Ireland. It is likely, too, that the two Birkbys or "býs of the Britons" in YN and YW mark Norwegian settlements for they can hardly represent isolated communities surviving from the British kingdom of Elmet. The Britons in question were most likely to have been Cumbrian Britons who had accompanied the Norwegians into Yorkshire. It must not be forgotten that the name Normanby indicates an isolated settlement of Norwegians or their associates in areas where the population was predominantly Danish. Isolated settlements of Norwegians in areas of predominantly English population are probably indicated by Normanton in YW and two Irtons in YN. Three Danbys in YN indicate isolated settlements of Danes, presumably in Norwegian-dominated areas, while Denaby and two Denbys, whose first elements are the OE genitive plurals Denigea and Dena "of the Danes", indicate settlements of Danes in areas of YW where English place-names are far more common than býs but where the Scandinavian loan-word must have entered the English language. The name Danthorpe indicates an isolated þorp of Danes. This vill is in Holderness, so the neighbours there were more probably English than Norwegian, in spite of the fact that the first element is Scandinavian in form and not OE.

All these names indicating isolated settlements of Norwegians or Danes provide what might almost be called negative evidence for settlement. The presence of Norwegians or Danes in the area in question was such an unusual feature that the description "the settlement of the Danes", for example, was sufficient to identify a particular vill. The Normanbys, Irby and Normanton are marked on Map 10 by the symbol ÷ and the Birkbys by the symbol B.

There are a number of place-names whose first element is either an Irish personal name or a typically West Scandinavian personal name. These suggest that the original tenant of the place in question was a Norwegian viking and thus perhaps that the settlers in the village and its neighbourhood were also of Norwegian or Irish extraction. These place-names are indicated on Map 10 by the symbols I (Irish) and N (Norwegian). It is possible, of course, that these names, too, indicate isolated settlements of Norwegians but, unlike names of the type Normanby, they do not necessarily do so. There may have been many other Norwegians in the area or, alternatively, the personal names in question may have been borne by men of Danish or English descent. There are three býs containing Irish personal names and 17 containing typically West Scandinavian ones. 13 þorps contain typically West Scandinavian personal names but there are no Irish personal names combined with þorp. Thurgoland contains the personal name þorgeirr, which is markedly more popular in West Scandinavia than East Scandinavia, and there are three of the hybrids in tun which contain typically West Scandinavian personal names, namely Brýningr (2) and Vikingr.

It might be thought that a surer indication of a West or East Scandinavian origin for a place-name would be given by the presence in the name of an element other than a personal name that is characteristic of Norwegian or Danish respectively. This is not so, however. The place-name element þorp has earlier been taken to be a Danish test-word (e.g. in PNE1 ii 206) but it seems likely that the Norwegian settlers in England borrowed the element from the Danes and adopted it into their daily language. The use of the element þorp is thus not in itself sufficient evidence to prove a Danish rather than a Norwegian origin for the settlement in question.

Sinderby contains the East Scandinavian form of the word for "southern", and Coniston and Coneysthorpe perhaps the East Scandinavian form of the word for "king".

It has already been noted that almost all the names which denote temporary settlements have been generally assumed to be of Norwegian origin. This applies to Golcar, Starkerghs and Selside in YW, Arram, Argam and Scorborough in YE, and Salescale, two Upsalls, Airy Hill, Airy Holme, Upsland and Eryholme in YN. Some of the elements in question, however, although not recorded in Danish place-names, do appear in place-names in Sweden and are not, therefore, unknown in East Scandinavian. Another possible explanation for such names is that they were given by Danes or Englishmen who had borrowed the West Scandinavian words to describe structures for which their own languages had no adequate terms.

There are four topographical names which contain the Irish loan-word cross, which was brought to England by the Norwegians from Ireland, and these names may have been coined by Norwegians. They are Osgoldcross, Staincross and Crosland in YW, and Sneculfcros in YE. The names could, however, equally well have been coined by Danes who had adopted the Irish loan-word from the Norwegians and the fact that three of the names are borne by wapentakes or hundreds suggests that cross had passed into general use among the Anglo-Scandinavians. Skerne YE, which was originally a river-name, may be a so-called memorial name, recalling the Norwegian river Skirna. Since it is more probable, however, that the name is simply a scandinavianisation of an OE river-name, its formation can equally well be ascribed to the Danes. The first element of Falsgrave YN is either the West Scandinavian appellative hváll "knoll" or this appellative used as a place-name. Another place-name which has been thought to be of Norwegian origin is Sedbergh, for Setberg occurs as a place-name in both Norway and Iceland but not in Denmark. That hváll and setberg are not recorded in Danish may simply be, of course, because the Danish landscape is not particularly hilly. There is no formal objection to these place-names being of Danish origin. Sedbergh may even be of English origin, for a Sedborough (DB Seteberge 106r) is found in Devon.

Kristian Hald considers (in KLNM sub voce by, 385-86, and sub voce Personnavne, 227) that the survival of genitive -ar indicates a Norwegian origin for a Scandinavian place-name in England. This genitive survives in seven býs, Aismunderby in YW, and Amotherby, Bellerby, Helperby, Marderby, Melmerby and Romanby in YN, four þorps, Barthorpe, Belthorpe, Burythorpe and Helperthorpe, all in YE, although DB indicates genitive -ar only for Barthorpe, Holderness in YE, and the hybrid Osmotherley in YN. Whereas these names may well be of Norwegian origin, it is not necessary to assume that they must be so. The genitive in -ar was still found in Danish at the time of the original settlements in England and its survival in the Danelaw would simply reflect the conservatism of the Danish language in a colonial area. Note that the DB form of Scorborough shows survival of a secondary genitive in -ar. This genitive, although it is secondary in the appellative in question, is the normal one in West Scandinavian. It is also, however, found in some Danish place-names containing the element skógr.

It should be noted that the survival of the diphthongs ei and au in the Yorkshire place-names is not an indication of West Scandinavian origin. These diphthongs were still found in Danish at the time of the colonisation and the subsequent East Scandinavian monophthongisation did not take place in the Danelaw (Cf. G. Fellows Jensen, "The scribe of the Lindsey Survey", NoB (1969) 67-71). The DB spellings of two of the four Sowerbys as Sorebi, of kaupmann in Copmanthorpe as Copeman, and of austr in Austhorpe as Osse- show English substitution of o for au (Cf. Fellows Jensen § 47i).

Breck YN has been considered to be a West Scandinavian name because it shows assimilation of nk to kk but since some West Danish dialects also show an early tendency to assimilate, it is not certain that this name was coined by Norwegians.

Variations in sound-developments and inflexions can, then, give us no certain indication of the nationality of the settlers. Typically Danish words such as þorp can be shown to have been adopted by the Norwegians. Typically Norwegian words were almost certainly taken over by the Danes to denote unfamiliar landscapes and unaccustomed farming-practices. It seems, therefore, that the only reliable indication of nationality is provided by place-names of the type Normanby and Danby. The place-names which contain typically West Scandinavian or Irish personal names, taken as a class, may also indicate Norwegian settlement but this is rather doubtful. Further, such place-names may, like the Normanbys, merely indicate isolated settlements of Norwegians. There is, in fact, very little certain evidence about the nationality of the Scandinavian settlers in the various parts of the county.

When the býs whose names in one way or another contain evidence that might point to Norwegian settlement are plotted on the map, it can be seen that the majority of them are in YN and that they are fairly evenly distributed over the whole of this area with the exception of the high ground. In all probability they represent in part settlements of Irish-Norwegians and in part settlements established by Norwegians coming directly over the North Sea and landing on the coast or in the Tees estuary. It is noticeable that two of the three býs containing Irish personal names lie far to the west of the county. The third name, Duggleby in YE, must represent a settlement made by an Irish-Norwegian coming from the Norse kingdom of York.

The þorps present a rather different picture. Whereas seven of the names which indicate a West Scandinavian settlement are found in YN and YW, the other six are in YE. It is noticeable that the names in YE are borne by places lying on or near the Roman roads leading from York and Malton. They probably represent expansion from the kingdom of York. No þorps with West Scandinavian first elements are found in the southern half of YE. Danthorpe, as mentioned above, probably indicates a settlement of Danes in an English area.

Thurgoland is in a Pennine valley in YW, while the three hybrids in tun which contain a typically West Scandinavian personal name are in YN.

The býs containing typically East Scandinavian elements are more scattered and widespread than the ones indicating Norwegian settlement. The majority (16) are in YN but there are five in YE and four in YW. Little can be concluded from this distribution except that the Danes would seem to have settled in all parts of the county. It should be noted, however, that three out of the four place-names in YW indicate isolated settlements of Danes in areas dominated by the English.

Of the 12 þorps containing East Scandinavian elements, seven are in YE and two of the others are not far across the borders in YW and YN. Only one name, Swarthorpe, is to be found at any distance from YE, namely in the west of YN.

VIII. The age of the settlements with Scandinavian and scandinavianised names and of the names themselves

3. The administrative evidence

(e) lost villages

The fact that many þorps recorded in DB and other early sources have since disappeared was one of the arguments adduced by Hugh Smith in support of his translation of the element þorp as "dependent secondary settlement" (in PNEl ii 208-09). He considered that a vill that had disappeared could have been no more than a very minor settlement. In the case of Yorkshire, however, it would be unwise to assume automatically that the lost villages were all only minor settlements. Devastation, depopulation, enclosure and land erosion have all contributed to the eventual disappearance of well-established villages. There were raids by Danes in 1069 and 1075, and by Scots in 1070, and the Normans carried out a methodical destruction in the winter of 1069-70. It was once thought that the DB account of waste land in 1086 presented a picture of the path taken by the Conqueror's army in this winter campaign. It has been argued by T. A. M. Bishop (in "The Norman Settlement in Yorkshire", Studies in Medieval History Presented to F. M. Powicke, 1948,1-14.), however, that many of the places shown as waste and uninhabited in 1086 were not devastated in 1069-70 but abandoned between 1070 and 1086. The pattern of depopulated and repopulated villages in Yorkshire in 1086 was determined by the efforts of some of the tenants-in-chief to revive those areas of their fees which either contained the best land for arable farming or were of strategic importance for defence against the Scots. Settlements in fertile areas such as the Vale of Pickering, the middle Derwent valley, Holderness, and the plain to the west of York and Selby, and such strategically important settlements as Melsonby and Kirkby Malzeard may well have been repopulated or increased in size as part of this Norman recolonisation. It might well be argued, however, that the settlements on fertile land or in positions of military importance were probably of considerable size before the devastation and subsequent recolonisation, whereas the abandoned settlements, many of which lay in the Pennines and on the Moors, were probably minor settlements. It would be uneconomic to repopulate these, so long as more fertile land was available for colonisation as a result of the earlier devastation of the county.

There is a record of a further devastation instigated by the Conqueror in Yorkshire. In 1085, under threat of invasion by Knut of Denmark, William gave orders for the carrying out of a burnt earth policy in the coastal areas of the eastern counties. This was in order to prevent any invaders from acquiring supplies (ASC E s.a. 1085). It is not known whether this policy was, in fact, carried out and Domesday Book records no waste in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex and not very much along the coast of Lincolnshire (Cf. DGEE 377 and map on p.73). The situation in Yorkshire in 1086, however, is rather different. There are numerous waste settlements along the coast of the North and East Ridings and the mouth of the Humber (Cf. DGNE map on p.445). Some of these may well have been devastated as recently as 1085.

Seven of the names in in the coastal regions are borne by so-called lost villages, namely Grimsby in Langbargh East W, Baldby, Prestby and Sowerby in Whitby Strand Wapentake, Killerby and Stemanesbi in Pickering Lythe Wapentake, and Andrebi in Holderness. Four of these vills were recorded as being waste in 1086, namely Grimsby, Baldby, Stemanesbi and Killerby, while two more, Prestby and Sowerby, are recorded as belonging to a manor whose dependent settlements were "pene omnia wasta". There are also a number of lost þorps in these regions but a few of them are known to have been lost as the result of erosion by the sea and the Humber. Northorpe was washed away by the sea before 1369 and Tharlesthorpe overwhelmed by the Humber in 1393 (DGNE 174 and T. Sheppard, The Lost Towns of the Yorkshire Coast, 1912, 87-89, 118. It should be noted at this point that the Scandinavian settlements in Yorkshire coincided with a period when the Humber shore and the banks of the tributary creeks were higher and drier than they are now and hence more attractive as landing-places and settlement sites (Cf. G. de Boer, "Eastern Yorkshire: The Geographical Background to Early Settlement", The Fourth Viking Congress, ed. Alan Small, 1965, 209). There was also erosion at Hilderthorpe and Wilsthorpe but the loss of these two vills would in fact seem to be due to desertion by the Augustinian priory of Bridlington (Beresford 63, 70). There remain to be considered five lost þorps along the coast of YN (Eterstorp, Roberthorpe, Scage(s)torp, Arnodestorp and Roscheltorp) and five along the coast of YE (Ricstorp, Southorpe, Arnestorp, Welwick Thorpe and Chrachetorp). In YN Roscheltorp was recorded as waste in 1086, while Eterstorp, Roberthorpe and Scage(s)torp were in a manor described as mostly waste. In YE Chrachetorp was waste in 1086, while Southorpe and Arnestorp were in manors whose values had depreciated strikingly between TRE and 1086. There is a single lost hybrid in tūn on the coast of YE, namely Grimston Garth, but this vill has been the victim of coastal erosion and enclosure and probably not of William's devastation.

The devastation of Yorkshire by the Conqueror created opportunities for subsequent colonisation and these were grasped by the Cistercian monks in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. It has previously been thought that there was considerable depopulation of villages by the religious houses, particularly the Cistercian Abbeys, in connection with the establishment of the houses themselves and the cultivation of the land attached to their granges (Cf. R. A. Donkin, "Settlement and Depopulation on Cistercian Estates during the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries, especially in Yorkshire", Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research Vol. XXXIII no. 88, 1960, 141-65). In some instances the fact that the inhabitants of a village were evicted has been recorded, e.g. from Bracewell, but it is significant that 44% of all known twelfth-century Cistercian granges in Yorkshire lay within the lands of vills that were wholly or partly waste in 1086 and where there may not have been any inhabitants at the time when they were taken over by the abbeys. Easby in Baldersby is an instance of a settlement that was waste in 1086 and incorporated into a grange circa 1189-99. Thorpe Underwood was also waste in 1086, however, and yet it was necessary to carry out wholesale evictions from it in 1175. In spite of such evidence for depopulation, recent work on the grange has revealed that far from rejecting local assistance, the Cistercians normally recruited local labour for the working of their granges and, where there was no village near at hand, often established a substitute community (Cf. Colin Platt, The Monastic Grange in Medieval England. A Reassessment, 1969, 82-92). Although depopulation did occasionally occur preparatory to the founding of a grange, this can seldom have been complete and never permanent. With the collapse of the grange, however, there would be a tendency for the social organisation around it to disintegrate and many of the grange-sites were probably deserted in the fifteenth century. This fact may well account for the loss of some villages which were comparatively prosperous before the Cistercians took them over. According to Donkin, about half of the sites of granges in Yorkshire are noted by Beresford as lost villages. The following following places with names in are known to have been sites of, or incorporated in, Cistercian granges:

Ainderby Quernhow, Baldersby, Barrowby, Baxby, Birkby (Allerton), Great and Little Busby, Crosby, Denby (Agbrigg), Dromonby, Easby (Birdforth), Fixby, Flotmanby, Hunmanby, Kirby Hall, Kirby Wiske, Osgodby, Willerby. Nine of these eighteen býs are so-called lost villages.

There are other býs which may have been lost as a result of passing into the hands of religious houses. It is known that the site of Bordelby was occupied by Mount Grace Charterhouse (founded 1396) and that of Easby (Gilling) by Easby Abbey (Premonstratensian, founded circa 1155), and that Barnaby was a grange of Guisborough Priory (Augustinian). The býs were not the only type of settlement to be taken over by the religious houses. Ellenthorpe (Birdforth), Laysthorpe, Ravensthorpe and Thorpe Underwood were the sites of Cistercian granges (Donkin 143, 159-62). Allerthorpe (Halikeld) was the site of first a Premonstratensian priory and then a grange (Beresford 294). Fors became the first site of Jervaulx Abbey (Cistercian). Griff was a grange of Rievaulx (Cistercian), Islebeck a grange of Byland (Cistercian), and lands at Carlton in Stockton were held by both Rievaulx and St. Mary's Abbey (Benedictine).

Some vills were probably destroyed or decimated in the Scottish wars, e.g. Baldersby, where the grange was broken up in 1336 (Donkin 143). The estates were run down and the monastery buildings may have served as the nucleus of a new village settlement. Thorpe Underwood was devastated in 1363 and the monastic estate there broken up. Tradition has it that the Scots burned the church in Leake in 1318 (Beresford 302).

Some villages fell victim to enclosure, such as Hornby, Hang (Beresford 300) and Thirkleby, Buckrose (Beresford 68), Caythorpe, which was enclosed by Sir Thomas Fairfax in the early sixteenth century after twenty people had been evicted and five houses destroyed (Beresford 59), and Benningholme (Beresford 58), while others were depopulated to make way for parks, such as Sewerby (Beresford 68), Raventhorpe, which was probably destroyed to make way for an enlargement of Leconfield Park (Beresford 67), Scorborough (Beresford 67), Azerley (Beresford 233), and Hinderskelfe (Beresford 300).

Some vills may have lost their populations as a result of the Black Death, e.g. Cowlam (Beresford 6o) and Gardham (Beresford 61), or been depopulated, probably to make way for sheep, e.g. Hanging Grimston (Beresford 62), Bracken (Beresford 58), Eastburn (Beresford 6o), Skeckling (Beresford 68), or Dale Town (Beresford 297).

It can be seen, then, that the loss of some villages may well have occurred even if they had been old, well-established settlements at the time of DB. It still seems reasonable, however, to assume that the majority of the settlements which have been lost were comparatively minor ones. These would have been particularly vulnerable to devastation and presented less of a problem to landlords, spiritual or temporal, who wished to depopulate them. The total number of lost vills with names of a certain type can thus give some indication of the age of the settlements with such names as a class, although it is not possible to say that any individual lost village must have been a young settlement.

A table is given below of the percentages of lost vills in the various groups of names in Yorkshire. For the purposes of the present survey the term "lost village" embraces not only villages whose sites can no longer be identified but also villages whose sites are now marked by a solitary house or farm or archaeological remains.

42 tūns of type Grimston 2 or 13% 3 or 18% 2 or 20% 12%
58 tūns of type Carlton 2 or 8%   1 or 4% 5%
145 other hybrid names 11 or 38% 6 or 14% 15 or 20% 22%
býs 48 or 36% 12 or 31% 12 or 32% 34%
þorps 29 or 67% 42 or 62% 18 or 41% 57%
Other Scandinavian names 24 or 46% 13 or 33% 18 or 42% 41%

The figure of 38% for the lost villages with hybrid names other than those in tūn in YN is much higher than those for such hybrid names in the other two ridings. This is because it includes the five names of parts of the parishes in the Vale of Pickering. If these names are omitted from the statistics, the percentage of lost names in this group in YN is 24. When this adjustment has been made, it is revealed that the percentages of lost vills among the scandinavianised and hybrid names in all three ridings are markedly lower than among the Scandinavian names, that the hybrids in inn whose first elements are Scandinavian personal names are, as a class, less stable than the other hybrid tūns and thus probably include some young formations, that lost villages among the býs are proportionately fewer than among the other Scandinavian names, that in YN and YE, lost vills among the þorps are strikingly numerous, and that as with the parish-names, there is less difference between the percentages for býs and for þorps in YW than in the other two ridings. These figures tend to confirm the picture of the progress of the Danish settlement that has been suggested by other kinds of evidence.

"Scandinavian Settlement Names in Yorkshire" (1972) Gillian Fellows Jensen

Review by John McN. Dodgson, (1974-7) Saga Book Vol. XIX at pages 339 to 343

Stirring movements are in progress in English place-name studies. 'English place-name studies' meaning, of course, the study of the place-names of England, be they British, Welsh, English, Scandinavian, Irish, French or pre-Celtic. On one front those of us interested in the process by which "Britain" became "England & Wales" are seeking to establish typological stratifications by which the place-name evidence may be calibrated against the historical and archaeological evidences. On another, specific typological studies and monographs are being produced, e.g. Karl Inge Sandred's "English Place-Names in -stede", and Urs Wagner's work now in progress on place-names in þrop, þorp. On a third, there is quite an industry busy with the identification and interpretation of the memorials of the Scandinavian settlements in England: foremost at the moment in the study of the onomastic element in this field are Kenneth Cameron and Gillian Fellows Jensen. The latter now follows up her Scandinavian Personal Names in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire (1968) with another monumental study. The footnote equipment in the introductory chapter provides titles for a good course of reading; the bibliography is excellent and choice; at pp. 252-61 there is an Appendix which forms in itself an important revision of the list of Scandinavian place-names in Yorkshire; there is a great index of place-names; so here we are given a good book and a good continuation all at once.

The book announces two main aims. The first is to see what the place-names of Yorkshire can reveal about Scandinavian settlement in Yorkshire in the period from the ninth to the eleventh centuries; the second to examine the practice followed by the settlers not only when naming new settlements created by them but also when coping with the already existing names of the settlements they took over from the English. Since there is very little historical evidence for the early period of settlement, our knowledge of the original settlements and of the subsequent relations between the colonists and the native English depends largely on the interpretation of the place-name evidence.

In this book the discussion of place-names is limited to those that are recorded in the Domesday Book, supplemented by relevant earlier compilations which give the names of those berewicks, etc., mentioned but not named in Domesday Book. The place-names treated in this work are not only the entirely Scandinavian ones, but also English names which had been subjected to Scandinavian linguistic influence before 1086. Chapter II deals with 210 place-names in by; Chapter III with place-names in þorp; Chapter IV, place-names in búð, gerði;i, laða, salr, skáli, sætr, toft, œrgi, flórr, hús, loft-hús; Chapter V, place-names of a hybrid character, whose final element is OE tūn but with a first element which is either Scandinavian or scandinavianised; Chapter VI, other hybrid or scandinavianised types.

About by place-names, Dr Fellows Jensen finds (pages 16-17) this:

"The most striking feature about the first elements of the Yorkshire place-names in is the dominance of personal names. Place-names with personal names as first element probably indicate settlements established or tenanted by individual men. The majority of these men must have been Scandinavians but the seven place-names containing OE personal names may indicate younger settlements established by Englishmen at a period when the relationship between the Danes and the English had become comparatively peaceful. These OE personal names may, alternatively, have been borne by men of Scandinavian descent or the place-names may represent an adaptation by the vikings of original OE place-names in tūn. Similarly, if some of the býs are younger settlements, some of the men whose Scandinavian personal names are contained in them may have been of English descent … The dominance of personal names as first elements is in marked contrast to the situation in Denmark, where the majority of the place-names in - have as first element an appellative, frequently one indicating some natural feature or vegetation. In Denmark this type of name has been taken to indicate a collective settlement and it seems likely that the Yorkshire predominance of names containing personal names over names containing appellatives indicates that the Scandinavian settlement in England was basically different from the kind of settlement of land that took place in the Scandinavian homelands."

In fact, Dr Jensen observes, in England is used for "village" in the Danish areas, but possibly for "single farmstead" in the Norwegian-settled areas. Here (p. 6) she might have compared such examples as Frankby in Cheshire (The Place-Names of Cheshire, Pt. 4, EPNS 4l, 287). On place-names in þorp she concludes (pp. 52-3) that the majority indicate secondary settlements made by the men whose names appear as first element; that almost no þorp place-names indicate collective settlements; that the fact that a few of these place-names contain Continental Germanic personal names shows that þorp remained in use as a place-name-forming element into the eleventh century; that it was still current even later than the compilation of Domesday Book, since numerous names in porp are first recorded at later dates; that it is thus not necessary to assume that all place-names in porp were coined by Scandinavians.

At pages 109 ff., in Chapter V, there appears an important discussion of place-names in tūn with a Scandinavian first element, i.e. the "Grimston hybrids" Here reference is made, rightly, to Kenneth Cameron's article in England before the Conquest I (ed. P. Clemoes and Kathleen Hughes, 1971), 147-63. The model of Cameron's various studies on "Scandinavian Settlement in the Territory of the Five Boroughs" inspires Chapter VIII where among other things the importance of site geology is illustrated. It is observed (page 109) that there is a characteristic distribution of "Grimston hybrids" on the edges of areas in which bý and þorp names are most frequent. Dr Jensen sets out the two explanations, first that these names denote English vills taken over by Danes and whose names have been adapted to Danish models, and second, that these names mark a movement of Danes away from the areas where they were numerous enough to dominate the local population linguistically as well as politically. She also brings into the discussion three factors not always borne in mind:

  1. the existence of place-names in tūn in Scandinavia, and the likelihood of the invaders recognising it as a place-name-forming suffix;
  2. the distribution of place-names in tūn in Yorkshire;
  3. the Yorkshire Domesday Book place-names in tūn whose first element either is a Scandinavian word other than a personal name or else shows traces of Scandinavian linguistic influence.

The discussion is summarized pp. 120-1:

"It seems clear that the invading Vikings sometimes took over not only a settlement, but also its OE name. This name, however, was often adapted to a form that was less alien to the Danes. This could be done either by the substitution of cognate or similar Scandinavian elements for the original ones or simply by altering the pronunciation. Place-names are given in the first place by the neighbours of the settlements and the form taken by a p.n. through the years is the result of the neighbours' adaptation of it. The scandinavianisation of an OE p.n. cannot, therefore, be ascribed to the mere fact that one or two Danes were in a position of authority in the settlement itself. The Scandinavian p.ns., unlike the Norman-French ones, were not given deliberately by an aristocracy. The Danes must have been numerous enough in the areas surrounding their settlements to be able to impose their form or pronunciation of a p.n. upon any surviving Englishmen … The p.ns, whose DB forms show vacillation between OE and Scandinavian forms, e.g. stān/steinn, middell/meðal, may indicate that in the areas in question neither the Danes nor the English were sufficiently strong to be entirely linguistically dominant."

This is what the book is all about: it is a contribution to the debate which runs back to page 11 of Peter Sawyer's The Age of the Vikings (1962). Of course, Dr Fellows Jensen enters the proper cautions: the scandinavianized or hybrid place-names may be altered versions of older English names, but they could be younger formations coined by the Anglo-Scandinavian population of Yorkshire in the tenth and eleventh centuries. Since scandinavianisation of place-names can be shown to have taken place as late as the thirteenth century (p. 139), caution must be shown when using scandinavianized place-names as evidence for Viking colonization. The conclusion to be drawn from typology and distribution-patterns is stated at p. 250:

"A study of the situations enjoyed by the vills with Scandinavian, hybrid and scandinavianized names confirms that many, if not the majority, of the hybrid and scandinavianized names are borne by older English vills whose names had been adapted by the invading Scandinavians, There is little about the sites of the settlements, however, to suggest that vills with Scandinavian names may also be older English settlements … The situations of the majority of the býs suggest that these vills mark the subsequent occupation by the Danes of the best available vacant land. They were sometimes established in completely virgin areas but sometimes edged in on vacant plots between existing English villages. A third stage in the colonisation, characterised by the exploitation of land less immediately favourable for agriculture, seems to be marked by the establishment of þorps and of vills with Scandinavian names that originally denoted temporary settlements."

Important etymological material is contained in the place-name lists at pp. 17 ff., 53 ff., 125 ff., 141 ff., 252 ff.: space precludes its discussion here, but students of the Viking settlement and of English place-names will need to add a number of corrections to their Place-Name Society volumes for Yorkshire.

I have one or two minor quibbles to enter, which arise from no fault of Dr Fellows Jensen, but from the tremendous speed at which the revisions of place-name "technology" are taking place. Map I (p. 172) and the relevant discussion will not be accurate on the -hām, -ingaham types; in addition to Dr Barrie Cox's article in Journal of the English Place-Name Society 5 (1973), 15-73, there will be the work on Yorkshire settlement patterns now in progress by Miss Margaret Faull at Leeds; and a piece of my own in Anglo-Saxon England 2 (1973) involving an analysis of hām in S.E. England, and a development of Margaret Gelling's study of place-names in OE hamm in Namn och Bygd (1960), 140-62. At pp. 259-60, s.n. Wharram, it may be noted that Dr Margaret Gelling would not now be so certain of the northern limit of distribution of OE hamm as she was in 1960.

"Scandinavian Settlement Names in the East Midlands" (1978) Gillian Fellows Jensen

Review by A. M. J. Perrott, (1978-81) Saga Book Vol. XX at pages 325 to 328

Scandinavian settlement names in the East Midlands is the third of Gillian Fellows Jensen's volumes in the Navnestudier-series published by the Institut for Navneforskning in Copenhagen. Scandinavian personal names in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire appeared in 1968, and this was followed in 1972 by Scandinavian settlement names in Yorkshire. Dr. Fellows Jensen has followed the pattern of study which she established in 1972, to complement the works on the East Midlands by Cameron and Cox, with a detailed discussion of the Scandinavian and Scandinavianized place-names of the area, in the light of recent British and Scandinavian toponymic and historical research. In the preface to this new work Dr. Fellows Jensen states that "constant revision of earlier views seems to be the rule of the day" and she has considerably modified her theories both as regards the etymological interpretation of the place-name material and their historical application. In particular, she has developed a 'topographical' approach to place-name etymology as expounded by her in two articles in the mid-70s: 'English place-names such as Doddington and Donnington (1974)' … 'Personal name or appellative? A new look at some Danelaw place-names' (1976 for 1975), 445-58.

As noted, the arrangement of the material in 'Scandinavian settlement names in the East Midlands' follows very closely that of the volume for Yorkshire. The introductory material at the beginning of each chapter repeats the wording of the earlier work, with the inclusion of selected sentences revealing recent developments and with the substitution of the East Midlands names and statistics for the Yorkshire counterparts. The recent volume has an equally splendid array of distribution maps, and probably more analyses in tabular form showing the different name-types and their frequencies in the various divisions and counties of the East Midlands. A change in terminology is introduced with the use of 'specific' and 'generic' for 'first' and 'second element'. Dr. Fellows Jensen argues that the new terms more adequately describe the function of the elements concerned, and can be applied to the so-called 'inversion compounds' of Celtic origin in which the normal order of elements is reversed. The label 'Scandinavian settlement names' includes hybrid names and English names which have been subjected to Scandinavian linguistic influence. The eight chapter division is preserved; an introductory chapter is followed by an analysis of place-names in and þorp in chapters 2 and 3; and the remaining Scandinavian names are discussed in chapter 4; chapter 5 deals with names containing Old English tūn and Scandinavian specific; chapter 6 with Scandinavian and hybrid names; and the last two chapters are devoted to a discussion of the distribution of settlements with Scandinavian and Scandinavianized names and to a study of the possible age of the names and the settlements they denote. Each of the first six chapters, which present place-name material, begins with a discussion of the relevant 'generic' and an analysis of the 'specific', followed by a treatment of the individual names. These are arranged in alphabetical order in their present day spellings or, in the case of lost names, in their Domesday Book forms. An original feature of the East Midland volume is the inclusion of a separate discussion, with appendix, of names first recorded between 1150 and 1500. There is also some rearrangement of material within the chapters - more attention has been given to the Domesday Book representation of the elements in chapters 2 and 3; and the several categories of evidence for dating the names are divided into two groups of 'linguistic' and 'non-linguistic'.

Dr. Fellows Jensen's change in her interpretative approach is far more distinctive than her formal alterations in presentation. The book's preference for a derivation from an appellative rather than from a personal name is probably its most significant feature. This may be seen as the product of the recent revival among Scandinavian scholars of the approach to place-name interpretation which was adopted in the 1930s by Zachrisson. According to these principles, more English place-names should be derived from topographical terms and appellatives and fewer from personal names. Dr. Fellows Jensen first applied these ideas to the interpretation of English and Scandinavian place-names in the two earlier articles mentioned above, and now finds only 131 or 39% of the East Midland býs which certainly contain a Scandinavian or English personal name. A singular ing derivation, for example, is suggested for Skillington, Beltisloe, rather than Ekwall's tribal name scillingas. The replacement in the etymologies of a personal name by an appellative is more typical. The Lincolnshire coastal name Skegness is derived from the Scandinavian appellative skegg, 'beard', rather than the Scandinavian personal name Skeggi, as suggested by Ekwall. The word has the sense of 'something jutting out', referring to the headland which is also recorded in the second element, nes; the same appellative is found in the two Nottinghamshire Skegbys. The Old English appellative rand, 'border' (Old Icelandic rond, Danish rand, 'ridge') with reference to the village site on the edge of a ridge, is given as a more likely etymology for the lost vill of Ranby in Lincolnshire than the personal-name Randi.

The small streams which rise to the north and south of Bigby in Lincolnshire lead Dr. Fellows Jensen away from the personal name Bekki to the genitive plural of the Scandinavian appellative bekkr for the etymology of this name. An appellative is particularly preferred if the previously suggested personal name is not common in Scandinavia, or not recorded independently in England, or if the situation favours a topographical explanation.

Generally, Dr. Fellows Jensen gives a masterly, fresh and open-minded approach to etymologies. The aim is as much, to quote from her article in Onoma, "to plead for greater comprehensiveness in the interpretation of place-names", as it is to provide a whole-hearted attempt to redress the balance in English place-name studies in favour of a topographical explanation after Zachrisson's extreme viewpoint. The desire to search for topographical derivations does not drastically alter the established picture of the meaning of Scandinavian place-names in this country. In the last sentence of the book, Dr. Fellows Jensen describes the characteristic Danelaw place-name as still

"consisting of a personal name plus a habitative generic such as tūn, , or þorp".

Some weaknesses in her argument may be suggested. The topographical etymology hinges on a rejection of the accepted view in English place-name scholarship that a place-name which is in genitival composition is more likely to contain a personal name than any other first element. On page 7 Dr. Fellows Jensen argues that

"the mere fact that a place-name is in a genitival compound in Domesday Book can in itself tell us nothing about the nature of the specific"

that genitival inflexions could be lost before a name was recorded in Domesday Book, and that

"there do not seem to be any hard-and-fast rules for composition in place-names … morphological variation makes it inadvisable to attempt to determine the nature of the specific on the basis of the mode of composition".

Again, on page 27:

"I have tended to prefer an appellative, even in genitival compositions, whereas older scholars have preferred a personal name".

This refusal to accept the evidence of the genitival ending may be exaggerated: Tengstrand's reaction of 1940 in A contribution to the study of genitival composition in Old English place-names, (1940) is still valid today - that Zachrisson's views are only correct on

"the assumption that the genitive singular of descriptive words played an enormous part in Old English place-name formation".

Moreover, no reference is made to the correlation, which the author has previously referred to in 'Personal name or appellative? A new look at some Danelaw place-names', between asyntactic formation (zero or -e- formation) with compound personal names and genitival with simplex. There are also some inconsistencies. Although, on page 7, she rejects the evidence of mode of composition, she does not hesitate to draw on the lack of such formal criteria in support of an appellatival derivation. In discussing Barkwith, she argues that the Scandinavian personal-name Barkr is a formally satisfactory explanation, but that the

"complete absence of any trace of gen[itive] ending"

makes it perhaps more likely that the first element is the appellative Old Icelandic borkr, 'bark'. Many of the names are derived from appellatives which are found in Scandinavian names. Why draw a parallel with the Continent when none seems to be obvious? The author admits on page 27:

"Even if the minimum figure of 40 pct. of the býs containing personal names is accepted, this is still four times as large as the figure for býs in Denmark containing personal names".

The importance of the volume as a discussion of the significance of the place-names is two-fold. Dr. Fellows Jensen has both applied earlier methods and consolidated new interpretative techniques. Thus she extends to the East Midlands the methods perfected by Cameron in Scandinavian settlement in the territory of the Five Boroughs: the place-name evidence, (1965), and applied to Yorkshire in 1972 by the author herself, of relating place-names to the drift geology of a region. She gives on pages 306-28 a detailed examination of the relationship between settlement, topography and drift geology only after prefacing this on page 301 with a reference to the now recognized inadequacies of small scale geological maps when used in isolation. Her conclusions are substantially the same as those of the Yorkshire survey of 1972 which confirmed Cameron's 3-tier chronology of hybrid, , and þorp names, but with a distinct modification of these theories. The summary on page 368 begins:

"Seen against the background of recent studies which have suggested that the Vikings must have arrived in an England that had already been extensively settled and brought under cultivation by the English and whose parochial and administrative boundaries were largely of pre-Viking and possibly pre-English origin, the Scandinavian settlement names in England are capable of a more sophisticated interpretation than that offered in my study of the Yorkshire names."

The significance of such studies for place-name research is that the býs and þorps are now seen as stages in the detachment of small units of settlement from old estate centres, rather than secondary and tertiary colonisation involving occupation of the best available land. The ideas of Dr. Fellows Jensen, and those of scholars writing in the last decade (which are fully reviewed in this volume) indicate a revolution in thinking about the Scandinavian settlement of this country. We have come very far from the arguments of 1962, when Peter Sawyer in The age of the Vikings (1st ed., 1962) described the settlement in terms of an expansion and extension by descendants of the Viking military leaders.

"English Place-Names" (1977) Kenneth Cameron, pages 75 to 86, 233 & 234

Chapter Six

Scandinavian Place-Names

The earliest permanent settlement of the Viking invaders in this country is recorded in The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in the annal for 876 when a Danish army settled in Northumbria. The settlement there, however, was apparently restricted to Yorkshire, and in particular to the Vale of York. In the following year part of Mercia was occupied, presumably the district of the five boroughs of Derby, Nottingham, Leicester, Stamford and Lincoln, and some three years later East Anglia was occupied. These three areas of England were settled by Viking armies, mostly composed of Danes, and later known as the Danelaw, i.e. the area subject to Danish law.

… The settlers in eastern England are usually referred to as Danes and, indeed, the general history of the Danelaw shows this to be true. At the same time, however, place-names indicate that Frisians and Norwegians were also present. Later, some of the Danes moved westwards from their kingdom with its centre at York into parts of Cumbria, as well as into parts of Lancashire and Cheshire. But in all these districts settlements were made by men of Norwegian origin, who had formerly lived in Ireland or the Isle of Man. In 901 such a settlement was made in the Wirral, and there were others in Cumberland and in parts of Lancashire during the first half of the i oth century. From Cumbria they moved eastwards to establish a Norwegian kingdom at York, but such place-name evidence as there is for this is found particularly in the North Riding, much less so in the East and West Ridings.

In the north-west too several distinctively Norwegian words are found, which occur only rarely elsewhere. Brekka, fell, gil and slakki have been noted in other chapters, but here we can add bað "booth, temporary shelter". This is normally represented by such early spellings as bouthe and buthe, whereas the corresponding Old Danish both has usually given Middle English both(e). The first is the source of Bewcastle (Cu), Bowerdale (Cu), Bouth (La) and Bootham in York, this last from the dative plural. The Danish word on the other hand is the source of Booth (Db, La), Hay Booth (La) "enclosure with a booth", and Dunnishbooth (La), and Thurlowbooth (Db) from the personal names Dunning and Thurlak.

A similar word is sætr "mountain pasture, shieling", as in Amble-side (We) "river sandbank", Appersett (NRY) "apple-tree", Selside (We) "willow" and Summerseat (La) and Wintersett (WRY), denoting shielings used only in summer and winter respectively, as well as Arkleside (NRY) and Hawkshead (La), of which the first elements are the Scandinavian personal names Arnkell and Haukr, and Oughterside (Cu) from the Old English Ühtred.

Old Norwegian skáli, dialectal scale, "temporary hut or shed" has given Scales (Cu, La) and Scholes (WRY) but occurs occasionally as far south as Scole (Nf). In addition, there is Bowscale (Cu) "hut on the curved hill", Portinscale, with a first element meaning "prostitute", Seascale "sea" and Winscales "wind(y)", in Cumberland; Brinscal1 "burnt", Feniscowles "muddy" and Loudscales "on the River Loud", in Lancashire; Holmescales "belonging to Holme", in Westmorland; Gammersgill "Gamall's hut", in the North Riding; and Summerscales (identical with Summersgill La) and Winterscales, huts used in summer and winter respectively, in the West Riding.

A further feature of the Scandinavian place-names of the northwest and of parts of Yorkshire is the survival of the genitive singular -ar- as -er-, as in Beckermet, Bowderdale and Harter Fell in Cumberland; Winderwath "Vinand's ford" and Witherslack "valley of the wood" in Westmorland; Amounderness "Agmundr's headland", Litherland "land of the slope" and Harterbeck "stream of the hart", in Lancashire; Amotherby and Bellerby in the North Riding; Holderness in the East Riding; and Aismunderby and Beckermonds in the West Riding. Elsewhere, the formation is by no means so common, but occurs occasionally in Lincolnshire, as in Dalderby "farmstead of the valley".

… A few names containing Old Scandinavian holmr, holmi "island, water-meadow, dry land in a fen" survive as Hulme (Ch, La, St) and, as second element, Kettleshulme (Ch) and Levenshulme (La), with the personal names Ketil and Leofwine. These forms in hulme were till recently thought to represent the distinctively Danish spelling of the word, hulm; and hulm(e) is in fact found in the early spellings of many more names which are today spelt holme. It has now been demonstrated, however, that the -u- spellings either reflect a traditional medieval scribal tradition or represent a Middle English dialect form, and so they can no longer be used as evidence for Danish as distinct from Norwegian settlement.

There are, of course, many place-name elements which could equally well be either Danish or Norwegian, as for example by, the commonest Scandinavian element in English place-names, and found in all parts of the Danelaw as well as in the north-west, where it was certainly a living word in the early Middle English period. Its meaning is "farmstead or village" and as a rule it is impossible to decide which is the exact sense in any particular name. In Cumberland, Westmorland and the North Riding, however, it still often denotes individual farms, and Professor Hugh Smith has suggested that this usage is rather Norwegian than Danish. But in general the nationality of the settlers can only be determined when the first element is an Old Irish personal name, and therefore to be associated with Norwegian settlement, or one used only by the Danes, not by the Norwegians, and denoting Danish settlement.

Scandinavian by is particularly common as the final element, but is rare as a first element, and is not found at all in the simplex form By. It is, however, sometimes difficult to distinguish between a Scandinavian compound and one consisting of an English and the Scandinavian word. For example, the first element of Fenby (L) "fen", Moorby (L) "moor" and Smisby (Db) "smith" could be derived from either a Scandinavian or an English word, and in these cases the former is perhaps more likely. On the other hand, there are some names of which the first element is definitely Old English - Brooksby (Lei) "of the brook", Riby (L) "rye", Walby (Cu) "by the (Roman) wall", Wauldby (ERY) "on the wold" and Welby (L) "by a spring or stream". It has been suggested that in some of these names Old Scandinavian by has replaced an earlier English word, such as tun. Certainly it is remarkable that there are at least nine examples of the hybrid Willoughby (L, Lei, Nt, Wa), as well as Wilby (Nf) "willow farmstead", and this name may well originally have been identical with Willoughton (L), Willington (Bd, Db) and Wilton (C, ERY, He, Nf, NRY). This is perhaps also the case with Appleby (L, Lei, We) "apple-tree farmstead", originally identical with the common Appleton.

There is, however, documentary evidence to show that by has replaced an Old English byrig, the dative singular of burh "fortified place", later "manor". In these cases the similarity of the forms may be partly responsible, but at any rate it has taken place in Greasby (Ch) "fort by a grove", Thornby (Nth) " by a thorn-bush", as well as Badby (Nth), Naseby (Nth) and Rugby (Wa) from the personal names Badda, Hnæf and Hroca respectively, and Quenby (Lei) probably originally "queen's manor". In one or two examples, moreover, we know that a Scandinavian name has completely replaced an earlier English one, as with Derby (Db) and Northworthy, and also with Whitby (NRY) "Hvíti's farmstead" or "white farmstead", the site of which has long been identified with Streoneshalh "Streon's nook of land".

In most cases, however, the place-names derived from by are Scandinavian compounds and some of them can be compared with similar names in Scandinavia itself. A large proportion have a Scandinavian personal name as first element, and a selection is given at the end of the chapter, while others are named in relation to a neighbouring place, as with Asterby (L) "eastern", Swinderby (L), "southern", Westby (La, WRY) and Westerby (Lei) "western", Itterby (L) "outer", Yearby (NRY) "upper" and the Cumberland Netherby "lower" and Overby "higher". Some are from a natural or artificial feature, as in Aby (L) and Burnby (ERY) "stream", Barby (Nth), Barrowby (L, WRY) and Huby (NRY) "hill", Dalby (L, Lei, NRY) "valley", Keelby (L) and Ribby (La) "ridge", as well as Raby (Ch, Cu, Du), Robey (Du) and Roby (La) "boundary mark". The Lincolnshire Grasby means "farmstead in a stony district" and Grebby "on stony ground", while the common Sowerby denotes a farmstead or village on muddy or swampy ground. The first element is only occasionally the name of a tree, but "lime" occurs in Linby (Nt), "willow" in Selby (WRY), and more frequently "ash" in Asby (Cu, We) and the common Ashby. Animal names are only rarely found, as in Grisby (L) "young pig" and Wetherby (WRY) "wether", and note also Beeby (Lei) "bee farm".

A few are named from groups of people, as with Flotmanby (ERY) "sailors", Hunmanby (ERY) and Hunsonby (Ch) "dog-keepers", and Sutterby (L) "shoe-makers", as well as a group of which the first element is a national name. These, together with a few others, are particularly valuable in that they indicate that the settlers in the various districts were not homogeneous groups, and, further, that even in some areas of the Danelaw the settlements of Danes themselves must have been thinly spread. For example, Danby (NRY), Denaby (WRY) and Denby (Db) "village of the Danes" could only have been given where Danes were an unusual feature in the district. On the other hand, Ingleby (Db) "village of the English" must have been in an area where Danes were settled in considerable numbers. The presence, however, of other nationalities among the Danish settlers is testified by a number of place-names - Norwegians by Normanby (L, NRY), as well as Normanton (Db, L, Lei, Nt, R, WRY), Frisians by the Lincolnshire Friesthorpe and Firsby, and by Frisby (Lei), Faroese by Ferrensby (WRY), and Irishmen or Norwegians from Ireland by Irby (Ch, L, NRY) and Ireton (Db), this last comparable with Normanton. In the place-names of the Danelaw, outside Yorkshire, personal names of Irish origin are unknown, except perhaps only in Mammerton (Db), a hybrid name, where the first element may be Melmor, as in Melmerby (Cu, NRY). If this is so, Mammerton would be associated with Ireton, a name occurring twice in the same district, and would indicate settlement by men from the north-west of England in Derbyshire, for which there is no evidence from place-names elsewhere in the East Midlands.

In addition to place-names wholly or partly of Scandinavian origin, there are numerous English names, whose forms have been modified in various ways as a result of Scandinavian influence. When Old English c occurred initially before e or i, as in cese or cild, it was pronounced as in the modern forms of these words, cheese and child. In the Scandinavian languages, however, the sound in this position is k. Hence, the initial consonant in Keswick (Cu, Nf, WRY) and Kildwick (WRY) is due to the influence of the Scandinavian sound, for these names were originally identical with Chiswick (Ess, Mx) and Childwick (Hrt) respectively. In the same way Kepwick (NRY) would otherwise have given Cheapwick or Chipwick, and Kettlewell (WRY), apparently "stream in a narrow valley", is in place of Chettlewell. Similarly, Old English sc was pronounced sh, as in scelf, modern shelf, or æsc, modern ash. This sound was also unknown in the Scandinavian languages where its place is taken by sk. Hence Skelton (Cu, ERY, NRY, WRY) can be compared with Shelton (Bd, Nf, Nt, sh, St), Skipton (NRY, WRY) with Shipton (Do, Gl, Ha, O, sh), and Skipwith (ERY) and Scopwick (L) with Shopwyke (Sx), as well as the river-names Skerne (Du) and Skidbrook (L). Medially, the same substitution has taken place in Minskip (WRY), derived from Old English (ge)mænscipe "community" , i.e. "place communally held", and finally, in Matlask (Nf), where, however, Old English æsc "ash-tree" may have been replaced by Old Norse askr, as was probably the case in Askham (Nt, WRY) "ash-tree homestead". Similarly Old Norse steinn "stone" has replaced Old English stan in several names such as Stainburn (Cu), Stainforth (WRY), Stainland (WRY), Stainley (WRY), Stainmore (NRY, We) and the common Stainton instead of Stanburn, Stanford, Stanland, Stanley, Stanmore and Stanton respectively. Old Norse rauðr "red" has taken the place of the English word in Rawcliffe (La, NRY, WRY), which otherwise would have given Radcliffe; and it is at least possible that Old Norse austr "east" has replaced Old English east in Owston (L, WRY), and Austwick (WRY) and Owstwick (ERY), which would then have been identical in etymology with the common Aston and Astwick (Bd, Nth).

Finally, a group of names which belong to the period after the Norman Conquest contain Middle English bigging "building, house", a word derived from the verb big, itself from Old Norse byggja "build". This element is common in the East Midlands, but has been noted as far south as Surrey. It frequently survives as Biggin, and in the self-explanatory compound Newbegin (NRY) and the common Newbiggin. Indeed, many of the names which survive today in the simplex form are first recorded as Newbigging.

The following are examples of names containing a personal name compounded with the elements discussed above:

East Riding:
by Gunby "Gunnhildr (feminine)", Scalby "Skalli", Thirkleby "þorgils", Uncleby "Hunkell".
þorp Hilderthorpe "Hildiger" (Old Danish), Kettlethorpe (also L), "Ketill", Raisthorpe "Hreiðarr".
hybrid tun Barmston (also Du) "Bjorn", Rolston "Hrolfr", Scampston. "Skammr".
North Riding:
by Ainderby "Eindriði", Amotherby "Eymundr", Bagby "Baggi", Battersby "Boðlvarr", Bellerby "Belgr", Cleasby "Kleppr", Helperby "Hjalp (feminine)", Romanby "Hromundr", Slingsby "Slengr", Thormanby and Thornaby "þormoðar", Ugglebarnby "Uglubarði".
þorp Agglethorpe "Acwulf" (Old English), Carthorpe "Kari", Ganthorpe "Gamall", Towthorpe (also ERY) "Tofi".
toft Antofts "Aldwine" (Old English).
hybrid tun Oulston "Ulfr", Scruton "Skurfa", Sigston "Sigge".
West Riding:
by Balby "Balli" (Old Danish), Flasby and Flaxby "Flatr", Fockerby "Folkvarðr", Hellaby "Helgi", Thorlby "þoraldr".
þorp Armthorpe "Earnwulf" (Old English), Gawthorpe (identical with Gowthorpe ERY) "Gaukr", Goldthorpe "Golda" (Old English), Hexthorpe "Heggr", Oglethorpe " Oddkell", Streetthorpe "Styrr", Wrenthorpe "Wifrun" (Old English feminine).
hybrid tun Brotherton "Broðir", Flockton "Floki", Thurlston (also Sf) "Thurulf" (Old Danish).

Addendum to Chapter 6

Note: In recent years a reassessment of the place-names of Scandinavian origin in eastern England has been taking place, and some significant findings have already emerged. There are various pieces of evidence which suggest that the Danes settled in existing English villages without altering the names. In the past, it was also believed that many of the Danish-named places in -by were older English villages renamed by the Danes. By comparing and contrasting these with adjacent English-named places in terms of land-utilisation I have been able to suggest that, though this has happened in some cases, the majority of the names derived from Old Danish by represent new settlements on land little occupied at the time. Far too often the sites and situations of the places with names in -by were inferior for settlement to the English-named places for this not to have been the case. It would appear that, though Danish settlement here was in origin essentially an army one, the Danes also came as colonisers in a real sense.

By using the same techniques, I was further able to confirm that the majority of the places with names derived from Old Danish þorp did in fact represent secondary or outlying settlements, though it may transpire that these were rather the result of Scandinavian influence than Scandinavian settlement itself. It may well be that þorp was taken over into the local vocabulary (as indeed we know it was) and as such was used to denote a secondary settlement wherever this took place in the area.

I was further able to confirm the theory that the hybrids in -tun represented older English villages taken over and partially renamed by the Danes. But, again using the same techniques, my evidence suggested that such names belonged to the earliest stratum of Danish name-giving in the east Midlands, and it did not, as suggested on p.82, represent extension of Danish settlement away from established (Danish) centres.

The techniques I developed were used by Dr. Gillian Fellows Jensen in a study of Scandinavian place-names in Yorkshire and her work confirmed the broad conclusions I had reached. At any rate, our joint work has provided a framework and a firm basis for future discussion. As a result, a new stratification of Danish name-giving, at least in Yorkshire and the east Midlands, suggests itself:

  1. that the earliest identifiable place-names are the hybrids in -tun, representing Danish take-over of existing villages and partial renaming;
  2. the earliest new Danish settlement is represented by the names derived from by; and
  3. a later stage is represented by those derived from þorp, with the proviso stated above.

It must be clearly remembered that we are talking about Danish-named places. Of course, it is accepted that the Danes took over existing English villages without changing the name and that this must have happened in a good many instances.

The detailed evidence which lead to these conclusions is to be found in:

  • Kenneth Cameron, "Scandinavian Settlement in the Territory of the Five Boroughs: The Place-Name Evidence", Part II, Place-Names in Thorp, Part III, The Grimston-hybrids, all reprinted in Place-Name Evidence for the Anglo-Saxon Invasion and Scandinavian Settlements, E. P. N. S., 1975, and
  • Gillian Fellows Jensen, "Scandinavian Settlement Names in Yorkshire", Copenhagen, 1972.

For a convenient summary of these, see Kenneth Cameron, "The Significance of English Place-Names", British Academy, 1976.

"Settlement and society in north-east Yorkshire A.D. 400-1200" (1987) Ann Elizabeth Reid at pages 130 to 157

The Viking Age

It will came as no surprise that narrative evidence for Scandinavian settlement in Yorkshire is almost non-existent. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle informs us that in 876:

"Halfdan shared out the lands of Northumbria and they (the here) were engaged in ploughing and in making a living for themselves."

Further settlement by members of a second here may have occurred in 896:

"And afterwards in the summer of this year the Danish army divided, one force going into East Anglia and one into Northumbria, and those that were moneyless got themselves ships and went south across the sea to the Seine."

Little archaeological work has taken place except in York itself and any attempt to assess the nature, extent and density of this settlement must be based largely on place-ncure evidence, supplemented by analogous evidence from elsewhere in the British Isles. The following questions raise themselves:

  1. Where did the Scandinavians settle and in what numbers ?
  2. How did this settlement cane about ?
  3. What effects did this uprooting from their homelands have on the Scandinavians ?
  4. How did their settlement affect the indigeneous inhabitants ?

All these matters have raised very considerable scholarly controversy, most marked in respect of the most basic question, that of the number of Scandinavian settlers. Philologists have argued that the very considerable numbers of Old Norse place-names in the parts of England settled by Scandinavian must betoken a proportionately large influx (cf Cameron 1977abc, Fellows Jensen 1972). Sawyer takes the opposite view, that the Viking armies of the ninth century were to be numbered only in hundreds of men and that the numbers of these warriors who settled in England were correspondingly small (Sawyer 1958). Since then he has gone on to argue that the Scandinavian settlement took the form of an aristocratic takeover, rather than a peasant colonisation and in this he is echoed by the independent work of G.R.J. Jones (Sawyer 1962, 1976, 1978a, 1982, Jones 1964).

These opposing platforms are not easy to reconcile. Place-name scholars argue that the most common Old Norse name-form, in which an Old Norse personal-name is suffixed with an Old Norse By, marks the settlement of a Scandinavian individual in a period before their language had been greatly influenced by contact with Old English (Cameron 1977a.119-20, Fellows Jensen 1972.237-43). This is not necessarily negated by a rejection of the theory that such names represent primary colonisation of vacant land by Scandinavians. Recent work by Fellows Jensen has led her to believe that many Old Norse place-names are much younger than their settlements and represent re-named Old English settlements (Fellows Jensen 1984). In other words, she feels that a Scandinavian individual gained power in a pre-existing settlement and Old Norse-speakers in the neighbourhood re-named the settlement in the form 'X's by'.

Sawyer however contends that Old Norse place-names could have been coined at any time between the initial Scandinavian coming in the mid ninth century and the compilation of Domesday Book in 1086 and that many date from a period subsequent to the initial settlement, when Old Norse personal-names and place-name elements had been taken up by the Old English speaking majority. He argues for a considerable degree of internal colonisation in the tenth and eleventh centuries and considers that many men cane to bear Scandinavian personal-names because of the spread of Old Norse influences upon the Old English language (Sawyer 1958.13). More recently he has argued that the Scandinavian aristocratic takeover of pre-existing settlements did not begin before the tenth century, since areas captured by the English shortly after 900, particularly around Derby and Cambridge, show few Old English names (Sawyer 1982.103-04). He now believes that the Scandinavian brought about the break-up of pre-existing estates into smaller units under the control of individuals (Sawyer 1981.126-30). In this he is now followed by Fellows Jensen, who feels that Old Norse place-names developed in this context of a growing land market, which brought closer identification of individuals with their lands (Fellows Jensen 1984).

Broadly speaking, the philologists are in agreement with Sawyer on the relatively small size and aristocratic character of the ninth century Danish armies, but find difficulty in explaining the large number and wide distribution of Old Norse place-names in the light of this. Cameron feels that the armies alone cannot account for either the extent or character of Scandinavian settlement in England (Cameron 1969.178). Lund has put forward circumstantial evidence to suggest that rural settlement was in the main the work of peasant migrants following in the wake of the armies, stating that the ninth century warriors were not farmers, nor did they intend to become farmers, but established themselves in fortified boroughs, notably the well-known Five Boroughs (Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, Stamford and Lincoln) and remained there (Lund 1969). However, the available evidence for the character of the Scandinavian armies seems decidedly to contradict this view. Far from the Viking warriors being uninterested in farming, the Chronicle records that they divided the lands of the Northumbrians in 876, of Mercia in 877 and of East Anglia in 880 (ASC 876, 877, 880). Lund sees the lack of Old Norse place-names in the vicinity of the Five Boroughs as proof that they remained inside the boroughs themselves, but Cameron notes the large number of Grimston-hybrid names in these areas and believes that they represent settlements taken over from the English (Lund 1969, Cameron 1977). Finally, the fact that successive Viking armies made submission to Edward the Elder - of the army of Bedford in 914 (ASC 914), the army of Northampton in 917 (ASC A 917) - does not necessarily prove that the armies remained as bodies inside their boroughs. It is equally possible that the warriors, and by the tenth century their sons, had now settled to farming the land around the boroughs, but remained under the authority of their war-leaders.

Sawyer sees the members of the ninth century Scandinavian armies as imposing themselves as a tenurial aristocracy over the Anglo Saxon villages of northern and eastern England and bringing about change in the names of these existing settlements (Sawyer 1958.15). Such a view is also put forward by G.R.J. Jones (Jones 1965). Cameron, making use of geological and topographical evidence as well as the place-names themselves, sees the majority of Old Norse-named settlements as new foundations in the Viking Age. The so-called Grimston-hybrid names are thought to denote the small number of English settlements taken over by Scandinavians and re-named after their new lords by Old English-speakers in the neighbourhood (Cameron 1977).

On the question of whether the Scandinavians took over pre-existing settlements or founded new ones on previously unoccupied sites, depends part of the answer to the question of relations between Viking and Anglo-Saxon.

  1. Did the newcomers defeat and expel the farmer occupiers, or did they settle peacefully in the same settlements and intermarry ?
  2. Or did they live quite apart in their own settlements ?
  3. How many Scandinavian-named settlements can be assigned to the original influx of the 860s and 870s ?
  4. Does the high proportion of Scandinavian personal-names among the pre-Conquest landholders of North-East Yorkshire imply a strong Scandinavian element in the population, or simply a fashion for such names among an English majority ?
  5. If the latter, what brought this about ?
  6. And if a high proportion of landholders were ultimately of Scandinavian origin, what was the strength of the Scandinavian element in the non-landholding population ?

Study of place-names and personal-names in North-East Yorkshire may provide an answer to some of these questions.

On the 137 individual settlement names in North-East Yorkshire which appear in Domesday period sources, 49 are purely Old English, 58 Old Norse, 19 hybrid and 11 Scandinavianised (see Appendix 2). If Cameron is correct in this thesis that Old Norse names betoken settlements founded by Scandinavians, this suggests a considerable Old Norse-speaking influx into the region. If, on the other hand, Sawyer's view is the correct one, the Scandinavians were at least numerous enough to take over a large number of settlements and to have a marked influence on the local dialect and naming habits. Can we ascertain which hypothesis is the more correct and perhaps formulate a new thesis specifically applicable to North-East Yorkshire ?

The distribution of Old Norse place-names does not differ markedly from that of Old English. The main settlement areas are again the Cleveland Plain, the northern coastal plateau and in the Scarborough lowlands. However, some points may be noted:

Editor's note: The Vale of Pickering ('Scarborough lowlands') is a low-lying, flat-floored valley within the catchment of the River Derwent in North Yorkshire (figure 1). The valley extends with an east-west orientation from Scarborough and Bridlington in the east, to the Howardian and Hambleton Hills in the west. The Vale is constrained to the north by the North York Moors, and to the south by the East Yorkshire Wolds. At its eastern extremity the Vale of Pickering is cut off from the North sea by a thick moraine deposit. Jurassic Corallian strata, which form the aquifer in this region, outcrop at the periphery of the Vale of Pickering. The aquifer constitutes a major resource in the River Derwent catchment.

Arable farming is the dominant land use and industry in the study area (figure 2). Westwards from Pickering, approximately half of the crops are cereals, the remainder include carrots, potatoes, sugar beet and oil seed rape. In the area extending eastwards from Pickering, cereals are generally not grown. Towards the north of the region, grasses, shrubs and trees prevail. These represent the higher ground and steeper slopes of the North York Moors. The grassland tends to line river valleys, the trees occupy lower slopes, and bog and shrub occupy the highest ground in the region. Scarborough, Pickering and Malton are the main urban centres.

Vale of Pickering

  1. Old Norse names are virtually absent from the Corallian dip-slope, the exceptions being a small number of Scandinavianised names, such as East and West Ayton and the purely Old Norse Ellerburn.
  2. Clusters of Old Norse names tend to lie slightly apart from the heaviest concentrations of Old English names.
  3. Old Norse names are particularly concentrated in two zones; the southern Cleveland Plain, south of the Leven and the northern coastal plateau, particularly around the lower reaches of the Esk.
  4. The greatest number of hybrid names is found in the southern coastal plateau and in the Scarborough district.

Cameron postulates a threefold sequence of Scandinavian settlement, a relative sequence not tied to any chronological period:

  1. Grimston-hybrid names: taking over of pre-existing settlements by a Scandinavian population of tenurial aristocracy. These tend to occupy similar sites to Old English-named settlements and are frequently parish and township centres.
  2. Names in by: settlements founded by Scandinavians on previously unoccupied sites. These sites frequently lack one or more of the requirements of a rural population (above 23) and Cameron feels that they were occupied later than the prime sites whose settlements bear Old English names.
  3. Names in thorp: secondary Scandinavian settlements founded on previously unoccupied sites during expansion from earlier Scandinavian foci (Cameron 1977abc).

Fellows Jensen's recent work has produced a quite difference sequence. She sees both the Grimston-hybrid and by names as the result of the takeover and re-naming of existing settlements, one form being coined by Old English-speakers and the other by Old Norse-speakers. Thorp names result from secondary settlement developing out of either Old English or Old Norse-named settlements (Fellows Jensen 1981, 1984, on thorps, see also Lund 1976).

Only two Grimston-hybrid names are found in North-East Yorkshire; Burniston [TA 00723 92834] north of Scarborough and Sneaton [NZ 89561 07636] south of Whitby. Sneaton is surrounded by purely Old Norse names, but the pattern around Burniston is more canplex, with a clutch of Old Norse names around Scarborough itself and Old English names to the north and west. Both were townships in 1936 and Sneaton was an ecclesiastical parish (Victoria County History pages 532 - 534). Sawyer, in pursuing his theory of the takeover of existing estates by Scandinavian lords, has noted that caputs and berewicks more frequently bear Old English names than do sokelands, (Sawyer 1982.106). Sneaton is the berewick of Whitby, the great majority of whose dependent sokes bear purely Old Norse names (22 of 28). It seems likely that the Whitby estate survived more or less intact from the pre-Viking era, the period of the Anglian monastery (above 28-30). Can we see the Whitby estate as being taken over by a Scandinavian leader in the vacuum caused by the desertion of the monastery, its sokes being granted to individual warriors ? Though the great majority of names within this estate are purely Old Norse, the survival of an Anglian population is shown by the coining of the name Sneaton in an Old English form.

Burniston is a more complex and more interesting case. In 1086 it was sokeland of Falsgrave, itself an Old Norse name. This estate possessed one berewick (Northfield OE) and 21 sokes, six of which bear Old Norse names, four hybrid and Scandinavianised names and the remainder Old English. Study of the map shows very clearly that the Old Norse names are concentrated within three miles of Falsgrave itself, a short distance from the coast, the hybrid and Scandinavianised names in a ring around this and the Old English names still further out (see Map 17). This suggests strongly that the original takeover of the estate was carried out from the sea and that only those sokes close to the caput were granted to Scandinavians, the remainder continuing in the hands of Englishmen. That the Scandinavians reached this area by sea and that their influence was limited to a coastal foothold, is reinforced by evidence from the neighbouring estate of Pickering, where the only purely Old Norse name is that of Ellerburn (Faull 1985.299b). In this light the tradition that Scarborough was founded from the sea by one Thorgils 'Skarði', the hare-lipped, in 965 is of extreme interest (Stenton 1971.374, Gordon 1957.151, 246f, Kormáks Saga Ch. 27, Íslenzk Fornrit Vol.8.299). Like Burniston, Sneaton lies near the coast, same three miles from the sea and within a mile of the highest navigable point of the Esk at Ruswarp. This evidence is highly suggestive of Viking settlement in the region direct from Scandinavia across the sea, rather than from the Vale of York. Other hybrid name-forms will be considered later in this chapter (below 140-42).

Old Norse Names in By

Of the 58 Old Norse place-names in the region, 35 are names ending in by; of these 25 have an Old Norse personal-name as the first element. Such names are found in all the settlement areas, with the exception of the Corallian dip-slope, but their concentrations lie somewhat apart from those of Old English names (see map 18).

To Cameron the distribution of Old Norse place-names in by would imply that the English had already settled the prime sites, with easily worked soils, close to running water and so on and that the incoming Scandinavians had then been constrained to settle the vacant 'second-class' land. 19 of the 35 by settlements with a personal name lie on boulder clay, six on the lighter gravels, nine lack an obvious source of running water. However, the majority of the Old English-named settlements, which under the Cameron thesis must be earlier, also lie on boulder clay, 29 of 49. Over 67% of all settlement lie on clay, a proportion not markedly different from that of the by names and which can be explained in other ways, the areas of concentration of by names contain more boulder clay soils than elsewhere (see table 6).

A greater proportion of present-day nucleated settlements bear Old English names or Scandinavian names in Old English tun bear names in by or other Old Norse forms, but this itself is not proof of late foundation. North-East Yorkshire is a region of mixed settlement forms, which might be described as a semi-dispersed settlement pattern (see Map 2). Fellows Jensen, drawing on work done in Denmark, states that by, in Denmark can mean 'farm' as much as 'village' (Fellow Jensen 1981b.l38). Lisse, working in Denmark, concluded that a place-name is much less likely to change in the case of a nucleated settlement than in a single farm with a single tenant (Lisse 1974.117-27). Thus, the settlements which came to bear Scandinavian names are much more likely to have been single farms than those which retained their old English names even if a Scandinavian lord came to hold power in an English settlement (Fellows Jensen 1981b.140-41).

The case for the Cameron hypothesis is therefore by no means watertight, but a number of further points can be drawn from it. The large number of these purely Scandinavian names suggests that a considerable Old Norse-speaking influx did take place. It has been noted that place-names are not coined by those dwelling within the settlement but by those in the vicinity to distinguish that settlement from its neighbours. Therefore, a high proportion of Old Norse names in any area suggests a considerable number of Old Norse speakers, in a position to influence place-nomenclature (for information and analysis of social structure in the Viking age, see below 152-57).

Old Norse Names in Thorp

Scandinavian settlement-names in thorp, thought to denote secondary Scandinavian settlements (Cameron 1977b) are relatively rare in North-East Yorkshire. Domesday Book shows three such names with Old Norse personal-names (Arnodestorp, Roscheltorp and Ugthorpe) and four simplex thorps (now Kilton Thorpe, Nunthorpe, Pinchinthorpe and Thorpefield). That such names represent secondary and more marginal settlements and their siting. Three of the seven are now lost or deserted (Arnodestorp, Roscheltorp and Pinchinthorpe). Only Ugthorpe is now a nucleated settlement and township centre. In Domesday Book two thorps, the lost Arnodestorp and Roscheltorp, are sokes of Hinderwell and Loftus respectively and the remainder being centre of single manors of less than six carucates, Thorpefield being linked with neighbouring Irton (Faull 1985.332d, 305a, 300a, 323a). All seven thorps lie on boulder clay and four lack a convenient source of running water (see table 7).

The thorps are found in areas of predominately Old Norse place-names, four on the northern coastal plateau and two on the Cleveland Plain (see map 19). The exception, Thorpefield, is found in the Scarborough district, an area where hybrid and Scandinavianised names are conmon. Thorpefield Farm, within half-a-mile of the hybrid-named nucleated settlement of Irton, lies in the 'inner ring' of hybrid and Scandinavianised place-names around the Old Norse core of Scarborough (above 99-100). From its location Thorpefield may be secondary to Irton rather than any other settlement; the only thorp which may be secondary to an Old English-named settlement in Pinchinthorpe [NZ 57959 14252], the nearest settlements being the Old English-named Newton-under-Roseberry and Hutton Lowcross. Lund has recently argued that a significant proportion of thorp names are in fact Scandinavianised forms of Old English throp (Lund 1976). However, there is little evidence to support this. No unmodified throp names survive in the Danelaw and the element is not particularly common outside. As already noted, the thorps of North-East Yorkshire lie in areas of Old Norse-named settlements. Thorpefield might appear a further exception, but the very name Irton means 'the Irishmen's tun' and suggests a settlement of Irish Norsemen.

Hybrid Names

Hybrid names other than Grimston-hybrids have been neglected in the past by scholars, but the implications of their presence ought to be considered. Beside the two Grimston names there are three hybrid-names in tun. Irton, Stainton and Whorlton, possibly also Kilton and Snainton, one hybrid thorp, two hybrid bys and four others (see Appendix 1). All these names, with the interesting exception of Allerston (see below 141-42), lie in areas in which Old Norse names are frequent, principally in Cleveland (7 of the 13), the exceptions being Irton, near Scarborough and Allerston and Snainton on the Moorland dip-slope. The formation of hybrid names, which show both Old English and Old Norse elements other than personal-names, suggests an admixture of Old Norse into the local speech. This may be corroborated by the appearances of two place-names in which Old Norse by is prefixed with an Old English personal-name, Barnaby [NZ 57158 16021] and Ellerby [NZ 79848 14635]. However, this can be explained in another way. Since both lie in areas of strongly Old Norse place-names, it is equally possible that the names were coined by Old Norse-speakers to refer to the settlements of the Anglians. If it is valid to see the majority of hybrid names as the result of linguistic mingling through the Scandinavian presence, it is reasonable to see them as being coined at a relatively late stage in the Viking settlement, after a period of intermarriage between the two groups.

The exceptions to the general rule of location in areas of Scandinavian names ought to be considered separately. The name Irton [TA 00922 84052] 'the tun of the Irishmen or Irishman' lies on the fringe of a clutch of Old Norse names and appears to denote a settlement of one or more Norsemen from Ireland and the ethnic origin of the tenants or tenant was sufficiently unusual to distinguish it from its neighbours. This name and its location, suggest two things:

  1. Firstly, that Irish-Norse settlers were not commom in the Scarborough district, and secondly
  2. that in this 'inner ring' Old English-speakers were in the majority in the population.

The cases of Allerston [SE 88250 93550] and Snainton [SE 91166 89551], both in the multiple estate of Pickering in Domesday Book, appear at first sight to be out of place. This area is one in which Old English names overwhelmingly predominate. Only one purely Old Norse name is found within the Pickering estate and few Scandinavianised names. An answer to this problem may be found in a close study of these names. Fellows Jensen, writing in 1972, saw Allerston (DB Aluerestan, Faull 1985. 229a) as a hybrid name, in which an Old English personal-name Ælfhere or Ælfric, is combined with Old Norse steinn 'stone'. However, the Domesday form does not seem conclusive of an Old Norse second element. The twelfth century charters of Rievaulx show the form Alverstain (cf No 1 RCh), which does suggest Scandinavian influence. The name Rawcliff [SE 79707 91659], near Guisborough, appears as Readclif, with an Old English first element, shortly before the Conquest (Fellows Jensen 1972.162), the change to an Old Norse form taking place in the later eleventh or twelfth century. Drawing on this analogy, one might see the name of Allerston as being originally Old English, becoming Scandinavianised in the period after the Viking settlement, (Fellow Jensen, 1972.238). Some support for this suggestion is found in the presence of settlements with Scandinavianised names further to the east on the Moorland dip-slope, at East [SE 99400 85056] and West Ayton [SE 98414 84706] on opposite banks on the River Derwent. A further example of a name regarded by Fellows Jensen as a hybrid, which may instead be Scandinavianised, is Stokesley in Cleveland [NZ 51977 08486], the second element of which is Old English leag; the first element may be Old Norse or Old English, but shows Scandinavian influence. A further 'doubtful' case is that of Whorlton in Cleveland [NZ 48632 02442], the name refers to the nearby Whorl Hill [NZ 49449 02546] and may simply reflect a change in the name of the hill.

"The Place-Names of the North Riding of Yorkshire" (1979) A. H. Smith, Volume V, Langbaurgh East Wapentake at page 146



  • Readecliff 1043-60 (12th) SD
  • Roudeclif, Roudclive DB
  • Routheclyve, -clive 1190, 1242 Guis
  • Rouclif(flat) 1407 YI
  • Rocliff 1582 FF

This name is of great interest as showing what must have repeatedly happened in Yorkshire place-names, viz. the replacement of an OE name by a Scandinavian cognate. The Symeon of Durham form Readecliff is from OE read 'red', whilst later forms show the substitution of ON rauðr. vide clif.

"The Place-Names of the North Riding of Yorkshire" (1979) A. H. Smith, Volume V, Langbaurgh West Wapentake at page 177


3. WHORLTON 15 O 7

  • Wirveltun(e) DB 1086
  • Weruelthun, -ton 1189-99 YCh 800 et freq to 1294 Ebor
  • Qwerlton 1198 Fount
  • Wheruelton 1202 FF
  • Wherfletun, Wherfelton 1259 Ass
  • Werleton 1279-81 QW
  • Wherleton 1299 YI; 1323 Abbr; 1354 FF
  • Werelton 1301 LS
  • Warleton 1285 (16) KI
  • Whorl(e)ton 1339 Test; 1412 YI; 1470 Test; 1575 FF

'Farm near the Whorl hill'. No early spellings are adduced for Whoel Hill, bu there is no doubt that whorl is from OE hwyrfel or ON hvirfill. The Whorl Hill is a high hill with a rounded top. Compare Whorlton (PN Nb Du 215).

Both hybrid and Scandinavianised names seem to represent a mingling of the Old Norse and Old English languages, which may itself represent intermarriage between the two races. That such names may have been coined relatively late in the Viking Age does not imply that their settlements are of similar date. These settlements may have been completely re-named in this period, as may be the case with the by and Grimston-hybrid settlements, or their original names were adapted to suit Old Norse pronunciation in areas where there was a considerable Old Norse-speaking population.

The Progress of the Old Norse Settlement

The above study of place-names has effectively demolished the Cameron hypothesis in relation to the Old Norse place-names of North-East Yorkshire. It now appears that the majority of Old Norse place-names are borne by settlements which originated much earlier. However, this raises as many questions as it answers:

  1. When did this Scandinavian takeover occur ?
  2. What form did it take ?
  3. What was its historical context ?
  4. Was there an influx of peasants in addition to the advent of a new tenurial aristocracy ?
  5. What became of the English landholders ?

The assumption tends to be made that the Scandinavian settlement of Northurnbria was entirely the result of Halfdan's division of the land in 876. This appears too simplistic. The work of Wainwright has shown a considerable Scandinavian influx from Ireland into North-West England in the first two decades of the tenth century and more recently Morris has found evidence of a division of large areas of County Durham among the followers of Ragnald in the aftermath of the battles of Corbridge (Morris 1981). This can be dated to the period 918-924. The possibility of a further incursion, on a more local scale, as late as 965 has already been noted (above 137).

What form did Halfdan's division take ? The Chronicle version seems to imply a large-scale dividing-up of the land among a large group of farmers. However, Roger of Wendover, writing in the thirteenth century - but drawing on much earlier annals - records under 876:

"… Healfdene, King of the Danes, occupied Northumbria and divided it among himself and his thegns and had it cultivated by his army, then the king of the same province, Ricsige, struck to the very heart with grief, ended his last day and Egbert succeeded him (EHD I. No 4, 876)."

This puts quite a different interpretation on the land division. Whendover's account suggests that Halfdan granted the lands to the leaders of his army, the rank and file cultivating the land under their authority and the military command structure remaining intact. It is not stated that Halfdan took the kingship of the former Deira for himself, but Symeon makes it clear that both Ricsige and Egbert reigned only north of the Tyne (EHD I. No 3, 867, 876). Halfdan himself was killed in Ireland the following year and it is not clear from our sources whether the next recorded king, Guthfrith, held power over both parts of Northurnbrian (HSC).

Sawyer has recently argued that the Scandinavian armies took advantage of the vacuum created by the desertion of monasteries to seize estates (Sawyer 1982.103-04). He notes the large number of Old Norse place-names around Whitby Abbey and contrasts this with the paucity of such names around Bardney, which apparently survived (ASC 909).

The Whitby estate, which may have survived relatively intact from the pre-Viking era, shows a far greater proportion of Old Norse names than do those of Pickering and Falsgrave, which seem also to be of pre-Viking origin (above 33-36). This suggests that the Pickering estate remained under the authority of Englishmen, while that of Falsgrave may have been partly occupied by a Scandinavian coastal enclave (above 137). It has already been noted that these three estates may have been ex officio lands of the earldom of Northurnbria and previously lands of the Scandinavian kings of York (above 109-11). It is possible that the differences in nomenclature reflect strictly local conditions, that the Kings of York left the running of the Pickering estate in the hands of Englishmen and few Scandinavians settled there, while both Whitby and Falsgrave were administered by Scandinavians and a greater number of the newcomers came to hold authority of same kind in the soke1ands. The situation in Cleveland is more complex and will be examined in detail.

Sawyer has further argued that it was in the tenth century, rather then in the ninth, that the majority of Old Norse place-names were coined as a result of the fragmentation of large estates into smaller units held by individual tenants. He notes that place-names in by are not common in areas taken by the West Saxons soon after 900 (Sawyer 1982.103). He goes on to suggest that heavy losses among the Scandinavian kings and nobles in battles such as Tettenhall in 910 and Brunanburh in 937 weakened the authority of the aristocracy in the Danelaw and so gave smaller landholders the opportunity to exert fuller rights of ownership over their lands, encouraging the formation of place-names in which by and thorp are combined with personal-names (Sawyer 1982.106).

However, Sawyer's work concentrates on the more southerly parts of the Danelaw and one should beware of applying this model to Northumbria without full consideration of local conditions. Firstly, the Scandinavian kingship was maintained much longer in Northumbria than in the rest of the Danelaw, interruptedly up to 955, while the army as an entity seems not to have survived beyond the first decade of the tenth century. In 902 the Chronicle records that the Aetheling Æthelwold went to 'the Danish army in Northumbria, and they accepted him as King and gave allegiance to him' (ASC D 902). In 910 this army broke an earlier peace and ravaged Mercia, but was heavily defeated at Tettenhall. Since two kings died in the battle, along with two earls and five holds, it seems that Tettenhall effectively broke the power of the Scandinavian army in Northumbria (ASC 910) and ended its separateness. By 926 the Chronicler calls Sihtric 'King of the Northumbrians' and refers thereafter to 'the Northumbrians' without ethnic divisions. If Sawyer's hypothesis is correct, then the fragmentation of estates in Cleveland may be dated to the aftermath of Tettenhall. However, the possibility of a further incursion in the time of Ragnald must be borne in mind. Morris' work shows that Ragnald granted extensive estates in County Durham to Scula and Onlafball ON Skuli and Olafballr, (HSC) after the Battle of Corbridge. Later, possibly in 918 after the second Battle of Corbridge, Ragnald seized and re-granted the estate at Gainford (HSC. 262-63, Morris 1981.224-25). All these estates had previously belonged to the Comnunity of St. Cuthbert, which had left Lindisfarne as a result of the Viking invasions and was then at Chester le Street (Morris 1981. 223-25).

No evidence survives of any similar activity south of the Tees but since Ragnald took York in 919 (ASC D sa923, HR.919) and established himself as king there, it seems unlikely that he did not make grants of land in Yorkshire, bringing a further influx of Scandinavian landholders. If the majority of Old Norse place-names in England date frcm the tenth century, it may be that the developnent of the land market which brought this about occurred as a result of Ragnald's conquest. It is noteworthy that in 918, shortly before Æthelflaed's death, the 'men of York' had made submission to her, presumably in the hope of obtaining her aid against Ragnald (ASC C 919). No mention is made of any action by the Danish army in Northumbria against Ragnald and it is possible that its fighting power had been effectively destroyed in the campaign in Mercia in 910.

Jones, Sawyer and now Fellows Jensen argue for an aristocratic takeover rather than the large scale migration and colonisation suggested by Cameron, though their hypotheses differ in form.

  • Jones believes that Scandinavian nobles gained control of multiple estates but rarely changed the names of the caputs and endowed their followers with indeterminate r1ghts over the appendant sokes; these men were more closely tied to the settlements, hence the more frequent adoption of Old Norse, hybrid and Scandinavianised names in respect of the sokes (Jones 1965. 84).
  • Sawyer argues that the tenth century was a period in which many of the large estates became fragmented as a result of a growth in small-scale private ownership for the first time. Previously, before the Viking Age, land was granted by kings in perpetuity only to monasteries; grants by kings to individuals were made only for the lifetime of the recipient, in return for lifelong service (Charles-Edwards 1976, John 1960, 1966). In the tenth century we see for the first time numerous royal grants to individuals in perpetuity and the development of a fluid market in land (Sawyer 1978.155-57).
  • This brought about the break-up of many estates and Fellows Jensen now believes that it was in this period and context that Old Norse names in by were coined (Fellows Jensen 1981a, 1984). She states that most of the by names with appellative specifics were coined early in the tenth century and bestowed upon English settlements taken over by Danish landholders, the various Kirkbys, Crosbys and Inglebys. At some later date the newcomers began to break up the English estates into small independent agricultural units, many of which had already existed as dependent settlements. This resulted in the bestowal of place-names formed of Old Norse personal-names in by (Fellows Jensen 1984.35-36).

The evidence in support of the Jones thesis in North-East Yorkshire is insubstantial. The presence of a large number of Old Norse place-names in an area implies a considerable Old Norse-speaking population in that area and it is therefore difficult to see why caputs taken over by Scandinavian lords should have retained their Old English names, while the names of appurtenant sokes tended to be changed. The names of the caputs of North-East Yorkshire hardly bear out the Jones thesis (see Appendix 1). Six caputs bear purely Old Norse names, five purely Old English. All contain sokes with both old English and Old Norse names.

There is more evidence to support Fellows Jensen's recent change of views, though it must be borne in mind that the appearance of a wholly new type of land market in the tenth century may be an illusion created by the greater survival of charters from this period. Of some 1,500 charters which have survived from the pre-conquest period in same form, the largest proportion date from the tenth century. This may evidence a larger land market then than at any other time, or may simply reflect a better chance of documents surviving after the worst ravages of the Viking Age.

The tenurial pattern of North-East Yorkshire seems to support the basic thesis. In Cleveland and the northern coastal plateau, north of Whitby where Old Norse names are most common, the tenurial pattern is fragmented, many single manors, multiple unit settlements (those apparently containing more than one tenurial unit) and small multiple estates. It is possible that not only the by names were coined in the context of the break-up of estates, but also certain of the Old English names, particularly those in tun, some of which also contain personal-names. One example may be Eston [NZ 55512 18780] in Cleveland; the name means 'the east tun' and the settlement lies at the east end of Ormesby [NZ 53147 17165] township, implying that the settlement of Ormesby was in existence at the time the name Eston was coined. It must be remembered that Ormesby may have been re-named in the Viking period, and that it is therefore possible that Eston was named in relation to it before the Viking invasions.

Other Evidence from Place-names

A particularly interesting group of place-names is that in which the specific is indicative of the inhabitants' ethnic origin. Seven such names are found in North-East Yorkshire; three Inglebys - 'the by of the English', two Normanbys - 'the by of the Norwegians', one Danby - 'the by of the Danes' and the hybrid Irton - 'the tun of the Irish'. Six of these names have purely Old Norse forms and lie within or on the fringes of Old Norse areas, with the exception of Danby, in thinly-populated Upper Eskdale. Their names imply that the presence of Englishmen, Norwegians and Danes respectively was sufficiently unusual in those localities to mark these settlements out from others. However, these names need not necessarily evidence the presence of a community of a particular ethnic origin. The names in their Domesday form give no evidence of the numbers involved. Normanby, for instance, may be the settlement of a group of Norwegians or tenanted by a Norwegian individual. It may even have belonged to a man with the personal-name Northmann, which is found in Domesday Book (cf Faull 1985.300a).

The three Inglebys appear to be pre-existing English settlements re-named by Old Norse-speakers in the neighbourhood. Danby and the two Normanbys present the greatest problems of interpretation. The place-name Normanby suggests that Scandinavians of Danish descent were in the majority in the area and the presence of one or more Norwegians was somewhat out of the ordinary. The Chronicle refers to the invading Vikings as 'Danes' but this does not necessarily prove that the various armies were composed of Danes; it seems more likely that the Chronicler is using a convenient shortland. The presence of Norwegians in North-East Yorkshire may we related to the activities of the Norse-Irish Regnald, or may simply be isolated and perhaps 'one-off' settlements in areas mainly settled by Danes. J.T. Lang does however make the point that finds of Anglo-Scandinavian sculpture are mainly found in areas of Norwegian settlement, and their distribution seems to suggest a routeway into Yorkshire and County Durham via the Rivers Eden and Tees (Lang 1984.87-99.90). If this is so, it would suggest that the Norwegian influence was considerable and that it was connected with Ragnald, who seems to have come into North-East England across the Pennines.

The name Danby presents further problems; the settlement lies on the upper reaches of the Esk and the few Domesday settlements in the region all bear Old English names. Two possible interpretations may be put forward:

  1. firstly, the majority of Scandinavians in the immediate neighbourhood may have been of Norwegian origin but their settlements lacked the manorial status to merit inclusion in the Domesday Book; the modern 1:50,000 Ordnance Survey map shows a large number of Scandinavian settlements and feature-names which do not appear in early sources and so cannot be closely dated (see Mann 1974).
  2. secondly, the name may have been coined by Old English-speakers living locally at a time when Old Norse elements had passed into the language as loanwords. However, the form Danby is pure Old Norse, showing no sign of Old English influence; a hybrid form found elsewhere in England is Denby (Fellows Jensen 1972.13) and this seems to favour the first hypothesis.

The name Irton is a hybrid form, meaning 'the tun of the Irish'. This is the only example in this region of a settlement of Irishmen, or an Irishman. The settlement lies in the Scarborough district, in the 'inner ring' of hybrid and Scandinavianised names (above 119). The name is indicative not of a settlement of the Irish per se, but of Norwegians from Ireland (Fellows Jensen 1972.189). Their presence may be related to the activity of Ragnald or to the later Thorgils Skarði, or may have been completely independent, although the distributions of place-names in the district around Scarborough does suggest that the Irish-Norse presence was part of an overall movement.

Social Structure in North-East Yorkshire during the Viking Age

The above discussion of Old Norse place-names and their distribution does not of itself provide answers to all the fundamental questions. A key issue is the social structure of the region during and after the period of Viking settlement. It has already been established that the newcomers are likely to have formed a minority in the population, but they did not, in fact, form an 'aristocracy', or were they farmers and peasants of similar status to their Old English-speaking neighbours ?

It is noteworthy that the Old Norse language did not supplant Old English in the areas of Scandinavian settlement, as Old English did British in the Migration period. This suggests that a different series of factors were in operation in each period, suggesting that there were fundamental differences in the nature of the settlements. The impact of Old Norse on the Old English language was however considerable. Lund makes a comparison between the effects of Norman-French and Old Norse respectively, stating that they are qualitatively different. Norman-French loanwords are mostly confined to those spheres of life in which the aristocracy had an interest; law, administration, military life and the aristocratic lifestyle, whereas Old Norse loanwords are mainly ordinary, everyday words and concepts (Lund 1969.198). On this basis, Lund postulates a large-scale influx of Scandinavian peasants in the wake of the armies, considering that the warriors remained for the most part in their fortified boroughs (Lund 1969.198-199). However his arguments in favour of such a migration appear fundamentally flawed (above 115).

Domesday Book shows that a high proportion of landholders of the Confessor's time bore Old Norse personal-names. Were these men aristocrats or farmers and was there a corresponding Scandinavian peasantry in the region ? It must first be noted that a man bearing an Old Norse name need not have been of purely Scandinavian native origin. The Norman Conquest is the supreme example of an aristocratic takeover in England, with no suggestion of any peasant influx, yet by 1200 the very great majority of the population whose names are recorded bore Norman-French personal-names, such as Robert, William and Richard. In two centuries since the initial Scandinavian coming, there was ample time for intermarriage between English and Scandinavian and consequent interchange of names …

… 29 of the 47 pre-Conquest landholders of North-East Yorkshire bore Scandinavian names, or 62% of the total (see Appendix 2). Excluding the three pre-Conquest earls, who were not of Northumbrian origin, we are left with 27 of 44 landholders bearing Old Norse names. Of these men, 22 held but a single manor, only one more than ten. 19 held between two and five manors and five between six and ten. This shows that the landholding class was composed of relatively small men, apart from the three earls, whose position was fundamentally different. The evidence shows that men with Old Norse names formed part of a relatively homogeneous landholding class and did not in any sense monopolise its upper echelons (see Table 8). The landholders with Old Norse names held a total of 77 manors, an average of 2.85 manors per man, those with Old English names 41 manors, or 3.15 manors per man.

The proportion of Old Norse personal-names among the pre-Conquest landholders of North-East Yorkshire implies a strong Scandinavian influence. As a minimalist view, it might be suggested that the influx of a numerically-small landholding class has resulted in a change in naming habits among their English peers, as can be seen throughout England as a result of the Norman Conquest. At the other extreme, it could be said that the landholding class in this region was mainly of Scandinavian origin, it is noteworthy that in 1066 some manors with Old Norse names, such as Boulby [NZ 76021 18973], were held by men with Old English names, which might suggest that intermarriage had taken place since the initial Viking settlement. Equally, manors with Old English names such as Cloughton [TA 00643 94627], were held by men with Old Norse names. This factor may also suggest a fluidity in the land market into the mid eleventh century. Overall, the evidence suggests that there was a considerable Scandinavian element in the landholding class, but that this class as a whole was a homogenous one in terms of the amount of land held, and intermarriage took place between its members.

Further evidence on the social structure prevailing in this part of the Danelaw during and after the Viking settlement may be gained by study of the tenurial structure. Scholars such as Stenton believed that the presence of multiple estates and the sokemen dwelling within them resulted from the settlement of free and equal members of the Scandinavian armies of the ninth century; Stenton envisaged the peasant warriors of the Danish armies being settled on the land by their lords and owing them relatively light services in return for this land (Stenton 1927.217-18, 233). More recent work has cast serious doubts on this thesis. Work by R.H.C. Davies, G.R.J. Jones and G.W.S. Barrow has revealed multiple estates comparable to those of Northumbria not only in the Danelaw but in parts of English never settled by the Scandinavians, and also in Wales and Scotland (Davies 1955, Jones - various, Barrow 1973). Jolliffe showed that there were such estates as far south as Kent (Jolliffe 1933); Finberg points out that sokemen appear in the Kentish Domesday (Finberg 1972.477). This being so, the presence of multiple estates in Yorkshire cannot of itself be adduced as evidence for any Scandinavian peasant, as distinct from landholding, farmer, in the region. However, the number and distribution of Old Norse place-names in by combined with personal-names, coupled with the personal-names of the Domesday landholders, does imply a considerable Scandinavian presence at this independent farmer level. Beneath this stratum, can we detect the presence of peasants of Scandinavian origin who were dependent on them ?

Scholarly opinion on this subject is markedly polarised. On the one hand, we have the Sawyer minimalist view, on the other the philologists' theory of a peasant migration, also followed by H.R. Loyn. The Chronicle entry for 876 may indicate that the personnel of Halfdan's army settled down as farmers (but see above 132-33), but no documentary source mentions a Scandinavian or Old Norse-named peasant in the region. The place-name Lazenby in Cleveland is interpreted by Fellows Jensen as 'the by of the freedmen' (Fellows Jensen 1962. 32), but this takes us no further. It may have been the settlement of several freedmen or of only one freedman and we cannot know the ethnic origin of these men. They may have been Scandinavians themselves, but they may equally have been captives taken in war, or their descendants, later freed by their Scandinavian lord. Lazenby may even gain its name from an owner/tenant with the personal-name of Lesing or Leising, which does appear in the Yorkshire Domesday (cf Faull 1985.300a).

Editor's note: see Lazenby [NZ 57095 19789], derived from either (1) ON personal name Leikr or (2) ON leysingi, 'freedman'.

From this tangle of evidence we may produce a working hypothesis:

  1. the initial Scandinavian settlement in North-East Yorkshire resulted from the division of Northumbria among the leaders of the army of 876, who gained control of the estates which formed the main feature of land tenure at this time;
  2. this may have been augmented by a further influx at the time of Ragnald's supremacy in 918-24, possibly including a higher proportion of Norwegian Vikings;
  3. during the tenth century a market in land developed in the region and this led to the break-up of many estates into smaller farming units held by individual farmers of both Scandinavian and Anglian extraction. The estates of Whitby, Pickering and Falsgrave came eventually into the hands of the earls of Northumbria and remained substantially intact;
  4. by 1066, same two centuries after the initial settlement, intermarriage and other contacts between two landholding groups had blurred distinctions and personal nomenclature was no longer a reliable guide to ethnic origins. Since the initial Scandinavian settlement the workings of the land market had brought this class of independent farming landholders into being, the only large holding comparable to those of post-Conquest landholders being that of the earldom.

Anglian and Anglo-Scandinavian Sculpture in North-East Yorkshire and its Context

At page 159

… Over all, the evidence of sculpture tends to corroborate that of place-names in showing that Scandinavians and men of Scandinavian descent were a considerable force in the landholding society of North-East Yorkshire during the tenth and eleventh centuries.

At page 160

… What does sculpture tell us? Overall, the presence of funerary sculpture shows that Scandinavians and those with Scandinavian artistic tastes were buried in these places and that those with Scandinavian artistic tastes had sufficient power and wealth to erect these monuments, which further suggests that men of Scandinavian origins were a powerful force in society, corroborating the evidence of Domesday landholding (above 152-57) … A decline in importance of the monastic sites of Whitby and Hackness can be discerned: Whitby has produced only one Anglo-Scandinavian fragment and Hackness runes of doubtful provenance. The monastic site of whitby seems to have become deserted during the Viking Age; we have no documentary evidence of the fate of Hackness, but this may also be the case there. However, three churches were functioning within the manor of Hackness [SE 96645 90085], Suffield [SE 98581 90648] and Everley [SE 97226 88903] in 1086 (Faull 1985.323a). Hackness does lie in an area of dispersed settlement from which Old Norse place-names are absent; this negative evidence is not conclusive, but it may be that powerful and wealthy Scandinavians did not settle there. Lang suggests that the major focus within the Whitby district moved away from the monastic site during the Viking Age. He notes that Lythe [NZ 84485 12971], where no fewer than 19 hogbacks and parts of hogbacks were found during church restorations in 1910, lies at the northern end of Whitby Strand and suggests that its church formed the necropolis for a Norse-Irish colony, in an area of many Old Norse place-names, the monastic site being ignored (Lang 1984. 90). Lythe was not part of the Whitby estate in 1066 but it is possible that it had earlier been a dependency and broken away during the tenth century. The manor of Lythe was held in 1066 by Sveinn (Faull 1985.305b), whose name is suggestive of Scandinavian origins (but see above 152-57). The large number of these prestige monuments at Lythe does strongly suggest the presence of a wealthy and influential Scandinavian population in that area during the tenth and eleventh century.

At page 163

… Overall, the evidence provided by sculpture finds corroborates that of place names and Domesday in showing that the Scandinavian influence on North-East Yorkshire was considerable, and that those of Scandinavian origin were influential members of the landholding class. The sculpture also demonstrates that Scandinavian influences were not confined to areas of Old Norse place names and certain churches remaining in operation, or indeed that came into being during the Viking Age.

"The Vikings and their Victims: the Verdict of the Names" (1994) Gillian Fellows-Jensen at page 31

In conclusion it would seem that once the Vikings began to settle in the British Isles, they intermarried with the native population and sometimes gave their children non-Scandinavian names or names newly coined from Scandinavian material. Some of these names were later carried to Scandinavia. In Shetland and Orkney Norse personal names drove out all the names employed by the earlier settlers, whether Pictish or Gaelic, whereas in the Hebrides, Western Scotland, Man and Ireland, Norse names were employed side by side and in combination with names of Gaelic origin. Some of these Norse names have survived as forenames or in patronymic surnames to the present day, even though the Norse language has been supplanted in all these areas by Gaelic and/or English.

In the Danelaw, Scandinavian personal names were adopted by the native English population in the areas of dense Danish settlement in the ninth century and the Anglo-Danish nomenclature was continuously reinforced by the arrival of new waves of settlers right up to the time of the Norman Conquest. The personal names borne by the Norman conquerors, however, achieved such high prestige so quickly in England that they drove out of use names of Scandinavian origin together with native English names. It is therefore in place-names and not in personal names that the degree and nature of the Danish influence on the native population is most clearly reflected.

"Language and History in Viking Age England: Linguistic relations between speakers of Old Norse and Old English" (2002) Matthew Townend

Reviewed by R. A. Buck, Department of English, Eastern Illinois University

Matthew Townend, in "Language and History in Viking Age England", is concerned with the extent to which Old Norse and Old English were mutually intelligible to the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings when they established and continued to maintain contact in England from the eighth to the eleventh centuries. Earlier historians (Stenton, Baugh, Jesperson, Fell, among others) have argued that the language situation among this mixed group of speakers was most likely one of mutual intelligibility, but Townend argues justifiably that to date no one has provided a detailed descriptive account of the textual and linguistic evidence that supports or disputes such a claim. His book, which has evolved from his doctoral thesis, is an attempt to fill this gap within the field of the history of the English language.

The book consists of six chapters, the first an introduction which establishes his argument and methods, the last a conclusion which suggests a preliminary linguistic historical model for the study of Old Norse in England, and four chapters of argued evidence (phonological, lexical, textual, and literary) for mutual intelligibility rather than for a language situation that was bilingual and requiring the use of interpreters. An extensive corpus of Old English place-names showing Scandinavian influence is included in chapter 3.

… In Chapter 3, "The Scandinavianisation of Old English Place-Names", Townend articulates several key theoretical assumptions he relies on in his study that are based on the work of Hockett, and Milliken and Milliken. Essentially, intelligibility by the hearer in spoken interaction is achieved by the hearer's holistic and perceptual knowledge of individual words, knowledge that allows for a certain degree of variation that may be encountered in dialects. The hearer also has the ability to parse words, thereby allowing certain properties (including correct phonemic correspondences) to be switched easily where variability exists, thus facilitating comprehension. So Townend investigates how the Vikings dealt with place-names they encountered in Old English (all of which would be heard since the Vikings, Townend argues, were not literate in Old English). He analyzes a significant corpus of data based on Gillian Fellows-Jenson's studies of recorded settlement names in order to note phonemic and lexical substitutions made by the Vikings: the Old English form (pre-Viking contact) is included along with the Scandinavianized form. A thorough appendix to chapter 3 lists 228 such examples of recorded place-names. Townend's linguistic analysis reveals that intelligibility was successful on the part of Norse speakers in the sense that they conducted predictable and patterned phonemic and lexical "switching-codes" throughout the data. His evidence demonstrates that the language situation was not one of bilingualism (requiring interpreters), for different types of lexical substitutions would be expected if that were the case.

Chapter 6, "Old Norse in England: Towards a Linguistic History", effectively articulates Townend's groundwork for a preliminary linguistic historical model of Old Norse in England. He clearly summarizes again the methodology he uses to test mutual intelligibility:

  1. conducting a linguistic comparison of the two language varieties (chapter 2);
  2. testing the informant by searching for evidence (place-names) that reveals how the Scandinavians were able to negotiate their own linguistic knowledge with the dialect they encountered (chapter 3);
  3. asking the informant by examining the way each group describes their linguistic encounters with the other (chapter 4); and
  4. determining the social attitudes of each group toward the other's language and their social relations with each other (chapter 5).

The book's conclusion is that "Viking Age England was a bilingual society, but not a society comprised of bilingual individuals …" (page 195). Townend emphasizes that his evidence shows "adequate" intelligibility between the two groups, but he defines this in precise terms (page 183):

"By adequate or pragmatic intelligibility I do precisely mean, amongst other things, the ability to understand individual words, if this ability was sufficiently widespread and sufficiently successful to permit face-to-face and day-to-day transactions, and so to preclude the need for one or both of the speech communities in the Danelaw to become bilingual, or for interpreters to be habitually used for the purposes of Anglo-Norse communication."

The focus here is on individual words, for Townend's study relies heavily on phonological and lexical evidence and does not explore, by argued choice, the morphological or syntactic complexities of the two varieties. Townend does at times underplay the difference between lexical meaning and sentential meaning and does not push queries that might show how misunderstandings could and did occur because of morphological or syntactic differences. However, this is not a criticism of the book, for Townend, too, points out that these are certainly areas to pursue along with the study of Old Norse loan words in Middle English, regional studies, and studies of the differences between the Old Norse of England and the Old Norse of Scandinavia during Viking Age England.

The book is lucid, well-argued, thorough, with an extensive bibliography, and is recommended for anyone interested in Viking Age England, linguists, historians, literary specialists, or otherwise. But linguists especially will appreciate the focus on process - what speakers actually did with language - rather than product - the language they produced - a discussion much needed in the field of the history of the English language, especially in textbooks.

Review by Michael Barnes, University College London for Saga-Book Vol. XXVIII

… Chapters 2 to 5 represent the core of the study. They seek to test the mutual intelligibility of Old English and Old Norse by applying the methods just outlined to a variety of sources. Chapter 2, 'The languages: Viking Age Norse and English', examines the history and structure of the two tongues. The author concludes that even after several centuries of separation Old English and Old Norse remained phonologically and lexically similar, even though their inflexional systems had diverged considerably. 'The Scandinavianisation of Old English place-names' is the subject matter of Chapter 3. The incomers' ability to replace English phonological forms with Scandinavian equivalents, 'cognate substitution' (e.g. gāt > geit, scīr > skírr), is offered as evidence of the degree to which they were able to understand the indigenous language.

… The overall conclusion, presented at the end of the final chapter, is that the evidence adduced supports a hypothesis of adequate mutual intelligibility between speakers of English and Norse and undermines the idea that there was widespread bilingualism or use of interpreters.

Language and History in Viking Age England is a competent piece of work. It builds on detailed knowledge of the languages involved and of Anglo-Saxon history and culture. It is also timely, drawing together the widely scattered threads of recent debate about English Norse intelligibility. It will, I am sure, prove extremely useful for anyone wishing to acquaint themselves in a more general way with the history of Norse in England, not least because of its full and clearly set out bibliography. What the book does not do is provide a definitive answer to the question: Could the native English and the Norse settlers understand one another, each using their own language? For the adequate mutual intelligibility Townend identifies can, as far as I can see, cover situations ranging from the slow enunciation of single words accompanied by urgent gesticulation to the use of basic forms of language, perhaps not unreminiscent of the English uttered by native Americans in B-westerns. Doubtless the better educated could achieve somewhat higher degrees of mutual intelligibility, especially with practice. I find it hard to believe, however, that the levels of communication envisaged can ever have approached those which exist between, say, speakers of Danish, Norwegian and Swedish today, a situation nevertheless often judged no better than 'semi-communication'. Yet the three mainland Scandinavian languages have a shared linguistic history; morphologically they are very similar and syntactically almost identical; Danish and Norwegian bokmȧl enjoy a common vocabulary while Norwegian and Swedish have virtually the same phonological system. It is true, as Townend emphasises, that Old English and Old Norse both developed from the North-west Germanic dialect continuum and thus shared a basic vocabulary and certain phonological features, but the similarities are nothing like as plentiful and obvious as those between the present-day mainland Scandinavian languages … We must hope the term 'adequate mutual intelligibility' is understood by future scholars in the context of the various reservations Townend professes and is not taken as synonymous with 'widespread general intelligibility'.

… Fortunately the value of this book lies not in its contribution to the understanding of Germanic or Viking-Age Norse but in the application of sociolinguistic methodology to a historical linguistic problem. The resulting thesis - my various reservations notwithstanding - seems to me cogently argued and full of useful and interesting insights. I am sure it will give rise to much debate in the future.

"Domesday Book - A Complete Translation" (2003) at pages 802, 855 & 870


IIII. The land of Earl Hugh

In WHITBY and SNEATON, a Berewick, are 15 carucates to the geld, and there could be 15 ploughs. Earl Siward held this as 1 manor. Now Earl Hugh has it, and William de Percy [holds] of him. In demesne [are] 2 ploughs; and 10 villans and 3 bordars having 1 plough. [There is] woodland pasture 7 leagues long and 3 leagues broad. The whole of the open land [is] 3 leagues long and 2 broad. TRE worth £112; now 60s.

To this manor belongs this sokeland: Fyling, 1 carucate; Fylingthorpe, 5 carucates; Gnipe Howe, 3 carucates; 'Prestebi' [in Whitby], 2 carucates; Ugglebarnby, 3 carucates; 'Sourebi' [in Whitby], 4 carucates; 'Brecca' [in Whitby], 1 carucate; 'Bauldbyes' [in Whitby], 1 carucate; 'Flowergate' [in Whitby], 2 carucates; High Stakesby, 2 carucates and 6 bovates; Newholm, 4 carucates.

In all, [there are] 28 carucates and 6 bovates to the geld, and there could be 24 ploughs. Earl Hugh has this, and William [holds] of him. Nearly all [are] waste. Only in 'Prestebi' [in Whitby] and 'Sourebi' [in Whitby], which the Abbot of York has of William, are there 2 ploughs in demesne: and 8 sokemen with 1 plough, and 30 villans with 3 ploughs, and 1 mill [rendering] 10s, and 26 acres of meadow, in places.

Clamores of Yorkshire

In the North Riding

In Langbaurgh Wapentake, Earl Hugh claims against William de Percy 1 carucate of land in Fyling, saying it belongs to Whitby, but he has no witness.


In FYLING, William de Percy 1 carucate ofland. In the same place, Earl Hugh 1 carucate. In Flyingthorpe, Earl Hugh 5 carucates.

In Gnipe Howe, Earl Hugh 3 carucates. In Whitby, Earl Hugh 10 carucates. In 'Prestebi' [in Whitby], Earl Hugh 2 carucates.

In Normanby [in Fylingdales], the king 2 carucates. In Sneaton, Earl Hugh 5 carucates. In Ugglebarnby, Earl Hugh 3 carucates.

In 'Sourebi' [in Whitby], Earl Hugh 4 carucates. In 'Brecca' [in Whitby]. Earl Hugh 1 carucate. In 'Bauldbyes' [in Whitby], Earl Hugh 1 carucate. In 'Flowergate' [in Whitby], Earl Hugh 2 carucates.

In High Stakesby, Earl Hugh 2 carucates and 6 bovates. In the same place, the Count of Mortain 2 bovates. In Newholm, Earl Hugh 4 carucates. In Lythe, the Count of Mortain 2 carucates.

Farm-derived units of measurement

  • The rod is a historical unit of length equal to 5½ yards. It may have originated from the typical length of a mediaeval ox-goad. There are 4 rods in one chain.
  • The furlong (meaning furrow length) was the distance a team of oxen could plough without resting. This was standardised to be exactly 40 rods or 10 chains (220 yards).
  • An acre was the amount of land tillable by one man behind one ox in one day. Traditional acres were long and narrow due to the difficulty in turning the plough and the value of river front access.
  • An oxgang (bovate) was the amount of land tillable by one ox in a ploughing season. This could vary from village to village, but was typically around 15 to 20 acres.
  • A virgate was the amount of land tillable by two oxen in a ploughing season.
  • A carucate was the amount of land tillable by a team of eight oxen in a ploughing season. This was equal to 8 oxgangs or 4 virgates.

"Travels with a Sketch Book" The Church Times, 21 August 1931 at page 201

XVI: The Ouse at Lewes by Donald Maxwell

The sketch reproduced above is a view of Lewes that anyone can see from the train as he comes in from the direction of Tunbridge Wells, at the point where the line crosses the River Ouse.

The church is that of St. Thomas à Becket, Cliffe. The choice of a patron saint in this case is enlightening, because St. Thomas of Canterbury owned an estate here. It is recorded of Old Mailing Farm that it stands upon the site of a collegiate church. It was at this farmhouse that the murderers of the Archbishop rested on the way back from their crime. They put their weapons upon a table, but the good table, we are told, refused to bear the sacrilegious burden of their arms, and threw them off in violence to the ground.

Before going any further with the exploration of Lewes, I should like to make a study of the river and its villages from Newhaven to Lewes, and, incidentally, have a friendly argument - well, not an argument at all, but a comparing of observations - with the authors of "The Place-Names of Sussex". The Viking element in the settling of these waterside places does not seem to have occurred to the authors, who are naturally looking all the time for Saxon forms. Here are briefly some of their findings:

Seaford: There is no doubt that this name means what it says - viz., that it is a place where there was a ford by the sea.

Itford, etc.: In Domesday, Litelford, Itesford, 1215. This difficult name may contain an old English personal name, It(t)a.

Iford: Yew-tree ford, or "ford by the marshland". Iford is a good way from the Ouse itself, and we cannot say just which of the numerous watercourses here is referred to.

Now let us begin by assuming that the Viking ships paid attention to this part of the coast, with its excellent harbourage, and see if, on that assumption proving tenable, a great deal of light will not be thrown on to these names and their meaning. The first Norse ships, three in number, appeared off Dorset in A.D. 787, and sacked the town of Wareham. It does not follow at all that this was the first time Viking ships had visited the coast for trading purposes, but this is the first incident of the savage raids of these pirates that is recorded. It is thought by some that there had been what we moderns call peaceful penetration and some settlements before this date.

Now, the name "ford" does not bear the meaning primarily of a possible crossing of a stream, but of a road or highway crossing. It indicates where a road can go (over the river). There is a strong family likeness between this word and the Norse "fjord". The meaning is the same, but, with the Vikings, it was where a ship could go.

If the meaning of Seaford is indeed "ford" in its Saxon sense, a road crossing by the sea, then we are faced with a great practical difficulty. Is it possible, or even likely, that a crossing could be made at the mouth of a river as big as the Ouse? There is no other case of "ford" occurring in any Sussex rivermouth town. Ford on the Arun is four or five miles up the stream.

Again, take Iford. No sane man would try to make a ford of the Ouse at this point, for it must have been a wide lagoon, and Iford stands at its very widest part. There could have been no stream joining the Ouse here big enough to warrant the name "ford" at all.

And now for Ilford. This is spelt Litelford in Domesday, and turns up again as Itesford in 1215. Why assume that this is intended to be the same word ? The scribe who wrote it down in Domesday put down what he heard. So did the scribe in 1215. This was evidently called Little Ford at first, and may have been called Mr. Itas Ford at a later date.

Assuming, therefore, that the word "ford" in these three cases is in the Norse sense of a shipway, all becomes clear at daylight. Look at the map. The shaded portion is the land below the fifty-foot level, now nearly all marsh, and once evidently tidal water. Thus Seaford would be the sea channel. Itford, once Little Ford, would be the little or narrow channel at the point where it is obviously a neck; and where the estuary spreads itself into a marshy lagoon is the fjord of the marsh or broad, Iford.

To support this Viking explanation, I have marked the wicks with a W in a circle. A, B and C were islands in the estuary, A being Rise Farm and B Rise Barn. Hamsey also was, as its name denotes, an island in the channel.

The old Norse word "vik", a creek or bay, is easy to compare with the old English "wic, an abode or a dairy-farm. Both words have some common ancestor. The original idea is that of shelter. To this day the farmers in Kent and Sussex - and elsewhere, for aught I know - use the word "wick" for a hurdle of brush-wood to shelter the lambs. A shelter for people can mean a village, a shelter for cattle a dairy-farm, and a shelter for ships a bay. When on the one-time waterside, especially on tidal water, these may be the Norse "wiks". On this map the old names are Smithwick, near Southover, Orleswick, near Piddinghoe, Bridgwick, in South Malling, and Wick Street, by West Firle.

Thus the Vikings may explain a great deal.

"Scandinavian place-names in northern Britain as evidence for language contact and interaction" (November 2003) A. E. Grant, Department of English Language, University of Glasgow

At page 12

It is noteworthy, however, that in other areas of primary Scandinavian settlement, such as the Danelaw in England, ON place-names are found alongside the OE place-names of the indigenous population, suggesting linguistic and cultural co-operation between the two speech communities.

At page 254

Chapter Five: The bý Names


Place-names containing the generic bý 'farm, settlement' are generally considered to be indicative of primary Scandinavian settlement in Britain, as is attested by the many 'dot' maps highlighting the distribution of names containing this element. Yet, in contrast to the types of name discussed in the three previous chapters,names in bý are usually attributed to the Danish immigrants who settled in northern and eastern England, rather than to the Gaelic-influenced Norwegian immigrants from the Western Seaboard of Scotland. In this chapter, the theory that this name-type is inherently Danish will be re-appraised, and it will be argued that some of the bý names are more likely to be reflexes of Norwegian býr, bœr than Danish bý. It will also be argued that these Norwegian coinages are likely to result from linguistic contact between Danish and Norwegian settlers in Northern England.

At page 258

Yet, whilst bý names are not common along the Western Seaboard of Scotland, it is noteworthy that the largest group of names in this region are those in ON saur-býr 'mud village' or 'swamp village' … This name-type originated in Norway, and from there spread to the West of Scotland and also to the Icelandic colonies, where there are sixteen instances. It may be significant, therefore, that the English instances of this name are located in areas of established Gaelic-Norwegian influence, with six Sowerby place-names in the North-West, and four in Yorkshire. This might suggest that, rather than having a Danish origin, these Sowerby place-names instead reflect the immigration of Norwegians from the Western Seaboard of Scotland, particularly as the name-type does appear to have been virtually non-existent in Denmark.

Editor's note: see also Sowerby and 26 other ON saurr place-name derivatives on the north-eastern littoral (and hinterland) of NRY).

At page 259

ON kross 'cross as a religious symbol' was a loanword from Gaelic. It may be significant that English names in *kross-bý only occur in areas of Gaelic-Norwegian influence: there are three instances in Cumberland, two in Westmorland and one on the Lancashire coast. There are also two *kross-bý place-names in the Isle of Man, and two instances on the Ayrshire coast. In addition to this core group of names in *kross-bý, it should be noted that there are a few 'Crosby' place names in Yorkshire, and one in Lincolnshire, although in the case of both Crosby (Allerton) in the North Riding and the Lincolnshire instance, the specific element is the Scandinavian personal name Krókr, or the appellative krókr 'bend, nook', rather than ON kross.

Editor's note: on the NRY littoral (and hinterland) there are eight place-names with the ON Krókr or krókr derivation and 33 place-names with the ON kross derivation.

The distribution of the place-names in *kross-bý would therefore seem to indicate that this name-type had its inception in the Gaelic-influenced Scandinavian immigrants who settled in the North-West of England from the Western Seaboard of Scotland, rather than from an immigration of Danish-speakers from the Eastern Danelaw.

At page 261

Aside from these names, there is further evidence of Norwegian rather than Danish influence. Smith noted that Norwegian bœr, býr usually referred to single farmsteads, whereas in the Danelaw bý was more commonly used to refer to a village. Oram argues that since the majority of Galloway bý names refer to small farming communities, they better fit the pattern of Norwegian rather than Danish usage. Oram also notes that the excavation of buildings around the Whithom area of Galloway points to affinities with Norse settlements at Dublin 'rather than those from Danish settlements in the northern part of England' … All of this suggests sea-borne contact between these two regions, and it is possible that Norwegian immigrants who settled in the North-West of England from the Western Isles may have later established a secondary colony along the Galloway coast.

It would appear, therefore, that the only real evidence for a Danish presence rests on the bý place-names which have parallel forms in Dumfriesshire and England. Examination reveals that, in themselves, these are not conclusive. As already noted, Sorbie and Corsbie suggest Norwegian rather than Danish influence.

Editor's note: the above analysis applies also to ON place-name derivations on the NRY littoral (and hinterland) save that the Norwegian immigration came direct from Norway with or without a stop-over at the Norse-settled Orkneys or Shetland Islands.

At page 263

The remaining Galloway bý place-name which has an English parallel is Bagby. The place-name has been interpreted as containing the Scandinavian personal name Baggi.

Editor's note: see for six Bagby place-name references in Kirby Knowle (NRY) derived from ON personal name Baggi. See also ON place-name Bagdale in Skelton (NRY) also derived from ON Baggi.

There is only one solitary parallel found in Yorkshire, making it likely that these names refer to different people and that they were coined completely independently of one another. In this context it is noteworthy that the name was used by Norwegians as well as by Danes. It should also be noted that Fellows-Jensen has herself argued that the personal name plus bý place-names were coined 'as minor landowners began to assert their independence by detaching small units of settlement from estate centres'. It seems likely, therefore that the bý names including a personal name were coined on a strictly individual basis, in reference to the local minor landowners who controlled them. Additionally, Fellows-Jensen records that the practice of 'bestowing commemorative names on settlement in new colonies was not at all common in the Viking period'. Even if it were supposed that the Galloway name was a commemorative transfer from the post-Viking period,this could hardly be taken as evidence of a Danish influx from east of the Pennines during the early tenth century.

At page 265

It therefore becomes apparent that, despite having parallels in England, none of these names provides evidence of specifically Danish settlement in Galloway, and instances such as Sorbie and Crosby would instead suggest a Gaelic-Norwegian context. The occurrence of parallel names in the North-West of England would only suggest Danish immigration if the English names were coined by settlers of Danish origin from east of the Pennines. However, it will be argued in Section 2(d) that at least some of these names were coined by Norwegians from the Western Seaboard of Scotland.

Editor's note: again, this conclusion also applies to ON bý place-name derivations on the NRY littoral (and hinterland) save that the Norwegian immigration came, not from the western seaboard of England or Scotland, but direct from Norway with or without a stop-over at the Norse-settled Orkneys or Shetland Islands.

At page 265

2 (c) Bý Names on the Isle of Man

Fellows-Jensen's argument for Danish settlement in the Isle of Man also rests solely on the occurrence of English parallel formations. She herself admits that the bý place-names would be the only feature 'about the Scandinavian place-names in Man that suggests Danish influence'. She also concedes that the 'form taken by the element [bý] in the Manx names has no significance for the determination of the nationality of the namers', so that aside from fifteen names which apparently have English parallels there is no reason to suppose that the Manx bý names were not coined by Norwegian immigrants.

The fifteen bý place-names are Kirby (ON kirkja 'church'), Surby (ON saurr 'mud, dirt, sour ground'), Dalby (ON dalr 'dale'), Jurby (ON djúr, ON dýr 'deer'), Regaby (ON hryggr 'ridge'), Scholaby (ON skáli 'shieling hut'), two instances of Crosby (ON kross 'cross'), two instances of Raby (ON 'boundary'), two instances of Colby (ON kollr 'rounded hill-top'), and three instances of S(o)ulby (ON súla 'cleft, fork'). As Fellows-Jensen has established, these place-names show a marked similarity with bý names in the North-West. There are parallels of Kirby, Surby, Scholaby, Crosby, Raby and S(o)ulby in Cumberland, and parallels of Kirby, Surby, Dalby, Crosby, Colby and S(o)ulby in Westmorland. In Lancashire there are parallels of Kirby, Surby, Regaby, Crosby, Raby and S(o)ulby, and in Cheshire there are two instances of Kirby and one of Raby. Some of these place-names are also paralleled in the English counties to the east of the Pennines.

Editor's note: five of these fifteen bý place-names with ON derived elements and suffixes are represented on the NRY littoral (and hinterland): Kirby (55), Dalby (22), Crosby (20), Raby (2) and Colby (1).

There are some 86 bý place-names with ON derivations on the NRY littoral (and hinterland): Aislaby, Barnby, Boltby, Borrowby, Gilmonby, Harmby, Hawnby, Jingleby, Killerby, Newby, Normanby, Scalby, Stakesby, Skewsby, Ugglebarnby, Whenby and Wragby. Eleven of these 17 bý NRY place-names have ON personal name suffixes: Aislaby, Barnby, Boltby, Gilmonby, Harmby, Jingleby, Killerby, Scalby, Stakesby, Ugglebarnby and Wragby.

At page 269

It would therefore seem that the Manx bý place-names do not provide evidence of an influx of Danish speakers from the eastern Danelaw. Rather, the explanation for the many parallels between the Manx and English bý place-names is likely to be a combination of coincidental repetition of common specific elements, contact between Gaelic-Norwegian immigrants who settled in both the Isle of Man and the North-West of England,and the later transfer of English bý place-names during the immigration of English-speakers in the fifteenth century.

Editor's note: again, this conclusion applies also to ON derived bý place-names on the NRY littoral (and hinterland) save that the Norwegian immigration came, not from the western seaboard of England or Scotland, but direct from Norway with or without a stop-over at the Norse-settled Orkneys or Shetland Islands.

"The Norse Settlements in the British Islands", Alexander Bugge, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Volume 4 (1921) at pages 174 to 210

at page 175

Even after the Norman conquest the Norse element continued to live. A London antiquary of the thirteenth century tells us that since the reign of King Arthur there have been continual wars between the English and the Norwegians:

"The Norwegians occupied many districts and islands of this realm which they still keep, and afterwards it has never been possible to expel them. Therefore the Norwegians have, since the time of King Edward the Confessor, been allowed to live among us and to stay in this realm as our sworn brethren and like the proper citizens of this realm."

… I must call attention to a mistake that is made by several scholars, namely, that they speak only of Danes in the British Islands, at least in England and Ireland. Even in the Isle of Man, which during centuries (until 1266) formed a Norwegian dependency, people now speak of Danes, not of Norwegians.

at page 176

In earlier times, however, the Norwegians were remembered nearly as much as the Danes. Prophecies both in England and Scotland told of "the Black Fleet of Norway" (probably a reminiscence of the expedition of King Haakon of Norway to Scotland, A.D. 1263). Among the charges made against the Vicar of Muston in 1537 was that he had "a roll of prophecies from the White Friars of Scarborough". The prophecies, among others, told that "when the black fleet of Norway was comed and gone, after in England should there be war never."

In England it is now generally acknowledged that the Lake District was settled by Norwegians. But for the Danelaw proper nearly all writers only speak of Danes. The original Scandinavian settlers there, of course, were Danes. About 900, however, the Norwegians were temporarily driven away from Ireland. Some of them settled in Western England, but a great number came to Yorkshire, and after that time there began a strong Norwegian immigration to this country.

at page 178

The place-names point in the same direction. In many, perhaps in most cases, it is impossible to decide whether place-name is of Danish or Norwegian origin.

The Scandinavian names which we find in ancient English charters have mostly been misspelt and miswritten by scribes quite ignorant both of Danish and Norwegian, and sometimes even of English. Besides, many words and endings were in use in Denmark as well as in Norway, or had forms which were closely similar to each other. I can give one instance. A great part of the Scandinavian place-names in this country end in by (bi), e.g. Grimsby, Whitby, Derby. This ending comes fromON , býr, which was used in Denmark, Sweden and Eastern Norway, and means 'a manor, village, town'. The corresponding OWScand form is bœr, , which would give ME be. This form is actually found in DB 1086, e.g. Helesbe [now Helsby] in CHS (Domesday Book, II, 263c). Forms like Derbei [West Derby] and Fornebei [now Formby, West Derby Hundred] also pre-suppose an ON nominative ending in bœr, or rather a casus obliquus ending in bœiar. The other form, the ending by, is, however, the pre-dominant one, and must in many places have supplanted the OWScand form.

A great many place-names which have got this ending have, as first member, a personal name which is not Danish, but Norwegian or Hiberno-Norwegian. Thus several townships and villages in CUL, LAN, YKS, CHS and LIN are called Ireby or Irby - Irebi or Iribi in DB 1086 - -that is ON Irabýr, 'the township of the Irishman'. They must have been named after Norwegians who from Ireland emigrated to England.

at page 179

Some of the principal elements of the Scandinavian place-names in England seem, however, to be Danish, while others are acknowledged as Norwegian. … Norwegian, on the other hand, are probably the names ending in -thwaite, which still survives in North-English dialects, like tveit in Modern Norwegian, meaning 'a forest clearing, a small hamlet'. The word is cognate with þwîtan, 'to cut', and probably originally means 'separated or cut off from its surroundings'. In Norway many farms or manors from the viking age, or even older, have names ending in þveit. They seem originally to have formed a part of larger estates. In some cases, however þveit also in Norway merely signifies 'house, abode, estate'. In this meaning the word is used in many North-English place-names, e.g. Finsthwaite, a hamlet and parish in LAN, near the foot of Windermere (that is 'the estate or portion of Finn', a common Norwegian name), and Haverthwaite, village in Colton parish, LAN (a compound of þveit and Hávarðr, another common Old Norwegian name). I am well aware that the word tved, corresponding to ON þveit, is found in Danish. It is, however, very rarely used in place-names and never in the meaning of 'portion, estate'. The Danish word only means 'a field, cleared of wood'. Of the 232 place-names ending in -thwaite which are known in England, no less than 83 are found in YKS, 11 in LIN, and 7 in NFK. This also seems to indicate that all over the ancient Danelaw there was a considerable Norwegian element.

at page 180

Several other of the principal elements of many North-English place-names are likewise OWScand, and not found in Denmark or Sweden, e.g. gil, which still in Yorkshire (like the corresponding Icelandic gil) means 'a deep, narrow glen with a stream at the bottom'. And further, breck, which is very common in LAN … is derived from ON brekka, 'a slope'. The corresponding Danish word is brink, from which the English brink, 'edge of a hill', is derived … In most cases, however, it is impossible to decide whether a place-name is of ON or ODan origin.

at page 181

We must also remember that the Norsemen in the Viking colonies in England - as well as in Ireland - having been for a long time separated from their compatriots, spoke a language that contained many traces of antiquity which had long ago disappeared in the Scandinavian countries.

In LAN as well as in YKS ON Olafr is written Anlaf (Andelaveserewe 1202, now Anglezark). In a YKS charter of the end of the eleventh century we find Bareth, which represents Bârøþr, a more ancient (ninth or tenth century) form of Bárðr. The same name is in Irish sources written Barith, Ch III, 113 (Confirmation of charters in favour of St. Mary's, York).

at page 182

Thus in CUL ON Ósþakr, a man's name, is written Unsþach. The present Torrisholme in LAN is, in 1202, written Toredesholm (Toredes presupposes the ON þorøðr, a more antique form of þorðr). A property belonging to the monks of Holm Cultram in CUL is, in 1226, called Hochthweith, but in other instances Hothweith (ON Háþveit).

In many cases, however, it is difficult or nearly impossible to ascertain whether a word or a name is of Scandinavian origin or not. The two languages, OE and ON, were much more alike than Modern English and Modern Norwegian, Danish, or Swedish, and words or names which we happen to know only from ON or from Modern Norwegian or Danish may in Anglo-Saxon times also have been in use in English. Nevertheless, not only the Danish, but also the Norwegian influence must in many parts of England have been very strong.

I believe that in almost every county within the Danelaw, besides the Danish, there must have been a Norwegian element. Not only many place-names, but also a great part of the Scandinavian loan-words in ME can only be explained from OWScand, i.e. from Norwegian.

A still more difficult question is it to decide how long the Scandinavian element, and especially the ON language survived in the different parts of the British Islands. We have no written evidences, no charters written in Danish or Norwegian (except in the Orkneys and Shetland), but only a few Runic inscriptions. The evidences are mostly accidental and what we may conclude from stray words and names in Latin documents. Our conclusions will therefore necessarily only be approximate.

The Scandinavian settlements naturally fall into two parts, those within the Danelaw and in the eastern part of England, and those outside the Danelaw and on the West coast of England. Within the Danelaw, where the Danish element prevailed, the Scandinavian settlers lived among an English-speaking population whose language they could easily understand. Therefore the two races at an early time were already mixed, and the Scandinavian language was not able to survive quite as long as in Western England, where the Norsemen partly lived among a Celtic-speaking population, and where, even late in the twelfth century, we find strong traces of a bilingual population.

at page 185

I may also mention that new personal names must have been coined by the Norsemen in the Danelaw counties as late as in the eleventh century, e.g. the Latin Romfarus which corresponds to ON Rúfari, ('a man who has made a pilgrimage to Rome'). How common these Scandinavian names were, we may infer from Professor Stenton's recently published "Danelaw Charters". He points out that of the 507 Anglo-Scandinavian personal names recorded in his edition (mostly of the twelfth century), 266 may definitely be regarded as of ON origin or including Northern elements.

Still more instructive, however, are the place-names. Snorre Sturlason, in his "Heimskringla", says that:

"the country of the Northumbrians was mostly inhabited by Northmen since the sons of Lodbrok acquired that country"

and he mentions several ON place-names.

In DB 1086 a great number of place-names in LIN and YKS have still preserved their ON case-endings, e.g. Uplithum ('the upper slopes'), Westlidum ('the western slopes'), Haugum ('the hills or mounds'), all of which are dative plurals. We can even see that the ON names were still inflected.

In the DB 1086 survey of YKS we regularly find the ending bi that corresponds to ON or býr, e.g. Danebi, Ormesbi and Tormozbi. But in a supplement written a little later, and no doubt by another scribe, the same names are written Danebia, Ormesbia, and Tormozbia, which forms correspond to the genitive case of býr.

at page 186

Among the personal names, we meet with Uluer (ON Ulfr) and Berguluer (ON Bergúlfr which both have preserved the ON nominative case-ending -r. Most instructive is the above-mentioned life Earl Siward of Northumbria, written a little after 1150 the Monastery of Croyland, in LIN. Although written in Latin, it is more like an Icelandic Saga than a medieval chronicle, and has justly been called a Viking Saga. It renders oral tradition and is full of ON words. Siward himself is called diere (that is digri, the stout), his son is nicknamed Bulax (that is ON boløx, 'axe for hewing timber'), and his banner is called Ravenlandeye, ON Rafn Landeyðir, 'the raven, that lays waste the country'; the Latin text of the saga even uses the ONorw name for the Orkneys (Orkaneia, that is ON Orkneyjar) instead of the Latin Orcades.

The most remarkable thing, however, is that the nick-name of the earl in the nominative case is written Diere, but in the accusative, Diera. These forms correspond to the ON nominative case digri and accusative case digra. In the ON dialects of LIN the adjectives were still inflected thus as late as 1150.

at page 186

Early Lincolnshire charters point in the same direction. Thus when we find in a charter of the time of Henry II mention of three acres of land lying 'oust in wra', this is not English, but ON austr í vrá ('east in the corner'). The north-eastern part of YKS was, perhaps, even more Norse. Whitby has been called the most Scandinavian part of England. Several inhabitants of Whitby have, at the end of the twelfth century, got the surname or byname Danus, no doubt because their ancestors were Danes (e.g. Thomas Danus, Petrus Danus).

at page 187

There are, however, Norwegian traces even in Whitby. In Whitby and Cleveland a sort of Scandinavian tongue must, in the latter part of the twelfth century, still have been in use. The town of Whitby was divided into two parts - Overbi and Neðrebi ('the upper' and 'the lower' town). Overbi corresponds to the present High Whitby. Over, of course, is English, but it may have supplanted the ON Efra. Neðre ('lower') may as well be ON as English. The two names at any rate show that the original meaning of the word by (bi) was long known - Neðrebi was also called Steinsecher (ON Steinsekra, 'the cornfield of Stein' - an ON name), while Haukesgarth, (ON Hauksgarðr, 'the garth or yard of Hauk' - an ON name) was also called Gnipe ON gnípa, ' a peak'). These double names, both of them Scandinavian, would not have been used if the inhabitants of Whitby themselves had not spoken a more or less corrupt Danish dialect. Just outside Whitby there was a place called Thingewala (ON þingvellir), where the inhabitants held their 'thing' or court. Nearly all the manors and townships of the district had, about 1200, still got Scandinavian names.

The field-names of the Whitby district and of some parts of LIN are likewise Scandinavian, and faithfully render all the characteristic features of the Danish village system. In the township each man had his homestead which, as in Denmark, was called toft, and, besides, he had his share of land; 'toft and croft' is the usual expression.

at page 190

In all these towns the homesteads were called toft and the streets gate. This word is still in use in Northern England and Scotland in the meaning of 'way, road', and is derived from ON gata, which means the same. The common English gate, 'an opening' (OE geat), is a different word. In York there is, as you know, still a great number of ON street-names, e.g. Fishergate, Goodramgate, Sheldergate (from ON Skjaldari, 'a shieldmaker') and Micklegate. YKS and LIN must for centuries have remained an entirely Scandinavian country.

at page 191

The oldest Latin-English Dictionary, the so-called "Promptorium Parvulorum", written about 1400 in Lynn contains a remarkable number of Scandinavian loan-words, most of them, it seems, of Norwegian origin. The greater part of these words belong to the colloquial language, and some of them can only be explained from the Middle Norwegian that was spoken during the later centuries of the Middle Ages. We may infer from this that the Norse tongue was spoken and well known in Lynn long after it had become extinct in other parts of the ancient Danelaw.

at page 195

In London the Norsemen only formed a small part; but in Western England they formed the bulk of the population. With the exception of Amounderness, which belonged to the kingdom of Northumbria, the settlements on the Western coast of England were not reckoned to the Danelaw. The reason was not, however, as some scholars seem to think, that the Norse element was not as powerful as in the Danelaw proper - on the contrary. But the settlements in Western England date from the tenth and not from the ninth century, that is to say, from a time when the Danelaw was already roughly formed. It is also possible that the Norwegians, who in Ireland had continually fought the Danes, did not like to be under Danish sway. Besides, the state of Western England was from the tenth to the twelfth century very unsettled. CHS formed, as you know, a sort of march against the Welsh, and had its separate administration. LAN was not formed into a separate county before the time of Richard I. From earlier times we know very little about the administration of the northern part of it, Lonsdale Hundred. Furness, at any rate, probably with CUL and WES as well, originally formed a part of the British kingdom of Strathclyde. There were, however, in Anglo-Saxon times already English-speaking colonies and garrisons, e.g. in Bewcastle. CUL was in 945 ceded by King Edmund to King Malcolm of Scotland, and formed a part of the kingdom of Scotland, until William Rufus, in 1092, captured Carlisle. At the same time the Earl of Northumberland also had power over parts of the county.

Practically, however, CUL was more or less independent. The inhabitants were originally British. But in the beginning of the tenth century the Lake District got new, mostly Norwegian, settlers, who came from Ireland and the Hebrides, with the result that a great number of villages and hamlets, farms, fields, hills, streams and waters have got ON names.

at page 197

The Irish influence was especially strong among the higher classes, which must have been more or less hibernicised. Irish names, e.g. Fergus, were in use in CUL (P, 26 Henry II: Gilbert, son of Fergus). In the celebrated Gospatric Charter of about 1070 a Cumbrian tenant is called Torfynn mac Thore (both Torfynn and Thore are common Norwegian names, but mac is Gaelic. The Norsemen also had adopted from the Irish a peculiar kind of compound name in which the first element is governed by the second, for instance Briggetorfin, 'the bridge of Torfinn', and Bek Troyte, 'Troytes beck'. We even find inverted personal names, Finthor instead of Thorfin.

In LAN and WES we find the same mixture of languages. In Lancashire we also meet with the name of Finthor. In compound names like Strickland Ketel in LAN and Stoweley Godmond and Kirkeby Thore in WES. Ketel and Godmond are ON names (ON Ketill and Goðmundr), but the names have been inverted according to Irish fashion.

at page 198

The Norsemen, until the conquest of William Rufus, formed the ruling class of Cumberland. They mostly, it seems, lived in garrisons and strongholds, and possibly, as in other Scandinavian parts of England, were united into knight-guilds - there are, at any rate, in the place-names of LAN, several traces of guilds. The land was cultivated by serfs and freedmen who, as in Norway, were called þrœlar ('thralls') and leysingjar. The word þrœll is still preserved in Trelefelt (now Threlfall) in Goosnargh. Leysing was a common name in CUL and LAN. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, however, we also find ON names among the villains. In CUL leysing was as late as in 1259 used in the original meaning of 'a freedman'. The Norsemen in the Lake District had since the middle of the tenth century been cut off from their Norwegian compatriots. Nevertheless, in the latter part of the twelfth century, and probably even later, a sort of Norwegian vernacular must still have survived

A charter signed by Henry II f.i. specifies some pieces of land in Treby, CUL (itself an ON name) as 'Langethweit, et Stalethweit et alios Thweiter, qui þertinent ad Langethweit' (4 Dugdale).

at page 199

Here we have the ON accusative plural þveitar used not as a place-name, but as a noun. Langethweit means 'the longthwaite', Stalethweit means 'the thwaite where the hay is laid in 'staals' or stack'; - staal is still in use in Norwegian dialects - In a charter relating to the foundation of the priory of Whetherhal in the diocese of Carlisle, from the beginning of the twelfth century, we find among the witnesses, Forna Ligulfi filio (both names are ON). Forna is casus obliquus of nominative Forni; this shows that the nouns were still inflected. From the thirteenth we have - as above mentioned - Leysing in the meaning of a freedman, and the man's name Orm (ON Ormr), written Ormer. We also find nicknames as Bagall (Robertus Bagall. ON bagall means 'an episcopal staff, crozier'). In LAN there were several Viking settlements where the Norse language perhaps survived even longer. Lonsdale Hundred, and especially Furness, is remarkable for its many ON cultivation and nature names, and seems to have had the same mixed population as CUL, although the English element probably was stronger.

The ON element was also very strong in Amounderness, the land between the Ribble and Morecambe Bay. Amounderness (A.D. 930 written Agemundernes) is itself an ON name, meaning 'the ness or promontory of Agmund (Högmundr)', a common Norwegian name. This Agmund was probably a prominent Viking chieftain in the beginning of the tenth century; possibly Agmund Hold who was killed in 911. It is remarkable that the western part of the ancient kingdom of Northumberland ends in Amounderness, and the eastern part in Holderness, i.e. 'the ness of the hold' (hold was, as you will remember, a Norwegian title). In the Chronicle of the Archbishops of York, a twelfth-century work, we are told that King Æthelstan (in 930) granted to the cathedral of York the whole of Amounderness, which he had bought from the heathens (totam Agmundernes, quam a paganis emerat). The possession does not, however, seem retained.

at page 200

In the southern part of Lancashire we likewise find a great many ON place-names, especially in West Derby and Ormskirk. The most interesting name is Thingwall (from ON þingvöllr, 'parliament field', the place where the thing or assembly of the district met). We also find in LAN 'lawmen' or the 'demand' as they are called in some places (probably the same as ON dómandi, dómendr).

From the time of Henry II we find in the Pipe Rolls for Lancashire, and especially in The Chartulary of Cockersand Abbey, a remarkable number, not only of ON names, but also of nicknames, which would hardly have been used, except by people who knew something of the ON, e.g. William Staflaus (i.e. 'William without staff'). In charters from the first part of the thirteenth century we find a merchant named Alan (Alanus mercator), who in several documents is called Alanus Caupman or le Caupman. The by-name is ON kauþmaðr, 'a merchant'. A small landholder in Bolton-le-Sands, who died in 1261, was called Thomas Roud (i.e. ON rauðr, 'red'). Another ON word which we about 1250 find used as nickname is Bulax, Bolax (ON bolöx, 'a poleaxe, a carpenter's axe'). Distinctly ON is also the nickname Barnefader (ON barnafaðir, 'a father of children').

at page 201

Even as late as in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries among the tenants of Cockersand Abbey, we meet with several ON names and surnames or nicknames.

The ON element was even strong enough to influence English place-names. Kirkham, in Amounderness, is in 1093 written Cercheham, but in 1196 it is written Kirkeheim and in 1276 Kyrkheym, Cockerham in Londsdale Hundred is in DB 1086 written Cockeham, but in 1207 it is written Kokerheim and Cokerheim; Heysham is in DB 1086 written Hessam, but in 1094 Heseym; Tatham is in 1202 written Tateham, but 1213-15 Tathaim, and about the same time Tathaym, but in 1241 again Tatham. Bisþham is in DB 1086 written Biscoþham, but about 1200 it is written Biscoþehaim, and about 1270 Bisbhaym, as if they were not compounds of OE ham, but of the corresponding ON heimr, 'home, house, abode, estate'.

at pages 201 and 202

It is also interesting to notice that, in the place-names of LAN and YKS, we find Norse elements which in Norway were hardly in use before 1100. The corresponding English names also date from the twelfth and thirteen centuries. ON ruð means 'a clearing in a wood' and is, both alone and in compounds, one of the most common Norwegian place-names. In thirteenth-century LAN charters we likewise find this word both in compounds, e.g. Ormerod (i.e. ON Ormsruð), 'the clearing of Orm', and alone. Thus about 1200 Henry de Malling gave to the canons of Cockersand land, between the underwood and the moor usque ad Ruedis, et sic inter Ruedis et Ruding. This no doubt means 'unto the ruds (or clearings) and thus the clearings and the Ridding'. Ruedis no doubt represents the plural form of ON ruð. From this word ruð the English, 'to rid', is derived, from which latter word again the word ridding is a derivation. In YKS clearings where the ground was ridded of the trees and shrub were called 'riddings'. In LAN we find in the same meaning the forms ruyding and ruding, which are influenced by the equivalent ON ruðning. In YKS we also find in the same meaning as 'ridding' the words 'royd' and 'roðe-land'. The suffix -royd is very common in YKS, compare Boothroyd, Dobroyd etc. Stoney-royd is about 1260 called Stone-rode, which no doubt corresponds to ON ruði, dative of ruð. In a dispute in the year 1307 concerning some land at Alverthorpe, it is reported that the defendants said that it was 'called rode land because it was cleared [assartata fuit] from growing wood'. Rode-land corresponds to ONorw ruðland, which means exactly the same.

at page 202

The Lake District was a cattle-breeding country. That is the reason why the tax which the inhabitants had to pay in the twelfth century is called nautegeld (i.e. ON nautagjald from naut, 'cattle', and gjald, 'geld, tax') - ON gjald was at the time when the Norsemen came to England, pronounced geld.

at pages 202 and 203

"The Norse Settlements in the British Islands", Alexander Bugge, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Volume 4 (1921), at pages 202 and 203

We also find in the husbandry of the Lake District many Norwegian traces, e.g. the isolated farms, which in earlier times were more common than now, and the custom of sending the cattle up in the mountains in summer time. The word shieling itself is probably of ON origin, formed from ON skáli, 'a hut built for temporary use'.

at page 203

Still more interesting is it, perhaps, that in the Lake District we find written evidences of how long the ON language was spoken. On a sculptured stone built into an outhouse at Loppergarth - itself a ON name - in Furness, there has been found an ON, certainly a Norwegian, Runic inscription, which says: "Gamal founded this church. Hubert the mason-wrought the marks (that is, the runes). The stone evidently is a tympanum from some Norman church door. It is known that a church existed here in the twelfth century; according to tradition it was built by Gamel de Pennington about the middle of the century, to which date also the ornamentation on the base of the tympanum points. This Gamel, the lord of the manor, was a Norseman who still spoke the language of his ancestors. Gamall was during the Middle Ages a well known name in Norway.

at page 204

The earliest settlements on the west coast of England seem to have been in Cheshire, where Vikings from Dublin came a little after 900, and where Lady Æthelfled of Mercia gave them land. Even the city of Chester itself, at the time of William the Conqueror, retained much of its Norse character, and had in the eleventh century already a church dedicated to St. Olav of Norway. But especially that curious peninsula between the estuaries of Dee and Mersay, called the Wirral, teems with ON names. We see from the DB 1086 that wich (ON vík) was used in the same meaning which the word still has in Norway, namely 'creek, inlet'. This shows that the Norse language at the end of the eleventh century was not yet quite extinct in Cheshire. If you sail from Chester around the coast of Wales, you will, besides Anglesey, which is a half English and half Scandinavian name (The Anglo Saxon name of the island is Angles ég come across a whole line of Norse names, of islands and promontories, reminiscences of a time when the Norsemen carried on traffic between England and Ireland.

The only Scandinavian settlements of any importance in Wales were, however, in Pembrokeshire, and in the peninsula of Gower. In Gower, Swansea - the Celtic Abertawe - (1188 written Sweyns ei, means 'the islands of Svein'), Uxwich (ON Uxavík, 'the creek of the oxen'). In Pembrokeshire is Milford (from ON fiörðr, 'a fjord, inlet'), besides several other names of villages, islands, etc., Freysthorp, Fishguard, Gateholm, Grassholm, Caldey, Gelliswick, etc. In the Middle Ages these names were still more numerous.

"English is not Normal" (13th November 2015) John McWhorter, professor of linguistics and American studies at Columbia University

No, English isn't uniquely vibrant or mighty or adaptable. But it really is weirder than pretty much every other language.

English speakers know that their language is odd. So do people saddled with learning it non-natively. The oddity that we all perceive most readily is its spelling, which is indeed a nightmare. In countries where English isn't spoken, there is no such thing as a 'spelling bee' competition. For a normal language, spelling at least pretends a basic correspondence to the way people pronounce the words. But English is not normal.

Spelling is a matter of writing, of course, whereas language is fundamentally about speaking. Speaking came long before writing, we speak much more, and all but a couple of hundred of the world's thousands of languages are rarely or never written. Yet even in its spoken form, English is weird. It's weird in ways that are easy to miss, especially since Anglophones in the United States and Britain are not exactly rabid to learn other languages. But our monolingual tendency leaves us like the proverbial fish not knowing that it is wet. Our language feels 'normal' only until you get a sense of what normal really is.

There is no other language, for example, that is close enough to English that we can get about half of what people are saying without training and the rest with only modest effort. German and Dutch are like that, as are Spanish and Portuguese, or Thai and Lao. The closest an Anglophone can get is with the obscure Northern European language called Frisian: if you know that tsiis is cheese and Frysk is Frisian, then it isn't hard to figure out what this means: Brea, büter, en griene tsiis is goed Ingelsk en goed Frysk. But that sentence is a cooked one, and overall, we tend to find that Frisian seems more like German, which it is.

We think it's a nuisance that so many European languages assign gender to nouns for no reason, with French having female moons and male boats and such. But actually, it's us who are odd: almost all European languages belong to one family - Indo-European - and of all of them, English is the only one that doesn't assign genders that way.

More weirdness? OK. There is exactly one language on Earth whose present tense requires a special ending only in the third-person singular. I'm writing in it. I talk, you talk, he/she talk-s - why just that? The present-tense verbs of a normal language have either no endings or a bunch of different ones (Spanish: hablo, hablas, habla). And try naming another language where you have to slip do into sentences to negate or question something. Do you find that difficult? Unless you happen to be from Wales, Ireland or the north of France, probably.

Why is our language so eccentric? Just what is this thing we're speaking, and what happened to make it this way?

English started out as, essentially, a kind of German. Old English is so unlike the modern version that it feels like a stretch to think of them as the same language at all. Hwæt, we gardena in geardagum þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon - does that really mean 'So, we Spear-Danes have heard of the tribe-kings' glory in days of yore'? Icelanders can still read similar stories written in the Old Norse ancestor of their language 1,000 years ago, and yet, to the untrained eye, Beowulf might as well be in Turkish.

The first thing that got us from there to here was the fact that, when the Angles, Saxons and Jutes (and also Frisians) brought their language to England, the island was already inhabited by people who spoke very different tongues. Their languages were Celtic ones, today represented by Welsh, Irish and Breton across the Channel in France. The Celts were subjugated but survived, and since there were only about 250,000 Germanic invaders - roughly the population of a modest burg such as Jersey City - very quickly most of the people speaking Old English were Celts.

Crucially, their languages were quite unlike English. For one thing, the verb came first (came first the verb). But also, they had an odd construction with the verb do: they used it to form a question, to make a sentence negative, and even just as a kind of seasoning before any verb. Do you walk? I do not walk. I do walk. That looks familiar now because the Celts started doing it in their rendition of English. But before that, such sentences would have seemed bizarre to an English speaker - as they would today in just about any language other than our own and the surviving Celtic ones. Notice how even to dwell upon this queer usage of do is to realise something odd in oneself, like being made aware that there is always a tongue in your mouth.

At this date there is no documented language on earth beyond Celtic and English that uses 'do' in just this way. Thus English's weirdness began with its transformation in the mouths of people more at home with vastly different tongues. We're still talking like them, and in ways we'd never think of. When saying 'eeny, meeny, miny, moe', have you ever felt like you were kind of counting? Well, you are - in Celtic numbers, chewed up over time but recognisably descended from the ones rural Britishers used when counting animals and playing games. 'Hickory, dickory, dock' - what in the world do those words mean? Well, here's a clue: hovera, dovera, dick were eight, nine and ten in that same Celtic counting list.

The second thing that happened was that yet more Germanic-speakers came across the sea meaning business. This wave began in the ninth century, and this time the invaders were speaking another Germanic offshoot, Old Norse. But they didn't impose their language. Instead, they married local women and switched to English. However, they were adults and, as a rule, adults don't pick up new languages easily, especially not in oral societies. There was no such thing as school, and no media. Learning a new language meant listening hard and trying your best. We can only imagine what kind of German most of us would speak if this was how we had to learn it, never seeing it written down, and with a great deal more on our plates (butchering animals, people and so on) than just working on our accents.

As long as the invaders got their meaning across, that was fine. But you can do that with a highly approximate rendition of a language - the legibility of the Frisian sentence you just read proves as much. So the Scandinavians did pretty much what we would expect: they spoke bad Old English. Their kids heard as much of that as they did real Old English. Life went on, and pretty soon their bad Old English was real English, and here we are today: the Scandies made English easier.

I should make a qualification here. In linguistics circles it's risky to call one language 'easier' than another one, for there is no single metric by which we can determine objective rankings. But even if there is no bright line between day and night, we'd never pretend there's no difference between life at 10am and life at 10pm. Likewise, some languages plainly jangle with more bells and whistles than others. If someone were told he had a year to get as good at either Russian or Hebrew as possible, and would lose a fingernail for every mistake he made during a three-minute test of his competence, only the masochist would choose Russian - unless he already happened to speak a language related to it. In that sense, English is 'easier' than other Germanic languages, and it's because of those Vikings.

Old English had the crazy genders we would expect of a good European language - but the Scandies didn't bother with those, and so now we have none. Chalk up one of English's weirdnesses. What's more, the Vikings mastered only that one shred of a once-lovely conjugation system: hence the lonely third-person singular -s, hanging on like a dead bug on a windshield. Here and in other ways, they smoothed out the hard stuff.

They also followed the lead of the Celts, rendering the language in whatever way seemed most natural to them. It is amply documented that they left English with thousands of new words, including ones that seem very intimately 'us': sing the old song 'Get Happy' and the words in that title are from Norse. Sometimes they seemed to want to stake the language with 'We're here, too' signs, matching our native words with the equivalent ones from Norse, leaving doublets such as dike (them) and ditch (us), scatter (them) and shatter (us), and ship (us) vs skipper (Norse for ship was skip, and so skipper is 'shipper').

But the words were just the beginning. They also left their mark on English grammar. Blissfully, it is becoming rare to be taught that it is wrong to say Which town do you come from?, ending with the preposition instead of laboriously squeezing it before the wh-word to make From which town do you come? In English, sentences with 'dangling prepositions' are perfectly natural and clear and harm no one. Yet there is a wet-fish issue with them, too: normal languages don't dangle prepositions in this way. Spanish speakers: note that El hombre quien yo llegué con ('The man whom I came with') feels about as natural as wearing your pants inside out. Every now and then a language turns out to allow this: one indigenous one in Mexico, another one in Liberia. But that's it. Overall, it's an oddity. Yet, wouldn't you know, it's one that Old Norse also happened to permit (and which Danish retains).

We can display all these bizarre Norse influences in a single sentence. Say "That's the man you walk in with", and it's odd because (1) 'the' has no specifically masculine form to match man, (2) there's no ending on walk, and (3) you don't say 'in with whom you walk'. All that strangeness is because of what Scandinavian Vikings did to good old English back in the day.

Finally, as if all this wasn't enough, English got hit by a firehose spray of words from yet more languages. After the Norse came the French. The Normans - descended from the same Vikings, as it happens - conquered England, ruled for several centuries and, before long, English had picked up 10,000 new words. Then, starting in the 16th century, educated Anglophones developed a sense of English as a vehicle of sophisticated writing, and so it became fashionable to cherry-pick words from Latin to lend the language a more elevated tone.

It was thanks to this influx from French and Latin (it's often hard to tell which was the original source of a given word) that English acquired the likes of crucified, fundamental, definition and conclusion. These words feel sufficiently English to us today, but when they were new, many persons of letters in the 1500s (and beyond) considered them irritatingly pretentious and intrusive, as indeed they would have found the phrase 'irritatingly pretentious and intrusive'. (Think of how French pedants today turn up their noses at the flood of English words into their language.) There were even writerly sorts who proposed native English replacements for those lofty Latinates, and it's hard not to yearn for some of these: in place of crucified, fundamental, definition and conclusion, how about crossed, groundwrought, saywhat, and endsay?

But language tends not to do what we want it to. The die was cast: English had thousands of new words competing with native English words for the same things. One result was triplets allowing us to express ideas with varying degrees of formality. 'Help' is English, 'aid' is French, 'assist' is Latin. Or, 'kingly' is English, 'royal' is French, 'regal' is Latin - note how one imagines posture improving with each level: 'kingly' sounds almost mocking, 'regal' is straight-backed like a throne, 'royal' is somewhere in the middle, a worthy but fallible monarch.

Then there are doublets, less dramatic than triplets but fun nevertheless, such as the English/French pairs 'begin' and 'commence', or 'want' and 'desire'. Especially noteworthy here are the culinary transformations: we kill a cow or a pig (English) to yield beef or pork (French). Why? Well, generally in Norman England, English-speaking labourers did the slaughtering for moneyed French speakers at table. The different ways of referring to meat depended on one's place in the scheme of things, and those class distinctions have carried down to us in discreet form today.

Caveat lector, though: traditional accounts of English tend to oversell what these imported levels of formality in our vocabulary really mean. It is sometimes said that they alone make the vocabulary of English uniquely rich, which is what Robert McCrum, William Cran and Robert MacNeil claim in the classic "The Story of English" (1986): that the first load of Latin words actually lent Old English speakers the ability to express abstract thought. But no one has ever quantified richness or abstractness in that sense (who are the people of any level of development who evidence no abstract thought, or even no ability to express it?), and there is no documented language that has only one word for each concept. Languages, like human cognition, are too nuanced, even messy, to be so elementary. Even unwritten languages have formal registers. What's more, one way to connote formality is with substitute expressions: English has life as an ordinary word and existence as the fancy one, but in the Native American language Zuni, the fancy way to say life is 'a breathing into'.

Even in English, native roots do more than we always recognise. We will only ever know so much about the richness of even Old English's vocabulary because the amount of writing that has survived is very limited. It's easy to say that 'comprehend' in French gave us a new formal way to say 'understand' - but then, in Old English itself, there were words that, when rendered in Modern English, would look something like 'forstand', 'underget', and 'undergrasp'. They all appear to mean 'understand', but surely they had different connotations, and it is likely that those distinctions involved different degrees of formality.

Nevertheless, the Latinate invasion did leave genuine peculiarities in our language. For instance, it was here that the idea that 'big words' are more sophisticated got started. In most languages of the world, there is less of a sense that longer words are 'higher' or more specific. In Swahili, 'Tumtazame mbwa atakavyofanya' simply means 'Let's see what the dog will do'. If formal concepts required even longer words, then speaking Swahili would require superhuman feats of breath control. The English notion that big words are fancier is due to the fact that French and especially Latin words tend to be longer than Old English ones - 'end' versus 'conclusion', 'walk' versus 'ambulate'.

The multiple influxes of foreign vocabulary also partly explain the striking fact that English words can trace to so many different sources - often several within the same sentence. The very idea of etymology being a polyglot smorgasbord, each word a fascinating story of migration and exchange, seems everyday to us. But the roots of a great many languages are much duller. The typical word comes from, well, an earlier version of that same word and there it is. The study of etymology holds little interest for, say, Arabic speakers.

To be fair, mongrel vocabularies are hardly uncommon worldwide, but English's hybridity is high on the scale compared with most European languages. The previous sentence, for example, is a riot of words from Old English, Old Norse, French and Latin. Greek is another element: in an alternate universe, we would call photographs 'lightwriting'. According to a fashion that reached its zenith in the 19th century, scientific things had to be given Greek names. Hence our undecipherable words for chemicals: why can't we call monosodium glutamate 'one-salt gluten acid'? It's too late to ask. But this muttly vocabulary is one of the things that puts such a distance between English and its nearest linguistic neighbours.

And finally, because of this firehose spray, we English speakers also have to contend with two different ways of accenting words. Clip on a suffix to the word 'wonder', and you get 'wonderful'. But, clip on an ending to the word 'modern' and the ending pulls the accent ahead with it: MO-dern, but mo-DERN-ity, not MO-dern-ity. That doesn't happen with WON-der and WON-der-ful, or CHEER-y and CHEER-i-ly. But it does happen with PER-sonal, person-AL-ity.

What's the difference? It's that '-ful' and '-ly' are Germanic endings, while '-ity' came in with French. French and Latin endings pull the accent closer - TEM-pest, tem-PEST-uous - while Germanic ones leave the accent alone. One never notices such a thing, but it's one way this 'simple' language is actually not so.

Thus the story of English, from when it hit British shores 1,600 years ago to today, is that of a language becoming delightfully odd. Much more has happened to it in that time than to any of its relatives, or to most languages on Earth. Here is Old Norse from the 900s CE, the first lines of a tale in the Poetic Edda called "The Lay of Thrym". The lines mean 'Angry was Ving-Thor/he woke up,' as in: 'he was mad when he woke up'. In Old Norse it was: Vreiðr vas Ving-þórr / es vaknaði. The same two lines in Old Norse as spoken in modern Icelandic today are: Reiður var þá Vingþórr / er hann vaknaði. You don't need to know Icelandic to see that the language hasn't changed much. 'Angry' was once vreiðr; today's reiður is the same word with the initial 'v' worn off and a slightly different way of spelling the end. In Old Norse you said 'vas' for 'was'; today you say 'var' - small potatoes.

In Old English, however, 'Ving-Thor was mad when he woke up' would have been 'Wraþmod wæs Ving-þórr/he áwæcnede'. We can just about wrap our heads around this as 'English', but we're clearly a lot further from Beowulf than today's Reykjavikers are from Ving-Thor.

Thus English is indeed an odd language, and its spelling is only the beginning of it. In the widely read "Globish" (2010), McCrum celebrates English as uniquely 'vigorous', 'too sturdy to be obliterated' by the Norman Conquest. He also treats English as laudably 'flexible' and 'adaptable', impressed by its mongrel vocabulary. McCrum is merely following in a long tradition of sunny, muscular boasts, which resemble the Russians' idea that their language is 'great and mighty', as the 19th-century novelist Ivan Turgenev called it, or the French idea that their language is uniquely 'clear' (Ce qui n'est pas clair n'est pas français).

However, we might be reluctant to identify just which languages are not 'mighty', especially since obscure languages spoken by small numbers of people are typically majestically complex. The common idea that English dominates the world because it is 'flexible' implies that there have been languages that failed to catch on beyond their tribe because they were mysteriously rigid. I am not aware of any such languages.

What English does have on other tongues is that it is deeply peculiar in the structural sense. And it became peculiar because of the slings and arrows - as well as caprices - of outrageous history.

"Hard Justice: Examining Judicial Violence in Viking-Age Scandinavia and England" (2013) Keith Ruiter, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of York at pages 39, 40, 41, 58, 59, 60 and 74

Section 2.5: Conclusions

at pages 39 and 40

… the legal evidence can be used to hint at the judicial systems of the societies utilising them. The Norwegian laws examined suggest that settlements were often sought, but a large number of provisions for outlawry were set up to keep peace and order, with only a few crimes demanding execution … Though exhibiting internal change over time, the laws of England have a considerably higher number of actively judicially violent punishments, including many provisions for maiming and execution.

… We have also examined these laws in their social contexts, exploring them in terms of their efficacy in protecting the legal needs, social values, and moral attitudes of the societies in question. Comment has also been made on the institutions that seem to have been most legally protected, and therefore most important to the contemporary normative law-making populations of England and Scandinavia: the king and his power for the former, and local peace and freedom for the latter.

at page 41

… The Scandinavian system that seems to emerge also appears to have a notable element of flexibility to it, with headsmen and enforcers, for example, being appointed on an ad hoc basis.

Section 3.4: Disscussion, Comparing Contexts, and Conclusions

at pages 58 and 59

the English framework for judicial violence is remarkably complex making the Scandinavian one seem quite loosely defined by comparison. Though loose definition, I would note, does not preclude sophistication. We need only to return to the early Scandinavian laws to remember that we are still dealing with a highly legal society, possessed of a complex judicial attitude and a demonstrable legal history for capital and corporal punishments, derived from a common Germanic legal stock just like the English system. So why the notable difference in evidence ? The answer I think lies in the earlier centralisation of power in the English kingdoms and, therefore, the more top-down focus of English law and punishment. By comparison, I argue that the Scandinavian laws focus far more on protecting peace and freedom on a local level, with recent scholarship on things and thing-sites suggesting that they were made and enforced on a local level as well. This more bottom-up approach to law and punishment, suggested by the evidence, yields some very interesting conclusions that warrant further exploration.

at page 60

… While the evidence shows that the English system is regimented, official, and even standardised with its specified execution sites and grand expressions of authority and display in the landscape, the Scandinavian system seems to have been equally effective and sophisticated, though certainly more localised, flexible, and even ad hoc in its implementation.

Section 4.4: Summary, Conclusions, and Future Work

… Though the goals of each system were observed to be largely the same, they were designed and operated in different ways. Scandinavia, it was found, had a system of judicial violence that was designed to most closely protect the peace and freedom of the locality and the familial unit. The system was found to be organised in a bottom-up fashion that displayed a characteristic flexibility. By comparison, the English system was observed to be highly regimented and being organised in a top-down manner to protect the king and his power structures in the land.

"Missionary Activity in Early Medieval Norway; Strategy, Organization and the Course of Events" (1998) Dagfinn Skre, Scandinavian Journal of History at pages 8 to 10, 12 and 13

The Norse gained knowledge of Christian practice and faith during their travels, and the impact of this influence can be observed in various changes in the form of, and equipment in, pagan graves from the 9th and 10th centuries. During this period, the number of cremations drops, and the number of inhumations increases …

In some regions on the west coast, such as Rogaland and Sunnmøre, the number of pagan graves also drops dramatically around the middle of the 10th century,indicating a conversion to Christian burial practice. This evidence is supported by the recent discovery of a Christian graveyard from this period at Veøy on the northwest coast of Norway. Radiocarbon dating from the coffins indicates that the oldest graves were no younger than the mid-10th century, and that they may even be from the beginning of the century.

The archæological and written evidence indicating successful missionary activity from the middle of the 10th century, and on the west coast perhaps even earlier, is further supported by the existence of stone crosses. In total, there are 60 raised stones shaped as a cross or marked with one, the vast majority of which are found on the west coast. Half of them were probably erected during the 11th century, but the rest date from the 10th and the very latest part of the 9th century. Many of these crosses were erected in pagan graveyards, probably to consecrate them. Consecration of the graveyard, from the point of view of the monks and priests, must have been a precondition for the performance of Christian burials there. Furthermore, it can be suggested that consecration also eased conversion by including the graves of pagan ancestors in the new Christian community.

One should also consider the possibility of substantial Christian influence in western Norway in the late 9th century. Norse settlement in Christian areas in Ireland, Scotland and northern England started around the mid-9th century. These areas were mainly settled from western Norway. The sources on the conversion of the settlers indicate that some kept their pagan customs well into the 10th century, while others converted within a generation or so. The Vikings were involved in internal politics in the settled areas, and their interaction with the local population must have made them very familiar with Christian practices and beliefs. The large number of insular objects in pagan graves in Norway in the 9th century, particularly on the northern part of the west coast, indicates that the settlers maintained communication with their homeland in the northeast. A culturally and religiously very heterogeneous climate must have developed in the affected areas of Britain and across the North Sea. The possible late 9th century dating of some of the stone crosses on the Norwegian west coast may indicate that in this period, there may have been opportunities for missionaries to follow their newly converted Norse friends back to their old homelands.

As demonstrated, several types of evidence indicate that in the mid-10th century,and maybe even in the first half, burials according to Christian rituals were performed in some regions in the western part of Norway. Thus we can bereasonably certain that priests and monks were working with some success on the west coast of Norway during this period. The same applies for the southeast coast,but the evidence in this region does not indicate conversions in any great number before the second half of the 10th century. The possibility of missionary ventures on the west coast in the late 9th century must also be considered, but at the present stage of research no conclusive evidence exists.

Just before the turn of the millennium, a decided swing occurred in the conversion of the Norse. To highlight certain dates as fundamentally important in an historic process as long as the conversion is of dubious worth. However, as mentioned earlier, an event which must be considered decisive was the arrival of King Olav Trygvasson on the island of Moster in the year 995. According to the sagas, the king brought priests with him, and during his five-year reign, he used force to convert the magnates of most of Norway. He called local thing-meetings and persuaded the participants to be baptised and accept Christian customs.

Another decisive incident occurred in the early 1020s, when, according to the sagas, King Olav Haraldsson forced the population to accept Christian laws at a thing-meeting, also on the island of Moster. The new regulations were composed with the advice of Grimkjell, the king's bishop. For contemporary society, the thing-meeting at Moster was probably considered the definitive breakthrough in the conversion of western Norway. The runic inscription on the Kuli stone states that Christianity had been in Norway for 12 years when the stone was carved. Recent dendrochronological dating from excavations near the stone indicates that it was raised in the year 1034, some 12 years after the thing-meeting at Moster.

According to the sagas, Olav Haraldsson forced most regions to convert to Christianity and made efforts to consolidate and organize the Church. By the end of his regime, in the year 1030, Norwegian society can be considered to have converted to Christianity.

Definite conclusions about a close relationship between conversion and the strengthening of royal authority should not be drawn from the contemporaneity of the two processes. The parallelism in time certainly meant that the two processes were intertwined. But it is worth remembering that in Denmark a kingdom existed for several centuries before the conversion took place, and Iceland was converted several centuries before royal authority was introduced. In Norway, royal authority existed more than a hundred years before Olav Trygvasson went ashore at the island of Moster in 995. And the gradual strengthening of royal authority continued until the 13th century. Even though weakening of local chieftains' power and strengthening of royal power seem to be the result of the long process of conversion, they were not necessarily the result of a conscious strategy applied by the kings.

… Rather than seeing conversion as mainly a political strategy applied by the kings, we should see it as the result of two different but closely connected processes. On the one hand, there was the expansive Church which, in the 10th and early 11th centuries, worked towards the conversion of the Norse; a Church which had forceful teachings, a developed missionary strategy, devoted and well-educated missionaries, and a close relationship with worldly power. On the other hand, there was, in the 10th and early 11th centuries, a definite movement within the Norwegian aristocracy, within which the kings were important, towards further integration into the larger European culture. The forerunners in this development were the kings and chieftains who had spent years of their lives ensconced in a Christian culture, either having been brought up in the houses of foreign kings or noblemen, having more or less settled in the Viking territories on the Continent or in Britain, or having served in the armies of Christian kings.

Those who returned to Norway brought their ways with them, including their Christian practises. The political aspects of this movement are obvious; the kings may have brought about conversion in order to establish their Christian feasts and rites as a common arena for building and maintaining friendships within the aristocracy. But the cultural side of it, the identification of the homecomers with the Christian culture and the desire to be a part of 'the new time', were perhaps even stronger driving forces inthe decades of conversion.

As has been demonstrated, the missionary strategy of the Church was to seek out the worldly leaders, the kings and noblemen, to focus on their conversion, and afterwards to work under their protection. The Christian God was depicted as stronger than the old gods. The kings and noblemen were the close friends of God, by virtue of the task assigned to them: to promote the cause of God on earth. Old customs and rituals were, when possible, maintained, but they were pervaded with Christian content. The inherently pagan rituals were forbidden.

"Power and Conversion: a Comparative Study of Christianization in Scandinavia" (2004) Alexandra Sanmark, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University at pages 287 to 291

Chapter 8: Final Conclusions

In chapter 1 it was stated that this thesis focuses on five different questions. These are:

  1. what are the requirements for successful conversion ?
  2. what strategies were pursued by secular rulers and clerics ?
  3. how did conversion affect the life of the wider population ?
  4. both forceful and more peaceful methods were used in conversion. What were the differences in the methods and their effects ?
  5. what elements of pre-Christian religious custom and Christianity led to continuity or change after conversion ?

With these questions in mind, the results of this thesis will be now discussed.

This thesis has demonstrated that an overall pattern of conversion can be identified. The elements that are found in all the geographical areas included in this study will first be considered. Widespread acceptance of Christianity was achieved during the approximately 150 years that constituted stage 2 of conversion. During this time, Christianity spread from the secular rulers and the aristocracy and then downwards to the other groups in society. Rulers issued Christian legislation with the support of members of the aristocracy. These groups also provided protection, as well as important material support, to clerics and missionaries. They furthermore provided land and funds for the erection of churches and monasteries. In this process, missionaries were necessary, but subordinate to secular rulers.

It is clear that various kinds of pressure played a part in almost all such decisions. Completely voluntary baptisms must thus be seen as extremely rare. If these did take place, it was most likely during stage 1. The pressures that were coupled with strategies of conversion can be placed on a scale, ranging from mild inducement to brutal force. It must also be remembered that social, political and material rewards were significant for widespread acceptance of Christianity. Within all these factors, there were variations connected to the degrees of force and violence. The conversion of Saxony appears to have been the most violent of the conversions studied in this thesis. It can thus be placed on that part of the spectrum where force and violence dominated. The conversion of Norway may not have been as harsh, but should clearly be placed in the same part of the spectrum. Forceful conversions included, apart from military force, also the introduction of strict laws and rigorous control systems.

The aims of the Christian secular rulers and clerics will now be discussed. It has been shown that during the Middle Ages, adherents did not need a great deal of knowledge of the Christian teachings. Moreover, the concept of individual Christian faith in the modern sense of the word, had not yet emerged. Clerics and rulers required that adherents should, above all, receive baptism and show outward compliance with the Christian lifestyle. It is of the greatest importance to keep this in mind when discussing the scale of the changes that were achieved by conversion.

Rulers and clerics tried to achieve their aims through specific measures. Outright prohibitions and decrees that regulated the daily life of the population were the most important of these. All the prohibitions, and also many of the decrees, should be strictly enforced. In these cases, there were thus no specific circumstances when the punishments for transgressions could be waived. The prohibitions included bans on non-Christian cultic practices and the keeping of cultic objects. The decrees that carried the highest punishments were those that required observance of the seasonal fasts, Sundays and feast days. The life of the population would thus be regulated according to the Christian calendar. In this way, surviving pre-Christian traditions could presumably be gradually broken up. The Christian dietary restrictions were used for the same purposes. This is demonstrated by the fact that the prohibition against horse flesh was the dietary restriction that was most strictly enforced. It must however have been almost impossible to prohibit all non-Christian traditions. Some of the regulations of daily life appear to be the result of compromises. Certain traditional celebrations, such as midwinter and midsummer, were transformed into Christian feasts. Another alternative was to stipulate that priests should be present at popular gatherings. The law regarding the inheritance ale is one such example.

Rulers and clerics also tried to introduce Christian regulations regarding baptism, churchyard burial, and marriage. Baptism and churchyard burial must be seen as fundamental Christian practices. Their appearance in the early stages of conversion is thus not surprising. It is of interest, however, that some of these regulations allowed certain degrees of compromise. The Norwegian laws clearly demonstrate that the priority at this time was that all children should be baptised. It was of secondary importance to make sure that baptisms were carried out in church, or even by priests.

The Christian marriage laws are more surprising. Apart from prohibiting close marriages, these laws also discouraged divorce, concubinage and remarriage. The regulations were extremely detailed and complicated, and must have been almost impossible to live by. Despite this, no exceptions were allowed. It thus appears that rulers and clerics were extremely concerned that all aspects of these regulations should be enforced. The reasons for this may at first seem difficult to discern.

One possible explanation could be that, by regulating marriage patterns, clerics tried to break up the extraordinary strong family and clan bonds of Germanic society. Pre-Christian religious custom seems to have been tied up in these bonds, and their existence may have made the introduction of Christianity more difficult. There is, however, no explicit evidence of such a clerical strategy.

The effects of conversion on the wider population will now be discussed.

The early Christian regulations covered most areas of daily life, and may well have altered a considerable part of this. There are, however, no regulations that deal with the religious beliefs of the population. It has already been pointed out that adherents at this time did not need Christian 'faith'. These laws may therefore not have penetrated the minds of the people in any greater depth. In areas of more violent conversion, the enforcement of the Christian regulations was strict and sometimes brutal. For the wider population, the differences between harsher and milder conversions would thus have been very noticeable.In Saxony, the earliest form of the Inquisition was introduced through the synodal courts. In Norway, the things fulfilled essentially the same function. Extremely harsh punishments were brought in for non-compliance with the new regulations. The inhabitants were encouraged to keep a close watch on each other and sometimes act as informants. The similarities in this respect between Saxony and Norway are very striking. It could therefore be suggested that clerics who had thorough knowledge of the Frankish synodal courts were active in Norway. No explicit evidence in support of this is however available. Pre-Christian religious custom must also be considered. In this thesis, this religious custom has been characterised as a 'nature religion'. The mythological gods seem to have been either essentially literary creations, or of little significance for the general population. When Christianity was introduced,the cults of gods petered out, while the other two strands of the religious custom lived on for centuries. In this respect, there was thus a degree of continuity between pre-Christian and Christian times. The cult practices associated with the second, and presumably the most important, strand of pre-Christian religious custom seem to have been centred on certain objects. These had various functions; some were for the individual, some for the household, and some for the village community. Such objects could thus have been spread all over the countryside. This suggests that the pre-Christian cult was even more dispersed than previously believed.

The early Christian regulations did not require regular church attendance. Instead Christianity could be practised outdoors, e.g. by standing crosses. It is also possible that special areas for prayer were designated in or around the homes. This means that Christianity was not yet concentrated around a number of churches. There was thus some continuity in the location of cultic activities at local and possibly also at regional level. These activities could still be practised in homes, or outdoors, and often without priests. The often distantly located churches were presumably only visited at certain times of the year, and for special occasions. As was mentioned in section 4.2, many of the early churches seem to have been erected around pre-Christian cult sites. There may, therefore, have been a certain degree of continuity also at the highest levels of the cult.

Scholars have argued that there was one clear difference between the pre-Christian religious custom and Christianity. The old religious custom has been seen as communal. Christianity, on the other hand, has been regarded as focused on the individual. In this thesis, this view of medieval Christianity has not been substantiated. Christianity was accepted through communal decisions at all levels of society. Moreover, the teachings about personal salvation had not yet been firmly established. Thus also in this respect, there was some level of continuity between the old and the new.

We must now return to the questions posed in chapter 1 in order to determine how well these have been answered. The first two questions, i.e. those regarding the requirements for successful conversion and the strategies pursued by rulers and clerics, have been given detailed answers. The same can be said for the question concerning what parts of pre-Christian religious custom and Christianity led to continuity or change after conversion. The question as to how conversion affected the life of the wider population is, due to the nature of the source material, more difficult to answer. In an attempt to do so, use has been made of normative sources. These have provided a great deal of information about rulers' and clerics' regulation of daily life. The view of how well this question has been answered thus depends on the extent to which this type of material is seen to reflect the life of the population. The same applies to the question about the differences in the effects between the forceful and more peaceful conversions. The question concerning the variations in the methods used within the forceful and the more peaceful conversions, has, on the other hand, been answered in depth. Finally, it must be pointed out that the comparative approach has proven to be rewarding, as it has shed new lighton the overall process of conversion.

Let us again consider the issue of transformation and compromise in the work of missionaries. It is evident that missionaries simplified and adapted their teachings in order to convey the Christian message to the population. Fundamental concepts of Christianity were selected and presented to the early Scandinavians. Missionaries moreover avoided making a distinction between God and Christ. Adaptations to local traditions can be seen in the reinterpretations of Satan as the Serpent of Miðgarðr. It is clear that missionaries in all the geographical areas of this study employed these methods. What is thus particularly striking is that even the use of certain heretical teachings seems to have formed part of the established and accepted strategies of conversion.

"Performing oaths in Eddic Poetry: Viking age fact or medieval fiction?" (2016) Anne Irene Riisøy at pages 151 and 152

Performance in order to record, create, and transform

… Because mere words could effect changes, wordswere not only effective but also potentially dangerous (Stacey 2007:249). An oath spoken badly or wrongly could have dire and unintended consequences, and an oath taken by one party may nothave been what the other party understood it to be. This misunderstanding may have occurred inadvertently because the phrasing was not precise enough,or because the oath taker deliberately swore to something that was technically true but morally dubious. Trickery and deceit is therefore "the darker side of linguistic power" (Stacey 2007:248).

An excellent example of an Old Norse 'dark' oath is recorded in chapter 25 in Víga-Glúms saga.

In Iceland in the latter half of the 10th century, Glum swore that he had not killed Thorvald Hook. Glum took "a temple oath on the ring and I deny to the god, that I was not there and did not strike there and did not redden point or edge where Thorvald Hook met his death" (Hreinsson [vol. II] 1997:307-308). As noted by the editor Vidar Hreinsson, "Glum's oath depends on the preposition at having the same form as a poetic negative suffix". Hence, "I was at that place" (ek vark at a þar) and "I was not there" (ek varkat þar) sound identical (Hreinsson [vol. II] 1997:307-308). Glum's opponents were expecting a denial, and admitted "they had not heard that form of words used before", but still did not find anything wrong with the oath. It was soon pointed out that Glum had in fact admitted to the killings, "in the most usual words" and also that it was disgraceful for Glum's opponents for not catching this verbal trick (Hreinsson [vol. II] 1997:307-308). Whereas verbal tricks may have been perfectly acceptable, swearing outright falsely was not a viable option. Glum may have knownabout the advice spelled out by Sigrdrifa where she admonished the dragon-slayer Sigurd not to swear an oath unless it is truly kept because terrible fate-bonds attach to the oath-tearer.


To conclude, the oaths sworn in the eddic poems were actually used in pre-Christian Scandinavia, not only during the Viking Age but in earlier centuries too. Thus, when 13th and 14th-century Icelanders put eddic poems and sagas down on parchment, they did not invent this custom; on the contrary, there is every reason to believe that the memory of how oaths were sworn in pre-Christian times still lingered on.

Eddic poetry expresses ethical judgments of people's actions, and in a society where people believed in heathen gods and in various omens, and where the dividing lines between living and dead matter wasoccasionally blurred, it made sense to swear on items and gods which were important in that culture. Such procedures helped to ensure that the oaths would not be broken, and hence, minimize the risks of violence and disruption. The eddic poems may also have had a didactic intent aimed at the audience. They stated the cause and effect of the breach of the law, and how to solve the conflict, and in this way helped to regulate and stabilize local society and keep up the central values of this society. Breaking of norms had consequences; for example, an oath-breaker became a vargr. Through the reciting of poems, these norms and the legal procedure were made clear; therefore, people were aware how legal disputes and a breach of the law should be solved.

All performance cultures are not absolutely alike. From the Volga in the east to the Wirral in the west, Viking oaths, which differed from Christian oaths, are recorded. It would appear that Christians took a pragmatic stance, and heathen Viking oaths would have to suffice, regardless of whether they used weapons, holy rings, and other items and even invoked heathen gods. Also the heathens were pragmatic, abroad and at home, and they accepted that Christians swore oaths according to their belief. When Christianity finally gained political ascendency in Scandinavia, oaths sworn on the Bible (i.e., F IV 8, G 37; Eithun et al. 1994:57-59; Keyser and Munch 1846:23,160-161), or the cross (Grágás; Finsen 1852:46, 72) replaced oaths sworn, for example, on weapons and the natural elements. A similar development seems to have taken place among the other Germanic peoples and Celts and who converted to Christianity centuries before the new religion reached Scandinavia. During the first Christian centuries, the performative aspects of oaths, and in addition all agreements, cases, and transactions that had legal implications, were still important. For example, when land was claimed (Strömbäck 1928:205) or sold (Brink 2011, Gelting 2011, Taranger 1913), and in cases of inheritance of odal-land (land freely held, without obligation of service to any overlord), recital of ancestors back to the burial mound was imperative (Iversen 2008).

"An Encapsulation of Óðinn: Religious belief and ritual practice among the Viking Age elite with particular focus upon the practice of ritual hanging" (2016) Douglas Dutton Phd, University of Aberdeen at page 98

3.5 Conclusions

… during the Viking Age there existed links between the deity Óðinn, humankind and trees (in both creation and possible location of ritual practice) in addition to those more commonly expounded upon: knowledge, war and death … The study of place-name evidence appears to show that hanging can be evidenced historically in the landscape of Scandinavia and that common localities arise: that of promontories, islands or public highways. This in turn reveals that, as supposed, the act of hanging, whether ritualistic in nature or not, was made to be seen and not hidden away from the public view …

"Viking Scandinavians back home and abroad in Europe: and the special case of Björn and Hásteinn" (2018) Stefan Brink" at pages 13-23

Vikings started to make a presence of themselves in the written sources around AD 800 - the Frankish, Anglo-Saxon and Irish annals and chronicles. Today we know that the raiding and trading by these Scandinavians started much earlier. The way in which this kind of external appropriation was conducted by the vikings was, if we simplify, that if they could get hold of wealth and silver for free, they took it - robbed, stole and if necessary killed off the people - if they met overwhelming resistance, they traded. The precious commodity sought by the raiding and trading vikings was silver, and the way they achieved this was mainly participating in a slave trade on a large scale.

The emergence of a new ruling class was observed by Patrick Wormald (1982):

"The Viking Age saw Scandinavian kingship grow from Volkskönigtum [tribal kingship] to Heerkönigtum [military kingship], as that of other Germanic peoples had earlier, and this growth was both cause and effect of Viking activity."

Today we see this emergence of a new ruling class already taking place in the pre-viking period. The power base in this early period is still a personal one, not based on territorial supremacy. Power was intimately linked to personal abilities, and power was conducted only where the king/chieftain and his retinue were present.

According to poems such as Beowulf this society was a warrior society with a kind of endemic warfare, trying to control the halls. The picture that emerges is of a society where power was constantly shifing according to the personal abilities of the chieftains and kings to make allies and build a power base.

To build such a power base in this early period you had to have three assets:

  1. a reputation as a strong leader
  2. reliable allies
  3. wealth with which to buy allegiances
  4. To claim a kingship you had to come from a royal family, and we must reckon with several such families in society. There were hence many potential candidates for claiming to be a king (konungsefni) and there could also be several kings in a realm. The way a young konungsefni prepared himself for the prospect of kingship was to gain wealth and reputation. Wealth you could inherit, but fame and reputation as an able and strong leader you had to prove yourself in battle as a warrior. Therefore,we find many young Scandinavians in this period going abroad and taking up a rôle as a mercenary in some king's army in Anglo-Saxon England, in Ireland or on the Continent. By doing so, and survive, you were compensated handsomely and gained reputation and fame. After such a turn to the south or west you could return home, tie up allies by presenting them with extraordinary gifts, such as a Frankish sword, or silver or exclusive jewellery, and then claim to be accepted as a king. This was, for example, the way two of the more famous kings in the Viking Age came to power, the Norwegian kings Óláfr Tryggvason (995-1000) and Óláfr Haraldsson(1015-28).

    The societal base for Scandinavian life during this period was the farm. All vikings were farmers. The first proto-towns seem to have been seasonally inhabited,and tradesmen that exclusively traded must have been extremely few. The seasonal cycle during the Viking Age seems to have been that many men left home with their ships, raiding and trading during the summer season. In a slightly later phase, we know that viking armies and war band wintered at winter camps in England and in Francia. When the man was away from the farm, the wife took responsibility for running it. At a farm for a well-to-do farmer, there were the close family, man, wife and children, with elderly and close relatives, farmhands and maids, and unfree thralls. We don't know how many thralls there were, hence what proportion the slaves made of the total population. There have been many guesses, 10, 25 or 40 percent of the total viking population in Scandinavia but the actual number is not known and it is impossible to even hazard a qualified estimate. What we can say is that many farmers must have had thralls at their farms. A regional difference existed as southern Scandinavia seems to have had a larger slave-population than further farms in the north. This has been suggested by Mats Roslund, after analysing pottery in different societal contexts. It is also possible that this difference indicates that in southern Scandinavia there were large 'manorial estates' run by slave labour, whereas further north in Scandinavia, these did not exist and instead the family farm was the customary unit.

    Until the 10th century the viking Scandinavians had a 'religion' which they called forn siðr (old custom).

    This 'religion' was embedded into everyday life for people; you were confronted by higher and lower deities from the moment you awoke in the morning until you went to bed. There were different kinds of deities and supernaturals on the farm, on the land, living in rocks and trees and so on, and you had to relate to them and keep them happy or protect people, farm, crop and cattle from their malice. Then there were the gods and the goddesses, which had different functions:

    • Þórr, the god of thunder, lightning and war;
    • Óðinn, the mighty one, god of kings and chieftains, the wise one who also gave to people the runes, and to his hall, Valhöll, you went to as a fallen warrior;
    • Freyr, the god of fertility and prosperity, and the goddess Freyja, with the same functions, and so on

    Around these gods and goddesses there were many myths which create the Old Norse mythology contained in a unique collection of mythological and heroic poems, the so-called Poetic Edda. In the most famous one, Völuspá (the seeress' prophecy), we get an insight into the cosmogony, cosmology and eschatology of this mythology.

    This 'religion' was thus not an intellectual one, but instead a siðr, a custom. The two fundamental ways you conducted and took part in this custom were with rituals and cult. We learn about sacrificial meals (blót), of worshipping ancestors, of offerings of animals (and perhaps also humans) to gods at special cult sites, and so on. Still today there are place-names in the Scandinavian landscape reminiscent of these pagan cult sites, with names including the words vi, , , hof, hörg, harg, lund etc., which all mean 'pagan cult site'.

    In Scandinavia, the second half of the first millennium was divided into three phases or periods:

    The first phase (circa AD 550-700) takes place in Scandinavia, with the emergence of a new kind of 'aristocracy' and leadership and changes in the societal structure. We can see this new society in the form of emerging central places during the Vendel Period, with a distinct burial custom in the form of rich chamber and ship burials. The archaeological period called the Vendel Period takes its name from a small parish in central Uppland, Sweden, where some unique and rich boat burials, dated to around AD 700, were discovered and excavated at the end of the nineteenth century.

    In the boats (7-9 m long) were buried, together with the deceased, weaponry, glass, and jewellery and outside the boats horses and dogs were thrown down. The most famous objects from these burials are the Vendel helmet, which resembles a helmet found in a princely boat burial in Sutton Hoo, Norfolk, England, to be dated to the same time as the Vendel helmet. Famous are also the small bronze sheet metal plates from Vendel helmets with scenes from the Old Norse mythology. Later similar rich furnished boat graves from the Vendel Period were found at Valsgärde outside the city of Uppsala, Sweden. Many of these boat burials have been excavated and dated to circa AD 600-1000. The finds in these boats are extraordinary, with weapons, exclusive garments, cooking utensils, horses and dogs, birds of prey etc., placed in the boat together with the deceased to accompany him to, and to be used in, the next world. What we see in these burials is an accumulation of wealth and yhe emergence of a princely warrior class, displayed in these luxury burials. It is these princely families of this warrior class which are the predecessors of kings and chieftains we meet in the Viking Age. From the iconography and the intended purpose of the buried objects, we understand that the Viking Age 'religion' and its mythology were in existence already in this period, and we also understand that the warrior mentality, which defines the Viking Age, originated in the Vendel Period.

    The second phase (circa AD 700-950) sees the Scandinavians start to go abroad en masse, with raiding and trading to the east and west, swarming around and colonizing in the North Atlantic, raiding in England and Ireland, raiding in western Europe down to the Iberian Peninsula, raiding and trading to the east, in Russia and the Baltics. The aim with these raids and trading was to obtain riches in the form of silver, which could be brought back to Scandinavia to build a power base, and the means of getting hold of this silver was primarily to engage in the slave trade. Obtaining and selling slaves was the main commodity in which Viking Scandinavians were engaged in their trading and raiding during this period. This engagement with the politics and kingdoms in the British Isles and on the Continent together with the accumulation of wealth by Scandinavian chieftains and kings, led to the first attempts to establish larger (potentially also territorial) kingdoms in Scandinavia, something whixh takes place in Denmark in the ninth century and in Norway around circa AD 900. It is also during this period that a colonization takes place in Iceland, Greenland and the Faroes, and the establishment of a Scandinavian-controlled Danelaw in central England, and the emergence of the first proto-towns in Ribe, Hedeby and Birka.

    During this period we are told in the annals and chronicles of viking war band and small armies raiding and devastating England and Francia. In British historiography, this phase is called the First Viking Age. In AD 865 what is called the Great Heathen Army, led by the brothers Ivar the Boneless, Halfdan and Ubba, sons of the legendary king Ragnar Lodbrok, and Guthrum, who was to become a Danish king in the Danelaw, landed in East Anglia and made their way up to Northumbria, capturing York and establishing the viking community of Jorvik. They took tributes from Mercia and had several battles in several kingdoms along their travels. These kinds of raids by war band and small armies define this phase, and we meet that also in Francia, which was frequently harassed in the ninth century, which finally led to the Frankish king Charles the Simple to ask one of the leaders of a notorious war band, Rollo (Hrólfr), to settle in northeast of Francia and gave him the title of Duke of Normandy, as a means of protection from other viking war bands.

    In the third phase (circa AD 950-1100) we enter a period where Viking Scandinavia adopts the kind of society and power structure Scandinavians have met on the Continent and in the British Isles. The old religion is slowly dismantled and replaced by the Christian religion. The first proto-towns are in most cases abandoned and new towns emerge. Territorialized 'state'-like kingdoms emerge: Norway, Denmark and Sweden. The small-scale raiding of war bands is replaced by larger viking armies, often organised by royal leaders, and this is the background for British historiography calling this phase The Second Viking Age. This is the period when the Anglo-Saxons are paying huge tributes to the vikings, called Danageld, for leaving them alone and to go home. This episode is mentioned on one famous runestone from Yttergärde (U 334), Orkesta, in the province of Uppland, Sweden, where we are told:

    "And Ulfr has taken three tributes in England. That was the first that Tosti took. Then Þorketill took. Then Knútr took."

    Ulf had taken part in three raids in England and had shared some of the tribute (gœld). The first was under the leadership of Tosti (probably a Skoglar-Tosti around the year AD 1000), the second under the leadership of Thorkel the High in AD 1012, and finally a huge tribute was handed over to the vikings under the leadership of the Danish king Knútr in AD 1018, the Knútr that later became king of the Anglo-Saxons and the Danes, and remembered as Canute the Great.

    During this third phase the Church slowly started to put its stamp on these societies, implementing its institutions in the form of churches and bishops in bishop towns. We have a steady growth of churches in the eleventh century, mainly built by kings on their royal estates, or 'aristocrats' and well-to-do farmers on their estates and farms. We call this phase the Europeanization of Scandinavia; Scandinavia is adapting the culture and societies of Europe. Around AD 1050 the old 'Viking' society has terminated, with its seasonal raiding and trading during the summer periods. The old 'fluid' and itinerant society becomes more static. The kings all have a bishop or some well-educated clergyman as their close councillor. And in AD 1103 an Archbishopric is established in Scandinavia, for Scandinavia, in Lund. From then on Scandinavia follows the societal development of the rest of Europe, where the Church becomes the prime force in society.

    The Legends of Björn and Hásteinn

    One story takes place in Spain, Portugal and in the western Mediterranean, and has become legendary, popular and reiterated over the centuries. This is the story of the Swedish brothers Björn and Hásteinn, said to be sons of the legendary Swedish (or Danish) king Ragnar Lodbrok, and their misadventure when sacking Rome in Italy. It is occasionally mentioned in Old Norse sagas, but the main information comes from Norman sources, backed up by Arabic sources. In the Frankish and Norman literature Hásteinn is often known as Alstingius or Hastingus,and is actually a rather dim figure in history.

    According to the legend the events took place in the year AD 859 and the following years. In that year two brothers, Björn Ironside and Hastingus (Hásteinn), sometimes said to be the 'tutor' to Björn, navigated and ravaged along the river Seine in northwest France, and then stayed for winter on the island of Oissel, just north of the city of Rouen. Charles the Bald, not daring to attack the marauding Vikings himself, hired another Viking chieftain, Weland, to attack them and chase them away. Weland was offered 300 pounds of silver, but demanded 5,000, plus expenses, which was agreed upon. So the besiege of the island started. The shrewd Björn, however, topped Charles' 6,000 pounds in return for safe passage from the island. Hence, instead of ravaging and making himself a nuisance in France, he decided to conquer Rome. This heroic act would give him a glorious reputation back home.

    Björn and his men sailed south from northern France with 62 ships, ravaging the Spanish west (and north) coast, fighting the Moors on the Guadalquivir, or to use its Arabic name, Wadi al-Kabir 'the big river', possibly getting as far as Seville. After passing the Strait of Gibraltar they plundered the town of Algeciras in southern Andalusia, and then turned south for the north African coast. Here they plundered, raided and took black slaves. After a short spell in Africa they turned north for Murcia and the Balearic Islands. When finished they set sail to the north and after a long journey during the summer and autumn, they decided to make a winter camp at Camargue, near the mouth of the Rhône river, on the Côte d'Azur. While in Provence they took the opportunity to raid and plunder also Arles and Nîmes, and all the way up the Rhône river to Valance, where they met overwhelming resistance, and therefore turned south again.

    When spring arrived in AD 860 they continued the journey, with raiding and plundering along the Côte d'Azur and into Liguria in Italy. According to the legend they then ransacked the town of Luna (Lucca today) in Liguria, just south of La Spezia, assuming it was Rome. Whether this is actually true is a question of discussion,because the Norman sources are rather quiet on this matter. They raided and plundered Pisa later on, and after that felt content with what they had achieved and gave up Rome and further conquest.

    Finally, according to the legend, the vikings under the leadership of Björn and Hásteinn are once again the next year, AD 861, involved in fighting with Moorish pirates in the Mediterranean, being able to escape into the Atlantic and on their way back plundering the city of Pamplona in the kingdom of Navarra, before they actually, with only 20 ships remaining, returned to the Loire in AD 862.

    Th first historical record of this famous journey is to be found in Annales Bertiniani (The Annals of St-Bertin), which for the year AD 859 describes the Björn and Hásteinn journey but omits the sacking of Luna. It is then picked up by several other historians, such as Dudo of Saint-Quentin in his History of the Normans, and is even further elaborated by William of Jumiéges in his Gesta Normannorum Ducum. Finally, the story is picked up by Benoît de Sainte-Maure in his 12th century Chronique des ducs de Normandie, which seems to have been the foundation for later retelling and rewriting of this legend, also in Old Norse, Scandinavian writings, such as Ragnars saga lodbrokar and other sagas and þættir.

    Hence, this legend found its way into an Icelandic fornaldarsaga (Legendary saga), Ragnars saga lodbrokar, where the Luna episode is mentioned:

    "XIV. Now they held course from there until they came to the town called Lúna. By then they had broken nearly every town and every castle in all the Southern Kingdom, and they were then so famous in all that region that there was no child, however young, that did not know their name. Then they planned not to let up until they had come to Rómaborg, because that town was then both very mighty and full of men, and famous and rich."

    So who was this Ragnar Lodbrok ?

    This legend of these two Scandinavians, Björn and Hásteinn, the sons of the Swedish, sometimes said to be a Danish king, Ragnar Lodbrok, ravaging in southern Europe, where the climax in the story is the mistake of sacking Luna instead of Rome, is testified in both Frankish and Norman contemporary annals and chronicles, and later on in Norman historiography. The story had obviously all the qualities to make it popular with the Norman rulers. Björn and Hásteinn were for them excellent prototypes for Norman dukes with a Scandinavian ancestry. But, as we have seen,the story also found its way into Scandinavia and the Icelandic literature, especially the Legendary sagas.

    So what can we make of this? Are we dealing with 'history' or a fictitious legend ? Well, the Continental contemporary sources force us to reckon witha historical core, around which the annalists, chroniclers and historians have used and expanded upon. That Scandinavian vikings have around AD 850s been raiding and harassing people in southern Europe is more than probable and an uncontroversial statement. If these vikings were led by two men, Björn and Hásteinn, is probable, but impossible to prove. Who they were, and if they were the sons of the famous Ragnarr lodbrok, is utterly uncertain, and again, impossible to prove.

    So we end up, as so often, with a situation, where we can rely upon some historical facts, which have been used by authors,in Europe and Scandinavia, to fabricate legends and exiting stories, involving brave but merciless vikings.

    All in all, the Björn and Hásteinn legend links Portugal, Spain, France and Italy to Scandinavia in a most dramatic way, and the story has been told and retold over centuries in the whole of Europe at the time and the following centuries, and the bold characters of these two vikings, Björn and Hásteinn, so much linked to Normandy in France, was also used as prototypes of the kind of strong, ruthless and victorious leaders the Norman dukes wanted to have as their ancestors.

"What caused the Viking Age ?" (2008) James H. Barrett, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge Antiquity 82 (2008): 671-685

This paper addresses the cause of the Viking episode in the approved Viking manner, reviewing and dismissing technical, environmental, demographic, economic, political and ideological prime movers. The author develops the theory that a bulge of young males inScandinavia set out to get treasure to underpin their chances of marriage and a separate domicile.


This brief survey of the causes of the Viking Age has sought to alter received wisdom in several ways. The Scandinavian diaspora was not a product of technological, climatic or economic determinism. Nor did it result from 'over population'or the lure of weak neighbours. Instead, bands of 'surplus' young men (perhaps resulting from selective female infanticide) in need of bride-wealth may have set out in search of treasure. As has long been recognised, they were joined by would-be chieftains, royal deputies and exiles seeking wealth to prevail in the face of increasing competition within Scandinavia. These motives combined with a fatalistic mentality to create what we observe as the beginning of the Viking Age. It may be unrealistic to pinpoint the spark that ignited this explosive cocktail. Nevertheless, one well-trodden option is the sudden availability of Abbasid coinage in the east - and western Scandinavia's efforts to find a comparable source of wealth. Another is a hypothetical meeting of Irish and Norse on the Faeroe Islands - opening a route to the monastic riches of the Irish Sea region. It is enough to say that to explore the causes of the Viking Age one must give equal emphasis to sweeping processes of the longue durée and rapid, contingent, developments. Three ship-crews at Portland between 786 and 802 could not have anticipated that most of Anglo-Saxon England would be conquered by Viking armies in the 870s (Brooks 1979). Nevertheless,they were part of the causal chain that led to this eventuality - and many others.

"The Earliest Wave of Viking Activity ? The Norwegian Evidence Revisited" (2019) Aina Margrethe Heen Pettersen, Department of Historical Studies, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway, European Journal of Archaeology 22 (4) 2019, 523-541

This article discusses the chronology and nature of the earliest Viking activity, based on a group of early burials from Norway containing Insular metalwork. By focusing on the geographical distribution of this material and applying the concept of locational and social knowledge, the importance of establishing cognitive landscapes to facilitate the Viking expansion is highlighted. It is argued that the first recorded Viking attacks were only possible after a phase in which Norse seafarers had acquired the necessarily level of a priori environmental knowledge needed to move in new seascapes and coastal environments. This interaction model opens the possibility that some of the early Insular finds from Norway may represent pre-Lindisfarne exploration voyages, carried out by seafarers along the sailing route of Nordvegr.


For over a century, the earliest Viking activity in Britain and Ireland (the 'Insular area' referred to in this paper) has been the topic of intense scholarly discussion. The written and archaeological evidence have been regularly reviewed, most recently by Emer Purell (2015) and Clare Downham (2017) who have studied the first generation of Vikings in Ireland and the written sources for the earliest Viking activity in England, respectively.

The purpose of this article is to consider the Norwegian evidence in light of thecurrent discussions into initial direct contact across the North Sea. First, it reviews the chronology and geographical distribution of 16 early burials containing Insular metalwork, including new finds and data which have not been included in previous debates about the earliest Viking activity. Second, the article examines the nature of the initial phase of contact with a focus on maritime mobility and environmental knowledge, which must have been vital aspects but remain under-investigated components of the initial phase of contact. Finally, the article brings together these elements and proposes a model of movement and maritime communication for the earliest voyages across the North Sea.

The earliest recorded raids and the beginning of the Viking Age

Over the years, many scholars have expressed different views about when the earliest direct contact between Norway and the Insular world took place and the nature of this interaction. The relationship between the archaeological evidence and information recorded in the Irish annals and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle has been central to these discussions.

The first written record of a Viking attack on Insular land took place in Portland, Dorset, in AD 789 or sometime during the reign of King Beorthric of Wessex between AD 786 and 802 if we base the dating on a cautious use of the sources (Dumville, 2008: 356). According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, three ships of Northmen arrived near a royal residence, where they killed the king's reeve who rode out to meet them. While the earliest source refers to the Northmen as 'Dani' (a general term for Scandinavians), later versions of the Chronicle (Versions D, E, and F) identify the ships as originating from Hordaland in the western part of present-day Norway (Dumville, 2008:356, Downham, 2017: 1). Possibly after the altercation in Portland, the earliest Viking raid on an ecclesiastical location is the well-known attack on the monastery on Lindisfarne in north-eastern England in June 793, recorded in the Northern recension of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, versions D and E (Downham, 2017: 2).

In the following decade, the Insular sources record repeated raids around the shores of Britain and Ireland. This includes the sacking of the monastery at the 'mouth of the River Don' (possible Jarrow, or a monastery in South Yorkshire) and raids throughout the Hebrides in AD 794, on the islands of Iona, Inishmurray, Inishbofin, and Rechru (probably Lambay Island, Co. Dublin) in AD 795, while mainland Scotland (Argyll) and Ireland were targeted from AD 796 onwards (Dumville, 2008; Downham,2000). While the annals and Chronicle show an emphasis on early raids on Ireland and northern Britain, other written sources including letters, foreign chronicles, and charters, suggest that large parts of southern England were also targeted by 'pagans' around the same time. These accounts are however somewhat supressed in the Chronicle, which mainly records the Vikings as a regular threat to southern England from circa AD 830 and onwards. It appears that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is somewhat biased towards King Alfred and his family by playing down the impact of the Vikings before the reign of King Ecgberht, King Alfred's grandfather (Downham, 2017: 12).

Since the early twentieth century, the earliest recorded raids have generally been regarded as the starting point of contact across the North Sea. By tradition, this has led to the widespread notion that any Insular metalwork could only have reached Scandinavia after these events. This principle is often referred to as the 'Shetelig axiom' and has been both influential and much debated. While early researchers were also open to the idea of direct pre-Viking contact, this topic became the subject of lively scholarly discussion in the 1990s. Instead of viewing the Lindisfarne attack as the first time the 'Norwegian' Vikings entered the Insular world, it was strongly argued that a pre-Viking phase of migration and trade to Atlantic Scotland took place from the early to mid-eighth century or even earlier (e.g. Myhre, 1993,1998, 2000; Weber, 1994, 1996; Solli,1996). This view is sometimes referred to as the 'Myhre' model because of Bjørn Myhre's influential role in these discussions. As summarized elsewhere (see Barrett, 2008: 418-21), the debate principally centred around four aspects of the archaeological evidence:

  1. Viking graves with early types of brooches or weapons in Scotland;
  2. early combs from Orkney made of Scandinavian reindeer antler;
  3. pollen analysis on Faroe indicating a pre-Viking presence; and
  4. early Insular objects in Norwegian graves.

The first of these pieces of evidence has since been largely dismissed because the early brooches show clear signs of wear and repair and because of the difficulties of dating Scottish graves on the basis of Norwegian typologies (e.g. Morris, 1998:88; Owen, 2004). The presence of Scandinavian reindeer antler from Orkney has also been reviewed and has shown that the arrival of this material cannot be securely dated to before the early ninth century (Ashby, 2009; von Holstein et al., 2014). The evidence for a pre-Viking Age presence on the Faroes has recently been confirmed by new pollen evidence and dates. These results are interpreted as 'firm evidence for the human colonisation of the Faroes by people of unknown geographical and ethnic origin some 300-500 years before the large-scale Viking colonisation of the ninth century' (Church et al., 2013:231-32). While not forming part of the original discussion, an early date from a site in Norwick, Shetland, obtained in 2003, has also been used to suggest Norse settlement before AD 793 (Ballin Smith,2007). However, the date was obtained from carbonized food deposits and could easily be a result of marine reservoir effects on cooked fish, or even statistical chance, since the remaining dates from the site largely suggest a later settlement date (Barrett, 2010: 291). At present, there is little archaeological evidence to support the hypothesis of a Norse settlement in the Scottish Isles before the mid-ninth century (see Barrett, 2008, 2010).

As shown above, much of the Insular evidence of possible pre-Viking contact has been thoroughly reviewed, and in some cases dismissed, in the last two decades. In the following section, I shall focus on the fourth, and perhaps least studied, element of evidence for early Scandinavian activity in the west: Insular metalwork found in early burials in Norway.

Over forty years ago, Egil Bakka discussed the chronology of a group of eleven early graves from Norway with Insular metalwork, all of which also contained brooches of the late Vendel/Merovingian periods or transitional types that survived into the Early Viking Age (Bakka, 1973; see also Wamers, 1998: 51-54). To this group, five further finds, from Ytre Kvarøy, Skei, Geite, Myklebost, and Farmen, can be added (Figure 1 and Table 1).

As shown in Table 1, the Insular metalwork comprises twenty-three objects from sixteen graves representing fourteen female and two male burials. The most significant piece is the complete reliquary from a woman's burial in Melhus (see Figure 6),one of only twelve largely complete Insular house-shaped shrines to have survived in Europe. The grave contained a further Insular find in the form of a reworked ecclesiastical mount, which was probably used as a brooch to fasten the deceased's fur cloak (see Heen-Pettersen & Murray, 2018 for a recent presentation of this find). Such decorative and gilded copper-alloy mounts are by far the most common object type in the early Insular material, with fifteen pieces known from fourteen locations. Three of these, from Oseborg (Møre and Romsdal county) (Figure 2), Grande, and Fosse are harness mounts, all of which were reworked into dress accessories (Wamers, 1985: 93-96). While the metalwork from Store Kongsvik cannot be ascribed to an identified parent object, the remaining examples were probably once mounted on ecclesiastical objects. This includes an Anglo-Saxon book mount from Bjørke (Figure 2) that served as a pendant suspended from a bead-necklace worn by the deceased (Wamers, 1985: 95).

Figure 1

The earliest Insular metalwork: composition

Figure 1. Distribution of the earliest Insular finds found in Norway. Map by Astrid Lorentzen, Trondheim University Museum.

Figure 2. Left: back and front of harness-mount from Oseborg, Ørsta. Right: Anglo-Saxon bookmount from Bjørke, Ørsta. Photograph by permission of University Museum of Bergen/Svein Skare

Figure 3. Left: the flanged boss from Vangsnes, Vik. Right: the mount from Fure, Askvoll. Photograph by permission of University Museum of Bergen/Svein Skare.

Figure 4. Oval brooches of R640 type from Bjørke, Ørsta. Photograph by permission of University Museum of Bergen/Svein Skare.

The metalwork from Sanddal, Farmen,and Myklebust is identified as hinges from reliquary shrines (Wamers, 1985: 19, 95;Aannestad, 2015: 80). Further pieces from either reliquary shrines or other reliquaries are represented by the mounts from Skjervum, Melhus, Skei, and Svennevik. On five of these pieces, secondary perforations, sometimes associated with the remains of pin fittings and/or textiles, suggest that these were adapted for use as brooches (see Stenvik, 2001: 33; Aannestad, 2015: 307). The remaining ecclesiastical pieces belong to a group of mounts which may originally have been altar or tabernacle decorations, or decorations on processional crosses. This includes the hemispherical and flanged boss from Vangsnes and the metalwork from Fure (Figure 3). The latter belongs to a group of hollow, cast mounts in the shape of a truncated pyramid, similar to the mounts decorating the 'Antrim Cross'. These two pieces were also reworked and probably worn as dress ornaments (Wamers, 1985: 96).

Finally, the Insular finds from Ytre Kvarøy, Geite, and Skei were various items used for serving food and drink. The only hanging-bowl from this corpus comes from Skei, where it formed part of a fine set of serving equipment, together with a large bronze ladle and a small, bronze-bound bucket (Stenvik, 2001). The large Insular bowls from Ytre Kvarøy (see Figure 7) and Geite belong to a group of copper-alloy vessels, which can be isolated from the hanging-bowl series since they lack suspension devices. The Geite grave also included two drinking horn terminals of Insular origin.

Chronological difficulties

The material from the earliest burials, which provides the best indication of deposition dates, consists of decorated dress ornaments and weapon types, since other plain and undiagnostic finds are more difficult to place within a narrower time frame (see e.g. Bakka, 1973; Stenvik,2001; Heen-Pettersen & Murray, 2018 for details about these further grave goods). As for beads, the work of Callmer (1977) still forms the main typology for the Norwegian material. However, in our case, the problem with using his classification is the fact that Callmer explicitly used the 'Shetelig Axiom' when building his chronology and, therefore, presumed a post-Lindisfarne date for beads found with early Insular material (see e.g.Callmer, 1977: 77). Likewise, when Bakka discussed the early graves with Insular metalwork in 1973, he had to deal with the 'problem' of early styles of ornamented brooches in burials with imports. His solution was to propose that the styles continued in use until around AD 800 and that the deposition of Insular metalwork, therefore, largely corresponded with the 'Shetelig Axiom' (Bakka, 1973: 16-17).Since then, a number of researchers have studied and suggested various chronologies for the brooches of late Vendel-period Scandinavia, including transitional types surviving into the early Viking Age (e.g.Shetelig, 1927; Ørsnes, 1966; Jansson,1985; Myhre, 1993; Klæsøe, 1999; Rundkvist, 2010). The difficulties within a fine chronology have yet to be resolved, especially since these brooches were in use in the decades before and after the first recorded overseas raids.

Five of the graves in this study contained pairs of thin-shelled brooches of R640/JP 4 type (Figure 4). While older research grouped these brooches collectively under the type name R640, it is now generally agreed that they can be divided into two main types: The Small Plain type and the Large Plain brooches. All our examples belong to the latter group, witha suggested deposition date of circa AD 770-840 (see Rundkvist, 2010: table 10). A further four burials contained pairs of type R643 brooches. This group is also believed to date to the late eighth and early ninth century (see Rundkvist, 2010: 135). A similar date is suggested for the animal-shaped brooches of the rare 'Stor-Skogmo' type found in the richly furnished cremation burial from Geite, which has recently been confirmed by radiocarbon dates (see below).

Two further pairs of oval brooches from Vangsnes and Farmen (types JP7 and JP17) are classed as 'transition types' (TT)(Rundkvist, 2010: finds catalogue). Petersen (1928) certainly suggested a slightly later manufacturing sequence for the Norwegian TT examples compared with the simple, thin-shelled R640 and R643 brooches. While he regarded JP7 as an early type going back to the end of the eighth century, JP17 was defined by Petersen as one of the earliest Viking-agetypes based on the 'gripping beast' motif. Rundqvist has however suggested a bipartition of this decoration, where the beasts used on the earliest types (such as JP17) may pre-date the Lindisfarne raid by a few decades (Rundkvist, 2010:159-60).

A late eighth-century production date is also argued for the late types of button-on-bow brooches from Melhus and Fure (Gjessing, 1934; Glørstad & Røstad,2015: 186-88). Finally, while representing a slightly later find, an early date is also indicated by the find of a Berdal type 1a brooch with a gripping beast ornament from Skei. It has been suggested that production of this brooch type began during the mid-eighth century, based on the finds of moulds in Ribe, Jutland (Myhre, 1993:186). There has, however, been considerable debate regarding the chronology of the layers associated with these finds. Feveile and Jensen (2000: 17-18) haver eassessed the dating evidence and argued that the date of the earliest occurrence of Berdal brooches in Ribe must be adjusted to circa AD 780-790.

None of the above burials has previously been dated by radiocarbon analysis. In connection with this study, two samples were obtained from cremated animal bones from the base of the Insular bowl in the Geite burial. Since no collagen was preserved, the results were obtained by measuring the carbonate fraction in cremated bones (bio apatite). Each of the two samples was tested three times (see Table 2 and Figure 5) and the best estimates for the age are the average of the three measurements (at 95.4% probability): cal AD 693-867 (Tra-12567) and cal AD 725-877 (Tra-12568). However, a closer look at the individual results indicate a narrower timeframe. Only one measurement gave an early date of cal AD 676-776 (95.4% probability), while three samples provided very similar results of cal AD 768-896 (91.2% probability), AD 769-887(95.4% probability) and cal AD 766-879 (82.2% probability). A deposition date of sometime after AD 766 therefore seems most likely, but the results also underline the methodological difficulties in obtaining the necessarily chronological resolution to confidently date burials to before or after the first recorded raids.

While this group of finds represents the earliest evidence of direct contact across the North Sea, it is also clear that both the typological and radiocarbon dates are coarse and offer us room to interpret the finds as either supporting or speaking against the 'Shetelig axiom'. Since it is difficult to achieve fine-grained dating, the methodological and theoretical framework against which the imports can be interpreted becomes essential. This is especially true for interaction models, which have implications for the chronology and characterisation of the earliest Norse activity in Britain and Ireland.

Figure 5. Geite, Levanger: calibrated dates using OxCal 4.2.4 (Bronk Ramsey, 2013; Reimer et al., 2013 ).

Figure 6. The reliquary from Melhus, Overhalla, (length: 118 mm; height: 83 mm) is one of only twelve complete Insular house-shaped shrines to have survived in Europe. Photograph by permission of Norwegian University of Science and Technology Museum, Trondheim/Åge Hojem.

Figure 7. The large bowl from Ytre Kvarøy,Lurøy, is the most northerly find of early Insular metalwork from Norway. Bowl diameter: 31 cm. Photograph by permission of Tromsø University/Mari Karlstad

Models of movement

Today, there is general agreement that some form of pre-Lindisfarne contact must have existed (e.g. Barrett, 2010: 297), but there have been few attempts to suggest new models of how this interaction took place since the discussions led by Myhre. Since the 1990s, the evidence to support a pre-Viking period of well-established connections has been significantly weakened, especially by Ashby's (2009) dismissal of the reindeer comb evidence which was used as one of the principal pieces of evidence in these models. The main problem is still the lack of archaeological evidence for such early activity on either side of the North Sea. Admittedly, John Hines has argued convincingly for a phase of small-scale immigration from western Norway to south-eastern England in the fifth and sixth centuries, based on parallel stylistic elements found on square-headed brooches and other types of dress jewellery in these two areas (Hines,1992, 1996). This contact does, however, not seem to have continued into the following centuries (Hines, 1996: 27). Moreover, the small amount of western glassware in early eighth-century Scandinavian contexts are generally believed to have reached Scandinavia through the continental route (Myhre, 1993: 189 and citations therein).

While there are indications that the continental route to southern England may have been known, I follow Ashby (2009: 27) in believing that 'we still lack the smoking gun' of early contact between Norway and the Insular world of northern Britain and Ireland. This calls for a revision or certainly a modification in the characterisation of the earliest, direct Norse activities. The following section focuses on the geographical distribution of the Norwegian material, acknowledging the revised status of other archaeological evidence for early contact in an attempt to search for and propose a model of movement for the earliest Norse voyages across the North Sea.

Finds distribution and the significance of the Nordvegr

The location of early Insular material is often considered to be an indicator of where the first Vikings originated (Wamers, 1998: 52; Barrett, 2010: 293; Baug et al., 2018). Most early Insular finds are found in western Norway, in Hordaland to Sunnmøre, but there is also a number of notable finds from further north, including Trondheimsfjord, Melhusin Overhalla (Figure 6), and Kvarøya in Lurøy (see distribution in Figure 1). These finds show that the earliest oversea voyages were not exclusively a western-Norway phenomenon.

The overall finds concentration falls within the geographical area of Norway traditionally referred to as 'Nordafjells', representing the area north and west of Langfjella, a mountain chain on the southern Norwegian peninsula. These mountains separated the Nordmenn - the men from the north - from the Austmenn, the men from east of the mountains. This geographical division probably stems from at least the Viking Age (Skre, 2014:34-35). Apart from two finds from Farmen and Svennevik, the area 'east of the mountains' is remarkably lacking in early Insular finds. The overall distribution pattern clearly strengthens the impression that these objects reached Norway along a direct route over the North Sea, rather than via Denmark and continental Europe. This is further supported by the lack of early finds of Insular metalwork from Denmark (see Baastrup, 2013).

The sailing route which connected the lands north of the mountains was called Nordvegr, 'the northern way' and stretched for more than 1000km from Rogaland in the south-west to Lofoten, north of the Arctic circle (Skre, 2014: 35). In this part of Scandinavia, seafarers mastered 'ship-building, seamanship and naval warfare to a level that was difficult to match for anyone in Northern Europe' (Skre, 2014:43). The most northerly find in our finds group, a bowl from a cemetery at YtreKvarøy (Figure 7), is located just to the south of where the traveller Othere, who visited the court of King Alfred in the late ninth century, is reported to have come from (Storli, 2007: 81-84). This may also be one of the earliest finds in the current study, based on the early type of decorated sword (Petersen special type 1) found together with the bowl in a plough furrow. The sword is discussed by Vinsrygg (1979:67-69), who has identified it as a probable import from the Frankish Rhine area and suggests a deposition date towards the middle or late eighth century. This date fits well with the other eleven graves from this cemetery which are typologically dated from the late sixth to the end of the eighth century (Vinsrygg, 1979: tables I-VIII). Further imported finds from YtreKvarøy included cowry shells from theM aldives, a piece of gold-plated metalwork with a Latin inscription, as well as beads and brooches probably produced in southern Scandinavian towns such as Ribe and Birka (Vinsrygg, 1979: 67-70; Sindbæk, 2011: 58-59). These finds show that the population of a small northern Norwegian island had the means, seafaring skills and connections to acquire objects from far-away places.

The early maritime mobility of these parts of Norway is further emphasized by the presence of reindeer antler, used for comb making which was recovered from early town layers in Ribe, indicating the existence of direct trade links already from the late eighth century (Ashby et al.,2015). Likewise, Baug et al. (2018) have recently shown how there was a 'steady supply' of 'Mostadmarka' type whetstones from Trøndelag to markets in southern Scandinavia from at least the early eighth century. These results also suggest increasing economic activity in the North Sea area which drew large parts of Norway into supra-regional networks in the decades before and after the first recorded Viking attacks (as underlined by Myhre,1993, and Baug et al., 2018). Frisian Tating ware is found as far north as Borg in Lofoten (Holand, 2003: 203-09), and seventh- and eighth-century Frankish coins were recently recovered in excavations at Ranheim, Trøndelag (Grønnesby & Heen-Pettersen, 2015: 176). Further,the Skei burial mentioned earlier contained fragments of rare Frankish textiles as well as a Berdal 1A brooch probably produced in Ribe (Stenvik, 2001: 31-37). Through such long-distance voyages, Scandinavians along the Nordvegr became well aware of the Insular lands, either first-hand (as demonstrated by the incident in Dorset, possibly carried out by men from Hordaland), or through information gained second-hand on their journeys to continental Europe. This activity not only moved goods, it also facilitated the movement of knowledge and improved navigational ability, which ultimately may have encouraged voyages of exploration further west over the sea (see Sindbæk, 2011:58-59).

Environmental knowledge and the earliest North Sea crossings

An awareness of the Insular land through increased interaction with continental Europe would not have been enough to transform the North Sea passage from a body of water to 'the highway to the Irish Sea' (to borrow an expression used by Barrett, 2010: 297). This process also involved a phase where people along the Nordvegr started to travel in unfamiliar maritime environments and, therefore, had to acquire and make use of new environmental knowledge. This issue is often implied in discussions concerning the earliest Viking activity but is rarely considered as a primary factor in the origin of the Viking Age. Rockman (2003: 4-9) has emphasized the need to examine the importance of different types of environmental knowledge when constructing general models of movement in archaeological research; and, in the following, I will consider the importance of two of these aspects: locational and social knowledge (Rockman, 2003: 13-14). While primarily developed as a tool in colonisation archaeology, a modified version of this model may prove fruitful as a framework for conceptualizing the nature of the earliest North Sea crossings.

Locational knowledge refers to knowledge of the spatial and physical characteristics of new landscapes and particular resources present in new environments. It includes the ability to find places and resources again after their initial discovery (Rockman, 2003: 4-5). For the earliest Viking raiders, this included locational information of desired resources and favourable locations to attack, such as lightly defended places with accumulated portable wealth and potential slaves. It also comprised the right maritime skills and nautical knowledge needed to cross the North Sea and move around in the challenging coastal waters of the Northern British Isles. Locational knowledge is closely linked to social knowledge, where the latter may be understood as the processes and experiences that serve as a means of transforming unfamiliar environments into a social landscape, for instance through the attribution of names, meaning, and experiences to landscapes features in a new environment (Rockman,2003: 5-7). This approach is comparable to Sindbæk's concept of 'routinisation' in the Viking Age, which emphasizes how establishing geographical routes was very much a matter of social practice that had to be experienced and 'worked out' (Sindbæk, 2005: 32, 274-75).

For Scandinavians in the eighth and early ninth centuries, expeditions to the west must have been daunting experiences, when 'relatively small open vessels, in the beginning probably with quite limited ability to survive severe weather, carried fairly small groups of men with few provisions' (Bill, 2010: 38). The passage from western Norway to the Northern Isles is approximately 170 nautical miles long and, with the use of sail in good weather conditions, the crossing could have taken a day or two (Wamers, 1998: 52). The question of when the sail was adopted in the Norse homelands and how this affected the beginning of the earliest overseas voyages has been hotly debated. Some scholars support the idea that sails were used in Scandinavia long before the Viking Age, while a mid to late eighth-century date has been the generally accepted opinion(see Bill, 2010; Westerdal, 2015: 18). One of the two vessels discovered at Salme in Estonia in 2008 and 2010, dates to around AD 750 and is the earliest evidence of a combined rowing/sailing vessel used by the Scandinavians (Price et al., 2016). For Norway, the use of sail is not archaeologically attested before the Oseberg ship which was constructed in AD 820 (Bill, 2010: 27-28), although it is unlikely to have been the first sailing vessel in Norwegian waters. Nevertheless, the introduction of the sail and developments in shipbuilding technology during the Viking Age in this setting should be regarded as improvements and adaptions in response to new uses rather than the result of revolutionary inventions (Barrett, 2010: 290).

While Denmark and continental Europe could largely be reached by sea passages in sight of land, the situation was quite different when crossing the open North Sea, where land could at times remain out of sight for days. Undertaking such a journey represented a far greater risk and required different skills and methods for estimating a ship's position and speed, such as latitude sailing achieved by using the sun and the stars to estimate direction. Successful landings and return voyages also involved knowledge of the northerly coastline and the behaviours of the North Sea currents to avoid drifting off course or arriving in hostile environments (Van de Noort, 2011: 141). This was very much a cognitive and personal experience: 'Memorized characteristics of coasts and waters, helped along by descriptive toponyms, were essential navigation aids, and pilots with local knowledge were always valuable' (Bill, 2008: 178-79). This practice is especially visible in Orkney and mainland Scotland, where a large number of Norse landmarks are named after their distinctive features visible from the sea (see Jesch, 2009 for examples). Many of these probably reflect 'the voyages that preceded settlement' and expresses the visual perception and geographical knowledge of the early Norse seafarers (Jesch, 2009: 78). Maritime-oriented communities, such as the Nordvegr, must have been especially receptive to the cognitive character of such environmental learning (Bill, 2008: 179; Van de Noort, 2011: 136-42).

The North Sea was very much a fluctuating and unpredictable force, which was given an 'other-than-human' agency with its own will, intentions, and emotions (Van de Noort, 2011: 231-33). After navigating this open seascape, the shortest and most direct route would take the Norwegian seafarers to the archipelagic waters of Shetland or Orkney, an area with persistent sea fogs, strong tidal currents, and many skerries and submerged reefs (Crawford, 1987: 19-23). Some of the dangers of sailing in northern waters are expressed in a number of eleventh to thirteenth century poems and sagas which describe the hazardous conditions facing seafarers, as well as the wrecks of ships and ships caught in storms (see Jesch,2015). For instance, the waters of the southern tip of Shetland are known as Dynrøst (roaring whirlpool), where tidal currents and strong winds have caused difficulties for many sailors. According to The Saga of Håkon Håkonsson, this is where Harald Olavsson, King of Man, and his bride Cecilia (the daughter of King Håkon Håkonsson) probably drowned when their ship was lost in AD 1248 (HHS: 295, chp. 261). The sea-farers who sailed south from Orkney to mainland Scotland also had to avoid the whirlpool Svelkie in the Pentland Firth, one of the most powerful tidal currents in the world. Many ships are known to have been lost there, possibly also that of Earl Håkon of Lade, which The Saga of Olaf Haraldsson tells us disappeared in this area when returning to Norway from England in AD 1029 (Crawford, 1987:21; OHS, chp. 184).

Without doubt, there must have been many other Scandinavians who met a similar fate along the coasts of Britain and Ireland, and the success of the earliest wave of Vikings must have depended on an intimate knowledge of the maritime landscape along the northern coastline. Wayfinding based on such cognitive mapping was not a skill acquired overnight, but emerged over time as a dynamic process where new information was gradually added in the minds of individuals (see Golledge, 2003: 31-33). Consequently, and following Rockman(2003: 4-5) and Sindbæk (2005: 30-33), as more knowledge was accumulated and natural features in the new land named and understood, the journey became routinized and the Insular land was gradually transformed from an unfamiliar territory to a socialized landscape.

A revised model of movement

Do the observations made above allow us to propose a revised model of movement and maritime communication for the earliest voyages to northern Britain and Ireland ?

First, regarding chronology, it is clear that we still lack the methods and conclusive archaeological material that would provide a fine dating of the earliest evidence of Viking North Sea crossings. However, it is argued here that the revised status of the 'reindeer comb evidence' should be incorporated into a current model of contact.

Second, concerning the importance of maritime communication, the distribution analysis has shown that most of the early Insular finds are found in areas along the Nordvegr, which indicates early maritime mobility and sometimes early links with urban networks further south in Scandinavia. This observation is in accordance with Sindbæk's (2011) and Baug et al.'s (2018) suggestions that pre-Viking journeys to such urban markets may have facilitated the movement of knowledge and improved maritime mobility, which ultimately led to the Viking expansion.

Finally, it has been argued here that the earliest recorded Viking attacks were only possible after a phase in which people along the Nordvegr had acquired a sufficient level of environmental knowledge to navigate in new seascapes and coastal environments. It also included the ability to re-locate places with accumulated wealth and resources after their initial discovery. As Purcell (2015, 54) puts it, the questions involved were:

"where the target sites were in relation to one another; how to get there; how long it would take; what supplies were necessary to conduct the attack and to ensure sufficient resources to complete the return journey, or indeed to make it to the next target".

When constructing a model of maritime movement, these observations may be formalized, although somewhat simplified, as a suggested process involving three mainstages:

  1. Information stage: Seafarers along the Nordvegr became increasingly informed about the Insular land on their journeys to markets further south in Scandinavia and continental Europe (around AD 750-770)
  2. Environmental learning: Consequently, this activity triggered maritime expansion, ultimately leading to voyages of exploration further west over the sea, where some seafarers gained first-hand experience with the sea routes and maritime landscape along northern Britain and Ireland (around AD 770-790)
  3. The earliest recorded raids: The attack on Lindisfarne and other targets off the coast of Ireland and Britain from AD 793 onwards could only have happened after a period of reconnaissance and preparation. This necessarily involved a level of a priori environmental knowledge and perhaps also a con-ceptual 'conquest' of the open seascape.

While the nature of the second phase of 'environmental learning' would leave few traces in the archaeological material, it also opens the possibility that some of the earliest Insular metalwork may have reached Norway as a result of such contact, presuming that this stage could involve small-scale exchange or even plunder. While clearly favouring the notion of pre-Lindisfarne communication, this model does not suggest that there was a long period of well-established migration and trade between Norway and the northern Insular areas from as far back as the early to mid-eighth century.

Through these early voyages, seafarers developed the necessary environmental knowledge, which, in addition to a range of social and political causes (see Barrett, 2010; Ashby, 2015; Baug et al, 2018 for recent summaries or discussions), must have been a vital precondition for the successful attacks from the last decade of the eighth century onwards. These experiences were materialized in distinctive foreign goods brought back to the Norse homelands, creating a visual distinction between families involved in overseas ventures and others within their community (Aannestad, 2015).

Concluding thoughts

While this article has proposed an interaction model which opens up a period of Pre-Viking contact, it is primarily with the first recorded raids from AD 793 onwards that the Viking activity on Insular land becomes visible. Indeed, much of our modern image of the earliest interaction across the North Sea is affected by the numerous references to the devastation and chaos caused by 'Gentiles', 'Northmen' and 'Danes' in the late eighth and early ninth centuries. However, the written sources concerning the 'earliest wave' of Viking activity give the impression of well-organized attacks where at least some of the crew members must have had first-hand experience with the sea route across the North Sea, the northerly coast-line and favourable locations to attack. As such, the success of the earliest raids was not purely the result of superior warfare techniques and ship technology, but also very much a matter of maritime mobility and environmental knowledge where open-sea crossings were encouraged by 'motivation and the related human factors such as people's knowledge of the sea, their skills, willingness to embrace risk and desire to explore' (Dugmore et al., 2010:213). As shown by the distribution of the earliest Insular finds from Norway, such motivation seems to have been particularly strong amongst the seafaring communities along the Nordvegr.

"Children of a One-Eyed God: Impairment in the Myth and Memory of Medieval Scandinavia" (2019) Michael David Lawson, East Tennessee State University at pages 27 to 35


The extant mythographic works place the mysterious and alluring figure of Óðinn in a position of preeminence among his fellow &ARlig;sir gods. These texts credit him as being the god of battle, the god of the slain, and the god of poetic inspiration and wisdom. He is known by many names, though he is most often identified with the auspicious title of 'All-Father' which denotes his status as chief among the recognized gods in Norse mythology. His appearance inspired fear, admiration, and reverence in Norse myth, as often times it was a prelude to a hero's blessing and other times their misfortune. His unique physical features unquestionably make him among the most easily distinguishable of the Norse gods. Apart from his solitary eye, Óðinn is almost always represented in contemporary artistic depictions with his twin raven companions, and his odd, eight-legged stallion Sleipnir. Ironically, his interactions within the tales of Norse mythology Óðinn frequently wears disguises when dealing with mortals and his fellow Æsir alike, but his true nature is always revealed to the reader by one of the many names he uses or his lone eye.

It is his missing eye that makes Óðinn such a paradigmatic figure in conceptualizing the Old Norse view regarding impairment. Annette Lassen, in her seminal work on the eyes and blindness in northern literature and mythology, states that:

"Some names refer to Óðinn as blind, some referring to blindfolded in battle, while a single title, 'Baleygr' or 'Den Båløjede', refers to Óðinn's blazing look."

In the mindset of the myth-makers, it was perfectly acceptable for the chief being in their belief system - coincidentally the god of battle - to have only one eye. As difficult as this notion may be for modern minds to conceptualize, injuries from warfare were emphatically recognized in Viking Age societies. When combat is mentioned in the Icelandic sagas, for example, individuals who survive oftentimes do so without a limb, hand, or foot.

But Óðinn's impairment does not occur during a battle, at least not a physical one. The god sacrifices his eye for something he deems far greater than sight. The Icelandic historian and statesman Snorri Sturluson, in the Gylfaginning portion of his thirteenth century Prose Edda, recounts the story of the All-Father's missing eye. Here, in pursuit of greater, supernatural knowledge, Óðinn seeks out the Well of Mímir, a shadowy figure - possibly of chthonic origins - who presides over a fount of immeasurable knowledge. Here, according to Snorri, Óðinn wishes to have adrink from Mímir's Well to tap into the power of wisdom that resides within its waters but cannot do so without a pledge:

"Under the root that goes to the Jötunaris the Well of Mímir. Wisdom and understanding are concealed there, and Mímir is the name of the well's owner. He is full of wisdom because he drinks of the well from the horn Gjallarhorn. There came All-Father and asked for one drink from the well, but he did not get this until he gave up one of his eyes as pledge."

The Gylfaginning does not specify whether this choice was a difficult one that the god wrestled with or whether his actions were immediate. It is also impossible to know whether his sacrifice was one made for his fellow Æsir or for his own selfish reasons. All that is known is that Óðinn plucks out his own eye and is then allowed a drink from the waters of wisdom within Mímir's Well.

… What may be observed by some as a deficiency, however, may not have been considered as such across the temporal and ethnic boundaries that exist when reconstructing the pre-Christian past of Scandinavia. Far from the personal tragedies that impairment is associatedwith today, Norse literature suggests a different view. While blindness was not a desirablesituation for an individual, it was not looked upon as a defect in the individual but rather as a potential danger to the community; a notion that is addressed in the story of Hoðr and Balder …. Blindness, in other words, did not determine an individual's worth so much as it made them a liability in the grander scheme of the group inwhich they lived. In societies like Iceland - where one's role within the community was paramount to the success or failure of the unit as a whole - blindness could pose a significant obstacle to overcome. It was, however, not cause enough to exclude such individuals. It simply meant they would need to adapt. Myth, or at least the conceptualization of mythic stories, may have influenced this mindset within the Scandinavian communities. In the Hávamál of the Poetic Edda, a long series of poetic platitudes commonly described as the words of Óðinn himself, the Scandinavian mentality toward impairment is outlined succinctly:

"The lame ride horses, the handless herd cattle, the deaf fight and win fame, being blind is better than burning (on a pyre), the dead are good for nothing."

This pragmatic approach toward individuals with mobility and sensory issues is unique in that it purportedly comes from the mouth of the highest of Norse deities.

By sacrificing such a critical faculty as his vision, Óðinn gains something of greater value. His conscious decision to limit his sight in the earthly world for divine knowledge and awareness explains the importance of sacrifice and that physical limitations rather than being viewed as abhorrent were often the result of sacrifice and bravery. Such a position on bodily impairment had long reaching implications in a warrior culture which produced its share of injured soldiers. As the eyes were often associated with masculinity, strength, and status, his trade of this symbolic element of his worth - as a man and as a leader - for a draught of the wisdom that flows from an older, chthonic source also signifies his position as a bridge between these two worlds, a location that is unique in Norse mythology and belongs only to him. He has paid a heavy price in return for the opportunity to drink from the Well of Mímir, as his loss of an eye would have rendered him at a disadvantage in the arena of combat; a place in which the principal god in a warrior culture would have difficulty justifying his position.

More than just a description of his physical body, Óðinn's singular eye signifies his personality and thereby his unquenchable search for more wisdom. His sacrifice of an eye for this wisdom is second-place to his reputation of possessing the keenest sight of the gods. By willingly giving up a critical earthly faculty he has gained a divine ability to see all. Óðinn is never criticized because of his impairment. In fact, the stories related to him emphasize that he has traded a mundane faculty for an ability of far greater social importance. His ability to use poetic language allows him to employ his wisdom as a bridge to both the liminal memories of the past and the present age. It also aligns those individuals who possessed a keen mind for poetry, particularly the Icelandic poets known as skalds, closely with the preternatural abilities of Óðinn. Such abilities overshadowed impairment due to their social importance and they likewise solidified Óðinn's station as the All-Father, the chief of the Æsir gods.

Impairment was a fact of life; therefore, individuals most likely found ways of adaptingto their condition within the social environment of their community. Further, the recurring theme within both the mythic and saga literature suggests that impairment precluded the tragic connotations that many modern writers transfix with the Middle Ages but instead associated the individual with the divine. Having an impairment made an individual marked and all great individuals bore this mark whether they be god or hero. For those with impairments, the link to the gods may have given them solace and a sense of importance within Norse societies. How true this may or may not have been to the everyday person in medieval Scandinavia is difficult to assess.

For medieval Scandinavians, falling in battle was nothing to call a tragedy, no more so than being wounded for the common good. If anything, this fate was much preferred if you were a male in Scandinavian society. Personal honour was paramount within the social order of the community. To not face one's responsibilities - to shirk a challenge - was considered níðingsverk - a cowardly act. This could result in a loss of favour and ideologically a loss of masculinity akin to social castration. Óðinn instead functions as an example of what can be achieved at a cost. He illustrates that poetic wisdom is not the exclusive purview of the sighted. The blind or the poor of sight can still add to the strength of the group and are not to be pitied but rather admired for their sacrifice. Likewise, injured soldiers can still contribute to the well being of their community despite their acquired impairments, as demonstrated in stories of other Norse gods.

"The Swine in Old Nordic Religion and Worldview" (2011) Lenka Kovárová at pages 125 to 127

… Another named boar which appears in the one of the sagas is called Sǫlvi, a name which both then and now is also used for people. It is noteworthy that there are no examples of sows having their own name, perhaps because they tend form part of a herd, while the boar tends to be the only male, thus standing out from the rest and gaining greater importance.

6.4. Swine in Place Names

Something else that suggests boars had more social importance is the fact that they appear in place-names and in aetiological accounts explaining how these names arose … There are many place-names in Europe bearing the names of swine. This, however, can hardly be seen as proof of a cultic role of the swine, because … like other animals, the swine played an important part in the daily lives of humans,and it is natural that people reflected this importance by naming places after them. Connecting place-names to possible cult practice is much easier when these names contain obvious cultic elements like hof, , lundr and so on, or the names of gods. In the case of animal place-names, however, the situation is more complicated because the animals also had other kinds of association within daily life …

Swine place-names can be found all over Germanic Europe. No attempt has been made to register them all here, because, as noted, their cultic role is very unsure. In England, several names have the prefix Ever-, such as Eriswell, which might originally be Everesvell, 'boar's stream' (Ekwall 1960, page 168). Yaverland was probably Everlant, which means 'land where boars are kept' (Ekwall 1960, page 543). Everdon and Eversden mean 'boar"s hill'; and Everley, 'boar"s wood' (Yorkshire). Other boar names are probably Eversholt, Everthorpe, Everton, Evercreech and Everdon (NTH)(Ekwall 1960, page 170). Other place-names of this kind include Eurebi/ Everby (DBY) which, like the previous place-names comes from eofor/jofurr (Fellows-Jensen 1968, page 158). To this list, one can add York (Jórvík, also derived from jofurr … The place name Runavík is found in the Faroe Island (Eysturoy), but it is unsure whether it is derived from the word runi (boar) (Bandle 1967, p. 430). In Germany, one finds place-names like Swinefurt and Ebersberg.

They might simply underline the fact that people kept pigs. In addition, some of these place-names might be named after a person who bears a name related to swine - names such as Jofurr, Galti and Gríss - as occurs in the case of some place-names from England, as in place-names with the component Evering- (meaning Eofor's people), which is present in the name Everingham, YKS meaning the Ham of Eofor's people. Another such place is Everington in BRK (the tūn of Eofor's people).

Among examples from other countries, the Faroese island Svínøy stands out. According to a folktale, it was originally a floating island which came to be fastened to the ocean floor by a swine. Kvideland and Sehmsdorf have noted that the motif of a floating island being fastened to the ocean floor by an animal, usually a pig, is also found in Norway. Another 'Swine Island' (Swona) can be found in Orkney. Indeed, it is of particular interest that the name for Orkney as a whole is derived from old Gaelic name 'Inci Orc' meaning the islands of the wild boar. It is noteworthy that Orkney also used to have a particular Christmas tradition connected to the boar. On December the 17th (called 'Sow-day' in Orkney), every family which had a herd of swine used to slaughter one of them. A similar practice is known in Yorkshire, which also formed part of the Danelaw: see Blind 1892-1896, page 101.

Other examples of swine appearing in aetiological legends can be found in Landnámabók … Iceland certainly has a high number of swine place-names, but it also has numerous place-names connected with other animals too. The swine place-names derive essentially from the words svín, gríss, gylta, goltr, galtar, sýr and purk Friðrik G. Olgeirsson mentions 163 contemporary place-names involving pig components (Friðrik G. Olgeirsson 2005, page 36). Nonetheless, it is likely that the number was different in the early history of Iceland.

According to Friðrik G. Olgeirsson, these names are first and foremost proof that pigs were kept all around Iceland. Nonetheless, it is possible that Svínafell in Eastern Iceland might have stood out and been of special importance. It is noteworthy that is very close to Freysnes,and in the sagas, is mentioned several times in connection with prophetic dreams … nonetheless, here as elsewhere some 'swine' place-names can be derived from people's names. For example, Gull-Þóris saga states that Galtardalur (in Króksfjörður) was named after a man called Galti.

Another group of place-names possibly related to swine are those derived from the component Saur-. The word probably used to have more meanings. Besides the meaning 'dirt' and 'excrement', it also had some sexual connotations. According to Barði Guðmundsson and, prior to him, GuðbranðurVigfússon, all the accounts mentioning pigs in the Íslendingasögur and Landnámabók are connected to places with element Saur-. According to Barði, this shows an original connection to the word Sýr, one of the names for Freyja … raising the possibility that these places are connected to the cult of Freyr and Freyja. Although there might be some reason to doubt some of the connections Barði makes, it seems that the Saur- sites used to be important, something which according to Barði Guðmundsson is proved by the fact that quite a high percentage of these place-names are near churches. Following the ideas of earlier scholars like Magnus Olsen, Barði suggests that people commonly built churches at old holy places. He notes that in Iceland, many of these places (37.5%) relate to Hof- place-names. He states that 13% of places with the component -fell had churches in them (Barði Guðmundsson 1959, page 130).

"What caused the Viking Age ?" (2008) James H. Barrett, McDonald Institute for Archæological Research, University of Cambridge at pages 671 to 685

This paper addresses the cause of the Viking episode in the approved Viking manner - head on - reviewing and dismissing technical, environmental, demographic, economic, political and ideological prime movers. The author develops the theory that a bulge of young males in Scandinavia set out to get treasure to underpin their chances of marriage anda separate domicile.


The Scandinavian diaspora of the late eighth to mid-eleventh centuries AD known as the Viking Age was both widespread in scale and profound in impact. Long-range maritime expeditions facilitated a florescence of piracy, trade, migration, conquest and exploration across much of Europe - ultimately extending to western Asia and the eastern seaboard of northern North America. This diaspora contributed to state formation and/or urbanism in what are now Ireland, Scotland, England, Russia and the Ukraine - not to mention within Scandinavia itself. It was one of the catalysts leading to fragmentation of the Carolingian empire and it created the semi-independent principality of Normandy.

As one of the last 'barbarian migrations' of post-Roman Europe, it is also among the best documented. Its study is thus uniquely important for an understanding of European history. It also provides good examples of three processes of relevance to the archaeology of the wider world: the potential impact of small-scale but highly militarised non-state communities on neighbouring 'complex societies', the development of transnational identities in a pre-capitalist world and the seaborne colonisation of islands. Studying the causes of the Viking Age is potentially as illuminating and complex as interpreting the decline of the Roman Empire.

Many discussions of the causes of the Viking Age have been conducted in contexts that are regional. Others address the problem within broad narratives. Yet others challenge the relevance of the Viking Age as a socio-economic watershed or a useful unit of analysis.

The hesitancy in some quarters to view the 'Viking' diaspora as meaningful may ultimately owe its roots to a reaction against the gross misuse of Viking Age archaeology as racist propaganda by the National Socialists and others between 1920 and 1945. Nevertheless, there is a problem to resolve, and to understand the early Middle Ages in Europe one must consider developments both within and between regions. Nasman (2000a) and Svanberg (2003) demonstrate that Scandinavian material culture was highly regionalised in the period under consideration.

Despite these practical and historical impediments, a small number of studies have sought to grapple with the causes of the Viking Age in holistic fashion, limiting the danger of information overload through varying combinations of generalisation and case study. Adopting this tradition, what follows combines an overview with more detailed consideration of early Viking Age (particularly late eighth- to early ninth-century) Scandinavian raiding in the west. It starts from the premise that cause must precede effect in time. This may be obvious, but the disproportionate abundance of evidence from the middle ofthe ninth century and later has often led scholars ofthe Viking Age to read history backwards, from the known to the unknown, potentially skewing our understanding of causal chains. Collectively, previous scholarship has considered the causes of the Viking Age in terms of one or more of the following determinisms:

  1. Technological
  2. Environmental
  3. Demographic
  4. Economic
  5. Political (the weakness of neighbouring empires and/or the centralisation of power within Scandinavia)
  6. Ideological

Each explanation combines these factors in differing configurations, creating a wide variety of possible models. It would be impractical to review the resulting historiography in a work of this length. Instead, this paper will return to first principles, the ingredients of the story of the Viking Age, briefly considering them in light of both present knowledge within 'Viking studies' (including archæology, history and related fields) and insights from the social sciences (specifically anthropology and sociology). In so doing it seeks to present a brief overview of existing wisdom, to challenge several problematic assumptions, to introduce a few new issues which have not yet received the attention they merit and to propose a new explanation.

Click here to view the author's references.

Technological determinism

Among the traditional 'causes' of the Viking Age, the demotion of naval technology and seafaring knowledge is perhaps the most surprising to the non-specialist. The high level of technological skill and social signalling embodied by boats and ships in Viking Age Scandinavia has been reinforced by all research since the first great ship-burial excavations of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. However, it is equally clear that large-scale seaborne raiding, conquest and/or migration could have emanated from Scandinavia long before, thus reducing the causative power of Viking ships.

Weapon sacrifices, at Nydam I (fourth century AD) in Denmark for example, indicate the long-range movement of large armies by boat during the Roman Iron Age. In the fifth century, ships of northern Germanic origin facilitated a scale of Anglo-Saxon influence on (and, based on DNA evidence, migration to) Britain that exceeded or equalled that of their Viking Age successors. Thus the question of ship technology, particularly developments of keel and sail, are not pivotal. It is now thought that sails may have been adopted in Scandinavia several centuries before the Viking Age in any case (Crumlin-Pedersen 2007).

If something meaningful did change in the late eighth century it is likely to be in how existing technology was employed, be it changes in tacking practices (Carver 1995) or a shift to 24-hour sailing (cf. McCormick 2001: 788). In this hypothetical eventuality, we could best interpret change as reflecting the motivation to travel further and quicker and thus as an effect of the Viking Age. In brief, ships capable of carrying warriors long distances are a necessary pre-requisite for the Viking Age, but clearly they did not 'cause' it.

Environmental determinism

A second old chestnut of limited relevance is climate, specifically the possible impact of the Medieval Warm Period (MWP). The problems here are the timing of the MWP itself and of putative climate-induced settlement expansion. Some climatological research is consistent with warming in the centuries leading up to the end of the first millennium AD. Conversely, other studies would place the MWP after the turn of the millennium and emphasise its regional variability. It has even been argued that the MWP never existed. Thus favourable climatic conditions may or may not have enhanced opportunities for Scandinavian settlement in Iceland (and later Greenland). Even if they did, the earliest evidence of Norse settlement in Iceland presently dates to the 870s. This is almost a century after the first certain raids of the early Viking Age (such as the infamous attack on Lindisfarne in 793). Greenland in turn was not settled by Scandinavian migrants until the end of the tenth century, with brief forays to the new world following shortly thereafter.

Demographic determinism

In more general terms, Scandinavia did share in the widespread European population and settlement boom of the end of the first millennium AD - a well-established phenomenon which may partly reflect environmental conditions. Thus the issue of climate merges into that of demography. But in its most simplistic form, that of nebulous 'population pressure', this too can be dismissed as a realistic cause of the Viking Age. The chronology of settlement expansion varies by the region in Scandinavia with some locations showing little change from the Roman Iron Age until economic crisis and plague in the fourteenth century. Nevertheless, in many areas forest clearance and settlement expansion is now known to have progressed during the course of the Viking Age, rather than preceding it. In parts of Norway, for example, it may well be characteristic of the end of the period.

Related to the issue of demography is a more implicit, but widely held, assumption that Viking Age settlement expansion entailed a mechanistic 'wave of advance' in which the Germanic-speaking peoples of Scandinavia slowly colonised neighbouring territories. The western diaspora can provide one example. It is commonly treated as a sequential process beginning with the Northern Isles of Scotland, from which it is presumed Scandinavians first operated as raiders in mainland Britain, Ireland and sometimes even continental Europe. After that came conquest and settlement, spreading to Ireland and ultimately - under the dynasty of Ímar/Ivar of Dublin and his cronies - to Anglo-Saxon England. The extreme version of this wave of advance model envisions the foundation of an early (or even pre-) Viking Age Scandinavian kingdom in Scotland, Laithlinn, which moved its base of operations to Dublin in the 840s. Although the second (Irish and English) chapter of this story is likely to be correct, the assumption of early Scandinavian settlement in Atlantic Scotland cannot yet be supported on the basis of reliable evidence.

The 'wave of advance' model is ultimately traceable to post-Viking Age Icelandic and Norwegian sources in which early pirate settlements in the Northern Isles were assumed to have existed. However, there is no evidence from settlement sites, graves, hoards or the documentary record to suggest that Scandinavian migrants were living in Atlantic Scotland prior to the mid-ninth century. Newly published 'early' radiocarbon dates from Viking Age settlements in the Northern Isles do not change this conclusion. None unambiguously pre-date the mid-ninth century. Marine reservoir effects from cooked fish, not to mention statistical chance, could easily account for the one anomalously early date from Norwick, Shetland. It was on carbonised food deposits adhering to a soapstone pot. Similarly, a single pre-ninth century date from phase 7.1 at Pool, 'may represent earlier residual material from a levelling surface'.

Weber's suggestion that pre-Viking Age combs from Orkney were manufactured using reindeer antler imported from Scandinavia has also now been re-evaluated. Several Orcadian combs of Pictish style were indeed probably manufactured using this raw material, but none of these can be demonstrated to pre-date the ninth century based on stratigraphy or absolute dating. In sum, there is no reason to think that Norse settlement in the Scottish isles was prior to the first documented over-wintering of Viking armies in Ireland (AD 841), England (850/1) and Frankia (852/3).

After this date, there is clear evidence for the transfer of information and objects around the Irish Sea. In the few cases where the chronology of this exchange can be established, however, Ireland often had precedence. One example is the presence of belt buckles of probable Irish manufacture in Scottish Viking Age graves. Another is the use of fairly standardised arm bands as a medium for storing silver bullion. These circulated widely in late ninth- and early tenth-century Ireland, only being adopted (in the altered style known as 'ring-money') in Atlantic Scotland in the mid-tenth century. In cases where geographically 'Scottish' styles from Dal Riata or Pictland may have influenced Irish fashion, such as the adoption of bossed penannular brooches in the late ninth century, the chronology post-dates Scandinavian settlement in both regions.

Lastly, there is now a limited quantity of evidence for human migration patterns from isotopic analysis of teeth from Viking Age burials in Atlantic Scotland. It too may imply the redistribution of population around the 'Insular' world, rather than direct immigration from Scandinavia.

Starting from this archæological source material (rather than the assumptions of much later medieval texts), it may be prudent to reconstruct a scenario consistent with how migration has been observed to unfold cross-culturally. Rather than spreading gradually from a source population, migrants move along networks. The nodes of these networks are places which have either what migrants seek (e.g. perceived economic opportunities) or information and support (often from related prior migrants) to help them find it. Thus distances are conceptualised in terms of social space rather than physical geography potentially leading to 'leap-frog' patterns of mobility. This phenomenon is observed in an increasingly transnational twentieth- to twentyfirst century world, and its potential relevance to prehistoric societies is corroborated by archæological examples from as far afield as the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.

In the earliest decades of the Viking Age the objective of short-term Scandinavian migrants was portable wealth, which was probably more abundant in Ireland's ubiquitous monasteries (including Iona in Irish speaking Dal Riata, Argyll) and in mainland Pictland than in the less densely settled islands of northern Scotland. This is not to say that there was no treasure in the north but the relative difference must have been substantial. Only later, in the period of settlement, would the Northern Isles have been equally relevant destinations for seafaring Scandinavians. The recent suggestion that early medieval Ireland was impoverished is not really relevant here, partly because this judgement is not vis-à-vis Atlantic Scotland and partly because the case is overstated. It relies largely on a comparison with Denmark which omits differences in cultural practices surrounding the deposition of elite metalwork in each region. Unlike Denmark, metalwork was first routinely consigned to water or earth in Ireland after the Viking Age had started at which point the island was demonstrably wealthy.

In support of the 'leap-frog' hypothesis, the distances to travel in early medieval Northern Europe were small in terms of sailing and rowing time particularly in comparison with contemporary land transport. To provide just one example, the sea voyage from Norway to Ireland probably took less than two weeks based on medieval sources e.g. Benediktsson 1968: 33, regarding the indirect route via Iceland. Early bases in the Northern Isles of Scotland were not an essential precondition for the Viking Age as we know it.

It remains for future studies to fully address the implications of the 'leap-frog' hypothesis for the migrant experience in the west. It would allow the possibility that Norse and Irish adventurers met in the Northern Isles or the Faeroes in the years leading up to the ninth century, a contact providing knowledge of the riches that lay in the Celtic monasteries. The theory may also alter the traditional model of Scandinavian immigration to Atlantic Scotland which envisions a pioneer stage of contact, a consolidation stage of settlement and an establishment stage in which indigenous material culture was replaced in one way or another. If the Irish Sea (a traditional centre of cultural influence for Atlantic Scotland) became a 'Norwegian lake' early in the Viking Age, perhaps Scandinavian material culture was adopted before settlement reversing the traditional order.

In contrast with the western story, it could be argued that the eastern Scandinavian diaspora was a wave of advance, consistent with an underlying demographic imperative. It ultimately involved the sequential foundation of Staraja Ladoga, Novgorod and Kiev. Even in this case, however, one sees a 'leap-frog' between the Scandinavian kingdoms of the Baltic and the first trading settlement on Lake Ladoga in Russia (with its access to both furs and trade routes to the east). For example, Scandinavian influenced burials seem to have first appeared in intevening regions such as Estonia later in the Viking Age, during the tenth century.

The marriage imperative

Thus far, I have minimised the relevance of settlement expansion and 'population pressure' to the origins of the Viking Age. It may be, however, that other aspects of demography merit further attention. Critical among these are the issues of gender and infanticide. It has long been established that much Viking Age loot of Insular origin (that is from Ireland or Britain) ultimately found its way into female Viking Age graves in western Norway. It has also been proposed that Iron Age female grave-goods in Scandinavia may well represent 'bride-wealth' in at least a general sense ofthe term. Put together, one must ask: were the earliest Viking raids motivated to acquire such goods (cf. Burstr¨om 1993 regarding Gotlandic silver hoards)? Elsewhere in early medieval Europe young aristocratic men often served as warriors in the retinues of others - or alternatively formed military brotherhoods - until they married and established their own households. Based on this analogy (and later medieval Norse sources) it is easy to imagine participation in raiding parties as part of a Scandinavian male's life cycle in the early Viking Age. On a comparative anthropological canvas perhaps plunder, like short-term urban labour, could 'provide the cash needed to succeed in the rural context to accumulate bride-price, provide a dowry, or buy a home.

This hypothesis merits further attention in the context of recent work on 'youth bulge' theory, which posits that warfare is often a corollary of societies in which young men represent a disproportionately large element of the population. In these cases there are simply not enough status roles to go around, leading to violent competition. Such a demographic imbalance could occur for many reasons, but selective female infanticide is an obvious candidate in the context of pre-Christian Scandinavia. This interpretation differs from nebulous demographic determinism in that it depends on the internal structure of the population, rather than its size, and on the social practices which might have created it. Why might this issue have become critical in the late eighth century? One possibility is that increasingly militaristic competition associated with Scandinavian state formation (an issue to which I will return below) led to a preference for sons over daughters.

Economic determinism

Turning to urbanism and trade, arguments that emphasise their relevance to the Scandinavian diaspora are probably unassailable in very general terms. They do, however, merit reconsideration in detail. Western Europe's proto-urban centres, the so-called wics, boomed in the 'long eighth century' and became frequent targets of Viking raids by the 830s to 840s. Moreover, a trickle of silver from the Abbasid Caliphate first reached Scandinavian settlements in north-western Russia and the Baltic in the last two decades ofthe eighth century, quickly turning into a flood. One of the earliest examples is a hoard of Oriental coins dating between 749 and 786 found near the Swedish influenced settlement of Staraja Ladoga. Duczko (2004: 62) describes the resulting expansion of Scandinavian trade in the east as 'silver fever'. The ebb and flow ofthis wealth has been viewed as a major driver of events in Viking Age Europe since at least the writing of Henri Pirenne. Nevertheless, within this intellectual tradition opinion differs as to whether it was the presence of Arabic silver, or periodic reductions in its availability, which fuelled Scandinavian raiding in the west.

Disentangling the threads of these arguments, it is possible to make two relevant observations. Assuming that news could travel quickly in early Viking Age Europe, it is entirely possible that the resulting gold rush mentality (Duczko's 'silver fever'), spread immediately to western Scandinavia. The earliest raids, often on monastic treasuries, in Britain, Ireland and (to a lesser degree) the Frankish empire could well have been the result. If so, however, one must imagine that the acquired wealth was for Scandinavian consumption rather than transhipment to the Islamic world. Based on Arab sources, the Rus (Scandinavian traders) brought furs and swords to Baghdad in the ninth century. Neither of these were major products of Britain or Ireland. Slaves first entered the record of Scandinavian exchange with the caliphate in the early tenth century. However, there were western markets for western slaves and eastern sources were available to meet eastern demand. Early Viking Age Scandinavia was part of a world-system, but it would probably be an exaggeration to speculate that monks captured at Lindisfarne in AD 793 ended their days in Iraq.

Secondly, the beginning of Viking Age raiding in Western Europe was not focused on urban centres, nor even on urbanised regions. The earliest targets were mainly monasteries and other settlements in rural areas of northern England, Scotland and Ireland. The actors in these raids were probably also of predominately rural background, if the traditional interpretation that they were mostly from western Norway remains valid (e.g. Wamers 1998). In short, the Viking Age began as a rural rather than an urban phenomenon. It may thus also have had little to do with targeting southern North Sea and western Baltic trade which was most intensive in the shipping lanes between wics at sites such as York, Dorestad, Ribe, Hedeby and Birka based on the distribution of eighth- to ninth-century coin and glass finds. In the southern North Sea, for example, the earliest direct archæological evidence for 'Viking' activity in the Carolingian empire is a silver hoard (Westerklief I) deposited around 850 in what is now the Netherlands. As noted above, moreover, historical sources indicate that raiding did not become common in this urbanised zone until the 830s to 840s despite being routine in the rural north and west since 793. Early ninth-century records regarding the southern North Sea are mostly of successful defence against pirates, rather than the reverse. If western trade played a role in the earliest decades of the Viking Age, the mechanism must have been indirect.

Political determinism

Past arguments based on political determinism entail both external 'pull' and internal 'push' factors. Traditionally, weaknesses in the polities targeted by Scandinavian raiders have been interpreted as one of the most important political 'pull' factors. Like North Sea trade, however, this argument may merit rethinking. The problem is partly chronological. The episodes of political unrest which are known to have attracted Viking armies to one side or the other of the English Channel began decades into the ninth century. The earliest recorded Viking raids were paradoxically contemporary with the existence of strong hegemonic powers in both Anglo-Saxon England (Offa's Mercia) and continental Europe (Charlemagne's Frankish empire). The lure of political meltdown is probably equally irrelevant to eighth- and ninth-century Scotland and Ireland, albeit for different reasons. Both regions were subdivided into many small competitive kingdoms - chiefdoms in comparative terminology - which must have had much in common with contemporary polities in Norway. It is hard to imagine that they offered a softer target than neighbouring communities at home.

Turning to 'push' factors, the observation that the Scandinavian diaspora began in a time of powerful neighbours leads directly to one of the longest-standing and most convincing ingredients in the Viking Age recipe. That is the centralisation of power within Scandinavian kingdoms and the diverse consequences of this process. Like 'wave of advance' assumptions, this idea owes its ultimate origin to medieval Scandinavian sources (which attribute Norse settlement in the west to the partly fictitious unification of Norway under Harald Fairhair). However, it remains ubiquitous to the present day. In the words of Bjørn Myhre regarding the whole of the Scandinavian Iron Age, of which the Viking Age is the final subdivision:

"The history of Scandinavia in the Iron Age is an example of changes of cultural and political relations on the borders of an empire, from egalitarian tribal societies to chiefdoms and petty kingdoms. This development was a consequence of influence and pressure exerted from the major centres ofcontinental Europe and of the positive actions of local political players and entrepreneurs operating in relation both to more distant centres and to their neighbouring societies."

The influence of powerful neighbours, particularly the Carolingian empire, took many forms. Firstly, they provided models to emulate in terms of both centralised power and the potential role of plunder in maintaining a military following. Secondly, they prompted an unambiguous need for defensive political centralisation. Thirdly, piracy was a viable option for contenders in the realpolitik of the resulting competition within and between elite Scandinavian dynasties. Lastly, the west provided havens and military training grounds for exiles - some of whom reverted from client game-keepers to free-booting poachers.

To understand these processes in concrete terms it is worth briefly considering the perpetrators of Viking raids. Many remained nameless. Some, however, entered the historical record as recognised actors. There were leaders without royal associations, such as Saxolb who died in Ireland in 837. There were royal deputies, such as Tomrair of Laithlinn who died with 1200 others in Ireland in 848 . There were exiled members of royal dynasties, such as Harald of Denmark who participated in Carolingian civil war in 841. Lastly, if one accepts Godfrid of Denmark's Frisian campaign of 810 as 'Viking' activity (I would not), there were reigning kings themselves.

All warriors in early medieval Europe were of elite status. To bear arms was to be a participant in politics. Within this broad social category, however, Viking raids would appear to have bolstered the treasuries of many different kinds of men. This applied to the relative status of leaders, but also to their crews. At one end of the scale, wealth could be acquired to marry and establish a household as already discussed. At the other, wealth and its redistribution to a military retinue was the basis of chiefly and royal power. The role of raids probably escalated along this scale during the first five decades of the Viking Age. Godfrid aside, the participation of royal deputies and dynasts noted above is first recorded in the 840s. The evidence (such as it is) of fleet sizes tells the same story, rising from three at the end of the eighth century (Portland), to 13 in 820 (northern and western Frankia) to two fleets of 60 in 837 (Ireland).

Heightened competition within Scandinavia may also have led to the freeing of slaves to cultivate new land, creating a group of free men seeking 'an opportunity to win wealth and reputation'. Alternatively, it has been argued that the expansionistic military and ecclesiastical policies (including early missions into Scandinavia) of the Christian kingdoms of Western Europe may have inspired an ideologically driven reaction among the pagan elites of the north.

Ideological determinism

Many of the arguments summarised above regarding political centralisation are well established by contemporary archæological and historical evidence. Others, such as Bjørn Myhre's 'pagan reaction' model, Dagfinn Skre's 'slavery hypothesis' and the 'gendered demography' theory proposed in this paper must remain more controversial (all having been offered in heuristic fashion). Their value lies in focusing attention on possible social factors behind the Viking Age Scandinavian diaspora. These are likely to be critical in a society where religion, mentality and warfare were inextricably linked.

Pursuing social causation further, two facets of Scandinavian ideology must have played an important role in the highly militarised and risky context of the Viking Age diaspora: honour and fatalism. Without deeply seated beliefs in duty and predestination - and the iron hand of peer pressure - it is difficult to imagine how crews could have been recruited for journeys from which return was doubtful throughout the Viking Age. Risks were manifold and manifest - from shipwreck and disease to violent death in battle. A wide range of primary sources (western, Arabic and Scandinavian) leave us in no doubt that many men did not survive their expeditions. To grasp why people were willing to embark on these high-risk enterprises it is worth citing Price's (2002: 53) evaluation of religious belief in Viking Age Scandinavia:

"We are left with a sobering conclusion, which is that the Vikings created one of the few known world mythologies to include the pre-ordained and permanent ruin of all creation and all the powers that shaped it, with no lasting afterlife for anyone at all. The cosmos began in the frozen emptiness of Ginnungagap, and will end in fire with the last battle. Everything will burn at the Ragnarok, whatever gods and humans may do. The outcome of our actions, our fate, is already decided and therefore does not matter. What is important is the manner of our conduct as we go to meet it. The psychological implications of this and other aspects of the Norse 'religion' bear thinking about."

Nevertheless, there is no reason to think that beliefs in honour and fate were unique to Scandinavia, or to the Viking Age. They probably characterised most of 'Barbarian' Europe for much of the first millennium AD and (in places) beyond. A mentality geared for war is thus only a precondition for the Viking Age diaspora - at least until convincing evidence for a dramatic change in Scandinavian world view can be established for the eighth century.


This brief survey of the causes of the Viking Age has sought to alter received wisdom in several ways. The Scandinavian diaspora was not a product of technological, climatic or economic determinism. Nor did it result from 'overpopulation' or the lure of weak neighbours. Instead, bands of 'surplus' young men (perhaps resulting from selective female infanticide) in need of bride-wealth may have set out in search of treasure. As has long been recognised, they were joined by would-be chieftains, royal deputies and exiles seeking wealth to prevail in the face of increasing competition within Scandinavia. These motives combined with a fatalistic mentality to create what we observe as the beginning of the Viking Age. It may be unrealistic to pinpoint the spark that ignited this explosive cocktail. Nevertheless, one well-trodden option is the sudden availability of Abbasid coinage in the east and western Scandinavia's efforts to find a comparable source of wealth. Another is a hypothetical meeting of Irish and Norse on the Faeroe Islands opening a route to the monastic riches of the Irish Sea region. It is enough to say that to explore the causes of the Viking Age one must give equal emphasis to sweeping processes of the longue durée and rapid, contingent, developments. Three ship-crews at Portland between 786 and 802 could not have anticipated that most of Anglo-Saxon England would be conquered by Viking armies in the 870s. Nevertheless, they were part of the causal chain that led to this eventuality and many others.

"Thorstein of the mere; a saga of the Northmen in Lakeland" (1895) William Gershom Collingwood Chapter 6 at pages 30 to 38

CHAPTER VI: Of Furness folk a thousand years since

The winter wore and the summer came and Eadward still ruled the land in peace. But about hay-harvest there were rumours, at which Swein nodded to his wife as one who says "You see I was right". And when hay-time was well passed, came people from over the fell bidding him to a meeting at Ulfar's Lund.

Now this Ulfar, of whom we spoke before, had land on the brink of the fells where they met the low country, about an hour's journey to the southward of Greenodd. He was an old man, and he had been a chieftain formerly, and was a man of worth even now, and a stickler for old times and the old laws.

Near his 'town' (as we still call hereabouts any cluster of dwellings though it be nothing like a city) and between it and the waterside, there was a broad mound, not so high, but standing by itself from which could be seen a great ring of country all around, across the firth, Cark and Cartmel way, and all the Sandgate, that is the road across the sands of Leven, and whosoever was coming and going, for good or ill and down the coast to Conishead, that was the king's seat, where the York kings had their folk to take tax of the iron-workers and mines and then again west-ward to Pennington, where the Pennings lived.

They were an ancient family of English kin long ago settled there, and busied chiefly in getting red iron ore out of the iron pits on their land, and smelting it and forging it. They were great smiths, and used charcoal in their furnaces or bloomeries as we call these old works. The charcoal was got from the woods that in old times covered all the country but by now these Pennings and their people (editor's note: 'Penn's people' - Penn + ings) had cleared a deal of ground. There was the Swartmoor between their town and the old road, called so, no doubt, from the cutting and coaling that had gone to clear it. And so much iron they smelted and forged into weapons and tools, pots and pans, and iron-ware of all sorts, that they were glad to sell it to the merchants who came in ships up the firth. When Ulfar came, at first they were angry, and fought with him but when they found that for all their smith's cunning they could never give him the smith's stroke, as the saying is, they came round to the mind of king Donal's counsellors that Ketel told of. They made peace with Ulfar, and found that he was an honest man and abiding by his word. When he offered to take their ironmongery and sell it for them, better than the cowpers who had come before, they were glad of it, and did all the brisker business in his company and in the end they settled down into good neighbours and friends.

When the Northmen came into Hougun, that is the country we call Furness, beside the Pennings they found a few English and some Welsh here and there. There were Welsh in the low land over against Walney, and Rhos they called the meadow-land thereabouts. There were already villages between that and Dalton and up to Broughton on the Duddon, and churches there, and priests, no doubt but such as heard little of any English bishops, or what we should call government whether of church or state. Across at Cartmel the land and all the Welsh that were on it had long ago been given to York Minster but Furness was a bit of that broad debatable ground over which the tide of invasion flowed from age to age and ebbed back again, just like the sea upon Morecambe shores. As time went on, here a piece of sand was fully reclaimed, and there a piece of land was swallowed up by the tide, so that it is hopeless now to seek the true boundaries either of the people or of the place so many years ago - we can only pick out here and there an English or a Welsh name among the Norse.

But when the Northmen came they took the snuggest places for shelter and for safety, as we said, from the great fleets of Harald and Alfred. They always wanted a good landing spot for their flat-bottomed boats, so that when summer came, between sheep-shearing and corn harvest, they might make use of their spare time by pushing out to sea and doing a little quiet trade, or may be at times you might call it 'raid', up and down the coasts of the Irish Sea, and so they went on farming and seafaring, turn about, and picked up a better living the harder they worked at both.

Beside Ulfar there settled others of the Northmen along the coast. There would have been Raven at the south point of Foreness, from whom we call Rampside and Ramsey. Beyond Barr-ey, that is Barley island there is Orm's Gill, and round about it the villages into which his folk spread; Hawcott, the high cottage; Sowerby, the muddy farm; Sandscale, the shed by the sand; and so forth. Then up the Duddonfirth there is Roanhead, that is to say the headland with the grove of trees, at one end of the Roman road that goes by Dalton and Lindal to Conishead and Bardsea, which again is, in the language of the Northmen, as recorded in king William's Domesday book, Barehead's-edge, and doubtless a place of ancient inhabitation. Then, up the Duddon again, there is Dunnerholm the wild ducks' islet, a fine spot for a stronghold; and opposite to it Mealholm, Sandy isle, where in after times Millom castle was built. A little higher is Arnold's-by and Wolveswater, or Ulfa, as they called the river Duddon, and round about them many a Norse thwaite.

After a while, from these first settlements on the coast, land was taken up inbank by the families and followers of the first viking settlers. Around Ulfar's town there were Rolf's seat, and Asmund's lea, and Hauk's vale, and Mani's riggs. In the lower land across the Swarthmoor there is one Saxon spot, namely Eadgar's lyth, and outlying farms with Norse names such as Bolton, Stainton, Scales and Bousfield. Urswick, maybe means nothing but 'stone walls' and Glassertun the beck town below; and on the coast hard by is Aldingham and its Motehill where some Saxon thane had dwelt in bygone times. Some say the Northmen afterwards used it for their Althing, and so gave it the name it keeps, though of this there is no other record than the ancient name Aldhingham, and the burial place of some Thing-priest of theirs hard by, at the Godi's barrow.

Now you must have patience for a while to hear a word about these Motehills, and Things, and what was meant by a Godi.

Of all the Northmen in Furness our tale tells that Ulfar was the chief, both because he was a man of repute to begin with, and an early comer, and because he had got wealth from his trading and shipping iron to all parts. Being as we said a stickler for the old laws, Ulfar made a sacrificing place on that mound near his town among the trees that grew upon it. He set up an altar to worship Thor in that grove, and called it his Lund. To the feasts of the Lund he bade his neighbours and they were glad to come, not only for the worship, and to be on good terms with the gods, but because there was a chance of meeting one another, and talking over their affairs. So many came and so long they stayed, as folk who had a good way to travel and were loth to return in a hurry, that around about the Lund they built booths to lodge in, and set up tents. Some brought wares to sell, and others started games and wrestling-matches so that it was quite like a fair, at the great feasts after Yule and after sheep-shearing, and after corn-harvest, the seasons that stand for Ulverston fair to this day.

When anyone had a quarrel with his neighbour and there had been manslaughter or other misdoing, since there was no king to do justice they brought the case to Ulfar at one of these feasts, and he judged it according to the use and wont of the Northmen so that Ulfar was called their Godi, or chief and priest. Over in Dunnerdale, folk would meet in the same manner at Folksfield which is named like the Folksdale by the Tynwald in Man and in Kentdale Sigurd had his holy place at Sigurd's Horgr, the spot we now call Sizergh and in every dale there was some meeting place of which we have for the most part either the name or the spot to point to.

After a while, the people from these little meeting-places or Things, as they called them, found reason why they must come together into greater meetings, or Althings. And they held the Althing first in one place and then in another and last of all, if our guess tell truth, after the ravaging of Cumberland by King Ethelred when the men of the Morecambe coast were cut off from their kindred in the north, they shifted their meeting place southward, and used the Saxon Motehill for the Althing of Hougun, being fashioned to hand, and plain round about, and thereto the midmost spot for the Thingmen to come at within the borders of the king of England, in the country between the Cumberland fells and the Kibble, namely the district which was then known as Amounderness. But this is out of our tale.

Well, as summer was drawing on, Swein was bidden to a Lund feast and took boat and landed at the Hummerside and went up to the Lund. There men were all talking of the new king, and what should be done about him. For Eadward was now dead and Athelstan his son reigned in his stead a stirring man, and not one to let the fire smoulder under his feet. The news was that Sigtrygg of York - Sihtric he is called by the English - had marched out as soon as the old king was gone but Athelstan was before-hand, and met him at Tamworth in the March, and there they made peace, and Athelstan gave Sigtrygg his sister Eathgita to wife, and confirmed him in his kingdom.

"And Ragnwald the viking, what of him ?" asked Swein.

Nobody knew - some said he was gone to France, some said he was killed, anyway he was out of the road by this time, and Sigtrygg was now head king over all the Danelaw. These great kings being at peace there was no longer any chance of a rising, not that it mattered much to the Northmen hereabouts, but they were all good fighting men as well as good farmers and merchants. A summer without war was a season lost, to their way of thinking. So they went home again grumbling and the next winter nothing happened, but that at Greenodd, Thorstein grew too big for his cradle, and began to walk and talk.

"Naming the Landscape in the Landnám narratives of The Íslendingasögur and Landnámabók" (2012) Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough, Saga-Book of the Viking Society 36 at pages 79-101

… I take my cue particularly from scholars such as Ingold (1993), Tilley (1994) and Bender(2002), who adopt a broadly phenomenological approach to the meaning of landscape as something 'lived in and through … and not just something looked at or thought about' (Tilley 1994, 26). Rejecting the unconsidered perception of landscape as a primarily visual, literally 'picturesque' phenomenon, they emphasise the temporal and cultural multiplicity of landscapes and the role they play in enabling cultures 'to move towards a sense of place and belonging … [as] they creatively work the past in a volatile present' (Bender 2002, 107). Place-names and the process of naming the land itself are vital parts of this creative engagement with thelandscape, for, as Christopher Tilley notes (1994, 18):

"by the process of naming places and things … they become captured in the social discourses and act as mnemonics for the historical actions of individuals and groups … In a fundamental way names create landscape."


In the saga landnám narratives, the important process of anchoring the settlers to their new country through land-naming strategies begins once the voyagers have reached Iceland. A pattern of place-naming soon emerges, such that the names can be divided according to whether they signify geographical/natural features of the land or the names of settlers. Such place-names can record the perceptions of the first settlers in the geographical landscape - such as Hvítá 'White River' - but there are also names linked to the ownership of land - for instance Sǫkkólfsdalr, 'Sǫkkólfr's Valley' - with both naming strategies enabling the settlers to foster a strong identification with the topography.

The account in Egils saga of Skallagrímr's land-naming is a good place to begin, for in this protracted episode he is depicted naming the natural features of the land, thus bringing it into his own frame of reference, and therefore control, by bestowing identity upon it. Andakíll 'Ducks' Inlet', Andakílsá 'Ducks' River' and Álptanes 'Swans' Ness' are all said to be named for the ducks and swans that the settlers find there (chapter 28), while once Skallagrímr has actually settled the land, the deeper connection he forges with it by planting crops is reflected in the place-name, for

"þar lét hann hafa sæði ok kalla at Ǫkrum. Eyjar lágu þar út fyrir, er hvalr fannskí, ok kǫlluðu þeir Hvalseyjar."

"he planted crops there and had it named Akrar [Fields]. Islands lay there offshore, where a whale was found, and they called them Hvalseyjar [Whale Islands]." (EsS, 75)

Reading this, a cynical reader might suspect that such place-names were a convenient way of claiming ownership over the fertile fields and whaling potential of the area. The linking of the narrative of Skallagrímr's landnám to the place-names ensured that future generations who claimed descent from this landnámsmaðr would also have access to such resources. It is therefore noteworthy that a number of scholars have drawn attention to the tradition of Skallagrímr's 'monster land-claim' in the literary corpus, which also occurs in the Hauksbók and Sturlubók redactions of Landnámabók, perhaps influenced by the inflated land-claims of Egils saga …

Subsequently, Skallagrímr's naming of the river system traces the physical geography of the area through a process of semantic 'mapping', creating a visually vivid, narratively coherent impression of the topography (EsS, 74-75):

"Skallagrímr kannaði land upp um herað; fór … síðan með ánni fyrir vestan,er hann kallaði Hvítá, því at þeir fǫrunautar hǫfðu eigi sét fyrr vǫtn þau, erór jǫklum hǫfðu fallit; þótti þeim áin undarliga lit … Fóru þeir yfir á þá ok enn upp með Norðrá; sá þá brátt, hvar in litla áin fell ór gljúfrum, ok kǫlluðuþá Gljúfrá … varð þá enn brátt á, sú er þvers varð, fyrir þeim ok fell í Hvítá; þá kǫlluðu þeir Þverá."

"Skallagrímr explored the region's uplands … following the western bank of the river, which he named Hvítá [White River] because he and his men had never seen water from a glacier before and thought it had a strange colour … Then they crossed the river and continued upstream along Norðrá [North River] and soon saw that the little river flowed out of a chasm, so they called it Gljúfrá [Ravine River] … again they soon came across another river that crossed their path and joined Hvítá, and they named it Þverá [Cross River]."

The passage demonstrates how Skallagrímr takes control over the land and brings it into his own frame of reference by naming it. Once again the actual process of naming seems to be to some extent a later rationalisation, not least because it is unlikely that colonists from western Norway would never have seen glacial melt-water before.

Elsewhere in the saga, place-names are linked to stories of other early settlers, so that the spot nú kallat Brákarsund 'now called Brák's Sound' is linked to the story of the servant woman Brák who is killed by Skallagrímr (EsS, 102). Such names are not named directly by or for the landnámsmenn themselves but they may still feature in the tales of how these place-names came about, which are connected vividly to the landscape once again. In the case of Brák, having deflected Skallagrímr's berserkr fury from his young son Egill, she is pursued by him along the outward shore of Digranes until fóru þau svá í útanvert Digranes; þá hljóp hon út af bjarginu á sund 'they reached the edge of Digranes; then she leapt off the edge of the cliff and swam' (EsS, 101-02). Not even this can save her, however, for the saga tells us that Skallagrímr throws a great stone after her, which lands between her shoulders and kills her.

Similarly, the reason for the name of the promontory Einbúanes is given, physically placing Oddr in the landscape at the foot of the mountain (EsS, 75):

"Odd einbúa setti hann við Gljúfrá at gæta þar laxveiðar; Oddr bjó undir Einbúabrekkum; við hann er kennt Einbúanes."

"He placed Oddr the Hermit beside Gljúfrá [Ravine River] to guard the salmon-fishing there; Oddr lived at the foot of Einbúabrekkur [Hermit's Slopes]; Einbúanes [Hermit's Promontory] is named after him."

It is interesting to note that Skallagrímr is said to be responsible for placing Oddr by Gljúfrá to guard the salmon; although the place-names link the landscape to the hermit's presence there (and there may be a glimmer of truth in this), the narrative uses the place-name as a stepping-stone to link Skallagrímr to the land once again. Perhaps someone who claimed descent from him in the later medieval period was particularly concerned with the lucrative business of salmon fishing, and wanted to stake his claim to the river through the supposed authority of his illustrious landnámsmaðr ancestor.

… Thomas Bredsdorff has arguedthat the sagas can be counted among the narrow corpora of literature that concern themselves with performative modes of expression, highlighting language and its power to make the world rather than simply report it (2007,36). Such a narrative strategy creates the impression that Ingimundr's territory has been delineated and his claim to the land secured - across time as well as space - through his very utterance of the place-name.

Having landed in Iceland, Ingimundr sees two rams running down an uninhabited hillside and declares:

"Þat mun vel fallit, at þessi fjǫrðr heiti Hrútafjǫrðr"

"It seems proper that this fjord should be called Hrútafjǫrðr [Rams' fjord]".

Next, upon reaching a gravel bank and finding a board newly washed ashore, he continues in the same vein (Vs, 39):

"Þat mun ætlat, at vér skylim hér ørnefni gefa, ok mun þat haldask, ok kǫllum eyrina Borðeyri".

"It must be intended that we should give this place a name - one that will endure - and we will call the bank Borðeyrr" [Board Bank].

In both instances the naming of the landscape of his new home is something that he seems to be compelled to do by the same higher powers that directed his steps to this new land (the theme of the settler's destiny lying in Iceland is prominent in this saga), particularly in the case of Borðeyrr. Here, the place-naming motif is combined with an echo of the widespread landnám trope of the high-seat pillar, which is cast overboard as the voyagers near Iceland in order to guide them to the place where they will settle. Vatnsdœlasaga's landnám narrative has a particular preoccupation with names that will last, as Ingimundr emphasises (mun þat haldask), and later in Húna-vatnsós he gaf þar ǫll ørnefni, er síðan hafa haldisk 'designated all the place-names, which have lasted since then' (Vs, 45).

As the landnám narrative unfolds, and the area is settled by Ingimundr and his companions, the land-naming process continues to be descriptive. Ingimundr chooses the name Viðidalr, 'Willow Valley, because it is overgrown with willow, and names Sauðadalr. 'Sheep Valley', for its ovine inhabitants. Later on, there are additional place-names that have similar stories linked to plant and animal life, although Ingimundr is not said to name these directly, the stories are vividly comic, including the men chasing a pig into Svínavatn, 'Swine Lake', which then grows so tired swimming that its trotters fall off before it reaches the other side (ch.15). As in Egils saga, a smaller, second layer of place-names is linked specifically to early settlers, such as Þórdísarholt, named for Ingimundr's daughter, born there on the way to their new home (chapter 15). Unlike Vatnsdœla saga, Laxdœla saga does not depict the settlers naming the land directly, even though the saga opens with the landnám of the matriarch Unnr in djúpúðga, 'the Deep-minded', one of the most important settlers described in the saga corpus. Instead, characters are said to settle in locations that are automatically given their names, as in the account of Unnr's landnám, which lists many beneficiaries and the regions given to them: Sǫkkólfi gaf hon Sǫkkólfsdal, 'to Sǫkkólfr she gave Sǫkkólfsdalr', Hundi hét lausingi hennar … honum gaf hon Hundadal, 'Her freedman was called Hundi … she gave him Hundadalr' (Ls, 10). As in this extensive list, this is generally the formula used to introduce a new character and the place they live, sometimes with additional information, for example við hanner kenndr fjǫrðrinn, 'the fjord is named after him' (Ls, 16).

In some cases, the place-names reveal an underlying layer of narrative that clearly originates with the time period of the saga author and his audience, and which is less fictional than the more extensively developed accounts of the reasons why a particular place was given its name (such as in the cases of Brákarsund and Svína vatn). For example (Ls, 19):

"Hrappr hét maðr, er bjó … gegnt Hǫskuldsstǫðum; sá bœr hét síðan á Hrappsstǫðum; þar er nú auðn. "

There was a man named Hrappr who lived … across from Hǫskuldsstaðir. That farm was later called Hrappsstaðir, and is now deserted.

Here, the chronological focus is on the later period, looking back to the landnám from later centuries, for it is said that Hrappr's farm hét síðan, and the shift to the present in which the saga is being recorded is made even clearer with the information that it is nú auðn.

… At other times, (Pernille Hermann) notes, there is discontinuity between the present time of narration and narrated landnám past, with passages that describe a valley that was wooded or burial customs that took place í þann tíð, 'in that time' (2010, 79) … Callow's suggestion is that the temporal layers revealed in the narrative's place-names are perhaps earlier than is often suggested, and definitely earlier than the Contemporary Sagas. In the current context, therefore, this indicates that the temporal focus of the place-naming narratives - and by extension the landnám narratives as a whole - is not entirely with the later medieval period but extends further back in time; it is possible that the Íslendingasögur 'give us a view of the past which originates earlier than is usually suggested' (Callow 2006, 298).

In Hrafnkels saga the juxtaposition of the landnám past and authorial present is marked; at times the two chronological frames jostle for position within a single sentence. This is particularly true in the story of Hallfreðr's settlement, for the place-name is already 'there', so to speak, when the story of how the valley got its name is being told (Hs, 97-98):

… In the spring, Hallfreðr moved his farm north over the heath, and built a new farm at a place which is called Geitdalr [Goat Valley]. One night he dreamed that a man came to him and said, 'There you lie, Hallfreðr, and rather carelessly. Move your farm away, west over Lagarfljót lake. There lies all your fortune.' … [Hallfreðr] left a boar and a male goat behind him. On the same day that Hallfreðr moved away, a landslide fell onto the house, and the livestock was lost, and that is why the place has since been called Geitdalr [Goat Valley].

As in the case of Laxdœla saga, the naming is retrospective, for Hallfreðr could not have moved to the place when it was called Geitdalr, nor named it himself during his occupation (unlike what we see in accounts of other landnám procedures such as Ingimundr's, mentioned above). Nevertheless,in the telling of this story, the saga has created a narrative structure that incorporates more than one timeframe: the landnám past during which Hallfreðr settled, moved and avoided the landslide, and the following period up to the time of writing, signified by the word síðan, 'since'.

at page 91

… As with the Íslendingasögur, the chronological timeframes presented in Landnámabók are a complex blend of past and present concerns, looking back to the landnám past but rooted in the twelfth-to-thirteenth-century world in which they were developed and written down. As with the sagas, most of the place-names mentioned are associated with natural features in the landscape or the names of the first settlers and their stories. However, although there are plenty of place-names in Landnámabók, the place-naming process itself is not such a concern in these narratives as in the Íslendingasögur,and there are fewer narratives that show the landnámsmenn actively themselves naming the land (in either direct or reported speech), which may be called after them but without the same emphasis on their appropriating the physical landscape through place-naming speech acts.

at page 92

In Landnámabók land is settled, and place-names (such as Ingólfshǫfði) can be linked to settlers, while elsewhere false etymological explanations link the place-names to stories of the settlers in the landscape. For instance,in the case of Auðr: Dǫgurðarnes is said to be named after the place where she had breakfast, Kambsnes for her lost comb, Auðartóptir where she settled and Krosshólar where she erected crosses (Lnb (S 97, H 84), 139). In other episodes names are chosen according to identifying natural features of the landscape: Helgi names Eyjafjǫrðr for the islands further beyond, Naddoddr and his crew go ashore on the Austfirðir, 'East Fjords', and Breiðafjǫrðr, 'Broad Fjord', is named presumably for its dimensions. Yet many of the settlers (particularly later on as the country begins to fill up) arrive in areas that have already been named, and the absence of place-naming stories - particularly in older redactions - suggests an older or at least alternative stage in the development of the landnám myth, in which the individuals themselves (and by extension their descendants) were the primary concern rather than the landscape and stories associated with them.

At times, the chronology of place-names is presented more straight-forwardly than in many of the sagas mentioned above, simply as a process of historical land-naming that has evolved after the events described. The various time periods (the settlement itself and subsequent centuries, up to the periods in which the text was composed, copied and expanded in its different redactions) are separated by present-tense phrases along the lines of the general formula: þar er nú heitir, 'the place that is now called' (my emphasis). For example, the text states: Ingólfr tók þar land, er nú heitir Ingólfshǫfði, 'Ingólfr took land at the place now called Ingólfshǫfði' (Lnb (S 8, H 8), 42) and Ǫrnólfr gerði þá bú upp í Kjarradal, þar er nú heita Ǫrnólfsstaðir, 'Ǫrnólfr set up farm in Kjarradalr, in the place now called Ǫrnólfsstaðir' (Lnb (S 45, H 33), 84).

The formula 'x took x-staðir/-hǫfði' links the event to later periods in history, but as it is introduced in conjunction with the information that the landnámsmaðr is occupying the land, the narrative effect that is created is almost as though the place had been named for the landnámsmaðr before he has settled it (as in the example from Hrafnkels saga above). There are occasions when the original settlers and subsequent occupants of the land are both encompassed in the same sentence, as in the case of Grímr, er nam land et syðra upp frá Giljum til Grímsgils og bjó við Grímsgil … Hannbjó á Stafngrímsstǫðum; þar heitir nú á Sigmundarstǫðum, who took land all the way south from Gil to Grímsgil, and lived by Grímsgil [Grímr's Glen] … He lived at Stafngrímsstaðir, which is now called Sigmundarstaðir …

at page 93

Despite the lack of information given about the later occupant, Sigmundr, this fluidity is presumably due to a later inhabitant of the area with whom the geography has become associated. Elsewhere, a man is said to settle at a place named retrospectively for his son, for Hrosskell bjó á Hallkelsstǫðum ok Hallkell son hans eptir hann 'lived at Hallkelsstaðir and his son Hallkellafter him' … Such topographical links between the past and the present remove the importance of the permanent associations that aforementioned settlers (such as Ingimundr in Vatnsdœla saga ) attempt to build into their land-claim and the place-names they give to the region.

Finally, the episode describing the arrival and settlement of the Irish Christian Ørlygr is an interesting exception to the general rule that the landnámsmenn do not name the land directly and that the chronological timeframe is relatively straightforward. Although the actual place-naming is not put into Ørlygr's mouth or conveyed in direct speech, the narrative describes Ørlygr meeting with bad weather on his voyage and vowing to Bishop Patrekr (who is back in Ireland) that if he lands safely he will name the place after him. When the voyagers reach Iceland, the double-chronology of the narrative (Hermann's aforementioned 'then/now relations') is particularly marked in the Sturlubók redaction, for they are said to land at a place sem heitir Ørlygshǫfn, en fjǫrðinn inn frá kǫlluðu þeir Patreksfjǫrð: 'which is called Ørlygshǫfn, and the fjord that went into the land from there they called Patreksfjǫrðr'. This interest in the place-naming part of the landnám is part of a broader emphasis on the physical landscape of the area, whereby Ørlygr takes consecrated earth with him to place beneath the corner posts of the church he will build in Iceland, and whereby his settlement is foreshadowed by Patrekr's prescient and detailed description of the land Ørlygr must settle and how he must navigate his way there using notable topographical features.

at page 94

In the Hauksbók version this topographical navigation is even more detailed, with an extra mountain and woods; this is hardly surprising if, as Judith Jesch notes, Haukr knew this area well … Interestingly, there are no place-names mentioned in the equivalent episode in Kjalnesinga saga, although Patrekr still describes the topography that Ørlygr must recognise before he makes land (here Patrekr mentions three mountains,as in the Hauksbók version, and not the two that are described in the Sturlubók version). Nevertheless, this is an unusual case, and for the most part the place-naming process is less of a feature in the landnám narratives of Landnámabók than in many of the sagas.

This does not mean that the settlers are not depicted engaging with the landscape of their new home. Instead, there is an emphasis on additional acts that allow them to sanctify the land and mark it as their own, thus mapping a legitimising 'sacred dimension' onto the physical space. The term at helga, 'to sanctify' is used particularly in this respect, in phrases such as Ǫnundr … helgaði sér svá landit fyrir vestan 'Ǫnundr … dedicated the land from the west to himself' …

Consequently, physical acts are the primary means of linking the landnámsmenn to the topography, with less weight given to the illocutionary speech acts of land-naming that can be identified in other texts.

In the last of these examples, so great is Þorhaddr's desire to be directed by his religion and take the consecrated land of his old country out with him to Iceland that he takes not only the high-seat pillars of his temple, but also the earth from beneath it. When he arrives in Iceland, he attempts to replicate the sacred conditions of his old home using these tokens. On a related note, it is perhaps significant that numerous gold foil figures (guldgubbar) have been found in the postholes and foundations of early Scandinavian pagan cult sites such as those at Uppåkra in Sweden … and Mærein Norway … Their precise function is not known, but it is highly likely that they were connected to religious, political, social and economic activities in the region. Although there is no firm evidence to support this, it is easy to imagine how the action of a would-be landnámsmaðr digging out the guldgubbar from his old foundations to take with him to Iceland might have turned into the more prosaic literary tradition of digging out some earth to take with him - as Þorhaddr does - the original action having been forgotten. However, this must remain pure speculation, not least because no guldgubbar have yet been found in Iceland.

at page 95

In comparison to the aforementioned example of the Christian Irishman Ørlygr, it is noteworthy that his use of consecrated earth is almost identicalto that of Þorhaddr, yet translated into a Christian context. Elsewhere in Landnámabók Christian variants of other parts of the landnám narrative have been identified, suggesting that the settlement rituals were considered to be applicable to a Christian as well as a pagan setting by those who constructed these narratives … Returning to the guldgubbar, it is perhaps significant that these deposits are often found in the postholes of pre-Christian cult buildings located beneath early medieval church sites, as in the cases of Mære and Uppåkra. It is interesting that this early Scandinavian cult site continuity is also reflected in the later Icelandic landnám narratives, where the same religiously motivated transfer of land is incorporated into the settlement stories of both pagan and Christian landnámsmenn.

Elsewhere the landnámsmenn go one step further than this, bestowing place-names in order to imbue the topography with additional dimensions of religious meaning. For example, in the case of narratives linked to Helgafell, 'Holy Mountain', which features in both Landnámabók and sagas such as Eyrbyggja saga, the place-naming story functions as a tool with which to create what might be termed 'social myths' associated with this prominent topographical feature. These are ostensibly connected to beliefs about the supernatural inhabitants of the mountain, but equally concerned with the establishment of territorial power couched within narratives about the transfer, relocation and re-conceptualisation of religious customs, social norms and legal conventions associated with the mountain …:

"They landed at the creek, which Þórólfr called Hofsvágr [Temple Creek]; there he built his farm and a big temple which he dedicated to Þórr … Þórólfr took possession of land from Stafá [Staff River] as far inland as Þórsá [Þórr's River], and called it all Þórsnes [Þórr's Headland]. He held the mountain that stood on the headland so sacred that he called it Helgafell [Holy Mountain] and no one was allowed even to look at it unless he had washed himself first. So great was the mountain's inviolability that nothing must be harmed there, neither animal nor man, until they left it of their own accord. Þórólfr and his kinsmen all believed that they would go into the mountain when they died."

at page 96

On a narrative level, naming the mountain 'Helgafel' enables Þórólfr and his men to form religious and culturally meaningful associations with thephysical landscape of their new country, which ultimately leads to a deadly feud that signals their strength of feeling despite the nascent nature of these beliefs. However, this passage may also have a broader cultural and historical significance that spans the period from the landnám itself to the time of saga writing. Stefan Brink amongst others has shown that Viking-Age Scandinavians do seem to have made cultic spaces out of various features of the topography, which he terms a 'mythical landscape' built up from the physical landscape with its characteristics and the oral myths and legends that explained an elusive supernatural omnipresence'. When it is also taken into account that the new society in Iceland offered little opportunity for men to die in battle and go to Valhalla, it seems plausible that alternative notions of the afterlife would have been developed. Indeed,Brink focuses on the Þórólfr/Helgafell episode in order to suggest that there was a knowledge or supposition by the authors of the sagas that certain lands and particular physical features in the landscape were charged with metaphysical energy or godly power or that god(s) were supposed to dwell there; in this case a mountain was therefore given the epithet heilagr (Helga fell) …

Whether this narrative tradition has any direct historical validity as evidence for religious activity in early Icelandic society is debatable, and it is even less certain whether the land-naming process described in the narrative has any meaning for the landnám period itself. However, the story and the topography at the heart of it still play a significant role incementing early Icelandic society - from the earliest period up to the later Saga Age - to the physical landscape in which it was formed, for the underlying importance of the landscape was not lost, even if its meaning altered over the centuries and was crystallised in a literary form. Brink emphasises the 'astonishingly long continuity of some sacred areas and cult sites in the Scandinavian landscape' which he suggests is the result of a combination of 'a metaphysical investment in the landscape and the passage of numinous knowledge (having a strong religious or spiritual quality, indicating or suggesting the presence of a divinity - Ed) between generations' … Helgafell is a good example of the way in which this works, for 'in a topological perspective, we can see that there have been beliefs among people in mythological phenomena, preserved in place-names, which are not to be seen in a strictly religious-eschatological context' …

at page 97

Helgafell as a regional territory - named after a prominent natural feature and therefore closely bound up with it - continued to have political,social and religious significance for the subsequent period of saga development and writing, perhaps particularly in the late twelfth century when the monastery on Flatey was transferred to Helgafell. The possibility that such religious developments and political concerns might be reflected in saga literature has been explored by Chris Callow, who suggests that Laxdœla saga's account of Guðrún and Snorri exchanging their farmsteads at Helgafell and in Hvammssveit, and so switching the centre of political power in the region, 'seems to parallel that which might have occurred when Helgafell became a religious institution in the 1180s just as Sturla Thórðarson and his sons were establishing their dominance in Hvammssveit' … Thus, it is possible that through the 'foundation myth' narrative associated with Helgafell and the recounting of its place-naming in particular, the religious, political and cultural significance of this specific feature in the landscape (and its associated territory) continued in the cultural memory, even if the reasons for its importance altered over the centuries.


Throughout history, and in many different cultures, the connection between landscape and memory has been central to the formation and maintenance of migration myths … In the case of the medieval Icelandic narrative traditions associated with the ninth-century settlement of Iceland, the connections between the Icelandic landscape, the landnám and the subsequent development of the associated migration myth are particularly strong. While most landscapes came 'with a history attached and signs of prior occupation' … Iceland was a terra nova, almost entirely lacking in visible signs of previous occupation layers (save for Íslendingabók's reference to the religious paraphernalia left by the Irish papar, which enabled Ari to show Iceland as being marked out as Christian from the outset, despite the intervening period of paganism). Thus, this terra nova itself - Iceland's physical landscape - became a cornerstone in the construction of the medieval Icelandic migration myth, depicting the transformation from physical land to culturally meaningful landscape as part of the dialogue with the landnám past. A close textual analysis of how place-names operate within this narrative pattern reveals how the sagas and Landnámabók can differ in their narrative strategies whilst still being driven by many of the same cultural impulses and literary mechanisms.

at page 98

Such an analysis also exposes the complex knot of chronologies operating within the narratives, and the way in which the medieval texts navigate the shared landscape of their past and present in order to make sense of the world and their place within it. Social and cultural identities - like landscapes - are not always specific to one timeframe, but are multifaceted constructions where the past and present elide. Sparse genealogical information and place-names were probably the focus of the earliest landnám narratives, with literary elaboration following later. Nevertheless, the potential veracity of this basic framework should not be dismissed out of hand. Although the chronological focus lies predominantly with the later period of saga writing, this is still a two-way dialogue between this present and the past, even if only echoes of the earlier part of the conversation remainin the textual evidence. This is perhaps most evident in episodes where the chronology becomes blurred, shifting between the past and the present from one verb or place-name to the next. Although the chronological focus lies predominantly with the later period of saga writing, this is still a two-way dialogue between this present and the past, even if only echoes of the earlier part of the conversation remain in the textual evidence.

Close analysis of the place-names and place-naming processes in the landnám narratives reveals them as a hybrid of cultural myth and social history, in the sense that, as Kirsten Hastrup puts it, 'myth embeds the past in the present, while history embeds the present in the past' … This is a process that continues into the modern day, for as Hastrup has noted more recently (with reference to her travels through the country), 'there is a remarkable presence of the past tied to the landscape' … Place-names remain crucial to this phenomenon, for virtually every top and turn, every rock and cave, had a name, and on my inquiry the names could all be explained … In this view of the landscape, Irish monks, trolls, and hidden people belong to the same register of previous or other inhabitants; they have left their mark in legend and landscape alike.

Thus, in the medieval Icelandic landnám narratives and up to the present day, threads of myth, history, cultural memory and physical topography are interwoven to create a culturally meaningful mapping of the country, at the heart of which lies the Icelandic landscape and its inhabitants' interaction with it through both time and space.

"An etymological dictionary of the English language" (1898) Walter William Skeat at pages xv and xvii

At page xv

Words belonging to English of an earlier date than about 1150 or 1200 are marked 'A.S.', i.e. Anglo-Saxon. Some have asked why they have not been marked as 'O.E.', i.e., Oldest English. Against this, there are two reasons. The first is, that 'O.E.' would be read as 'Old English', and this term has been used so vaguely, and has so often been made to include 'M.E.' as well, that it has ceased to be distinctive, and has become comparatively useless. The second and more important reason is that, unfortunately, O.E. and A.S. are not coextensive. The former consisted, in all probability, of three main dialects, but the remains of two of these are very scanty. Of Old Northern, we have little left beyond the Northumbrian versions of the Gospels and the glosses in the Durham Ritual: of Old Midland, almost the only scrap preserved is in the Rushworth gloss to St. Matthew's Gospel; but of Old Southern, or, strictly, of the old dialect of Wessex, the remains are fairly abundant, and these are commonly called A.S.. It is therefore proper to use 'A.S.' to denote this definite dialect, which, after all, represents only the speech of a particular portion of England. The term is well-established and may therefore be kept; else it is not a particularly happy one, since the Wessex dialect was distinct from the Northern or Anglian dialect, and 'A.S.' must, for philological purposes, be taken to mean O.E. in which Anglian is not necessarily included.

At page xvii

SCANDINAVIAN. By this name I denote the old Danish, introduced into England by the Danes and Northmen who, in the early period of our history, came over to England in great numbers. Often driven back, they continually returned, and on many occasions made good their footing and remained here. Their language is best represented by Icelandic, owing to the curious fact that, ever since the first colonisation of Iceland by the Northmen about a.d. 874, the language of the settlers has been preserved with but slight changes. Hence, instead of its appearing strange that English words should be borrowed from Icelandic, it must be remembered that this name represents, for philological purposes, the language of those Northmen, who, settling in England, became ancestors of some of the very best men amongst us; and as they settled chiefly in Northumbria and East Anglia, parts of England not strictly represented by A.S., 'Icelandic' or 'O.N.' (as it is also called) has come to be, it may almost be said, English of the English. In some cases, I derive 'Scandinavian' words from Swedish, Danish, or Norwegian; but no more is meant by this than that the Swedish, Danish, or Norwegian words are the best representatives of the 'O.N.' that I could find. The number of words actually borrowed from what (in the modern sense) is strictly Swedish or strictly Danish is but small, and they have been duly noted.

Icelandic. Vowels, as in A.S., are both short and long, the long vowels being marked with an accent, as á, é, &c. To the usual vowels are added ö, and the diphthongs au, ey, ei; also æ, which is written both for æ and œ, strictly of different origin; also ja, já, jö, jó, jú. Among the consonants are ð, the voiced th (as in E. thou), and þ, the voiceless th (as in E. thin). D was at one time written both for d and ð. Þ, æ, and ö come at the end of the alphabet. There is no w. The A.S. w and hw appear as v and hv. The most usual vowel-change is that which is caused by the occurrence of i (expressed or understood) in the following syllable; this changes the vowels in row (1) below into the corresponding vowels in row (2) below.

  1. a, o, u, au, á, ó, ú, jó, jú.
  2. e, y, y, ey, æ, æ, ý, ý, ý.

Assimilation is common; thus dd stands for ðd, or for Goth, zd (= A.S.. rd); kk, for nk, ll, for lr or lp; nn, for np, nd, or nr; tt, for dt, ht, kt, nt, ndt, . Initial sk should be particularly noticed, as most E. words beginning with sc or sk are of Scandinavian origin; the A.S. sc being represented by E. sh. Very remarkable is the loss of v in initial vr = A.S. wr; the same loss occurring in modern English. Infinitives end in -a or -ja; verbs in -ja, with very few exceptions, are weak, with pp. ending in , -ðr, -t, -tr, &c.; whereas strong verbs have the pp. in -inn. Authorities: Cleasby and Vigfusson, Egilsson, Möbius, Vigfusson's Icelandic Reader.

"An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language" (1898) Walter William Skeat at pages 747, 750, 751 and 844

At page 747


The following is an attempt to distribute the words in the English language so as to shew the sources to which they originally belonged. The words selected for the purpose are chiefly those given in large type in the dictionary, to the exclusion of mere derivatives of secondary importance. The English list appears short in proportion, chiefly because it contains a large number of these secondary words, such as helpful, happiness, hearty, and the like …

At pages 750, 751 and 844


  • aloft, already?, an ( = if ), anger, aroint thee, as (2), askew, awe, awn, aye.
  • baffle, bait, balderdash, bang(1), bark (2), bask, baste (1), bat (2), batten (1), bawl, beach, beck (2), bestead, big, bight, bilge, billow, bing, bitts, blab, blear one's eye, blear-eyed, bloat, bloater, bloom, blot(1), blot (2), blue, blunder, blunt, blur, bluster, bole, bolled, boon, booth, booty, bore (3), both, boulder, bound (3), bout, bow (4), bowline, box (3), brad, brindled, brinded, brink, brunt, bubble, build, bulge, bulk (1), bulk (3), bulkhead, bulwark, bunch, bungle, bunk, bunt, bush(1), busk (1), bustle, by-law, byre.
  • carp (2), cast, champ, chaps (chops), chub, chump, chum, clamber, cleft, cliff, clip, clog, clown, club (1), club (2), club (3), clumsy, cock (2), cow (2), cower, crab (2), crash, craw, crawl, craze, crew, cruse, cuff (1), cunning (1), cur.
  • daggle, dairy, dangle, dank, dapple, dash, dastard (with F. suffix), daze, dazzle (with E. suffix), dibber, dibble, die (1), dirt, dogcheap, douse, down(1), dowse (1), doze, drag, draggle, dregs, dribble, drip, droop, dug, dumps, dun (2).
  • eddy, egg (2), eiderduck, elk, eyot.
  • fast (3), fawn(1), fell (4), fellow, fetlock, fidget, fie, filch, filly, fit (1), fizz, flabby, flag (2), flag (3), flag (4), flagstone, flake, flare, flash, flat, flaunt, flaw, fleck, fledge, flee, fleer, fling, flippant, flit, flurry, flush (2), fluster, fond, force (3), foss, fraught, freckle, frith (firth), fro, froth, fry (2).
  • gabble, gaby, gad (1), gad (2), gain (1), gain (2), gainly, gait, gale, gang (1), gar (2), garish (gairish), gasp, gaunt, gaze, ged, geld, gibe, gig, giglet (with F. suffix), gill (1), gill (2), gin (2), gingerly, girth, glade, glance, glimmer, glimpse, glint, glitter, gloat, gloss (1), glum, gnash, grab, gravy, greaves (1) (graves), grey-hound, grig, grime, griskin, groin, grovel, gruesome, guess, gush, gust(1).
  • hail (2), hail (3), hake, hale (1), handsel (hansel), hank, hap, happen, harbour, harsh, haste, hasten, haze, hinge, hist, hit, hoot, how (2), hug, hurrah, hurry, husband, hussif, hustings, hurrah.
  • ill, inkling, intrust (with E. prefix), irk.
  • jabber, jam (1), jam (2), jaunt, jersey, jibe, jumble, jump (1), jump (2), jury-mast.
  • kedge (1), kedge (2) (kidge), keel (1), keelson (kelson), keg, ken, kid, kidnap, kidney, kill, kilt, kirtle, knacker, kneel.
  • larboard, lash (2), lathe (1), leak, ledge, lee, leech (3) (leach), leg, lift (1), liken, limber (2), ling (2), loft, log (1), log (2), loom (2), loon (2), low (1), low (4), lug, lull, lumber (2), lump, lunch, luncheon, lurch (1), lurch (4) ?, lurk.
  • mane, mash (or E.), mawkish (with E. suffix), maze, meek, mess (2), (or E.), milch, milt (2), mire, mis- (i) (and E.), mistake, mistrust, mouldy, much, muck, muff (1), muggy.
  • nab, nag (2), narwhal, nasty, nay, neif (neaf), niggard, Norse, nudge (perhaps C.).
  • oaf, odd, outlaw.
  • pad (1) (or C. ?), paddock (1), palter ?, paltry, pap (2), pash, peddle ?, pedlar (pedler, pedder ?), piddle ?, plough, pod (or C. ?), pooh, prate, prog, purl (1).
  • quandary, queasy.
  • rack (2}, raft, raid, raise, rake (2), rake (3), rakehell, ransack, rap (1), rap (2), rape (1), rape (3), rash (1), rasher ?, rate (2) ?, recall (with Latin prefix), recast (with Latin prefix), riding, rife, rifle (2), rift, rig (1), rip, ripple (1), ripple (3), rive, roan-tree (rowan-tree), rock (2), rock (3), roe (2), root (1), rotten, rouse (1), rouse (2), row (3), ruck (1), ruck (2), rug, rugged, rump, rush 1), rustle, ruth.
  • sag, saga, sale, scald (2), scald (3), scall, scant, scar (2) (scaur), scare, scarf (2), scoop, scotch, scout (2), scout (3), scowl, scraggy, scrap, scrape, scratch, scream, screech, scrip (1), scud, scuffle, sculfe (skulk), scull (2), scum, scuttle (3), seat, seemly, shallow, sheal, sheave, sheer (1), shelve, shingle (2), shirt, shiver (1), shiver (2), shoal (2), shore (2) (shoar), shriek, shrike, shrill, shrivel, shrug, shuffle, shunt, shy, silt, simper, sister, skewer, skid, skill, skim, skin, skirt, skittish, skittles, skull (scull), sky, slab(i), slam, slang, slant, slattern, slaughter, slaver, sleave, sleave-silk, sled, sledge, sleigh, sleek, slick, sleeper, sleet, sleight, slop (2), slot (2), slouch, slough (2), slubber, slug, slur, slut, sly, smash, smattering, smelt (1), smile, smug, smuggle, smut, sneap, sneer, sniff, snipe, snite (1), snivel, snob, snort, snout, snub, snuff (2), snug, sough, span-new, spark (2), spick and span-new, spink, splash, splint (splent), split, splutter, spout, sprack (sprag), sprawl, spray (2), spry, spurt (2), sputter, squab (1 and 2), squabble, squall, squander, squeak, squeal, squib, squint, squirt, stack, stag, stagger, stale (1), stang, steak, steep (2), stem (2), stifle (confused with French from Latin), stilt, stith, stoat, stot, streak, stroll ?, struggle, strum, strut(1), strut(2), stumble, stump, stutter, swagger, swain, swamp, swash, sway, swirl.
  • tackle, tag, take, tang (3), tangle, tarn, tatter, ted, teem, tern, their, they, thrall, thrave, thrift, thrive, thrum (1,) thrum (2), thrush (2), thrust, thwart, tidings, tight, tike, till (2), tip (2), tipple, tipsy, tit, tit for tat, titling, tod, toft, toom, tram, trap (3), trash, trice (2) (trise), trill (2), trill (3), trudge ?, trust, tryst (trist), tuft (2) (toft).
  • ugly.
  • Valhalla, viking.
  • wad, wag, waggle, wail, wake (2), wall-eyed, wand, want, wapentake, weak, wee ?, weld (1), whelm, wherry, whim, whir, whirl, whisk, whitlow, whore, wide (3) = wich, wight (2), wimble (1 and 2), windlass, window, wing, wraith, yap, yaw, yawl (2).
  • Icelandic: geysir.
  • Swedish: dahlia, flounce (1), flounder (2), gantlet (gantlope), kink, slag, [probably smelt (1)], tungsten.
  • Danish: backgammon, cam, floe, fog, jib (1), jib (2), jolly-boat, siskin.
  • Norwegian: lemming (leming).
  • French from Scandinavian: abet, barbed, bet, bigot, blemish, bondage, brandish, brasier (brazier), braze (1), bun, equip, flotsam (Law French), frisk, frown, gauntlet, grate (2), grimace, grudge, haberdasher, hale (2), haul, hue (2), jib (3), jolly, locket, Norman, rinse, rivet, sound (4), strife, strive, waif, waive, wicket.
  • Dutch from Scandinavian: furlough, walrus.
  • French from Dutch, from Scandinavian: droll.
  • Italian from Scandinavian (through French ?): bunion.
  • Russian from Scandinavian: knout.

At page 844


… Scandinavian. Dele clap, hawser (halser), litter (3), and (last line but one) bunion. Insert Russian from Scandinavian: knout.

"English dialects from the eighth century to the present day" (1912) Walter William Skeat at pages 89 to 93

Chapter IX

Foreign elements in the dialects

At pages 89 to 93

It is notorious that the Northern dialect admits Scandinavian words freely; and the same is true, to a lesser degree, of East Midland. They are rare in Southern, and in the Southern part of West Midland. The constant invasions of the Danes, and the subjection of England under the rule of three Danish kings, Canute and his two successors, have very materially increased our vocabulary; and it is remarkable that they have perhaps done more for our dialects than for the standard language. The ascendancy of Danish rule was in the eleventh century; but (with a few exceptions) it was long before words which must really have been introduced at that time began to appear in our literature. They must certainly have been looked upon, at the first, as being rustic or dialectal. I have nowhere seen it remarked, and I therefore call attention to the fact, that a certain note of rustic origin still clings to many words of this class; and I would instance such as these: bawl, bloated, blunder, bungle, clog, clown, clumsy, to cow, to craze, dowdy, dregs, dump, and many more of a like character. I do not say that such words cannot be employed in serious literature; but they require skillful handling.

For further information, see the chapter on "The Scandinavian Element in English", in my "Principles of English Etymology", Series I.

With regard to dialectal Scandinavian, see the List of English Words, as compared with Icelandic, in my Appendix to Cleasby and Vigfusson's "Icelandic Dictionary". In this long list, filling 80 columns, the dialectal words are marked with a dagger †. But the list of these is by no means exhaustive, and it will require a careful search through the pages of the English Dialect Dictionary to do justice to the wealth of this Old Norse element. There is an excellent article on this subject by Arnold Wall, entitled "A Contribution towards the Study of the Scandinavian element in the English Dialects", printed in the German periodical entitled Anglia, Neue Folge, Band viii, 1897.

I now give a list, a mere selection, of some of the more remarkable words of Scandinavian origin that are known to our dialects. For their various uses and localities, see the English Dialect Dictionary; and for their etymologies, see my Index to Cleasby and Vigfusson. Many of these words are well approved and forcible, and may perhaps be employed hereafter to reinforce our literary language.

  • Addle, to earn; and (in Barbour, aynd) sb., breath; arder, a ploughing; arr, a scar; arval, a funeral repast; aund, fated, destined; bain, ready, convenient; bairns' lakings, children's playthings; beck, a stream; big, to build; bigg, barley; bing, a heap; birr, impetus; blaeberry, a bilberry; blather, blether, empty noisy talk; bouk, the trunk of the body; boun, ready; braid, to resemble, to take after; brandreth, an iron framework over a fire; brant, steep; bro, a foot-bridge with a single rail; bule, bool, the curved handle of a bucket; busk, to prepare oneself, dress; caller, fresh, said of fish, etc.; carle, a rustic, peasant; carr, moist ground; cleck, to hatch (as chickens); cleg, a horse-fly; coup, to exchange, to barter; dag, dew; daggle, to trail in the wet; dowf, dull, heavy, stupid; dump, a deep pool.
  • Elding, eliding, fuel; ettle, to intend, aim at; feal, to hide; fell, a hill; fey, doomed, fated to die; flake, a hurdle; force, a waterfall; gab, idle talk; gain, adjective, convenient, suitable; gait, a hog; gar, to cause, to make; garn, yarn; garth, a field, a yard; gate, a way, street; ged, a pike; gilder, a snare, a fishing-line; gilt, a young sow; gimmer, a young ewe; gloppen, to scare, terrify; glare, to stare, to glow; goam, gaum, to stare idly, to gape, whence gomeril, a blockhead; gowk, a cuckoo, a clown; gowlan, gollan, a marigold; gowpen, a double handful; gradely, respectable; graithe, to prepare; grice, a young pig; haaf, the open sea; haver, oats; how, a hillock, mound; immer-goose, ember-goose, the great Northern diver; ing, a lowlying meadow; intake, a newly enclosed or reclaimed portion of land; keld, a spring of water; kenning, knowledge, experience; kilp, kelp, the iron hook in a chimney on which pots are hung; kip, to catch fish in a particular way; kittle, to tickle; lain, lane, to conceal; lair, a muddy place, a quick-sand; lait, to seek; lake, to play; lathe, a barn; lax, a salmon; lea, a scythe; leister, a fish-spear with prongs and barbs; lift, the air, sky; lig, to lie down; lispund, a variable weight; lit, to dye; loon, the Northern diver; lowe, a flame, a blaze.
  • Mense, respect, reverence, decency, sense; mickle, great; mirk, dark; morkin, a dead sheep; muck, dirt; mug, fog, mist, whence muggy, misty, close, dull; neif, neive, the fist; ouse, ouze, to empty out liquid, to bale out a boat; paddock, a frog, a toad; quey, a young heifer; rae, a sailyard; rag, hoarfrost, rime; raise, a cairn, a tumulus; ram, rammish, rank, rancid; rip, a basket; risp, to scratch; rit, to scratch slightly, to score; rawk, roke, a mist; roo, to pluck off the wool of sheep instead of shearing them; roose, to praise; roost, roust, a strong sea-current, a race.
  • Sark, a shirt; scarf, a cormorant; scopperil, a teetotum; score, a gangway down to the sea-shore; screes, rough stones on a steep mountain-side, really for screethes (the th being omitted as in clothes), from ON skriða, a land-slip on a hill-side; scut, a rabbit's tail; seave, a rush; sike, a small rill, gutter; sile, a young herring; skeel, a wooden pail; skep, a basket, a measure; skift, to shift, remove, flit; skrike, to shriek; slocken, to slake, quench; slop, a loose outer garment; snag, a projecting end, a stump of a tree; soa, a large round tub; spae, to foretell, to prophesy; spean, a teat, (as a verb) to wean; spelk, a splinter, thin piece of wood; steg, a gander; storken, to congeal; swale, a shady place; tang, the prong of a fork, a tongue of land; tarn, a mountain pool; tath, manure, tathe, to manure; ted, to spread hay; theak, to thatch; thoft, a cross-bench in a boat; thrave, twenty-four sheaves, or a certain measure of corn; tit, a wren; titling, a sparrow; toft, a homestead, an old enclosure, low hill; udal, a particular tenure of land; ug, to loathe; wadmel, a species of coarse cloth; wake, a portion of open water in a frozen lake or stream; wale, to choose; wase, a wisp or small bundle of hay or straw; whauve, to cover over, especially with a dish turned upside down; wick, a creek, bay; wick, a corner, angle.

"The Vikings in Lewis", (2014) David Etheridge, Centre for the study of the Viking Age, University of Nottingham, Languages, Myths and Finds, Volume 2

The Scandinavian Place-names of Lewis

The Scandinavians who settled and ruled the Hebrides until they were ceded to the Scottish crown in 1266 called the islands Suðreyjar (Southern Islands). This reflects their position in the Norse-settled islands relative to Orkney and Shetland. Many of the place-names of Lewis come from the time of Scandinavian settlement. Sometimes it can be relatively easy to recognise ON elements, for example, 'Brue' comes from ON Brú, 'bridge'. In other cases the derivation is less obvious.

'Habost', for example, comes from ON Hábólstaðr, 'High Farm'. It can be very difcult or impossible to re-construct place-names. This is because most of the place-names from the Hebrides are preserved in much later documents by which time the name may have already undergone many changes. Most importantly, ON place-names have been adapted into the Gaelic dialect of the islands. The meaning of ON elements may have been lost very early on. Richard Cox notes that 'Balabhair', which derives from ON Balavarða 'the cairn of the grassy bank', now refers to a pass between two hills. This demonstrates that the ON meaning of the name was no longer understood by those who used it. Our earliest source for the place-names of the Hebrides is Ortelius' map of 1573.

At page 8

The Archaeology of Viking Settlements on Lewis

Despite the apparent density of Norse settlement on Lewis suggested by the place-name evidence, the archaeological evidence for Norse sites is relatively scarce. There are two likely reasons for this under representation. First, in contrast to circular and cellular prehistoric structures, the ruins of rectilinear buildings typical of the Viking Age cannot be easily distinguished from later medieval and post-medieval structures. Secondly, it is likely that many of the farms and settlements established by early Norse settlers have survived to the present day, with the earliest phases obscured by subsequent activity. To date only two sites on Lewis have been securely identifed as Viking settlements, the sites of Barvas/Barabhas and Bosta/Bostadh (see facing page).


The name of the site, which almost certainly derives from ON bólstaðr, 'cultivated and settled land, a farm', attests to the likely presence of an early Norse settlement. Excavation in 1996 revealed at least three semi-subterranean fgure-of-eight-shaped structures, occupied between the sixth and ninth centuries,overlaid by a short-lived rectilinear structure and extensive midden (domestic waste dump) deposits, both tentatively dated to the Norse period. Steatite (also known as soapstone) bowl fragments excavated from near the rectangular structure confrmits likely Viking-Age date. Steatite artefacts recovered from the pre-Norse contexts in the Western Isles are rare and confned to typologies of other stone artefacts typicalof the Iron Age.


A small-scale excavation of one of the sites eroding from Barvas machair(a coastal sand landscape) confrmed it to be the remains of a Viking-Age settlement.The remains of at least two sub-rectangular domestic structures with double-skinned stone-and-turf walls were exposed, alongside a rich midden deposit. C14 dating of the excavations indicate a date range between the late-tenth and fourteenth centuries.

At pages 10 and 11

Place-names: naming the landscape

Several place-names and place-name elements reflect Norse settlement on Lewis; staðr, 'stead' place-names are particularlycommon: Bosta > Bólstaðr, farm

Many staðr names have a second element which describes the farm. This can be a personal name or feature, for example: Kirkibost > Kirkjubólstaðr, 'church farm'. Habost, 'the high farm, has already been mentioned and Lábost > Lágbólstaðr, 'the low-lying farm' is another example. Other loan words from ON also show settlers naming the landscape: Uig comes from ON vík, 'bay', an element also seen in Kirovick > Kýrvík, 'calm bay'. Another element, vágr, which also means 'bay' or 'creek', is preserved in Carloway > Karlavaacute;gr 'Karli's Bay'. Kneep also has ON origins; gnipa translates as 'a peak'.

A few other examples of ON loan words describing landscape features are: beirgh, 'peninsula' from ON berg; cleite, 'hill' from klettr; dail, 'valley' from dalr; gil 'ravine' from gil; and ós, 'outlet' from óss.

At page 15

Life at the Coast


The Scandinavian place-names of Lewis reflect how the settlers lived off the sea, lakes and rivers as well as off the land. Two words for 'net', tábh(an) and cabhall, come from ON háfr and kafi respectively; and sgód, 'sail corner', derives from ON skaut.

The names of some common seabirds also have Scandinavian origins. For example, arspag (black-backed gull) derives from ON svart-bakkr; and sgarbh (cormorant) from ON skarfr.

Fresh-water fishing is reflected in place-names containing the ON word for salmon, lax: Laxdale > Laxdalr 'Salmon Valley' and Laxay > Lax, 'salmon river'.

At page 21

Life on the farm


As noted in the Introduction, bólstaðr is a common place-name element denoting a farm. Other loan words also show that the Scandinavian settlers were farming on Lewis. Livestock farming is shown in theplace-name Croir, from ON króar 'pen or fold'. Sheep farming is indicated by the name Flavig which comes from ON Fjárvík, 'Sheep Bay'. Richard Cox's study of the place-names of Carloway reveals many examples of loan words from ON into Gaelic relating to farming such as geárraidh (enclosure, site) from ON gerði; gárradh (enclosure, dyke) from ON garðr; lobht (loft, terrace) from ON lopt; and ból (animal couch, stall) from ON ból. Many place-names contain the element shader/siadar which derives from ON sætr and denotes a shieling site. The place-name Kirrival is from ON kýr fjall (cow hill/mountain),which may also refer to a shieling site.

At page 23



Many place-names in Lewis contain personal names, allowing us a valuable glimpse of the Scandinavians who settled and lived on the island For example,the place-name Swainbost derives from Sveinabóstaðr (Sveini's Farm). Richard Cox has identified several personal names in the place-names of Carloway; one of the most interesting of these is Laghmann which comes from ON Lǫgmaðr, 'lawman'. This name is recorded in chapter 39 of Orkneyinga saga, in the description of Magnús bare-leg's attack on the Hebrides …

The name Njáll can be seen in the place-names Mealabost, Njálabólstaðr (Njáll's farm) and Mealaisbhal (Njáll's mountain).The Scandinavian name Njáll is a name of Gaelic origin, Niall. Perhaps the most famous Njáll is Njáll Þorgeirsson, the hero of Brennu-Njáls saga (the saga of Burnt-Njáll. This saga is set in Iceland around the time of the Icelanders' conversion to Christianity (1000). It tells the story of a violent feud which culminates in the burning of Njáll and his family in their farmhouse. Njáll is given the opportunity to escape but chooses death rather than a life of shame and dies in the fire along with his wife and grandson. Some place-names refer to people but not by name: Capadal, or kappa dalr, is the valley of the champions.

At page 34

Journeys to the next world


The Papar and the conversion of the Hebrides

The frst Scandinavian settlers in the Hebrides arrived in a land which had long accepted Christianity. The interaction of the Norse settlers with clergy is refected in the papar place-names, coined by Scandinavian settlers in northern and western Scotland. In the Hebrides there are Pabbay (the Island of Priests) and Payble (Settlement of Priests). More information on a project exploring these names can be found online at:

The papar place-names raise many questions about the interaction between pagan Norse settlers and the Christian inhabitants of the islands. Evidence of the conversion of Norse settlers in the Hebrides is provided by a cross stone slab from Kilbar, which is dated to the late tenth or early eleventh century. The cross carries a runic inscription dedicating it to the memory of Þorgerðr, Steinar's daughter.

'Hiberno-Norwegians' and 'Anglo-Danes': Anachronistic Ethnicities in Viking Age England" Clare Downham, University of Aberdeen (2009)"

Place-Name Evidence at pages 157 to 163

There is common sense to the argument that travellers from what is now Norway would tend to settle in the north and west of Britain and that settlers from what isnow Denmark would settle in the east. There are however some problems in the way in which place-names have been interpreted to draw a sharp distinction between Scandinavian settlements in the west and east of England. This is evident in maps which oversimplify the work of onomastic specialists by showing eastern and western Scandinavian settlements in different colours (in particular those with a thin intervening strip of no-man's land) as if Norwegian and Danish populations lived in geographically separated zones with little interaction. The interpretation of The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle which gained ground in the early twentieth century, that there were two rival ethnic camps of Scandinavian settlers in Britain,may have influenced historians' interpretations of place-name evidence.

J.J.A. Worsaae was one of the earliest scholars to highlight the differences between Scandinavian place-names in eastern and western England. In 1852 he wrote:

"the names ending in by, thorpe, toft, beck, næs, and ey, appear chiefly in the flat midland counties of England; whereas farther towards the north, in the more mountainous districts,these terminations mostly give place to those in thwaite, and more particularly to those in dale, force, tarn, fell and haugh. The difference, however, is scarcely founded on the natural character of the country alone; it may have arisen from the different descent of the inhabitants … Exactly similar names are met with to this day in the mountains of Norway; whilst they are less common, or altogether wanting, in the flat country of Denmark … Norwegians … appear to have betaken themselves chiefly to the most northern and mountainous districts, which lay not only nearest to them, but which in character most resembled their own country."

The geographically determined argument makes sense, that Scandinavian names in mountainous areas of England are akin to the names of mountainous areas in Scandinavia and the names of lowland areas are akin to the names found in the lowlands of Scandinavia. However, the ethnically determined view that Norwegians shunned lowland-areas which would have been richer agriculturally, as they felt drawn to a harsher landscape which looked more familiar, does not make as much sense. (fn87 If one can imagine an attitude towards landscape as a commodity which requires heavy manual work (and is not simply cast in aesthetic terms), those who had farmed in a harsh landscape would especially prize good flat land and might regard it as more visually attractive. I should thank my late great-grandfather, Edward Inman, a Westmorland-farmer, for this insight).

The classification of place-names into 'Norwegian' and 'Danish' elements therefore risks being a division between names for 'upland' features and names for 'lowland' features which reflect differences in geography between north-western and eastern England.

Worsaae went on to identify -býr or -bý ('farm'/'settlement') as a Danish place-name element. He noted that these names appear more frequently in north-eastern counties of England than they do in the north-west. Recent research by Gillian Fellows-Jensen has reinforced the view that north-western names ending in -bý were transmitted from the east of England, taking into account some complexities of the evidence to draw the following conclusion:

"there was an anti-clockwise movement from the northern Danelaw across the Pennines and down the Eden valley to Carlisle, spreading northwards from there into eastern Dumfriesshire and trickling along the coast to Galloway, and southwards from Carlisle along the coastal plain of Cumberland, across the Irish Sea to Man, and finally perhaps back across the Irish Sea to Wirral and south-west Lancashire."

However, Fellows-Jensen's view that all British -bý names were originally disseminated from the Northern Danelaw has been challenged by Alison Grant,who has argued on linguistic grounds that -bý names of Ayrshire and the Hebrides were introduced in a Gaelic-Scandinavian milieu. In other words, Grant has put the case that -bý names were transmitted from the west as well as from the east. Grant's argument may also have implications for some of the -bý names of Cumbria, Lancashire, and the Isle of Man.

The other elements discussed by Worsaae were -thveit ('clearing') and -thorp ('secondary settlement'). Worsaae considered -thveit to be a Danish place-name element because it was commoner in north-eastern England than in Scotland or north-western England. His interpretation was soon challenged by Robert Ferguson, whose work The Northmen in Cumberland and Westmoreland was published in 1856. Ferguson identified the work of Worsaae as a springboard to his own researches, but he was concerned to highlight the links between the English Lake District and Norway. Ferguson noted the frequency of -thveit names in Cumberland, suggesting that such names were less frequent in the east because areas of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire would have already been cleared before vikings arrived. He therefore regarded the distribution of -thveit names as being influenced by geographical factors, but he also linked it with settlement from an area of south-western Norway where this element was common. Nevertheless, -thveit is also found in eastern England. It occurs in seven settlement-names in Norfolk, and, as Fellows-Jensen has pointed out, the adoption of the word thwaite into northern dialects of English means that a number of -thveit names in Cumbria (Cumberland, Westmorland, and Lancashire North-of-the-Sands) may postdate the ninth and tenth centuries. In sum, the distribution of -thveit names (like -bý names) does not always conform with a simple east/west division of English place-names.

The Old-Norse place-name element -thorp is found frequently in eastern England but rarely in the west. It has the same meaning as Old-English -throp which is also focused in the Eastern counties but which is much less common. It is possible that some -thorp names were adopted from Old English -throp by Norse-speakers or those speaking a Scandinavianised dialect of English. The word thorp continued to be used in Middle English, and some names seem to have been formed after the Viking-Age. Fellows-Jensen has noted that -þorp names appear frequently in eastern Norway, which challenges the view that the names in England were all coined by settlers from Denmark. Furthermore, the upland-distribution of -þveit names in north-western England is analogous to where -þorp names lie in eastern England, except that in Cumbria these areas would have been more thickly wooded: 'when the Vikings were naming dependent settlements in this part of England, they referred to them quite naturally by the term þveit 'clearing'. These arguments suggest that, despite the marked east/west pattern of division in the distribution of -þveit and -þorp, it would be unwise to conclude that the former were all coined by Norwegians and the latter were all named by Danes.

As part of a debate about the level of dialectal difference between West Norse (Old Icelandic/Old Norwegian) language and East Norse (Old Swedish/Old Danish) language, Paul Bibire has questioned the analysis of Norse place-names in Britain (the West-Norse language is also called West Nordic or West Scandinavian in scholarly usage, and similarly for East Norse.) "For example, the form Botham and the loan into English, booth, have been used as evidence for East Norse, and more particularly Danish, settlement in Yorkshire … It has been alleged that there is a dialectal distribution of Old West Norse ú, Old East Norse ó in this root … but in actual fact, Old West Norse has both ū and ō … A geographical distribution of ū and ō in this root and words derived from it must therefore be regarded as very questionable, and it is far from certain that all varieties of Norse did not have both vowels in the ninth century."

There is no consensus as to when dialectal differences between West Norse and East Norse became pronounced: opinions range between the sixth and the eleventh century. It is therefore problematic to apply these arguments to Norse place-names in an Insular context, where local languages (Gaelic, Brittonic, English) and dialects will also have impacted on the evidence.

In sum, one would expect that ON place-names in the east of England might show greater influence of East-Norse naming habits and that north-western England might show greater influence from West-Norse naming habits. However, the distinctions between eastern and western England have also been influenced by local geography. Furthermore, the evidence is complex in terms of the origin of settlers, the chronology of settlement, and the chronology of name-formation using onomastic elements of ON origin. While modern onomastic studies show sensitivity to all these issues, the differences between eastern and western England have been exaggerated and sometimes continue to be overplayed in modern accounts and associated maps. The perception that The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle treats 'Norwegians' and 'Danes' as distinct groups has perhaps coloured analyses.

On this basis it had been argued that Denby and Normanby place-names distinguished between separate settlements of 'Danes' and 'Norwegians' in the ninth and early tenth centuries. However, this seems doubtful. All such names are found in eastern counties rather than across the whole area of Scandinavian settlement in England. (fn103 The Key to English Place-Names database lists two 'Danby' names in North Yorkshire, a 'Denby' in West Yorkshire and another in Derbyshire. Two 'Normanby' names are listed for North Yorkshire and two in Lincolnshire.) As I have argued, during the ninth and early tenth centuries, a distinction was not made between these groups in the English language. (fn104 It might also be questioned whether all the Normanby and Normanton names were derived from the Old-English plural Norðmenn, or whether some are derived from the personal name Norðmaðr.) Both toponyms might refer to Scandinavians in a general way, or their coining may postdate the mid-tenth century.

Religious and Cultural Boundaries between Vikings and Irish: The Evidence of Conversion Clare Downham, October 2012

(fn 19) Alexander Bugge complained in 1900 that English historians 'confound Norwegians and Danes, without distinguishing between the two nations' …

(fn 20) For example Eleanor Hull, A History of Ireland and her People, 2 vols (London: Harrap, 1931) I, § 3 'The Norse were hardy seafarers, who pushed out north-west to the shores of Greenland, Iceland, and North Britain , … the Danes, who were not naturally a sea-loving nation, were inclined to hug the shores' accessed online at (15 February 2008); … For fuller discussion see Clare Downham, 'Hiberno- Norwegians'.

… Place-names and archaeology testify to a complex pattern of population movement which ranges across the late ninth and early tenth centuries and which included viking settlers from Ireland, Scotland, and eastern England. The religious affiliations of vikings in these areas of secondary migration seem to have been diverse. The grave of the 'Pagan Lady' excavated at Peel, Isle of Man, has been dated as late as the 940s (and, interestingly, the contents of the grave suggest that she may have originated in the east of England, not in Ireland) …

A history of Ireland and her people by Eleanor Hull (1931)

III. The Northmen

The 'fury of the Northmen' from which the mediaeval litanies of these islands and of Brittany prayed to be delivered began to fall upon Ireland toward the close of the eighth century. It was the backwash of a mighty movement which embraced all Southern and Western Europe and extended itself to the borders of Russia, then an almost unknown country. All the Scandinavian nations took part in it, but it was only the fleets of the Norsemen and Danes that visited the shores of Britain and Ireland, the main direction of Swedish expansion being toward the East. When the first recorded fleet of the foreigners appeared before Rechra in 795, and burned Inis Patraic [fn1] in 797 (798), the rumours of their descents on the shores of Northumbria had already reached Ireland. The Annals of Ulster speak of the "devastation of all the islands of Britain by Gentiles" or heathen men, under the year 793. This report doubtless refers to the ravaging of Lindisfarne, the news of which seems to have reached Ireland soon after the event. Though the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle speaks of these first-comers as Danes, it is almost certain that they came from Norway, not from Denmark. The place from which they started was Haerethaland, now Hordaland, on the west coast of Norway, directly opposite the northern shores of the British Isles. The Irish name for Norway, Ioruaith or Hirotha, may be a reminiscence of this word. But even before 793 there must have been settlements of Norse in Northumbria, for we hear of a synod held at Finn-Gall or "Fair Foreigners", a place evidently named after the Norse invaders, in the north of England in 788 . The descents of the Norse on Ireland were by way of the Orkneys, Caithness, and the Hebrides; those of the Danes chiefly by the south coasts of England and Wales. The Norse were hardy seafarers, who pushed out north-west to the shores of Greenland, Iceland, and North Britain, and thence made their way down the western coasts of Scotland to Ireland; the Danes, who were not naturally a sea-loving nation, were inclined to hug the shores. They landed on the coasts of Britain and eventually established themselves as kings of England, a monarchy which, though shortlived, was remarkable for the vigour of the great Canute, whose vast realm at one time included Britain, Denmark, and Norway and came near to adding Sweden as well. Canute's dream of a Northern confederation of nations, to be ruled from Britain, though it was never realized, became very nearly an accomplished fact; but the weakness and follies of his successors dissipated all that his genius had achieved.

[fn1] It is uncertain whether this was the island of that name, near Skerries, Co. Dublin, or a place now called Holm-Peel in the Isle of Man. Probably it was the former.

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