The Norse Gaels in Northumbria 900AD-945AD

Norse Gaels 900AD-945AD

Most of the Vikings who settled in northern England before 900AD came from Denmark although there were a few who may have come direct from Norway to settle on the Yorkshire coast around Scarborough and Cleveland. A second wave of Vikings came after 900AD, but this time the invaders were mostly Norwegians who had been living in Ireland and the Gaelic speaking Scottish islands, including the Hebrides, Shetland and Orkney for nearly a century. These particular Vikings had acquired some aspects of Gaelic culture and language. These Norse Gaels (or Hiberno-Norse) would also colonise England, most notably the Merseyside area and Cumbria before turning their attentions to south Durham and the Durham coast.

Blast Beach, Seaham
land along the Durham coast was seized by the Norse-Gael leader Ragnald © David Simpson 2018

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903AD – Irish evict Norwegians Vikings

Native Irish under the leadership of the King of Leinster have expelled the Norwegians from their great fortress at Dublin. They begin to cross the Irish Sea and settle in Merseyside, particularly the Wirral and in Cumbria.

Circa 900-910AD – Nobles flee the North West

Amongst the nobles escaping the Viking attacks and settlement in the North West are Tilred, Abbot of Heversham in Lancaster and Elfred, son of Brihtwulf, a noble of Westmorland. Both find shelter with the Community of St Cuthbert in Durham to the east of the Pennines. Tilre will become Bishop of Chester-le-Street, Elfred will later lose his life in battle at Corbridge.

Circa 905AD – Vikings dump hoard near Preston

A huge hoard of some 1,600 Viking items are dumped on the river bank at Cuerdale near Preston in the North West. Preston’s River Ribble is part of a Viking trade route between Dublin and York. The impressive hoard will not be rediscovered until 1840

911AD – Normans are French Vikings

Vikings are settling in northern France. These northern European settlers give their name to the Normans (North men).

Beautiful Bamburgh.
Bamburgh remained the stronghold of Anglian Ealdormen who ruled the land to the north of the River Tees. Photo © David Simpson 2018

913AD – Earl of Northumberland

Eadwulf, the Anglo-Saxon Earl (Ealdorman or ‘High Reeve’) of Bamburgh who ruled Bernicia, the land north of the Tees, has died.

914AD – Irish Norwegians regain Dublin

Exiled Irish-Norwegians in Lancashire and Cumbria recapture Dublin under Sihtric.

914AD – Norsemen invade the North East

Irish-Vikings under King Ragnald attack the North-East with the help of the Yorkshire Danes. The Bernicians fight in alliance with the Scots and defeat the Vikings at Corbridge.

Church of St Andrew, Corbridge
Anglo-Saxon tower of the church of St Andrew, Corbridge. Photo © David Simpson 2018

918AD – Battle at Corbridge

Ragnald defeats a joint army of Northumbrians, Danes and Franks in a second battle at Corbridge. The Danes no longer support Ragnald.

918AD – North ruled from Dublin

Ragnald has seized York and established Irish-Viking control in Yorkshire. York will now be ruled as a client kingdom of the great Norwegian stronghold of Dublin.

The Saxon tower of Billingham church.
The late Saxon tower of St Cuthbert’s church in Billingham dates to the tenth century, presumably constructed after the lands of Scula were returned to the Community of St Cuthbert. Photo © David Simpson 2018

918AD – Scula and Olaf Ball settle Durham coast

Land in south and east Durham has been seized by Ragnald and given to his army leaders Scula and Olaf Ball who share it out among their Norse-Gael followers. The land includes some of the best farmland belonging to the Bishop of Chester-le-Street but the bishop doesn’t have the strength to challenge them. Scula gets land in the south including Billingham and perhaps School Aycliffe (Scula Aycliffe). Olaf Ball receives the coastal land from Eden to the mouth of the River Wear. Eden (Castle Eden) marks the boundary between the lands of Scula and those of Olaf Ball.

921AD – Sihtric becomes Bishop of York

Ragnald has been succeeded by his cousin Sihtric as King of York.

924AD – Edward the Elder dies

Edward the Elder, King of Wessex, has died. He is regarded by the Viking rulers of the north as their superior and now Sihtric of York acknowledges Edward’s successor, King Athelstan, as the ‘over-king’ of England.

927AD – King Guthfrith

Sihtric, King of York, dies and is succeeded by Guthfrith, a Dublin Norwegian.

July12, 927AD – Athelstan meets Northern kings

King Athelstan of Wessex meets the kings of Strathclyde and Scotland at Eamont Bridge in Cumbria. The kings acknowledge Athelstan’s superiority. Ealdred, the Ealdorman or High Reeve of Bamburgh, who rules the  territory of the North-East north of the Tees, also gives his support. No Viking kings are present.

927AD – King of York expelled

King Athelstan captures York and Guthfrith, the Viking king, is expelled.

Athelstan at Chester-le-Street
King Athelstan bestowing gifts to the St Cuthbert community at Chester-le-Street.

934AD – King of England visits Chester-le-Street

Athelstan of Wessex, now considered the first King of the English, has visited the shrine of St Cuthbert at Chester-le-Street and bestowed many great gifts. The gifts include a work by Bede entitled the Life of St Cuthbert which depicts Athelstan on the cover. He also gives Bishopwearmouth, and its extensive lands south of the Wear, to the Bishop of Chester-le-Street. It was likely part of the land taken by the Irish-Vikings in 918.

934AD – Athelstan attacks Scotland

Athelstan has severely ravaged Scotland to enforce his superiority in the north.

934AD – King grants Ripon sanctuary

Athelstan has granted rights of sanctuary to the monastery at Ripon.

Oct 27, 937AD – Athelstan defeats Norse-Gaels

Vikings from Dublin assisted by the Scots have been heavily defeated by King Athelstan in a bloody battle somewhere in the North West. Athelstan has destroyed the Danish fortress at York in order to completely suppress any further Viking rebellions.

Oct 27, 939AD – Edmund King of England

Athelstan, King of Wessex and England, has died at Gloucester. He has been succeeded by his 18-year-old brother Edmund.

939AD – Dublin Viking is King of York

Olaf Guthfrithson of Dublin, the son of Guthfrith, has become King of York after the people of Yorkshire rejected the claims of young Edmund.

942AD – Blacair King of Dublin and York

Blacair Guthfrithson has become the new Viking King of York and Dublin following the death of his brother Olaf.

944AD – Edmund takes York

Edmund, King of England, has seized York.

945AD – Cumbria ceded to the Scots

Strathclyde and Cumbria are ceded to Malcolm, King of the Scots, by Edmund. The area once formed part of the kingdom of Northumbria but it has been extensively settled by Scots over the past 30 years.

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Viking Northumbria

North East England History and Culture