Pre-Conquest Northumbria 1031-1066

Eve of Conquest 1031 to 1066

In the years before the Norman Conquest, the North-East was administered by Earl Siward who died in 1055. Siward was succeeded by Tostig, brother of Harold who became king in January 1066. Tostig was so unpopular in the region that he was forced into exile. He returned in September 1066 as part of a Norwegian invasion of Yorkshire, but his brother, now King Harold, defeated him and the Norwegians at the Battle of Stamford Bridge near York. Harold, though, had to immediately return south to deal with yet another invasion, this time from the Normans in Sussex. On October 14, 1066, he was killed at the Battle of Hastings and William the Conqueror became king.

Old postcard showing Low Petergate
Old postcard showing Low Petergate, York

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1031 – Siward becomes Earl of York

Siward has become the Earl of York. He is a Dane who has married into the Northumbrian royal house – his wife is the grand-daughter of Uhtred – after winning their admiration as a warrior. He is encouraged to settle disputes between his deputies Carl the Hold of York and Ealdred the Earl of Bamburgh. Ealdred has been earl since the death of Eadulf Cudel sometime after 1019.

Nov 12, 1035 – Canute dies

King Canute dies at Shaftesbury and is buried at Winchester.

1038 – Earl of North East killed in dispute

Ealdred of Bamburgh, the Earl of the North-East, is killed by Carl the Hold of York following a long standing dispute. He is succeeded by Eadulf, the second earl of this name.

Elvet Bridge
Durham. Photo © David Simpson 2018

1038 – Scots repelled from Durham

King Duncan of Scotland besieges Durham City but is repelled.

1041 – Bamburgh ruler killed

Eadulf of Bamburgh, the Earl of the North-East, is killed. The assailant was probably Siward who becomes Earl of all Northumbria.

1042 – Confessor is king

Edward the Confessor has become King of England. For the last 25 years he has lived in Normandy.

St Cuthberts Church Darlington
St Cuthberts Church Darlington. Photo David Simpson

1050 – Darlington is Dearthington

At this time Darlington was known as Dearthington.

1051 – Godwinson is Wessex earl

Harold Godwinson becomes Earl of Wessex but Edward the Confessor is still king.

1054 – Siward defeats Macbeth

Siward, Earl of Northumbria, defeats the Scots under King Macbeth and installs his nephew Malcolm Canmore as Lord of Strathclyde and Lothian. The battle is at Dunsinane near Scone in Perthshire.

1055 – Siward dies

Siward dies at York and is buried at St Olaf’s church. The earldom is given to Tostig Godwinson, brother of Harold, the Earl of Wessex.

1056 – New bishop at Durham

Aegelwine becomes the last Anglo-Saxon Bishop of Durham.

Chester-le-Street Church
Chester-le-Street’s parish church of St Mary and St Cuthbert stands within the site of the Roman fort and earlier minster. Photo © John Simpson

1056 – Chester-le-Street church rebuilt

Chester-le-Street church, a former minster, has been rebuilt in stone.

1058 – King Malcolm Canmore

Malcolm Canmore, a nephew of the late Northumbrian Earl Siward, becomes King Malcolm III of Scotland after King Macbeth is killed in battle. Malcolm gives allegiance to Edward the Confessor at York.

Lindisfarne Castle
Lindisfarne Castle : Photo © 2015 David Simpson

1061 – Scots attack Lindisfarne

Despite his pledge of allegiance, King Malcolm of Scotland ravages Lindisfarne and north Northumbria and captures Cumberland. It is major defeat for Tostig, Earl of Northumbria.

1064 – Bamburgh noble murdered

Cospatric, a respected noble of Bamburgh, is murdered in Wessex by Tostig, the unpopular Earl of Northumbria.

1065 The North rebels against Tostig

Rebellion breaks out against Earl Tostig in the north following the murder of Cospatric. Tostig is unpopular because he is a southerner who, unlike Siward, has no family connections with the north. He has also imposed high taxes and murdered local noblemen, including Cospatric. However, Tostig is safe in Wiltshire.

1065 Morcar replaces exiled Tostig

Edwin, Earl of Mercia, joins the Northern rebels against Tostig and King Edward is forced to exile Tostig to keep the peace. Morcar, a Mercian, is appointed Earl of York served by Osulf of Bamburgh, the earl north of the Tees.

Jan 6, 1066 Harold crowned king of England

Edward the Confessor dies and Harold Godwinson is crowned King of England. William of Normandy claims that he is heir to the English throne.

Easter 1066 Harold keeps brother exiled

King Harold visits York and promises to keep his brother Tostig in exile in Flanders.

Aug 1066 Norwegian king attacks Northumberland

Harald Hardrada, King of Norway, attacks the coast of Northumberland and prepares to invade Yorkshire from the Humber. Tostig, the exiled Earl of Northumbria, also plans an invasion.

The Cleveland Coast at Saltburn
The Cleveland Coast, harried by Hardrada. Photo © David Simpson 2018.

Sep 1066 Tostig joins Hardrada’s Norwegians

Tostig attacks the south coast from Flanders and then attempts to invade Yorkshire where he is repelled before heading to Scotland for reinforcements. He then joins the raiding fleet of Harald Hardrada of Norway in the River Tyne in what may, or may not, be a pre-arranged meeting. Hardrada’s men harry the Cleveland coast and Scarborough before entering the River Humber with Tostig.

Sep  20, 1066 Battle of Fulford Gate

The Norwegians under Hardrada defeat Morcar and his brother Edwin in a great battle at Gate Fulford on the outskirts of York. The citizens of York give their support to the Norwegian King.

Sep 25, 1066 Battle of Stamford Bridge

Norwegian King Harald Hardrada encamps at Stamford Bridge near York but is defeated in battle by Harold King of England, who has marched from the south. The King of Norway is killed by an arrow through the throat. Tostig is also killed.

Sep 28, 1066 Normans invade England

A huge force of Normans under Duke William landed in Sussex this morning. They have set up a base near Hastings.

Oct1, 1066 Harold receives invasion news at York

Harold, celebrating his victory over the Norwegians at York, receives news of the Norman invasion. He takes his tired army south to fight the Normans.

Oct 14, 1066 Harold killed at Battle of Hastings

William of Normandy has been victorious at the Battle of Hastings. King Harold has been shot dead with an arrow in the eye. William will be crowned King on Christmas Day.

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North East England History and Culture