Angles, Danes and Norse in the District of Huddersfield (1929) - Chapter 1

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Angles, Danes and Norse in the District of Huddersfield (1929) by W.G. Collingwood (2nd edition)

  • Preface (page 3)
  • Chapter 1 : The Anglian Occupation of Yorkshire (page 7)
  • Chapter 2 : British Loidis and Elmet (page 9)
  • Chapter 3 : The Anglian and British Map of the Huddersfield District (page 13)
  • Chapter 4 : The Anglian Abbeys (page 17)
  • Chapter 5 : Anglian Monuments (page 19)
  • Chapter 6 : Dewsbury (page 24)
  • Chapter 7 : Thornhill (page 33)
  • Chapter 8 : Walton and Rastrick Cross-bases (page 37)
  • Chapter 9 : Kirkburton and Kirkheaton — the Danish Settlers (page 40)
  • Chapter 10 : High Hoyland and the Norse Settlers (page 46)
  • Chapter 11 : Domesday Book an the Norman Conquest (page 50)
  • Chapter 12 : Mirfield, Cawthrone, Penistone and Skelmanthorpe (page 55)
  • Summary (page 60)
  • Bibliography (page 61)


When the Romans abandoned Britain they left a country already in distress. It went from bad to worse as soon as their governors and garrisons were withdrawn for the last time. Saxon pirates from over the North Sea, Picts from beyond Hadrian's Wall, Scots from Ireland (Ireland being then the home of the Scots), attacked the Britains, for the wealth of the country was worth plundering. During part of the Roman administration, that is to say, in the third and fourth centuries A.D., agriculture flourished, towns and villages prospered, Christianity was established, and the imperial rule gave as much security as was possible, together with the kind of government best suited to the times. But the Celtic Britons, however Romanized, never learnt to unite and to protect their own interests. Latterly, whenever they were left for a while undefended by Roman generals, they had been raided by the barbarians. These attacks from outside became more serious and widespread; internally there were dissensions; the whole country, but especially the North, fell into a lamentable condition.

Yorkshire suffered most, for it had been shielded by the forts between York and the Wall and along the coast; and it was wealthier than the lands to the north and west. In less than a hundred years the whole of the Roman-British civilization was destroyed, and the country north of the Trent was nearly depopulated. We gather this from the fact that traces of the population belonging to that period are extremely scanty. Here and there among the hills are ruins of the so called British settlements, in which scraps of pottery and other relics of the time are found; but the places that had been populous contain nothing to indicate that they were still inhabited. In the area covered by our map the Roman forts had been abandoned much earlier; all these will be found discussed in the Museum handbook on the Roman period; but they were of no avail in the age we are now describing. There are various legends, more or less ancient, from which some writers have tried to reconstruct a history of continuous Christian churches and Romanized organization at York and elsewhere, but they are misleading. By about A.D. 500 Yorkshire had relapsed into wilderness, with no more than a comparatively few Britons, broken men and degenerate, haunting the forests and the moors, and living a rude life such as was lived by the Highlanders of the middle ages.

It was about A.D. 500 that the Angles first appeared in Yorkshire. This is known from the remains found in graves of their pagan period, which also show the area of their earliest settlements. They came from the south of Denmark – some antiquaries think that on their way they stayed in South Norway – and pushed in small groups up the country from Saltburn and Robin Hood's Bay, Scarborough and Flamborough, and especially from the Humber. They occupied the slopes along the edges of the Cleveland Hills, the North and South Wolds, and the main Vale of York, for they were emigrant farmers looking for land between the bleak fells and the swampy flats where they could rear cattle and grow corn. They did not come with great armies to conquer kings and cities, for in Yorkshire at that time there were none to be subdued. Stories of battles have been attached to their immigration, but many of these stories can be shown to refer to later battles, chiefly of the Viking Age, from which Welsh bards of the eleventh and twelfth centuries constructed the details of the Arthurian legend. Nor did indications which showed that Britons continued to live among the Angles and that the two races often intermarried. Indeed, it was from this intermingling that the people of Yorkshire derived a new and superior character, and rapidly became a civilized and cultured race, capable of art and literature and of rising to the position of dominant power in Briton.

These Angles were of a different stock from the Saxons, whose home on the continent had been to the south of the original Anglia. But the Saxons had come first and were well known to both Romans and Britons, who continued to call every adventurer from over the North Sea by the name of Saxon. The name still clings in popular use. The new-comers in Wessex, Essex, Sussex and Middlesex, were Saxons; but those of the Midlands of East Anglia, and especially of Northumbria – all the land north of Humber – were Angles. As the North took the lead in early times, the whole combined race adopted the name of Anglish or English, in preference to Saxon. As for Yorkshire in particular, to call it Saxon is incorrect; to call it English, when speaking of these early days, suggests a later period. We cannot do otherwise than call the people Angles and their culture Anglian.

They were, at first, Pagans and barbarians. They built no stone houses, castles or towns. They made no roads, and after settling here they gave up seafaring. They talked a dialect related to that of the Saxons, but differing from it in pronunciation; and without lord or master for their first half-century in Yorkshire. But in Northumberland – then known as Bernicia – a new group of Angles fixed themselves under a king named Ida, and this may have roused the Angles of Yorkshire – then called Deira – to a sense of nationality and the need of organization. In 560, the Deirans elected Elle as their king, and for some time there was strife between the two rival kingdoms. Ida's son Ethelric, conquered Deira in 588 and left it at his death in 593 to his son, Ethelfrith, who married a daughter of Elle. But Anglian inheritance went to the son, and the rightful heirs to Elle's kingdom were the brothers of the Queen. On of them Eadwine, conquered Ethelfrith and reigned until he was slain by the Welsh and the Midland Angles at a great invasion. A little later, Oswald, Ethelfrith's son and Eadwine's nephew, reconquered both Bernicia and Deira; and his family and kindred, combining both original dynasties, held Northumbria for nearly two and a half centuries until the Danish invasion of 867.