Angles, Danes and Norse in the District of Huddersfield (1929) by W.G. Collingwood (2nd edition)
BRITISH LOIDIS AND ELMET
The West Riding was not at first included in the Anglian Kingdom. After the Romans left, it was British territory up to A.D. 616, and divided into two parts – Loidis, or Leeds, probably meaning upper Airedale and adjacent districts (we do not know its boundaries or early history), and Elmet, part of which was certainly between Leeds and York, and it probably extended further to the south-west. In 607, King Ethelfrith must have crossed this country when he went to fight the battle of Chester, the battle at which the Welsh monks were brought out to pray against the heathen "Saxons," and were slaughtered by them. It is said by an ancient but untrustworthy writer (Geoffrey of Monmouth), that Ethelfrith's brother-in-law and rival, Eadwine, was then taking refuge from him among the Welsh, and that this was the reason for the invasion. But the invasion was only a raid, no doubt along the Roman road (for Roman roads were still the main lines of travel) to Manchester and Chester. Ethelfrith retired without occupying the country he traversed. We can be pretty sure of this statement, because no Anglian remains of the pagan period are known in Loidis and Elmet, which shows that the Angles had left the west Riding entirely to the Britons.
A few years later, Eadwine's brother, Hereric, was in Elmet, taking refuge from Ethelfrith (who, of course, was trying to dispose of claimants to the throne), and living under the protection of the British king, whose name is variously spelt Cedric, Certic, or Ceretic (i.e. Keredig). The Venerable Bede in his "History of the Church," tells a curious story in this connexion – how Bregusuid, wife of Hereric, dreamt that she was looking for him in vain, but found instead a wonderful jewel, which threw a light all over Britain. Soon afterwards their daughter, Hilda (614-680), was born, to become the great Abbess of Whitby, the first Englishwoman of note who was a native of the West Riding. The second daughter, Hereswith, eventually became Queen of East Anglia; but shortly after her birth Hereric died by poison – and so the dream came true.
About this time Ethelfrith was slain in battle by Eadwine, who had gathered a small army to help him in gaining his father's realm ; and he seems to have lost no time in attacking Keredig, who had not protected his brother as he ought to have done. Keredig is said to have died in 616 (additions to the Historia Britonum of Nennius) and the British realm of Elmet was added to the Anglian province of Deira. The next we hear of Hilda is that she was baptized at York in 627, along with King Eadwine by Paulinus.
The visit of St. Paulinus to Yorkshire began in 625, when Eadwine married Ethelburga, daughter of Ethelbert of Kent, the first Christian King in England. As spiritual guide to the new queen came Paulinus, one of the Roman priests sent in 601 by Pope Gregory to St. Augustine at Canterbury, and now made bishop of the northern church – a church yet to be established but already planned. He preached diligently to the Angles; everyone has read the story of the council at Goodmanham, when the Anglian chief likened the life of a man to the flight of a sparrow through the firelit hall, and the heathen priest, Coifi, profaned and burnt his own temple. At Easter, 627, King Eadwine and his people were baptized at York, where Paulinus had founded a monastic church. The choice of the place was not because it was Eadwine's capital, for Anglian kings had then no cities; they lived on their own estates in various parts of the country, and there was no centralization of government. But Paulinus, the Roman, knew that it had been the ancient capital of the North, and the site was chosen for the reason, though the town – for all we know – was a deserted ruin. Another monastery was founded by him at Campodunum, or Donafeld, probably Doncaster, also formerly a Roman station; and he went up and down the country from thence to the north of Bernicia, preaching and baptizing for six years more. There was time for him to have come to Dewsbury, as tradition says; but his mission was to the pagan Angles, not to the Britons, who were already Christians, though regarded by him and other Romans as heretics. We have already seen that there are no pagan Anglian remains in our district, and there was, therefore, nothing to attract him there.
After six years came a great disaster. The Britons of North Wales under Cadwalla joined the Angles of Mercia (the Midlands) under Penda, and invaded Deira. In the Battle of Hatfield, near Doncaster, on October 12th, 633, King Eadwine was slain. Paulinus escaped by sea with the queen to Rochester, but the whole of Northumbria was devastated, not even the new churches being spared. The "heretic" Britons had as little love for Roman Christianity as the pagan Mercians. The monastery at Campodonum was burnt, but the stone altar of Paulinus was rescued, and nearly a hundred years later it was preserved, Bede says "at the abbey in the forest of Elmet when Thridwulf was then abbot." This, perhaps, is the basis of the tradition connecting Paulinus with Dewsbury, of which there will be more to say in another chapter.