Angles, Danes and Norse in the District of Huddersfield (1929) - Chapter 3

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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)


Anglian settlement hereabouts cannot have begun until the whole of Northumbria was reconquered by King Oswald the Saint, in 635; and as the population had received a severe set back, it must have been long before there was any surplus to make fresh colonization necessary. We can find the sites by the help of place-names, but they give no dates, and there is no record in chronicles or documents that affords help. We can only say that Anglian settlers must have found their way into this district from some time after the middle of the seventh century up to the middle of the ninth, by which time the monuments gave evidence of their presence. The list of estates with distinctly Anglian names in Domesday Book (1086), is much later than this immigration; but as places occupied after the Danish invasion are not very likely to have Anglian names (though even that may be possible), this list may be taken as a fair guide. The evidence of place-names, though valuable, is not final; in our case we cannot neglect it, but the details may turn out to be disputable.

We may mention first a few place-names suggesting the survival of Britons, not ejected by the Angles. Some main natural features everywhere retain their more ancient names, learnt by the new-comers from the old inhabitants. The Calder is now thought by Professor Ekwall (in his recently published English River Names) to be named from a British word meaning the rapid stream; he thinks the Colne, anciently Calne, also British, possibly meaning the noisy river. Krumlin is the Celtic for a “crooked water course.” But there are also a few inhabited sites which point to a real British remnant:- Walton, if it means the “Welshmen’s farm” (in Anglian tun; a small hamlet is still sometimes called “toon” in northern dialect); Bretton, the “Brittons’ tun”; Birkby, on the analogy of Birkby, near Leeds, and the one near Northallerton, also two places of this name in West Cumberland and one near Cartmel, which were anciently spelt Bretby, meaning the “Britons’ dwelling,” may have been a Celtic site named by Danes or Norse, or if ancient, it might mean “birch farm;” but while Birkenshaw plainly means “birch copse” it is much less likely that a by or farm would be named from birch trees, which grew everywhere and were of little value to the early settler, than that this name should be in line with so many others known to have been Bretby. Cumberworth was evidently in Anglian times the “estate of Cumbrian,” or Briton. Cartworth may derive from a Celtic name. Exley, near Halifax, was in 1274 Ecclesley, the lea of the Church; and here it is likely that there had been a British Church.

Then we have two places with names ending in –bury, both mentioned in the Domesday Book. When the Angles named a place they usually said “ at (the place),” so that the name was in the dative case, where we use the simple nominative. The Anglian for “castle” is burh, but the dative is byrig; and a phrase like “aet Dewesbyrig” (at Dewsbury) gives the Domesday Book from Deusberia, and the modern Dewsbury. This was thought by Prof. Moorman to contain the Welsh Dewi (David), and if so, it was the castle of a Briton before it became an Anglian Church. Mr. Armitage Goodall prefers a name Dewe, of Frisian origin. In any case, whether there as a previous owner or not, it took its name from some person who held it after the beginning of the Anglian settlement. The common laws of language make it impossible that Deusberia ever meant the Castle of God (Deus), referring to the church. It is not uncommon to find deserted forts re-used for religious purposes, as York and Campodunum (if that was Doncaster) by Paulinus, Carlisle by St. Cuthbert in 685, Chester-le-street by Eardwulf in 882; and Newcastle Roman fort, which in 1073-1080 was occupied by monks and re-named Monkchester for a time.

Almondbury, in Domesday Book Almaneberie, probably represents the Anglian “aet Aelmennabyrig”; for Ael becoming Al compare Alric, Cox in the Magna Britannia, 1720, said, “some deduce it of late from the Alemanes who came into Briton as auxiliaries to the Romans.” This derivation was favoured by Prof. Moorman; but it is unlikely that the Angles could have known details about the Roman military organization of four hundred years earlier, even if the Alemanni were stationed at Almondbury, which is improbable. With other guesses, we may pass over the dialect form, comparatively modern; what we have to explain is the entry in Domesday Book. The Anglian name Alchmund is less near the form than such a name as Aelmann. Considering the use of ael- or el- for “foreign settlement,” perhaps Aelmann was alternative to “Welsh,” which also simply meant “foreign.” Aellmann of Aelmanus was an Anglo-Saxon personal name and though the word is not in evidence as a common noun, we have ellend for “foreign land”, eltheod for “foreign people” and other examples showing that there was almost certainly a word elmann for “foreigner,” which might have been written aelmann. As there is no s in Almandberie, it would seem that this word meant the burg of the Almans or foreigners, not “Alman’s burg” or the fort of one man Alman or any other name, as in the case of Almondsbury, Alchmunds brug, near Bristol. The Castle Hill may have been known to the settlers as the fortress of the Welshmen, that is, their place of refuge, hardly a residential “castle” in the modern sense. It had certainly been a British fort in the early Roman times. Whether it was still occupied by Britons at the coming of the Angles is not recorded, but such a magnificent stronghold could hardly have been useless in any period of disturbance.

These few names we may take as showing a survival of Britons in our district. Turning to Anglian settlements and coming up the Calder, we find – Horbury, “the fort in a muddy site,” possibly another old British place; Ossett, “Osla’s Seat”; Hanging Heaton and Earlsheaton, “high farm,” later distinguished by the prefixes; Dewsbury, already discussed; Thornhill, which explains itself; Heckmondwike, “Heahmund’s village or house,” looks like an early name, though it was not a separate estate at the compiling of the Domesday Book; Whitely, “White Lea,” ;Liversedge, “Leofhere’s hillside”; Hopton, Hartshead and Clifton could be explained as Anglian, but the names like Dalton, are perhaps later; Bradley, a “broad lea”; (South)owram, the place “on the banks”; and Elland, the “land by the water.” This was as far as the earlier Angles settled westward up the Calder, for Ripponden, “by Ry-burn-late, though named by English speakers, not by Scandinavian immigrants.

Then going up the Colne-Dalton, we have said, may be late; Huddersfield is though to mean the “field of Huder” ; Edgerton, “Ecgheard’s farm”; Lindley, “flax lea”; and there again the Anglian settlement stopped. Up the Holme: - this river name is thought by Ekwall to be a back-formation from the name of the village; “Holme, earlier Holne, probably goes back to O.E. Holegn, holly” – Lockwood, the “wood of the fold”; Almondbury, already discussed; Farnley, D.B. Ferlei “far” or “boars lea”; Honley, “Hana’s Lea”; Austonley, “Ealhstan’s Lea”; and Hepworth “Heppa’s Estate.” Up the Fenay beck, (Kirk)heaton, “high farm,” and (Kirk)burton, “byre farm,2 both had chapels before the Norman conquest, but were distinguished later as church sites; Shelley, the “lea on a ledge” or “peak” ; Shepley, “sheep lea”; and Fulstone, “Fugel’s farm.” To the east are Shitlington, the “farm of the Scytlings, or family of Scytel; Emley “Aemma’s Lea” Clayton, “clay farm”; Cawthorne, perhaps “Cold thorn,” from some great old thorn-tree; (Ing)birchworth, “birth estate,” with the Norse “ing,” meadow, added later to distinguish it from Roughbirchworth; Silkstone, “Sylc’s farm”; Oxspring, perhaps the “bursting spring”; and Penistone “Pening’s farm.”

These places, except Shitlington, must have been single-farm settlements, not family villages of the usual earlier Anglian type. Even Penistone seems to be a farm of a single Pening, or son of Penn; not the farm of the family of Penings, which would have made the name Penington. Heckmondwike may have meant a village, but sometimes the Anglian wic was a single house. Some of the places such as Bradley, Lindley, Farnley, Shelley and Shepley, may, from their position, have been outlying fields of early estates, becoming separate farms when the land was subdivided under increasing population and improved cultivation. The impression given by the map, as well as by the monuments which we shall notice later, is that the settlement was gradual and slow. The township of Saddleworth, south-west of the Pennine watershed, is a case in point. It bears no sign of early Anglian settlement, but of more than usual survival of Britons and colonization by Norse in the tenth and eleventh centuries. It is named in Domesday Book as Tohac or Thoac, later Quick (“the bogs”), an outlying part of Austonley and of small value. To the first Anglian colonists it was hostile, a foreign or “Welsh” land; and like the English of the middle ages in Shropshire and Herefordshire, they found the presence of British neighbours to be highly disturbing unless they were under the protection of some strong centre.