Angles, Danes and Norse in the District of Huddersfield (1929) - Chapter 9

The following is made available free of any copyright restrictions (more info).
The following is a transcription of a historic book and may contain occasional small errors.

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)


A crucifix on an Anglian monument was not unknown even in the earlier times. The shaft at the Spital, Hexham, and the Ruthwell cross supply instances; and we have seen a late stone at Dewsbury in which the lower part of the crucifix is still visible. Indeed, this symbol became fairly common towards the end of the ninth century, though few examples are so well executed as the Kirkburton cross. This is here shown as restored from four fragments preserved on a shelf in the chancel of the church. Its late plait and plain mouldings show it to be of the group we have noticed, dating from the end of the tenth century or even a little later. A fifth fragment does not seem to fit into this cross; it may be part of a second monument in similar style; for it is not at all uncommon to find a pair of crosses. It has been supposed that one was at the head of the other at the foot of the grave; but it seems more likely that the second was merely a repetition of a type which had commended itself to local taste. Kirkburton has no group of monuments; it was evidently not a minster, but a place where there was a proprietory church or chapel, such as became common in the tenth century, though not unknown earlier. These stones would commemorate members of the local family. The church seems to have fallen into ruin, for it is not named in Domesday Book; and was no doubt restored later.

At Kirkheaton there was also an early chapel, dated by monuments in the 10th century; like Kirkburton, unknown at the time of Domesday Book, but restored afterwards. Preserved in a recess at the west end of the church, are four stones of very different kinds.

(a, b, c, below) The first is well known; its inscription in Anglian runes, "Eoh worohhtae" – Eoh wrought [this], has been often discussed. The kind of writing suggests that it cannot be later than the tenth century. But the ornament is very rude; the angular twist is of that period, and the incised spirals are like those of the cross from Cheadle, Cheshire, now in the Museum of the Philosophical Society, York, with the kind of head which, as we shall see, may be dated roughly as starting from the second quarter of the 10th century and may be much later.

(d, e, f and g, above) Parts of two Cross-shafts, with plaits in relief, are by another hand than his who signed the last with misplaced satisfaction. They may be a Dewsbury carver. The work is not first-rate, but much less debased, and perhaps earlier.

The fourth stone, found in 1916 by Mr. J. W. Cocking, and communicated to the writer by Mr. Legh Tolson, is important as the only known representative in our district of the later 10th century Anglo-Danish style, so often seen in those parts of Yorkshire where the Danes first settled. When the symbolism of the figures and animals may be, we can hardly determine, partly because the stone is very weathered and the forms on each side of the figure’s head are difficult to follow. In the restoration here given, and in the full-size model made by Mr. Lockwood, in the Museum, we have followed other stones which show a figure of a saint bearing palms of victory. The patterns on the three other sides, when extended, seem to terminate simultaneously in such a way as to give the height; and we have only to insert the usual ring-knot of the period in the upper part of the front to get the shaft complete. There are traces of a cable-edging, which is quite in character. The head may have been a wheel-cross for as the tenth century advanced, wheel-heads became the fashion, though they are never seen in connection with Anglian crosses of earlier periods. To put a wheel-head upon a shaft of Anglian style – as one sometimes sees in modern churchyards - is a mistake. The simplest kind of wheel-head seen in south-west Yorkshire has been chosen for the restoration, which is not merely fanciful, but justified by analogies where the remains are insufficient.

Now this cross is certainly of the second half of the tenth century, and it shows Danish influence for the first time appearing in our district. Turning again to the map, we can trace the Danish place-names, and find the area of Danish settlement.

The termination " – Thorpe" is considered a test-word, which, if it occurs in an ancient name, shows the presence of Danish-speaking inhabitants. The Danes in Denmark called their villages “thorpes” and though the word was ultimately taken into the English language, any instance mentioned in Domesday Book is likely to imply an original Danish immigrant. The termination " – by," for a dwelling, was used by Danes, but used also by the Norse; so that "Thorpe" remains the most distinctive test. In our district we have many late "thorpes," but in Domesday Book, only Skelmanthorpe, in the form of Scelmertorp, meaning the village of one with the Danish name of Skjaldmarr. There are one or two " – bys" which suggests Danes; Denby, near Penistone and Denby near Kirkheaton can hardly mean anything but "the dwelling of the Danes" (Denebi in Domesday Book). Later than that date are Barnby, near Cawthorne, mentioned 1090, perhaps from the old Danish personal name Barni; Gawthorpe, near Dewsbury, mentioned 1276, the village of Gauk, a nickname meaning "cuckoo," our dialect "Gowk"; but Gawthorpe, near Lepton, in 1297, was Goutthorp, the village of Gauti, "the man from Gautland"; and Northorpe, near Mirfield, 1297, was the northern village (of Danes?). Birkby has been already mentioned as possibly meaning the Britons’ farm.

This list seems to exhaust the distinctly Danish places. They are by no means many. We seem to see a few of that stock coming in late, not in the first flush of conquest, but when the tenth century was somewhat advanced, from the eastward, and taking land where they could get it. One family settled near Kirkheaton, where there was probably already a church. The Danes by this time were Christian, and no doubt attended the "kirk" at "heaton." One of them left name and wealth enough to make a tall cross desirable over his grave. His family knew of the Anglo-Danish monuments in other parts, and would have nothing of local work. They sent for a carver to their tastes, but they never troubled to write their names. Pretty certainly they never did write.

For the sake of clearness it may well be to re-state here the general trend of the "ethnic currents" or waves of immigration which we can trace in this area, shown by the map given already.

(a) Relics of British (Celtic) occupation survived here in some numbers to a later period than in most parts of England.

(b) Anglian (or "Anglo-Saxon," though there were no "Saxons" in Yorkshire) settlers began to come up the Calder and its tributaries after A.D. 635, taking up ground that was naturally fit for corn and cattle; and they were dominant here until the tenth century.

(c) Danes came into Elmet (the West Riding) much later than their great invasion of 867, when they occupied the vale of York but not the hill-country of Cleveland and the dales. We find their "thorpes" and "bys" only on the eastern side of our map and we infer that they came as peaceful settlers among the older population during the tenth century. That the Anglian inhabitants survived alongside of the Danes is shown by the very strong survival of late Anglian art in the monuments of the tenth and early eleventh centuries.

(d) Norse-descended settlers, who had come over the Irish Sea early in the tenth century, penetrated the Huddersfield District first about 930-940. They were sheep-farmers and therefore took up higher ground, unoccupied by the former inhabitants and were especially strong on the west and north-west of the map. But as they probably continued to arrive, or multiplied (being hardy colonists) during the tenth and eleventh centuries, they are found all over our district.