The earliest people are thought to have come to Britain about 500,000 years ago. Britain and Ireland were joined to Europe at this time, and during several Ice Ages much of the land was covered with thick ice. This period was known as the Stone Age, and people used stone tools to hunt and fish. The melting ice created the English Channel and Irish Sea, forming the islands of Britain and Ireland 
25,000 years ago, the climate of Northern Europe started to grow colder.
Winter snows in the far north did not melt in the summer, 
so huge ice sheets started to pile up.

                                         Ice sheets blocked the North Sea

By 18,000 years ago, it was the height of the Ice Age.
Ice sheets 1,500 metres thick covered northern Britainand much 
of the Continent.Sea levels fell considerably because so much water
was trapped in the growing ice sheetsshows that rivers 
of Nord - Pas de Calais flowed either towards the Rhine or the Seine. 

To the south, a "land bridge" between England and France 
emerged as the sea level fell.There was no-one around
to walk across - in the middle of the last major Ice Age, early man 
had retreated to the south of France.

10,000 years ago the ice sheets were retreating and melting. 
Rivers again flowed out to the North Sea. Selevels were rising, but still 
about 50 metres below today's levels.Early man and animals returned 
to northern France, and crossed to England over the "land bridge".
 New forests and grasslands covered the low land, and plentiful 
game attracted Stone Age hunting groups.

As the world warmed up again, the ice continued to melt and 
sea level rose.8,500 years ago, the rising sea flooded up 
the river valleys through the hills joiningEngland to France.
Eventually it broke through where deeper valleys had beengouged out 
in the Ice Age. Swift currents flowing between the Atlantic rough where deeper valleys had beengouged out in the Ice Age. Swift currents flowing between the Atlantic and the North Sea soon eroded the islands, leaving the stumps as sandbanks in the channel.

Paleolithic" means "Old Stone Age," and begins with the first use of stone tools. The Paleolithic is the earliest period of the Stone Age.

Stone scrapers were used for removing the skins of the animals. Stone axes were used for wounding or cutting up the prey. They had handles made of wood or deer antler. Stone drills were used too. The main stone raw material was the quartz. Wooden tools did too not preserve in time
During the Upper Paleolithic (40,000 to 10,000 BC), more complex stone tools appeared, like stone lamps that were filled with grease and had a wick made of plant fibers. The silex arrow points were complex, having rods that allowed them to be joined to the shaft via a resin or tendons. Bone harpoons and needles from this period were found in Europe.

Click on BBC Walking with cavemen

The "Mesolithic," or "Middle Stone Age"  was the period in the development of human technology between the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods of the Stone Age.

"Neolithic" means "New Stone Age." This was a period of primitive technological and social development, toward the end of the "Stone Age." The Neolithic period saw the development of early villagesagricultureanimal domesticationtools and the onset of the earliest recorded incidents of warfare.

The Sumerians first began farming c. 9500 BC. By 7000 BC, agriculture had been developed in India and Peru separately; by 6000 BC, to Egypt; by 5000 BC, to China. About 2700 BC, agriculture had come to Mesoamerica.

Neolithic farmers settled in stable communities, cleared land, planted wheat and barley, and raised herds of domesticated sheep, cattle, and pigs. What hunting they did as a supplement to their agriculture may have been done with the assistance of small dogs.
They settled on the easily drained soils of the upland hills and on the coastal plains, avoiding the thickly wooded valley bottoms. This meant that the areas of heaviest settlement were the chalk hills of the south and west, where many of their remains can be seen today.

Aerial view of the Neolithic house during excavation
These Neolithic settlers originally lived in rectangular log cabins, similar in style to those of the early American West.

Communities were small, but they were communities, so people could and did indulge in large projects requiring group participation, such as the building of communal graves (long barrows), causewayed camps, and henges. More on these later.
Although these people were farmers, they hadn't yet ironed out all the fine details of crop management, so every 10-20 years the land would reach the point where it could no longer support crops and the group would have to move on. Each group, probably no larger than an extended family, seems to have moved around a fairly small region in this way; packing up when the land would no longer produce. In a few generations they could have returned to the original settlement after the land had lain fallow long enough to regenerate.
Clothing seems to have been simple hide garments. Ornamentation was extremely simple; animal teeth and bone necklaces.
Life span was short, about 35 years for men and 30 for women. Arthritis was rampant, as was malnutrition. This was not a Golden Age of Yore; it was a difficult time to scratch a living from the earth.

Bronze Age
The beginning of the Bronze Age in Britain can be put around 2,000 BC. Although not certain, it is generally thought that the new bronze tools and weapons identified with this age were brought over from continental Europe. The skulls recovered from burial sites from the Bronze Age are different in shape from Stone Age skulls. This would suggest that new ideas and new blood were brought over from the continent. Stone and bronze can be used together, subject to the availability of both materials. True bronze is a combination of 10% tin and 90% copper. Both materials were readily available in Britain at this time.
Before its entry into Britain, the Bronze Age was in full swing in Europe.The island of Crete was centre for the expansion of the bronze trade to Europe. The Mycenaeans created the finest bronze weapons. They came from southern Russia at around 2,000 BC, and settled in the lowlands of Greece. There they began to trade with the Minoans. They built a large navy, and began to attack nearby lands. Over time they adapted to the Minoan way of life, and eventually, around 1,400 BC, became the major power in the Aegean Sea.

At any rate by 2,000 BC English society was changed by the invention of Bronze. Metal artefacts appeared in England as early as 2,700 BC although it is believed they were imported. By about 2,000 BC bronze was being made in England.
Bronze is made of 9 parts copper and one part tin. It is, of course, harder than stone and provided more efficient tools and weapons. The Bronze Age people also rode horses and they were the first people in England to weave cloth. Bronze age women held their hair with bone pins and they wore crescent shaped necklaces.
In the late Bronze Age (1,000 BC-650 BC) forts were built on hills so warfare was, it seems, becoming common. This may have been because the population was rising and fertile land was becoming harder to obtain.
Meanwhile the Bronze Age people continued to build barrows, although cremation was practised. The dead were buried with useful artefacts. Presumably the living believed the dead would need these in the afterlife. Unfortunately since they had no written records nothing is known about the Bronze Age religion.
We know that Bronze Age people lived in round wooden huts with thatched roofs but nothing is known about their society or how it was organised. However there were almost certainly different classes by that time. Tin and copper were exported from Britain along with animal hides. Jet and amber were imported for the rich.

Iron age
The Iron Age of the British Isles covers the period from about 800 BC to the Roman invasion of 43 AD, and follows on from the Bronze Age
During the Iron Age, Britain was a land of farms and small villages, with people living in round houses with thatched roofs.

Who were they? The Iron Age is the age of the "Celt" in Britain. Over the 500 or so years leading up to the first Roman invasion a Celtic culture established itself throughout the British Isles. Who were these Celts?

For a start, the concept of a "Celtic" people is a modern and somewhat romantic reinterpretation of history. The “Celts” were warring tribes who certainly wouldn’t have seen themselves as one people at the time.
The "Celts" as we traditionaly regard them exist largely in the magnificence of their art and the words of the Romans who fought them. The trouble with the reports of the Romans is that they were a mix of reportage and political propaganda. It was politically expedient for the Celtic peoples to be coloured as barbarians and the Romans as a great civilizing force. And history written by the winners is always suspect.

Where did they come from?

What we do know is that the people we call Celts gradually infiltrated Britain over the course of the centuries between about 500 and 100 B.C. There was probably never an organized Celtic invasion; for one thing the Celts were so fragmented and given to fighting among themselves that the idea of a concerted invasion would have been ludicrous.

The Celts were a group of peoples loosely tied by similar language, religion, and cultural expression. They were not centrally governed, and quite as happy to fight each other as any non-Celt. They were warriors, living for the glories of battle and plunder. They were also the people who brought iron working to the British Isles.

The advent of iron. The use of iron had amazing repercussions. First, it changed trade and fostered local independence. Trade was essential during the Bronze Age, for not every area was naturally endowed with the necessary ores to make bronze. Iron, on the other hand, was relatively cheap and available almost everywhere.

Hill forts.

The time of the "Celtic conversion" of Britain saw a huge growth in the number of hill forts throughout the region. These were often small ditch and bank combinations encircling defensible hilltops. Some are small enough that they were of no practical use for more than an individual family, though over time many larger forts were built. The curious thing is that we don't know if the hill forts were built by the native Britons to defend themselves from the encroaching Celts, or by the Celts as they moved their way into hostile territory.

Usually these forts contained no source of water, so their use as long term settlements is doubtful, though they may have been useful indeed for withstanding a short term siege. Many of the hill forts were built on top of earlier causewayed camps.

Celtic family life.

The basic unit of Celtic life was the clan, a sort of extended family. The term "family" is a bit misleading, for by all accounts the Celts practiced a peculiar form of child rearing; they didn't rear them, they farmed them out. Children were actually raised by foster parents. The foster father was often the brother of the birth-mother. Got it?

Clans were bound together very loosely with other clans into tribes, each of which had its own social structure and customs, and possibly its own local gods.


The Celts lived in huts of arched timber with walls of wicker and roofs of thatch. The huts were generally gathered in loose hamlets. In several places each tribe had its own coinage system.


The Celts were farmers when they weren't fighting. One of the interesting innovations that they brought to Britain was the iron plough. Earlier ploughs had been awkward affairs, basically a stick with a pointed end harnessed behind two oxen. They were suitable only for ploughing the light upland soils. The heavier iron ploughs constituted an agricultural revolution all by themselves, for they made it possible for the first time to cultivate the rich valley and lowland soils. They came with a price, though. It generally required a team of eight oxen to pull the plough, so to avoid the difficulty of turning that large a team, Celtic fields tended to be long and narrow, a pattern that can still be seen in some parts of the country today.

The lot of women. 

Celtic lands were owned communally, and wealth seems to have been based largely on the size of cattle herd owned. The lot of women was a good deal better than in most societies of that time. They were technically equal to men, owned property, and could choose their own husbands. They could also be war leaders, as Boudicca (Boadicea) later proved.


There was a written Celtic language, but it developed well into Christian times, so for much of Celtic history they relied on oral transmission of culture, primarily through the efforts of bards and poets. These arts were tremendously important to the Celts, and much of what we know of their traditions comes to us today through the old tales and poems that were handed down for generations before eventually being written down.

Druids. Another area where oral traditions were important was in the training of Druids. There has been a lot of nonsense written about Druids, but they were a curious lot; a sort of super-class of priests, political advisors, teachers, healers, and arbitrators. They had their own universities, where traditional knowledge was passed on by rote. They had the right to speak ahead of the king in council, and may have held more authority than the king. They acted as ambassadors in time of war, they composed verse and upheld the law. They were a sort of glue holding together Celtic culture.


From what we know of the Celts from Roman commentators, who are, remember, witnesses with an axe to grind, they held many of their religious ceremonies in woodland groves and near sacred water, such as wells and springs. The Romans speak of human sacrifice as being a part of Celtic religion. One thing we do know, the Celts revered human heads.

Celtic warriors would cut off the heads of their enemies in battle and display them as trophies. They mounted heads in doorposts and hung them from their belts. This might seem barbaric to us, but to the Celt the seat of spiritual power was the head, so by taking the head of a vanquished foe they were appropriating that power for themselves. It was a kind of bloody religious observance.
The Iron Age is when we first find cemeteries of ordinary people’s burials (in hole-in-the-ground graves) as opposed to the elaborate barrows of the elite few that provide our main records of burials in earlier periods.

The Celts at War.

The Celts loved war. If one wasn't happening they'd be sure to start one. They were scrappers from the word go. They arrayed themselves as fiercely as possible, sometimes charging into battle fully naked, dyed blue from head to toe, and screaming like banshees to terrify their enemies.

They took tremendous pride in their appearance in battle, if we can judge by the elaborately embellished weapons and paraphernalia they used. Golden shields and breastplates shared pride of place with ornamented helmets and trumpets.

The Celts were great users of light chariots in warfare. From this chariot, drawn by two horses, they would throw spears at an enemy before dismounting to have a go with heavy slashing swords. They also had a habit of dragging families and baggage along to their battles, forming a great milling mass of encumbrances, which sometimes cost them a victory, as Queen Boudicca would later discover to her dismay

Northwest Europe was dominated by three main Celtic groups:
  • the Gauls
  • the Britons
  • the Gaels

Invasion of Britain 55 BC

The invasion of Britain was likely planned as early as 57 BC, and certainly by 56 BC. Aid by British Celts against Roman efforts in Gaul, gave Caesar the excuse he needed to justify the undertaking, but his motives were certainly far more personal and political. Much like his crossing of the Rhine into Germania, Caesar certainly wanted to be the first Roman to gain the prestige of crossing to Britain, the farthest reach of the known ancient world. The great mineral wealth of Britain, metals such as silver, iron and tin also were a likely motivation, and in 55 BC, an expedition was finally practical.
In late August of 55 BC, with the VII and X legions approximating 10,000 men, Caesar set sail from Portus Itius (modern Boulogne) reaching the British coast off of Dover overnight. Caesar had already been in lengthy discussion with various merchants and other Celts with knowledge of Britain, and the Britons were well aware of the coming expedition. Additionally, Caesar's ally Commius, chief of the Gallic Atrebates, had already gone to Britain to negotiate peace for the Romans and was taken prisoner by the Britons. Upon the initial arrival, Celtic warriors lined the cliffs of Dover, making a landing impossible, and the fleet was forced farther up the coast. Though followed by the Cantii, who had every intention of blocking the Roman landing, the Romans landed on a pebbly flat shore near Deal.
Caesar's initial planning, and in fact the entire first expedition, seems to have been fraught with uncharacteristic tactical errors. He first chose to land at low tide, forcing his ships to anchor up to 600 feet off shore. His men were then forced to wade that distance under heavy fire from British missiles. The landing was in peril from the beginning, with the men hesitant to rush the shore. Only the intervention of the 10th legion's standard bearer inspired the men. According to Caesar he began to rush the shore calling out, "Leap forth, soldiers, unless you wish to betray your standard to the enemy. I, at any rate, shall have performed my duty to my country and my general."
Initially, the British chariots caused considerable problems for the legionaries, and Caesar was impressed by the Celtic method of warfare. In his commentaries, he wrote, "Their manner of fighting from chariots is as follows : first they drive in all directions and hurl javelins, and so by the mere terror that the teams inspire and by the noise of the wheels they generally throw the ranks of soldiers into confusion. When they have worked their way in between the troops, they leap down from the chariots and fight on foot. Meanwhile their charioteers retire gradually from the battle, and place chariots in such a fashion that, if the warriors are had pressed by the enemy, they have a ready means of retreat to their own side "
The Romans eventually got the upper hand, however, and drove the Britons back. Over the next few days, many tribes began negotiating peace and surrendering to Caesar, but failure to provide hostages as was the custom, kept Caesar suspicious. On the fourth day after his arrival in Britain, his much needed cavalry arrived, but a terrible storm not only forced them back to Gaul. Worse still, the storm and changes in the tides damaged the bulk of Caesar's anchored fleet. The Romans had brought little food supply with them, and now faced the danger of being unable to return to Gaul. With only 2 legions, it seems likely from the ill-prepared nature of the expedition, that it certainly wasn't meant to be a full invasion. Caesar probably expected very little resistance among the locals, and this first trip was very likely only intended as a short show of strength to impress the Britons and arrange for terms. Regardless, the Romans were in serious trouble and had to begin foraging for supplies.
At this point, it became clear to the Celtic chiefs that if they had an opportunity to send the Romans back across the channel. With one legion busily working on salvaging and repairing the fleet, the second was sent out to reap corn in local fields. While foraging, the British ambushed the legion, and their chariots wreaked havoc. The Romans were simply unable to stand and fight in the disciplined style that they were trained for. Caesar claims that his presence kept the battle from a rout, and he was able to withdraw back to the beach and his other legion. A stroke of luck allowed the Romans time to regroup, when 3 days of rain prevented any more attacks. However, it also allowed the Britons time to share the news of its initial victory, thereby recruiting more warriors for the coming battle.
Caesar was in serious jeopardy of losing his first major encounter on foreign soil. Retreat was not an option due to weather, and Caesar's dignity. When the weather broke, a large Celtic army moved towards the Roman camp, and Caesar prepared in the Roman style. This time, though, he went on the offensive rather than allow his men to be intimidated by the British chariots. The battle turned out to be a rather short affair, ending in victory for the Romans. They pursued the fleeing enemy around the countryside burning and surrounding as they went, eventually forcing the local tribes to sue for peace. In order to save face, Caesar demanded double the number of hostages originally asked for, but promised to leave for Gaul as soon as able. The Britons agreed, though only a few hostages were actually sent, but since the fleet was ready Caesar hastily crossed back across the channel.
This first expedition was certainly no great Roman victory, and can really be considered a defeat at the hands of the British tribes. Though he escaped mostly unharmed, Caesar's pride and dignity were surely damaged. His report back to Rome for this campaign year was impressive. Having crossed the Rhine to Germania and across the sea to Britain, Caesar overcame any fault for being so poorly prepared. Another 20 days of thanksgiving were granted to him for his deeds in 55 BC, but when he returned to Cisalpine Gaul for winter administration, Britain was most definitely still on his mind.

Invasion of Britain 54 BC

At the outset of 54 BC, two things certainly troubled Caesar. Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, a definite political opponent in the camp of the optimates, had been elected Consul, and trouble was brewing in his province of Illyricum. The Pirustae tribe, near modern Albania, was causing trouble forcing Caesar to focus some attention on his neglected province. With the presence of the now awe-inspiring Caesar, the situation was handled quickly by raising an adequate force. The Pirustae provided hostages and settled into peaceful affairs, allowing Caesar to return to Gaul.
While away, he ordered a massive fleet to be built for a larger second crossing to Britain. This time though, Caesar made modifications to the ships, having them built without the deep keels of standard Roman galleys. This would allow a more effective landing for his legions and cavalry. By July of 54 BC, after a short delay caused by the Treviri tribe, Caesar was finally ready to go. With 800 ships, 5 legions and 2,000 cavalry, leaving 3 legions and 2,000 cavalry in Gaul under Labienus, the Roman fleet was the largest naval landing operation in the history of world, and remaining so until the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944.
Landing the following morning, the sheer size of the Roman force surely intimidated the Britons. The Romans were allowed to land and make camp freely without opposition, subduing several local tribes in the process. The main British forces retreated inland to avoid Caesar, but he definitely pursued. One legion and 300 cavalry were left at the beach camp, while the bulk of the force marched towards the Britons. Small scale fighting couldn't stop the Roman advance and Caesar captured one hold out near modern Canterbury on the Stour river. Just as Caesar was about to press the issue, however, news arrived of another coastal storm that wrecked the bulk of his anchored fleet. Hurrying back to the camp, he ordered Labienus to build as many ships as he could in Gaul, and ordered his own men to repair the damage.
Successfully salvaging his fleet, Caesar returned to the Stour to find that the Britons had begun to unite under a Cassivellaunus. While marching, the Romans were ambushed but repelled the attack after some serious casualties and a hard fight. Next, the Romans moved to the Thames and were engaged in the largest battle of this expedition. Winning a decisive victory, the resistance of the local tribes in any significant numbers came to an abrupt end. Caesar invested the fortified hold out of Cassivellaunus while his single legion back at the beach camp fended off a joint attack of various tribes. Winning both engagements, the opposition of the local tribes came to an end, and Caesar was able to claim victory.
By September, arrangements for peaceful relations had been made, and the Romans returned to Gaul. Though this second invasion of Britain did little more than secure some hostages, tribute and Roman awareness on Britain, it had the significance of being a dignity saving campaign for Caesar. After virtually retreating from the first expedition a year earlier, this time he left only after securing his dominance. Though that dominance wouldn't last without a Roman presence, Caesar was able to claim victory in a land that some probably didn't' even think existed.  Caesar would leave Britain in September of 54 AD. Caesar never again came to Britain. For the next few years, he was at war with Pompey, and then he was assassinated, just when he was on the verge of becoming emperor.

In AD43, following a delay caused by initial misgivings amongst the troops, a Roman army, commanded, on behalf of Emperor Claudius, by Aulus Plautius, set sail from Gaul to invade Britain. An army of four legions and approximately 20,000 auxiliaries, commanded by senator Aulus Plautius, landed at Richborough, Kent. The Romans met a large army of Britons, under the Catuvellauni kings Caratacus and his brother Togodumnus, on the River Medway, Kent. The Britons were defeated in a two-day battle, then again shortly afterwards on the Thames. 
Togodumnus died and Caratacus withdrew to more defensible terrain to the west.

Late summer AD 43

Following the initial invasion of Britain, the Roman emperor, Claudius, arrived to symbolically lead his army to victory. In August, the Romans captured Camulodunum (Colchester), the capital of the powerful Catuvellauni tribe. With the whole of south east Britain overrun, eleven British kings made their submission. Aulus Plautius, commander of the invasion force, was appointed first Roman governor of Britain, but the majority of the  Island would not be pacified for at least another 50 years.
Tribal Troubles. The plan at first was to limit the conquest to the lowlands of modern England, so a border was established by 47 A.D. along the route of the Fosse Way, the great Roman road running from Exeter to Lincoln. It was a nice idea, but the Romans weren't through dealing with their old friend Caratacus, who had fled to Wales. With the help of the Silures in the south-east and the Ordovices in the north, Caratacus made life on the frontier unpleasant. The Romans had little choice but to deal the troublesome tribes. Caratacus and his warriors were defeated in a battle near Snowdonia in 51 A.D., and Caratacus himself fled north to the territory of the Brigantes. The Brigantian Queen, Cartimandua, hopeful of staying on good terms with the Romans and keeping her own territories in the bargain, promptly handed him over to the invaders. He was sent to Rome and publicly displayed as a prisoner. There he is said to have uttered the lines, "Why do you, with all these grand possessions, still covet our poor huts?" The new capital (s). The first Roman capital of the new province of Britannia was at Colchester. It didn't take the Romans long, however, to realize the strategic importance of the Thames river as a communication and transport highway. A small existing settlement was built up to become a trade and administrative centre. The Romans called it Londinium. We know it today as London. London became the hub at the centre of a major network of roads built primarily to serve troop movement and administrative communication. Not entirely by accident they also served the expansion of trade that quickly made London the most important town, and eventually the capital, of the new province of Brittania.  Client Kingdoms. The Romans followed the formula in Britain that had been so successful elsewhere; rather than try to conquer with force, they established "client kingdoms" on the borders of territory they directly controlled. Basically this meant that certain Celtic tribes, in return for not being overrun, agreed to ally themselves to Rome. Treaties with tribes in the north and in East Anglia created buffers on the frontiers while the process of mopping  up resistance continued. When Emperor Hadrian visited Britain in 122 A.D. he recognised the difficulties and saw that it would be impossible to introduce the Picts to the Roman way of life. He therefore ordered the construction of a great defensive wall which would mark the northern limits of his empire and consolidate the hold on northern Britain.
The defences of the Military Zone were supplemented by MILECASTLES which housed garrisons of up to sixty men. These were built at intervals of one Roman mile and between each of these stood two smaller defensive towers called TURRETS which held small garrisons of four men. Most important of the military garrisons along the wall were of course the great FORTS, of which there were sixteen, each housing between five hundred and one thousand men. The men who occupied these forts and the other Wall defences were sometimes recruited locally, but more often than not they were brought in from some distant corner of the Roman Empire.
The Romans remained in  Britain from 43 AD to 410 AD. That is almost four hundred years (four centuries). In 410 AD Honorius, the Roman Emperor in Britain says he must return to Rome to defend his home land from attacks by Germanic tribes and the British must take over the responsibility of defending themselves from Jutes, Angles, Saxons, Picts and Scots. The English Migration period starts. The Coming of the English. From 410 to 442, Britain was independent from Rome, and this was the last age of Roman Britain before the Saxons were to effectively take over. The breakdown of Roman law and civilisation was fairly swift after the Roman army departed in 410 AD. 410 to 1066 is a period of history known as the Dark Ages because little is known about what happened. Most of what we know comes from archaeological evidence but still, we know little about what happened.
Once the Romans left, chaos ensued. The villas and roads fell into ruin and the populus forgot Roman skills and technology. In about AD 425, the Government of Britain seems to have agreed to a man named Vortigern becoming ruler over the whole country. He is first recorded by a monk named Bede. He was married to the daughter of Magnus Maximus and probably claimed to be Emperor or 'High-King'. The local kings (or 'tyrants') remained in the towns, but most of them probably accepted him as their ruler too.
In 449 AD Vortigern began hiring the fiercest fighters known, Saxon and Jute mercenaries and he recruited the best, the Jute twin brothers named Hengist and Horsa, renown for their battle prowess. In return for their services, Vortigern promised Hengist and Horsa great riches. The two brothers and their men landed at Pegwell Bay, Kent, and stayed in Vortigern's palace. Britannia had plenty of rich farmland which as a legacy of the Roman occupation was well managed and productive, Hengist saw this and wanted it for his people. His tribe, the Jutes, came from a small area of Denmark which had become overcrowded, they were seeking a new homeland when Vortigern hired them. After they won the first battle against the Picts, Vortigern gave the Jutes the Isle of Thanet to live on. Hengist told Vortigern that they needed to send for more men to help protect Britannia, Vortigern agreed.
The additional men needed more land. The Jute warlord told Vortigern they didn't need much, just a 'hide of land'. He agreed, thinking it would do no harm to give the Jutes a tiny piece of land the size of a bull hide. But Hengist was cunning and legend goes, that he sought the largest bull, slew it, and cut it's hide round and round into a very fine, thin strip of leather. This he stretched and laid out upon the ground in a huge circle, enclosing a parcel of land large enough to build a fortress on.
One of the new arrivals was Hengist's daughter Rowena. She has also been referred to as Renwein, Ronwin, and Ronixen. She was of course young, very blonde, very beautiful, very beguiling and very blue-eyed and seduced Vortigern.
Vortigern wanted her and asked Hengist for her hand in marriage and the Jute warlord made a deal and gave his blessing in exchange for the whole of what is now Kent. Vortigern married Rowena and gave Kent to the Jutes. This upset the other Princes of Britannia and also upset Vortigen's three sons who were livid and ready to go to war against their own father and his Jute friends.
In 455 AD Vortigern's eldest son, Vortimer, took up his sword against his father and his Jute army commanded by Hengist. They fought four fierce battles, Hengist and his men were defeated, his brother Horsa was killed, Hengist retreated back to the Isle of Thanet with the remains of his army and then left Britannia.
Hengist's daughter Rowena, stayed behind with the women and children, she took it upon herself to rid her father Hengist and her husband Vortigern of her stepson Vortimer. She brewed a fatal poison and bribed Vortimer's servant to administer the poison. Vortimer died, she then sent word to her father Hengist to return, which he did with shiploads of men.
Now Vortigern saw Hengist as a threat to Britannia and began to raise an army against him. Hengist feigned peaceful intent assuring Vortigern he had only come back to fight Vortimer, as he was now dead he would depart and go back to Denmark but leave some of his men to protect him against his foes. Hengist further proposed that all the Princes of Britannia, meet himself and his Jute warriors for a treaty of peace at the Cloister of Ambrius, near Stonehenge. Many people in Britain then joined a group who didn't want Vortigern as their King. A monk named Gildas wrote that they chose a man named Ambrosius as their leader.
A civil war broke out in Britain. Ambrosius's followers defeated Vortigern's army. Vortigern hid in one of his castles but it was set on fire and he burnt to death! Around 459 AD From the 450s onwards, Germans began invading Britain in large numbers. Since the Germans were themselves illiterate, and Roman culture was collapsing, there are no contemporary written descriptions of these invasions. It all started with a series of attacks on difference parts of the country over a period of years and under a number of leaders.

Britain is divided up into the Seven Kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia, Wessex, Essex, Sussex and Kent. Period of civil war and famine in Britain, caused by ruling council’s weakness and inability to deal with Pictish invasions; situation aggravated by tensions between Pelagian/Roman factions. Vacated towns and cities in ruin. Migration of pro-Roman citizens toward west. Country beginning to be divided, geographically, along factional lines The Battle of Mount Badon was fought some time between AD 490 and 516 (depending on which source you believe).The only near contemporary reference comes from Gildas, a Welsh monk   Arthur was a prince of the tribe of Britons called Silures, whose country was South Wales, the son of Uther, named Pendragon, a title given to an elective sovereign, paramount over the many kings of Britain. He appears to have commenced his martial career about the year 500, and was raised to the Pendragonship about ten years later. He is said to have gained twelve victories over the Saxons. The most important of them was that of Badon, by some supposed to be Bath, by others Berkshire. This was the last of his battles with the Saxons, and checked their progress so effectually, that Arthur experienced no more annoyance from them, and reigned in peace, until the revolt of his nephew Modred, twenty years later, which led to the fatal battle of Camlan, in Cornwall, in 542.Modred was slain, and Arthur, mortally wounded, was conveyed by sea to Glastonbury, where he died, and was buried
Before the coming of Augustine to England in A.D. 597, the Christian  Church in the British Isles was profoundly Celtic, rather than Roman. 597 - The Roman brand of Christianity is brought to Britain for the first time by St. Augustine, the missionary sent from PopeGregory to convert the Saxons. Augustine lands in Kent and is welcomed by King Aethelbert whose Frankish Queen is already a Christian practicing at her church of St. Martin's, Canterbury. Augustine converts Aethelbert and his court to Christianity and founds a monastery at Canterbury. Commencement of the erection of a monastery at St. Augustine's, Canterbury, built from the Roman ruins of the old city. Death of King Ceol of Wessex. He is succeeded by his brother, CeolwulfSt. Paul's Cathedral has had an eventful history. Five different churches were built at this site. The first church, dedicated to the apostle Paul, dates back to 604 AD, when King Ethelbert of Kent built a wooden church on the summit of one of London's hills for Mellitus, Bishop of the East Saxons. At the end of the 7th century, the church was built in stone by Erkenwald, Bishop of London. Æthelberht died on 24 February 616 and was succeeded by his son, Eadbald, who was not a Christian.
ANGLO SAXON KING LIST: KENT Hengest, legendary founder of Kent (455-88) Æsc, legendary ruler of Kent (488-512) Irminric, king of Kent  575 -588 Æthelberht from about 580 or 590 until his death. Eadbald, king of Kent (616 - 20 January 640 Earconberht, king of Kent (640 - 14 July 664) Ecgberht I, king of Kent (664 - 4 July 673) Hlothhere, king of Kent (673 - 6 February 685 [from wounds in battle with Eadric]) MERCIA Cearl, king of Mercia in early seventh century Penda, king of Mercia (626 - 15 November 655 [Battle of Winwæd]) Wulfhere, king of Mercia (658-75) Æthelred, king of Mercia (675 - 704 [resigned, became a monk]) Coenred, king of Mercia (704-9 [resigned, went to Rome]) Ceolred, king of Mercia (709-16) Æthelbald, king of Mercia (716-57) Beornred, king of Mercia (757) Offa, king of Mercia (757 - 29 July 796) NORTHUMBRIA Soemel, legendary founder of Deira, great-great-great-grandfather of Ælle Ælle, king of Deira, ruling in 597, perhaps 30-year reign? Æthelric, king of Deira for five years after Ælle [then Æthelfrith of Bernicia took over] Oessa, legendary first settler of Bernicia, grandfather of Ida Ida, king of Bernicia (547-59) Glappa, king of Bernicia (559-60) Adda, king of Bernicia (560-8) Æthelric, king of Bernicia (568-72) Theodric, king of Bernicia (572-9) Frithuwald, king of Bernicia (579-85) Hussa, king of Bernicia (585-92) Æthelfrith, king of Bernicia (592-616), also conquered Deira Edwin, king of Deira (616 - 12 October 633 [Battle of Hatfield]), also conquered Bernicia [conversion sparrow-speech] Osric, king of Deira (633-4 [killed by Cadwallon]) Eanfrith, king of Bernicia (633-4 [killed by Cadwallon]) Oswald, king of Bernicia (634 - 5 August 642 [Battle of Maserfelth]), also took Deira Oswine, king of Deira (642 - 20 August 651 [killed on Oswiu's orders])

Viking invasion of Britain

The first recorded Viking raids in Britain were in the year 789 AD when the Saxons of northern England were attacked by three longships from Denmark.  The Viking raiders stole, killed and burned villages.

On June 8th 793, in an unprecedented attack which shocked the whole of Europe, a raiding party of Vikings from Norway attacked Lindisfarne. Monks fled in fear and many were slaughtered. Bishop Higbald sought refuge on the mainland and a chronicler recorded- "On the 8th June, the harrying of the heathen miserably destroyed God's church by rapine and slaughter. "
For seven decades the Vikings would continue raiding the coast of Britain and it seemed inevitable that they would eventually launch a full scale invasion of our shores. This is precisely what occurred in the year 866, when a huge army of Danes invaded East Anglia from their well established bases in the Low Countries of the Continent. They arived under the leadership of Ivar the Boneless and his brothers, Halfdene and Hubba and after camping the winter, turned their attention to Northumbria.
The Danes were well aware of the civil war that had weakened the great northern kingdom and as warriors the Danes were extremely opportunistic. After crosssing the Humber, they headed for York, a great defensive stronghold, still well protected by its Roman walls. The city was a strategic jewel for whoever could capture it and the Danes would take their chance. On November 1st, the city was sacked and captured by the Danes, despite fierce Northumbrian resistance.
The Northumbrians were now unified under King Aelle and Earl Osbert. Unfortunately this resolution of differences in the face of a common enemy, had come too late for the Northumbrian leaders. On March 23, 867, during the attempt to retake York from the Danes, Osbert was killed and King Aelle was captured. The Danes were determined to make an example of the surviving leader and impress their claim on the Northumbrian kingdom.


Aelle, the king of Northumbria was subjected to the most horrific Blood Eagle ordeal. His ribs were torn out and folded back to form the shape of an eagle's wings. It was reputedly punishment for Aelle's alleged murder of Ragnor Lodbrook (Loth-broek meaning shaggy breeches/trousers), a great Danish leader who was the father of Ivar, Halfdene and Hubba, but the gruesome practice was in fact a tradition of the Danish warriors. With Aelle and Osbert dead, the Danes employed an Anglo-Saxon called Egbert as temporary King in Northumbria, but Egbert was little more than a tax collector for the Danes, helping to bring them greater wealth and ephasising their power.
So with a puppet king installed in Northumbria, the Danes turned their military attention to Mercia, where they seized the Anglo-Saxon stronghold of Nottingham. The Danes returned to York for a year in 869 and from here set off on the successful conquest of East Anglia in 870, but their expansion was kept in check in the south of England by Alfred the Great, the King of Wessex. Alfred defeated the Danes in a great battle at Ashdown in Berkshire in 871. However the Danes were not discouraged and their conquest of York and Deira meant that they could lauch attacks on almost any part of Britain.
One major target for the Danes was the Norwegian colony at Dublin in Ireland, established by the Norse in 841 and captured by the Danes for a short period in 851. Ivar the Boneless wanted to make another attempt at capturing the great colony which could virtually guarantee control of the Irish Sea. It is worth noting that the Northumbrian province of Deira, now under Danish, although centred on Yorkshire also extended into Lancashire and so stretched to the shores of the Irish Sea. This may have encouraged the Danes to launch an attack on Dublin. But the Danish campaign in Ireland in 873 was not a success and resulted in the death of Ivar the Boneless.
Ivar was replaced by his brother Halfdene who returned to England to find greater military success, seizing the Kingdom of Mercia in 874. Wide scale Viking domination and settlement now seemed inevitable in the eastern midlands and in the north. By 876 the Danes were actively sharing out land in the Deiran province of Northumbria. This included all the land in Yorkshire and in the south western portion of Northumbria we know today as Lancashire.


Strangely, the Danes seem to have taken less interest in the Northumbrian province of Bernicia, north of the Tees, where the rugged scenery may have been less appealing than that of Yorkshire. Seizure of Bernicia might of overstretched the resources of the Danes. Perhaps the Bernician region was also a focus of Northumbrian resistance against the Danes. In 872 many native Northumbrians had rejected the rule of Egbert, the Danish appointed king of Northumbria and they had attempted to replace him with their own candidate, a nobleman called Ricsige. This rebellion was crushed in Deira, but it seems likely that this resistance was centred on Bernicia, where the Danish influence was not so strong. Remember that Bernicia was a huge province extending from the Tees to as far north as Edinburgh and also stretched as far west as the Cumbrian coast.
When Halfdene returned to the North from his victory in the midlands in 875 he was proclaimed King of Northumbria, but some factions further north may only have accepted him as the King of Deira. From this period Deira was known as the Kingdom of York (Jorvik) and Halfdene was its first king. The Anglo-Saxon estates in Yorkshire were shared out among Halfdene's army and his followers but there is a great deal of debate about how many Danes actually settled. What is certain is that a huge proportion of Yorkshire place names are still of Danish origin. This is most aparent in names ending in -by which is Danish for a farm or village. Thus we have Danby, Ormesby, Whitby, Thornaby, Wetherby and so on. It was also the Danes who divided Yorkshire into the three Ridings (or thirds) for the purposes of military and political control.
With such vast Danish influence in Yorkshire it seems likely that many Northumbrians fled north to Bernicia, a possible focus for resistance. By late 875 the Danes realised that they must turn their attention to this northern province. Under the leadership of Halfdene they entered the Tyne and destroyed Tynemouth priory before wintering at the mouth of the River Team near Gateshead. Once the winter was over the Danes began their battle campaign in Bernicia and Scotland and the monastery town of Hexham was ransacked. Despite this campaign, Bernicia north of the Tees (Northumberland and Durham) seems to have largely escaped Danish settlement.
There were some pockets of Danish settlement here and there in Bernicia, particularly in what is now southern Durham around Sadberge and Gainford where there are many Danish place names in the Darlington area but Bernicia remained largely Anglo-Saxon and continued to speak the Anglian language with some Viking influence drifting in from the south and later the west. However, one major Danish stronghold established at this time in Bernicia was Tynemouth. This naturally defended promontory strategically located at the entrance to the Tyne was a useful stop off point on the Northumbrian coast and helped the Danes control access to the Tyne. Interestingly, an unusually high number of Scandinavian personal names were still common in Tynemouth at the time of the Norman conquest, suggesting that Scandinavian influence survived here for many years. In fact Dialect experts, as late as the nineteenth century remarked that Tynemouth had a non Angle dialect, quite distinct from the rest of Tyneside and Northumberland. I was remarked that it more closely resembled that of the Durham coast (an area of later Viking settlement. The distinction is no longer apparent today.
The most important Anglian stronghold in northern Northumbria was of course Bamburgh, several miles along the Northumbrian coast to the north. Here the descendants of the Angle kings of Northumbria claimed that they were the rightful rulers of Northumbria. As proof, they claimed to trace their line back to Ida the Flamebearer. Defeat at the hands of the Danes meant that these leaders could no longer regard themselves as absolute kings in the north and so they had to make do with the title of High Reeve or Earl of Bamburgh/Bernicia. A few claimed to be kings, notably in the early 900s but most were forced to accept subordination to the Viking rulers of York.
So with Bernica subdued, one part of the huge Danish army under Halfdene continued the settlement of Yorkshire, while another took control of the East Midlands. The shires of Derby, Nottingham, Leicester, Lincoln and Stamford in the East Midlands would come to be known as 'the Five Boroughs of the Danelaw' while the West midlands, like Bernicia remained Anglo-Saxon. It was possible to talk of their being two Northumbrias and two Mercias each under the resepective influence of Danes or Angles.
But the Danes were still restless for further conquest and Halfdene, the Danish King of York still had ambitions in Ireland. Around 877 he disappears from history, probably killed somewhere in the Irish Sea fighting the Norwegians. Danish power in the North now passed to Guthred, who went into battle with Alfred the Great of Wessex in 878. Guthred was defeated, but although he had to recognise Alfred's superiorty, the Danes authority in the North was not under question.


Relations between the Danes and Bernicia improved during the reign of Guthred. The year 882 saw the creation by Guthred of a new region in southern Bernicia where the Christian heritage of Northumbria was actively preserved. This new region would serve as a buffer zone between the surviving Anglian culture of northern Northumbria and the emerging Danish culture of southern Northumbria. Centred around the old Anglo-Saxon minster church of Chester-le-Street (then known as Conecaster) this territory was the beginning of what would eventually develop into the Bishopric and later the county of Durham.
The origins of this new region can be traced back to the year 875 when Eardwulf, the Bishop of Lindisfarne fled Norham on Tweed with a respected group of monks and followers known as the Community of St Cuthbert. They carried with them the coffin of St Cuthbert, the head of St.Oswald (the former king of Northumbria) and some of the holiest relics in the North including the Lindisfarne Gospels. They fled to escape Halfdene's furious raids upon Bernicia and headed west, settling in Cumbria where Eadred, the abbot of Carlisle became their new leader.
Eadred, the leader of this Communuity emerged as a strong supporter of Guthred's claims to the Northumbria throne. Guthred, in co-operation with Egbert the Earl of Bernicia, rewarded Eadred's support by granting an area of land in the region between the Tyne and Tees to the Community of St Cuthbert. The saint's body and coffin was interred in the new church at Chester le Street in 883 and Eardwulf, previously the Bishop of Lindisfarne became the first Bishop of Conecaster (Chester-le-Street). This meant that the ancient see of Lindisfarne had been transferred to what would become the County of Durham, although in early times the Community called their new land 'Haliwerfolklond' - the land of the holy man people. The holy man in question was of course St. Cuthbert.
Guthred, like most of his fellow Danes was of course a pagan, so it may seem strange that Guthred would support the creation of a new community with strong Christian traditions. There may be both mystical and political reasons for the creation of this community. Firstly the Vikings, despite their paganism, were deeply intrigued by the mysticism and miracles associated with the relics of saints and in a superstitious age were quite open to tales of miraculous powers. Secondly the encouragement of a religious community with its roots deeply planted in Northumbria's golden age of Christianity may have encouraged the Angles of Bernicia to support the Danes or at least be less hostile towards them. With Dane and Angle promising to protect this ancient community mid way between their territories, rebellion in the far north would seem less likely.


The year 899 saw the death of Alfred the Great and the succession of Edward the Elder to the throne of Wessex. In the North, Guthred, the King of York also passed away, but the Danes failed to produce a strong candidate and for a time Egbert of Bernicia styled himself as king. He was succeeded by another Bamburgh based Bernician called Eadwulf, sometime between 900 and 913, but the records of leadership in this period are poor. Viking power in the British Isles suffered a major setback in the year 918 when the Native Irish under the leadership of the King of Leinster expelled the Hiberno-Norse (a well established mixed race of Irish and Norwegians) from their great colony at Dublin.
The Irish-Norwegians took to their boats to seek land across the Irish Sea. They would find settlement in Cumbria, the Ribble valley of Lancashire (where there was already a substantial colony of Danes and Norwegians) and in the Mersey estuary where they established settlements like Croxteth and Toxteth. Even the name of Liverpool, may derive from this period, deriving from Old Norse words meaning 'muddy creek'. There was much activity and co-operation between Danes and Norsemen in this south western portion of Northumbria during this period. Around 905 A huge hoard of some 1300 Viking items were hidden under the river bank at Cuerdale near Preston, they would remain undiscovered until the nineteenth century. The Ribble was part of the Viking trade route between Dublin and York.
The Vikings appear to have been in turmoil during this period and many sought settlement elsewhere. Around 911 one great mass of Norsemen began the settlement of northern France, ultimately giving their name (Nor-Men) to the Normandy region.
Viking fortunes began to change around the year 913, first in the North of England, where the death of Eadwulf of Bernicia provided new opportunities to exploit Anglo-Saxon weakness in the north. The following year Viking success in Ireland was achieved with exiled Irish-Norsemen successfully regaining Dublin. In the same year, the Irish-Vikings under the leadership of King Ragnald attacked the North East with the help of the Yorkshire based Danes. The Bernicians, in alliance with the Scots defeated the Vikings in a battle at Corbridge on Tyne. Ragnald would return to Dublin but regained his confidence and returned to Northumbria four years later defeating a joint army of Northumbrians, Danes and Franks in a second battle at Corbridge. The Danes of Yorkshire clearly now saw Ragnald as a threat.
The Danish fears were not unfounded, Ragnald seized York and established Irish-Viking control there. The Kingdom of York was reduced to a client kingdom of the great Viking stronghold of Dublin. Ragnald sought land to offer as a prize for his military supporters. Notably, he chose land in south and east Durham seizing it from the Bishop of Chester-le-Street and presenting it to his warrior generals called Scula and Olaf Ball. They would share it out amongst their Irish-Viking followers. The chosen land was the Bishop of Chester le Street's best farmland. Scula was given land in the south of the bishop's territory, including Billingham and School Aycliffe (Scula Aycliffe). Olaf Ball was given the east coast from Hartlepool to Sunderland. Ragnald could have taken land in Yorkshire but many powerful landowners in Yorkshire were of Danish descent and could have posed a military threat to Ragnald in the long run. The Bishop of Chester-le-Street, had been the virtual lord and ruler of much of the land between the Tyne and Tees but would not have the military strength to challenge Ragnald.
This increasing Irish-Norwegian expansion would not have not gone unnoticed in the Anglo-Saxon territories of west Mercia and Wessex. The River Mersey, formed a natural border between the Anglian territory of Mercia and the Norwegian and Danish settlements in the Lancashire area of Northumbria to the north. Edward the Elder, the Anglo-Saxon King of Wessex and Mercia was already focusing his attention on this region in 919 with the construction of a great fort at Manchester, right on the border between the Mercians and the Lancashire Vikings. Other Mercian strongholds in this region, like Chester were strengthened during this period. This may have made some impression on Ragnald as by 920 he was acknowledging the supremacy of Edward.
Ragnald was succeeded as Irish Norse King of York by his cousin Sihtric in 920 and Sihtric continued to acknowledge the supremacy of Wessex, giving his allegiance to Edward's successor, Athelstan in 924. By this period Kings of Wessex could already claim to be the virtual kings of all England, but their hold over the Viking kings in the north was always precarious. By 927 Sihtric's successor Guthfrith seems to have turned his back on Wessex rule.


On July 12, 927 Athelstan, king of Wessex, called a meeting of northern kings at Eamont Bridge in the Lake District. The Kings of Strathclyde and Scotland along with Ealdred, the ruler of Bernicia all attended but Guthfrith, King of Dublin and York chose not to attend. Athelstan's very credibility was now at stake. He had no choice but to attack and with his army in attendance marched into Yorkshire captured the city of York and expelled Guthfrith from his kingdom. It was a sign that military dominataion was slipping away from the Vikings in the north. Athelstan's power throughout England now seemed stronger than any Anglo-Saxon king since the beginning of the Viking age.
In the North Athelstan set about the restoration of the great Christian heritage of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria. In 934 he visited the shrine of St Cuthbert at Chester le Street and bestowed many great gifts. They would include a work by Bede entitled the Life of St Cuthbert - a special edition depicting Athelstan on the cover. During the visit to Chester-le-Street, the king returned Bishopwearmouth near Sunderland to the Bishop of Chester le Street. It was part of the land taken by the Irish Vikings in 918. Further south the king also granted rights of sanctuary to the monastery at Ripon.
Bernicia must have especially welcomed Athelstan's kingship of England, but the kingdoms of the far north were not so appreciative. Accused of not supporting Athelstan, they were suspected of rebellion and became the subject of Athelstan's military campaigns in 934 when Scotland was ravaged by Athelstan's forces. The Dublin Vikings ousted from power in York were still of course amongst Athelstan's most powerful enemies and on October 27, 937 they sided with the Scots in a great battle with Athelstan somewhere in the north west, probably at Bromborough in Cheshire.
Athelstan proceeded to destroy the Viking fortress at York in an attempt to surpress any further rebellion. It seemed as though Wessex could not be defeated and that Viking rule in the North was doomed, but on October 27, 939 Athelstan, King of Wessex and England passed away at Gloucester. He was succeeded by his eighteen year old brother Edmund. This was the opportunity the Vikings had been waiting for. Olaf Guthfrithson of Dublin, the son of Guthfrith arrived in England to succeed his late father as King at York.


Significantly, under military pressure or due to a feeling of blood allegiance, the people of Yorkshire rejected the claims of the young Wessex king Edmund. Viking rule in the north continued after 942 when Blacair Guthfrithson succeeded as King of York and Dublin upon the death of his brother Olaf. However, the maturing Edmund would not stand by forever and in 944 he seized York. However, Edmund's reign would not last much longer and on May 26, 946 he was the victim of assassination.
In 946 the kingdom of England passed to Edmund's son Eadred. In the north, Wulfstan the Archbishop of York submitted to the new King at Tanshelf in southern Northumbria, but Northumbrian allegiance was not assured since Wulfstan, unbeknown to Eadred, planned to offer the Kingdom of York to a very powerful Viking, Eric Bloodaxe, King of Norway.
Bloodaxe, part Norse, part Danish, was elected king of York in 948 and made claims to all Northumbria. But he was ousted later in the year by Eadred in a battle centred in and around Ripon. Turmoil ensued and King Malcolm of Scotland taking advantage of northern weaknesses raided Nortumbria as far south as the River Tees. Perhaps sensing disaster, Eadred now changed his policy in the North and in 949 he seems to have supported the claims of Olaf Sihtricson, a Dublin Viking as King of York. It is likely that Eadred, saw Sihtricson as a less powerful threat than Eric Bloodaxe who was somewhere in exile.
Unfortunately for Eadred, Sihtricson was not popular in the North and failed to gain the support of his people.In 952 the people of York ousted Sihtricson and reinstated Bloodaxe as King of York. Eric Bloodaxe, seems to have sought the support of the Bernicians as he is known to have made a pilgrimage visit to the the shrine of St Cuthbert at Chester le Street. His action of pilgrimage had become something of a tradition amongst powerful kings as previous vistors St Cuthbert's shrine at Chester le Street had included King Athelstan, King Edmund and King Eadred.
Evidence suggests that Eric Bloodaxe failed to gain the support of the Bernicians and they may have played a part in Eric's death. In 954 he was murdered in the bleak moors of Stainmore in Teesdale by Maccus who is thought to have been working as an agent of Oswulf Ealdulfing, the High Reeve or Earl of Bamburgh, who still claimed to rule Northumbria north of the Tees. Oswulf was a supporter of Eadred, the King of Wessex and England, who is likely to have played a major part in the murder. Bloodaxe was ambushed in Satinmore in the company of several powerful Vikings and evidence suggests that they had been lured into a trap. Whatever the trusth surrounding Eric's death may be, the incident was certainly a major as it signified the end of northern independence. From this point the North East and Yorkshire would be ruled as part of England by Kings in the south.
With power increasingly concentrated in the south there would be plenty of opportunities for the Scots to exploit northern weaknesses and in 954 this became apparent when the Scots, under the leadership of their King Indulf, seized the Northumbrian stronghold of Edinburgh.


In 955 Eadred, King of wessex and England died and was succeeded by his nephew Eadwig. The Northumbrians rejected the king in alliance with the Mercians but on this occasion they opted not for a Viking replacement, but came out supporting the claims of Eadwig's brother Edgar. They failed in their challenge but by 959 Edgar had succeeded as king of England. In the North, York was now ruled by Earls in allegiance to the king and the same situation existed in Bernicia with the Earls of Bamburgh ruling in allegiance to the king north of the Tees.
Gradually the Vikings in Yorkshire were beginning to intermingle with the existing communities and Viking words would gradually infiltrate the English language even in areas where the Vikings had not settled. It now almost impossible to distinguish a Viking Englishman from a non-Viking Englishmen. That is not to say there were no longer any new Viking incomers settling in the north. It is known for example that in the year 966 two Viking brothers called Thorgils and Kormak in the service of King Harald Grafeld, King of Norway established a stronghold at Scarborough while harrying in Ireland, England and Wales. Thorgils was known to his brother by the nickname 'Hare Lip', or in the Viking language 'Skarthi'. It is probable that 'Hare-Lip' gave his name to Scarborough.
By this time, however, the real threat in the north came from the Scots. In 971 Kenneth King of Scotland had raided the North East as far as Stainmore in Teesdale and for centuries to come the Scots would lay claim to Bernicia. Edinburgh, a former Bernician stronghold now belonged to the Scots and expansion into the rest of Anglian Bernician seemed a natural aim. This was not accepted by Edgar, the king of England and in 974 he held a meeting with Kenneth King of the Scots and the Kings of Cumbria, the Islands and five other kings at Chester on the River Dee. The meeting is thought to have focussed on the Scottish claim to North East England north of the Tees. Edgar who impressed the northern kings with his great army is likely to have told the Scots to keep their hands off the region. For the time being the Scots would accept this, but the seeds of a centuries long age of Scottish border warfare had begun.
The rising power of Wessex weakened the North of England in the last decade of the first millennium and left the region vulnerable to attacks by the Scots and new wave of Danes. In 988 Swein Forkbeard became King of Denmark and set his sites on conquest in England. These Danes had no definite links with England and in 993 they attacked Bamburgh, the coastal stronghold of the Eadulfsons who were the virtual rulers of Bernicia. It was as if the Viking raids of 793 had started all over again some two hundred years later.


Viking raids continued and it seemed as if they would be once more a constant threat. In 995 the Community of St.Cuthbert at Chester-le-Street, a remnant of Northumbria's greater days, fled to Ripon in 995 perhaps to escape one such raid, although the Scots were also raiding the north at this time and posed an additional threat. In that year Kenneth of Scotland was defeated in an ivasion of the North East after his attack was fought off by Uhtred Eadulfson, son of the Earl of Bamburgh.
After staying at Ripon for a few months, the Community of St.Cuthbert returned north but settled at Dunholm (Durham) rather than Chester-le-Street. This new site was naturally defended like an island, formed by the horse-shoe gorge of the River Wear. They are said to have been guided to the site by a vision, but it is likely to have been a deliberate political decision made in the interests of safety. Later that year a minster called the `White Church' was constructed of wood for St Cuthbert's remains at Durham. Uhtred Eadulfson of Bamburgh employed labour from the River Coquet to the River Tees to fortify the site and Aldhun, Bishop of Chester-le-Street became the first Bishop of Durham. In 999, a new 'White Church' minster was built at Durham but this time it was built of stone.
Meanwhile, the Danes continued to attack England, subjected the country to continuous raiding, although they were temporarily stopped in their tracks in 1005 by an outbreak of Plague that spread across England, killing many. The Danish fleet returned to Denmark to escape the disease. It did not, however deter the Scots who raided the north under King Malcolm, only to be heavily defeated during an attack on Durham City. Malcolm was attempting to seize the North East. In celebration of victory, the heads of the best looking Scottish soldiers were displayed around Durham's city walls. Durham women were presented with the gift of a cow for washing the heads and combing the hair. The Northumbrians who defeated the Scots were once again led by Earl Uhtred Eadulfson of Bamburgh and son in law of the Bishop of Durham.


In 1006 Earl Uhtred's lordship in Bernicia was extended south of the River Tees after Athelred, King of England appointed Uhtred as Earl of York. This meant that Uhtred effectively became earl of all Northumbria. But this new unification of Northumbria was not enough to prevent the Danish threat and by 1013 Swein Forkbeard, King of Denmark entered the Humber and encamped at Gainsborough. Uhtred the Earl of Northumbria was forced to submit. Forkbeard went on to capture London and seized the English throne.
Forkbeard died in February 1014 and his son Canute was elected King of England by the Danish army. Uhtred the Earl of Northumbria led an army into the West Midlands to challenge Canute but Canute moved up the eastern flank of the country into Lincolnshire and crossed to York. Uhtred visited Canute's court at Wighill near York in an attempt to make peace but was assassinated before he even got to see the king. On November 30, 1016 Canute appointed a Norwegian called Eric Hlathir as Earl of York, and Eadulf Cudel of the house of Bamburgh as the Earl of Northumbria north of the Tees. Canute had begun the division of England into earldoms.
The territory of the Bishops of Durham, which will develop into County of Durham is expanding. Lands acquired by Bishop Aldhun since 995 include territory in the Tees and Wear valleys, some of which belonged to the Vikings. In 1003 Darlington had been given to the Bishop of Durham by Styr, son of Ulphus at a ceremony in York. Around 1018 Sockburn on Tees and land near Sedgefield was acquired by Durham from Snaculf, while Norton and Stockton were acquired from Ulfcytel. Escomb and Aucklandshire in the Wear Valley which belonged to an earl called Northman were also acquired.
However, Aldhun Bishop of Durham would be heartbroken by the news of Eadulf Cudel's defeat in battle against King Malcolm and the Scots at Carham on Tweed in 1019. This resulted in all Northumbrian territory from Edinburgh to the Tweed being lost to the Scot forever. Aldhun is said to have died from the shock of the news. Canute who could perhaps have assisted Cudel in the battle, was in Denmark. When the king returned to England he received tribute from King Malcolm in the year 1027 but the lands north of the Tees remained under Scottish control. In that same year Canute made a visit to Durham, walking bare foot from Garmondsway six miles to the south of the city to visit St Cuthbert's shrine, a mark of respect for Northumbria's great Christian tradition.
Canute the Dane returned to Bernicia in 1031 to quell rebellion but continued to bestow respect on the community of St Cuthbert at Durham, presenting it with land around land Staindrop. Canute is known to have owned a mansion in the district, probably located at Raby. Both Raby and Staindrop have distinctly Danish names.


Canute appointed Siward as the Earl of York in 1031 and he was 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. Peace seems to have been upheld but on November 12 1035 King Canute died at Shaftesbury. Within three years Ealdred of Bamburgh had been killed by Carl the Hold of York. He was succeeded by Eadulf of Bamburgh who would meet his end possibly at the hands of Siward who becomes Earl of all Northumbria.
In 1054 Siward, the Earl of Northumbria defeated the Scots under King Macbeth and Siward's nephew Malcolm Canmore was appointed Lord of Strathclyde and the Lothians. It was an attempt to bring the Scottish lowlands once more under Northumbrian control. But Siward passed away the following year and the earldom was given by King Edward the Confessor to Tostig Godwinson, brother of Harold, the Earl of Wessex.
Further north, Siward's nephew Malcolm Canmore, was rising to power, becoming King Malcolm III of Scotland after the death of King Macbeth in battle. Malcolm swore allegiance to Edward the Confessor at York but in 1061 he ravaged Lindisfarne and north Northumbria and captured Cumberland. It was a major defeat for Tostig, the Earl of Northumbria. malcolm may have had some support from, Cospatric a respected noble of Bamburgh who was murdered by Tostig in 1064. Rebellion broke out against Earl Tostig in the North following the murder but Tostig was safe in Wiltshire. By 1065 Edwin, Earl of Mercia had joined with Northern rebels against Tostig. King Edward responded to the rebellion with sympathy and exiled Tostig to keep the peace. Morcar, a Mercian was appointed Earl of York and was served by Osulf of Bamburgh, the earl north of the Tees.


On January 6, 1066 Edward the Confessor, King of England died and Harold Godwinson was crowned King of England, despite William of Normandy's protests that he is heir to the English throne. In Easter 1066 Harold visited York and promised to keep his brother Tostig in exile. Peace had retruned once again until August 1066 when Harald Hardrada, the King of Norway attacked the coasts of Northumberland and Cleveland and prepared to invade Yorkshire from the Humber. Tostig, the exiled Earl of Northumbria had also also planned an invasion from his base in exile in Flanders. Tostig's invasion of Yorkshire was repelled but during his retreat from Northumbria he was forced to join the army of the invading Norwegians. The Norwegians landed at Riccall ten miles from York and on September 20, 1066 the Norwegians under Hardrada defeated Morcar and his brother Edwin in a great battle at Gate Fulford near York.
The citizens of York gave their support to the Norwegian King and on September 25 1066 Hardrada encamped at Stamford Bridge on the River Derwent near York. His victory was short lived however. King Harold of England marched north and the Norwegians were defeated in a great battle. The King of Norway was shot dead with an arrow through the throat. Tostig was also killed.
Like his Norwegian namesake, King Harold's celebrations would be short lived. On october 1st 1066, Harold recieved the dreadful news that a huge force of Normans under Duke William had landed in Sussex and had set up a base at Hastings two days before. He jhad no choice but to take his tired army south to fight the Normans and October 14 1066 he would be defeated in a great battle and lose his life. William was crowned King of England on Christmas Day.