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The Viking Influence in the East Riding of Yorkshire Part Two

Updated on June 13, 2013

The merciless North Sea has been constant in it's campaign against the North Eastern coast of England. East Yorkshire is very susceptible to erosion due to the chalk and clay make up of its land, if no defense was in place the entire region would soon become part of the North Sea. Experts in Climate and Geology have speculated that a rise Sea levels by only a couple of metre's could remove a quarter of East Yorkshire's land mass.

If that did occur, we could see much of the region's known and hidden history lost forever. We know much about the influence of Vikings, Angles, Saxons and Frisians in much of the North East. East Yorkshire does not give up it's secret's as freely as in other parts of the country, but by looking in what has been left behind we can piece together a lot of our Yorkshire heritage.It is in those little details we often ignore, that we can prove how vital an area East Yorkshire was to wave after wave of North European settlement.

Viking Longboats transported new settlers to the East Coast of Yorkshire.
Viking Longboats transported new settlers to the East Coast of Yorkshire.

Most of the Holderness coastline and area's around the River Humber would have been very swampy, the Viking built homes would have eventually sunk into the marsh land. There is at least one modern day housing estate in East Hull that is built on Pontoons. these platforms have provided a firm foundation for hundreds of family homes.

Due to the low lying nature of the land around the River Humber, permanent settlement in the interior of the area was preferred by those Vikings wishing to put down roots. We know that by 860 AD, Danish Viking's started to settle in the village called Lund , to this day the village retains it's Danish name. It would appear this settlement caused little friction with the existing Anglo Saxon villages in the area and soon other Norse Viking settlements spread across the East Yorkshire. The Viking's were expert sailors and navigating through the twisting swampy waterways, would have been within the new settlers capabilities. The Vikings from Sweden had proved this in their exploration of modern day Russia and the Ukraine's treacherous interior.

The new Viking settlers assimilated quickly into the fabric of East Yorkshire and within a couple of generations the Anglo-Saxon population of the area had merged successfully with the new Norse hierarchy. The rulers of Denmark had annexed the old British kingdom of Northumbria and it was seen now as a colony of the Danes. The Vikings took on some of the Anglo Saxon culture and we saw a sporadic rise in Christianity among the new settlers. The Vikings blended into the landscape and took existing Germanic place name's and created an Anglo-Scandinavian compromise.

In the first part of "The Viking Influence on East Yorkshire", I mentioned the loss of the old Viking settlement of Ravenspurn in 1233 AD. The Viking's called it the land of the Raven's Tongue, this was due to the way the headland would have protruded into the River Humber and the North Sea. The site known as modern day Spurn point would have been the most likely harbour for the Viking fleet's to utilize. Before the coastal erosion and rising sea levels reduced its size, the location would have offered safe anchorage and security.

As essential as the Ravenspurn settlement seemed to have been to the new Scandinavian immigrants, it is the rural sea side village of Skipsea which the Vikings found important to their effort to colonize the area. Skipsea is thought to be the old Norse administrative centre for of the Scandinavian settlers. It's name is a derived from the Old Germanic word for ship "Schip " which became skip and the Norse term for lake (-sea ). Over time rising sea levels and coastal erosion had opened up the navigable lake to the advancing North Sea, which turned Skipsea into a coastal village.

Could early Viking settlers have built roundhouse's in East Yorkshire?
Could early Viking settlers have built roundhouse's in East Yorkshire?

East Yorkshire's Early Settlers

71 AD->
535 AD->
535 AD->
860 AD->
1066 AD->

East Yorkshire 900 AD

Norse/Germanic words in use

to break, hit, beat.
to suffer in hot weather.
to pour with rain.
Old Norse
A look to keep on course.
Old Norse/ Dutch
cold to shiver
Old Norse/Dutch
Play fight/ make lean
Old Norse

Although the largest city in East Yorkshire was developed after the Viking influx of settlers and invaders, parts of Kingston upon Hull's outlying boroughs have a strong Norse influence in the past. The original settlement that developed into Hull was called Wyke, one theory is that the name is related to the Norse word Vik. Vik translates as bay or creek and is where we get the term Viking from. As Hull grew with the increase in it's trading infrastructure, the city enveloped the Viking settlement of Anlaby. Anlaby's name is derived from its old description as "Anlaf's village", although the person's name could be Olaf and the name has altered over time. Records show that around the time Hull gained it's Royal Charter, Anlaby was known by the Norman inspired name of "Anlauebi".

Other area's of the city have names that betray their Anglo-Scandinavian heritage. The following area's have been swallowed up by Hull's expansion and are now suburbs of the City or Hamlets surrounding its area but keeping it's postal code.

  • Willerby, Will's Farm or Village
  • Boothferry, Summer Pasture Farm or Village
  • North Ferriby, Village of the Ferry ( Ancient Ferry crossing point from Iron Age ).
  • Skidby, Skyti's farm.
  • Kirkella, Ella's Church.
  • Stoneferry, possible Anglosized version of it's 13th century name 'Stanfordrak'- means a Stone ford from Saxon and Norse languages.
  • Bransholme, means either Bran's Island or land of the watery meadow.
  • Skirlaugh, means bright clearing.
  • Brandsburton means Brand's fortified farm and is a mixture of Scandinavian and Germanic words.
  • Hornsea, Is a name derived from Scandinavia describing the peninsula projecting into the Lake/Mere.

The city does not have much of a Norman influence, other than in the style of the parish churches.The Normans did not colonize the North East of England as they preferred to take over the elite positions in society and plainly rule. So East Yorkshire has kept very Anglo-Scandinavian in its culture. The accent of the local population adhere's to the Yorkshire dialects use of Scandinavian influenced words along with the " Queens English ", this is very evident especially in the local use of slang. Perhaps the local habit of dropping the letter H is a remnant of the populations Viking/Germanic influence.There is a list of some of the local terms within the article ----->

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We are fortunate that the Norman lead assault on the culture of East Yorkshire was unable to break the Germanic heritage of the people of East Yorkshire. The Norman's targeted the landowners and noble men, in the attempt to enforce their rule over the people's of the North. Had the Norman's attempted to "Ethnically cleanse" the population of East Yorkshire, it would have been fatal to Norman rule and ambitions. With many of East Yorkshire's population being of Scandinavian decent, it would have been hard for William the Conqueror to reach an agreement with the Danish Crown.

On first look it would seem that East Yorkshire was bypassed by the Viking's as they concentrated on securing York and the rest of the Northumbrian Kingdom. But the evidence of their influence is felt even in these modern times. East Yorkshire represented control of the trade of the centre and North of England. The elites of Scandinavian where able to use their possessions in Yorkshire to enforce the payment of the Danegeld. The annual bribe from the English King to the crown of Denmark, kept bands of Viking's from eroding his power in the South and spreading Norse Paganism back into Great Britain.


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