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The Influence of the Vikings in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

Updated on May 2, 2019
Asp52 profile image

The Author of this hub is well read in history, having studied history at University in England. He has been on HubPages for many years.

Viking England

York or Jorvik as the Vikings named it, was possibly the most strategically vital settlement of the Dark Age Viking kingdoms within England. To colonise and control the area it was vital that there was good access to the North Sea. This would help to re-build the City of Jorvik into a rich and vibrant trading centre. A great deal of the Danelaw area was heavily influenced by the Vikings, much of this is still evident today in the place names throughout the area of Danish settlement. The Danelaw region of England was the area that the Vikings effectively annexed or were given under treaty by either the leaders of the Germanic tribes or the native Britons. Both the Germanic tribes and the Ancient Britons had competed for the kingdoms of England and Wales since the Romans had departed their lands in the fifth century AD.

The Danelaw area consisted of Leicester, Nottingham, Lincoln, Derby and Stamford. All of these places were accessible by the rivers of England, which were easily navigated by the very manoeuvrable Viking long boats. The Viking's presence and influence in these fortified settlements were dependent on the Viking control of the rivers and the sea. To keep control of this territory the Vikings had to have safe passage through the mouth of the River Humber. The River Humber allowed access to the River Ouse, River Trent and River Foss. This made keeping control of the River Humber essential for future prosperity.

From Raiders to Rulers

Viking Raiders Soon Settled England.
Viking Raiders Soon Settled England.

Settlement Along the River Humber

The Lincolnshire coast line has a good degree of Scandinavian settlement and habitation. We know this due to the names that are still in use today. Lincolnshire has Grimsby ( Grim's Village ) and Cleethorpes ( Clee's Farm ) on the strategic coastal points of the river's path. If we look further inland, it shows that the Danish invasion of the area took on a lot of the original Anglo-Saxon settlements and merged with them.

The northern bank of the Humber does not show the same evidence of Viking colonization and influence. Kingston upon Hull is the biggest port along the north bank but shows no obvious Viking identity or heritage. But Kingston upon Hull only came to prominence after the Vikings had lost their foothold in Yorkshire. The evidence at this moment in time indicates that the Vikings had no interest in the north bank of the River Humber.

The principal modern population centres on the East Yorkshire coasts are derived from Anglo-Saxon settlements such as Beverley and Hedon.

Why is this so?

We know that the Vikings took over this area as it was part of the kingdom of Northumbria which stretched from the River Humber up to the modern border with Scotland.

The Humber Bridge now links Lincolnshire with East Yorkshire.
The Humber Bridge now links Lincolnshire with East Yorkshire. | Source

Location of Ravenspurn

Spurn head:

get directions

What remains of the former thriving port of Ravenspurn.

East Yorkshire Coastal Erosion

The reason why evidence of Viking settlement is so hard to find is due to two main geographical reasons. Firstly the entire Northern bank of the Humber at the time of the Danish colonization was low lying marshland, so there was no real settlement in the interior of the East Riding of Yorkshire.It was not until the Holderness area was drained by a system of dykes similar to the drainage in the South Lincolnshire Fens, and more recently the installation of modern pumping stations that the interior became more than woodland and lakes.

Secondly the areas that the Vikings did colonize at the strategically important areas of the River Humbers mouth have been lost due to coastal erosion over the last 700 years. Since the Roman times East Yorkshire has lost over 20 villages to abandonment and coastal erosion, the most prominent was Ravenspurn and Ravenser Odd.

Ravenspurn and Ravenser Odd were both prominent towns in the far east of the county of Yorkshire. Both these settlements are now covered by the tidal waters of the River Humber and the treacherous North Sea. The Raven prefix of these settlements likely comes from the shape of the headland that encroached into the sea. The Viking name for Ravenser was "Hrafn's Eyr" this roughly translated as "Ravens tongue". The only geographical evidence of these settlements is the site of the local lifeboat station Spurn point, this is also likely to succumb to the coastal erosion that claimed the two Viking settlements. The demise of Ravenser Odd allowed the port of Hull to become the regions premier industrial port.

Viking Age Long ship
Viking Age Long ship | Source

Lost Viking settlements

Other lost ports and settlements in the East riding of Yorkshire include the towns of Sisterkirche ( which translates as sister church), Tharlesthorp ( Tharles farm ) and Frismersk ( this settlement is more of a Frisian settlement but could have included settlers from the intermarried Dutch Vikings).

All of these settlements disappeared into the North Sea from the twelfth century on-wards. There are some small hamlets in the East Riding which point to a Viking heritage, but not on the scale that Lincolnshire can support. The current Hamlets of Ellerby( Ella's village), Grimston ( Grim's town ) and Skeffling illustrate that some Viking heritage has survived in spite of the North Sea's relentless onslaught on the Yorkshire coast. The loss and records of so many Viking settlements has robbed us of further knowledge of the Viking age of England and ultimately we have lost a piece of the ancient history of the British peoples.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Andrew Stewart


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    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      5 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Hello Asp52. Nice read this.

      Much of the disappearance of settlements in East as well as North Yorkshire (my bit, further up past Staithes) can be blamed on William I's Harrying of the North in 1069-70 after the rising where Jorvik's Norman castles were burnt down. Jarl Osbeorn's fleet crossed and re-crossed the Humber from East Yorkshire to North Lincolnshire to get away from William's brother Robert of Mortain (they'd already destroyed the Normans' ships down on the Medway on the way north).

      True, the erosion of the coast had an effect on settlements there, but the Normans inflicted the greatest damage.

      Scarborough and Whitby were both Norse settlements, Scarborough being named after Icelander Thorgils 'Skarthi' ('harelip'). Probably most of the fishing settlements have Norse foundations all the way up from Hornsea to Redcar ('Redekarre', at the time a spit of sea deposits backed by marsh).

    • Asp52 profile imageAUTHOR

      Andrew Stewart 

      8 years ago from England

      Very likely, The Nordic and Germanic settlers had Ginger/Red Hair. It is not just a Celtic trait. Parts of my family have strong links to the East Riding area and we display similar characteristics.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I come from Cottingham - but spent most of my childhood living in Aldbrough . We know that as a family we have lived in the East Riding for Centuries . WE have no idea of our 'Ethnicity' , we do however have a strong streak of GINGER / red hair down the generations and very fair complexions ... could we be of Nordic descent ?

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Fascinating. I grew up in Skeffling and the history lesson in school where we learned the language of place names opened up a whole new world for me. There are so many Viking named villages in East Riding, and those names all mean something that evokes an image of times past!

    • Asp52 profile imageAUTHOR

      Andrew Stewart 

      10 years ago from England

      thanks Rob your very welcome. Your right CMHyno although i maybe do too much on vikings at the moment! and SkeetyD thank you, glad others enjoy the subject as much as i do

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Vikings have always been intriguing. Thanks for the posting

    • CMHypno profile image


      10 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      Great information on the Vikings in Yorkshire, Asp 52, its refreshing to read about a history topic that isn't covered that much on HubPages

    • Robwrite profile image


      10 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      Vikings are always interesting to read about. Thanks for the info.


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