The merciless North Sea has been constant in its 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 foundations. If no sea defense were in place, the entire region would soon become part of the North Sea. Experts in both climate and geology have speculated that a rise in sea levels by only a couple of metres, could remove a quarter of East Yorkshire's land mass.
If that did occur, we could see much of the regions known and hidden history lost forever. We know much about the influence of Vikings, Angles, Saxons and Frisians in much of the northern parts of England. But it seems that East Yorkshire does not give up its secrets as freely as in other parts of the country. By looking at evidence that has been left behind, we can piece together a lot of Yorkshire's lost heritage.It is often in those little details that we ignore, that we can find evidence highlighting how vital an area East Yorkshire was to those who settled these lands over the past two thousand years.
East Yorkshire's Early Settlers
The Yorkshire Coastline.
Most of the Holderness coastline and areas around the River Humber would have been very swampy before modern man irrigated the area. The Vikings built homes that 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 wooden 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 that wished to put down long term roots. We know that by 860 AD, Danish Vikings had started to settle in the village called Lund. To this day, the village retains its 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 East Yorkshire.
The Vikings were expert sailors and navigating through the twisting swampy waterways, would have been within the capabilities of these newly arrived settlers. The Vikings from Sweden had proved this in their exploration of modern day Russia and they had managed to navigate 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 Danish Crown. Those of Viking descent 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 names as their own, which 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 Vikings called this out crop of land "The Raven's Tongue". This was due to the way the headland would have protruded into both 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 fleets to utilize. Before the coastal erosion and rising sea levels reduced its size, the location would have offered safe anchorage and security away from the harshness of the penninsula.
As essential as the Ravenspurn settlement seemed to have been to the new Scandinavian immigrants. It was 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. Its 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 have opened up the navigable lake to the advancing North Sea. This ultimately turned Skipsea from a thriving enclosed harbour into a sleepy coastal village.
East Yorkshire 900 AD
What peoples do you identify with most?
Although the largest city in East Yorkshire had developed after the Viking influx of settlers and invaders, parts of Kingston upon Hull's outlying boroughs have a strong Norse influence still attached to them. The original settlement that developed into Hull was once called Wyke.
One theory is that the name is related to the Old Norse word Vik. The word Vik translates into the word we use for bay or creek. This is where we get the term Viking from. As Hull grew with the increase in its 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 persons name could be Olaf and the name has altered over the passage of time.
Records show that around the time Kingston-upon-Hull gained its Royal Charter, Anlaby was known by the Norman inspired name of "Anlauebi".
Other areas of the city have names that betray their Anglo-Scandinavian heritage. The following areas have been swallowed up by Hull's expansion and are now suburbs of the City or have been relegated to hamlets that surround the local area.
- Willerby, Will's Farm or Village
- Boothferry, Summer Pasture Farm or Village
- North Ferriby, Village of the Ferry (The site of an alleged Ancient Ferry crossing point dating from the Iron Age.)
- Skidby, Skyti's farm.
- Kirkella, Ella's Church.
- Stoneferry, possible Anglosized version of its 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. This name 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 adheres to the Yorkshire dialects use of Scandinavian influenced words along with the "Queen's 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.
I have included a list of some of the local terms within this article.
Norse/Germanic words in use
To break, hit, beat.
To suffer in hot weather.
To pour with rain.
A look to keep on course.
Old Norse/ Dutch
Cold to shiver
Play fight/ make lean
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 an attempt to enforce their rule over the rebellious peoples of the north. Had the Normans attempted to "Ethnically cleanse" the population of East Yorkshire, it would have been fatal to Norman rule and ambitions. With many of East Yorkshires 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 Vikings 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, that kept bands of Vikings from eroding his power in the affluent south and spreading Old Norse Paganism back into Great Britain.
- Weapons of the Vikings
The Vikings used their weapons to defeat their enemies, and increase their wealth. This article looks at Viking armour, transportation and weaponry.
- The Legacy of the Vikings
The Viking's of Northern Europe effected the course of Europe's history. They spread trade across the continent and forced nations to defend themselves.
- Viking influence in East Yorkshire
The Vikings influence every settlement they visited. Those Vikings who permanently settled left a lasting impact on the population and heritage.