Norwegian Memorials in the North of England

If even the old Saxon south England is distinguished by its richness in
legends and still-existing memorials of the Danes, it is natural that
they should be met with in still greater numbers in the old Danish
districts to the north and east of Watlinga-Stræt.

Here also the Norwegian saint, “St. Olave,” has been zealously
worshipped, both in the country and in the towns. In Norfolk (East
Anglia) there is a bridge called “St. Olave’s Bridge.” In itself it is a
remarkable monument of a time when bridges over rivers were regarded as
such considerable and important structures that, like churches, they
were named after, or dedicated to saints; in ancient Scandinavia they
even built bridges, as several runic stones testify, “for their souls’
salvation.” In the city of Chester, on the northern frontier of Wales,
there is to be found in the southern outskirts, opposite the old castle
and close to the river Dee, a church and parish which still bear the
name of St. Olave. By the church runs a street called “St. Olave’s
Lane.” In the north-west part of York there is likewise a St. Olave’s
church, said to be the remains of a monastery founded by the powerful
Danish Jarl Siward, who was himself buried there in the year 1055. There
can be no doubt that similar churches dedicated to St. Olave were
scattered about in other towns of north England, where further
researches might possibly yet discover at least some of them.

These traces of the importance formerly conferred on St. Olave in the
towns of north England lead one to conjecture that, even after the
Danish ascendancy in England was annihilated, a great number of Northmen
must have continued to reside there, as was the case in London. This is
so much the more natural, as, long before the Norman Conquest, the
Northmen preponderated in many, perhaps in most, mercantile towns of the
north of England, and particularly in the fortified towns occupied by
the Danes. At the time of the Conquest, the population in some of the
largest and most important cities towards the east coast, such as
Lincoln and York, is said to have been almost exclusively of
Scandinavian extraction; hence it was that Lincoln and York, at least,
preserved their original Scandinavian “husting” throughout the middle
ages, and even later.

In and about the last-named city, which was the chief place in Danish
north England, are numerous Scandinavian memorials. The names of several
streets in York end in _gate_. In London, where the same termination of
the names of streets frequently occurs, some have, indeed, endeavoured
to derive this _gate_ from the gates which these streets adjoined; and,
as far as regards London, this explanation may probably in most cases be
correct. But in York, where formerly there were at least a score of such
streets, it is certainly by no means a probable conjecture that twenty
gates existed from which their names were derived; and it therefore
becomes a question whether these _gates_ should not be derived from the
old Scandinavian “_gata_” (a street), particularly when they appear in
compound names, such as Petersgate (Petersgade), Marygate (Mariegade),
Fishergate (Fiskergade), Stonegate (Steengade), Micklegate (from the old
Scandinavian “mykill,” signifying great); which have a striking
resemblance with Scandinavian names of streets; nay, there is even a
legend respecting Godram, or Guthramgate, that it was named after a
Danish chieftain, Guthrum or Gorm, who is said to have dwelt there. The
historical accounts of the number and influence of the Northmen in York
cannot but strengthen these suppositions in a high degree.

North-east of York, on the coast towards the German ocean, is a
promontory called “Flamborough-head.” It is separated from the main land
by an immense rampart said to have been raised by the Danes, and called
on that account “the Danes’ Dyke,” behind which they intrenched
themselves on landing. At no great distance, near Great Driffield, is
“the Danes’ Dale,” and “the Danes’ Graves,” where remains of the Danes
who fell in a battle are said to have been dug up. South of York, on the
Humber, between Richal and Skipwith, human bones and pieces of iron have
likewise been found in several barrows, or tumuli, ascribed to the
Danes. It is supposed that the Danes and Norwegians landed in this
neighbourhood at different times, when proceeding up the Humber on their
warlike expeditions.

The popular legend of the bloody battle by Stamford Bridge, or, as it
was afterwards called, “Battle Bridge,” is not yet obsolete. A piece of
ground near the bridge over the river Derwent is called “Battle-flats,”
and in the surrounding fields, where, for about a century after the
battle, large heaps of human bones were to be seen, joint-bones,
together with iron swords and other weapons, have been ploughed up, as
well as horse-shoes that would be suitable for the small Norwegian
horses. The English chronicles which describe this battle are lavish in
their praises of a Norwegian, who, in the midst of the fight, stood
quite alone on the bridge over the Derwent, and for several hours kept
Harald Godvinsön’s whole army at bay, until at length a man glided under
the bridge and ran him through from below with a spear. The inhabitants
of the village of Stamford Bridge have to the present day kept up the
custom of celebrating this deed at an annual festival, by making
puddings in the form of a vessel or trough; for, as the legend states,
it was in a trough that the slayer of the Norwegian passed under the
bridge. It is certain, however, that the river Derwent hereabouts has
only lately been made navigable.

It would lead us too far to relate, even in an abbreviated form, all the
legends, or to reckon up all the numerous memorials, which, to the north
of Watlinga-Stræt, are connected with the Danes. It is not only the
common people in England who in general ascribe every ancient monument
of any importance to the Danes; there was a time, and no very distant
one, when many learned men were but too much inclined to do the same. In
proof of this it suffices to remark that the celebrated circle of stones
at Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain, in Wiltshire—the most superb monument
of its kind in the British Islands, or even in the whole of northern
Europe—was also at one time described by the learned as a Danish place
of sacrifice, although it is clearly distinguished, both by its
structure and whole appearance, from the ancient monuments of
Scandinavia; and although, on the contrary, the highest degree of
probability proclaims its having originated from the older inhabitants
of England, the ancient Britons. It is undoubtedly true, that want of
adequate experience and knowledge was generally the real cause why the
learned were never able to distinguish, with certainty, between what
ancient monuments were really Danish and what were not. Nevertheless
they would assuredly never have given the Danes credit for so many
monuments, at the expense of their own countrymen and ancestors, had
they not acknowledged that the immigration and settlement of the Danes
in England was of the most widely-extended importance.

Even in our days English antiquarians are not disinclined to ascribe
British, Roman, or Anglo-Saxon antiquities to the Danes; as well as to
suppose, on the whole, that there are more monuments of the Danes extant
in England, than, strictly speaking, that people can validly claim.

At first sight it might indeed appear that the Danes, who so early, and
for so long a period, had extensive possessions in the north of England,
must have left there a great number of tumuli, stone circles, and
cairns; as well as, in consequence of their numberless fights and
battles, a considerable quantity of entrenchments. It is sufficiently
known how careful the old Northmen were to hand down to posterity the
memory of a hero, and of his deeds. The doctrines of Odin even commanded
it, as a sacred duty, to erect bauta stones in memory of the brave;
which is one of the principal reasons why Scandinavia is distinguished,
even down to modern times, by such a striking abundance of ancient

But with regard to England, we must not forget that the inhabitants of
the central and northern parts had for centuries been Christians when
the heathen Danes began to make conquests there. Among the Danes, as
among the Northmen in general, the belief in their ancient gods had been
weakened, and faith in their own power and strength had frequently
usurped its place. Living among Christians in a foreign land, and
doubtless, also, often marrying native females, they easily adopted, at
least in form, the novel doctrines of Christianity, and with them the
customs which they brought in their train. They soon renounced the usage
of placing the dead in mounds, after the heathen manner, and of
providing them with the weapons and ornaments which were dearest to them
when alive. The bodies were buried in churchyards, or in the churches
themselves; and the precious things which were formerly thought to
secure for the hero an honourable seat in Valhalla, now for the most
part remained above ground, where they generally found their way into
the pocket of the monk, in order that he might deliver the deceased from
purgatory by masses for his soul, and procure him an easy entrance into
the kingdom of heaven. By degrees, as the Danes abandoned themselves to
the influence of the higher civilization of England, they must also have
adopted the most essential parts of the English dress, or at all events
English ornaments; and consequently, even if only some few of these were
deposited in the barrows, it became almost impossible to decide, when
these graves were opened after a long lapse of time, whether it were
Danes or Anglo-Saxons who had been originally interred in them.

Thus it is easily explained why but, proportionally, very few really
Danish or Scandinavian barrows and monumental stones are to be found in
England. We must not ascribe it to the progress of agriculture alone
that, even in the north of England, we may search the fields in vain for
stones, which, by runic inscriptions in the ancient language of
Scandinavia, have preserved the remembrance of some distinguished
warrior from the eastern lands beyond the sea. It is but rarely that one
can even fancy that he has met with a Scandinavian runic stone; but a
closer inspection will soon show that both the runes, and particularly
the language in which the inscriptions are couched, betray a foreign,
and especially an Anglo-Saxon, origin. The most important runic stone in
these northern districts is found near the English border, in the Scotch
town of Ruthwell, on the other side of Solway Firth. It is of
considerable height, and is ornamented with a number of carvings of
biblical scenes, mingled with figures of leaves, birds, and animals.
Besides Latin inscriptions indicating and explaining these Christian
carvings, there is a runic inscription on the stone which was long
considered, both by British and Scandinavian archæologists, to be
Danish, or at least to contain remnants of the old Scandinavian
language. But it is now shown to be derived neither from the Danes nor
Norwegians, but from the Anglo-Saxons, as the supposed Scandinavian
inscription includes some verses of an old devotional Anglo-Saxon poem.
The whole appearance of the stone, also, is rather Saxon than Danish.
The runic characters are, in part at least, different from those of
Scandinavia, and the words are not, as in them, separated by points.
Ornaments with similar so-called Anglo-Saxon runic inscriptions are not
altogether uncommon in England, particularly in the north. But as not a
few ornaments, as well as runic stones with inscriptions in the selfsame
character, are also found in the countries of Scandinavia, both in
Denmark and Norway, and particularly the latter, and the west and south
of Sweden (and there mostly in Bleking), it may be a question whether
this runic writing was not originally brought over to England by
Scandinavian emigrants. It would otherwise be inexplicable that they
should have used entirely foreign runic characters in Scandinavia,
whilst they possessed a peculiar and genuine Scandinavian runic writing
of their own. The true state of the matter will not, however, be brought
to light till antiquarians succeed in explaining, in a satisfactory
manner, the inscriptions with Anglo-Saxon runes that are found in
England as well as in Scandinavia, and which, for the most part, have
not hitherto been deciphered.

[Illustration: [++] Swords – Fig. 1. Scandinavian and Fig. 2. Saxon]

It is a matter of course that arms and ornaments should be at times dug
up in England that belonged to Scandinavian Vikings, who found either
death or a new habitation on the English shore. In the rivers on the
eastern coast, where the Vikings’ ships showed themselves so regularly,
and where remains of these ships are supposed to be now and then
discovered, iron swords have been found, as for instance in the Thames,
of undoubted Scandinavian origin. (Fig. 1.) They are in general longer
and heavier than the Saxon sword (Fig. 2.), and are superior to them
from having a guard, and a large, and commonly triangular, knob at the
hilt. On the other hand, they are exactly of the same kind as our
Scandinavian swords of what is called “the iron age;” that is, they
belong to the latest period of heathenism. The Vikings, who often had to
combat from their ships, and who, being few in number, were so much the
more obliged to depend on their arms and the strength of their weapons,
were necessarily compelled to have them both long and good. “Danish
battle-axes” are usually mentioned in the old English and Frankish
chronicles as excellent and dangerous weapons of attack. Nay, even from
the distant Myklegaard, or Constantinople, where the Northmen, under the
name of Varangians, served for a long series of years as the Greek
Emperor’s bodyguard, stories have reached us of the particular kind of
battle-axes which they wielded with such strength. These axes, like the
swords, were frequently inlaid with silver or gold, and were of
excellent workmanship. It is also related by Giraldus Cambrensis that
the Irish procured their battle-axes from the Northmen. The Danes in
England, at least towards the latter part of their sway, are likewise
said to have used shirts of mail, or chain armour, in which, however,
the rings were not interlaced, but sewed on by the side of each other;
helmets, with iron bands that covered the nose; and lastly, large
pointed triangular shields. Some are even of opinion that these coats of
mail were commonly black, and that this gave rise to the Danes being
sometimes called “the black Danes.” Others derive this surname from the
colour of their hair and skin, which must at that time have been in
general considered darker than the Norwegian complexion; whilst others,
again, infer that the Danes generally used black sails for their ships,
and the Norwegians white. The Scotch and Irish distinguish clearly
between “Dubgall” or the black stranger (whence the present name Dugal),
and “Finngall,” or the fair stranger. Old Irish authors also call the
inhabitants of Denmark “Dublochlannoch” (dark Lochlans), and the
inhabitants of Norway “Finn-Lochlannoch” (fair Lochlans). Lochlan is
with them the usual appellation of Scandinavia.

Besides their arms, the ornaments and decorations of the Danes and
Norwegians were also of a peculiar kind; at least they are in general
clearly different from the Anglo-Saxon ornaments now discovered in
graves in England. As the Danish and British antiquities of the earlier,
or what is called the bronze period, betray a considerable and
well-defined difference, so also a comparison between the corresponding
antiquities of the iron period will clearly show, that even if Roman
taste formed the basis of art both among the Anglo-Saxons and the Danes
and Norwegians during the last-named period, yet that each people
followed its own independent course. That the Northmen, consequently,
were not exclusively indebted to England for all that fresh development
of taste which predominated at the close of heathenism and commencement
of Christianity, but that they had themselves, before the Conquest of
England, already made a great step in advance, was however no more than
what one might expect from a people capable of building ships that
crossed the Atlantic, and who were acquainted with, and frequently used,
a peculiar sort of writing, the Northern runes.

But though, at present at least, it is scarcely possible to point out in
England proper a single runic memorial of undoubted Danish or Norwegian
origin, still there are found at times, particularly in north England,
certain antiquities, with inscriptions that perfectly supply the want of
those illustrations which the runic stones would otherwise afford,
respecting the influence and settlements of the Northmen in England.
These are small silver coins struck by Danish-Norwegian kings and jarls
during their dominion there. I do not allude, of course, to coins of
such kings as Canute the Great, Harald Harefoot, and Hardicanute; for as
these princes held a confirmed dominion in England—and that at a time
when coining was general in Europe, and when on the whole the light of
history begins to shine clearer—there would be nothing strange, nor
particularly instructive in an historical point of view, that they also
had coined money. I refer to coins of Danish-Norwegian chiefs, whose
deeds in England the chronicles have related either sparingly or not at
all, and who lived more than a century before the Conquest by Canute the

A short stay would easily have sufficed to erect a runic or bauta-stone;
and great and imminent indeed must have been the danger which threatened
the Northman of the olden time if he omitted, even on a foreign soil, to
perform the last honours for a fallen friend or relative. But a coin was
not so quickly minted. The countries of Scandinavia had not a mintage of
their own before the year 1000, or thereabout; when the Danish king,
Svend Tveskjæg, having brought home with him from his expedition into
England, a quantity of Anglo-Saxon coins, began to have them imitated.
The Scandinavian Viking, to whom coining was a strange and unknown art,
had enough to do, during a short and dangerous expedition for conquest,
to procure a footing and support for his army; and if he failed in
conquering a kingdom, he was glad to bring home as booty some pounds of
foreign money. It was only when he had made himself king or jarl over a
considerable district, and when he had begun to exchange his wild
warrior’s life for the milder occupations of peace, that he could have
leisure to reflect that he also, like other princes in England, should
promote his people’s welfare and his own advantage by ordering those
coins to be minted which are so important for trade and commerce. The
older the dates of such Danish-Norwegian coins struck in England—the
rarer the minting of coins in general, even in the more enlightened
countries—so much the more clearly is the existence proved of
well-established Scandinavian kingdoms, where works of peace were
already capable of thriving.

Some few years ago (1840), a highly remarkable and very ancient treasure
of silver was discovered near Cuerdale in Lancashire, within the
boundaries of the ancient Northumberland. It consisted of bars, armlets,
a great number of pieces of broken rings and other ornaments, as well as
about seven thousand coins, all of which were inclosed in a leaden
chest. To judge from the coins, which, with a few exceptions, were
minted between the years 815 and 930, the treasure must have been buried
in the first half of the tenth century, or almost a hundred years before
the time of Canute the Great. Amongst the coins, besides a single
Byzantine piece, were found several Arabic or Kufic, some of north
Italy, about a thousand French, and two thousand eight hundred
Anglo-Saxon pieces, of which only eight hundred were of Alfred the
Great. But the chief mass, namely, three thousand pieces, consisted of
peculiar coins, with the inscriptions, “Siefredus Rex,” “Sievert Rex,”
“Cnut Rex,” “Alfden Rex,” and “Sitric Comes” (jarl); and which,
therefore, merely from their preponderating number, may be supposed to
have been the most common coins at that time, and in that part of north
England where the treasure had been concealed. Cnut’s coins were the
most numerous, as they amounted to about two thousand pieces of
different dies; which proves a considerable and long-continued coining.

Not only are the names Sitric (Sigtryg), Alfden (Halvdan), Cnut (Knud),
Sievert (Sivard), and Siefred (Sigfred), visibly of Scandinavian origin,
but they also appear in ancient chronicles as the names of mighty
Scandinavian chiefs, who in the ninth and tenth centuries ravaged the
western lands.

[Illustration: [++] Coin: Sitric Comes]

Sitric Comes is certainly that Sitric Jarl who fell in a battle in
England about the year 900. Alfden is undoubtedly the same king
“Halfden,” who at the close of the ninth century so often harried south
England,—where he even besieged London—till he fell in the battle at
Wednesfield in 910. Cnut, whose name is found inscribed on the coins in
such a manner that one letter stands on each of the four arms of a
cross, whilst the inscription R, E, X. (Rex) is inclosed between them,
is probably he whom the Danes called “Knud Daneast” (or the Danes’ Joy),
a son of the first Danish monarch Gorm the Old; as it is truly related
of him that he perished in Vesterviking (or the western lands). Sigfred
must either have been the celebrated Viking king for whose adventurous
expedition France, and its capital Paris in particular, had to pay
dearly; or that Sigefert, or Sigfred, who in the year 897 ravaged the
English coasts with an army of Danes from Northumberland.

[Illustration: [++] Coin: Cnut]

[Illustration: [++] Coin: Cnut reverse]

The steady connection which the Vikings in England maintained with
France affords a natural explanation why their coins were imitations
both of contemporary English, or Anglo-Saxon, and of French coins. Thus
on the reverse of Cnut’s coins just mentioned, we sometimes find, as on
that engraved above, the inscription “Elfred Rex,” which is purely
Anglo-Saxon; and sometimes the particular mark for Carolus, or Charles
(Karl), which otherwise is only found on the French Carlovingian coins.

[Illustration: [++]Coin: Ebraice]

A very frequent inscription on the Scandinavian coins here alluded to,
as for instance in the last engraving, is “Ebraice Civita,” or “The city
of York;” whose ancient name “Eabhroig,” and in the barbarous Latin of
the time “Eboracum,” was converted into “Ebraice.” On other contemporary
coins struck at York, namely on some of what is called St. Peter’s
money, York is also called “Ebracec” and “Ebraicit.” For the Cuerdale
coins, in order to express the name “Ebraice,” coins of French kings of
the city of “Ebroicas,” or Evreux, in Normandy, seem to have been
particularly chosen as patterns; for by a slight change of a few letters
this Ebroicas could be converted into Ebraice; which was the easier
process at a time when the art of stamping coins was not much practised.
An additional proof that these coins were really minted by Scandinavian
kings in Northumberland, and in the city of York, is, that none such
have been found in any other part of England; whilst, on the contrary,
one of Canute’s coins, which have been so frequently mentioned, was dug
up, together with English and French coins of the same kind as those
found at Cuerdale, at Harkirke near Crosby, also in Lancashire; and
consequently at places whose names ending in _kirke_ (church) and _by_
(town), bear witness no less than that of Cuerdale (from _dal_, a
valley) to the dominion of the Northmen in those parts.

Should any doubt still exist that, so early as the ninth century,
Danish-Norwegian kings and jarls minted a considerable number of coins
in York, in imitation of contemporary Anglo-Saxon and French coins, it
is at all events certain that the Northumbrian kings Regnald, Anlaf or
Olaf, and Erik, who resided in York during the first half of the tenth
century, caused coins of their own to be minted there, and which agree
exactly with the historical accounts. Regnald, who reigned from about
912 to 944, was a son of King Sigtryg, and brother to the Olaf before
mentioned, who fought the battle of Brunanborg; Erik (+ 951) is either
King Erik Blodöxe of Norway, or a son of King Harald Blaatand of
Denmark, who is said to have ruled in Northumberland about the same

In the main points these coins are also imitations of the Anglo-Saxon,
but are distinguished from them by various and very striking
peculiarities, which show them to have been coined both by Danes, or
Norwegians, and by conquerors. Erik designates himself on them by the
Latin title “Rex,” as was usual at that time even among the
Anglo-Saxons; but Regnald and Anlaf use the pure Northern title
“Cununc;” or, in the Icelandic mode of writing, _Konungr_, the ancient
Scandinavian word for _King_. Some of these coins have martial emblems
which do not appear on the Anglo-Saxon coins of the same period, and
which, therefore, were clearly intended to be in honour of the warlike
qualities and victories of the Northmen. Erik’s coins have a sword of
the peculiar Scandinavian form, with a triangular pummel at the end of
the hilt.

[Illustration: [++] Coin: Erik Rex]

Similar swords are also seen on the St. Peter’s money before mentioned,
coined at York during the rule of the Scandinavian kings. One of these
coins represents a bent bow with the arrow on it, and on the reverse a
sledgehammer, or battle-axe.

[Illustration: [++] Coin: Olaf]

[Illustration: [++] Coin]

[Illustration: [++] Cnutr. Recx]

Regnald’s and Anlaf’s (or Olaf’s) coins, with the Scandinavian legend
“Cununc” instead of “Rex,” are ornamented with shields placed together
(an emblem which may have been transferred from them to the later coins
of Harald Haardraade and other Norwegian kings); as well as with flags
of a triangular form, with hanging fringes. It is remarkable enough,
that though such flags are not to be found on contemporary English
coins, a piece of the Danish-English king’s, Canute the Great, has
lately been found on which the king’s bust is represented, and before it
a striped triangular flag with hanging fringes, of the same form as the
flags on the coins of the Danish-Norwegian kings in north England. The
legend on one side is, “Cnutr. Recx;” and on the other, “Brihtred on
Lun;” which shows that the coin was minted in London.

[Illustration: [++] Coin: Anlaf Cununc]

Thus the coins, in conjunction with the chronicles, contribute to prove
that flags were important emblems with the northern conquerors, which
was indeed quite natural with a people like the ancient Scandinavians.
The old Sagas in particular contain frequent accounts of the great value
that the Northmen set on these flags, or, as they were then called,
“mærker” (marks). Thus the Norwegian chief Harald Haardraade, before he
became king of Norway, and after his return from his many expeditions
into the Greek Empire, sitting and conversing one evening (according to
the nineteenth chapter of his Saga) with King Svend Estridsen of Denmark
at the drinking table, Svend asked him what precious things he had that
he set most value on? He answered, his banner, called Landöde (or, the
land-ravager). Svend then asked what qualities this banner had, since he
esteemed it so precious a thing? Harald replied, “They say that he
before whom this banner is borne always gains the victory; and such has
constantly been the case since I possessed it.”

The class of coins before alluded to as minted by Danish-Norwegian
sovereigns in England not only presents a remarkable view of the
importance, as well as appearance, of the old Scandinavian flags, or
marks, but also serves in a high degree to confirm the repeated accounts
of the English chroniclers, that “the Danes,” during their conquests in
the western lands, often bore a common standard, or national flag; a
point about which the Danish chronicles or Sagas are silent. A coin of
Anlaf, or Olaf, king of Northumberland, is particularly illustrative of
this. It has the legend, “Anlaf Cununc,” and represents a bird with
extended wings, in which English antiquarians have very justly
recognised the raven, the chief ensign, or emblem, of the ancient Danes.

From the most ancient times, and almost since the period that war was
first waged, certain ensigns were undoubtedly known and used, around
which the warriors rallied in battle. This had its origin, indeed, in
necessity, in order that, in the tumult of battle, the combatants might
always be able to discern where their fellow-warriors were; and such a
rallying point was particularly of the greatest importance when an army
was thrown into disorder, or began to fly. To this it may be added, that
the commander, or the principal leaders, were generally near the ensign;
which thus became a signal where the battle was usually hottest, and a
point to rally round in order to protect the chief when in danger.

But these ensigns, which doubtless were originally boughs of trees or
other simple things easy to be recognised at a distance, obtained by
degrees a religious importance, and must thus have still more excited
the courage of the combatants. For ensigns those figurative images were
principally chosen under which men were accustomed to represent to
themselves their principal gods, or to which a peculiar religious faith
was attached. In the course of time these ensigns were adopted by whole
tribes as national ones. The eagle, Jupiter’s sacred bird, served the
Romans for a warlike ensign, and animated the legions on their distant
and universally-celebrated expeditions. With them, however, it did not
flutter in a banner, but was cast in metal and fixed on the end of a
staff. The national ensign used by at least a great part of the Gallic
tribes in the south of France about the time of the birth of Christ, was
of a similar kind. According to a few still-existing representations of
it on monuments, it presented the image of a hog, fastened, like the
Roman eagle, at the end of a staff. Among the Gauls the hog was a sacred
animal, whence it is afterwards found frequently represented on the old
Gallic coins.

Among the German and Scandinavian races, on the contrary, we cannot
point with certainty to any such early national ensigns. These people,
as it is well known, formed, for several centuries after the birth of
Christ, a number of petty and independent kingdoms, which were, besides,
often divided amongst several powerful chiefs. It was customary for
every chief to have a peculiar sign, often an animal, delineated on his
shield; and which was likewise represented on the banner that he carried
with him into battle. This banner, or mark, was generally borne before
him in the combat by his “marksman;” and at sea it waved on the prow of
his ship. It was not, like that of the Romans and Gauls, of cast metal,
but of variegated cloth.

It was not till the time that the Danes and Norwegians began to invade
the countries of the west, and to make great conquests there, and
consequently not till the ninth century, that we find the oldest traces
of the Danes, or rather perhaps the Danish-Norwegian Vikings, having
fought under one flag; which was not, like the earlier ones, that of a
single chief, but rather an established national ensign. We must
remember that they were heathens, making war upon a Christian land, and
fighting for Odin and Thor against White[5] Christ. Regardless of their
former contests in the north itself, the Vikings were now united on
these foreign shores by the ties of mutual interest and a common
religion; and nothing, therefore, was more natural than that the ensign
which conducted them in battle should be consecrated to Odin, or, as he
was called, the father of victory, in whose presence they expected at
some time to assemble and enjoy the delights of Valhalla. The eagle had
been consecrated to Jupiter by the Romans; among the Northmen the raven
was Odin’s (or, the Father-of-all’s) sacred bird. One of Odin’s names
was therefore “Ravne-gud” (raven-god). The ravens Hugin and Munin sat on
his shoulders, and only flew away to bring him intelligence of what
happened in the world. The ancient Northmen had consequently an especial
confidence in the omens of Odin’s bird. When the Viking Floke
Vilgerdesön set out from Norway to discover Iceland, he consecrated at a
sacrifice three ravens, which he wished to take with him, to show him
the way. He was therefore called Ravnefloke. The Northmen, also, made
prognostications from the scream and from the flight of the raven; and
the warriors, in particular, regarded it as a good omen if a raven
followed them as they marched to battle.

Footnote 5:

An epithet applied by the Northmen to our Saviour.

As Jupiter’s eagle had been the war sign of the Romans so was Odin’s
raven the chief mark of the Danes in the heathen ages. An old chronicler
(Emma’s Encomiast) relates, that in the time of peace no image whatever
was seen in the flag, or mark, of the Danes; but in time of war there
waved a raven in it, from whose movements the Danes took auguries of
victory or defeat. If it fluttered its wings, Odin gave them a sign of
conquest; but if the wings hung slackly down, victory would surely
desert them. From the few historical accounts that remain to us of this
raven’s mark we are not, however, justified in believing that it was so
long or so generally adopted among the Danes as the eagle was among the
Romans. We find it expressly mentioned only during the Danish conquests
in the British Islands; yet, remarkably enough, at such different times
and under such peculiar circumstances, that we may with good reason
assert that the raven’s mark was really a common flag of battle and
conquest for the Danes and Norwegians.

It is mentioned for the first time in the year 898, consequently nearly
a thousand years ago; that is to say, about the time of the banner-coins
before described, and especially of that coin of Anlaf, or Olaf, on
which is seen the bird with extended wings. At that time, it is said,
the Danish chiefs suffered a great defeat in South England, in which
they lost their war-ensign, or banner (_Anglo-Saxon_, guð-fana), which
they called “the raven” (_Anglo-Saxon_, ræfen v. hrefn. v. hræfen).
Another account adds, that these chiefs were sons of Regner Lodbrog, and
that the flag, or mark, was cunningly woven by Regner’s daughters. The
raven borne upon it was thought to forbode either victory or defeat.

This ensign is again spoken of a century later, in the time of Canute
the Great. It is mentioned in the great battle of Clontarf, in Ireland
(1014), when Sigurd, the Norwegian Jarl of Orkney, bore a raven-standard
against the Irish. Two years afterwards, in the sanguinary battle at
Ashingdon in Essex (1016), which partly decided Canute’s conquest of
England, the Danish army had begun to give way; when the jarl, Thorkel
the Tall, shouted to the warriors, as he pointed to the flag, that the
raven fluttered its wings, and predicted a glorious victory. The Danes
took fresh courage, and victory crowned their efforts. The mighty Danish
jarl Sivard, or Sigurd, surnamed “Digre” (the stout) (+ 1055), who ruled
the earldom of Northumberland somewhat after Canute’s time, and after
the Danish dominion in England had ceased, also bore a raven ensign,
which was called “Ravenlandeye,” or the raven that desolates the land.
(“_Corvus terræ terror._”) There seems to have been many legends among
the people, both as to the manner in which Sigurd procured this ensign,
and as to its supernatural power.

After the time of Canute the Great and Sigurd Digre, there is scarcely
any coin to be found bearing the image of the raven; but fortunately
there is a representation of another kind, belonging to the eleventh
century, which in no slight degree proves that raven-ensigns were
actually borne by the successors of the Danes and Norwegians in the west
of Europe until about the year 1100.

It is known that Scandinavian Vikings, and particularly Normans and
Danes, conquered the French province afterwards called from the Northmen
(Normænd) Normandy; and that the successors of Rollo, or Rolf (Ralph),
continued to govern that land as dukes. From Normandy, Duke William,
surnamed the Conqueror, passed over in 1066 into England, which he
conquered by the battle of Hastings. The whole expedition, together with
this battle, is represented in the old and extremely remarkable piece of
tapestry, preserved in the cathedral of Bayeux, in Normandy, and said to
have been worked by William the Conqueror’s own consort, Matilda; at all
events it was made shortly after the conquest of England. There can,
therefore, be no question about the fidelity of the figures represented,
at all events, as far as regards the Normans. It is here seen that the
Norman chiefs, after the old Scandinavian fashion, had each his ensign
or banner of party-coloured cloth cut out into tongues or points, and
fastened to the pole of a lance. But where William is represented on the
Bayeux tapestry advancing to the battle of Hastings, the chief banner is
borne by a mounted knight clad in chain armour, who rides before another
knight, likewise clothed in armour, and having on his lance an ensign or
flag with five tongues or points, and with a cross in it.

[Illustration: [++] Bayeux tapestry: Two Knights]

On the chief banner, the only one of that form among the many flags in
the tapestry, but which in its whole shape and pendant fringes bears a
striking likeness to the old Danish flags before mentioned, there is
seen in the middle the figure of a little bird, which may, with the
greatest probability, be taken for Odin’s raven. For it is very natural
that the Scandinavian Vikings, or Normans, who had achieved so many and
such famous conquests under Odin’s raven, should continue to preserve
this sign, even after they had adopted Christianity; and that thus the
Normannic dukes in Normandy should also long bear their forefathers’
venerable ensign with them as a Palladium in the combat.

After the conquest of England by the Normans, however, the Norman kings
abandoned the old Scandinavian raven-mark, and adapted themselves more
to the English customs. Probably each king had his own mark or flag,
after the custom of that time, until the national banner afterwards
received a settled form. But the remembrance of the Danish raven by no
means became obsolete among the English nation. Whilst the raven-flag
has almost been erased from the memory of the Danish people, the
remembrance of it still exists freshly in the British islands; and both
poets and artists who represent, however simply, the ancient combats of
the Danes with the Anglo-Saxons, the Scotch, and the Irish, seldom
neglect to make “the enchanted raven” wave in the Danish ranks.

On the often-mentioned Bayeux tapestry is also represented the fall of
the English king, Harald Godvinsön, at the battle of Hastings. The
king’s flag-bearer, or marksman, who, as well as the king, is on foot,
bears a flag-staff, on which is fixed a figure, probably of cloth, cut
in the resemblance of a dragon, which was the royal mark of the
Anglo-Saxon king. Close before him lies a fallen knight, by whose side
is seen a lance with the point downwards, and on which hangs a similar

[Illustration: [++] Bayeux tapestry: Harald Godvinsön]

This fallen knight is without doubt the king. From the form of his flag,
or mark, we may conclude that the Danes’ raven-mark probably consisted
at times of the figure of a raven fixed to a shaft, and cut out or sewed
in a similar manner.

What colours were used for the raven-mark can now hardly be decided. The
bird, or raven, on William the Conqueror’s war-flag appears to have been
of a blue-black on a pale yellow, or light, ground. This colour in the
tapestry may, perhaps, have been accidental; and the account of an
English chronicler would lead us to suppose that the ground of the
Danish flags, or marks, was, at least in time of peace, white. But the
colours were certainly different at different times. There can be no
doubt that the ground was often red; for, from the most ancient times,
red was a very favourite colour in the north, especially in time of war.
The old inhabitants of the north, when they came as friends, used to
show a white shield, but when they appeared as enemies it was red; then
“they raised the war-shield.” In Norway red seems to have been the
national colour from an early period; and it was even ordered in
Gulething’s laws, that every man who possessed six silver marks[6]
should have a red shield. Something similar was probably the case in
Denmark. An old legend preserved by the Scotch historians relates that,
in a battle in Scotland about eight hundred years ago, the Danes wore
red and white tunics. That red and white appear so prominently on the
Danish national colours ever since the thirteenth century is certainly
owing to an ancient predilection among the people for these colours. It
is perhaps, therefore, most probable that the banners, or marks, of the
ancient Danes were, in time of peace, of a light colour, but in war time
of a blood colour, with a black raven on the red ground.

In the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries the raven, the Danebrog of
heathenism, waved victoriously in the western lands. It was with Canute
the Great at Ashingdon, with the Norman William at Hastings, and was
thus present at two conquests of England. But the battle of Hastings was
the last important battle that the raven won. Heathen Scandinavia had
exhausted its strength by numerous and far-extended conquests.
Christianity, and with it a new and a higher civilization, advanced with
a power not to be checked even among the ancient followers of Odin. The
raven, Odin’s mark, to which the heathen Danes had attached themselves
with all the strength of religious faith, no longer inspired them as
before when the warriors had lost the hope of the joys of Valhalla. If
they now fought, it was mostly against heathens who would not bow before
that cross on which Christ bled and suffered for the sins of mankind. In
order to inspire the combatants, it was necessary that the banner which
they followed should be an expression of the spirit which stirred among
the people, of that living hope which animated them respecting the
manner of their existence in another world. The raven, the symbol of
heathenism, paled by degrees, as antiquated and meaningless, and at last
quite gave place to the symbol of Christianity, the holy cross.

Footnote 6:

A mark was half a pound of silver.

The same representations on ancient coins and tapestry, which exhibit
the raven, and the old flags, also show the sign of the cross. The flag
on Olaf’s and Regnald’s coins (p. 53) has a figure in the middle
resembling the cross. This is still more distinct on the Bayeux
tapestry, where William’s chief banner is borne (p. 59), for immediately
after the raven follows a flag with the cross. This last, moreover,
certainly represents the identical consecrated banner with the figure of
a cross, which the Pope sent to William on the occasion of his
expedition against England.

The sign of the cross must by degrees have naturally superseded the
raven, not only among the descendants of the Danes and Norwegians in
England, but also, though perhaps somewhat later, in the north itself.
If we may not assume that the present “Danebrog,” with its white cross
on a red ground, became the Danish national flag immediately after the
introduction of Christianity, it is at least certain that the Danish
kings, in the first two centuries after that event, bore flags with
crosses as their personal banners, or marks; and particularly in the
twelfth century, when the crusades against the heathen Wends began. An
old Saga, or legend, relates, that during one of the crusades of King
Waldemar the Victorious in Livonia, in 1219, the “Danebrog” fell from
heaven among the Danish army. This much, however, is certain—that it is
not till after these crusades that the “Danebrog” appears as the
established national flag of the Danes; and ever since that time, for
more than six centuries, it has continued to wave unchanged in the
Danish fleets and armies. It is remarkable that, as the flag of the
fleet, and of all fortified places, and as the royal flag, it is split;
and it can scarcely be doubted that this form must have originated from
the fringes and tongues, or points, with which the old Danish and
Scandinavian flags were ornamented in the tenth and eleventh centuries.
The Scandinavian people is the only one which from remote antiquity has
uninterruptedly borne this split flag; and it is possible that Sweden,
as well as Norway, obtained theirs, which is of comparatively late
origin, by imitating the old Danebrog.

[Illustration: [++] Flags and Ensigns]

Other European countries also derived from the crusades flags with
crosses as their national banners; as, for instance, England the St.
George’s banner, which was white with a red cross; and Scotland a blue
flag divided by a white St. Andrew’s cross. About the same time the
different kingdoms began to adopt a fixed national coat of arms. Thus
Denmark assumed that still in use,—three blue leopards, or lions, on a
golden shield, strewed with red hearts; which was originally the family
arms of the royal house. It has, however, undergone a few slight
changes. With regard to this subject, it is remarkable that three
leopards were also borne by the Norman dukes, who were of Norwegian
descent, and who, after the conquest, introduced the leopards, or lions,
into the arms of England. Generally the lion was not, nor is indeed at
present, found on coats of arms in England and France, whereas it
appears very frequently in those of the north. Sweden has, besides
others, the Gothic lion; the Norwegian national coat of arms is a lion
with a halberd; and Denmark has, besides the proper national arms, the
Cymbric lion, and the two Sleswick lions. But the lion is so peculiarly
Scandinavian that it does not even cross the Eider; Holstein, which is
German, has an entirely different coat of arms—a nettle-leaf. There is
also this similarity between the Danish and English lions, that they are
represented standing, whilst those on the other national arms are
depicted springing. Would it, therefore, be quite groundless to trace,
even in the armorial bearings of England, one of the many proofs of the
influence which the Northmen, and the Scandinavian elements, still
continued to exert there at the time when the national arms were
adopted, and when the foundations of an entirely new and superior social
system had already been laid?

On the extremity of the tongue of land which borders on the north the
entrance of the Humber, there formerly stood a castle called Ravnsöre
(raven’s point—in old Scandinavian, Hrafnseyri), and afterwards
Ravnsere. _Öre_ is, as is well known, the old Scandinavian name for the
sandy point of a promontory. Ravn (or Raven) may possibly have been
either the name of the man who first conquered the surrounding district
and built the castle; or, what is certainly far more probable, the
Northmen, on erecting this important castle on one of their first
landing places on the greatest river in north England, named it after
the bird sacred to Odin, which fluttered in their banner, and
prognosticated to them victory in the fight. In that case it was a
singular coincidence that Harald Haardraade’s son Olaf should, after the
battle of Stamford Bridge, have embarked at Ravnsöre for the Orkneys and
Norway with the feeble remnant of the Norwegian army. The very place
which had before so often seen multitudes of Northmen, intoxicated with
victory, land with Odin’s raven-flag, now beheld the flight-like
departure of their successors, after they had combated in vain under
that celebrated banner “Landöde” (the land-ravager), which had
accompanied Harald Haardraade in his expeditions to the East, against
the Saracens and other enemies of Christianity. It was one of the many
proofs that “White Christ” was not yet for the Northmen, at least in
battle, what Odin had been previously.

It is, however, at least certain that the name “Ravenspurn” (Ravnsöre)
is derived from the Scandinavian conquerors. An Icelandic Saga, written
a hundred and fifty years after the conquest of England by the Normans,
or after the battle of Hastings (1066), says that “Northumberland was
mostly colonized by Northmen; for after Lodbrog’s sons, who conquered
the country, had again lost it, the Danes and Norwegians often harried
it; and there are still many places to be found in the district that
have names taken from the Scandinavian tongue, such as Grimsby,
Hauksfliot, and numerous others.”

Old English chroniclers also state that many towns in England had new
names given to them by the Northmen; for instance Streaneshalch came to
be called Whitby, and Northweorthig was named in the Danish language

A surer and more decisive proof than all written historical accounts of
the Danish-Norwegian settlements and diffusion in the midland and
northern districts of England is, that the above-named places, namely,
Grimsby (“the town of Grim”), Whitby (Hvidby, “the White town”), and
Deoraby Dyreby (“town of deer”), contracted to Derby, are to be found to
this day in Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, and Derbyshire; and also that in
these old Danish districts there is, moreover, a very considerable
number of towns with names of just as undoubted Danish origin. A close
inspection of even a common map of England will soon show that there are
not a few names of places in the north of England, whose terminations
and entire form are of quite a different kind from those of places in
the south.

The greater number of names of places in the south of England end in
——ton, ——ham, ——bury, or ——borough, ——forth or ——ford, ——worth, &c.
These, which are of Anglo-Saxon origin, and which also serve still
further to prove the preponderating influence of the Anglo-Saxons in
that part, are, it is true, also spread over the whole of the north of
England. But, even in the districts about the Thames (in Kent, Essex,
Suffolk, and Norfolk) they already begin to be mixed with previously
unknown names ending in ——by (_Old Northern_, býr, first a single farm,
afterwards a town in general), ——thorpe (old Northern Þorp, a collection
of houses separated from some principal estate, a village), ——thwaite,
in the old Scandinavian language Þveit, tved, an isolated piece of land,
——næs, a promontory, and ——ey, or öe, an isle; as in Kirby, or Kirkby,
Risby, Upthorpe and others. As we approach from the south the districts
west of the Wash, such as Northamptonshire and Warwickshire, the number
of such names constantly increases, and we find, among others, Ashby,
Rugby, and Naseby. As we proceed farther north, we find still more
numerous names of towns and villages having in like manner new
terminations; such as, ——with (_i.e._ forest), ——toft, ——beck, ——tarn
(_Scandinavian_, tjörn, or tjarn, a small lake, water), ——dale, ——fell
(rocky mountain), ——force (waterfall), ——haugh, or, how (_Scand._,
haugr, a hill), ——garth (_Scand._, garðr, a large farm); together with
many others. The inhabitants of the north will at once acknowledge these
endings to be pure Norwegian or Danish; which is, moreover, placed
beyond all doubt by the compound words in which they appear.

It is not of course very easy to point out the meaning of every name of
a place that has a Danish or Norwegian termination; the original form
having been partly corrupted by later differences of pronunciation, and
partly changed, by the ancient Scandinavians having often merely added a
Scandinavian ending to the older names, or at most re-modelled them into
forms that had a home-like sound to their ears. Still there are names
enough of places whose signification is quite clear. To instance some
derived from the situation or nature of the place: Eastby (_Dan._,
Ostby; _Eng._, the eastern village), Westerby (_Eng._, the western
village), Mickleby (_Dan._, Magleby; _Eng._, the large village),
Somerby, Markby (_Eng._, the field village), Newby (_Dan._, Nyby;
_Eng._, the new village), Upperby (_Dan._, Overby; _Eng._, the upper
village), Netherby (the lower village), Langtoft (the long field),
Kirkland (church-land), Stainsby (the stone village), Haidenby (_Dan._,
Hedeby; _Eng._, the heath village), Raithby (_Dan._, Rödby, from
_rydde_, to clear away), Dalby (village in the dale), Scawby and Scausby
(village in the wood), Scow, Askwith (_Dan._, Askved, or Askeskov,
_i.e._ Ashwood), Storwith (_Dan._, Storved, or Storskov; _Eng._, the
large wood), Lund (Danish for _grove_), Risby (the beech village),
Thornby (the thorn village), Birkby (_Dan._, Birk; _Eng._, the birch
village), Ings (_Dan._, Enge; _Eng._ meadow), Brackenthwaite
(Bregentved, from Brackens), Northorpe (_Dan._, Nörup; _Eng._, north
village), Millthrop (_Dan._, Möldrup; _Eng._, mill-village), Staindrop
(_Dan._, Stenderup; _Eng._, stone village), Linthorpe (_Dan._, Lindrup;
_Eng._, lime-tree village), Stonegarth (_Dan._, Steengaard; _Eng._,
stone farm), Dalegarth (_Dan._, Dalsgaard; _Eng._, valley farm),
Fieldgarth (_Dan._, Fjeldgaard; _Eng._, rocky farm), with others. A
village on the river Eden in Cumberland is called Longwathby (from a
long ford, or wading place; _Danish_, at vade); and north and south of
the Humber, at a spot where there is a ferry over the river (_Dan._,
Færge), lie north and south Ferriby! Almost all these names, to which a
great number of similar ones might be added, answer to names of places
still in use in Denmark, only with this difference, that _thwaite_ has
there passed into _tvede_, or _tved_, and _thorpe_ into _trup_, _drup_,
or _rup_.

The following examples may be cited of Danish-Norwegian names of places
in England, called after animals: Codale (Cowdale), Swinedale,
Swinethorpe, Hestholm (_Eng._, Horse-holm), Calthorpe, and Hareby.

Names of places containing personal names are, however, beyond
comparison far more numerous, and were probably taken from the first
Scandinavian conquerors; as, for instance, Rollesby (Rolfsby), Ormsby
(Gormsby), Ormskirk, Grimsdale, Grimsthorpe, Haconby, Gunnerby,
Aslackby, Swainby, Swainsthorpe, Ingersby, Thirkelsby, Asserby, Johnby,
Brandsby, Ingoldasthorpe, Osgodby, Thoresby, and several others.

Among this species of names of places are found such as Tursdale,
Baldersby, Fraisthorpe, and Ullersthorpe. Now it is certainly probable
that these were only derived from men named Thor, Balder, Freyer, and
Uller, or Oller; yet we cannot avoid thinking of the old gods who bore
these names, particularly as it was a common custom among the ancient
Scandinavians to name towns and estates after them. In England also are
found Asgardby, Aysgarth (or Asgaard, in Yorkshire), as well Wydale and
Wigthorpe, or Wythorpe; which two names have undoubtedly the same origin
as the old sacrificial and assize town Viborg, in Jutland (from Vébjörg,
or the holy mountains); namely, from _vé_, a sacred place. Even the name
of one of the most important sacrificial places in the Scandinavian
north, is to be found in Yorkshire, in Upsal (from Upsalir, the high
halls). The names of places in England which have preserved traces of
the Danes after they had become Christians, may all the more assure us
that we are not mistaken in regarding the names just mentioned as
remarkable remains of the short period of their domination when
heathens. The names of Bishopsthorpe (Bispetorp), Nunthorpe (Nonnetorp),
Kirkby, Crosby, and Crossthwaite, sufficiently prove that Christian had
succeeded to sacrificial priests, and that church and cross were now
erected where heathen altars and temples had formerly stood.

The name of the village of Thingwall[7] in Cheshire affords a remarkable
memorial of the assizes, or _Thing_, which the Northmen generally held
in conjunction with their sacrifices to the gods; it lies, surrounded
with several other villages with Scandinavian names, on the small tongue
of land that projects between the mouths of the rivers Dee and Mersey.
At that time they generally chose for the holding of the _thing_, or
assizes, a place in some degree safe from surprise. The chief ancient
_thing_ place for Iceland was called like this Thingwall, namely
Thingvalla (originally “Þingvöllr,” “Þingvellir,” or the

Footnote 7:

Wall, _Dan._, Vold, a bank or rampart.

The before-mentioned names Bishopsthorpe and Nunthorpe apply to estates
that belonged to the church; the following ones, viz., Coningsby,
Coneysthorpe, Coneysby, Kingthorpe, and Kingsby, denote property
belonging to the kings, or destined for their maintenance. Some towns
are named after the trade or business of the original inhabitants as
Smisby (Smithby) Weaverthorpe, and Copmanthorpe (Kjöbmandsthorpe,
_i.e._, merchants-thorpe); others point to the descent of the
inhabitants, such as Romanby, Saxby, Flemingsby, Frankby, Frisby and
Fristhorpe (but this possibly came from “Freyr”), Scotby, Scotsthorpe,
Ireby, Normanby, Danby or Denby, and Danesdale.

It also deserves to be mentioned that many of these names of places have
by degrees become family ones, which are constantly heard in England;
for instance, Thoresby, Ashby, Crosby (whence again Ashby and Crosby
Streets in London), Thorpe, Sibthorpe, Willoughby, Scoresby, Derby,
Selby, Wilberforce, &c.

In order, lastly, to convey an idea of the abundance of Scandinavian, or
Danish-Norwegian, names of places, which occur in the midland and
northern districts of England, a tabular view of those most frequently
met with is here subjoined from the English maps. This list, which is
principally drawn up for the use of those readers who have not a
comprehensive map of England at hand, will, with all its deficiencies,
clearly and incontestably prove the correctness of the historical
accounts, which state that the new population of Danes and Norwegians
that immigrated into England during the Danish expeditions, settled
almost exclusively in the districts to the north and east of
Watlinga-Stræt, and there chiefly to the west and north of the Wash.
Norfolk, Northamptonshire, and Lancashire, have each only about fifty
names of places of Scandinavian origin; Leicestershire has about ninety;
Lincolnshire alone, nearly three hundred; Yorkshire above four hundred;
Westmoreland and Cumberland each about one hundred and fifty. The
colonization has clearly been greatest near the coasts, and along the
rivers; it had its central point in Lincolnshire (the Northmen’s
“Lindisey”), and in the ancient Northumberland, or land north of the
river Humber. Yet it was not much extended in Durham and the present
Northumberland, each of which contains only a little more than a score
of Scandinavian names.


(_Extracted and collected from “Walker’s Maps,” London, 1842._)

Part A

│Names ending in │ by │ thorpe │thwaite │with │toft │beck │ næs │
│In Kent, │ 1 │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ 4 │
│ north-east of │ │ │ │ │ │ │ │
│ Watling Street│ │ │ │ │ │ │ │
│In Essex │ 2 │ 3 │ . │ . │ . │ . │ 3 │
│-Bedfordshire │ . │ 3 │ . │ . │ 1 │ . │ . │
│-Buckinghamshire│ 1 │ 2 │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │
│-Suffolk │ 3 │ 5 │ 1 │ . │ . │ . │ 1 │
│-Norfolk │ 17 │ 24 │ 2 │ . │ . │ 1 │ . │
│-Huntingdonshire│ 1 │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │
│-Northamptonshire│ 26 │ 23 │ . │ . │ 3 │ . │ . │
│-Warwickshire │ 2 │ 1 │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │
│-Leicestershire │ 66 │ 19 │ . │ . │ 1 │ . │ . │
│-Rutland │ . │ 7 │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │
│-Lincolnshire │ 212 │ 63 │ . │ 1 │ 4 │ 8 │ 1 │
│-Nottinghamshire│ 15 │ 20 │ . │ . │ . │ 1 │ . │
│-Derbyshire │ 6 │ 4 │ . │ . │ 1 │ . │ . │
│-Cheshire │ 6 │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │
│-Yorkshire: │ │ │ │ │ │ │ │
│–East Riding │ 35 │ 48 │ 1 │ 6 │ 3 │ 1 │ 1 │
│–West Riding │ 32 │ 29 │ 6 │ 8 │ 2 │ 4 │ . │
│–North Riding │ 100 │ 18 │ 2 │ 6 │ 1 │ 7 │ . │
│-Lancashire │ 9 │ . │ 14 │ 2 │ . │ . │ 2 │
│-Westmorland │ 20 │ 6 │ 14 │ 1 │ . │ 17 │ 1 │
│-Cumberland │ 43 │ 1 │ 43 │ . │ . │ 12 │ 2 │
│-Durham │ 7 │ 7 │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │
│-Northumberland │ . │ 1 │ . │ . │ . │ 1 │ . │
│In all │ 604 │ 284 │ 83 │ 24 │ 16 │ 52 │ 15 │

Part B

│Names ending in │ ey. │dale │ force │fell │tarn │haugh│Total│
│In Kent, │ 1 │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ 6│
│ north-east of │ │ │ │ │ │ │ │
│ Watling Street│ │ │ │ │ │ │ │
│In Essex │ 3 │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ 11│
│-Bedfordshire │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ 4│
│-Buckinghamshire│ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ 3│
│-Suffolk │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ 10│
│-Norfolk │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ 44│
│-Huntingdonshire│ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ 1│
│-Northamptonshire│ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ 52│
│-Warwickshire │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ 3│
│-Leicestershire │ . │ 1 │ . │ . │ . │ . │ 87│
│-Rutland │ . │ 1 │ . │ . │ . │ . │ 8│
│-Lincolnshire │ . │ 3 │ . │ . │ . │ . │ 292│
│-Nottinghamshire│ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ 36│
│-Derbyshire │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ 11│
│-Cheshire │ . │ . │ . │ . │ . │ │ 6│
│-Yorkshire: │ │ │ │ │ │ │ │
│–East Riding │ . │ 12 │ 2 │ . │ . │ . │ 109│
│–West Riding │ . │ 12 │ . │ 15 │ 2 │ . │ 110│
│–North Riding │ . │ 40 │ 4 │ 7 │ 1 │ . │ 186│
│Lancashire │ 2 │ 13 │ . │ 7 │ . │ . │ 49│
│Westmorland │ . │ 36 │ 6 │ 42 │ 15 │ . │ 158│
│Cumberland │ . │ 16 │ 1 │ 15 │ 9 │ . │ 142│
│Durham │ . │ 5 │ 2 │ 2 │ . │ . │ 23│
│Northumberland │ . │ 3 │ . │ 7 │ . │ 10 │ 22│
│In all │ 6 │ 142 │ 15 │ 95 │ 27 │ 10 │ 1373│

Besides many other names ending in -holm, -garth, -land, -end,
-vig, -ho (how), -rigg, &c., c.

The same table still further shows that the names ending in by, thorpe,
toft, beck, næs, and ey, appear chiefly in the flat midland counties of
England; whereas, farther towards the north, in the more mountainous
districts, these terminations mostly give place to those in thwaite, and
more particularly to those in dale, force, tarn, fell, and haugh. This
difference, however, is scarcely founded on the natural character of the
country alone; it may also have arisen from the different descent of the
inhabitants. For although in ancient times Danish and Norwegian were one
language, with unimportant variations, so that it would scarcely be
possible to decide with certainty in every single case whether the name
of a place be derived from the Danes or from the Norwegians; yet it may
reasonably be supposed that part at least of the last-mentioned names
are Norwegian; namely, those ending in ——dale (as Kirk-dale, Lang-dale,
Wast-dale, Bishops-dale); in ——force (as Aysgarth-force in Yorkshire,
High-force, and Low-force, in the river Tees, and in the stream called
“Seamer Water”); in ——fell (old Norwegian, fjall; Mickle-fell, Cam-fell,
Kirk-fell, Middle-fell, Cross-fell); in ——tarn (_Old Nor._, tjörn, or
tjarn, a small lake); and in ——haugh (as in Northumberland, Red-haugh,
Kirk-haugh, Green-haugh, Windy-haugh). Exactly similar names are met
with to this day in the mountains of Norway; whilst they are less
common, or altogether wanting, in the flat country of Denmark. That
Norwegians also immigrated into England, even in considerable numbers,
both history and the frequently occurring name of Normanby in the north
of England, clearly show; but they appear to have betaken themselves
chiefly to the most northern and mountainous districts, which not only
lay nearest to them, but which in character most resembled their own
country. In this respect it deserves to be noticed, that places whose
names end in _tarn_, and are consequently pure Norwegian, are found only
in the most northern counties; and that those in _haugh_—although there
are names of places in Denmark ending in _höi_ (hill)—must also, from
the form, be Norwegian. They are found exclusively in the present
Northumberland, and within the Scotch border.

We may, however, venture to set down the greater part of Scandinavian
names of places in England as Danish. The terminations in _thwaite_ and
_thorpe_, indeed, are to be met with in Sweden, Norway, and Iceland, as
well as in the Saxon and Frisian districts of North Germany; yet as the
corresponding English names are for the most part composed of pure
Scandinavian or Danish words, and as they seldom appear either in the
tracts conquered by the Norwegians in Scotland and Ireland, or in the
southern and south-western, originally Anglo-Saxon, districts of
England, but keep strictly within the same boundaries as the rest of the
Danish names of places, and particularly of those in _by_ (Danish for
town or village), these are valid reasons for regarding them in general
as Danish.

The names of places in England ending in _by_ are only to be found in
the districts selected by the Danes for conquest or colonization. With
the exception of a single Kirby, or Kirkby, in Kent, not far from
London, they are nowhere to be found to the south of Watlinga-stræt (for
Tenby, formerly Tenbigh, in Pembrokeshire, is from a different
derivation); whilst towards the north, they cease in the most
north-eastern county of England, the present Northumberland; in the
south-westernmost part of Scotland (Locherby in Dumfries, Sorby in
Wigtonshire); and in the Isle of Man (Sulby, Jurby, Dalby). If we except
Duncansby in Caithness, and Oreby in the Isle of Lewis, as well as some
few villages in Orkney and the Shetland Isles, they do not appear among
the many pure Norwegian names of places in the north and west of
Scotland, and in Ireland; which, as will be explained in its proper
place, have generally quite a different character from the Scandinavian
(chiefly Danish) names of places in England. It can hardly be said that
this was solely owing to the natural character of the country in England
being more favourable for the building of villages than in those
districts in Scotland and Ireland which were occupied by the Northmen:
first, because the Norwegians seem to have dwelt closely together in
many places there, doubtless in order to resist the attacks of the
natives; secondly, because the land there, though often separated by
nature into many districts, as for instance in Caithness and the
Orkneys, by no means prevented them from assembling together in
villages; and lastly, because _by_ originally denoted only a single
estate or farm. In Norway, the Faroe Isles, and Iceland, many names of
places are to be found, which indicate the existence both of single
farm-houses and collections of them, or villages; but they have this
peculiarity, that they generally end in _bœr_ or _bö_, far more rarely
in _býr_ or _by_; whilst, on the contrary, this last form is essentially
Danish. Names of places ending in _by_ are spread over the peninsula of
Jutland quite down to Danevirke and the Eyder; are found in great
numbers in the southern boundary of South Jutland, or Sleswick; as well
as in the islands and old Danish countries of Skaane, or Scania,
Halland, and Bleking; whence they extend themselves over a great part of
Sweden, and far into Finland. From the most ancient times down to the
present, this difference between the Norwegian form _bœr_, and the
Danish _býr_ or _by_, seems on the whole to have clearly prevailed; and
thus that, as early as the eleventh century, the English towns and
villages are written in William the Conqueror’s “Domesday-book,” with
the Danish ending _by_ or _bi_, and not with the Norwegian form _bœr_ or
_bö_, is certainly no slight corroboration of their assumed Danish
origin. Besides, as _by_ is not found in the names of places south of
the Eyder, in Holstein or North Germany, and as it is wholly unknown in
the Saxon or German languages, there is consequently so much the greater
probability that in England it was derived from the Danes.

For the same reasons, towns whose names end in _by_ are most numerous in
the counties situated on the coast opposite Jutland; viz., in
Leicestershire, 66; Lincolnshire, 212; and the North Riding of
Yorkshire, 100. In the two other Ridings, there are altogether about 70
names of places ending in _by_; in Cumberland, 43; and in Westmoreland,
20. For the rest, this termination occurs so frequently throughout the
old Danish part of England, that, of 1370 Scandinavian names of places,
above 600 (as the tabular view given at page 71 shows) end in _by_,
whilst no other names exceed 280; and even this number is reached only
by the ending _thorpe_, which also is certainly pure Danish; whilst the
most numerous after thorpe fall down to 140. This remarkable
preponderance of Danish endings in _by_, will of itself sufficiently
prove the important and wide-extended influence of the Danes in the
midland and northern counties of England.

The not inconsiderable number (1370) of Scandinavian names of places
collected together in the preceding tabular view, could be much
increased if we were to include all the Scandinavian appellations used
by the common people in many parts of the north of England. A hill, or
small mountain, is there called _hoe_ or _how_ (Höi in Jutland: Höw or
Hyv); a mountain ridge, _rigg_; a ford, _wath_; a spring, _kell_; a holm
or small island, _holm_; a farm (_Dan._, Gaard), _garth_, &c., &c. We
might thus, on a very low calculation, compute in round numbers the
clearly recognisable Scandinavian names of places in England at one
thousand five hundred.

That they should have been preserved in such numbers for more than eight
centuries after the fall of the Danish dominion in England, and that
they should have retained, as it has been shown, the original
Scandinavian forms, and that often in a highly-striking degree,
completely disproves the opinion that the old Danish-Norwegian
inhabitants of the country north of Watlinga-Stræt were supplanted or
expelled after the cessation of the Danish dominion (1042), first by the
Anglo-Saxons, and afterwards by the Normans from Normandy; for if such
had been the case, the names of places would naturally have become
altogether changed and impossible to recognise. As the matter stands it
is sufficiently proved that Danes as well as Norwegians must have
continued to reside in great numbers in the districts previously
conquered by them, and particularly in the north; and consequently that
a very considerable part of the present population in the midland and
northern counties of England may with certainty trace their origin to
the Northmen, and especially to the Danes.

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