The Danelaw (/ˈdeɪnˌlɔː/, also known as the Danelagh; Old English: Dena lagu;[1] Danish: Danelagen), as recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, is a historical name given to the part of England in which the laws of the Danes held sway[2] and dominated those of the Anglo-Saxons. Danelaw contrasts with West Saxon law and Mercian law. The term is first recorded in the early 11th century as Dena lage.[3] Modern historians have extended the term to a geographical designation. The areas that constituted the Danelaw lie in northern and eastern England.

The Danelaw originated from the Viking expansion of the 9th century, although the term was not used to describe a geographic area until the 11th century. With the increase in population and productivity in Scandinavia, Viking warriors, having sought treasure and glory in the nearby British Isles, "proceeded to plough and support themselves", in the words of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 876.[4]

Danelaw can describe the set of legal terms and definitions created in the treaties between the King of Wessex, Alfred the Great, and the Danish warlord, Guthrum, written following Guthrum's defeat at the Battle of Edington in 878.

In 886, the Treaty of Alfred and Guthrum was formalised, defining the boundaries of their kingdoms, with provisions for peaceful relations between the English and the Vikings. The language spoken in England was also affected by this clash of cultures with the emergence of Anglo-Norse dialects.[5]

The Danelaw roughly comprised 15 shires: Leicester, York, Nottingham, Derby, Lincoln, Essex, Cambridge, Suffolk, Norfolk, Northampton, Huntingdon, Bedford, Hertford, Middlesex, and Buckingham.[6][7][8]

England 878
England, 878


England Grosses Heer 892
Map of England showing the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and Danish districts – from Cassell's History of England, Vol. I – anonymous author and artists

From around 800, there had been waves of Danish raids on the coastlines of the British Isles. In 865, instead of raiding, the Danes landed a large army in East Anglia, with the intention of conquering the four Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England. The armies of various Danish leaders had come together to provide one combined force under a leadership that included Halfdan Ragnarsson and Ivar the Boneless, the sons of the legendary Viking leader Ragnar Lodbrok.[9] The combined army was described in the annals as the Great Heathen Army.[10] After making peace with the local East Anglian king in return for horses, the Great Heathen Army moved north. In 867, they captured Northumbria and its capital, York, defeating both the recently deposed King Osberht of Northumbria and the usurper Ælla of Northumbria. The Danes then placed an Englishman, Ecgberht I of Northumbria, on the throne of Northumbria as a puppet ruler.[11]

King Æthelred of Wessex and his brother, Alfred, led their army against the Danes at Nottingham, but the Danes refused to leave their fortifications. King Burgred of Mercia then negotiated peace with Ivar, with the Danes keeping Nottingham in exchange for leaving the rest of Mercia alone.

Under Ivar the Boneless, the Danes continued their invasion in 869 by defeating King Edmund of East Anglia at Hoxne and conquering East Anglia.[12] Once again, the brothers Æthelred and Alfred attempted to stop Ivar by attacking the Danes at Reading. They were repelled with heavy losses. The Danes pursued, and on 7 January 871, Æthelred and Alfred defeated the Danes at the Battle of Ashdown. The Danes retreated to Basing (in Hampshire), where Æthelred attacked and was, in turn, defeated. Ivar was able to follow up this victory with another in March at Meretum (now Marton, Wiltshire).

On 23 April 871, King Æthelred died and Alfred succeeded him as King of Wessex. His army was weak and he was forced to pay tribute to Ivar in order to make peace with the Danes. During this peace, the Danes turned to the north and attacked Mercia, a campaign that lasted until 874. Both the Danish leader Ivar and the Mercian leader Burgred died during this campaign. Ivar was succeeded by Guthrum, who finished the campaign against Mercia. In ten years, the Danes had gained control over East Anglia, Northumbria and Mercia, leaving just Wessex resisting.[13]

Guthrum and the Danes brokered peace with Wessex in 876, when they captured the fortresses of Wareham and Exeter. Alfred laid siege to the Danes, who were forced to surrender after reinforcements were lost in a storm. Two years later, Guthrum again attacked Alfred, surprising him by attacking his forces wintering in Chippenham. King Alfred was saved when the Danish army coming from his rear was destroyed by inferior forces at the Battle of Cynuit.[14][15] The modern location of Cynuit is disputed but suggestions include Countisbury Hill, near Lynmouth, Devon, or Kenwith Castle, Bideford, Devon, or Cannington, near Bridgwater, Somerset.[16] Alfred was forced into hiding for a time, before returning in the spring of 878 to gather an army and attack Guthrum at Edington. The Danes were defeated and retreated to Chippenham, where King Alfred laid siege and soon forced them to surrender. As a term of surrender, King Alfred demanded that Guthrum be baptised a Christian; King Alfred served as his godfather.[17]

Establishment of Danish self-rule

Edward the Elder and his sister, Æthelflæd, the Lady of the Mercians, conquered Danish territories in the Midlands and East Anglia in a series of campaigns in the 910s, and some Danish jarls who submitted were allowed to keep their lands.[18] Viking rule ended when Eric Bloodaxe was driven out of Northumbria in 954.

The reasons for the waves of immigration were complex and bound to the political situation in Scandinavia at that time; moreover, they occurred when Viking settlers were also establishing their presence in the Hebrides, Orkney, the Faroe Islands, Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, L'Anse aux Meadows, France (Normandy), the Balticum, Russia and Ukraine (see Kievan Rus').[19]

Cnut and his successors

Cnut lands
Cnut the Great's domains

The Danes did not give up their designs on England. From 1016 to 1035, Cnut the Great ruled over a unified English kingdom, itself the product of a resurgent Wessex, as part of his North Sea Empire, together with Denmark, Norway and part of Sweden. Cnut was succeeded in England on his death by his son Harold Harefoot, until he died in 1040, after which another of Cnut's sons, Harthacnut, took the throne. Since Harthacnut was already on the Danish throne, this reunited the North Sea Empire. Harthacnut lived only another two years, and from his death in 1042 until 1066 the monarchy reverted to the English line in the form of Edward the Confessor.

Edward died in January 1066 without an obvious successor, and an English nobleman, Harold Godwinson, took the throne. In the autumn of that same year, two rival claimants to the throne led invasions of England in short succession. First, Harald Hardrada of Norway took York in September, but was defeated by Harold at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, in Yorkshire. Then, three weeks later, William of Normandy defeated Harold at the Battle of Hastings, in Sussex and in December he accepted the submission of Edgar the Ætheling, last in the line of Anglo-Saxon royal succession, at Berkhamsted.

The Danelaw appeared in legislation as late as the early 12th century with the Leges Henrici Primi, where it is referred to as one of the laws together with those of Wessex and Mercia into which England was divided.

Danish–Norwegian conflict in the North Sea

In the 11th century, when King Magnus I had freed Norway from Cnut the Great, the terms of the peace treaty provided that the first of the two kings Magnus (Norway) and Harthacnut (Denmark) to die would leave their dominion as an inheritance to the other. When Edward the Confessor ascended the throne of a united Dano-Saxon England, a Norse army was raised from every Norwegian colony in the British Isles and attacked Edward's England in support of Magnus', and after his death, his brother Harald Hardrada's, claim to the English throne. On the accession of Harold Godwinson after the death of Edward the Confessor, Hardrada invaded Northumbria with the support of Harold's brother Tostig Godwinson, and was defeated at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, three weeks before William I's victory at the Battle of Hastings.


800 − Waves of Danish assaults on the coastlines of the British Isles.

865 − Danish raiders first began to settle in England. Led by the brothers Halfdan and Ivar the Boneless, they wintered in East Anglia, where they demanded and received tribute in exchange for a temporary peace. From there, they moved north and attacked Northumbria, which was in the midst of a civil war between the deposed king Osberht and a usurper Ælla. The Danes used the civil turmoil as an opportunity to capture York, which they sacked and burned.

867 − Following the loss of York, Osberht and Ælla formed an alliance against the Danes. They launched a counter-attack, but the Danes killed both Osberht and Ælla and set up a puppet king on Northumbrian throne. In response, King Æthelred of Wessex, along with his brother Alfred marched against the Danes, who were positioned behind fortifications in Nottingham, but were unable to draw them into battle. In order to establish peace, King Burhred of Mercia ceded Nottingham to the Danes in exchange for leaving the rest of Mercia undisturbed.

868 − Danes capture Nottingham

869 − Ivar the Boneless returned and demanded tribute from King Edmund of East Anglia.

870 − King Edmund refused, Ivar the Boneless defeated and captured him at Hoxne, adding East Anglia to the area controlled by the invading Danes. King Æthelred and Alfred attacked the Danes at Reading, but were repulsed with heavy losses. The Danes pursued them.

871 − On 7 January, they made their stand at Ashdown (on what is the Berkshire/North Wessex Downs now in Oxfordshire). Æthelred could not be found at the start of battle, as he was busy praying in his tent, so Alfred led the army into battle. Æthelred and Alfred defeated the Danes, who counted among their losses five jarls (nobles). The Danes retreated and set up fortifications at Basing (Basingstoke) in Hampshire, a mere 14 miles (23 km) from Reading. Æthelred attacked the Danish fortifications and was routed. Danes followed up victory with another victory in March at Meretum (now Marton, Wiltshire).

King Æthelred died on 23 April 871 and Alfred took the throne of Wessex. For the rest of the year Alfred concentrated on attacking with small bands against isolated groups of Danes. He was moderately successful in this endeavour and was able to score minor victories against the Danes, but his army was on the verge of collapse. Alfred responded by paying off the Danes in order for a promise of peace. During the peace, the Danes turned north and attacked Mercia, which they finished off in short order, and captured London in the process. King Burgred of Mercia fought in vain against Ivar the Boneless and his Danish invaders for three years until 874, when he fled to Europe. During Ivar's campaign against Mercia he died and was succeeded by Guthrum the Old as the main protagonist in the Danes' drive to conquer England. Guthrum quickly defeated Burgred and placed a puppet on the throne of Mercia. The Danes now controlled East Anglia, Northumbria and Mercia, with only Wessex continuing to resist.

875 − The Danes settled in Dorset, well inside of Alfred's Kingdom of Wessex, but Alfred quickly made peace with them.

876 − The Danes broke the peace when they captured the fortress of Wareham, followed by a similar capture of Exeter in 877.

877 − Alfred laid siege, while the Danes waited for reinforcements from Scandinavia. Unfortunately for the Danes, the fleet of reinforcements encountered a storm and lost more than 100 ships, and the Danes were forced to return to East Mercia in the north.

878 − In January, Guthrum led an attack against Wessex that sought to capture Alfred while he wintered in Chippenham. Another Danish army landed in south Wales and moved south with the intent of intercepting Alfred should he flee from Guthrum's forces. However, they stopped during their march to capture a small fortress at Countisbury Hill, held by a Wessex ealdorman named Odda. The Saxons, led by Odda, attacked the Danes while they slept and defeated the superior Danish forces, saving Alfred from being trapped between the two armies. Alfred was forced to go into hiding for the rest of the winter and spring of 878 in the Somerset marshes in order to avoid the superior Danish forces. In the spring, Alfred was able to gather an army and attacked Guthrum and the Danes at Edington. The Danes were defeated and retreated to Chippenham, where the English pursued and laid siege to Guthrum's forces. The Danes were unable to hold out without relief and soon surrendered. Alfred demanded as a term of the surrender that Guthrum become baptised as a Christian, which Guthrum agreed to do, with Alfred acting as his Godfather. Guthrum was true to his word and settled in East Anglia, at least for a while.

884 − Guthrum attacked Kent, but was defeated by the English. This led to the Treaty of Alfred and Guthrum, which established the boundaries of the Danelaw and allowed for Danish self-rule in the region.[20]

902Essex submits to Æthelwald.

903 − Æthelwald incites the East Anglian Danes into breaking the peace. They ravage Mercia before winning a pyrrhic victory that saw the death of Æthelwald and the Danish King Eohric; this allows Edward the Elder to consolidate power.

911 − The English defeat the Danes at the Battle of Tettenhall. The Northumbrians ravage Mercia but are trapped by Edward and forced to fight.

917 − In return for peace and protection, the Kingdoms of Essex and East Anglia accept Edward the Elder as their suzerain overlord.

Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians, takes the borough of Derby.

918 − The borough of Leicester submits peaceably to Æthelflæd's rule. The people of York promise to accept her as their overlord, but she dies before this could come to fruition. She is succeeded by her brother, the Kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex united in the person of King Edward.

919 − Norwegian Vikings under King Ragnvald Sygtryggsson of Dublin take York.

920 − Edward is accepted as father and lord by the King of the Scots, by Rægnold, the sons of Eadulf, the English, Norwegians, Danes and others all of whom dwell in Northumbria and the King and people of the Strathclyde Welsh.

954 − King Eric is driven out of Northumbria, his death marking the end of the prospect of a Northern Viking Kingdom stretching from York to Dublin and the Isles.

1066Harald Hardrada lands with an army, hoping to take control of York and the English crown. He is defeated and killed at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. This event is often cited as the end of the Viking era. The same year, William the Conqueror, himself a descendant of Norwegian Vikings, successfully took the English throne and became the first Norman king of England.

1069Sweyn II of Denmark lands with an army, in much the same way as Harald Hardrada. He took control of York after defeating the Norman garrison and inciting a local uprising. King William eventually defeated his forces and devastated the region in the Harrying of the North.

1075 − One of Sweyn's sons, Knut, set sail for England to support an English rebellion, but it had been crushed before he arrived, so he settled for plundering the city of York and surrounding area, before returning home.[21]

1085 − Knut, now king, planned a major invasion against England but the assembled fleet never sailed. Other than Eystein II of Norway taking advantage of the civil war during Stephen's reign, to plunder the east coast of England, [22] there were no serious invasions or raids of England by the Danes after this.[21]


Midland Map - 5 Boroughs 912 Ad
The Five Boroughs and the English Midlands in the early 10th century[23]

The area occupied by the Danelaw was roughly the area to the north of a line drawn between London and Chester, excluding the portion of Northumbria to the east of the Pennines.

Five fortified towns became particularly important in the Danelaw: Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, Stamford and Lincoln, broadly delineating the area now called the East Midlands. These strongholds became known as the Five Boroughs. Borough derives from the Old English word burh (cognate with German Burg, meaning castle), meaning a fortified and walled enclosure containing several households, anything from a large stockade to a fortified town. The meaning has since developed further.

Legal concepts

The Danelaw was an important factor in the establishment of a civilian peace in the neighbouring Anglo-Saxon and Viking communities. It established, for example, equivalences in areas of legal contentiousness, such as the amount of reparation that should be payable in wergild.

Many of the legalistic concepts were compatible; for example, the Viking wapentake, the standard for land division in the Danelaw, was effectively interchangeable with the hundred. The use of the execution site and cemetery at Walkington Wold in east Yorkshire suggests a continuity of judicial practice.[24]

Under the Danelaw, between 30% and 50% of the population in the countryside had the legal status of 'sokeman', occupying an intermediate position between the free tenants and the bond tenants.[25] This tended to provide more autonomy for the peasants. A sokeman was a free man within the lord’s soke, or jurisdiction.[26]

According to many scholars, "... the Danelaw was an especially ‘free’ area of Britain because the rank and file of the Danish armies, from whom sokemen were descended, had settled in the area and imported their own social system."[27] The importance of this special legal status also continued after the Conquest.


South Yorkshire Place Names
Toponymy within the Southern Kingdom of Jorvik, showing the lasting legacy of Danish settlement

The influence of this period of Scandinavian settlement can still be seen in the North of England and the East Midlands, and is particularly evident in place-names: name endings such as -howe, -by (meaning "village") or -thorp ("hamlet") having Norse origins. There seems to be a remarkable number of Kirby/Kirkby names, some with remains of Anglo-Saxon building[28] indicating both a Norse origin and early church building.[29] Scandinavian names blended with the English -ton give rise to typical hybrid place-names.[30]

Old East Norse and Old English were still somewhat mutually comprehensible. The contact between these languages in the Danelaw caused the incorporation of many Norse words into the English language, including the word law itself, sky and window, and the third person pronouns they, them and their.[31] Many Old Norse words still survive in the dialects of Northern England.[32][33][34]

Four of the five boroughs became county towns—of the counties of Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. However, Stamford failed to gain such status—perhaps because of the nearby autonomous territory of Rutland.

Genetic heritage

In 2000, the BBC commissioned a genetic survey of the British Isles by a team from University College London led by Professor David Goldstein for its programme 'Blood of the Vikings'. It concluded that Norse invaders settled sporadically throughout the British Isles with a particular concentration in certain areas, such as Orkney and Shetland.[35] In this finding, the Vikings refers to Norwegian Vikings only, as the study did not set out to genetically distinguish descendants of Danish Vikings from descendants of Anglo-Saxon settlers. That was decided on the basis that the latter two groups originated from areas that overlap each other on the continental North Sea coast (ranging from the Jutland Peninsula to Belgium) and were therefore deemed inconvenient or difficult to genetically distinguish.[36] A further genetic study in 2015 found some evidence that, after the Vikings began settling, the communities had lived side by side and not intermingled for the first hundred years before going on to become a homogenous genetic group.[37] It also found no evidence of the introduction of Viking genes during the earlier raiding period suggesting that the raiders did not participate in rape or at least no children were produced from such actions.


Major archaeological sites that bear testimony to the Danelaw are few. The most famous is the site at York. Another Danelaw site is the cremation site at Heath Wood, Ingleby, Derbyshire.

Archaeological sites do not bear out the historically defined area as being a real demographic or trade boundary. This could be due to misallocation of the items and features on which this judgement is based as being indicative of either Anglo-Saxon or Norse presence. Otherwise, it could indicate that there was considerable population movement between the areas, or simply that after the treaty was made, it was ignored by one or both sides.

Thynghowe was an important Danelaw meeting place, today located in Sherwood Forest, in Nottinghamshire. The word "howe" often indicates a prehistoric burial mound. Howe is derived from the Old Norse word Haugr meaning mound.[38] The site's rediscovery was made by Lynda Mallett, Stuart Reddish and John Wood. The site had vanished from modern maps and was essentially lost to history until the local history enthusiasts made their discoveries. Experts think the rediscovered site, which lies amidst the old oaks of an area known as the Birklands in Sherwood Forest, may also yield clues as to the boundary of the ancient Anglo Saxon kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria. English Heritage recently inspected the site and believes it is a national rarity. Thynghowe[39] was a place where people came to resolve disputes and settle issues. It is a Norse word, although the site may be older still, perhaps even from the Bronze Age.

See also


  1. ^ M. Pons-Sanz (2007). Norse-derived Vocabulary in late Old English Texts: Wulfstan's Works. A Case Study. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 71. ISBN 87-7674-196-6.
  2. ^ "The Old English word Dene 'Danes' usually refers to Scandinavians of any kind; most of the invaders were indeed Danish (East Norse speakers), but there were Norwegians (West Norse [speakers]) among them as well." —Lass, Roger, Old English: A Historical Linguistic Companion, p. 187, n. 12. Cambridge University Press, 1994.
  3. ^ Abrams, Lesley (2001). "Edward the Elder's Danelaw". In Higham, N. J.; Hill, D. H. Edward the Elder 899–924. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. p. 128. ISBN 0-415-21497-1.
  4. ^ Quoted by Richard Hall, Viking Age Archaeology (series Shire Archaeology), 2010:22; Gwyn Jones, A History of the Vikings. Revised ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984: 221.
  5. ^ "Danelaw Heritage". The Viking Network. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
  6. ^ K. Holman, The Northern Conquest: Vikings in Britain and Ireland, p. 157
  7. ^ S. Thomason, T. Kaufman, Language Contact, Creolisation and Genetic Linguistics, p. 362
  8. ^ The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England, ed. Michael Lapidge (2008), p. 136
  9. ^ Sawyer. The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings. pp. 52–55
  10. ^ ASC 865 – English translation at project Gutenberg. Retrieved 16 January 2013
  11. ^ Flores Historiarum: Rogeri de Wendover, Chronica sive flores historiarum, pp. 298–99. ed. H. Coxe, Rolls Series, 84 (4 vols, 1841–42)
  12. ^ Haywood, John. The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings, p. 62. Penguin Books. 1995.
  13. ^ Carr, Michael. "Alfred the Great Strikes Back", p. 65. Military History Journal. June 2001.
  14. ^ Abels, Richard (1998). Alfred the Great: War, Kingship and Culture in Anglo-Saxon England. Abingdon: Routledge. pp. 153–54. ISBN 0-582-04047-7.
  15. ^ ASC 878 – English translation at project Gutenberg. Retrieved 9 June 2014
  16. ^ Kendrick, T.D. (1930). A History of the Vikings. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 238.
  17. ^ Hadley, D. M. The Northern Danelaw: Its Social Structure, c. 800–1100. p. 310. Leicester University Press. ©2000.
  18. ^ Lesley Abrams, 'Edward the Elder's Danelaw', in N. J. Higham & D. H. Hill eds, Edward the Elder 899–924, Routledge, 2001, pp. 138–39
  19. ^ "The Viking expansion". hgo.se. Archived from the original on 2009-05-12. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  20. ^ Attenborough, F.L. Tr., ed. (1922). The laws of the earliest English kings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 96–101. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  21. ^ a b Sawyer, Peter (2001). The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings (3rd ed.). Oxford: OUP. pp. 17–18. ISBN 0-19-285434-8.
  22. ^ Forte, Angello (2005). Viking Empires. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 216. ISBN 0521829925.
  23. ^ Falkus & Gillingham and Hill
  24. ^ J.L. Buckberry & D.M. Hadley, "An Anglo-Saxon Execution Cemetery at Walkington Wold, Yorkshire", Oxford Journal of Archaeology 26(3) 2007, 325
  26. ^ What is Sac and Soke in Anglo-Saxon England? (2015)
  28. ^ Taylor, H.M. & Taylor, Joan, Anglo-Saxon Architecture. Cambridge, 1965.
  29. ^ introduction, Biddulph, Joseph Old Danish of the Old Danelaw. Pontypridd, 2003. ISBN 978-1-897999-48-6.
  30. ^ The "Grimston hybrids", noted by Richard Hall, Viking Age Archaeology (series Shire Archaeology) 2010:22.
  31. ^ Henry Loyn, The Vikings in Britain (Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers, 1995), 85.
  32. ^ Joan Beal, "English Dialects in the North of England: Morphology and Syntax," in A Handbook of Varieties of English vol. 2, ed. Bernd Kortmann et al. (New York: Martin De Gruyter, 2004) 137.
  33. ^ Katie Wales, Northern English: A Social and Cultural History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006),55.
  34. ^ G.H. Cowling, The Dialect of Hackness:Northeast Yorkshire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1915), xxi–xxii.
  35. ^ "ENGLAND | Viking blood still flowing". BBC News. 2001-12-03. Retrieved 2010-04-23.
  36. ^ "Blood of the Vikings". Genetic Archaeology. 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-06-06. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  37. ^ Ghosh, Pallab (18 March 2015). "DNA study: Celts not a single group". Retrieved 27 March 2018 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  38. ^ Stahl, Anke-Beate (May 2004). "Guide to Scandinavian origins of place names in Britain" (PDF). Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  39. ^ "Detailed Result: THYNGHOWE". Pastscape. 2007-11-22. Archived from the original on 2011-07-27. Retrieved 2010-04-23.

Further reading

  • Abrams, Lesley (2001). "Edward the Elder's Danelaw". In Higham, N. J.; Hill, D. H. Edward the Elder 899–924. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. pp. 128–43. ISBN 0-415-21497-1. Discusses definitions of "Danelaw".
  • Types of Manorial Structure in the Northern Danelaw, Frank M. Stenton, London, 1910.
  • The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, Tiger Books International version translated and collated by Anne Savage,1995.
  • Community archaeology at Thynghowe, Birklands, Sherwood Forest by Lynda Mallett, Stuart Reddish, John Baker, Stuart Brookes and Andy Gaunt; Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire, Volume 116 (2012)
  • Wikisource Mawer, Allen (1911). "Danelagh" . In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 803–04.

External links

Coordinates: 54°N 1°W / 54°N 1°W


Aveland was a Wapentake of Kesteven from the time of the Danelaw until the Local Government Act 1888. Its meeting place was The Aveland at grid reference TF 0675 2961 in the parish of Aslackby.

Battle of Tettenhall

The Battle of Tettenhall (sometimes called the Battle of Wednesfield or Wōdnesfeld) took place, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, near Tettenhall on 5 August 910. The allied forces of Mercia and Wessex met an army of Northumbrian Vikings in Mercia.

Capture of the Five Boroughs

"Capture of the Five Boroughs" (also "Redemption of the Five Boroughs") is an Old English chronicle poem that commemorates the capture by King Edmund I of the so-called Five Boroughs of the Danelaw in 942.The seven-line long poem is one of the five so-called "chronicle poems" found in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle; it is preceded by "The Battle of Brunanburh" (937) and followed by the two poems on King Edgar. In the Parker MS, the text of "Brunanburh" is written by the same scribe as "Capture", which starts on the line for 941 but has the correct date added by another hand.Frank Stenton comments that the poem "is overloaded with cliches", but also packs a lot of historical information, recording how the conquest of Mercia by King Edmund liberated, in 942, the people of the Five Boroughs (Leicester, Lincoln, Derby, Nottingham, Stamford) from the Norsemen under Olaf Guthfrithson and Amlaíb Cuarán. These people were not English—rather, they were Danes, who by this time considered themselves so English that they preferred King Edmund over their Norse overlords who had invaded their territory from Viking York. According to Sarah Foot, these "anglicised" Danes, liberated by Edmund, must thus have been Christian as well, and the poem aids in the construction of an English identity out of different ethnic groups united in their opposition to outside, pagan forces.


The carucate or carrucate (Medieval Latin: carrūcāta or carūcāta) was a medieval unit of land area approximating the land a plough team of eight oxen could till in a single annual season. It was known by different regional names and fell under different forms of tax assessment.

Danes (Germanic tribe)

The Danes were a North Germanic tribe inhabiting southern Scandinavia, including the area now comprising Denmark proper, and the Scanian provinces of modern southern Sweden, during the Nordic Iron Age and the Viking Age. They founded what became the Kingdom of Denmark. The name of their realm is believed to mean "Danish March", viz. "the march of the Danes" in Old Low German, referring to their southern border zone between the Eider and Schlei rivers, known as Danevirke.

Eadnoth the Younger

Eadnoth the Younger or Eadnoth I was a medieval monk and prelate, successively Abbot of Ramsey and Bishop of Dorchester. From a prominent family of priests in the Fens, he was related to Oswald, Bishop of Worcester, Archbishop of York and founder of Ramsey Abbey. Following in the footsteps of his illustrious kinsman, he initially became a monk at Worcester. He is found at Ramsey supervising construction works in the 980s, and around 992 actually became Abbot of Ramsey. As abbot, he founded two daughter houses in what is now Cambridgeshire, namely, a monastery at St Ives and a nunnery at Chatteris. At some point between 1007 and 1009, he became Bishop of Dorchester, a see that encompassed much of the eastern Danelaw. He died at the Battle of Assandun in 1016, fighting Cnut the Great.

Five Boroughs of the Danelaw

The Five Boroughs or The Five Boroughs of the Danelaw (Old Norse: Fimm Borginn) were the five main towns of Danish Mercia (what is now the East Midlands). These were Derby, Leicester, Lincoln, Nottingham and Stamford. The first four later became county towns.


Guthrum or Guðrum (died c. 890), christened Æthelstan on his conversion to Christianity in 878, was King of the Danish Vikings in the Danelaw. He is mainly known for his conflict with Alfred the Great.

Hide (unit)

The hide was an English unit of land measurement originally intended to represent the amount of land sufficient to support a household. It was traditionally taken to be 120 acres (49 hectares), but was in fact a measure of value and tax assessment, including obligations for food-rent (feorm), maintenance and repair of bridges and fortifications, manpower for the army (fyrd), and (eventually) the geld land tax. The hide's method of calculation is now obscure: different properties with the same hidage could vary greatly in extent even in the same county. Following the Norman Conquest of England, the hidage assessments were recorded in the Domesday Book and there was a tendency for land producing £1 of income per year to be assessed at 1 hide. The Norman kings continued to use the unit for their tax assessments until the end of the 12th century.

The hide was divided into 4 yardlands or virgates. It was hence nominally equivalent in area to a carucate, a unit used in the Danelaw.

History of Leicestershire

in 1807 , the first recorded use of the name was as Laegrecastrescir. In the Anglo-Saxon period the area was originally in the territory of the Middle Angles and later Mercia. After the Danish invasions it was included in the Danelaw, whose boundary ran on the south-western boundary of the shire.

Leicestershire was recorded in the Domesday Book in four wapentakes: Guthlaxton, Framland, Goscote and Gartree. These later became hundreds, with the division of Goscote into West Goscote and East Goscote, and the addition of Sparkenhoe hundred.

Leicestershire's external boundaries have changed little since the Domesday Survey. The Measham-Donisthorpe exclave of Derbyshire has been exchanged for the Netherseal/Overseal area, and the urban expansion of Market Harborough has caused Little Bowdon, previously in Northamptonshire to be annexed.

Kingdom of Northumbria

The Kingdom of Northumbria (; Old English: Norþanhymbra Rīce, Latin: Regnum Northanhymbrorum) was a medieval Anglian kingdom in what is now northern England and south-east Scotland. The name derives from the Old English Norþan-hymbre meaning "the people or province north of the Humber", which reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom's territory, the Humber Estuary. Northumbria started to consolidate into one kingdom in the early seventh century, when the two earlier core territories of Deira and Bernicia entered into a dynastic union. At its height, the kingdom extended from the Humber, Peak District and the River Mersey on the south to the Firth of Forth (now in Scotland) on the north. Northumbria ceased to be an independent kingdom in the mid-tenth century, though a rump Earldom of Bamburgh survived around Bernicia in the north, later to be absorbed into the mediaeval kingdoms of Scotland and England.

Northumbria is also used in the names of some North East regional institutions, particularly the Northumbria Police (which covers Northumberland and Tyne and Wear), a university (Northumbria University) based in Newcastle upon Tyne and the Northumbria Army Cadet Force, as well as the regionalist Northumbrian Association. The local Environment Agency office, located in Newcastle Business Park, also uses the term Northumbria to describe its area. Otherwise, the term is not the official name for the UK and EU region of North East England.


Mercia (; Old English: Miercna rīce; Latin: Merciorum regnum) was one of the kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy. The name is a Latinisation of the Old English Mierce or Myrce, meaning "border people" (see March). Mercia dominated what would later become England for three centuries, subsequently going into a gradual decline while Wessex eventually conquered and united all the kingdoms into Kingdom of England.The kingdom was centred on the valley of the River Trent and its tributaries, in the region now known as the English Midlands. The kingdom did not have a single capital as such. In times before a sizable civil service the 'capital' was effectively wherever the king was at any given time. Early in its existence Repton seems to have been the location of an important royal estate. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, it was from Repton in 873-4 that the Great Heathen Army deposed the King of Mercia. Slightly earlier, King Offa seems to have favoured Tamworth. It was there where he was crowned and spent many a Christmas.

For 300 years (between 600 and 900), having annexed or gained submissions from five of the other six kingdoms of the Heptarchy (East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex and Wessex), Mercia dominated England south of the River Humber: this period is known as the Mercian Supremacy. The reign of King Offa, who is best remembered for his Dyke that designated the boundary between Mercia and the Welsh kingdoms, is sometimes known as the "Golden Age of Mercia". Nicholas Brooks noted that "the Mercians stand out as by far the most successful of the various early Anglo-Saxon peoples until the later ninth century", and some historians, such as Sir Frank Stenton, believe the unification of England south of the Humber estuary was achieved during the reign of Offa.Mercia was a pagan kingdom; King Peada converted to Christianity around 656, and Christianity was firmly established in the kingdom by the late 7th century. The Diocese of Mercia was founded in 656, with the first bishop, Diuma, based at Repton. After 13 years at Repton, in 669 the fifth bishop, Saint Chad, moved the bishopric to Lichfield, where it has been based since. In 691, the Diocese of Mercia became the Diocese of Lichfield. For a brief period between 787 and 799 the diocese was an archbishopric, although it was dissolved in 803. The current bishop, Michael Ipgrave, is the 99th since the diocese was established.

At the end of the 9th century, following the invasions of the Vikings and their Great Heathen Army, much of the former Mercian territory was absorbed into the Danelaw. At its height, the Danelaw included London, all of East Anglia and most of the North of England.

The final Mercian king, Ceolwulf II, died in 879; the kingdom appears to have thereby lost its political independence. Initially, it was ruled by a lord or ealdorman under the overlordship of Alfred the Great, who styled himself "King of the Anglo-Saxons". The kingdom had a brief period of independence in the mid-10th century, and again very briefly in 1016; however, by this time, it was viewed as a province within the Kingdom of England, not an independent kingdom.

Mercia is still used as a geographic designation, and the name is used by a wide range of organisations, including military units, public, commercial and voluntary bodies.

Norse activity in the British Isles

Norse activity in the British Isles occurred during the Early Middle Ages when Norsemen from Scandinavia travelled to Great Britain and Ireland to settle, trade or raid. Those who came to the British Isles have been generally referred to as Vikings, but it is debated whether the term Viking represented all Norse settlers or just those who raided.At the start of the Early Medieval period, Norse kingdoms of Scandinavia had developed trade links across southern Europe and the Mediterranean, giving them access to foreign imports such as silver, gold, bronze and spices. These trade links also extended westward into Ireland and the British Isles.In the last decade of the 8th century, Norse raiders sacked a series of Christian monasteries located in what is now the United Kingdom, beginning in 793, with a raid on the coastal monastery of Lindisfarne on the east coast of England. The following year they sacked the nearby Monkwearmouth-Jarrow Abbey, and in 795 they attacked again, raiding Iona Abbey on Scotland's west coast.


Owlswick is a hamlet in Buckinghamshire, England, about 3 miles E of Thame and 4 miles SSE of Aylesbury. It is part of the civil parish of Longwick-cum-Ilmer and is in the ecclesiastical parish of Monks Risborough.

The name appears in a document of about 1200 as Ulveswike, meaning the dairy farm of Ulf, which was a Danish personal name. The district is well to the south of the Danelaw, but a man of Danish origin may have come south and settled here.The hamlet was not mentioned in Domesday Book in 1086 because it formed part of the manor of Monks Risborough. It was later subinfeudated (i.e. granted as a feudal sub-manor) to a military subtenant and was held by knight-service by the 13th century. It continued as a separate sub-manor, paying a quit-rent to the manor of Monks Risborough until copyhold tenure was abolished in 1925.

Sitric Cáech

Sitric Cáech or Sihtric Cáech or Sigtrygg Gále, (Old Norse: Sigtryggr, Old English: Sihtric, died 927) was a Viking leader who ruled Dublin and then Viking Northumbria in the early 10th century. He was a grandson of Ímar and a member of the Uí Ímair. Sitric was most probably among those Vikings expelled from Dublin in 902, whereafter he may have ruled territory in the eastern Danelaw in England. In 917, he and his kinsman Ragnall ua Ímair sailed separate fleets to Ireland where they won several battles against local kings. Sitric successfully recaptured Dublin and established himself as king, while Ragnall returned to England to become King of Northumbria. In 919, Sitric won a victory at the Battle of Islandbridge over a coalition of local Irish kings who aimed to expel the Uí Ímair from Ireland. Six Irish kings were killed in the battle, including Niall Glúndub, overking of the Northern Uí Néill and High King of Ireland.In 920 Sitric left Dublin for Northumbria, with his kinsman Gofraid ua Ímair succeeding him as king. That same year he led a raid on Davenport, Cheshire, perhaps as an act of defiance against Edward the Elder, King of the Anglo-Saxons. In 921 Ragnall ua Ímair died, with Sitric succeeding him as King of Northumbria. Though there are no written accounts of conflict, numismatic evidence suggests there was a Viking reconquest of a large part of Mercia in the following few years. An agreement of some sort between the Vikings of Northumbria and the Anglo-Saxons was achieved in 926 when Sitric married a sister of Æthelstan, perhaps Edith of Polesworth. Sitric also converted to Christianity, though this did not last long and he soon reverted to paganism. He died in 927 and was succeeded by his kinsman Gofraid ua Ímair. Sitric's son Gofraid later reigned as King of Dublin, his son Aralt as King of Limerick, and his son Amlaíb Cuarán as king of both Dublin and Northumbria.

Thompson, Norfolk

Thompson is a civil parish in the English county of Norfolk.

It covers an area of 9.20 km2 (3.55 sq mi) and including Tottington had a population of 341 in 147 households at the 2001 census, increasing to a population of 343 in 155 households at the 2011 Census. For the purposes of local government, it falls within the district of Breckland.

Thompson is a relatively secluded village in Norfolk, England, located amongst acres of woodland, the nearest town being Watton.

In this region the name Thompson is believed to have Danish origins, as it was part of the Danelaw after centuries of invasion. The village is recorded in the 11th-century Domesday Book as Tomesteda and Tomestuna.


Towcester ( TOH-stər) is a market town in Northamptonshire, England. It is the administrative headquarters of the South Northamptonshire district council.

Towcester lays claim to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the country. It was the Roman town of Lactodorum, located on Watling Street, today’s A5. In Saxon times, this was the frontier between the kingdom of Wessex and the Danelaw. Towcester features in Charles Dickens's novel The Pickwick Papers as one of Mr Pickwick's stopping places on his tour. The local racecourse has hosted many national horseracing events.

Watling Street

Watling Street is a route in England that began as an ancient trackway first used by the Britons, mainly between the areas of modern Canterbury and St Albans using a natural ford near Westminster. The Romans later paved the route, which then connected the Kentish ports of Dubris (Dover), Rutupiae (Richborough), Lemanis (Lympne), and Regulbium (Reculver) to their bridge over the Thames at Londinium (London). The route continued northwest past Verulamium (St Albans) on its way to Viroconium (Wroxeter). The Romans considered the continuation on to Blatobulgium (Birrens) beyond Hadrian's Wall to be part of the same route, leading some scholars to call this Watling Street as well, although others restrict it to the southern leg.

Watling Street was the site of Boudica's defeat by the Romans and was later the southwestern border of the Danelaw. In the early 19th century, the course between London and the Channel was paved and became known as the Great Dover Road: today, the route from Dover to London forms part of the A2 road. The route from London to Wroxeter forms much of the A5 road. At various points along the historic route, the name Watling Street remains in modern use.


Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians (c. 870 – 12 June 918) ruled Mercia in the English Midlands from 911 until her death. She was the eldest daughter of Alfred the Great, king of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex, and his wife Ealhswith. Æthelflæd was born around 870 at the height of the Viking invasions of England. By 878, most of England was under Danish Viking rule – East Anglia and Northumbria having been conquered, and Mercia partitioned between the English and the Vikings – but in that year Alfred won a crucial victory at the Battle of Edington. Soon afterwards the English-controlled western half of Mercia came under the rule of Æthelred, Lord of the Mercians, who accepted Alfred's overlordship. Alfred adopted the title King of the English, claiming to rule all English people not living in areas under Viking control. In the mid-880s, Alfred sealed the strategic alliance between the surviving English kingdoms by marrying Æthelflæd to Æthelred.

Æthelred played a major role in fighting off renewed Viking attacks in the 890s, together with Æthelflæd's brother, the future King Edward the Elder. Æthelred and Æthelflæd fortified Worcester, gave generous donations to Mercian churches and built a new minster in Gloucester. Æthelred's health probably declined early in the next decade, after which it is likely that Æthelflæd was mainly responsible for the government of Mercia. Edward had succeeded as King of the Anglo-Saxons in 899, and in 909 he sent a West Saxon and Mercian force to raid the northern Danelaw. They returned with the remains of the royal Northumbrian saint, Oswald, which were translated to the new Gloucester minster. Æthelred died in 911 and Æthelflæd then ruled Mercia as Lady of the Mercians. The accession of a female ruler in Mercia is described by the historian Ian Walker as "one of the most unique events in early medieval history".

Alfred had built a network of fortified burhs and in the 910s Edward and Æthelflæd embarked on a programme of extending them. Among the towns where she built defences were Bridgnorth, Tamworth, Stafford, Warwick, Chirbury and Runcorn. In 917 she sent an army to capture Derby, the first of the Five Boroughs of the Danelaw to fall to the English, a victory described by Tim Clarkson as "her greatest triumph". In 918 Leicester surrendered without a fight. Shortly afterwards the Viking leaders of York offered her their loyalty, but she died on 12 June 918 before she could take advantage of the offer, and a few months later Edward completed the conquest of Mercia. Æthelflæd was succeeded by her daughter Ælfwynn, but in December Edward took personal control of Mercia and carried Ælfwynn off to Wessex.

Historians disagree whether Mercia was an independent kingdom under Æthelred and Æthelflæd but they agree that Æthelflæd was a great ruler who played an important part in the conquest of the Danelaw. She was praised by Anglo-Norman chroniclers such as William of Malmesbury, who described her as "a powerful accession to [Edward's] party, the delight of his subjects, the dread of his enemies, a woman of enlarged soul". According to Pauline Stafford, "like ... Elizabeth I she became a wonder to later ages". In Nick Higham's view, medieval and modern writers have been so captivated by her that Edward's reputation has suffered unfairly in comparison.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.