Scandinavian York

Scandinavian York (also referred to as Jórvík) or Danish/Norwegian York is a term used by historians for the south of Northumbria (modern-day Yorkshire) during the period of the late 9th century and first half of the 10th century, when it was dominated by Norse warrior-kings; in particular, it is used to refer to York, the city controlled by these kings.

Norse monarchy controlled varying amounts of Northumbria from 875 to 954; however, the area was invaded and conquered for short periods by Anglo-Saxons between 927 and 954 before eventually being annexed by them in 954.[1][2] It was closely associated with the much longer-lived Kingdom of Dublin throughout this period.


England Great Army map
A map of the routes taken by the Great Heathen Army from 865 to 878

York had been founded as the Roman legionary fortress of Eboracum and revived as the Anglo-Saxon trading port of Eoforwic. It was first captured in November 866 by Ivar the Boneless, leading a large army of Danish Vikings, called the "Great Heathen Army" by Anglo-Saxon chroniclers, which had landed in East Anglia and made their way north, aided by a supply of horses with which King Edmund of East Anglia bought them off and by civil in-fighting between royal candidates in the Anglian Kingdom of Northumbria between the leaders of its two sub-kingdoms; Bernicia and Deira. Declaring a truce, the rivals for the throne of Northumbria joined forces but failed to retake the city in March 867, and with their deaths Deira came under Danish control as the Kingdom of Northumbria and the Northumbrian royal court fled north to refuge in Bernicia.

A Viking attempt against Mercia the same season failed, and in 869 their efforts against Wessex were fruitless in the face of opposition from Kings Ethelred and Alfred the Great. The archbishop, Wulfhere, seems to have temporised and collaborated with the Norse, for he was expelled from York when a Northumbrian uprising in 872 was only temporarily successful; he was recalled and held his seat until his death. The Viking king Guthred was buried in York Minster, a signal that he and the archbishop had reached a lasting accommodation.[3] All the Viking coinage appears to have emanated from the mint at York, a mark of the city's unique status in Northumbria as an economic magnet. York's importance as the seat of Northumbria was confirmed when the Scandinavian warlord, Guthrum, headed for East Anglia, while Halfdan Ragnarsson seized power in AD 875.[4] While the Danish army was busy in Britain, the Isle of Man and Ireland, the Swedish army was occupied with defending the Danish and Swedish homelands where Halfdan's brothers were in control.

Eirik Blodøks with Gunhild, Egil Skallagrimsson standing
Seated Eric Bloodaxe and Gunnhild are confronted by Egill Skallagrímsson.

Native Danish rulers who eventually made Jelling in Jutland the site of Gorm the Old's kingdom, were in the East Anglian kingdom. The Five Burghs/Jarldoms were based upon the Kingdom of Lindsey and were a sort of frontier between each kingdom. King Canute the Great would later "reinstall" a Norwegian dynasty of jarls in Northumbria (Eric of Hlathir), with a Danish dynasty of jarls in East Anglia (Thorkel). Northern England would continue to be a source of intrigue for the Norwegians until Harald III of Norway's death at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 just prior to the Battle of Hastings and the Norman conquest.

The Old Norse placename Konungsgurtha, Kings Court, recorded in the late fourteenth century in relation to an area immediately outside the site of the porta principalis sinistra, the west gatehouse of the Roman encampment, perpetuated today as King's Square, which nucleates the Ainsty, perhaps indicates a Viking royal palace site based on the remains of the east gate of the Roman fortress.[5] New streets, lined by regular building fronts for timber houses were added to an enlarging city between AD 900 and 935, dates arrived at by tree-ring chronology carried out on remaining posts preserved in anaerobic clay subsoil.

The Viking kingdom was fully absorbed into England in 954. After the Kingdom of Northumbria was remerged (by now an Earldom of England under the House of Wessex), the title King of Jórvík became redundant and was succeeded by the title Earl of York, created in 960. Loss of political independence did not cramp the region's economic success: by ca 1000, the urban boom brought the city to a population total second only to that of London within Great Britain.

Although some of the early Earls of York were Nordic like the Jórvík Kings, they were succeeded by Normans after the Norman conquest. William the Conqueror ended the region's last vestiges of independence and established garrisoned castles in the city. The Earldom of York was abolished by King Henry II.


Between 1070 and 1085, there were occasional attempts by the Danish Vikings to recapture their Kingdom of Jórvík; however, these attempts did not materialise into the return of the kingdom.[6]

The title Duke of York, a title of nobility in British peerage, was created in 1341, but was merged with the Crown when the 4th Duke became King Edward IV. Subsequently, the title of Duke of York has usually been given to the second son of the King or Queen.

Archaeological findings

From 1976 to 1981, the York Archaeological Trust conducted a five-year excavation in and around the street of Coppergate in central York. This demonstrated that, in the 10th century, Jórvík's trading connections reached to the Byzantine Empire and beyond: a cap made of silk survives, and coins from Samarkand were familiar enough and respected enough for a counterfeit to have passed in trade. Both these items, as well as a large human coprolite known as the Lloyds Bank coprolite, were famously recovered in York a millennium later. Amber from the Baltic is often expected at a Viking site and at Jórvík an impractical and presumably symbolic axehead of amber was found. A cowrie shell indicates contact with the Red Sea or the Persian Gulf. Christian and pagan objects have survived side-by-side, usually taken as a sign that Christians were not in positions of authority.

After the excavation, the York Archaeological Trust took the decision to recreate the excavated part of Jórvík on the Coppergate site, and this is now the Jorvik Viking Centre.

See also


  1. ^ "Guthfrith I Hardicnutson Norse King of York". 24 October 2007.
  2. ^ "The Scandinavian Kingdom of York / Jorvik". 24 October 2007.
  3. ^ Both suggestions are made by Richard Hall, "A kingdom too far: York in the early tenth century", in N. J. Higham and D. H. Hill, Edward the Elder, 899–924, 2001:188.
  4. ^ Haywood (1995), p. 70.
  5. ^ Richard Hall, Viking Age archaeology, 1995:28; Richard Hall, "A kingdom too far: York in the early tenth century", in N. J. Higham and D. H. Hill, Edward the Elder, 899–924, 2001.
  6. ^ "The Rulers of Jorvik (York)". 24 October 2007.


  • Haywood, John (1995). The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-051328-0.

External links


Year 909 (CMIX) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.


Year 927 (CMXXVII) was a common year starting on Monday (link 'will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.


Year 981 (CMLXXXI) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.

Alfred P. Smyth

Professor Alfred P. Smyth (1 July 1942 to 16 October 2016) was an Irish-born historian specialising in the mediaeval history of the British Isles. He was (from 2002) Dean of Arts and Humanities at Canterbury Christ Church University College, having been (from 1999) Director of Research there. He was also Warden of St. George's House, Windsor Castle. Earlier, he was Professor of Mediaeval History at the University of Kent, when he was Master of Keynes College.

Battle of Corbridge

The Battle of Corbridge took place on the banks of the River Tyne near the village of Corbridge in Northumberland in the year 918.

The battle was referenced in the Annals of Ulster and the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba. The battle was fought between Norse-Gael leader Ragnall ua Ímair and his allies against the forces of Constantín mac Áeda, King of Scotland together with those of Ealdred I of Bamburgh who had previously been driven from his lands by Ragnall. The Historia de Sancto Cuthberto adds that English fought alongside Norsemen. The Annals of Ulster informs us that the Norse army divided itself into four columns, in one of which may have been Jarl Ottir Iarla, a long-time ally of Ragnall.The Scots destroyed the first three columns but were ambushed by the last. This unit had remained hidden behind a hill and was commanded by Ragnall. The Scots, however, managed to escape without disaster. It seems that it was an indecisive engagement, although it did allow Ragnall to further establish himself in Northumbria. In 919, Ragnall descended on York where he took the city and had himself proclaimed king. The Bernicians remained under him, although Ealdred I of Bamburgh and Domnall I, king of Strathclyde, paid homage to the king of England.In 1950, F. T. Wainwright argued that there were two battles of Corbridge in 914 and 918, and his view was widely accepted for over fifty years, but since around 2006 historians have taken the view that there was only one battle in 918.


Buttington (Welsh: Tal-y-bont) is a village in Powys, Wales, less than 3 km from Welshpool and about 300 m from the River Severn. The Montgomery Canal passes through the village. The village stands on a slight rise above the river's floodplain, by the ancient ford called Rhyd-y-groes, where Offa's Dyke meets the Severn. The ford retained strategic value: reportedly in 1039 a battle took place here between Welsh and English forces.

Cnut of Northumbria

Cnut (Old Norse: Knútr, Latin: Cnvt) was a Norse King of Northumbria. Numismatic evidence suggests he ruled from around 900 until 905, succeeding Siefredus.


Crimson is a strong, red color, inclining to purple. It originally meant the color of the kermes dye produced from a scale insect, Kermes vermilio, but the name is now sometimes also used as a generic term for slightly bluish-red colors that are between red and rose.


The Danelaw (, also known as the Danelagh; Old English: Dena lagu; 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 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. 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.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.The Danelaw roughly comprised 15 shires: Leicester, York, Nottingham, Derby, Lincoln, Essex, Cambridge, Suffolk, Norfolk, Northampton, Huntingdon, Bedford, Hertford, Middlesex, and Buckingham.


Elmet (Welsh: Elfed) was an independent Brittonic kingdom between about the 5th century and early 7th century and later refers to a smaller area of what became the West Riding of Yorkshire.

Ivar of Waterford

Ivar of Waterford (Irish: Ímar, rí Puirt Láirgi; Old Norse: Ívar) (died 1000) was the Norse king of Waterford from at least 969 until his death in the year 1000, and also reigned as King of Dublin, possibly from 989 to 993, and certainly again for less than a year between 994 and 995, returning after his expulsion from the city in 993 by Sigtrygg Silkbeard, who would expel him for good the next time.

Like his relation and contemporary Ivar of Limerick, and with whom he may actually be confused in one or two instances, Ivar's parentage is a little uncertain. However Clare Downham argues that his claim to Dublin and the names of his sons and grandsons suggest he did belong to the Uí Ímair dynasty. In 1867 James Henthorn Todd suggested him as a son of another Ímar, slain in battle against Ruaidrí ua Canannáin in 950, and assumed to be a son of the powerful Ragnall ua Ímair, King of Northumbria, who occupied Waterford and raided Munster from it in the second decade of the 10th century before moving on to take Scandinavian York. Ivar of Waterford had children and grandchildren also named Ragnall. Mary Valante agrees with Todd.


The Norse–Gaels (Old Irish: Gall-Goídil; Irish: Gall-Ghaeil; Scottish Gaelic: Gall-Ghàidheil, 'foreigner-Gaels') were a people of mixed Gaelic and Norse ancestry and culture. They emerged in the Viking Age, when Vikings who settled in Ireland and in Scotland adopted Gaelic culture and intermarried with Gaels. The Norse–Gaels dominated much of the Irish Sea and Scottish Sea regions from the 9th to 12th centuries. They founded the Kingdom of the Isles (which included the Hebrides and the Isle of Man), the Kingdom of Dublin, the Lordship of Galloway (which is named after them), and ruled the Kingdom of York for a time. The most powerful Norse–Gaelic dynasty were the Uí Ímair or House of Ivar.

Over time, the Norse–Gaels became ever more Gaelicized and disappeared as a distinct group. However, they left a lasting influence, especially in the Isle of Man and Outer Hebrides, where most placenames are of Norse–Gaelic origin. Several Scottish clans have Norse–Gaelic roots, such as Clan MacDonald, Clan MacDougall and Clan MacLeod. The elite mercenary warriors known as the gallowglass (gallóglaigh) emerged from these Norse–Gaelic clans and became an important part of Irish warfare. The Viking longship also influenced the Gaelic birlinn or longa fada, which were used extensively until the 17th century. Norse–Gaelic surnames survive today and include MacIvor, MacAskill, and (Mac)Cotter.

North Sea Empire

The North Sea Empire, also known as the Anglo-Scandinavian Empire, was the thalassocratic domain ruled by Cnut the Great as King of England, Denmark, Norway and parts of what is now Sweden between 1016 and 1035.


Richmondshire is a local government district of North Yorkshire, England. It covers a large northern area of the Yorkshire Dales including Swaledale and Arkengarthdale, Wensleydale and Coverdale, with the prominent Scots' Dyke and Scotch Corner along the centre. Teesdale lies to the north. With a total area of 1,319 km², it is larger than seven of the English ceremonial counties (namely, in decreasing order of size, the West Midlands, Merseyside, Tyne & Wear, Rutland, the Isle of Wight, Bristol, and the City of London).

Sichfrith Jarl

Sichfrith or Sigfrith (Old Norse: Sigfrøðr), also known as Sichfrith Jarl, was a ninth-century Norse or Norse-Gael Jarl who claimed the kingship of Dublin in 893, but it is unclear if he ever ruled. Later historians have linked him with two individuals of the same name. The first, a Northumbrian Viking who a led a fleet south and landed troops in Wessex in 893, and the second, a King of Jórvík who reigned from 895 until around 899.

Siefredus of Northumbria

Siefredus (Old Norse: Sigfrøðr) was a Norse King of Northumbria. Numismatic evidence suggests he ruled from around 895 until 900, succeeding Guthfrith.

Star Carr

Star Carr is a Mesolithic archaeological site in North Yorkshire, England. It is around five miles (8 km) south of Scarborough.

It is generally regarded as the most important and informative Mesolithic site in Great Britain. It is as important to the Mesolithic period as Stonehenge is to the Neolithic period or Scandinavian York is to understanding Viking age Britain.

The site was occupied during the early Mesolithic archaeological period, which coincided with the preboreal and boreal climatic periods. Though the ice age had ended and temperatures were close to modern averages, sea levels had not yet risen sufficiently to separate Britain from continental Europe. Highlights among the finds include Britain’s oldest structure, 21 red deer stag skull-caps that may have been head-dresses and nearly 200 projectile, or harpoon, points made of red deer antler. These organic materials were preserved due to having been buried in waterlogged peat. Normally all that remains on Mesolithic sites are stone tools.

Excavation of the site began in 1948, a year after artefacts were first noticed by an amateur archaeologist. The site is most famous for some of the extremely rare artefacts discovered during the original excavations but its importance has been reinforced by new understandings of the nature and extent of the Mesolithic archaeology in the area and reinterpretations of the original material.

Yorkshire dialect

The Yorkshire dialect (also known as Broad Yorkshire, Tyke, Yorkie or Yorkshire English) is an English dialect of Northern England spoken in the English county of Yorkshire. The dialect has roots in older languages such as Old English and Old Norse. The Yorkshire Dialect Society exists to promote use of the dialect in both humour and in serious linguistics; there is also an East Riding Dialect Society.

Yorkshire is generally not as stigmatised as other regional dialects, and has been represented in classic works of literature such as Wuthering Heights, Nicholas Nickleby and The Secret Garden. Studies have shown that accents in the West Riding (that is, mostly, modern West and South Yorkshire) are well-liked among Britons and associated with common sense, loyalty, and reliability.

Æthelred, Lord of the Mercians

Æthelred, Lord of the Mercians (or Ealdorman Æthelred of Mercia; died 911) became ruler of English Mercia shortly after the death of its last king, Ceolwulf II in 879. His rule was confined to the western half, as eastern Mercia was then part of the Viking-ruled Danelaw. Æthelred's ancestry is unknown. He was probably the leader of an unsuccessful Mercian invasion of Wales in 881, and soon afterwards he acknowledged the lordship of King Alfred the Great of Wessex. The alliance was cemented by the marriage of Æthelred to Alfred's daughter Æthelflæd.

In 886 Alfred took possession of London, which had suffered greatly from several Viking occupations; as it had traditionally been a Mercian town, he handed control to Æthelred. In 892 the Vikings renewed their attacks, and the following year Æthelred led an army of Mercians, West Saxons and Welsh to victory over a Viking army at the Battle of Buttington. He spent the next three years fighting them alongside Alfred's son, the future King Edward the Elder. At some time in the decade 899 to 909, Æthelred's health may have declined, and Æthelflæd may have become the effective ruler of Mercia.

After Æthelred's death, Æthelflæd ruled as Lady of the Mercians until her own death in 918. The couple's only child, a daughter called Ælfwynn, then ruled briefly until deposed by her uncle, King Edward.

Kings of Bernicia
Kings of Deira
Kings of Northumbria
Kings of Viking Northumbria
Ceremonial counties
Historic divisions
Culture and heritage
Culture and artifacts
Major Anglo-Saxon monarchs
Major Anglo-Saxon leaders
Major Danish monarchs
Major Viking leaders
Viking monarchs, client kings
Viking raids
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English petty kingdoms
See also

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