Yeavering Bell
Site of Edwin's Palace An Iron Age hilltop fort with a stone rampart in Northumberland, England. In the early 600's the area between this hill fort and  the river Glen (GR NU925306) was the site of Edwin's Palace, the first Christian earl of the North of England.
Yeavering Bell, one of the Cheviot Hills, rises to 1182 feet  The top is encircled by a stone rampart which follows the contours. The rampart has three entrances enclosing almost fourteen acres. This is recognised as a large fort for this part of the country. The east entrance has a protective outer wall whilst the south wall has a guard chamber on either side.
 Aerial photography has revealed the presence of many circular or oval huts. Outside the ramparts  to the west were a pagan and later Christian temple, a house with a sunken floor (grubenhauser) a timber ampitheatre, a small building and a timber hall. The timber hall  is almost 100 feet long and about 30 feet wide.

Edwin's hilltop fort In 627 St. Paulinus travelled  from Kent to  York and Yeavering with Princess Ethelburga of Kent, the daughter of Aethelbert of Kent (both Christians) to marry them and baptise Edwin.
Edwin was baptised on Easter Day 627  in a specially built wooden church in York and  was thus converted to Christianity by (St.) Paulinus. We do not know exactly where Edwin's wooden chapel stood , though there is some likelihood that it was in the pillared square of what had once been the praetorium or H.Q. building of the Roman fortress at York, an unambiguous Roman architechtural setting. In the 1970's the tower of York Minster was strengthened. During this some excavation revealed  that the pillared praetorium was still standing and in good repair in Edwin's day. At the same time Edwin was baptised, princess Hild, Edwin's great neice was also baptised by Paulinus.
These baptisms set the stage for the entry of Christianity into the North of England and united the southern Saxons with the northern Anglians. A letter was sent from Pope Boniface to Edwin to desist from image worship.

Bede tells us that Paulinus subsequently spent thirty-six days at King Edwin's royal residence at Yeavering and was engaged in non-stop baptism in the nearby river Glen of all who flocked to him.

Artists impression of the settlement at Yeavering.
An artists impession of Edwin's Palace sited on a natural terrace which slopes down to the river Glen, scene of mass-baptisms administered by Paulinus.
Aerial photography above the valley of the river Till, near Wooler in Northumberland revealed in 1948 a complex series of markings which were initially taken to indicate the remains of a hitherto unknown monastic settlement. Excavations in the 1950's revealed the site of Edwin's residence at Yeavering with its associated structures, scene of the mass baptisms administered by Paulinus.

Crown Edwin's great hall was an enormous barn-like structure of timber, with doorways in the long sides "through which a sparrow might pass from winter darkness to winter darkness" (Bede). The quantities of cattle bones excavated nearby suggest that the king and his retainers gorged themselves on beef, washed down no doubt with copious draughts of beer from generous drinking horns like those found at Taplow or Sutton Hoo. Not far from the hall there stood a flight of curved benches, rising in tiers and lengthening as they rose, whose occupants gaze would have focused on a dias at ground level backed by a massive wooden post.This structure could only have been designed for seating an assembly which might be addressed from the dias, rather like a Roman theatre. Did Paulinus address Edwin's warriors from this dias? Perhaps.

1. Hope-Taylor, Brian, Yeavering, an Anglo-British Centre, 1977.



Anglians in in the North of England.

 Copyright © Tim Midgley 1999, revised June 2007.