Extracted from Midgleyana by John Franklin Midgley


Historically and archaeologically the century following the separation of Britain from the Roman Empire is a comparative blank. The legends of King Arthur relate to this period which being without written record is what the scholars have called the Dark Ages. The hapless Romanised Britons of Yorkshire must have been involved in a more or less chronic war with northern barbarians and Teutonic searovers.  During this dark page in our history the centres of civilised life may have been abandoned or sacked.  Whatever was the fate of the inhabitants, it would appear that the Britons of the upper North and West reaches of the Pennines, where there had always been a state of uneasy peace; were; generally speaking, unmolested;  for in these areas Anglian remains are  scarce and Celtic or British place names numerous. Even to-day Yorkshire fellsmen employ Celtic numerals when counting their sheep.1
For the sixth century there are both historical and archaeological records including the Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation by Venerable Bede, a monk of Jarrow A.D. 700. He tells that the Teutonic immigrants comprised the Jutes the Angles and the Saxons,  The Jutes were the smallest tribe and of no lasting consequence, whereas the Saxons, from Holstein between the rivers Elbe and Weser, concentrated on dominating south and central Britain at this stage.2  According to Bede the whole Anglian nation migrated to Britain from their home, which appears to have been Slesvig1 then known as Angel between the Sle and the Flensborg Fiord, and many of them settled in East Yorkshire where remains of this invasion are abundant   The migration of these Germanic peoples across the North Sea may be attributed to two factors, one geological and the other human.  The slow sinking of the Baltic coasts and the adjoining shores had caused the flooding of more and more land which factor coupled with a rapid increase in population created "land hunger" and sparsely populated England provided the desired opportunity. The Anglian kingdom of Deira ultimately included most of Yorkshire east of the Pennines.
The Anglians naturally favoured the coastal regions at first under Ida of Bernicia (A. D. 547 - 559) and kept to the waterways when they penetrated inland.4   When they sailed up the Humber and its tributaries they drove the


Brigantian Celts into the forest of Helmet, which at that time covered most of the West Riding.5  Throughout the 6th century A. D. these Britons held the land westward of the forest so that they had a line of retreat into Lancashire and North Wales.  On his grandson Edwin's conquest of Helmet, soon after A. D. 616, the way was open for adventurers up the rivers and the Anglian warriors began to enter the Calder Valley, advancing along the uplands that skirted the river.

Such names as Walshaw and Walsden, Anglo-Saxon for foreigners and den for deep valley, indicate that there were sufficient Celts still in the area and it appeared to the early English settlers that the district was full of strange Celtic people.
Judging by traces of the Anglian field system of acre strips and their place names, Tons, Leys and Worths, clues to where they lived, the dales were well settled quite far up.  The prevalence of these affixes between Midgley in Calderdale and Keighley and Bingley in Airedale is significant.  The native Britons or Romanised Celts who survived the onslaught of these Anglian invaders and fled to the hills and moors of the West Riding must either have amalgamated with them or perished in dreary isolation.
These newcomers from Germany, Holland and Scandinavia later brought with them their own crafts and skills to mingle with such occupations as the Romans left.  Sheep and cattle of the largest size there were in the valleys, and the wool and the hides would be used for clothing.  Where the invaders settled they cleared the woods (Leys) and enclosed the homesteads (Worths and tons).  They had common ploughlands and common pastures and many of the towns, villages and hamlets , including Midgley no doubt, as well as forms of local government and Yorkshire speech in its dialect form, grew from this time.
In A. D. 625 their King Edwin married a Kentish princess, who was a Christian and brought the Roman missionary Paulinus to convert the Angles. He sent missionary priests to the folk of the Yorkshire dales and churches sprang up, so that the middle of the seventh century may be taken as the end of the Pagan period that followed the Roman withdrawal.  Unfortunately a period of petty wars in which Edwin was defeated and killed by Penda of Mercia6 and Cadwallon of Wales at Hatfield, A. D. 633, largely destroyed the work of Paulinus. Heathen Penda in turn was defeated and slain near Leeds in 654 by Oswy of Bernicia and Deira A. D. 642 - 655.  Meanwhile Oswald A. D. 634 - 642 before succumbing to Penda had invited monks from lona to settle at Lindisfarne, and so Christianity survived.
A feature of the Anglian Christianity was the establishment of monasteries and several were founded in Yorkshire, such as that at Whitby and another by St Wilfrid at Ripon where the remains form the crypt under- the present Minster- which I have visited.  The missionary priests who went over the whole country carried "rood staffs" of wood which were long staffs with a cross at the head.  These were set up in the midst of a group of villages and people came to the spot for the preaching and ministration of the priest.  These were the beginnings of the parishes which for a long time were very large including, as some still do, a large number of villages.  Most of the present parishes originated in the splitting up of these ancient Anglian parishes served by an itinerant priest and marked by a preaching cross and a burial ground.
With the introduction of Christianity Angles and Britons lived side by side and peaceful development took place.  Pockets of native Britons no doubt survived in out of the way areas and were members of the Celtic Church founded by the missionaries.  It was a Celtic custom to mark some important places with a rough stone pillar and there is a combination of this idea with that of the "rood cross".  There are only few traces of the Celtic Church in West Yorkshire.  There are the Dewsbury crosses, including the famous Paulinus cross, in the south.  The llkley and Otley crosses may mark an area of Wharfedale which came under the missionary influence of St Willrid of Ripon.
Towards the end of the Eighth and at the beginning of the Ninth century and recurring for upwards of two centuries, the raids first by the Danes and later the Norwegans, both of whom were  commonly known as the Vikings,


became more numerous and daring. Attracted by the wealth of the Anglian monasteries, the DanishVikings looted and destroyed that at Lindisfarne on the sixth day of the Ides of January in A. D. 793.  The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle gives an exciting account of the beginning of this new attack in the North.  Alcuin of York who had been sent by Offa of Mercia to the Court of Charlemagne at the latter's request to teach the Frankish nobles, wrote of this catastrophe
"Never before in the 350 years that we and our forefathers have dwelt in this fair land has such horror appeared in Britain as this we have just suffered from the heathen".
The monastery of Jarrow was ravaged the following year.
During this Ninth century the farsighted, far-faring, rapacious Vikings had first penetrated the Orkney Islands that were admirably situated to serve the strategy of naval power, as witness the importance of Scapa Flow in this 20th century.  From there they had reached Ireland and founded a capital at Dublin. One of these Vikings to come West - over - sea into Orkney was Ragnar Lodbrok, Hairybreeks, whose terrible sons Halfdan, Ubbi and Ivar, nicknamed the Boneless, began the subsequent invasion which, despite the valour of King Alfred and the stubbornness of Wessex, left a great part of England under Danish rule.
In A. D. 866 a great Danish army wintered in East Anglia and one of its leaders, Ivar the Boneless, marched into Deira the following year and captured York.  Certain monasteries were ravaged and for a time the religion of Thor and Odin triumphed over that of Christ.  In 871 Ivar became King of all the Vikings in Ireland and Britain, being succeeded on his death a few years later by his brother Halfdan as King of York, and by his compatriot Olaf's son as King of Dublin. Halfdan warred for the possession of Mercia and Wessex, fighting several pitched battles against Alfred the Great, who defeated him at Ashdown, near Reading.  Returning to York he divided the lands of Deira amongst his followers, who began systematically to cultivate them.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says for 876 that
"in that year- Healfdene shared out the land of the Northumbrians and they proceeded to plough it and to support themselves".
With the settlement the monks who had escaped from Lindisfarne with the bones of St Cuthbert came to Durham where his great cathedral was eventually built. The Bys, Royds, Thorpes and Wicks e.g. Raventhrop and Sowerby in Calderdale are plentiful where the newcomers stayed.
The Vikings were originally adventurers who had not yet been occluded by the massive emotions of nationalism.8  There was no prejudice against a man because he was a Dane or Englishman, Scot or Norwegian, Irish, Welsh or Icelandic.  They were addicted to fighting and plundering.  The pugnacity of their temper must have been supported by a physical constitution of the utmost hardihood - a tiger's complement of swift self-healing muscle and their physical strength was not inhibited by their minds' occupation with thoughts of pain.  Our awareness of pain has increased 'par-i passu' with scientific discovery of the means to alleviate pain. In the heroic age of  the north, when analgesics were unknown, the 'grands blesses' of a battle could make stoical comment on the loss of a leg or an arm that is quite incompatible with our sensitivities.  Physical toughness and the prevailing philosophy of courage must, in a multitude of nameless men, have fortified one another- to give them a true vocation for war.  There is moreover no evidence that any one was much afraid of death in battle, the sure entrance to Valhalla.
The Danish Vikings colonised the County so thoroughly that their land divisions, their courts, and their social organisations superseded those of the Angles with whom they had at last settled down peaceably.  York became the capital of a state ruled by Viking kings, who for nearly a hundred years resisted the efforts of Saxon Wessex to subdue them.  Even after their kingdom had been reduced to a vassal state under Edred of Wessex in A. D. 954, the old defiant sirit flared up from time to time, until Wiliam the Conqueror cowed it


by his relentless harrying of the North in A. D. 1069. But this is to anticipate events.
Under the Danes Yorkshire was divided into Thridings, the term being perpetuated in the present North, East and the West Ridings.  Each was represented by a third of the members of the Thing or Shire court that met at York, which is in none of them but forms its own conclave at the junction of all three.  Each thriding also had its own court.  The thridings were divided into small hundreds containing twelve carucates or ploughlands held by a hundred families, and large hundreds containing 120 carucates, a carucate being the extent of land ploughed by eight oxen in one season, or some 120 acres, and thus an eighth of a carucate was known as a bovate.

Another Viking adnimistrative division was the Wapentake of which the West Riding contained eleven.  Each wapentake had its own court and central meeting place where the freemen inhabitants met to grasp the weapons of the king's representatives in token of fealty in peace and war.  Smaller local courts within the wapentake were known as Things.  Every wick, ham, stead or ton was largely self-governed as the neighbours, or nigh-boors, were mutually pledged.  Ten free families had a court of self-government called a ty-thing. Ty means ten and thing or ding means a court or moot.  These moots were always held in the open-air either under a stately tree or on some rock or mound or low hill.  Folk-moots or meetings is the old term for a town's meeting and was used by Saxon and Norseman.  The Witanmoot was the national parliament. Later the Norman feudal system crippled the moots by coupling them with the Manor Courts.

Midgley itself fell within Morley Wapentake, which included roughly the land between the Calder and Aire Rivers.  Between Aire and Wharfe was the Skirack Wapentake, including such places we shall mention as Bingley and Leeds (Loidis). At Thingley or Tingley near Wakefield and at Headingley, Leeds, may still be seen the Shireoak (shire-ack) or meeting places of these Wapentakes respectively. Immediately south of the Calder was Agbridg Wapentake, and here at Almondbury near Huddersfield was a Royal Seat in the beginning of Saxon times, having a church built by Paulinus. Nearby this village is a steep hill whereon are the ruins of an ancient fortification.9 The top, a little below the brow. is surrounded by a deep, rude oval fosse, with earth thrown up on its outer edge, and with traces of a second rampart on its, inner.  This was probably a British hill fort, but a quadrangular enclosure with rounded corners seems after-wards to have been formed in it that may possibly be due to the Romans.  In mediaeval times the Lacys had a castle here, but nothing of this remains.
For more than fifty years a struggle dragged on between the Vikings of York and those of Dublin. intensified by the antagonism of the Norwegians who dominated Dublin and the Danes who dominated Yorkshire.  Halfdan's successor Guthred or Knut became a Christian, no dotibt following the example of Guthrum, king of the southern Danelaw, after his defeat by Alfred, and the christianisation of the Yorkshire Danes must date from about this time.
In 918 the throne of York was seized by Ragnveld and his Norsemen of Dublin.  This event alarmed the Christian Danes of Yorkshire, who resented both his paganism and his Norwegian followers.  Ragnveld was soon obliged to render homage to Edward of Saxon Wessex, who had in A. D, 901 succeeded his father Alfred the Great.  Edward the Elder (901 - 925) and his sister Ethelfleda, Lady of the Mercians, completed their father Alfred's work In conquering the Danelagh and recovering England for the English,  During the tenth century the Anglo-Saxon monarchy was further entrenched by the development of foreign policy under Athelstan (925 - 940) through the ever present common danger from the Danes.  His sisters married Otto the Great, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles the Simple, King of the Franks, and Hugh the Great, Duke of Paris.
Inevitably the growing Anglo-Saxon power induced a hostile combination of Scots, Welsh and Danes which was put down at Brunanburgh in 937, and thus the Viking Kngdom of Yorkshire became for a time part of a loosely united


England.  Eric Bloodaxe to whom Athelstan had entrusted the vassal state of Northumbria was actually the last Viking King of York for, when he was killed in an attempt to break away by leading a rising of the Danes in 954, Edred of Wessex finally assumed control and installed Oslac (OswuIf) with the rank of Earl of Northumbria, and not that of king.
During the peace that Alfred and his seed strove to maintain for roughly a hundred years, every encouragement was given to learning, religion and civilisation which had suffered greatly through the Danish attacks.  In Alfred's reign the compilation of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was begun, scholars were invited to his court and Bede's Ecclesiastical History was translated.10 Forts, 'burhs' or towns were built, and a navy and a fyrd were organised in the struggle against the Danes.  T
here were outstanding helpers in the process, not least being Dunstan, who was Archbishop of Canterbury 960 - 988 under Edgar the Pacific.  Unfortunately the old royal stock became exhausted in Ethelred the Unready - the Redeless, the man who lacked good advice.
Under the Vikings York attained an importance as great as any it had enjoyed since Roman times.  Once more this was due to its position, for fleets of longships from Denmark and Norway could anchor under its walls.  To this day York bears the stamp of its former Viking inhabitants to a far greater extent than that of its Roman founders.  Its name is directly derived from that of the Vikings, Yorvick, and its old street names are of Viking origin.  Yorkshire shows more traces of Danish occupation than other parts of England in dialect, in the political division into ridings and wapentakes , in place names, and in the physical characteristics of the people.
The Norwegians, Norse Vikings, also colonised Yorkshire under the Dublin kings at York.  The majority came from western Scotland, Man and above all Ireland via the irish Sea estuaries, penetrating the Pennines for instance from Ribble to Aire through the Gap, and crossing the watershed to settle in the dalehead 'outback', taking the Anglian and Danish leavings.  It is doubtful whether they found many people living in these parts when they arrived, for the earlier Anglian and Danish invaders from the East were not accustomed to the mountain lands.  As good pastoral men the latter turned up their noses at the uninviting territory and turned back to the flatter and more congenial lands.  The Norsemen set up their sheep walks in upland country not too unlike their own.  A strong element of Norse settled at the head of the dales.  This colonisation is revealed by the prevalence of Norwegian names for natural features such as Gill (ravine), Foss or Force (waterfall), Slack (shallow valley), Fell (mountain), Thwaite or Royd (clearing), Seat, Holme (island in Scandinavia) or field that might be irrigated by a stream, hence Mytholmroyd.
The last phase, the hundred years preceding the arrival of the final invader William the Conqueror in 1066, may be cursorily passed over.  When Eadred of Saxon Wessex overcame Yorkshire in 954 he made Oswulf of Bamborough the first Earl of Northumbria, and there were ten before the Norman Conquest.  The Anglo-Saxon monarchy attained its highest point of power under Edred's successor Edgar the Pacific who was "Caesar totius Britanniae".  The seeds of decay were probably sown in his pacific reign, when a considerable measure of local government was given to various parts of the country.  The growing power of the great nobles, the Ealdormen, and the continuance of local jealousy, especially between Mercia and Wessex, were sure to lead to disunion under a weak king such as Ethelred II, the Unready, in the face of renewed Danish attacks.
Several million pounds, in terms of modern money, were levied (Danegeld) to hire a mercenary army of Danes to fight their own countrymen and later as a bribe to induce them to withdraw from England.  All in vain, for Sweyn of Denmark became king in 1013 despite the gallant resistance of Edmund Ironside, the Unready's son and successor.  On the death of these two the former's son Canute became King of all England including Northumbria (1016 - 1035).11  However, on his passing, the Saxon Codwin, the Kingmaker, assumed power till his death in 1053 when his son Harold ably carried on.


The last of the Earls of Northumbria was Tosti, son of Earl Godwin and brother of Harold who succeeded Edward the Confessor early in 1066. Tosti's rule was so brutal that Harold banished him, whereupon he allied himself with Harald Hardradi, King of Norway, the Landwaster and doughtiest of all the Vikings.  The latter descended upon the Yorkshire coast with 300 ships, utterly defeated the English Earls sent against him and entered York in triumph.  He then withdrew his forces to Stamford Bridge to meet the expected attack of Tosti's brother Harold.  In Harold the last of the Saxon Kings of England,the Landwaster met his match.  By a forced march Harold entered York in the. silence of the night and, before daybreak, pressed on to Stamford Bridge wherea fierce battle ensued and both Hardradi and Tosti were slain (1066 A. D.)  Immediately Harold had to hasten back to face and be defeated by William of Normandy who had landed in the south.
Thus ended the epic history of the Viking invasions of Yorkshire. Had Tosti not been a tyrant, had Harold not banished him, had Hardradi not invaded the land, had Harold's army not been worn and weakened by rapid  marching and desperate fighting and had the fyrd remained behind the palisades at Hastings and not been enticed out by the Normans feigning retreat, Harold might have presented an unconquerable front to William despite the latter's more disciplined feudal followers, bowmen and mailclad knights. In that event his wish for a peaceful reign as recorded in the single word Pax imprinted on his coins, might have come to pass, and England might have remained English to the core.  Of course it is a trite commonplace to say that history is full of these ifs and buts which are the very mechanism of inexorable Fate.  As it was, flame and sword had done their worst during all this al most uninterrupted warring and the country was in a deplorable state.
This cursory survey of our origins shows that the blood of the English people has been richly mixed,  The blond and the dark strains of ancient Britain had been well stirred before the Romans came.  The golden Angles and Saxons and the red Jutes Danes and Norsemen were subsequently baked in the pie.

Finally came the Normans. who were none else than Northmen settled and interbred with the more ancient dwellers of Northern Gaul.12 William the Conqueror was the son (bastard) of Robert the Devil, Duke of Normandy, and a tanner's daughter.  Robert was descended from the outlaw Viking Rolf or Rollo who landed in Normandy and compelled Charles the Simple, King of France, to give him land enough, about Rouen and the estuary of the Seine, for the hazardous beginning of a dukedom A. D. 911.  The father of Roilo was Rognvald the first Earl of Orkney.  He as the first of his family to win a title to land within the isles of Britain and became the precursor as well as the progenitor of all her kings for nine hundred years

1. Speight p.52 enumerates them up to 20 as they are pronounced in Engliah.

2. Cerdic laid the foundation of the Saxon Kingdom of Wessex A.D. 519. The last of the Cerdingas was Edward the Confessor 1042-1066.

3. Compare the 'Lebensraum' urge of the German Empire 1870 onwards- for trade and prestige.

4. Bernicia from the Tees to the Forth with its capital at Bamborough, south of Tweed mouth.

5. Helmet or Elmet. Edwain or Eadwin first took the capital, Loidis [Leeds]. Speight p.60

6. Northumbria was weakened by jealousy between Bernicia and Deira hence the Anglian srttlement of of Mercia expanded in central England to reach its peak under Offa. Lichfield was an archbishopric until 803. It was confirmed by the Bishop of Lichfield during World War I.

7. The strongly Anglian West Riding must have felt great bitterness at the invasions of the ruthless Norsemen. Jarrow near Tynemouth, Lindisfarne, Holy Island south of Tweed mouth.

8. Obstinate national pride was seen in the prolongation of the Hundred Years War in France, vide text page 23 and footnote 17 Chapter 5.

9. Almondbury was no doubt the town of the Brigantian Queen Cartimandua see p. 9 above. Witanmoot Council for Witenagemot.

10. Alfred encouraged writing in the vernacular. The last of his line, Edward the Confessor, owing to his upbringing on the Continent favoured the appointment of Norman clergy versed in Latin. Vandals violated Alfred's tomb in the 16th C.

11. Godwin had married Gytha, Canute's cousin. He supported first Harthacnut, son of Canute and Emma, widow of Aethelred the Redeless, secondly Harold Harefoot, illegitimate son of Canute, and finally on their deaths, Edward the Confessor 1042-66, last surviving son of Aethelred's second marriage.
On the accession of Ethelred II, who could not tell good redes from bad, there was no reason whatsoever why England should not have beaten off the enemy with ease, but the tragedies 'inter alia' of the enigmatical "Massacre of St. Brice's Day" Nov. 12 1002 and the treachery of Eadric Streona, Ethelred's favourite and eorldorman of Mercia tell their own bad story and merely played into the hands of Sweyn and the Danes. Ethelred's original evil genius was reputedly his mother Elfryth

12. England was not really united until the Norman Conquest. Wales was not conquered properly until later and Scotland later still!
The tendency to disunion previously was due to the creation of the great earldoms and their jealousy. The Northumbrians and Mercians failed to help Harold at Hastings, and the feebleness of the later kings of the line of Cerdic. The appearance of Halley's Comet in 1066 frightened the superstitious people. It is recorded in the Bayeaux tapestry. William's claim was based upon alleged promises of the succession by the pro-Norman Edward the Confessor, and by Harold under duress. The invasion was a crusade approved by Pope Alexander II.
While I was in London in 1968 I called on Henry Salt Q.C., sometime Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge and his wife Hope M.B. Ch.B. at 4, Grays Inn Square. He was our head boy at Newcastle under Lyme and was later wounded in the leg at Passchendaele in 1917, the same year as Capt. Henry Coward, formerly one of my Form masters at Newcastle was killed at Arras. Henry Salt kindly 'vetted' these early chapters. He wrote to me as follows last year while mentioning his retirement as judge of the Durham County Palatine Court and the award of D.C.L. by Durham University 'honoris causa', which was conferred 'in absentia' owing to his illness at the time.
"Dear Kaffir, Little did we lads at Newcastle [Staffs.] in 1913 think that this nickname, conferred on you 'honoris causa' and affectionately, would ever come to be a possible stumbling block of offence 50 years on : and thank God it never has in your case because you have always kept your tincture of English schoolboy humour. So I can safely continue to address you..."
Newcastle's first Headmaster, Francis Elliott Kichener from Rugby, was also a Fellow of Trinity. In the Mathematical tripos of 1861 he was placed 12th Wrangler and in the Classical Tripos 1st Senior Optime.

End of Chapter 3 page 17
William's invasion was in the nature of a "crusade" approved by Pope Alexander II and based on alleged promises of the succession by pro-Norman Edward the Confessor, and by Harold under duress. Before his death Edward apparently aquiesced to Harold's exhaltation but in any event that was the right of the Witan who duly elected Harold.

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Copyright ©  Tim Midgley March 2003. Links revised July 2023. Scanned and corrected from a copy kindly donated by David & Milnethorpe Midgley of Tasmania from an out of print book by John Franklin Midgley 1970.