History of Cumbria - Vikings


The first Norse settlers are thought to have arrived around AD 925. Unlike the invaders of Eastern England, the Vikings of Cumbria were Norwegians who came via Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Fifty years earlier the Danes led by Halfdan had entered Cumbria through the Stainmore Pass and ransacked the area, reducing Carlisle to such a state that it remained in ruins for the next two hundred years, and annexed Cumbria to the Danelaw.

For a time, the Vikings probably just raided the coasts of the county before returning to Ireland and the Isle of Man. But they soon came to settle, and seem to have preferred the uplands of the central region, no doubt because the Angles had not penetrated so far and land was easier to come by. Their influence is still evident in the many place names, particularly in the central lakes, which include Norse elements such as dale, fell, howe and thwaite.

During this period much of Cumberland and Westmorland - traditionally as far as the Rere Cross on Stainmore - formed part of the Kingdom of Strathclyde, also known as Cumbria. One theory is that Viking colonisation was encouraged by the Cumbric speaking kings as a bulwark against the English to the South.

In 945 the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records a defeat of the Cumbrians and the harrying of Cumberland (referring not just to the English county of Cumberland but also all the Cumbrian lands up to Glasgow). Edmund I of England defeated the last Cumbrian king, Dunmail - possibly Dyfnwal III of Strathclyde. Following the defeat, the area was ceded to Malcolm I of Scotland, although it is probable that the southernmost areas around Furness, Cartmel and Kendal remained under English control.

The influence of the Vikings remained strong until the Middle Ages, particularly in the central region. A Norse-English creole was spoken until at least the 12th century and evidence of the imposition of the Viking political system is shown by several possible Thing mounds throughout the county, the most significant of which is at Fell Foot in Langdale. As an example of Viking relics, a hoard of Viking coins and silver objects was discovered at Penrith.

Read more about this topic:  History Of Cumbria

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