Archive for April, 2014

It is a well-known fact that Cumbria was heavily settled by the Norsemen in the tenth century, perhaps less known is that this settlement also included Lancashire and the Wirral peninsula in Cheshire. There are almost no written sources for this Scandinavian settlement, although we can reconstruct its outlines from the meagre sources we have when they are coupled with place name evidence and archaeology. I will do this more extensively at a later date. For now I’d simply like to present a story found in the Irish Fragmentary Annals telling the events of the year A.D. 902[1] when Norse-Irish Vikings first appeared on the Wirral and later tried to take the city of Chester.

Viking houses in Dublin

Viking houses in Dublin

First Norwegians and then Danes had settled in Ireland in the second half of the ninth century, although they had been raiding Ireland and the British Isles since the end of the eighth century. The Northmen fought each other and the native Irish. In 902 the Irish seem to have settled their own squabbles for a while and gained a temporary ascendancy and the Vikings were expelled from their Dublin base. The Annals of Ulster report for 902:

The heathens were driven from Ireland, that is from the longphort of Ath Cliath (Dublin), by Mael Finnia son of Flannacan with the men of Brega and by Cerball son of Muirecan with the Leinster men.

They were familiar with the coasts of Wales, having raided there on numerous occasions. Anglesey (called the isle of Môn by the British) attracted them as a place to settle as it was not only ‘the home of the monastic establishments of Penmon, Ynys Seirol and Caer Gybi’, but also, as Gerald of Wales later wrote:

Just as, for instance, Mount Snowdon could produce pasture for all the herds of Wales , thus the isle of Mona is so fertile in wheat and meadows to be able to supply produce for some time for the whole of Wales.

Sicut enim montes Ereri cunctis Walliae fertur totius armentis in unum coactis ad pascua, sic insula Moniae triticei graminis fertilitate toti Walliae fertur aliquamdiu sufficere posse.

Vikings Arrive by Chris Collingwood

Vikings Arrive by Chris Collingwood

The Northmen, referred to as Dub Gint or black pagans, under the command of Igmunt (Ingimundr), ‘came to Mona and fought the battle of Ros Melion’, now Penros, near Holyhead. But, as we will see, ‘the Britons assembled against them, and gave them hard and strong battle, and they were driven by force out of British territory’. They then sailed along to northern coast of Wales and landed on the Wirral peninsula, which was under the suzerainty of the ‘English’. Here I will let the Annals of Ireland tell the story:[2]

We have related above, that is, in the fourth year previously, that the Norwegian armies were driven out of Ireland, thanks to the fasting and prayers of the holy man, Céle Dabaill,[3] for he was a saintly and pious man, and he had great zeal for the Christians; and besides inciting the warriors of Ireland against the pagans, he laboured himself through fasting and prayer, and he strove for freedom for the churches of Ireland, and he strengthened the men of Ireland by his laborious service to the Lord; and he removed the anger of the Lord from them. For it was on account of the Lord’s anger against them that the foreigners were brought to destroy them (i.e., the Norwegians and Danes), to plunder Ireland, both church and tribe.

Now the Norwegians left Ireland, as we said, and their leader was Ingimund, and they went then to the island of Britain. The son of Cadell son of Rhodri was king of the Britons at that time. The Britons assembled against them, and gave them hard and strong battle, and they were driven by force out of British territory.

Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians

Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians

After that Ingimund with his troops came to Aethelflaed[4], Queen of the Saxons; for her husband, Aethelred, was sick at that time. (Let no one reproach me, though I have related the death of Aethelred above, because this was prior to Aethelred’s death and it was of this very sickness that Aethelred died, but I did not wish to leave unwritten what the Norwegians did after leaving Ireland.) Now Ingimund was asking the Queen for lands in which he would settle, and on which he would build barns and dwellings, for he was tired of war at that time. Aethelflaed gave him lands near Chester, and he stayed there for a time.[5]

What resulted was that when he saw the wealthy city, and the choice lands around it, he yearned to possess them. Ingimund came then to the chieftains of the Norwegians and Danes; he was complaining bitterly before them, and said that they were not well off unless they had good lands, and that they all ought to go and seize Chester and possess it with its wealth and lands. From that there resulted many great battles and wars. What he said was, ‘Let us entreat and implore them ourselves first, and if we do not get them good lands willingly like that, let us fight for them by force.’ All the chieftains of the Norwegians and Danes consented to that.

Ingimund returned home after that, having arranged for a hosting to follow him. Although they held that council secretly, the Queen learned of it. The Queen then gathered a large army about her from the adjoining regions, and filled the city of Chester with her troops.

A Norse Dublin ship

A Norse Dublin ship

Almost at the same time the men of Foirtriu[6] and the Norwegians fought a battle. The men of Alba fought this battle steadfastly, moreover, because Colum Cille was assisting them, for they had prayed fervently to him, since he was their apostle, and it was through him that they received faith. For on another occasion, when Imar Conung[7] was a young lad and he came to plunder Alba with three large troops, the men of Alba, lay and clergy alike, fasted and prayed to God and Colum Cille until morning, and beseeched the Lord, and gave profuse alms of food and clothing to the churches and to the poor, and received the Body of the Lord from the hands of their priests, and promised to do every good thing as their clergy would best urge them, and that their battle-standard in the van of every battle would be the Crozier of Colum Cille—and it is on that account that it is called the Cathbuaid ‘Battle-Triumph’ from then onwards; and the name is fitting, for they have often won victory in battle with it, as they did at that time, relying on Colum Cille. They acted the same way on this occasion. Then this battle was fought hard and fiercely; the men of Alba won victory and triumph, and many of the Norwegians were killed after their defeat, and their king was killed there, namely Oittir son of Iarngna. For a long time after that neither the Danes nor the Norwegians attacked them, and they enjoyed peace and tranquillity. But let us turn to the story that we began.

The armies of the Danes and the Norwegians mustered to attack Chester, and since they did not get their terms accepted through request or entreaty, they proclaimed battle on a certain day. They came to attack the city on that day, and there was a great army with many freemen in the city to meet them. When the troops who were in the city saw, from the city wall, the many hosts of the Danes and Norwegians coming to attack them, they sent messengers to the King of the Saxons, who was sick and on the verge of death at that time, to ask his advice and the advice of the Queen. What he advised was that they do battle outside, near the city, with the gate of the city open, and that they choose a troop of horsemen to be concealed on the inside; and those of the people of the city who would be strongest in battle should flee back into the city as if defeated, and when most of the army of the Norwegians had come in through the gate of the city, the troop that was in hiding beyond should close the gate after that horde, and without pretending any more they should attack the throng that had come into the city and kill them all.

The Romans building Chester's walls

The Romans building Chester’s walls

Everything was done accordingly, and the Danes and Norwegians were frightfully slaughtered in that way. Great as that massacre was, however, the Norwegians did not abandon the city, for they were hard and savage; but they all said that they would make many hurdles, and place props under them, and that they would make a hole in the wall underneath them. This was not delayed; the hurdles were made, and the hosts were under them making a hole in the wall, because they wanted to take the city, and avenge their people.

It was then that the King (who was on the verge of death) and the Queen sent messengers to the Irish who were among the pagans (for the pagans had many Irish fosterlings), to say to the Irishmen, ‘Life and health to you from the King of the Saxons, who is ill, and from the Queen, who holds all authority over the Saxons, and they are certain that you are true and trustworthy friends to them. Therefore you should take their side: for they have given no greater honour to any Saxon warrior or cleric than they have given to each warrior or cleric who has come to them from Ireland, for this inimical race of pagans is equally hostile to you also. You must, then, since you are faithful friends, help them on this occasion.’ This was the same as saying to them, ‘Since we have come from faithful friends of yours to converse with you, you should ask the Danes what gifts in lands and property they would give to the people who would betray the city to them. If they will make terms for that, bring them to swear an oath in a place where it would be convenient to kill them, and when they are taking the oath on their swords and their shields, as is their custom, they will put aside all their good shooting weapons.’

Irish fight the Vikings

Irish fight the Vikings

All was done accordingly, and they set aside their arms. And the reason why those Irish acted against the Danes was because they were less friends to them than the Norwegians. Then many of them were killed in that way, for huge rocks and beams were hurled onto their heads. Another great number were killed by spears and by arrows, and by every means of killing men.

However, the other army, the Norwegians, was under the hurdles, making a hole in the wall. What the Saxons and the Irish who were among them did was to hurl down huge boulders, so that they crushed the hurdles on their heads. What they did to prevent that was to put great columns under the hurdles. What the Saxons did was to put the ale and water they found in the town into the towns cauldrons, and to boil it and throw it over the people who were under the hurdles, so that their skin peeled off them. The Norwegians response to that was to spread hides on top of the hurdles. The Saxons then scattered all the beehives there were in the town on top of the besiegers, which prevented them from moving their feet and hands because of the number of bees stinging them. After that they gave up the city, and left it. Not long afterwards there was fighting again …

Viking Wirral

Viking Wirral

The Norsemen withdrew to the Wirral and settled there. Over the years to come, they and other Scandinavian compatriots from Ireland and Scotland, as well as some coming direct from Scandinavia, went on to settle in western Lancashire, on the isle of Man and in Cumbria. I will tell more of that in forthcoming articles, but 902 was the first time the Vikings came to settle in North West England.[8]

Notes:

[1] Probably 902 and 903. The attack on Chester we know from Anglo-Saxon sources took place in circa 907.

[2] I use the more modern translation and edition: Joan N. Radner (ed. & trans.) Fragmentary annals of Ireland (Dublin 1978).

[3] Abbot of Bangor

[4]  Aethelflaed, the ‘Lady of the Mercians’, was King Alfred of Wessex’s eldest daughter and husband of Ealdorman Aethelred of Mercia.

[5] The Wirral peninsula.

[6]  Land of the Pictish-Gaels

[7] Viking King Ívarr. Some suggest he was Ivar the Boneless.

[8] It is unlikely that Carlisle was destroyed by the Danish warlord Halfdan in 875 as many suggest.

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In an article titled Walking to London for Justice, I recounted the story of a group of seventeenth century Cumberland farmers in Matterdale who pursued their complaints against the local lord of the manor, Andrew Huddleston, all the way to the House of Lords, and won. These farmers fought for ‘justice and fair play’, but their case was only one part of a longstanding saga with the Huddlestons. I recently discovered more of this history in a 1909 book called The Danes in Lancashire by S. W. Partington. For the time being I’ll just reproduce the relevant section here (pages 93-100). I hope to return to it more at a later date. Partington was discussing the evolution of customary tenancy in the north of England:

The customary tenant is distinguished from the freeholder, and the copyholder, in that he is not seised of his land in fee simple, as is the freeholder, and is not subject to the disabilities of the copyholder, nor are his customary dues considered derogatory to the nobility of his tenure. The customary tenant is therefore between the freeholder and the copyholder, with a number of well defined privileges. The two most important duties of the average tenant in Cumberland and Westmorland were those of warfare and the watching of the forests. The former depended entirely upon the attitude of the other kingdoms, especially Scotland; the latter was a long and laborious service laid upon the tenant until the middle of the XVIth century. The counties of Cumberland and Westmorland were dense forests until long after the Norman Conquest, and the timber for the royal shipyards was grown in these highlands of England. The forests were full of game, and the regulations in connection with the preservation of game and the upkeep of the forests were most exacting upon the people.

From the middle of the XVIth century, however, these ancient laws and services began to lose their force, and a new set of regulations arose to meet the new environment. Slowly but surely the feudal system had passed away. Here and there a relic remained, but it was impossible to ignore the rights of men who could no longer be bought and sold with a tenement. From the first year of the reign of Elizabeth the border service is well defined and the claims of the tenants became fixed. Several years before, Lord Wharton, as Deputy-General of the West Marches, drew up a series of regulations for the protection of that part of the border. In an interesting article by Mr. Graham, we find how the men of Hayton, near Carlisle, turned out every night with their spears, and remained crouched on the river bank in the black darkness or the pouring rain. It is a typical example of borderers engaged upon their regular service. This system had superseded the feudal system. The feudal tenure survived in many instances where a power. Like one of their own tumultuous forces, when once directed into the right stream, they went to form that new product which we call an Englishman. The documents, which were discovered at Penruddock in the township of Hutton Soil — the ”kist” is in the possession of Mr. Wm. Kitchen, Town Head, Penruddock — relate to a struggle between the lord and the tenants of Hutton John, Cumberland, on the subject of tenant right. So far as we are aware these documents are unique. The various authorities on Cumberland history give reference to a number of these disputes but no mention is made of the Hutton John case, so that we have here for the first time a full knowledge of what was probably the most important of all these trials. In addition, while there are no documents relating to the other cases, we have here every paper of the Hutton John case preserved. The story of the discovery is that the writer (the Rev. J. Hay Colligan) was searching for material for a history of the Penruddock Presbyterian Meeting House when he came across a kist, or chest, containing these documents. (A calendar of these documents may be found in the Cumberland and Westmorland Transactions for 1908.) The manor of Hutton John had long been in the possession of the Hutton family when it passed in 1564 to a son of Sir John Hudleston of Millum Castle by his marriage with Mary Hutton. Her brother Thomas had burdened the estate on account of his imprisonment lasting about fifty years. It was the son of this marriage, Joseph by name, who became the first lord of the manor, and most of the manorial rights still remain with the Hudleston family. After Joseph Hudleston came three Andrews — first, 1603-1672; second, 1637- 1706; third, 1669-1724 — and it was with these four lords that the tenants carried on their historical dispute. The death of Thomas Hutton took place sometime after 1620 and was the occasion for raising a number of questions that agitated the manor for almost a century afterwards. It flung the combustible topic of tenure into an atmosphere that was already charged with religious animosity, and the fire in the manor soon was as fierce as the beacon-flare on their own Skiddaw.

The position of the parties in the manor may be summed up by saying that Joseph Hudleston insisted that the tenants were tenants-at-will, and the tenants on the other hand claimed tenant right. Whatever may have been the origin of cornage, it is clear that by the XVIIth century it was synonymous with tenant right. The details in the dispute cannot here be treated, but the central point was the subject of a general fine. This fine, frequently called gressome, was the entrance fine which the tenant paid to the lord upon admittance. In some manors it was a two years’ rent, in others three. An unusual form in the manor of Hutton John was a seven years’ gressome, called also a running fine or a town-term. This was the amount of two years’ rent at the end of every seven years. The contention of the tenants was, that as this was a running fine, no general fine was due to the lord of the manor on the death of the previous lord. From this position the tenants never wavered, and for over seventy years they fought the claim of the lord. Upon the death of Thomas Hutton the tenants claiming tenant right refused to pay the general fine to Joseph Hudleston. After wrangling with the tenants for a few years, Joseph brought a Bill against them in 1632. He succeeded in obtaining a report from the law lord, Baron Trevor, which plays an important part in the case unto the end. He apparently disregarded the portion which applied to himself, and pressed the remainder upon the tenants. The tenants thereupon decided to send three of their number with a petition to Charles I. and it was delivered to the king at Newmarket. He ordered his judges to look into the matter. The civil war, however, had begun, and the whole country was about to be filled with smoke and flame. Needless to say the tenants took the side of Parliament, while the lord of the manor, the first Andrew, was described in the records as a Papist in arms. During the civil war the whole county of Cumberland was in action. The manor of Hutton John was mainly for the Parliament. Greystoke Castle, only two miles from the manor, surrendered to the Parliamentary troops. The termination of the civil war in 1651 was the date for the beginning of litigation between the Hudleston family and the Parliament on the subject of the manor. After this was over the struggle between the lord and the tenants began again. In their distress the tenants sent a letter to Lord Howard of Naworth Castle, whose Puritan sympathies were well known. This is a feature of the case that need not be dwelt upon, but without which there can be no complete explanation of the story. The struggle was in fact a religious one. The occasion of it was the entrance into a Cumberland manor of a Lancashire family, and the consequent resentment on the part of the adherents of the manor, who boasted that they had been there “afore the Hudlestons.” The motives which prompted each party were those expressed in the words Puritan v. Papist. The year 1668 was a memorable one in the history of the dispute. In that year the tenants brought a Bill of complaint against the lord at Carlisle Assizes. The judge, at the opening of the court, declared that the differences could be compounded by some gentlemen of the county. All the parties agreed, and the court made an order whereby Sir Philip Musgrave, Kt. and Bart., and Sir John Lowther, Bart., were to settle the case before September 21st. If they could not determine within that time they were to select an umpire within one week, who must make his award before Lady-day. Sir Philip Musgrave and Sir John Lowther accepted the responsibility placed upon them by the court and took great pains to accommodate the differences, but finding themselves unable to furnish the award within the time specified they elected Sir George Fletcher, Bart., to be umpire. Sir George Fletcher made his award on March 3rd, 1668. The original document, written, signed and sealed with his own hand, is here before us. Its tattered edges prove that it has been frequently referred to. Sir George Fletcher’s award was on the whole in favour of the tenants, and especially on the subject of the general fine, which he declared was not payable on the death of the lord. Other important matters were dealt with, including heriots, widows’ estates, the use of quarries on the tenements, the use of timber, the mill rent, together with the subject of boons and services. All the tenants acquiesced in the award, and the lord paid the damages for false imprisonment to several of the tenants.

In the year 1672 Andrew Hudleston the first died, and Andrew the second, 1637-1706, succeeded to the lordship. He immediately began to encroach. He demanded the general fine in addition to rents and services, contrary to the award. The struggle therefore broke out afresh as fiercely as ever, and both parties returned to the old subject of tenure. The matter became a religious one owing to the Restoration and the rigid acts which followed between 1662- 1689. An extraordinary incident occurred at this time in the conversion of the lord to the protestant cause, but this did not affect the dispute between him and the tenants. In 1699 the tenants moved again. They requested the court to put into operation the award of Sir George Fletcher. From that year until 1704 the strife was bitterer than ever, and the kist contains more documents relating to this period than to any other. In the year 1704, after several judgments had previously been made against the third Andrew Hudleston and his late father, the former appealed to the House of Lords, and the case was dismissed in favour of the tenants.

Although the struggle lasted until the year 1716, the climax was reached in 1704. The historical value of the case is the way in which it illustrates the conditions of tenure in the North- West of England, and at the same time portrays the pertinacity in spite of serious obstacles of the yeoman class in asserting its rights.

Tithe. The subject of Tithe is one that can only be dealt with in a restricted way and from one point of view. It is well known that, through the influence of George Fox in North Lancashire, Quakerism spread with frenzied force through Westmorland and Cumberland. Many of those who had been previously content with Puritan doctrines seceded to the Quakers. The practice of declining to pay the tithe, in the case which the documents before us illustrate, was of a different character. It occurs in the parish of Greystoke, in which the manor of Hutton John was situated. Five years after the award of Sir George Fletcher on the tenure case, the nonconforming section of the tenants of Hutton John raised another question of a tithe called “Bushel Corn.” This had been regularly paid to the Rector of Greystoke from time immemorial. Even the Puritan rectors had received this tithe down to that great Puritan, Richard Gilpin, who was ejected from the Rectory of Greystoke in 1661. The point in dispute was not a deliberate refusal of the tithe, it was a declaration of the parishioners that the measure was an unjust one. The contest was carried on by John Noble, of Penruddock, and Thos. Parsons, the steward of the Countess of Arundel and Surrey, Lady of the Barony of Greystoke. Associated with Parsons was John Robson, a servant and proctor of the rector. Parsons and Robson were farmers of the tithe, but the case had the full consent of the rector, the Rev. Allan Smallwood, D.D.

The immediate cause of the dispute was the question of the customary measure. It resulted in the settlement of a vexatious subject which was as to the size of a bushel. The matter was one of contention throughout the country until standard weights and measures were recognised and adopted. In Cumberland the most acute form was upon the subject of the corn bushel. The deviations in quantity were difficult to suppress, and several law cases upon this matter are on record. In the Parish of Greystoke the case was first begun in 1672. The bushel measure had been gradually increased from sixteen gallons, which amount the parishioners acknowledged and were prepared to pay, until it reached twenty-two gallons. The case passed through the assizes of three counties, being held at Carlisle, Lancaster and Appleby, and a verdict for the parishioners was eventually given.

The documents, apart from their intrinsic worth, have thus an inestimable value, in that they shed light upon and give information in regard to the doings in a Cumberland manor where hitherto there has been but darkness and silence, as far as the records of the people were concerned. We are able now to follow with interest and satisfaction a story that is equal in courage and persistence with the best traditions of English love of justice and fair play…