Speakers Drafts for reference

Here we will upload a text copy of any speakers who attend a monthly meeting and have a draft of their talk available to read. This is particularly good if people want to re-see what was said and need more detail about the talk.
First up is Novembers 2016 talk by society member Jenny Ashby

By Jenny Ashby

Deira was one of the two powerful early Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Northern England. Its boundaries roughly corresponded with present day Yorkshire, but its original core was in what is now East Yorkshire. The name Deira is actually British, not Anglo-Saxon, and probably means "people of the Derwent Valley". The British "daru" or "deru" means oak. It finally disappeared in AD 670 when it merged for the last time with the other northern kingdom, Bernicia, to become Northumbria. Apart from the eighty year period of Viking rule in the tenth century when it again fragmented, Northumbria lasted as a kingdom then earldom until 1066. Yorkshire emerged as a county after the Norman Conquest. The origins of Deira, however, are not Anglo-Saxon but stretch back to the Iron Age and maybe beyond.


From prehistoric times East Yorkshire was the most densely settled area of northern England. It had the best soils and climate - in fact in Roman times it would become the bread basket of the North.

By 450 BC it was occupied by an Iron Age tribe whom Ptolemy calls the Parisi. Their name survives in France as Paris and it is thought that they either migrated to the Wolds from France or had a complex network of contacts ( for example trading) with France (or rather Gaul as it was then). They established their Arras culture which was unique and distinct from the rest of Britain. It was defined by their metalwork and their mortuary rites - i.e. The use of square-ditched furnished inhumations under barrows, the richest of which were chariot burials. 7 chariot burials dating to the 300s BC have been found in the Wetwang area, of a total of 16 found in East Yorkshire so far. Their cemeteries have also been found in Arras (hence the name of the culture), Danes Graves and the Rudston/Burton Fleming area.

Their settlements were typically small, rectilinear ditched enclosures, sometimes isolated, sometimes in clusters or elongated ladder settlements linked by droveways or ditches. There was a large settlement at North Ferriby which was probably their main port and another at Malton which was possibly their capital. It was a densely settled landscape with settlements spaced about 1km (1/2 mile) apart surrounded by small rectangular fields. This pattern lasted into the Post Roman period.

By the end of the millennium, the Parisi were in decline and by the time the Romans arrived the Brigantes (a confederation of tribes) were the dominant power in the North. Their main power base was east of the Pennines, centred on Stanwick near Scotch Corner, but their territory covered most of the North from the Humber to southern Scotland.


Initially the Brigantes were a client kingdom of Rome under their queen, Cartimandua, but by 74 AD they and all the other northern tribes had been subsumed into the Roman province of Britannia Secunda. The Romans chose York (Eboracum) as their legionary fortress, most important port and provincial capital due it's geography, but maybe also because it was on the frontier between the Brigantes and the Parisi. However, the rich and fertile Derwent Valley was the cultural heart of the huge northern Roman province.

Half of the known Roman villa sites (about 25) are in Parisian territory, broadly concentrated round Brough-on-Humber (Peturia) and the scarp slopes of the Wolds and Howardian Hills, exactly the same areas where the pre-Roman aristocracy had lived. Brough was the main town and administrative centre of the Parisian territory at this time, with a second urban centre at Malton. The Roman influence on northern England was much less than it was in the south and the villas were already in a dishevelled and patched up state by the late 300s, though most remained inhabited until the 5th century when the Romans withdrew. There's a 12 mile stretch of the A1 between Leeming Bar and Barton which is currently being upgraded and they've found remains of a Roman town called Bainesse (near Scotch Corner) which seems to pre-date the foundation of York by a decade. It's possibly the earliest Roman settlement in Yorkshire.


When the Romans withdrew, local communities were left without effective government or defence, both of which had been the prerogative of Rome, and the economy was in ruins. The north and west of England had remained tribal throughout the Roman period and, with the collapse of the Roman state, local warlords became petty tribal kings and took responsibility for law and order. They occupied defended enclosures and built large-scale dykes as defence against their enemies (who were usually the neighbouring tribe) such as those dykes protecting Elmet from the Parisi around Aberford. Kings with large warbands needed to raid and fight to win land, prestige and booty; this infighting became endemic by the late 400s.

New kingdoms emerged in the 6th century, some of which correspond with pre Roman tribes, albeit with changed names - for instance, the Votadini of the Edinburgh area became the Gododdin.

In Yorkshire there was Craven, possibly centred on the upper Wharfe, Aire and Ribble valleys; Loidis around Leeds; Hatfield on the Trent/Ouse wetlands and Elmet. Elmet was the most enduring of Yorkshire's post Roman territories, existing from the 450s to 616. It was bounded to the west by the Pennines, to the south by the rivers Don and Sheaf, to the east by the Humberhead Levels and by the Magnesian limestone belt that forms the western edge of the Vale of York. It was conquered by Edwin of Deira in 616 in retribution after its King had had his cousin Hereric killed whilst under his protection.

In East Yorkshire, however, post Roman British culture never fully developed. It had been the most Romanised part of the north and was still the most prosperous and populous. They still thought like Romans - and as such, invited mercenaries in to defend their borders, just as the Romans had done.....


These mercenaries were Angles, probably from Lindsey (Lincolnshire) or East Anglia. They quickly seized control of the Derwent valley - the Romanised civilian aristocracy were not strong enough to resist - and their leader sited his headquarters at the focus of his conquests. The pagan shrine at Goodmanham (which became the principal Deiran temple in the C6) and the proximity of a "palace" possibly at Londesborough, suggests this is where the primary AS settlement was. The earliest group of AS finds are from cremated remains dating to the 470s excavated at the large cemetery at Sancton nearby. This Anglian success encouraged more Angles to move into the area and they rapidly multiplied due to polygamous marriages and military strength. Around the later C5 there was a sudden and extensive expansion of AS culture throughout the whole East Riding, along the coast as far as the Tyne and along some river systems.

By the early C6 there were Anglian cemeteries at Kelleythorpe and Cheesecake Hill near Driffield, Nafferton, Fridaythorpe and West Heslerton, amongst other places. These were all focussed on Bronze Age barrows, henges or, later on, linear prehistoric earthworks. Deira - based on the lands of the Parisi - was the first established AS kingdom in the north. In the mid C6 the Angles north of the Tees Valley broke away and their leader, Ida, established the kingdom of Bernicia centered on Bamburgh. It stretched to the Lake District and the Firth of Forth.

The local British kingdoms were either conquered or came to an agreement with the Angles/English by which they paid tribute to survive. Strathclyde survived till 638, Elmet till 616. There is no evidence of destruction or widespread flight of native Britons; they seem to have been assimilated into English culture, which in fact had greater freedoms so may have seemed attractive to the tied Post-Roman peasantry. As the English kings conquered the northern British kingdoms, they took over their citadels (which could be hillforts or old Roman towns like Catterick), retaining their functions as centres of government and collectors of food renders.

There seems to have been quite a bit of continuity in settlement patterns and agriculture from the Iron Age through to AS times, though there was a slight contraction in farmed land due to climatic deterioration - there was widespread flooding in the Vale of York and Humber lowlands during the C4 and C5. At West Heslerton, occupied since the Iron Age, the late C5 to early C6 AS settlement became much larger than the preceding Roman one, occupying 20 ha (45 acres). It was zoned too, with glass and metal working, agricultural processing and housing all separated. During the C7 several changes in society were taking place:
Changes in burial rites (to unfurnished inhumations) and changes in dress (such as women wearing veils) were driven by the spread of Christianity, which increased contact with Rome and Byzantium.
Increased internal ranking within AS society led to the emergence of aristocracies and new settlement forms. These new settlements were secular estate centres (of a king or Gesithas) such as Driffield and Thwing; monastic settlements such as Whitby and Ripon and wics (trading centres) such as Fishergate in York. All these settlement types were funded and controlled by royal/aristocratic interests.


By 600 AD the north was dominated by the AS kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira. Deira now approximated to modern day Yorkshire except for the British enclave of Elmet. But the Deiran power base was still in East Yorkshire, the original territory of the Parisi. The main estate centres were around the Driffield area, at Goodmanham and Londesborough and with another "palace by the Derwent" - which could have been Buttercrambe.

In 600 the most powerful northern King was Aethelfrith of Bernicia, whose territory stretched to the west coast and South Scotland. In 604 he turned his attention to Deira, installing a puppet King in place of the Deiran King, Aelle, marrying his daughter and driving Aelle's teenage son, EDWIN, into exile. Edwin found sanctuary in North Wales, Mercia (whose King, Cearl, gave him his daughter in marriage), and finally, East Anglia.

Aethelfrith pursued him relentlessly, defeating a combined force of North Welsh and Mercians at Chester in 615, then demanding that Raedwald of East Anglia have Edwin assassinated. Raedwald's fiesty wife talked her husband out of giving in to a bully and, instead, Raedwald and Edwin attacked, defeated and killed Aethelfrith at the Battle of the River Idle near Bawtry in 616. Raedwald installed Edwin as King of all Northumbria. Whilst Raedwald lived, he was Edwin's overlord, but when he died in 625 (and he is popularly believed to be the King buried at Sutton Hoo in Mound 1), Edwin became the over-King not only of he North and Midlands, but also of the South when in 626 an assassination attempt was made on him by the King of Wessex and he attacked and defeated Wessex and exacted tribute from it. He had already married Aethelburh of Kent to secure an alliance with that kingdom. He took over Lindsey and Hatfield to secure his lines of communication with his East Anglian allies. Elmet had been his since 616.

So the first King of all England was a Yorkshireman! Well, Deiran. His Kentish wife was a Christian and she brought the missionary Paulinus north with her. Edwin had promised to convert to Christianity if he defeated the West Saxons and he kept his promise. He and Paulinus set about converting Northumbria to Christianity and they laid the foundations of the York archdiocese and the revival of the City of York. Edwin's rule was famous for its strength and justice - Bede says a woman and child could travel alone across Northumbria without fear of being molested. However, he was defeated and killed at the Battle of Hatfield in October 633 by a confederation of Northern Welsh, under Cadwallon, and Mercians, under Penda. A year of chaos followed as Northumbria fragmented into Bernicia and Deira and their new kings were killed.

In 634 Edwin's nephew and Aethelfrith's eldest surviving son OSWALD defeated Cadwallon at Heavenfield near Hexham and, because he was related to both previous kings, reunited Northumbria. He took over Edwin's territories and status as over-King and set about reintroducing Christianity. He brought Aidan over from Iona (where Oswald himself had spent part of his exile whilst Edwin ruled) and they set up the Lindisfarne mission. But - Penda reappeared 8 years later and defeated and killed Oswald at Oswestry in 642. Oswald's younger brother OSWIU inherited his kingdom of Northumbria but not his over-Kingship - that power would be Penda's for the next 13 years.

It seems the Deiran aristocracy were still powerful as they installed another nephew of Edwin's, Oswine, as their King and there was nothing Oswiu could do about it, though he was the dominant King of the two. Oswiu was Oswald's half brother and was not the son of Edwin's sister as Oswald had been, so he had no Deiran blood. This made him unacceptable to the Deirans. Very wisely he married Edwin's daughter Eanflaed - so that their son, Ecgfrith, was both a Bernician and a Deiran. Meanwhile, when Oswine rebelled, Oswiu replaced him as King of Deira with Oswald's teenage son, Oethelbald. However, when Penda attacked Northumbria in 655, Oethelbald betrayed his uncle and joined Penda. Big mistake - because Oswiu defeated Penda in an unlikely victory at Winwaed (near Doncaster) and became supreme King. Oethelbald disappears from history at this point.

Oswiu had now run out of Deiran candidates so imposed his adult son (by a previous, British, wife) on Deira as sub- King. This went well for a few years till this son decided to defy his father - it came to a head at the Synod of Whitby in 664, which Oswiu convened to sort out the differences between the Celtic and Roman forms of Christianity - but also to outflank his son, who had favoured Rome. Oswiu came down in favour of Rome to conform with the rest of Europe and most of England and rendered his son's defiance pointless. We hear little of the Deiran sub- King after that.

In 670 Oswiu died in his bed- the first Northumbrian King to manage this. His half Bernician, half Deiran son ECGFRITH succeeded him unopposed - finally, by being blood of both, uniting Bernicia and Deira. Ecgfrith was the last of the Northumbrian kings to exercise overlordship of both the north and south. When he died at the Battle of Nechtanesmere in 685, the supremecy of Northumbria died with him. However, Northumbria survived as a political entity for another 400 years, till 1066.


But that wasn't quite the end of Deira. In 793 the Vikings launched their first raid on the North of England when they sacked the monastery at Lindisfarne - but it wasn't till 866 that they came to
conquer Northumbria with a large army of maybe 10,000 men. They took advantage of a war between rival claimants to the kingship of Northumbria and seized York in the summer of 867. This led to the collapse of the Northumbrian state and the Danes, under Healfdene, imposed a client king to collect taxes whilst they went off to attack East Anglia in 870 and Mercia in 874. In 875 Healfdene shared out the lands of Northumbria amongst his followers - but he died in 877 and his successors couldn't maintain the unity which he had imposed on the North by force.

An Anglo-Saxon dynasty, based on Bamburgh, re-emerged and this was to survive. The Danish kingdom was confined to the old Deira but was now called the kingdom of York. Northumbria had fractured into its component parts. The rulers of English Bernicia kept out both Scandinavian warriors and Scandinavian cultural influences from north of the Tees. However, despite allying themselves with the Dublin Norse, the Danes were defeated by Aethelflaed and her husband Aethelred of Mercia in 909-10 and the Great Northern Army was never again to take he initiative against the English. Though the Norse temporarily occupied Bernicia, Aethelflaed's victories at the Mersey, Derby and Leicester and her brother King Edward's conquests forced all the northern kings, including Ragnald of York, to submit to the English. Bernicia was returned to its English rulers. Ragnald's successor, Sihtric, tried to rebel, but this resulted in King Athelstan taking over Northumbria in 927. A joint uprising of Britons, Scots and Vikings against Athelstan resulted in a famous and decisive English victory at Brunanburh in 937.

However, when Athelstan died in 939, Olaf of Dublin made himself King of York (939-944) - but he was confined to York and required to convert to Christianity and concede superiority to Athelstan's successor, King Edmund. Another northern rebellion on Edmund's death in 946 was put down by his successor King Eadred. York retained separatist ambitions though, and elected Eric Bloodaxe as King in 948 - but then lost its nerve and sued for peace. Eric was reinstated in 952, only to be killed on Stainmore in 954. Henceforth the Kingdom of York recognised the English kings as its overlords.

The English kings, knowing they were in military control of York, allowed political compromises - local customs were respected and law making was left in the hands of the local aristocracy. Local ealdormen (later, earls) and the archbishop governed the area.

York was the most Scandinavian part of mainland Britain, and the initial Danish influence, reinforced later by Norse kings lasted (if intermittently) over 80 years. It was culturally a hybrid of English and Scandinavian styles. So it became a part of England yet retained its separate identity and links with the Scandinavian world until 1066.

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Powlesland, D. West Heslerton Settlement Mobility: A Case of Static Development. IN: Geake and Kenny 2000.

Richards, J D. Anglo-Saxon Settlement and Archaeological Visibility in the Yorkshire Wolds. IN: Geake and Kenny 2000.

Loveluck, C P. Development of Anglo-Saxon Landscape, Economy and Society "On Driffield", East Yorkshire, AD 400 - 750. IN: Griffiths, D(ed) Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History, Vol 9. 1996. Oxford University Committee for Archaeology.

Henson, D. The Origins of the Anglo-Saxons. 2006. Anglo-Saxon Books. Ely.

Higham, N. The Kingdom of Northumbria AD 350 - 1100. 1993. Alan Sutton. Stroud.

Manby, T G, Moorhouse, S and Ottaway, P (eds). The Archaeology of Yorkshire: An Assessment at the Beginning of the 21st Century. 2003. Yorkshire Archaeological Society. Huddersfield.

Yorkshire Post, 14th January, 2016.