VIKINGS – in England [1] 

Julius Caesar first landed on the shore of England in 55 BC and ‘Roman Britain’ is said to be that period

Anglo-Saxon Homelands and Settlements

when the South East of England was controlled by the Roman Empire from 43 AD to 410 AD in which it attained the status of the Roman Province of Britannia.[2]     

The end of Roman rule in Britain facilitated Anglo, Saxon and Jute settlements, which historians often regard as the origin of England and of the English people. The Anglo-Saxon-Jute collection of various Germanic peoples, established several kingdoms that became the primary powers in present-day England and parts of southern Scotland. They introduced the Old English language, which largely displaced the previous British language. The Anglo-Saxons warred with British states in western Britain and Old North Brittonic-speaking parts of northern Britain, as well as they fought against each other.[2][3]

The Vikings burst quite suddenly into European history in the last decade of the eighth century with a series of terrifying attacks on the coast of Britain, Ireland and Francia. For centuries, their Scandinavian homeland had been a remote region about which other Europeans knew little or care less.[4]

At the time of the first Viking raids, strong rulers such as the Frankish Emperor Charlemagne and King

The Great Heathen Army

Offa of Marcia in Britain had brought Western Europe to a level of peace and prosperity it had not enjoyed since the fall of the Roman Empire. Ports, towns and monasteries were undefended. The unexpected attacks of the Scandinavian pirates were deeply shocking in that the Vikings were pagans, and as such recognized none of the excepted taboos that protected the property and personnel of the Church in times of war between Christians. The mobility of their fast seaward ships made the Viking attacks doubly terrifying as they could strike almost without warning anywhere on the coast or on navigable rivers. The first raiders attacked coastal communities and monasteries to acquire portable wealth and captives for ransom or the slave market. Later, conquest and settlement became more important motives for the Viking attacks. The period of Viking activity lasted about 300 years, from roughly 789 to 1100 AD. In that time the Vikings played a decisive role in the development of much of western and eastern Europe, and were themselves transformed from pagan barbarians to Christian Europeans.[4][5]

Prior to the first Viking invasion, England was divided into kingdoms, each with their own king; Wessex to the south, Northumbria to the north with Mercia in the middle and East Anglia to the east. The Great Heathen Army [6] invaded East Anglia in 865 and the kingdom bought peace by giving the invaders horses. The army had no trouble moving from place to place on the Roman roads and in 866 moved north and occupied the town of York in Northumbria. In 867 the two rival Kings band together to retake York, but were defeated and both Kings were killed. The original kingdom of Northumberland died with them and by 876 York had become the capital of a new Viking Kingdom.[4]

In 867 the Danes made an incursion into Mercia and a joint force of Mercia-Wessex defeated them at

England 878

Nottingham (the only time one an Anglo-Saxon King helped another against the Danes) and the Danes withdrew back to York. The Danes returned to East Anglia in 869, where they defeated and killed King Edmund, bringing a second Anglo-Saxon kingdom under their control and ending the Kingdom of East Anglia as the area was thereafter incorporated into other kingdoms.[4][9]    

In 873 the main army split as one half had to retreat to York to quell a local revolt against the new Danish laws while the other half went on to fight for more territory in Wessex. Some of the Danish army turned their swords in for ploughs and as early as 876 started settling in the Kingdom of York along with local farmers, while the main army continued to battle in Wessex and Mercia to expand their area of influence. In 877 more Danes settled further south around Cambridge and East Anglia. By 878 the area in which the laws of the Danes dominated Anglo-Saxon law had expanded to most of the eastern part of England and the area was known simply as ‘Danelaw’.[4][7]

The entire region was then dominated by skirmishes and battles, both large and small during the reign of Alfred the Great, who was originally King of Wessex and then expanded over timer to King of the Anglo-Saxon areas of England.  He won several decisive battles after which the Danes retreated back to their Danelaw area. Alfred was instrumental in the conversion of the Viking leader, Guthrum, to Christianity. Alfred began to fortify towns (called burh) and villages against Viking attacks and after his death in 899, his son Edward the Elder raised an army and in 909 sacked York, the center of the Danish Kingdom. The Danes lost their advantage as they were no longer a cohesive army because many had become settlers, with crops to tend and homes to defend. The entire area became a series of battles won and lost with Wessex annexing the English part of Mercia and the Vikings retaking the Kingdom of York and Earldom of Northumbria and set up a ‘land tax’ in the areas they controlled. The Danes established a base on the Isle of Wight from where they attacked Wessex and Kent. Viking Invaders kidnapping and demanding payment (called Danegeld) from kingdoms and churches. It has been estimated that the Vikings eventually took home over 100 tons of silver from these payments. [4][6][7][8]    

Cnut the Great’s Domain c.1030

            

When Scandinavia emerged from the era of Chiefdoms at the end of the 8th century, the Danes were politically the most advanced of all of Scandinavia. The King of Denmark dominated an area much larger than modern Denmark. It is therefore not surprising that the Danish Prince Cnut (later known as Cnut the Great) took over as King of England in 1016 and was crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury in London in 1017. Cnut ascended to the Danish throne in 1018 and claimed the Norwegian throne in 1028, becoming the King of England, Denmark and Norway until the time of his death in 12 Nov 1035 (age 45). He was buried in Winchester and his bones now are in Winchester Cathedral in Hampshire County, England. [4][9]

Vikings were pagans and their old gods of Thor, Odin and Freyr lived on in Scandinavia long after much of Europe had embraced Christianity. Scandinavian Paganism did not have a systematic theology like Christianity, and lacked concepts of good and evil and the afterlife. Interaction with their gods involved the performance of rituals, observation of sacrifices and participating in festivals. There was no religious leader so it was up to the King or local chieftain to make sure the rituals and festivals were observed. Like other Pagan regions, their gods ruled over different aspects of their lives. Excavation has found that some graves contain everyday objects, weapons, tools, horses and wagons, indicating that some believed that afterlife continued in the grave. Before the Viking age, the dominant burial practice was cremation in Scandinavia and the remains were either placed in and urn and buried or scattered. During the Viking age the practice changed to burials in Denmark and parts of Sweden. However, this was not a fixed rule as current excavations have not established a fixed pattern. Ship burials have been located in many parts in Denmark, Norway and northern Sweden.[4][10]

Lindholm Høje

Lindholm Høje (Lindholm Hill/Mound) is a major Viking burial and settlement site which overlooks the city of Aalborg in northern Jutland, Denmark. The site dates back to 1000 AD and oddly enough it was lost as sand had blown in to cover it over until excavation began in 1952 and is now a museum. Stones were placed around the gravesite to form the outline of a Viking ship.[4][10]

The Viking age was a period of prosperity in Scandinavia. Most Scandinavians lived a peaceful, rural, agricultural life, but wealth was created by the Vikings trading and raiding which boosted the economy. The population was on the rise and new villages were founded and the area under cultivation increased. Scandinavia’s first towns were developed and the medieval kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden and Norway emerged. During this period, Scandinavia saw the conversion to Christianity as the Vikings brought home the concept from their many travels throughout the Northern Hemisphere. [4][10]            

 

NOTES:  Sources and Suggested Reading

  1. The purpose of this page is to show the extent in which the Vikings settled in the eastern part of England and that it is logical to assume that John Fuller of Newton could have descended from one of those settlers. Also please note that we only described the Viking activities in England and did not explore Viking activities in other parts of the Northern Hemisphere. John Fuller of Newton was born in Suffolk County, England which is part of historic East Anglia. 
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Britain and https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofBritain/Timeline-of-Roman-Britain/
  3. Jean Manco, The Origins of the Anglo-Saxons, London, 2019, 114, 118. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_England and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angles   and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saxons  and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jutes  and  https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryMagazine/DestinationsUK/AngloSaxonSites/
  4. John Haywood, The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings, London, 1995, 8, 26, 34, 54, 62, 68, 110, 120.
  5. Magnus Magnusson, The Vikings, United Kingdom, History Press, 2016, 118-147.

It is the opinion of some historians that the Anglo-Saxon chronicle was first compiled somewhere in Wessex, perhaps in Winchester, in the year 892, encourage and possibly even directly instigated by king Alfred the Great of Wessex (r.871-99). In its initial form it was preoccupied exclusively with the political affairs of the West Saxons, and in particular with King Alfred’s long struggle against the Viking invaders who threatened to overrun his kingdom. What was happening beyond the frontiers of Wessex interested the original Chronicler scarcely at all; for instants he made no reference to the thunderbolt raid on Lindisfarne in Northumbria in 793, which heralded the start of the Viking age for everyone else. Magnus,  118.

  1. A. Giles DC.L. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, London, G. Bell and Sons Ltd., 1914, all.

The work which is commonly known as the Saxon or Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a chronological record of important events, chiefly related to the English race, from the earliest period of the Christian era to the 12th century. It is a composite character, and has been preserved to the present day in the form of six more or less complete ancient manuscripts, some of which appear to be independent of each other though traceable to some common original, whilst others apparently more near the related by obvious similarities. Four of these are in the British Museum, one in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, and another in the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. In addition to these, there is, in the library of Trinity College, Dublin, a copy made in 1563-4, by William Lambard, of a manuscript, which now exists only in the shape of three disfigured leaves. (preface).

The Chronicle is organized by year, with a comment on the activity of that year. Here are some examples of comments by year (AD):

866. This year Ethelred, Ethelbert’s brother, succeeded to the kingdom of the West- Saxons: and the same year a great heathen army came to the land of the English nation, and took up their winter quarters among the East-Angles, and there they were horsed; and the East-Angles made peace with them, 49.

867. This year the army went from East-Anglia over the mouth of the Humber to York in North-humbria. And there was much dissension among that people, and they had cast out their king Osbext, and had taken to themselves a king, AElla, not of royal blood; but late in the year they re-solved that they would fight against the army; and therefore they gathered a large force, and sought the army at the town of York, and stormed the town, and some of them got within, and there was an excessive slaughter made of the North-humbrians, some within, some without, and the kings were both slain: and the remainder made peace with the army. And the same year Bishop Ealstan died; and he had the bishopric of Sherborne fifty years, and his body lies in the town, 49.

868. This year the same army went into Mercia to Nottingham, and there took up their winter quarters. And Burhred king of the Mercians, and his ‘witan,’ begged of Ethelred king of the West- Saxons, and of Alfred his brother, that they would help them, that they might fight against the army. And then they went with the West-Saxon power into Mercia as far as Nottingham, and there met with the army within the fortress; and besieged them therein: but there was no great battle; and the Mercians made peace with the army, 50.

869. This year the army again went to York, and sat there one year, 50.

1005. In this year was the great famine throughout the English nation; such, that no man ever before recollected one so grim. And the fleet in this year went from this land to Denmark; and staid but a little space ere it came again, 95.

1017. In this year king Canute obtained the whole realm of the English race, and divided it into four parts: Wessex to himself, and East-Anglia to Thurkill, and Mercia to Edric, and North-humbria to Eric, 95.

1017. This year Canute was chosen king, 103.

1018. In this year the tribute was delivered throughout the whole English nation; that was altogether, two and seventy thousand pounds, besides that which the townsmen of London paid, which was ten and a half thousand pounds [of silver] and then some of the army went to Denmark, and forty ships remained with king Canute. And the Danes and the Angles agreed, at Oxford, to live under Edgar’s law. And this year abbat Ethelsy died at Abingdon, and Ethelwine succeeded him, 103.

1019. This year king Canute went with forty ships to Denmark, and there abode all the winter, 103.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danelaw and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danegeld
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_the_Great and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burh
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Anglia and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cnut_the_Great
  4. https://www.asncvikingage.com/burial-practices and   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denmark  and  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lindholm_H%C3%B8je