Northumberland Holidays
Northumberland Holidays
Before 440
440 - 789
789 - 1000
1000 - 1400
1400 - 1700
After 1700
The History of Northumberland 1000 - 1400

St Mary's Island and Lighthouse, Whitley Bay Northumbria in the Middle Ages
In the years before 1066, power struggles within England were as great a threat to the country's stability as the continuing hostility of a succession of Viking kings. The presence of a large Danish native population contributed to England's troubles. In 1017, King Cnut, himself a Dane, had divided England into four earldoms, East Anglia, Mercia, Wessex and Northumbria. By 1035, Siward, Earl of Northumbria, also a Dane, was one of the most important figures in England.

On Siward's death in 1055, Tostig, brother of Harold, Earl of Wessex, inherited the Earldom of Northumbria. Following a rebellion, Tostig was ousted from Northumbria in 1065 and thereafter sided with the Norsemen. When Edward the Confesser died on 5 January, Tostig's brother, Harold, was crowned king.

That summer, Tostig aided a Norse invasion of Northumbria. Harold was forced to take his army north and defeated the Norse army at the battle of Stamford Bridge on 25 September. Tostig and the Norse king were both killed, but the damage was done. Duke William of Normandy landed his army at Pevensey just three days later on 28 September. Harold marched his army south and met the Normans at Hastings on 14 October. Exhausted and ill-prepared, the English army were defeated and Harold, the last of the Anglo-Saxon kings, was slain on the field, his eye pierced by a Norman arrow. Duke William was crowned King of England on Christmas Day 1066.

In the centuries after 1066, the Normans imposed their own culture and kings upon England. It is intriguing to think that had Northumbria not distracted Harold from the threat in the south, the Norman Conquest might not have succeeded and the whole course of history might have been altered.

Northumbria's troubles during the remainder of the medieval period were far from ended. A rebellion against Duke William by Mowbray, the first Norman Earl of Northumberland was put down in 1095. Northumberland initially espoused the cause of the Empress Matilda against King Stephen, culminating in a joint Northumbrian and Scots army being defeated at the Battle of the Standard near Northallerton in 1138.

There were a great many incursions into Northumberland by the Scots, including one in 1297 by the great Scots patriot, William Wallace. Northumbrian invasions of Scotland include the ravaging of the lands of the Earl of March and the siege of Berwick Castle in 1377. In 1388, the Scots and Northumbrian armies met at the Battle of Otterburn, in the aftermath of which Hostpur, famous son of the 4th Earl of Northumberland, was taken prisoner and ransomed.

The constant feuds, raids and wars across the Scottish border by both sides are the subject of countless folk ballads and stories, but the physical evidence of these turbulent times still exists today in the vast number of fortified castles to be found within the county. The likes of Washington Old Hall (despite its later Jacobite appearance) and the castles of Bamburgh, Dunstanburgh and Alnwick can all trace their origins back to this period.

Saturday 25 November 2017