Posted by: kljolly | February 28, 2012

Exploring Cumbria

I am beginning my pilgrimage around Cumbria, looking for sites Aldred might have visited or known.  Perhaps he lived there at one point or another, before signing up at  Chester-le-Street circa 950 in the Lindisfarne Gospel‘s gloss and colophon.  Or perhaps he traveled in Cumbria with his bishop, visiting religious estates still in their purview (Carlisle, for example).

However, I am finding the history of Cumbria in the tenth century quite daunting, even more confusing than Northumbria in this period, although Esmeralda and Senchus blog sites are encouraging me to persist.  The main problem for both Northumbria and Cumbria in the early part of the tenth century is the profusion and confusion of competing rulers–Scottish, Northumbrian, West Saxon, vikings from different directions–and the fluid nature of ethnic  affiliations (British, Pictish, Saxon, Irish, Scandinavian) evident in place names and styles of art.

So while I am still working through the timeline for the tenth century players in Cumbria (finding Tim Clarkson’s Men of the North and Richard Bailey’s Viking Age Sculpture very useful), I started examining the landscape via Google and created a map (click to see it full size).

Cumbrian sites

My first point of entry was Workington because this is the site on the Derwent from which Cuthbert’s body was launched on the aborted attempt to take him to Ireland after leaving Lindisfarne to the vikings and “wandering” for seven years (875-883).  Aldred might very well have visited the church of St. Michael on the estuary, although clearly much modern land-filling has changed the shoreline.

I am also looking for a likely village site where Aldred might have lived or served, one that might have suffered a viking raid.  The Eden valley running southeast of Carlisle is looking promising.  Appleby that I marked on the map is interesting because place names show the vikings taking less “attractive” land on the south side, versus Anglian place names on the better, and earlier developed, north side (Clarkson, pp. 38-39, citing Fellows Jensen).

To get Aldred to and around in  Cumbria, I need to overlay the Roman roads.  While it seems obvious to run Aldred along Hadrian’s Wall along the military road, if only to see the Ruthwell and Bewcastle crosses, I am fascinated by St. Bee’s and want to work something in there.

Where to begin….



Clarkson, Tim.  The Men of the North:  The Britons of Southern Scotland.  Edinburgh:  John Donald, 2010.

Bailey, Richard N.  Viking Age Sculpture in Northern Britain.  London:  Collins, 1980.


  1. […] Jolly of Revealing Words is exploring Cumbria for locations for her […]

  2. You’re right about the confusion of tenth-century Cumbria, Karen. I don’t think a clear picture – or even a scholary consensus – will emerge anytime soon. But it’s an interesting puzzle nonetheless, and I am sure Aldred will find his way around it.

    Your mention of likely village sites prompts me to suggest Nick Higham’s book ‘The Northern Counties to AD 1000’ (1986) which is a good source for the landscape history of early medieval Cumbria. Another is Deirdre O’Sullivan’s ‘Pre-Conquest settlement patterns in Cumbria’, her chapter in ‘Studies in Late Anglo-Saxon Settlement’ (edited by Margaret Faull, 1984). Maybe you’ve seen these already?

    Thinking about additional Cumbrian sites for your map, the church at Dacre(Bede’s ‘Dacore’) has 10th-century sculpture from the Northumbrian monastery, while further east along the River Eamont is Lowther which I think could be the mysterious ‘Loida’ of the Life of St Cathroe (c.980).

    I’m looking forward to the next update on your pilgrimage.

  3. Thanks, Tim, for the references and other sites to explore. I will grab both volumes, both of which are familiar from earlier research (before my new interest in Cumbria), but not on my shelf.

  4. […] new post at Revealing Words, her blog about tenth-century Northumbria. The post is an update on her search for sites in Cumbria possibly visited by the Northumbrian priest Aldred, a member of the community of St Cuthbert. As […]

  5. Testing…

  6. […] my first day of three perambulating around tenth-century Cumbria, I am considering a westward route from my base in Penrith, along the […]

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