In my previous post on Aldred’s family, I concluded with locating Aldred’s birth circa 920 at the Easington estate center granted by the community of St. Cuthbert to Alfred, son of Brihtwulf. I also thought of making his mother Tilwif, sister of Tilred, abbot of Heversham who also fled to the Northumbrian territories of St. Cuthbert and later became abbot of the community at Chester-le-Street.
My follow up question is finding the location in Cumbria from which Alfred fled “pirates” westward over the mountains. My first thought was the Eden valley, rich in sculptural and place name evidence for Anglian and Scandinavian presence; it also connects to Northumbria via the trans-Pennine pass from Stainmore. My second thought, given the “pirate” reference in Alfred’s story, is the valley of Kent where Heversham is, a likely port of entry for Irish Norse “pirates.”
Irish Norse were driven out of Dublin circa 901-902 and began harrying the British coast. Ingimund, for example, harried from Wales to Chester and beyond, settling in the Wirral between the Dee and Mersey with a mix of Norse, Danes, and Irish. However, over the course of the first two decades of the tenth century, Æthelflæd Lady of the Mercians (and her brother King Edward), fortified, invaded, and negotiated stronger borders. The Mercians and Wessex took back control of the Wirral with settlements on their terms, most notably at Chester. Meanwhile, Ragnall fought a battle off of the Isle of Man in 914, but eventually took York, battled the Scots at Corbridge in 918, and settled with Edward in 920.
This activity suggests that Irish Norse may have sought ports northward in Cumbria, causing Anglians in Cumbria like Alfred, Tilred, and Eadred to flee westward over the mountains to the safety of the community of St. Cuthbert’s Northumbrian estates. Within Cumbria, the southern coastline seems more likely for the the point of departure over the mountains (and we at least know Tilred came from Heversham in the south). North of St. Bee’s to Workington and the Carlisle area, the picture is a bit different where the Strathclyde Britons are active, initially allying with Scots and Anglians against the Scandinavian incursions (until at least 920; by 926 their alliances shift to incorporating Scandinavians).
The Kent River valley is probably better as a location for Alfred than the Eden Valley, not only for fleeing pirates but also to maintain his connection to his imagined brother–in-law Tilred at Heversham. However, I want to keep my links to Eden valley somehow.
The Kent River Valley leads into Morecambe Bay, with Tilred’s monastery at Heversham sitting near the northeast head. Further into the valley lies Kendal, a possible estate center for Alfred. Kendal and Heversham, Bailey notes (p. 80), are unusual as the only two sites in Cumbria showing a break in the continuity of Anglian to Scandinavian sculptural evidence; and the Kent valley shows a high incidence of Gaelic-Norse and Norwegian names. If indeed that sculptural discontinuity can be connected to Tilred’s flight from Heversham, then imagining Alfred abandoning Kendal would match. The Kendal church of the Holy Trinity has evidence of Saxon foundations and a fragment of a ninth-century Anglian cross.
The Eden Valley, on the other hand, has numerous attractions, if not for Alfred fleeing pirates, then perhaps for the third Anglian fleeing Cumbrian in the HSC, Eadred son of Ricsige. The Eden Valley connects Carlisle in the northwest, runs southeast all the way to Stainmore and the trans-Pennine crossing to Northumbria, the route presumed taken by those fleeing. It also has numerous sites of sculptural and place name evidence for British, Anglian, and Scandinavian presence (see Bailey and Fellows-Jensen), as well as historic events: Penrith, Dacre, Eamont, Appleby, and my favorite, Kirkby Stephen. In this image, you can also see Kendal in the Kent valley just to the south.
Kirkby Stephen is interesting for its transition from Anglian to Scandinavian settlement. On the surface, the name Kirkby identifies it as Scandinavian (-by names), but as Fellows-Jensen notes (pp. 77-80), the Scandinavians would rename a place Kirk (church)-by because it already had a church when they got there. So it was presumably an Anglian vill long before, and after is known to have included the surrounding townships of Waitby, Nateby, and Soulby in its parish.
Even more interesting is the Scandinavian sculptural fragment showing a bound figure.
Tempting as it is to identify it as Loki of Scandinavian legend and hence evidence of “paganism,” Bailey (pp. 138-39) is right to point out that it could easily be Satan (or a heretic) in Christian iconography, or both synergistically combined as is often found in Scandinavian Christian monuments (see Gosforth).
So, I guess I should put Aldred’s father Alfred and mother Tilwin at Kendal in the Kent Valley, but perhaps have them travel through the Eden Valley via Kirkby Stephen, perhaps interacting with Eadred son of Ricsige there. Later, Aldred can make a tour through his parent’s old stomping grounds.
Bailey, Richard N. Viking Age Sculpture in Northern Britain. London: Collins, 1980.
Fellows-Jensen, Gillian. “Scandinavian Settlement in Cumbria and Dumfriesshire: The Place Name Evidence.” In The Scandinavians in Cumbria, ed. John R. Baldwin and Ian D. Whyte. Edinburgh: Scottish Society for Northern Studies, 1985), pp. 65-82.