Where did the Vikings settle in Suffolk?

East Anglia’s landscape has been shaped throughout history by settlers who crossed oceans to claim our wide open spaces and big blue skies.

Suffolk was occupied by the Romans, Anglo-Saxons and eventually the Vikings who made their descent towards the end of the 8th century.

“The English coasts were constantly raided and plundered by the Danes and Norwegians from 789 AD, including the coastline of the kingdom belonging to the East Angles,” says local historian and author Charlie Haylock.

Norse sailors spent many decades raiding our shores and in 869 finally made their way inland via a number of rivers in our region including the Waveney, Stour and Orwell.

During the Viking invasion of Britain, sailors sailed up the coast to Suffolk. The Shotley Peninsula (pictured) was once the scene of a bloody battle between Danes and Saxons and Angles
– Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

“They started attacking inland and then branching out inland. Thetford was taken in 869 and in the same year King Edmund was captured and martyred at Hoxne.

Evidence of the Vikings in these settlements can be seen to this day. For example, there is a memorial to King Edmund in the village of Hoxne which marks the spot where he was killed.

The monument of St Edmund in Hoxne

The monument of St Edmund in Hoxne
– Credit: Bob Kindred

“And by the end of that year Suffolk had succumbed to the Great Dane Army and become part of the Kingdom of Guthrum.”

According to Charlie, Guthrum translates from an Old Norse warrior nickname for “battle serpent” and is the derivation of the East Anglian surnames Gooderham, Goodram, Gutheram and a number of other variations.

“The kingdom of Gutherum would include the territory previously held by the East Angles (Norfolk and Suffolk in 869, and Cambridgeshire was taken in 874), as well as the territories held by the East Saxons (which is now present-day Essex).”

Charlie adds that the Vikings gradually pushed to the Somerset Levels in the West Country.

“The King of West Saxony (Wessex) Alfred the Great managed to raise an army consisting of Saxons and a large number of Angles – so much so that Alfred called his army ‘English’ rather than Saxon, and was able to push the Dane back.

And in 885, off the coast of the Shotley Peninsula, Alfred won a very bloody sea battle. Many lives were lost on both sides, but the Danes withdrew.

“That’s why there is an area on the Shotley Peninsula today known as ‘Bloody Point’,” adds Charlie.

Additionally, Shotley Primary School’s logo is a Viking longboat – paying homage to the Scandi tribesmen of yesteryear.

“After this battle, King Alfred negotiated with the Danes, and in 886 Danelaw was agreed.”

Danelaw refers to the area of ​​England that the Danes ruled, dominating the Anglo-Saxons. It contrasted West Saxon law with Mercian law.

“A rough line has been drawn on the Essex side of London and zigzagging northwest across the country to just north of the River Mersey. Everything south of this line would be controlled by the English, and everything north of this line was controlled by the Danes. And Suffolk and Norfolk were to be ruled by Danes for even more decades. »

However, around 50 years later, the Anglo-Saxon king Æthelstan ignored Danelaw and united all of England under English rule.

“In 937 he ruled the whole of the British and Irish Isles, and Suffolk was back under English rule.”

The Shotley Peninsula viewed from the banks of the River Orwell

The Shotley Peninsula viewed from the banks of the River Orwell
– Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

But in 1016, the Danes, under King Cnut (anglicised to canut), reclaimed theirs – and all of the British and Irish Isles were under Danish rule. This continued even after the death of King Cnut in 1035.

Danish rule ended in 1047, but once Edward the Confessor took the throne. Son of Æthelred the Unready and Emma of Normandy, he re-established the House of Wessex.

“And some historians have taken the view that he was the first king of England with Norman connections,” Charlie adds.

Edward the Confessor died in 1066, and that year England had four kings on the throne – the last being William the Conqueror who was crowned on Christmas Day.

“During the period between 869 and 1047, Suffolk and Norfolk were under Danish Viking rule for about 100 years. And it’s no wonder that East Anglia has many place names with Viking roots. A number of regional dialect words also derive from Old Norse, the language of the Vikings as well.

The panel of the village of Eyke, which represents an oak tree on the left side.

The panel of the village of Eyke, which represents an oak tree on the left side. The name ‘Eyke’ comes from the Old Norse ‘eik’, which means ‘oak’
– Credit: Geographer

9 Suffolk Dialect Words and Place Names of Viking Origin

– ‘Dag’, which means ‘dew’, and comes from the Old Norse word ‘dagg’.

– ‘Dinje’, which means ‘misty rain’, or ‘drizzle’. It comes from the Old Norse word “dyngja”, which means “to rain”.

– ‘Eyke’ in East Suffolk, comes from Old Norse ‘eik’, meaning ‘oak’. This place name could refer to the nearby forest of Staverton, composed mainly of oak trees.

– The ‘beck’ in ‘Gosbeck’ comes from Old Norse ‘bekke’, meaning ‘a stream’.

– ‘Hulver’, which is a holly or bush, and comes from Old Norse ‘hulfr’.

– ‘Kirkley’ near Lowestoft means ‘church by the forest’ and comes from the Old Norse word ‘kirkja’ (‘church’) and the Old English word ‘leah’ (‘clearing’).

– ‘Marram’, which is a type of grass or seaweed found on the shores here in Suffolk. It comes from the Old Norse word ‘maralmr’, which is a compound of marr (‘sea’) and halmr (‘straw’, ‘reed’).

– ‘Rucks’, which are deep ruts made by carts, comes from the Old Norse ‘hrukka’ which means ‘ride’, or ‘bend’.

– ‘Thwaite’ means ‘wooded glade’ and comes from the Old Norse ‘thveit’ which means ‘wooded glade’.

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