Viking Cheshire

From the 5th century onwards (particularly during the Migration Period, 450 - 600 A.D.), there were incursions of Norse peoples, many of whom settled on the Wirral. They came from Scandinavia - present day Norway and Sweden, where reasonably level agricultural land was at a premium. Sites in sea marginal areas of those countries, which had been populated during times of maritime regression, were later abandoned because of rising seawater levels and increased storm surge frequencies. The estuaries of the Dee and Mersey were highways for waterborne invaders.

Invaders from the Norse Country

The Saxon power base spread north and Cheshire was controlled by Mercian Saxons – the Mersey was the boundary of that kingdom, with the Welsh to the west and the Danes of Northumbria to the north and east. Their influence may well have been made stronger by the plague which spread all over the still Romanised Western Europe from about 540, re-occurring sporadically into the late 690s. The Cheshire area was still trading with the remnants of the Romanised European mainland. Ships carried its plague into ports along the British coast. The Saxons traded with the un-Romanised Northern Europe and Scandinavia – they must have escaped the worst of it. Hence why so few Romano-British place names survive; early charters, for example, are almost all Saxon, giving place names like ‘stoc tun’.

From the 8th till the 10th centuries, the Irish Scandinavian colonies sent frequent ships to raid – and settle – in Cheshire; part of West Cheshire was at one time actually controlled by the Norse king Ceowulf. Not only are there Danish placenames on the Wirral, but they even held a ‘thing’ or parliament at Thingwall. Cheshire has been recognised as a county from 920, incidentally.

So add a considerable genetic input to the pot from Scandinavia, Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland.