North Craven in the Early-Medieval Period

David Johnson started his talk to us (18 March 2016) by placing the North Craven area in its geographical, historical, ethnic and linguistic context. This context is very complex and difficult to disentangle. The area became a part of the kingdom of Northumbria and by the c.8th. it was said that a woman and her child could pass safely from sea to sea thus implying that from Northumberland on the east coast to Furness and West Cumbria to the River Esk at Ravenglass, were all under Northumbrian control.

The name Craven is probably originally a pre-Saxon word and at that time probably referred to a greater area than does the present day administrative district. David then took us through the place-name evidence for clues as to the “ethnic”/linguistic make-up of the people. There are Old English names such as Settle and Langcliffe; Old Norse, Hiberno Norse as well as Old Irish e.g. Ireby is a hybridisation with Ire referring to Irish and “by” old Norse for a place;. also Ireton, the first element referring to Irish and ton the Old English word for settlement. There are Old West Scandinavian names as well as Danish but also many pre Saxon words; probably British. However most of the geographical nomenclature is of Norse origin.

There were six post-Roman ‘polities’ in this area. Loidis from which Leeds is derived. Elmet -the place name Sherburn in Elmet still exists. Regione Dunutinge the administrative unit of possibly, the people of Dunut. Craves/Cravescire a small shire similar to Blackburnshire  Rheged. Centred on Carlisle.

There have not been many previously known early mediaeval sites in the Craven area indeed it has recently been claimed that there are no Anglo- Saxon period sites discovered in the North -West. David strongly refutes this and presented his evidence. Previously known early mediaeval sites include the so-called priest’s house on Malham moor and the Ribblehead “Viking ” settlement. There have also been  finds at various cave sites e.g. The Arncliffe amulet canister that is thought to be Anglo-Saxon and the Sulber gryke burial, evidence from which has been dated to AD 668-775. These are non-settlement sites.

He then discussed the “Viking” house at Ribblehead. He believes that this settlement sites predates the Danes as the coin finds  were minted about 860.AD. He agrees it is a longhouse but is it a “longhouse”? There is a door at each end and a hearth-Viking longhouses usually only have one door. There are two other smaller houses on this site, one possibly a kitchen the other a workroom.

There have been four new sites identified in Craven. Clapham Bottom which has a huge enclosure containing  two buildings both rectangular but one much smaller than the other. This site has been dated to 660-780.   Upper Pasture near Horton in Ribblesdale. This  is near the gryke burial and contains a small rectangular structure with a cross-wall and charcoal  dated between 660 and at the outside 740-780. This proves that this settlement is Anglo-Saxon period.   Brown’s Pasture has earthworks consisting of a complex of farmsteads and rectangular structures.  They had very wide walls and the corners on the outside were curved but internally were right-angled. One structure contained an Anglo-Saxon coin.  Crummack dale has three clusters in the the same style as Brown’s Pasture settlement and charcoal there has been dated to the same period as the previous sites.  David believes that all these buildings can be deduced to have been built to the standard Anglian short perch measurement which he believes is further proof that they are Anglo-Saxon period structures. David ended his talk by referring to documentary evidence for non-Viking ownership of land in the area in the 11thc. and earlier grants of estates e,g. to St. Wilfrid in Yeadon and Amounderness; and also the distribution of Anglo-Saxon crosses.

This was a most thought provoking talk in which much evidence was produced to show that there was Anglo Saxon period settlement in this district although it cannot be proven that they were necessarily ethnic Anglo-Saxons.  There is probably a lot more to be found and much more research to be done.

(Report by Jeanette Dobson)

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