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History of York
Late Saxon Times

After the English re-established control of the North, Northumbria became an English province of Wessex; but, for the most part, life continued as normal in York and the rest of the region. The Wessex kings were in a strong position and could afford to compromise. Local Danish customs were respected and law-making left in the hands of the local aristocracy, thus ensuring existing property rights. Taxes were paid at York in Danish carucates and local government continued to be based on the wapentake not the hundred. Though the English Kings rarely visited, they favoured the York mint and it became an important centre of die-cutting as well as striking.

Power in Northumbria was devolved on an Ealdorman (or Jarl), often chosen from the High-Reeves of Bamburgh or noblemen south of the Humber. The Ealdormen moved their palace to the western part of the city of York where, what became the precincts of St. Mary's Abbey, was known as Earlsburgh. St. Olave's Church was their private chapel and here is recorded the burial of Earl Siward Digera (the Stout) in 1055. The Archbishops also began to take a role in government and Wulfstan II, at least, was an active judge. High-Reeves or Holds also appear to have been appointed from amongst the important Viking merchants of York. Trade and manufacturing continued to flourish in the city, as workshops grew basements and additional warehouses, and Scandinavian culture lived on until the Norman Conquest.

Despite events such as the St. Brice's Day Massacre of 1002, the rich Viking merchants of York seem to have been reasonably contented with English dominance. However, they were not beyond a little political intrigue. Ealdorman Uhtred of Northumbria thought to keep in with them by marrying the daughter of a Danish High-Reeve of York named Styr Ulfson. However, he only appears to have succeeded in alienating another named Thurbrand the Hold. This man reappears in York's history after the invasions of King Svein Forkbeard of Denmark in 1013. Not surprisingly, the people of York quickly submitted along with the rest of Northumbria and thus avoided Danish attack. Thurbrand helped Svein's son, Canute, to take the English throne when the Saxons had gained the upper hand once more in 1016. Moving on Uhtred at York, Canute called for peace negotiations, then had Thurbrand murder the defenceless Ealdorman. Northumbria fell and before long Canute had taken the whole of England. The York Vikings were probably not sorry.

Later, just prior to the Norman Invasion of Britain in 1066, the north of the country was also invaded, by the Norse under King Harold Hardrada. The Northumbrian militia was defeated at the Battle of Fulford on the outskirts of York, but the Vikings were later crushed at Stamford Bridge. King Harold II celebrated in style in the city.

  

    Nash Ford Publishing 2001. All Rights Reserved.