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History of York
Dark Age Times

After AD 410, when the Roman army and administration abandoned Britain to defend beleaguered Rome, the city of Eboracum appears to have become largely abandoned. Excavations suggest depopulation due to increased flooding in the city and the Ouse bridge may has been swept away around AD 450. There was, however, still occupation in some areas of old Roman York and it seems likely that Caer-Ebrauc, as it apparently became known by the Romano-British Celts, remained as a prestigious Royal centre - though the palace is, so far, unlocated. Ancient Welsh genealogies indicate that a local York family seized power at this time in the North - with their home city as capital. The founder, one Coel Hen (the Old) - the 'Old King Cole' of Nursery Rhyme fame - may have been the last Dux Britanniarum or military commander of late Roman Britain. Traditionally, Coel's authority in the region passed to his descendants who were almost certainly Christian. They ruled from York for another five generations, though the kingdom itself reduced in size as it was sub-divided amongst multiple sons in the traditional British fashion.

The mid-fifth century saw these Kings of Ebrauc fighting alongside Anglian mercenaries to keep Pictish invaders away from the city. Continuing the old Roman policy, these Germanic warriors were granted farmland in return for military service. The men of Angeln (in modern Denmark) settled mostly in Deywr - what is now East Yorkshire - but there were others who stayed in York itself. Anglo-Roman pottery has been discovered at the Mount in York, while Germanic cremations excavated at Heworth, only a mile from the Roman fortress, show a large Roman cemetery continuing in use through an unbroken sequence into later centuries. Life alongside these new settlers appears to have been quite peaceful. About a hundred years later, however, King Eliffer Gosgorddfawr (of the Great Army) felt obliged to muster a large armed troop around him - probably at York - in order to ensure that this state of affairs continued. There were more hostile Germanic forces emerging to the north of his territory, on the edge of the British Kingdom of Bryneich (Northumberland). When Eliffer's twin sons, Gwrgi and Peredyr Arueu Dur (Steel-Arms) clashed with these foreign Bernicians around AD 580, at the unlocated Caer-Greu, both were killed, along with much of the Ebraucan nobility. The Germanic settlers of Deywr - or Deira as they themselves knew the Kingdom - not unnaturally, moved into the subsequent power-vacuum in the area. The protectors of Peredyr's young son felt it best to flee and York quickly fell under Anglian control.

Next: Anglian Times


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