Anyone that has visited York will know that it is a beautiful city steeped in so much history that visitors require weeks to explore all that York has to offer. From the majestic Minster to it's quaint cobbled streets York is one of the most historic cities in the UK. Here we take a look at York in terms of their Viking history, when the Vikings came, how, why and what the influences are that remain in York today.
Who Were The Vikings?
The Vikings were Scandinavian sea faring warriors, some would say pirates who raided many parts of Britain in the 8th century AD, taking over towns, destroying monasteries and plundering them of their many resources. The Vikings were fishermen and farmers who for most of the year stayed in their native Scandinavia. In the summer months however the Vikings would set sail in order to raid or trade with lands over the sea, while in many cases they would take over an area staying on and settling bringing Viking culture to foreign places.
The Vikings and York
The Vikings began to really make their mark in Britain by the 9th century with settlements popping up far and wide. The Viking invasion of York took place on November 1st 866 and was led by Ivar The Boneless who along with King Halfden shared out land and renamed the place Jorvik.
The Vikings who settled in York were in the main a peace loving bunch despite what we read about their bloody campaigns. They farmed the land, while Jorvik became an important river port being involved in trading making it a vital link to Europe.
Evidence that has been found through archeological digs shows how the Vikings were great craftsmen, traders, artists, engineers and ship builders with many of their communities following Christian teachings rather than being savages. The Vikings were very creative people who made their own pottery and leather goods, while Viking blacksmiths made superb swords, knives and spurs for horsemen.
Over the one hundred years that York was under Viking rule the city prospered greatly, while we can thank the Vikings in part for the beautiful historic place York is today. The last Viking King to rule in York was the infamous Eric Bloodaxe who was expelled in 954.
While walking through the streets of York today evidence of its Viking heritage are apparent on every street corner. Many of the street names end in the word "gate" such as Coppergate, Mickelgate and Castlegate. The word gate in Viking means street, therefore every time we look at a street name containing "gate" we know the name is of Viking origin.
The Vikings also built many houses in Jorvik being constructed in long lines much like our terraced houses today. They were of timber construction, while behind the houses were yards where the Vikings built workshops. Archeological digs throughout the city have unearthed evidence of textile studios, jewellery, woodwork and metal workshops, while items from the length and breadth of Britain plus from as far away as Arabia have been discovered alongside each other too.
Many churches were built in York during the Viking era including St Olaves on Marygate, a church dedicated to Saint Olaf, who was a Norwegian king and St Mary on Bishophill. Today there is a superb museum, The Jorvik Centre built on the site where one very important dig took place and visitors can see evidence of Viking York in all its glory. Everything to do with Viking life can be seen here in the form of wonderful tableaux and scenes that depict life as it was back then.