"From the earliest times, wherever he has settled, man has given human significance to the principle physical features of his environment. By giving an individual name to neighbouring farms and villages, and hills, valleys, streams and woods in the locality, the members of a community were able to identify them precisely to their common advantage."(Thurlow, 1979: 6)

In relation to the past invasions and settlement of the British Isles, it is conjectured that the major dialect areas are linked to the different linguistic backgrounds and settlement patterns of the in-migrating tribes.

These pages are devoted only to the question of settlement and focus on the invasions of the Celts, Anglo-Saxons and Scandinavians. Although the influence of Norman-French on the, spelling, pronunciation, and vocabulary of English was widespread, particularly in relation to place-names, as Gelling (1988) observes, such influence must be viewed in terms of bureaucratic administration rather than one of settlement. Accordingly, post-Conquest occupancy of Yorkshire is not an issue for discussion here

Ironically, in contrast to that of the Anglo-Saxons, details of the Norman invasion are comparatively well recorded. As Cameron (1988) remarks, documentary evidence of this Germanic invasion is "vague and unsatisfactory". Frequently, such evidence is not available at all. How then is it possible to detect ancient settlement patterns when they occurred so long ago?

The consensus of opinion (e.g. Crystal, 1995: Cameron, 1988; Loyn, 1962) appears to be that the study of place-names (toponomastics), linked to other academic disciplines such as archaeology, history, sociology etc., provides a reliable method of establishing who settled where.

The following pages are divided into four sections. The first section provides a general overview of place-name research. Where possible, the provision of etymological examples has been confined to locations within the boundaries of Yorkshire. It should be noted that discussion of these etymologies has necessarily involved the employment of a small number of grammatical terms. These, on their initial appearance, are shown in red and an explanation of the term may be accessed by simply pointing to the text.

Sections two, three and four examine the settlement patterns of the Celts, Angles, Danes and Norwegians. In each case, the chronology of settlement and the fate of the indigenous population are explored.

The reader who is unfamiliar with the fundamentals of place-name research may find it useful to refer to the first section before continuing.



Cameron, K. (1988) English Place-Names, Fourth Edition, London: B.T. Batsford Ltd.

Crystal, D. (1995) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gelling, M. (1988) Signposts to the Past, Second Edition, Chichester: Phillimore

Loyn, H. R. (1962) Anglo-Saxon England and the Norman Conquest, London: Longmans, Green and Co Ltd.

Thurlow, W. (1979) Yorkshire Place-Names, Clapham, North Yorkshire: The Dalesman Publishing Co.Ltd.