© J.H.Mathieson
Scandinavian Place Names and Surnames The late 8th century witnessed a change in strategy on the part of the Vikings. Rather than seasonal raids aimed at plundering monasteries ringing the Irish Sea, the focus shifted to establishing permanent settlements. The motivation is unclear. It may have resulted from population expansion or the emergence of new political alliances emerging at home. The upshot was that for a period of time in the 9th and 10th century the Danes invaded the east and north of England establishing settlements and political control in the region which later came to be known as the Danelaw. Their settlement names bore either in full, or in part, Scandinavian linguistic elements. Scandinavian Place Names: The most notable of these elements were place names containing by, thorpe and thwaite. by - farmstead or village thorpe - farm, dependent farm or village thwaite - meadow, clearing or paddock A relative settlement chronology of Danish place names was advanced by Professor Kenneth Cameron. His research suggested that aside from places with purely Anglo Saxon forms, those hybrids with a genitive Danish prefix and a Saxon suffix, were settled early, and on better soil, likely reflecting the transfer of ownership from Anglo Saxon to Danish Lords. Subsequent settlement via the Humber River and the Wash represent colonization under the protection of Danish armies which had come several generations earlier. This would account for the large number of by places in the Five Burroughs on the  best land and soil available at the time of colonisation. Cameron further argued that thorpe settlements were secondary and took place after the by settlements.  Gelling in the Landscape of Place-Names identifies thwaite (ON thveit) as indicating “something cut down”. She noted that the qualifiers used as thwaite compounds; support the concept of new settlements in marginal land. Some “thveits” were rough, rocky, or stony, the dominant vegetation in some was bracken, broom, reeds or sedge …. As would be expected the distribution of place names containing by and thorpe largely fall within the territorial extent of the Danelaw however places containing thwaite to a large degree fall outside it’s northern reaches in Cumberland and Westmorland. The heaviest concentrations of by and thorpe places are in the Northern Danelaw and the Five Boroughs. Accessibility provided by the Humber riverine network was clearly at work in the region’s colonization. There is also an eastern or coastal bias in play. Scandinavian Surnames: As expected the surname distributions closely parallel the distribution of place name bearing the same element. The maps to the left are based on Banwell Indexes for each of the three suffixes. The indexes were filtered to display values =>2, in other words areas where the surname suffix was represented at a level 2x the national average. At this level the distributions closely parallel the Danelaw  territory, particularly in the Northern and Five Burrows districts. The Thwaite surnames are most heavily concentrated outside the Danelaw in the counties of Cumberland and Westmorland with some representation in the Northern Danelaw. It is noteworthy that the  distribution of place names and surnames bearing the by element are under represented in the Outer, Eastern and Southern Danelaw regions. Professor Frank Stenton argued this was the result of less intense settlement and he pointed to presence of thorpes and Anglo Danish hybrid place names as evidence supporting this explanation. The presence of thorpes, with the almost total absence of by place names, would represent later settlement. Stenton noted; They point to a state of society in which the immigrants from the North formed a minority of the population, dominant, but too small to impress a purely Scandanavian character on the names given to estates. Surname exemplars Holtby: The Village of Holtby is mentioned in the Domesday Book as Boltebi in the Bulford hundred in the  possession of the King. At one point Holtby was held by three thegns as three separate manors of six carucates. Three carucates were at some point transferred to the Priory of Durham. This may account for the existence of Holtby and Little Holtby. In 1279 the Manor of Holtby was exchanged by Adam de Holtby for the manor of Walkingham in Kent. The Holtby surname is rare(1881 freq. 246), but still located in Lincolnshire and the North Riding of Yorkshire in close proximity to the villages which are likely the source of the surname.  Braithwaite: from the ON breithr, broad, thweit, medow or cleared land. Several place names may account for its origin in Cumberland, Westmorland, the North and West Riding of Yorkshire. With a frequency of 3,464 in the 1881 census the surname is expressed most heavily in Cumberland and Westmorland. A Willelmus de Brathwayt is recorded in the 1379 Poll Tax returns of Yorkshire. Micklethwaite: Mikill or Micel means Large in ON, and Thveit, again a meadow or cleared land. The origin is thought by George Redmonds and David Hey to be Banks Hall near Cawthorne.   Springthorpe: The place name Springethorpe Lincolnshire appears in the Domesday book of 1066 as  Springetorp. The elements spryng, a spring or well and thorpe, a dependent farm or village suggest a probable meaning of a farm or village by a river or stream. The 19th century surname distribution is focused some distance from the contemporary village of Springthorpe. Parish records date the surname to the early 17th century near the centre of the 1881 distribution.