The first certain notice of a Viking raid upon Wales occurs in all the Welsh Chronicles (Annales Cambriae, Brut y Tywysogion and Brut y Saeson) in the annals for the year 850 AD (note 1), when a certain Cyngen died on the swords of “the Heathen.” Some scholars believe that Viking incursions into Wales began even earlier, suggesting that the Vikings who raided the Church on Recru or Lombay Island in 795 AD had sailed there from Wales. The inhabitants of Cornwall, known as the West Welsh, were in contact with the Viking raiders as early as 835 AD, when they contracted with the Danes to fight against the Anglo-Saxon King Ecgberht who had subjugated the Cornish in 823. This alliance of Northman with Welshman against the English was to recur again many times in the coming years.

Traditional Welsh poetry also records the Scandinavian presence in Wales; For example, the Arymes Prydein Vawr or “Omen of Great Britain” composed sometime between 835 and 1066 AD and preserved in the 13th century manuscript known as The Book of Taliesin states:

Achymot kymry agwyr dulyn
Gwydyl iwerdon mon aphrydyn
Cornyw achludwys eu kynnwys genhyn
Atporyon uyd brython pan dyorfyn
Pell dygoganher amser dybydyn . . .

predicting that the day will come when Cadwalladr and Cynan shall return to deliver the Welsh from their hated Saxon oppressors and peace shall reign over the land. To bring this about, a great confederation of the Scandinavians of Dublin, the Irish, the people of Anglesey, Scotland, Cornwall and Strathclyde shall join the Welsh to deliver the Cymry from their Saxon foes.

Our Time Line

  • 795 AD Some scholars believe that Viking incursions into Wales began in this year, suggesting that the Vikings who raided the Church on Recru or Lombay Island had sailed there from a previous attack upon Wales.
  • 850 AD Welsh Annals record that one Cyngen died on the swords of “the Heathen,” meaning Viking raiders.
  • 850 to 870 AD The southern Welsh districts of Gwent, Glamorgan and Dyfedd suffer Norse attacks.
  • 854 AD Vikings referred to as Y Llu Du attacked Môn.
  • 855 or 856 AD Dubh-Ghenti led by a Norse-Irish chieftain named Horm or Ormr attack Gwynedd, only to be repelled by Rhodri Mawr, who slew Horm.
  • 865 AD Óláfr Cuaran and Ivarr Beinlausi, son of Ragnar Loðbrokk, the co-rulersof Dublin raid Strathclyde (also known as Cumbria or Cumberland)
  • 871 AD The Irish Annals record that Óláfr Cuaran and Ívarr Beinlausi returned to Dublin after their raids against the Strathclyde Welsh, Albans, and Saxons with two hundred ships and English, Welsh, and Pictish captives to be sold into slavery.
  • 875 AD Hálfdan, son of Ragnarr Loðbrokk, attacks Deira and Cambridge, raiding heavily among the Strathclyde Welsh and the Picts of Galloway.
  • 876 AD The Norse attack in the famous Sunday Battle of Anglesea (Gweith Duw Sul)
  • 876 AD The Western Host, the naval force supporting the Danish attack upon King Alfred of Mercia and led by Ivarr Beinlausi and Hubba, the sons of Ragnarr Loðbrokk, is off the Welsh coatline, indulging in the occasional raiding of the Welsh as well as maintaining the campaign against Alfred. The fleet wintered in South Wales.
  • 877 AD Rhodri Mawr forced to flee to Ireland to shelter from the raiders.
  • 878 AD Norse mercenaries in the employ of Hywel ab Ieuaf ab Idwal the Bald destroy the Church of Clynnog Fawr and attack the Lleyn territory in Gwynedd. Hywel had hired the Norsemen to assist in his fight for the throne of Gwynedd.
  • 879 AD The gentiles or Norsemen captured Iago ab Idwal the Bald, leaving the way clear for Hywel to become king of Gwynedd.
  • 890 AD Y Normanyeit Duon or black Northmen attack Castell Baldwin in Powys.
  • 893 AD The Danes, led by a man named Haesten, marched up beside the Thames, crossed over and ravaged the Severn Valley. Welshmen from Gwent and Glynwysing, as well as some of Anarawd’s men from Gwynedd, cooperated with Alfred the Great to battle and defeat the raiders at Buttingtune on the Severn shore.
  • 895 to 896 AD Danes wintering in Quatbridge in the Severn valley harry into South Wales, including Brycheiniog, Gwent, Gwynllwg, Morgannwg and Buellt.
  • 902 AD Irish capture the fortress of Dublin in Ireland, driving the Dublin Vikings across the sea to North Wales. They were opposed by Welsh forces under the command of either Hywel ap Cadell ap Rhodri Mawr or his younger brother Clydog, driving the Norsemen into the vicinty of Chester.
  • 903 AD A party of Danes referred to as Dub Gint or black pagans under the command of Ingimundr attacked the Welsh in pitched battle at Ros Meilon or Osmeliavn, perhaps near Holyhead.
  • 904 AD The Danes kill Mervyn ap Rhodri Mawr in a retaliatory raid.
  • 905 to 910 AD Eiríkr bloðøx, son of King Haraldr hárfagri of Norway, raids Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Brittany.
  • 913 to 918 AD A renewed Norse force re-takes Dublin, establishing Sihtric as king. In 918 Dublin Norse raiders attack Anglesey.
  • 915 AD A large Viking fleet based on the Continent under the command of Óttarr and Hróaldr ravaged Gwent as far inland as Archenfield, capturing a bishop named Cyfeiliog (“Cameleac” in the chronicle), who was later ransomed by the Saxon king Edward the Elder for a sum of forty pounds.
  • 918 to 952 AD For reasons unknown, the Norse cease raids on Anglesea and Wales, perhaps due in part to the unified military response to raids organized by Hywel, who had consolidated much of the northern and southern portions of Wales under his rule, and established diplomatic relations with the English which allowed Wales and England to support one another against the Scandinavian onslaught.
  • 937 AD Welsh forces join with Scandinavian and Scottish troops to fight against the English in the Battle of Brunanburh.
  • 952 to 1000 AD Annual Viking raids upon the Welsh coast resume.
  • 952 AD Brut y Tywysogion records that Hirmawr and Anarawd ap Gwriad (possibly the sons of King Now ap Gwriad of Glamorgan) died at the hands of the paganaid Vikings.
  • 961 AD The annals record that “the sons of Abloec ravaged Caer Gybi and Lleyn.” Abloec (from the Irish Amhlaoibh) meaning Óláfr Cuaran, ruler of the Dublin Norse. Ólaf’s sons included Gluniarain (“Iron-Knee”), Sitric Silkenbeard, Ragnall, Aralt, Amancus, and possibly Gillapatraic. Caer Gybi is modern Holyhead, Anglesey. It is interesting to note that Óláfr Cuaran professed Christianity in 943, and his son Sitric’s cross-imprinted coinage shows that he likewise accepted the Christian faith, yet this did not seem to affect their decision to attack churches and monastic institutions outside their own domains.
  • 963 AD The monastic establishment at Towyn or Tywyn raided by Vikings. Aberffraw in Anglesea, royal seat of the kings of Gwynedd, was attacked by paganaid.
  • 968 AD Ívarr of Limerick is driven out of Ireland by King Mathgamhain of Munster. Ívarr’s response was to sail west to Wales to try and carve a new kingdom there. The Limerick Norse were apparently repulsed by “the king of Britain” and the next year Ívarr sailed back to Limerick, slew Beolan Littill and his son, and re-established his rule on the larger islands of the Shannon.
  • 971 AD King Magnús Haraldsson, ruler of Man and Limerick, leads an attack on the monastic house of Penmon in Anglesey.
  • 972 AD Goðfriðr Haraldsson, brother of King Magnús of Man and Limerick, attacks and conquers Anglesey. The Welsh annalists record that a King Edgar gave “the men of Gotfrid sanction to remain in Mona.”
  • 977 AD Goðfriðr Haraldsson succeeds his brother Magnús as king.
  • 980 AD Goðfriðr Haraldsson allies with King Cystennin ab Iago of Gwynedd to support Cystennin against Hywel ab Ieuaf, who was attempting to capture the Gwenedd throne for himself. The combined Welsh-Danish force devastated Anglesey from where they crossed to Lleyn and continued ravaging the peninsula until Hywel’s troops faced them in the Battle of Hirbarth, where Cysteinn was killed.
  • 982 to 1000 AD St. David’s and its religious sanctuary (medieval Menevia) becomes an especial focus of Norse attacks.

The Church of St. David at Menevia
  • 982 AD Goðfriðr Haraldsson launches a campaign into Southern Wales, heavily raiding Dyved and despoiling the Church of St. David at Menevia. Goðfriðr met the Welsh in battle at the Battle of Llanwannawc or Llangweithenauc.
  • 987 AD Goðfriðr Haraldsson again attacks Anglesey with his kenhedloedd duon (the black gentiles). Wales was experiencing a time of civil war and internecine battling as the kings of the north and south attempted to enlarge their realms at the expense of their neighbors. King Maredudd ab Owain of South Wales attacked and killed King Cadwallon of Gwynedd, brother of Hywel ab Ieuaf, annexing Gwynedd to his own lands. At this stage of the hostilities, Goðfriðr was summoned by the deposed Gwynedd royal family, and won an overwhelming victory over Maredudd ab Owain at the Battle of Mannan. Maredudd had a thousand men slain, andother two thousand men captured, and was forced to retreat to Ceredigion and Dyfed. Maredudd was later forced to ransom his captured Welshmen at a penny per head.

  • 988 AD The Norse raid Church of St. David at Menevia, as well as the monastic houses of Llanbadarn Fawr near Aberystwyrth, Llandudoch (modern St. Dogmaels) near Cardigan, Llancarfan near Glamorgan, and Llanilltrud, also near Glamorgan.
  • 992 AD Church of St. David at Menevia destroyed for the third time by the Norse raiders. Maredudd ab Owain, king of Dyfed, hired Norse mercenaries for his retaliatory campaign against Edwin ab Einion, king of Glamorgan.
  • 993 AD Anglesey was raided again by the “black pagans.”
  • 995 AD “Mannaw,” probably Anglesey, was raided by King Sveinn Forkbeard of Denmark.
  • 997 to 998 AD Intense Danish attacks in the Svern district and southwest England, perhaps caused by increased pressure put on the Hiberno-Norse by Ard-righ Brian Boru and King Mael Seachlinn. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reports:

In this year the army went about Devonshire into the mouth of the Severn and there harried as well in Cornwall as in North Wales and in Devonshire; and then landed at Watchet and there wrought great evil in burnings and man-slayings. . .. Thence they rounded Land’s End and entered the mouth of the Tamar.

  • 999 AD Church of St. David at Menevia destroyed and Bishop Morgeneu slain by Vikings.
  • 1002 AD Norse raiders attack Dyfed, but this time spare the Church of St. David at Menevia.
  • 1005 AD Ard-Righ Brian Boru sends a fleet composed of Norsemen from Dublin, Waterford, Wexford and Munster to “levy royal tribute” (i.e., plunder) in Wales. The haul from this expedition was to be divided in three parts, with a third going to the King of Dublin, another third going to the warriors of Leinester and Munster, and the remainder to professors of sciences and arts and the needful. This may have been a clever tactic on Brian’s part to keep his fractious people from warring on one another.
  • 1012 AD Earl Eodwin Streona of Mercia led an English attack against the Church of St. David at Menevia making use of the Danish ships which King Ethelred took into his service that year.
  • 1022 AD Eileifr, a Dane in the service of King Cnut, raided Dyfed and the Church of St. David at Menevia.
  • 1039 AD Meurig ap Hywel, who would later become King of Morgannwg, was captured by the Norse and later ransomed.
  • 1042 AD King Hywel ab Edwin ab Einon ab Owen of Deheubarth defeated Viking marauders who had been raiding Dyfed in a battle at Pwll Dyfach. Another group of Dublin Norsemen captured King Gruffydd ap Llywellyn of Gwynedd and held him for ransom. (Note 2)
  • 1044 AD King Hywel ab Edwin, had been attacked by King Gruffydd ap Llywellyn and defeated at Pencader in 1041 as a part of Gruffydd’s bid to annex portions of Southern Wales. Hywel turned to the Norse for assistance and returned to Wales with a fleet of twenty longships to try to regain his kingdom. Gruffydd met the Norse at the mouth of the river Towy and defeated them, killing Hywel in the battle. Hywel was succeeded by Gruffydd ap Rhydderch ab Iestyn.
  • 1044 to 1052 AD King Gruffydd ap Rhydderch dealt with frequent Scandinavian invasions, leading him to the desperate expedient of despoiling portions of his own country, especially the coastlines, in order to make raids into his lands less appealing to the Norse.
  • 1049 AD King Gruffydd ap Rhydderch made an alliance with Norse raiders to attack the kingdom of Gwent Iscoed which King Meurig ap Hywel ab Owen of Glamorgan had forcibly annexed. Gruffydd led a raiding party of thirty-six longships into the estuary of the Usk where they plundered the surrounding countryside, then crossed over the Wye and burnt the English manor of Dyddenhame or Tidenham. Bishop Ealdred of Worcester was incensed by the raid and raised forces to oppose Gryffydd, however Welsh traitors in the bishop’s ranks sent word to Gryffudd, causing the Welsh king to attack with his Norsemen to overcome the English forces.
  • 1053 AD King Gruffydd ap Rhydderch raids the English border using Norse mercenaries.
  • 1075 AD Gruffydd ap Cynan, son of the exiled king of Gwynedd and of Ragnhildr, grandddaughter of the Norse king of Dublin Sihtric (Siggtryggr) Silkenbeard, had been raised in Dublin and fostered by a Norse family. Seeking to reclaim his patrimony, Gruffydd sailed to Abermenai with a fleet of Norse mercenaries, supplemented with men from Anglesey, Lleyn and Arvon, plus Norman troops under the command of Robert of Rhuddlan. Gruffydd’s forces defeated the usurper King Cynwrig ap Rhiwallon of Powys and his cousin, King Trahaearn ap Caradog of Arwystli at the Battle of the Bloody Acre (Gwaeterw). Later Gruffydd battled his former Norman ally, Robert of Rhuddlan, and disaffected men of Lleyn turned on Gruffydd’s Norse household troops in a treacherous night attack, probably because Gruffydd had been brought up in a Norse environment and acted like a Norseman rather than being the typical Welsh prince they expected.

    Trahaearn rallied his forces and united with the men of Lleyn. Gruffyd assembled the men of Anglesey, Arvon, and his Norse troops, and met Trahaearn at the Battle of Bron yr Erw, near Clynnog Fawr. Gruffydd’s Norse foster-father, Cerit, was killed in this battle. Gruffydd’s forces were defeated, and he sailed with his remaining army to the island of Adron, which later was renamed by the Norse as “Skerries” then returned to Wexford in Ireland.
  • 1076 or 1077 AD Gruffydd ap Cynan appealed to King Diarmaid son of Enna, ruler of the Dublin Norse, who supported Gruffydd with men and thirty ships. Gruffydd’s army landed at Abermenai and began harassing Trahaearn’s forces. Though he could not dislodge Trahaearn from the throne of Gwynedd, Gruffydd did force Traehaearn to remove his people and possessions from Lleyn and Ardudwy into the interior canton of Meirionydd, leaving Gruffydd free to take control of Llyen, Arvon, and Anglesey. Further conquests were prevented by squabbles among Gruffydd’s Norse troops. Gruffydd refused to allow the Norse to plunder his lands, which was part of the spoils of war which they expected. As a result, the Dubliners forced Gruffydd to return to Ireland with them.
  • 1080 AD Norse “gentiles” attacked the Church of St. David at Menevia and slew the Bishop Abraham.
  • 1081 AD Gruffydd ap Cynan again appealed to King Diarmaid, who presented Gruffydd with a fleet assembled at Waterford, manning it with Norse, Irish, and Welsh troops. Gruffydd’s plan this time was to land in South Wales and strike northwards, so the fleet landed at Porthglais, just slightly southwest of the Church of St. David at Menevia. Gruffydd sought a blessing for his troops from the bishop at St. David’s, then Gruffydd’s forces, with his ally King Rhys ap Tewdwr of Deuhebarth, marched north and met the enemy at a place called Mynydd Carn, engaging them in battle just before nightfall. Gruffydd’s victory was short-lived, for Roger, Earl of Shrewsbury, with the aid of Earl Roger of Montgomery, lured Gruffydd into a trap at Rhug in Edeirnion, taking him prisoner. Gruffydd was kept jailed in Chester for several years. The Earl of Shrewsbury further rendered Gruffydd’s forces harmless by decreeing that each man of Gruffydd’s army would have his right thumb struck off, thus preventing them from handling bows or the dreaded axes that were their primary weapon.
  • ca. 1087 AD Gruffydd ap Cynan went to the Orkneys to assemble a fleet of Norse warriors to help him conquer the kingdom of Venedotia in North Wales. King Goðred Mac Sytric, ruler of Man, the Hebrides and Dublin, was willing to assist Gruffydd in his venture and provided him sixty ships and troops to man them. Gruffydd’s forces sailed first to Anglesey, where they met Norman forces in battle. Gruffydd himself is recorded to have fought with the Danish double-edged axe. Afterwards, as recorded in The Life of St. Gwynllyw ca. 1100, Gruffydd’s Norsemen sailed up the Severn estuary and raided the Church of St. Gwynllyw (modern St. Woollo’s Church):

In the reign of William the old king of England, after the English had been conquered and brought under his victorious sway, Gruffydd, the king of Venedotia, driven by war from all borders of Britain and in dread and fear of the attack which his enemies were plotting to make upon him, sailed in haste to the islands of the Orcades in order to avoid his enemies whom victory had made cruel, and because he wished to be on his guard and enjoy protection. Remaining there in the dilemma of wanting to plunder and not to build and of preparing to avenge his expulsion, he incited many islanders to piracy, to fatal gain and invasion. Thus banded together and roused to an evil purpose, and after filling twenty-four battleships with the assembled raiders, they sailed under Gruffydd’s leadership through the Irish Sea, and, after a long and perilous voyage, arrived at the Severn Straight that washes the shores of Glamorgan. Then sailing along the length of the straight they sought plunder with the greatest avidity and cast anchor in the mouth of the river Usk. Securing the fleet, they seize battle axes and spears, and thus armed manfully scour the plains and woods. On scouring these they collect immense booty; those of the inhabitants who have been warned by sentries to take flight, and those taken unawares are led to the fleet by impious hands. Seeing the church of Saint Gwynllyw bolted and thinking that there were valuables within for safe custody, the iniquitous pirates burst the bolt, broke in and entered. They seized whatever article of value and use that was found; and after the unholy theft they left the temple of God pillaged.

  • 1088 AD Rhys ap Tewdwr, King of Deheubarth in South Wales, was exiled from his country by the sons of Bleddyn. Rhys fled to seek asylum in Ireland, and there Rhys employed a fleet of Norse-Irish warriors to restore him to his throne, paying them with many captives for sale as slaves. Returning to Wales with his Norse allies, Rhys conquered the usurper at Penlecheru or Llych crei. Gruffydd ap Cynan again raids Wales with his Norse warriors, looting in the Norman territories of Rhos and Tegeingl, capturing cattle and men for slaves. Later the same year, Gruffydd again raided Wales, landing under Great Orme’s Head with three ships full of Norse warriors. Robert of Rhuddlan was awakened from a nap in his castle of Deganwy and told that the Norse raiders were taking the cattle from the fields and enslaving women and children. With no time to raise his own levies, Robert rushed to the landing point accompanied by only one knight. The gesture was a fatal one, as Gruffydd’s men captured and killed him, spiking his head on the lead ship.
  • 1093 AD King Rhys ap Tewdwr, King of Deheubarth, was killed by Norman invaders of Brycheiniog. His young son Gruffydd was taken by his kin to safety among the Norse-Irish to protect him from the Normans and Cadwgan ap Bleddyn.
  • 1094 AD Gruffydd ap Cynan with his Norse household troops and a Welsh ally, Cadwgan of Ceredigion, rallied the Welsh against Norman invaders, eventually driving the Normans out of Wales and placing Gruffydd at last on his ancestral throne of Gwynnedd.


Norse Settlements in Wales

Due to the fact that the Welsh managed such a dogged resistance to invasion, the Scandinavians never established the large and prosperous settlements in Wales such as they had in England and Ireland. It is widely accepted that a colony of Scandinavians settled on both sides of the great fjord of Milford Haven in South Pembrokeshire. There may also have been a Norse colony in Gower, the peninsula that extends about 18 miles westward of Swansea. Another Scandinavian settlement in Wales was situated in the low-lying coastal plain between Neath, Cardiff, and Newport, which was a part of the kingdoms of Morgannwg and Gwent. In Glamorgan, the evidence of charters shows a significant number of Norse names, indicating a Scandinavian settlement in that area as well.

Many of the Scandinavians living in Wales were traders. The commodities that they dealt in were varied, but the largest and most lucrative trade was in Welsh slaves. After slaves, the next most valuable trade was in wheat, for Ireland imported all its wheat, and a goodly portion came from Wales. Another expensive Welsh trade item were the fine Welsh horses, for which there was a flourishing trade. Other commodities that were handled by Scandinavian merchants included honey, malt, wine, furs, hides, whale oil, butter, and woolen cloth.

Some modern Welsh locations which bear names of Norse origin, or which had Norse names in the medieval period, include:

In Penbrokeshire

  • Amroth Castle, located near medieval Eirwere, Eyewer, Erwere, or Earewear. The name is probably derived from O.N. eyrr, “sand bank or gravel bank” and O.N. ver or O.E. wer, “weir”.
  • Caldey Island, known previously as Caldea alias insula, Insula Caldei, Caldei, Kaldey, Caldey, Calday, or Chalde Isle. “Cold Isle,” from O.N. kald, “cold” and O.N. -ey, “island.” The Welsh knew this island as Ynys Pyr prior to the arrival of the Norse.
  • Colby, also known as Coleby or Colbi, from the O.N. proper name Kolli and Danish -by or O.N. -býr, “a farm”.
  • Derby, also known as Darby, from the O.N. diur, “deer” and Danish -by or O.N. -býr, “a farm”.
  • Emsger, a small rock in the island group known as the Bishop and his Clerks. Also known as Emskir or Emskyr. The second element is from O.N. sker, “a skerry, an isolated rock in the sea.”
  • Fishguard in North Pembrokeshire, was also known as Fissigart, Fisgard, Fysgard, Fiscarde, Fiscard, Ffiskard, Fishgard, Fyshcard, Fisshecard, Fishingard, Fissingard, Fyshingegard, Fysshyngarde, Fyshinggard, Ffishingard or Ffishinggard. From O.N. fiskr, “a fish” and garðr, “an enclosure.” Fistard, on the southwest of the Isle of Man, is identically derived. The name probably refers to the location as being an ideal one for catching fish, and the harbor at Fishguard is an excellent one that would have attracted Hiberno-Norse traders.
  • Freystrop, also known as Hechfreysstrop, Hegh Freistrop, Freysthorp, Freysthrop, Ffreystrop, Freystrep, Freystrope, Freistrop, Freystroppe, Ffreistroppe, Ffraistrop, Ffrestrope, or High FrestroppFreyr could have been either the god’s name or the personal name of a Norse settler, while the second element is O.N. or O.E. þorp, “a village or hamlet”, or in Danish, “hamlet, or a daughter settlement from an older village.”
  • Gateholm, also known as Gotholm, Goteholme, Gatholme, or Gatoholme, meaning “Goat Island” from O.N. geit “sheep” or O.E. gat “a goat” while the second element is hólmr, “an island.”
  • Gelliswick, also known as Gelyeswiche, Gellyswycke, Gellyswyck, Gellys weeke, or Gelliswik maning “Gelli’s Bay.” From the O.N. name Gellir and O.N. vík, “a bay.” Other “-vik” names in Pembrokeshire include Helleswick, Little Wick, and Wick in Skomer Island.
  • Goultrop Roads, also known as Goldhap, Goldetoppe, Goltopp, Galtopp or Galtop roade. This name probably was originally Galdhop, from O.N. goltr, “a boar or hog” and O.N. hóp, “an inlet or bay”. Galtres, another Welsh placename, also derives from goltr with the second element being O.N. hris, “brushwood.”
  • Grassholm, also known as Gresse Holme, Gresholme or Crasum, meaning “Grass Island. From O.N. gras or O.E. gærs, “grass” and O.N. hólmr, “an island.” The Old Norse name has suuplanted the original Welsh name of Gwales in Penvro.
  • Hasguard, also known as Huscart, Huscard, Huscarde, Hustarde, Houscard, Hascarde, Haskard, Haiskard or Hascard. The first element is O.N. hús, “house,” and the second element seems to be O.N. skarð, “notch, cleft, mountain pass.”
  • Haverfordwest, also known as Haverfordia, Haverford, Hareford, havreford, Havriford, Harford or Haresford. From O.N. hafri, “oats,” or O.N. hafr or O.E. hæfer, “buck, he-goat,” and O.N. fjörðr, “fjord or firth” or O.E. ford, “ford, river-crosssing.” Since the river Cleddau can be forded at this location at low tide, the name probably meant “Goat-Ford.”
  • Lydstep, also known as Loudshope, Ludsopp, Ludesope, or Ludsop Haven. The first part is probably an O.E. personal name, Hlud, while the last part is from O.N. hóp, “an inlet or bay”.
  • Midland Island, also known as Middelholm, Midelholm, Middelesholme, Myddelholm, Middleholm, Mydland Island, or Mydlande Ilande, meaning “Middle Island” from O.N. meðal, “middle,” and O.N. hólmr, “an island.” Midland Island lies between Skomer Island and the mainland, separated from the mainland by Jack Sound and from Skomer Island by Little Sound.
  • Milford, also known as de Milverdico portu, Mellferth, Melford, Meleford, Melford Haven, Milleford, Mylleford, Mylford Havon, Muleford, Mulleford, or Mulford, from O.N. melr, “sandbank, sandhill” and O.N. fjörðr, “fjord or firth,” since the name refers to the fjord formed by the estuary of the Cleddau.
  • Musselwick, also known as Muskelwik, Musselwyk, or Moslewyk, meaning “Mussel Bay.” The first element seems to be from O.E. muscle, “a mussel” and O.N. vík, “a bay.”
  • Ramsey Island, also known as insula de Ramesey, Ramesey, or Ramsey, from the O.N. personal name Hrafn, “raven,” and O.N. -ey, “island.” The old Welsh name was Ynys Tyfanog.
  • Skokholm Island, also known as Scogholm, Schockholm, Scokholm, Skokeholme, Scoulkholme, Stockholm, Scokum, Stokeholm, Scopeholme, Scoupholme, Scugholm or Slowcom Iland, with original spellings probably being “Stockholm” with a “t” rather than the “k”. This would make the name derive from O.N. stokkr, “log, tree, treetrunk, chest. If the correct spelling is with the “k”, then the word might derive from O.N. skokkr, “A trunk or chest, a ship’s hulk.” The second element is O.N. hólmr, “an island,” giving a meaning of something like “Island of Logs.”
  • Skomer Island, also Skalmeye, Skalmey, Scalmey, Skalney, Scalme, Schalmey or Scomer, from O.N. skálm, “a short-sword” based on the shape of the island, which appears to have been “cloven” by a sword where two inlets, North and South HAven, cut into the island forming a narrow area called The Neck. The second element is O.N. hólmr, “an island,” giving a meaning of “Cloven Island.”
  • Steynton, also Steintona, Steinton, Steynton, Staynton or Stanton, from O.N. steinn, “stone” or the proper name, Steinn and O.N. or O.E. -tun, “farm,” giving a meaning of either “Steinn’s farm” or “farm built of stone.”

In Gower

  • Swansea, also Sweynesse, Sueinesea, Sveinnesei, Castra de Sveinnes, Sueinnesha, Sveinnesheie, Sweyneseye, Swayneseye, Suenesel, Castellus de Swenes, Swenishie, Sweness Castrum, Suineshæ or Swaensey, from a first element based on the O.N. personal name Sveinn, “boar or swine,” although jusgjing by the early spellings, the first element may instead have been from O.N. sær, sjar, sjor or O.E. , “sea”, and the last element is O.N. -ey, “island,” thus either “Sveinn’s Island” or “Sea Island.”
  • Burry Holmes, also St. Kenyth atte Holmes, Holmes en Gower or the Holmes, from O.N. hólmr, “an island.”
  • Worms Head, also Wormeshead, from O.N. örmr, “snake, serpent, dragon.” Great Orme’s Head in North Wales has the same derivation.

Near Cardiff

  • Clakkeston, from the O.N. personal name Klakkr and O.N. or O.E. -tun, “farm,” meaning “Klakkr’s Farm”.
  • Homri, also Hornby or Hornbye, from the O.N. personal name Horni and Danish -by or O.N. -býr, “a farm,” maning “Horni’s Farm”.
  • Laleston, also Lagelest, Lagelstun, Lagelston, Laghelestune, Lachelestone, Lawelstone, Laleston, Laliston, Llalliston, Laelston or Lahelestuna, from the O.N. nickname Lageles, derived from O.N. löglauss“lawless.” The second element is O.N. or O.E. -tun, “farm.”
  • Lamby, also Langby, from O.N. langr, “long,” and Danish -by or O.N. -býr, “a farm,” meaning “Long Farm”.
  • Womanby, also Hundemanby, Houndemanneby, Homandesby, Homanby, Homanbye, Whomanby, or Woman baye, from O.N. hundasveinn, “dog-keeper or kennel-boy”, and Danish -by or O.N. -býr, “a farm,” making the original name “Dog-keeper’s Farm”. 


(1) From about 850 AD, the various Welsh chronicles are one year behind the true reckoning, thus when a Welsh chronicle indicates that an event occrred in 850, the event is properly dated to 851 AD. Dates listed in this article are corrected dates rather than the actual incorrect dates from the chronicles.

(2) From about 1040 AD, the Welsh chronicles are two years behind the true reckoning. In other words, if the Welsh Chronicle states that an event occurred in 1040, the actual date should be 1042 AD.

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