Northumbrian Period 1 – Ida to Leodwald

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Part One – Northumbrian Period


I knew that the two Sims of Yetherham were warlords, reevers, who ranged either side of the Scottish border and lived cheek-by-jowl with Britons, Scots, Saxons and Vikings, they clearly used and abused the remnants of Hadrian’s Wall and its Roman forts and they were an aggressive lot!

It is quite reasonable, therefore, to assume that Sims might well have been related to a local noble family, albeit perhaps born on the ‘wrong side of the blanket’. In fact several of these new additions to my tree are shown as ‘married’, when few would have been in any sort of formal arrangement.

This summer’s breakthrough was when I found that Sims of Yetherham, the Elder, my GGF26 (born 935) was shown on one genealogical site as being the son of Earl Oswulfe of Northumbria (885-963). I have to confess that, to date, this is the only such reference, but if I accept and pursue it, then I can take my tree back many more generations.

The various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were founded by immigrants from northern continental Europe who landed and settled in different parts of England during the 5th and 6th centuries.  The numerous early settlements, grouped together over time into seven main kingdoms:

The Seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms:

kingdom of Northumbria, settled by Angles
kingdom of East Anglia by Angles
kingdom of Mercia by Saxons
kingdom of Kent by Jutes
kingdom of Essex by East Saxon
kingdom of Sussex South Saxons
kingdom of Wessex by West Saxons 

They may have been different kingdoms, but six of the Saxon royal houses sought to trace their lineage back to Woden (or Odin) thus:

Saxon royal houses linked back to Woden

Trace down the first four routes, the House of Wessex and House of Northumbria and you will find my ancestors names emboldened.


Given this new connection, I found that I might add the following individuals to my existing tree, taking us back fourteen further generations to my GGF 40, the King of Saxons, Ida and back to the year 515.

What an addition to the family they proved to be, squabbling and intermarrying with the Vikings.

So let’s examine this radical extension to the Denton family tree:

Northumbria was as formed later than the other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in England. It was created by the unification of the two earlier kingdoms of Deira and Bernicia. But thiswas not just a one-time unification, they cohered and split a number of times.

The southern kingdom of Deira, was in the centre and east of modern Yorkshire. Some suggest it was named after ‘the Dere’, an Anglian people who probably first settled along the tributaries of the river Humber. Others suggest that the name was British and that both Deira and Bernicia had been Celtic kingdoms or territories that were taken over by the Anglo-Saxons. The Deirians appear to have reached York by 500, and eventually the kingdom covered the whole area north of the river Humber as far as the river Tyne. The Kings of Deira claimed a descent from Woden [aka Odin}, their basis for this is set out in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and an alternative tree appears in Nennius’s Historia Brittonum.

Bernicia was based at Bamburgh on the Northumberland coast, and named after an Anglian people ‘the Bernice’ who extended their authority southwards from the far northern coastland. At its greatest extent, the kingdom of Bernicia controlled the area north of the river Tyne as far as the Firth of Forth.

It is suggested that the name Northumbria may have been invented by Bede and popularised through his Ecclesiastical History. Only a single charter (dated 685) has survived for Northumbria, in contrast to the relative wealth of documentation for the kingdoms of Kent and Mercia. Few sources are available for Northumbria in the later 8th and 9th centuries so information on the later kings is sparse, the notable exception being the later Chronicle written by Symeon of Durham.

Quite where you place the line beteen the Norse Period and the Northumbrian Period is not at all straightforward. It could have been placed either with GGF41 Eoppa or with GGF40 Ida. I have decided Ida should be the first of the Northumbrian period because he attracted many from his homeland to come to Britain, he was the first king of Bernicia and because with his seven sons built something of a dynasty.


Part One – Northumbrian Period – Ida to Leodwald


GGF40 – Ida, King of Saxons, King of Bernicia (515-559)

An imaginary illutsrtaion of Ida from
the 1611 Saxon Heptarchy of John Speed

Ida was born in 515, his father was Eoppa, he entered Bernicia by sea from Deira and settled in the coastal region, who traced himself back to Woden and beyond. John of Worcester’s Chronicle shows his genealogy as ‘Ida was son of Eoppa. who was son of Esa, who was son of Ingui, who was son of Angenwit, who was son of Aloe, who was son of Benoc, who was son of Brand, who was son of Bealdeag, who was son of Woden, who was son of Frithelaf, who was son of Frithulf, who was son of Finn, who was son of Godulf, who was son of Geata‘.

He was a pagan, and his descendants would not adopt Christianity until 627.

He was King of Bernicia from 547 to 559 and married Bebba [or Bearnoch Brynaich], her name was the basis for his capital Bebbanburg, aka Bamburgh.

Ida had seven sons by Bebba (500-572). These are all GGU39s – Aethelric, King of Bernicia (537-573) who reigned for four years, Adda, King of Bernicia (540-569) who reigned for eight years, Theodoric, King of Bernicia (546-593) who reigned for seven years, Eadric, Ealric [or Bealric], Theodhere and Osmer [or Osmere], and a daughter Bearnoch. GGU39 Aethelric had two sons IC40 Aethelfrith the Fierce and Theodbald, both were killed in battle.

Ida also had illegitimate sons born to concubines – Ocg [or Ocga or Offa] (539-?), and Alric [or Ealric or Alri] (550-?), Sogethere [or Sogor], Oswald, Ecca and Occa.



At Yeavering in Bernicia archaeologists have found an early Anglo-Saxon settlement which is considered to have been a royal settlement. It relects the Germanic traditions of a life centred around the hall and its occupants drew upon forms, practices and ideas from the Roman and Frankish worlds.

This royal assumption is largely based on Bede’s second book of the Historia ecclesiastica that mentioned a royal township, Ad Gefrin, which he identified as at a point along the River Glen (as is Yeavering). Bede described how King Edwin of Bernicia (more below), shortly after converting to Christianity, brought a Christian preacher named Paulinas to this royal township, where the priest proceeded to convert the local people from their original pagan religion to Christianity. ‘This passage goes thus: ‘So great was then the fervour of the faith [Christianity], as is reported and the desire of the washing of salvation among the nation of the Northumbrians, that Paulinas at a certain time coming with the king and queen to the royal country-seat, which is called Ad Gefrin, stayed with them thirty-six days, fully occupied in catechising and baptising; during which days, from morning till night, he did nothing else but instruct the people resorting from all villages and places, in Christ’s saving word; and when instructed, he washed them with the water of absolution in the river Glen which is close. This town, under the following kings, was abandoned, and another was built instead of it, at the place called Melmin’,

Excavations at Yealding have uncovered evidence of a pagan shrine, animal sacrifice, and ritual burials thought to be a shrine was to the gods Woden and Ingui (more later!)/


Ida was also famed for his romantic adventures as much as for his battles, and prompted a number of old English poems.

Bede’s Ecclesiastical History stated that he was the founder of the royal family of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Bernicia and reigned himself for twelve years from 547 to his death. Ida’s descendants would rule Bernicia and later Northumbria, when the two kingdoms came together.

His mission was to move the natives out of the area and settle the Angles on their land. His realm was surrounded by the hostile Briton kingdoms of Rheged, Manau Gododdin and Dalriada. So, to defend his realm, it was ida that first built Bamburgh Castle, this was initially surrounded with a hedge, and later replaced with a wall.

He engaged in a conflict with King Dutigern, the ruler of Strathclyde. At Bamburgh, Ida won an important victory over Dutigern, thereby consolidating his power in north-eastern England. He also fought a number of battles with the ‘Welsh’ who were trying to inveigle their way back into ‘England.

Ida apparently brought more of his kinsmen to England than any other Anglo-Saxon.


Aella of Deira (536-588)

Aella, the son of Yffe [Iffa], became King of Deira, the neighbouring kingdom, from 560. Aella reigned it for almost thirty years until his death in 588.

Aella too claimed he was descended from Woden, John of Worcester stating ‘Aella was the son of Iffa, whose father was Wuscfrea, the son of Wilgils, the son of Westorwalcna, the son of Seomel, the son of Swearta, the son of Seafugel, the son of Seabald, the son of Siggeot, the son of Swebdeag, the son of Siggar, the son of Weagdeag, the son of Woden‘. His father, Yffe, had a second son Aelfric who had one child, Osric.

While Aella ruled Deira, John of Worcester details that ‘the following kings reigned in Bernicia: Adda, the eldest son of Ida, seven years; Clappa, five; Theodulf, one; Theodulf, seven ; and Aethelric, two years.’


Aella was a pagan. When Pope Gregory the Great encountered two pale-skinned English boys (Deirans) at a slave market in Rome he is said to have remarked that they were ‘not Angles but angels, if they were Christian’, but upon learning that the king of Deira was Aella he said ‘Alleluia should be sung in that land‘.

We could not establish Aella’s wife’s name, but they had three children – a daughter Acha [or Ucha] (575-?) and two sons Edwin [or Eadwine] (586-633), who died in 633 in battle, and Hereric who was exiled to the British kingdom of Elmet during the reign of Aethelfrith, King of Northumbria, and poisoned. The large gap between Acha and Edwin has led to speculation that they may have had diffferent mothers.

Sources conflict, The Chronicle states that Aella died in his sleep in 588, but others say he was killed by Aethelfrith (son of Aethelric), whichever it was, his family had to flee as Bernicia then annexed Deira.


GGU39 Aethelric (537-573)

Aethelric succeeded his brother Adda as King of Bernicia from 569-572.

John of Worcester confirms ‘On Aella’s death, and his son Edwin being driven from the throne, Aethelric reigned five years over both provinces‘ – Deira and Bernicia.

Aethelric was a son of Ida, he ruled Bernicia for five years after Aella’s death. He had three sons, Aethelfrith, Theobald and Eanfrith.

Aethelric’s great grandson, Aldfrid, ruled Bernicia from 685-705 and married Cuthburh, an aunt of Eoppa who was a descendant of Cerdic rather than Esa. Aldfrid’s descendant’s line died out within a few years and his son was a very young boy when Aldfrid died. So Eadwulf, a relative of Aldfrid, usurped the throne of Northumberland for a short while.


GGF39 – Ocg [or Occa or Ocga] (539-?)

Ocg was an illegitimate son of King Ida’s.

Ocg’s only son, that we could discover, was Aldheim (or Aldeheim).

Later descendants of Ocg became Kings of Northumbria – Cenred (?-718) and Ceolwulf (?-764), Cenred ruled from 716-718 and Ceolwulf from 729-731 and again from 731-737. [Their genealogy was shown in the Saxon Chronicle as my Ida – Ocg – Aldheim – Ecgwulf – Leodwald – Cuthwine – Cutha, but have as yet not found another source.]


GGU39 Theodric [or Deoderic] (546-580)

Theodric succeeded his brothers as King of Bernicia in 572, and died in 579. Though the dates for Theodric’s rule are something of a conjecture, because the earliest authorities differ widely on the order and the regnal years of the kings that came after Ida.

Urien, the king of Rheged (today’s Cumbria), was said to have subjected Theodric and his sons to a three-day siege on the island of Lindisfarne. Therefore he is perhaps the Anglian ruler nicknamed Fflamddwyn in Welsh, who, according to medieval Welsh poetry such as Gweith Argoed Llwyfain (The Battle of Argoed Llwyfain or Battle of Leeming Lane) from the Book of Tliesin, was killed in battle by Urien’s son, Owain mab Urien, after he demanded hostages and Owain had refused.


GGF38 – Aldheim [or Aldeheim or Ealdheim] (564-?)

The only son of Ocg, and father of Ecgwulf.


GGF37 – Ecgwulf [or Egwald] (600-?)

The son of Aldheim, he was the father of Leodwald.


IC40- Aethelfrith (or Ethelfrith) the Fierce, of the Angles (570-616)

Aethelfrith the Fierce succeeded his father, Aethelric in 593 and significantly extended the power of Bernicia inland to the west. He ruled for twenty-four years, and seized Deira, deposing the heir, Edwin, who was the brother of his wife. Edwin went into exile.

Aethelfrith ruled Deira from 592-604. As he was the first Bernician king to rule both Bernicia and Deira, some historians suggest the history of Northumbtria starts with Aethelfrith – but this may be simply because he was better documented than others.

He defeated the Scottish King, Áedán mac Gabráin, of the Gaels of Dalriada, at Degsastan. Bede says that Aethelfrith’s victory was so great that, as a result, the Irish kings would not make war on the English again, right up to Bede’s own time.

However, the appearance of Hering, son of Aethelfrith’s predecessor, on the side of the invaders is indicative of the family quarrels in the house of Bernicia. According to Bede Aethelfrith conquered more territories from the Britons than any other king, either making them tributary, or driving the inhabitants out.

Aethelfrith married Acha [or Ucha] in 590, she was the daughter of Aella and sister of Edwin. They had eight children – Eanfrith (590-635 and ruled 634-635), Oswald (604-642 and ruled 635-641), Oswiu (612-670 and ruled 642-670), Oswudu, Oslac, Oslaf, Offa and a daughter Aebba (615-683).

It may have been Aethelfrith who, in 600, destroyed the Briton’s army at the Battle of Catraeth (Catterick), a battle described in an early Welsh poem called Y Gododdin in the book of Aneirin.

In 616 Aethelfrith defeated the Welsh in a great battle at Chester, learning that priests had joined the army to offer prayers on their behalf, he massacred twelve hundred priests, including the monks of Bangor. This war was perhaps due to Aethelfrith’s persecution of Edwin, but had strategic importance in driving a wedge between the northern Welsh and the Strathclyde Britons.

William of Malmesbury records that in 616 King Aethelfrith was killed in battle against Raedwald King of the East Angles, near the River Idle. Raedwald was supporting the claim of Edwin son of Aella, King of Deira, who had taken refuge at the East Anglian court. Bede says that Aethelfrith had the inferior army, because Raedwald had not given him time to bring his forces together. Aethelfrith’s sons went into exiled in a Gaelic kingdom. Aethelfrith’s line was eventually restored to power in the 630s.

William of Malmesbury states that Eanfrith lived in exile with the Scots or Picts during the reign of King Edwin, where he was baptised, however when he succeeded in 634 after the death of King Edwin he renounced Christianity. He appears to have been married to a Pict, as their son Talorgan became the King ofthe Picts in 653.


F-i-L of 2C39 – Edwin [or Eadwine] King of Deira (586-633)

St. Edwin of Northumbria
stained glass window at
St Mary, Sledmere, Yorkshire

Edwin had been in exile throughout Aethelfrith’s reign. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle states that Aethelfrith king of Northumbria was killed by Raedwald king of East Anglia and that in 617 Edwin son of Aelle succeeded to the kingdom, adding that he conquered all Britain except Kent alone, and drove out the princes, the sons of Aethelfrith. It showed Edwin as the fifth king of Deira.

Edwin was married twice, first (612?) to Aethelburh [or Aethelberg or Ethelberga] the daughter of Aethelberht, King of Kent. She was a Christian.

Edwin and his wife had a daughter Eanflead and two sons Eadfrith and Osfrith. He later (619-623) married Cwenburg of Mercia (610-?),daughter of Cearl, King of Mercia.

King Edwin was the first king of Northumbria that converted to Christianity. Bede records that, after promising his Christian second wife to respect her religion, King Edwin prevaricated about his own baptism although Paulinus was ordained as Bishop of York on 21 Jul 625. Following admonitory letters from Pope Boniface V, Edwin was baptised at York 12 Apr 627, becoming the North’s first Christian King.

Bede famously wrote of Goomanham in the Yorkshire Wolds, the site where the pagan high priest to King Edwin, Coifi, destroyed the idols, and advised that the temples be destroyed, to help forge a Frankish alliance, so they might enjoy the power derived from it. It seems that the pope intervened and suggested that the pagan temples and their altars were turned into Christian ones rather than simply destroying them.

Edwin conquered the Isle of Man and Anglesey and besieged Cadwallon King of Gwynedd in Priestholm off the eastern point of the island.

John of Worcester reported, that in 627, ‘an assassin named Eomer, sent by Cuichelm king of the West-Saxons, presented himself at the court of king Edwin on Easter Sunday, and drawing a dagger from under his garment attempted to stab the king. The blow was intercepted by Lilla, one of Edwin’s most devoted attendants, who protected, him by interposing his own person, but the assassin plunged his weapon with such force that the king was wounded through the body of his thane, who was killed on the spot. On the night of the same Easter-day the queen bore Edwin a daughter, who was the first of the Northumbrian race baptised by bishop Paulinus, and received the name of Eanflaed‘.

In 628 Edwin rebuilt the wooden church of St Peter’s, this would become York Minster.

Edwin and his son Osfrith were killed, and another son Eadfrith was captured and killed later. This was on 12 Oct 633 at the Battle of Hatfield Chase, near Doncaster. Edwin was fighting armies from both Mercia and Gwynedd led by Penda and Cadwallon ap Cadfan. John of Worcester stated that Edwin ‘was killed on the fourth of the ides [the 12th] of October, in the forty-eighth year of his age, by Penda, the heathen king of Mercia, a prince of distinguished bravery, and Cedwal king of the Britons, a still more savage heathen, in a pitched battle severely contested on the plain of Heathfield. Affairs in Northumbria being thus thrown into confusion, Paulinus, taking with him queen Ethelburga [Aethelburh], returned to Kent by sea, and was received with honour by Honorius the archbishop and Eadbald the king‘.

Following the battle Northumbria was once again split into Bernicia and Deira, and Edwin was canonised. However, his people reportedly returned to Woden as Cadwallon continued to attack the Northumbrians.


Osric, Deria (?-634), Oswine, Deria (?-651) and Eanfrith, Bernicia (?-634)

Osric (?-634) the son of Aelfric (and Aella’s brother) became King of Deira. Eanfrith became King of Bernicia 590-634, ruled 633-634). Cedwal, king of the Britons, having first slain King Osric, afterwards put to death Eanfrith, the son of Aethelfrith, who had come to him to sue for peace.

Oswald (see below) defeated Cadwallon and re-united Bernicia and Deira.

Oswine, the son of Osric, co-ruled Deria for seven years alongside his father, while Osric ruled Bernicia. Oswine was murdered in 651.


2C39 (Saint) Oswald (603-642)

Oswald (son of Aethelfrith the Fierce) was king from 633 until his death nine years later.

A year or so later (635), he defeated Cadwallon ap Cadfan at the Battle of Heavenfield (aka Deniseburna), despite the Welsh having a much bigger force, Cadwallon was killed.

John of Worcester recorded, ‘Oswald advanced with his army, which, though small in numbers, was strong in the faith of Christ, and slaughtered the impious British chief, Cadwallon ap Cadfan, with his immense army, which he boasted nothing could withstand. Oswald then assumed the government of both kingdoms, and, in the course of time, received the submission of all the nations and provinces of Britain. At that time the people of Wessex, under their king Cynegils, embraced the Christian faith, the word being preached to them by bishop Birinus.’

Bede records that King Oswald brought Aidan from Iona in 635 to revive Christianity in Northumbria, establishing him at Lindisfarne with his monks. John of Worcester added ‘King Oswald applied to the elders of the Scots to send him bishops. Aidan was sent; by whom, and the most illustrious and holy king Oswald himself, the church of Christ was first founded and established in the province of Bernicia. Birinus was sent by pope Honorius to preach in England, and under his teaching of the gospel in Wessex, king Cynegils and his subjects became believers; the most victorious king Oswald was his sponsor at the baptismal font. From these kings the same bishop received Dorchester for the seat of his bishopric‘.

He married Cyneburn of Wessex around 635, she was the daughter of Cynegils, King of Wessex. They had one son, Aethelwald (?-654). He was chosen to succeed as Aethelwald, King of Deira in 651 after the murder of King Oswine.  Yet, he placed himself under the protection of Penda King of Mercia, effectively making Deira a province of Mercia. 

Oswald reunified Northumbria, with Bernicia as the senior’ partner’ to Deira. Adomnán described Oswald as ‘ordained by God as Emperor of all Britain’ and Bede makes the claim that Oswald ‘brought under his dominion all the nations and provinces of Britain’.

However, on 6 Aug 642 when he faced Penda and the Mercians, he was defeated and killed. Bede mentions the story that Oswald prayed for the souls of his soldiers when he saw that he was about to die. Oswald’s body was cut into pieces, and his head and arms mounted on poles; these were retrieved the next year by his brother and successor, Oswiu. Oswald’s head was interred in Durham Cathedral together with the remains of Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (a saint with whom Oswald became posthumously associated, although the two were not associated in life). One of his arms is said to have ended up in Peterborough Abbey later in the Middle Ages. Oswald was canonised, his feast day is 9 Aug, and a cult evolved through the Middle Ages, based upon his spreading of Christianity in Northumbria.

His kingdom once again split into Bernicia and Deira after his death.

St. Oswald relic receptacle at Hildesheim, 12th century


2C39 – Oswiu (612-670)

When his father Aethelfrith died, Oswiu and his brothers were driven into exile. Oswiu succeeded his older brother Oswald in 643 as King of Bernicia. He was around thirty years old and ruled for twenty-eight years.

He first married Rienmelth in the 630s, she was the daughter of Royth and granddaughter of Rhun Prince of Rheged, they had one daughter Osithryth.

Then he married Eanflaed, the daughter of Edwin (son of Aella), they had two sons Ecgfrith and Aelfwine and two daughters Alhflaed and Aelflaed. Aelflaed at the age of one was dedicated to God by her father and lived at Whitby Abbey.

In 650, while trying to gain support from Ireland for his struggles, with Penda King of Mercia, he took as a mistress Fin Ingen Colman, an Irish princess. They had one illegitimate son, Aldfrith (650-704), who would become King of Northumbria.

In 651 he invaded Deira in an attempt to join the two kingdoms. He had King Oswine killed, but his nephew Aethelwald was selected to become King of Deira.

He defeated and killed Penda King of Mercia in 654 at Winwaed near Leeds, and annexed the part of Mercia located north of the river Trent.

He was buried in Whitby Abbey.


GGF36 – Leodwald (635-?)

The name Leodwald means ‘King who rules the nation’.

Leodwald was the son of Ecgwulf and had three sons of his own Eata, Eadwulf and Cuthwin.

Eata had two sons Eadbery, who ruled Bernicia for 21 years from 738, and Egbert who became Archbishop of York.

Eadwulf’s son, Earnwine, was killed on the orders of Eadberht of Northumbria in 740. Eadberht was the son of Earnwine’s uncle, Eata.

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