Warring Kingdoms – Angles, Vikings and Scots


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In the 7th century people from Northumbria, known as Angles, settled in East Lothian: we became the northern province of their kingdom. Place names such as Whittingehame, Tyninghame and Innerwick are of Northumbrian origin. As Christianity spread to the area monastic estates were founded. The most important of these was at Tyninghame, which, along with the surrounding area, was attacked in AD941 by the Viking Óláfr Guthfrithsson, King of York. Nearby Auldhame may also have been a small monastic site.

Auldhame excavations from the ai r© RCAHMS (Aerial Photography Digital Collection). Licensor www.rcahms.gov.uk

There, recent excavations have uncovered a chapel and a cemetery with at least one Viking burial.

By the 11th century East Lothian was in Scottish hands. During the 12th century many of our towns became royal burghs, bustling marketplaces with growing populations. In the countryside people lived in wooden or turf-walled long houses, farming the land and rearing animals. This was the beginning of a landscape recognisable to us today.


Map showing ‘Old Battel’ by John Adair 1682. By permission of the Trustees of the National Library of Scotland

The village of Eldbotle (‘Old Dwelling place’ in Old English) is marked near Dirleton on historic maps. The exact location of the medieval village was found in 1999 during archaeological investigations on the Archerfield Estate, where pottery and buildings dating to the medieval period were also uncovered.

Eldbotle house excavation. © Headland Archaeology Ltd.

Excavations in 2002–2003 found evidence of an even older settlement from the 5th century and this may be what gives the village its name. This early settlement included a stone-built house surrounded by a ditch. People lived at Eldbotle for nearly a thousand years but it was abandoned in the 15th century when sand dunes covered the site.

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