Viking Period

Sir David Wilson has provided a strongly argued chronology of the Norse settlement in the Island.

  1. Early Raids: First recorded raid in Irish Sea on Rathlin Island in 795; a 798 raid on Inis Patraic has been linked with Manx St Patrick's Island but was most likely St Patrick's Isle near Skerries - Irish Annals in period 790-840 generally refer to raids.
  2. Establishment of fortified settlements (longphorts) on Irish eastern coast (Dublin) possibly in 830's but certainly by 841; no Norse settlement in Wales or North-west England until later part of 9th or early 10th century. Chester was occupied by Danish Scandinavians from England in 893 but soon expelled, a few years later there was a settlement of Scandinavian refugees from Ireland under leadership of Ingimund - witness placenames in North Wales, Anglesey, Wirral and Lancashire coast. The archaeological evidence is for pagan land-takers.
  3. Main settlement on Mann possibly in first third of tenth century - Wilson has changed his views somewhat from earlier dating to 850's and now tends toward late 9th consistent with North-western England though no Manx documentary evidence exists to back this. Burials in Northern Isles and Scottish graves are earlier than this however.
  4. The siteing of the Manx Norse pagan graves in pre-existing Christian graveyards as well as the rebuilding on existing sites would appear to indicate a continuity of settlement between the Viking incomers and their Manx predecessors. There was a continuity of economy and the two populations subsisted together and inter-married. After possibly just a single generation of pagan burial rites, they became Christianised probably by first quarter of 10th century.
  5. Many of the Runic crosses (architype Gautr's cross in Kirk Michael) show by choice of formulaic inscription, epigraphy of inscription along edge of stone and the interlace pattern (Borre type) a direct influence from Norway - the ornamental links are with stones found in North-west England though it is very possible that these were influenced from Manx examples rather than vice-versa. The direct Scandinavian influence appears much stronger on Island than in NW England - the influence appears not to have been mediated through Ireland.
  6. There are rare examples of the Jelling style (so named from ornamental decoration found in the 958/9 Royal burial at Jelling, Jutland) - prime item consists of a sinuous animal, one example is at Malew. However a development out of this style - Mannen style - is found at Braddan and can be dated to 940-980.
  7. By the end of the 10th century there was no more sculptural evidence of Norse influence - one stone at Kirk Michael has traces of the late 10th century Ringerike style. By the 11th century the raising of stone memorials to the dead appears to have ceased both on the Island as well as in Nothern England and the Western Isles.
  8. Sometime around the middle or third quarter of the 10th century the Island turned towards Dublin and the North with the economic base of the Island leaning closer to Dublin as the 11th century progressed.
  9. Some signs of a proto Kingdom of Man and the Isles also began to appear from the middle or third quarter of the 10th century. The first named King of Man was Magnus Heraldson possibly displaced from Limerick in 967 and 'entrenched' on Man until 982-9, involved in the politics of Gynedd in 970's. Earl Sigurd was very active from the 980's and Mann was eventually incorporated into the Earldom of Orkney - the century 970-1070 produced at least fifteen coin hoards which are normally laid down during periods of stress and political insecurity. The early hoards included much hack silver which would indicate trade with the unmonied North but by 11th century they were purely coin hoards indicating that Mann had come to terms with a monetary economy. It is possible that during the 1030's coins were actually struck on Mann. No further coin hoards dating after 1070 have been found which may indicate a closer central control (or a collapse of the economy).
  10. By the end of the 11th century Mann was a Kingdom in its own right, though under the crown of Norway - St Patrick's Isle was fortified, probably as a Royal residence, by late 11th or early 12th century.


David Wilson The Chronology of the Viking Age in the Isle of Man (Presidential Address 1994-1995) Proc IoMNH&ASoc X #4 pp359/372 1997

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