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Northumbria was one of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in England, named because it was to the north of the River Humber. It was one of the Heptarchy. The name survives as an alternative description for North East England, which formed the heartland of the Kingdom.

The name Northumbria has been adopted by the English Tourist Board as the more appropriate and historically accurate name for the region of North East England and is seen in the name of the regional police constabulary, the Northumbria Police (which covers only Northumberland and Tyne and Wear). There is a Northumbria University, which has campuses in Newcastle upon Tyne, Morpeth, and Carlisle.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Flag
3 Culture
4 Dialect
5 External Links



Main article: Early Medieval History of Northumbria

Northumbria was founded in 604 by the union of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Deira and Bernicia. Bernicia covered the lands north of the Tees, whilst Deria corresponded roughly to modern-day Yorkshire. The kingdom stretched from the Humber to the Forth. After the Viking invasion of the south of the kingdom in 866 (forming the Viking kingdom of York, or Jorvik) Anglo-Saxon Northumbria shrank to land north of the Tees only.

The kingdom was famed as a centre of religious learning and arts. Initially the Northumbria was Christianised by monks from the Celtic Church, and this led to a flowering of monastic life, with a unique style of religious art that combined Anglo-Saxon and Celtic. After the Synod of Whitby in 664 the Celtic and Catholic Churches united. However the unique style was preserved, with its most famous example being the Lindisfarne Gospels.


Vikings and Scots invasions further reduced Northumbria to an earldom stretching from the River Tweed to the Tees. Over time, power in Britain began to coalesce, with the formation of two nascent nation states, England and Scotland. The Earls of Northumbria maintained a degree of independence from both; however, there were lengthy periods of fighting over control of the Earldom. The border was not settled for many years. The last period during which the Tees, rather than the Tweed, marked the Scottish border (excluding the civil wars of the seventeenth century) ended in 1157, when William I of Scotland renounced his clain to the earldom.

See Also:-

Monarchs of Northumbria

Norman Invasion and Partition

William the Conqueror became king of England in 1066. He soon realised he needed to control Northumbria, which had remained virtually independent of the Kings of England, to protect his kingdom from Scottish invasion. To acknowledge the remote independence of Northumbria and ensure England was properly defended from the Scots William gained the allegiance of both the Bishop of Durham and the Earl and confirmed their powers and privileges. However, anti-Norman rebellions followed. William therefore attempted to install Robert Comine, a Norman noble, as the Earl of Northumbria, but before Comine could take up office, he and his 700 men were massacred in the City of Durham. In revenge, the Conqueror led his army in a bloody raid into Northumbria, an event that became known as the Harrying of the North. Aethelwine, the Anglo-Saxon Bishop of Durham, tried to flee Northumbria at the time of the raid, with Northumbrian treasures. The bishop was caught, imprisoned, and later died in confinement; his see was left vacant.

Rebellions continued, and William's son William Rufus decided to partition Northumbria. William St Carilephwas made Bishop of Durham, and was also given the powers of Earl for the region south of the Rivers Tyne and Derwent, which became the County Palatinate of Durham. The remainder, to the north of the rivers became Tyne and Derwent, became Northumberland where the political powers of the Bishops of Durham were limited to only certain districts, and the earls continued to rule as clients of the English throne.

The city of Newcastle was founded by the Normans in 1080 to control the region by holding the strategically important crossing point of the river Tyne.

Middle Ages

The region continued to have history of revolt and rebellion against the government, as seen in the Pilgrimage of Grace and the Rising of the North in Tudor times. A major reason was the strength of Catholicism in the area after the Reformation. In later times this lead to strong Jacobite feelings after the Restoration. The region became a sort of wild county, where outlaws and border reivers hid from the law, as it was largely rural and unpopulated. However, after the union of the crowns of Scotland and England under King James VI and I peace was largely restored.

Industrial Age

Northumbria played a vital role in the industrial revolution. The regionís coalfields fuelled industrial expansion in other areas of the country, and the need to transport the coal from the collieries to the Tyne lead to the development of the first railways. Many prominent engineers hailed from the area, including.

Ship-building and armament manufacture were other important industries.


The flag of the Kingdom was a banner of gold and red (or purple) vertical stripes. A modern version of this flag is used quite widely throughout the region (see picture).


Northumbria, in the modern sense, has many of its own traditions, not found elsewhere in England (unless you count revivalists), including the rapper sword dance, Clog dance and the Northumbrian smallpipes (a type of bagpipe) as well as its own tartan (often referred to in Scotland as the Shephard's Tartan). Traditional Northumbrian music sounds similar to Scottish, reflecting some of the strong historical links between Northumbria and Scotland.


Northumbria has a series of closely related but distinctive dialects, descended from the early Germanic languages of the Angles and Saxons. Early Northumbrian is regarded as the fore-runner of the Scots Language, and there are many similarities between modern Scots dialects and those of Northumbria.

Three major Northumbrian dialects are Geordie, Mackem and Pitmatic. To an outsiderís ear the similarities far outweigh the differences between the dialects. There is a good explanation of the Geordie dialect in the relevant Wikipedia entry.

External Links

East Anglia | Essex | Kent | Mercia | Northumbria | Sussex | Wessex
Others: Lindsey, Hwicce