Wednesday, August 10, 2016


The Mouth of the River Glein

It has long been recognized that there are only two extant Glen rivers which conform philologically to ‘Glein’ and which could have been subject to Saxon attack from the Continent in the 5th-6th centuries CE, the Age of Arthur.

These are the Glen of Lincolnshire and the Glen tributary of the Till in Northumberland.

The Glen of Lincolnshire has no distinctive features or strategic fortifications which would make it of any value to an invading force. On the other hand, the Northumberland Glen is hard by the Yeavering Bell hill-fort, which prior to becoming a Saxon stronghold was the British Gefrin. Gefrin is from the Welsh word gafr ‘goat’ or a compound containing gafr plus Welsh bryn (mutated fryn), for ‘Goat-hill’. I would remind the reader, however, of a Gaulish god conflated with
Mercury called Gebrinius. It is possible that Gefrin represents a British counterpart of this divine name.

The Yeavering Bell hillfort is 12.8 acres in size and encloses the two summits and the saddle between of a hill that rises to a height of 1181 ft above sea level. There is a single stone rampart 13 ft wide, with entrances midway along the north and south sides, and a third on the northeast.

At the east and west ends are small, crescent-shaped annexes, the latter with an entrance at its mid-point. The centre of the fort was the site of about 130 circular huts. The eastern summit is ringed by a trench which held a wooden palisade nearly 164 ft in diameter. Archaeologists do not know whether there is any relationship between the hillfort and the Anglo- Saxon royal town of Ad Gefrin (‘at Gefrin’) that succeeded it at the foot of the hill.

Other hill-forts abound in the region: Wooler, Kyloe Hills, Dod Law forts at Doddington, the Old Bewick hill fort and the Ros Castle fort and settlement between Chillingham and Hepburn. And, of course, the Roman road known as the Devil’s Causeway, a branch off of Dere Street, passes only a couple of miles to the east of the mouth of the Glen.

Scholars who argue in favor of the Lincolnshire or ‘Lindsey’ Glen do so primarily because the following battle, that of the Dubglas, is put in a Linnuis region by the HB. Linnuis, as we will see, is wrongly thought to represent the later regional name Lindsey.

An actual battle at the mouth of the Lindsey or Lincolnshire Glen is scarcely possible, unless it were a battle of reconquest by Arthur and not a successful defensive engagement. This is because we have archaeological evidence for Saxon cemetaries well north, west and south of the Lindsey Glen as early as c. 475 CE.

                                                               Mouth of the River Glen
The River Dubglas in the Linnuis Region

Philologists have long recognized that Old Welsh Linnuis must derive from Br.-Lat. *Lindensis, *Lindenses, or *Lindensia, and the identification with Lindsey works fine on purely linguistic grounds. Lindsey, of course, was the early English name for what we now think of as Lincolnshire.

The root of Lindensis is British *lindo-, ‘pool, lake’, now represented by Welsh llyn, ‘pond, lake’. The Roman name for the town of Lincoln – Lindum – is from the same root. The ‘pool’ or ‘lake’ in question is believed to have been on the Witham River near the town.

The problem is that there is no Dubglas or ‘Black Stream’ (variants Douglas, Dawlish, Dowlish, Divelish, Devil’s Brook, Dalch, Dulais, Dulas, etc.) in Lindsey. This has caused other place-name experts to situate the Dubglas battle either near Ptolemy’s Lindum of Loch Lomond in Scotland or near Ilchester in Somerset, the Roman period Lindinis, as there are Dubglas rivers in both places. We might even look to the Douglas River in Lancashire, not far west of the Roman Ribchester fort. Unfortunately, none of these candidates is satisfactory, because Arthur would not have been fighting Saxons at these locations in the time period we are considering.

A site which has been overlooked, and which is an excellent candidate for Arthur’s Dubglas, is the Devil’s Water hard by the Hadrian’s Wall fort of Corbridge, which has upon it a place called Linnels. Almost a century ago it was proposed that Linnels was from an unrecorded personal name. But modern place-name expert Richard Coates, upon looking at Linnels on the Ordnance Survey map, observed the remarkable double elbow in the Devil’s Water with a lake nearby and concluded that Linnels was from a British *lindo-ol:in, "lake-elbow".

It was once thought that the Devil’s Water stemmed from a Dilston Norman family, the D’Eivilles. But going by the earliest spelling of the Devil’s Water (Divelis c. 1230) leads recent authorities to state uncategorically that this etymology is incorrect and the Devil’s Water is certainly of the Dubglas river-name type.

The Devil’s Water at Linnels is thus the only extant Dubglas river-name associated with a demonstrably Welsh lake-name that is geographically plausible as a battle site against Britons and Saxons during the period of Arthur. Worth noting is the fact that the Roman Dere Street road at Corbridge splits immediately north of the Wall, the eastern branch or ‘Devil’s Causeway’ continuing North-NorthEast, straight to the Northumberland Glen.

As an aside, I would mention that the Battle of Hexham was fought at Linnels on May 14, 1464.

                                                          The Devil's Water at Linnels

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