Thomas William Shore.

Origin of the Anglo-Saxon race; a study of the settlement of England and the tribal origin of the Old English people online

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"\Yends. The descendants of the isolated Slavonic settlers
near Utrecht and in other parts of the Rhine Valley
have also long been absorbed. The ethnological evidence
concerning the present inhabitants of these districts and
the survival of some of their old place-names, however,
supports the statement of the early chroniclers concerning
the immigration of Slavs into what is now Holland.

The part which the ancient Wends, including Rugians,
Wilte, and other Slavonic people, took in the settlement
of England was, in comparison with that of the Teutonic
nations and tribes, small, but yet so considerable that it
has left its results. During the period of the invasion
and the longer period of the settlement, the southern
coasts of the Baltic Sea were certainly occupied by
Slavonic people. Ptolemy, writing, as he did, about the
middle of the second century of our era, mentions the
Baltic by the name Venedic Gulf, and the people on its
shores as Venedi or Wenedae. He describes them as one
of the great nations of Sarmatia, 1 the most ancient name
of the countries occupied by Slavs, but which was re-
placed by that of Slavonia. Pliny, in his notice of the
Baltic Sea, has the following passage : ' People say that
from this point round to the Vistula the whole country
is inhabited by Sarmatians and Wends.' 2 Although he

1 Bunbury, E. H., ' Hist, of Ancient Geography,' ii. 591.

2 Pliny, ' Hist. Nat.,' iv., chap, xxvii., quoted by Elton, C. I.
' Origins of Engl. Hist.,' 40.

go Origin of the Anglo-Saxon Race.

did not write from personal knowledge of the Wends,
this passage is weighty evidence that they must have
been located on the Baltic in his time.

During the time of the Anglo-Saxon period the Slavs
in the North of Europe extended as far westward as the
Elbe and to places beyond it. On the east bank of that
river were the Polabian Wends, and these were apparently
a branch of the Wilte or Wiltzi. This name Wiltzi has
been derived from the old Slavic word for wolf, wilk,
plural wiltzi, and was given to this great tribe from their
ferocious courage. The popular name Wolf mark still
survives in North-East Germany, near the eastern limit
of their territory. These people called themselves
Welatibi, a name derived from welot, a giant, and were
also known as the Haefeldan, or Men of Havel, from being
seated near the river Havel, as mentioned by King
Alfred. The inhabitants of the coast near Stralsund,
who were called Rugini or Rugians, and who are men-
tioned by Bede as one of the nations from whom the
Anglo-Saxons of his time were known to have derived
their origin, 1 must have been included within the general
name of the Wends. As these Rugians must have been
Wends, the statement of Bede is direct evidence that
some of the people of England in his time were known
to be of Wendish descent. This is supported by evidence
of other kinds, such as the mention of settlements of
people with Wendish or ' Vandal names in the Anglo-
Saxon charters, the numerous names of places in England
which have come down from a remote antiquity, and
the identity of the oldest forms of such names with that
of the people of this race. We read also that Edward,
son of Edmund Ironside, fled after his father's death
'ad regnum Rugorum, quod melius vocamus Russiam.' 2
It is also supported by philological evidence. As a dis-
tinguished American philologist says : ' The Anglo-Saxon

1 Beda, ' Eccles. Hist.,' edited by J. A. Giles, book v., chap. ix.

2 Cottonian Liber Custumarum, Liber Albus, vol. ii., pt. ii., 645.

Rugians, Wends, and Tribal Slavonic Settlers. 9 1

was such a language as might be supposed would result
from a fusion of Old Saxon with smaller proportions of
High German, Scandinavian, and even Celtic and
Slavonic elements.' 1 The migration of the Wilte from
the shores of the Baltic and the foundation of a colony
in the country around Utrecht is certainly historical.
Bede mentions it in connection with the mission of
Wilbrord. He says : ' The Venerable Wilbrord went
from Frisia to Rome, where the Pope gave him the name
of Clement, and sent him back to his bishopric. Pepin
gave him a place for his episcopal see in his famous
castle, which, in the ancient language of those people, is
called Wiltaburg i.e., the town of the Wilti but in the
French tongue Utrecht.' 2 Venantius also tells us that
the Wileti or Wiltzi, between A.D. 560-600, settled near
the city of Utrecht, which from them was called Wilta-
burg, and the surrounding country Wiltenia. 3 Such a
migration would perhaps be made by land, and some of
these Wilte may have gone further. The name of 'the
first settlers in Wiltshire has been derived by some
authors from a migration of Wilte from near Wiltaburg, 4
and the name Wilssetan appears to afford some corrobora-
tion. It is certain that Wiltshire was becoming settled
in the latter half of the sixth century, and such a migra-
tion may either have come direct from the Baltic or the
Elbe, or from the Wilte settlement in Holland.

It must not be supposed that there is evidence of the
settlement of all Wiltshire by people descended from the
Wilte, but it is not improbable that some early settlers
of this time were the original Wilsaetas. The Anglo-
Saxon charters supply evidence of the existence in various
parts of England, as will be referred to in later pages, of

1 Marsh, G. P., ' Lectures on the English Language,' Second
Series, p. 55.

2 Beda, loc. cit., book v., chap. ii.

3 Hampson, R. T., ' The Geography of King Alfred,' p. 41.

4 Schafarik, ' Slavonic Antiquities,' quoted by Morfill, W. R.,
' Slavonic Literature,' 3-35.

92 Origin of the Anglo-Saxon Race.

people called Willa or Wilte. There were tribes in
England named East Willa and West Willa j 1 and such
Anglo-Saxon names as Willanesham ; 2 Wilburgeham,
Cambridgeshire ; 3 Wilburge gemaero and Wilburge mere
in Wilt shire; 4 Wilbur gewel in Kent; 5 Willa-byg in Lincoln-
shire ; 6 Wilmanford, 7 Wilmanleahtun, 8 appear to have
been derived from personal names connected with these
people. I have not been able to discover that any other
Continental tribe of the Anglo-Saxon period were so
named, except this Wendish tribe, called by King Alfred
the men of Havel, a name that apparently survived in
the Domesday name Hauelingas in Essex. The Wilte
or Willa tribal name survived in England as a personal
name, like the national name Scot, and is found in
the thirteenth-century Hundred Rolls and other early
records. In these rolls a large number ol persons so
named are mentioned Wiltes occurs in seventeen entries,
Wilt in eight, and Wilte in four entries. Willeman as
a personal name is also mentioned. 9 The old Scando-
Gothic personal name Wilia is well known. 10

The great Wendish tribe which occupied the country
next to that of the Danes along the west coast of the
Baltic in the ninth century was the Obodriti, known
also as the Bodritzer. From their proximity there arose
an early connection between them and the Danes, or
Northmen. In the middle of the ninth century we read
of a place on the boundaries of the Northmen and Obo-
drites, ' in confmibus Nordmannorum et Obodritorum.' 1J
The probability of W T endish people of this tribe having
settled in England among the Danes arises from their
near proximity on the Baltic, their political connection

1 Cart. Sax., edited by Birch, i 416.

2 Codex Dipl., No. 931. 3 Ibid., No. 967.
4 Ibid., Nos. 641 and 387. 8 Ibid., No. 282.

6 Ibid., No. 953. 7 Ibid., No. 1205.

8 Ibid. Hund. Rolls, vol. ii., Index.

Stephens, G., 'Old Northern Runic Monuments,' iii. 122.
11 Monumenta Germanise, Scriptores ii. 677, A.D. 851.

Rugians, Wends, and Tribal Slavonic Settlers. 93

in the time of Sweyn and Cnut, historical references to
Obodrites in the service of Cnut in England, and the
similarity of certain place-names in some parts of England
colonized by Danes to others on the Continent of known
Wendish or Slavonic origin. Obodriti is a Slavic name,
and, according to Schafarik, the Slavic ethnologist, the
name may be compared with Bodrica in the government
of Witepsk, Bodrok, and the provincial name Bodrog in
Southern Hungary, and others of a similar kind. In the
Danish settled districts of England we find the Anglo-
Saxon names Bodeskesham, Cambridgeshire ; Bodeshanij
now Bosham, Sussex ; Boddingc-weg, Dorset ;* the
Domesday names Bodebi, Lincolnshire ; Bodetone and
Bodele, Yorkshire ; Bodeha, Herefordshire ; Bodeslege,
Somerset ; Bodesha, Kent ; and others, 2 which may have
been named after people of this tribe.

The map of Europe at the present day exhibits evidence
of the ancient migration of the Slavs. The Slavs in the
country from Trient to Venice were known as Wendi, and
hence the name Venice or the Wendian territory. 3
Bohemia and Poland after the seventh century became
organized States of Slavs on the upper parts of the Elbe
and the Vistula. The Slavonic tribes on the frontier
or march-land of Moravia formed the kingdom of Moravia
in the ninth century. Other scattered tribes of Slavs
formed the kingdom of Bulgaria about the end of the
seventh century ; and westward of these, other tribes
organized themselves into the kingdoms of Croatia,
Dalmatia, and Servia. 4 In the North the ancient Slav
tribes of Pomerania, Mecklenburg, Brandenburg, and
those located on the banks of the Elbe, comprising the
Polabians, the Obodrites, the Wiltzi, those known at one
time as Rugini, the Lutitzes, and the Northern Sorabians
or Serbs, became gradually absorbed among the Germans,

1 Codex. Dipl., Index. 2 Domesday Book, Index.

3 Menzel, ' History of Germany,' i. 242.

4 Rambaud, A., ' History of Russia/ i. 23.

94 Origin of the Anglo-Saxon Race.

who formed new States eastward of their ancient limits.
These have long since become Teutonised, and their
language has disappeared, but the Slavonic place - names
still remain.

What concerns us specially in connection with the
settlement of England and the Vandals is that these
people were Slavs, not Teutons or Germans, as is some-
times stated. They are fully recognised as Slavs by
the historian of the Gothic race, who tells us that Slavs
differ from Vandals in name only. 1 It is important, also,
to note that the Rugians mentioned by Bede were a
Wendish tribe. Westward of the Elbe the Slavic Sorabians
had certainly pushed their way, before they were finally
checked by Charlemagne and his successors. The German
annals of the date A.D. 7822 tell us that the Sorabians
at that time were seated between the Elbe and the Saale,
where place-names of Slavonic origin remain to this

Those Wends who were located on the Lower Elbe,
near Liineburg and Hamburg, were known as Polabians,
through having been seated on or near this river, from
PO, meaning 'on,' and laba, the Slavic name for the Elbe.

The eastern corner of the former kingdom of Hanover,
and especially that in the circuit of Liichow, which even
to the present day is called Wendland, was a district
west of the Elbe, where the Wends formed a colony, and
where the Polabian variety of the Wendish language
survived the longest. It did not disappear until about
1700-1725, during the latter part of which period the
ruler of this ancient Wendland was also King of England.

During the later Saxon period in England the Wends
of the Baltic coast had their chief seaport at Julin or
Jomberg, close to the island called Wollin, in the delta of
the Oder. Julin is mentioned by Adam of Bremen as
the largest and most flourishing commercial city in Europe

1 Magnus, J., ' Hist, de omn. Goth. Sueon. reg.,' ed. 1554, p. 15.

2 Monumenta Germaniae, Ann. Einh., edited by Pertz, i. 163.

Rugians, Wends, and Tribal Slavonic Settlers. 95

in the eleventh century, but it was destroyed in 1176
by Valdemar, King of Denmark. 1 Its greatest rival was
the Northern Gothic port of Wisby in the Isle of Gotland.
Whether Jomberg surpassed Wisby as a commercial
centre, which, notwithstanding the statement of Adam
of Bremen, is doubtful, it is certain that these two
ports were the chief ports respectively of the W T ends and
the Goths of the Baltic. Both of them, even during the
Saxon period, had commercial relations with this country,
or maritime connection of some sort, as shown by the
number of Anglo-Saxon coins and ornaments with
Anglian runes on them found either in Gotland or

The connection of the Slav tribes of ancient Germany
with the settlement of England is supported also by the
survival in England of ancient customs which were
widely spread in Slavonic countries, by the evidence of
folk-lore, traces of Slav influence in the Anglo-Saxon
language, and by some old place-names in England,
especially those which point to Wends generally, and
others referring to Rugians and to Wilte. The great
wave of early Slavonic migration was arrested in Eastern
Germany, but lesser waves derived from it were con-
tinued westward, as shown by the isolated Slav colonies
of ancient origin in Oldenburg, Hanover, and Holland.
The same migratory movement in a lesser degree appears
to have extended even into England, bringing into our
country some Slavonic settlers, probably in alliance with
Saxons, Angles, Goths, and other tribes, and some later
on in alliance with Danes. The existence of separate
large tribes among the Wends is probable evidence of
racial differences, and the alternative names they had are
probably those by which they were known to themselves
and to their neighbours. The remnant at the present
time of the dark-complexioned Wends of Saxony, who
called themselves Sorbs, shows that there must have been
1 Mallet, M., ' Northern Antiquities,' Bonn's ed., p. 139.

96 Origin of the Anglo-Saxon Race.

some old Wendish tribe of similar complexion, from which
they are descended. As the country anciently occupied
by the Wiltzi included Brandenburg and the district
around Berlin, it joined the limits of ancient Saxony on
the west. There is evidence, arising from the survival
of place-names in and near the old Wendish country, to
show that these Wilte have left distinct traces of their
existence in North-East Germany for example, Wilts-
chau, Wilschkowitz, and Wiltsch are places in Silesia ;
Wilze is a place near Posen ; Wilsen in Mecklenburg-
Schwerin ; Wilsdorf near Dresden ; Wilzken in East
Prussia ; and Wilsum in Hanover. 1 Similarly, names
of the same kind which can be traced back to Saxon
time survive in England. If the existence of these Wilte
place-names in the old Wendish country of Germany is
confirmatory evidence of the former existence in that
part of Europe of a nation or tribe known as the Wiltzi
or Wilte, the existence of similar names in England,
dating from the Anglo-Saxon period, cannot be other
than probable evidence of the settlement in England
of some of these people, for no other tribe is known to
have existed at that time which had a similar name.
This tribal name has also survived in other countries,
such as Holland, in which the Wilte formed colonies.
The Polabian Wends or Wilte were located on the right
bank of the Elbe, where some ships for the Saxon inva-
sion must have been fitted out. There were Saxons on
the left bank and Wilte on the right. At a later period
they were in close alliance, and unless there had been peace
between them, it is not likely that a Saxon expedition to
England would have been organized.

Under these circumstances, if we had no evidence of
Wilte or other Wends in England, it would be very
difficult indeed to believe that some of them did not come
among the Saxons. The general name of the Wends
survives in many place-names in the old Wendish parts
1 Rudolph, H., ' Orts Lexikon von Deutschland.'

Rugians, Wends, and Tribal Slavonic Settlers. 97

of Germany, such as Wendelau, Wendemarkj Wende-
wisch, Wendhagen, and Wendorf. 1

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the old
Slavonic tribes not only comprised people of different
tribal names, but of different ethnological characters,
seeing that at the present time there are dark-com-
plexioned Slavs and others as fair as Scandinavians.
No record of the physical characters of the ancient
Wends appears to have survived, but observations on
the remnant of the race, who call themselves Sorbs,
in Lower Saxony have been made by Beddoe. The
Wendish peasants examined by him and recorded in
his tables 2 showed the highest index of nigrescence of
any observed by him in Germany. These observations
have been confirmed by the results of the official ethno-
logical survey of that country. 3

The coast of the Baltic Sea as far east as the mouth of
the Vistula, and beyond it, is remarkable for having
been what may be called the birthplace of nations.
Goths were seated east of the Vistula before the fall of
the Roman Empire, and Vandals appear to have occupied
a great area of country around the sources of the Vistula
and the Oder. In the middle of the fifth century the
Burgundians were seated in large numbers between the
middle courses of these rivers, while the Slavic tribes
known as Rugians were located on the Baltic coast on
both sides of the Oder. The name Rugini or Rugians
thus appears, at one time, to have been a comprehensive
one, and to have included the tribes known later on as

In the Sagas of the Norse Kings, Vindland is the name
of the country of the Wends from Holstein to the east of
Prussia, and as early as the middle of the tenth century
we read of both Danish and Vindish Vikings as subjects

1 Rudolph, H., loc. cit.

2 Beddoe, J., ' Races of Britain,' 207.

3 Ripley, W. Z., ' Races of Europe,' Map.


98 Origin of the Anglo-Saxon Race.

of, or in the service of, Hakon, King of Denmark. 1 In
this century the Wends were sometimes allies and some-
times enemies of the Danes and Norse. There is a
reference to interpreters of the Wendish tongue in the
Norse Sagas. 2 The Wends were sea-rovers, like their
neighbours, and comprised the largest section of the
ancient association or alliance known as the Jomberg
Vikings. 3 An alliance was made between the Danes and
the Wends by the marriage of Sweyn, King of Denmark,
to Gunhild, daughter of Borislav, a King of the Wends.
Cnut, King of England and Denmark, was actually King
of ancient Wendland, and the force of huscarls he formed
in England was partly composed of Jomberg sea-rovers
who had been banished from their own country. The
evidence of Wendish settlers with the Angles, Saxons,
and Jutes in England rests, as far as the Rugians are
concerned, on Bede's statement, and generally on the
survival of customs, place-names, and folk-lore. It is
certain that large colonies of Vandals were settled in
Britain before the end of the Roman occupation, and
some of them may have retained their race characters
until the time of the Saxon settlement. It is certain,
also, that there was an immigration in the time of Cnut.
The evidence of a Wendish influence in the English race,
arising from these successive settlements, extending
from the Roman time to the later Anglo-Saxon period,
cannot, therefore, be disregarded.

The Anglo-Saxon charters 4 tell us of Wendlesbiri in
Hertfordshire, Wendlescliff in Worcestershire, Waendles-
cumb in Berkshire, and Wendlesore, now Windsor all
apparently named from settlers called Wendel, after the
name of their race.

In such Old English place-names the tribal name

1 ' The Heimskringla,' translated by Laing, edited by Ander-
son, ii. 12. 2 Ibid., iv. 201.

3 Memoires de la Societe Royale des Antiquaires du Nord,
1850-1860, p. 422. 4 Codex Dipl., Nos. 826, 150, 1283, 816.

Rugians t Wends, and Tribal Slavonic Settlers. 99

lingers yet, as similar names linger in North-East Ger-
many ; and in the names Wilts, Willi, Rugen, Rown, or
Ruwan, and others, we may still, in all probability, trace
the Wilte and Rugians Wendic tribes of the Saxon age.
In the old Germanic records the Rugians are mentioned
under similar names to those found in the Anglo-Saxon
charters, Ruani and Rugiani. 1

Some manorial customs, and especially that of sole
inheritance by the youngest son, may be traced with
more certainty to the old Slavic nations of Europe than
to the Teutonic. Inheritance by the youngest son, or
junior preference, was a custom so prevalent among the
Slavs that there can be little doubt it must have been
almost or quite the common custom of the race. The
ancient right of the youngest survives here and there
in parts of Germany in parts of Bavaria, for example
but in no Teutonic country is the evidence to be
found" in ancient customs or in old records of the
identification of this custom with the Teutonic race as
it may be identified with the Slavic. In the old Wendish
country around Lubeck the custom of inheritance by
the youngest son long survived, or still does, and Lubeck
was the city in which during the later Saxon age in
England the commerce of the Wends began to be

There is evidence of another kind showing the con-
nection of Wends with Danes or Northmen. At Sonde-
vissing, in Tyrsting herrad, in the district of Scanderborg,
there is a stone monument with a runic inscription
stating that ' Tuva caused this barrow to be constructed.
She was a daughter of Mistivi. She made it to her mother,
who was the wife of Harald the Good, son of Gorm.' 2
The inscription has been assigned to the end of the tenth
century, and Worsaae says : ' We know that there
existed at this period a Wendish Prince named Mistivi,

1 Monumenta Germanise, iii. 461.

2 Worsaae, J. J. A., ' Primaeval Antiquities of Denmark,' p. 1 18.


ioo Origin of the Anglo-Saxon Race.

who in the year 986 destroyed Hamburg, possibly the
same as in the inscription.' This refers to a generation
earlier than that of Cnut, to the time of Sweyn, who
married the daughter of Borislav, King of the Wends.
During the period of Danish rule in England there are
several historical references to the connection of the
Wends with England. In 1029, Eric, son of Hakon, was
banished by Cnut. Hakon was doubly the King's
nephew, being the son of his sister and the husband of
his niece Gunhild, the daughter of another sister and of
Wyrtgeorn, King of the Wends. 1 There was at this time
an eminent Slavonic Prince who was closely connected
with Cnut, and spent some time with him in England
viz., Godescalc, son of Uto, the Wendish Prince of the
Obodrites, whose exploits are recorded in old Slavonic
history. The Obodrites were the Wendish people whose
warlike deeds are still commemorated at Schwerin.
Godescalc waged war against the Saxons of Holstein
and Stormaria, but was taken prisoner. After his release
he entered the service of Cnut, probably as an officer of
the huscarls, and later on he married the King's daughter.
There is another trace of the Wends in an English
charter of A.D. 1026, which is witnessed by Earls Godwin,
Hacon, Hrani, Sihtric, and Wrytesleof. The name of
the last of these is apparently Slavonic. 2 There is also a
charter of Cnut, dated 1033, by which he granted to
Bouige, his huscarl, land at Horton in Dorset. 3 Saxo, the
early chronicler of the Danes, tells us that Cnut's Wendish
kingdom was called Sembia, and it was in the Wendish
war under Cnut that Godwin, the Anglo-Saxon earl, rose
to distinction. As Wendland was actually part of Cnut's
continental dominions, 4 the migration into England of
Wendish people during his reign is easily accounted for.

1 Freeman, E. A., ' Hist, of the Norman Conquest,' i. 475.

2 Freeman, E. A., loc. cit., i. 650.

3 Codex Dipl., No. 1318.

4 Freeman, E. A., loc. cit,, i. 504, Note.

Rugians, Wends, and Tribal Slavonic Settlers. 101

There is additional evidence of the intercourse of the
Wendish people of Pomerania with the people of Anglo-
Saxon England in the objects that have been found.
The gold ring which was found at Coslin, on the Pomer-
anian coast, in 1839, Stephens says was the first instance
of the discovery of a golden bracteate and Northern runes
on German soil. 1 The inscription is in provincial English
runes, the rune ( ^ ), yo, a slight variation of ( ^ ), being
decisive in this respect, for, as Stephens says, it has only
been found in England. The ring must be a very early
one, for it contains the heathen symbols for Woden and
also for the Holy Triskele (Y)- Stephens states that it
cannot well be later than the fifth century, and that it
had been worn by a warrior ' who had been in England,
or had gotten it thence by barter.' The style is that
of six centuries earlier than the eleventh or twelfth
centuries, when the Germans came to Pomerania. The

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