Scarborough and District
Generally, the Norse Vikings colonised England on the West, principally in Cumbria, and the Danish Vikings on the East, principally in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. However, there are exceptions. The Viking sagas tell of some Norse invasions of the east coast of England. In particular, there is evidence of a Norse landing and colonisation in late 966 or 967 at Scarborough. The account is particularly important as documentary testimony of Norse settlement, rather than of a marauding military expedition. A passage in Kormak’s Saga describes how Scarborough derived its name from a Viking named Thorgils, nicknamed Scard or Skarthi – meaning ‘the hare lipped’. With his brother Kormak 'sailed he about the British Isles; and men say they founded Scarborough, and called it after Thorgils’ other name Scard.'
Although born in Iceland, Thorgils and Kormak (or Cormac) were of Irish-Norse descent. It is said that their mother was an Irish princess. The sagas tell of their visits to Ireland. Interestingly – if we need further evidence of the existence of the Odd name in Norse society – there is an account earlier in the same saga of how Kormak slew a man named Odd, son of Thorveig, and there is another person in the saga referred to as Odd the fisher.
It is possible that the expedition of Thorgils and Kormak to Scarborough involved a Norse settlement where the first name Odd was in use. This eventually became the basis of the Hodgson surname in the locality.
Adjacent to Scarborough is the parish of Scalby. The name of this village comes from the Old Norse ‘Skalli’s by’, the first element being in turn derived as a byname from skalle meaning ‘skull’. This suggests that Scalby was also populated by Norse settlers at this time.
Over the years, a major Norse settlement at Scarborough would have resulted in the migration of Norse families inland, as they sought any opportunity to farm available land. There could have been substantial Norse migrations inland, including to Upper Ryedale, the Vale of Pickering, and parts of the North York Moors.
In the year 966 York was no longer under Scandinavian rule, but Norse incursion and settlement inland would have found a more favourable political environment a few decades later, during the reign of King Canute in 1016-1035. It should be noted that the overall number of people involved in this part of Yorkshire would have been much less than the Irish-Norse settlements in Cumberland and Lancashire.
From the beginnings of parish registers in the sixteenth century, the most important cluster of Hodgson families east of the Pennines was in an area from Scarborough to Wintringham, close to the east coast of Yorkshire. Wintringham is 14km southeast of Pickering and 23km southwest of Scarborough. This cluster could be explained by the invasion of the Norse adventurer Kormak in 966 or 967.
For tourist information on Scarborough click HERE.