Coming from parts of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, Vikings struck and invaded the coasts of England around 800AD. Often, the sight of their boats from the horizon inspired terror in villages along the coast and other parts of England.
Throughout their history, Vikings raided villages, territories, and even claimed the throne of England at one time. Their long involvement with England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales provided archaeologists with plenty of interesting facts about their history.
Not much is known about them yet as they left little written evidence themselves!
Even so, here are some interesting facts about these Norse invaders and how their arrival in England impacted the future of the United Kingdom.
Fact 1. The Vikings went everywhere!
Their original homeland was Scandinavia; modern Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. From here, they travelled as far as Russia to the east, America to the west, Iraq to the south, and Lapland to the north. Their travels were mainly by sea and rivers.
Most of what we know about them and their exploration expeditions are through archaeological studies, sagas, poetry, and proverbs.
People across England who they encountered also wrote about them.
Fact 2. The first English raid was in 787AD
It’s not until 787AD when the English first encountered the Norsemen. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle depicts how the Vikings fought with the locals before sailing away.
This would be the first of many encounters to follow in the next hundred years. By 793AD, England had more invasions from the Norsemen, who terrorised the locals and snatched territories.
Fact 3. Vikings were the best shipbuilders in the world
The Viking shipbuilding skills were unmatched for over 10 centuries. Their extraordinary vessels, particularly longships, shaped the lives of sea invasions and trade. Their ship-fairing skills ultimately changed the course of European history.
The Vikings were best known for building a variety of extraordinary ships from small fishing boats to the famous super-fast longships that they used for raiding.
By the 9th century, Viking raids by the sea really picked up. Norse communities and villages came together to build better, stronger vessels for their raiding expeditions!
They built smaller boats for fishing and short trips. They also built slower cargo and passenger ships called knorrs that carried everything they needed at sea.
Their cargo mostly included drinking water, weapons, tools, dried meat to eat, and furs to keep them warm.
Did they go to battle with their ships? Yes! In fact, they could haul their ships up on the beach before jumping out and start fighting. This also enabled them to make a quick getaway in case they were being chased.
Fact 4. Weapons were made of iron
Research is heavily reliant on archaeological records regarding weaponry and armoury. There’s not much in technical descriptions to go on when talking about the weapons and armour that the Vikings used in battle.
Some of the conventional weapons and armour that they used in battle include:
- Swords (single- and double-edged)
- Bows and arrows
The Vikings also didn’t have standard outfits for when they went into battle. Of course, there were some regional variations in what they wore in battle. But it was not as common.
Their typical weapon in battle was the axe which, unlike swords, was very popular.
Most of their weapons were made of iron. Swords had broad grooves along the centre to help cut down their weight and were beautifully decorated with motifs of animals and geometric patterns.
Fact 5. Vikings usually fought in summer
Viking warfare usually happened in summer – because winter was too cold! They would usually battle along coasts, but they would take rivers inland using boats that were quite shallow.
Vikings did use horses for battle, and they probably dismounted the horses in order to fight.
Vikings were thought to use animal horns to communicate with each other. They would make loud noises into the horns.
Sometimes they would use messengers who would ride on horseback across fields to send more complicated messages and orders.
Fact 6. The Vikings were the original Normans
The Vikings went all over Europe. They were called the Norsemen, which became translated into French as ‘les Normands’, or as we call them, the Normans.
Where they landed became known as Normandy.
They married French women, adapted the French language, and even started converting to Christianity. But although they adapted, they still maintained their warrior tradition and conquering spirit. Before long, ambitious Norman knights were looking for new challenges!
Their best-known achievement to date was their conquest of England, in 1066.
So while Harold was fighting the Vikings in the north of England, another set of Vikings was getting ready to fit him in Hastings!
Fact 7. You can find Viking artefacts in England
Many museums, burial mounds, festivals, and artefacts are dedicated to Vikings and their history throughout Europe. Most of their leftovers are, however, concentrated in Nottingham, York, Norfolk, and Northumberland.
Additionally, many reenactors of Viking’s history help recreate their legendary battles and raids! Most reenactors produce films and stories of the Vikings’ way of life according to the information found by archaeologists.
Fact 8. The end of the Vikings
Many archaeological records show that the Viking age ended with the Battle of Fulford in September 1066. Viking invaders took advantage of king Edward the Confessor’s death and invaded a village near Fulford.
However, the invasion wasn’t successful. The newly crowned king Harold managed to drive off the invaders at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.
At the same time, another invasion was brewing in the south led by William of Normandy. Already tired from the Stanford Bridge battle, Harold’s army was forced to march down to the second invasion. These were, of course, the Normans – who were actually Vikings.