Derby: From Saxon Settlers to Domesday Book
In this post, I mentioned the book A City Within a City, Little Chester Derby, AD80 - AD2000, by Joan D'Arcy, and Derby local history during Roman Occupation period.
In the early fifth century the Roman legions were withdrawn from Britain to defend Rome from barbarian attacks and Angles and Saxons from northern Europe began to colonise the land. Small bands of Anglian peoples began to penetrate the Midlands.
As the various groups of Angles and Saxons tightened their hold on the land, kingdoms were formed and boundaries drawn. The midlands became part of a large kingdom of Mercia. King Penda ruled in the early seventh century.
Derby began to develop to the south of Little Chester, in defensible area between the River Derwent and a brook known today as Markeaton Brook. The name Northworthy (which the Danes called Derby) has been given to this Saxon phase of Derby's history.
Saxon occupation was disrupted by the arrival of Vikings, or Danes, who made their first recorded appearance in England in 793 when they raided a monastery at Lindisfarne in Northumbria. In 868 they made their first recorded incursion into Derbyshire, via the Trent.
Evidence for Viking occupation of Derby relies much upon the place name Derby ( the suffix 'by' being Scandinavian for settlement) and the use of the word 'gate' (Scandinavian for street) in street names.
It is often said that the Saxons avoid Roman sites out of superstition or dislike of such walled places. This is a fallacy. Not only is there evidence that at Little Chester they chose to bury their dead immediately adjacent to and even within the Roman walls and buildings, but many towns grew up on Roman sites. Why Little Chester declined and a new site at Derby, only half a mile distant, was preferred is problematic and unusual. One reason that has been put forward is the deterioration of the Roman bridge or bridges across the Derwent and the greater ease of crossing the river further down stream.