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The Vikings – Rape, Pillage and Slaves

Our area may well have had a few mud huts (Cotes) built by the Saxons but if not, it would certainly have been used for some of their hunting and fishing activities, as our area in Sidney Sussex was but a stones throw away from their main hamlet built on our shore.

Certainly we know for certain that various small Saxon hamlets were gradually created all around, but the local one was at at Oole which was what Saxons called a hollow into which they initially settled.

This hamlet -situated where now is the Cleethorpes Market Place, Market Street and Short Street area, is of course, on the very edge of what is now, Sidney Sussex.

The name of this hamlet has been spelt many ways over the years including Hole (1597), Hulle, (1546) Howle, (1546) Hoole, (1552) Houle, (1558) Hoolle, (1560) Hooll, (1562) Whole, (1587) and Whoilthorpe (1588). By the 17th century Hoole was the most common. Locally and in more recent times, it has also been known as Fore Thorpe, Low Thorpe and Near Cleethorpes.

The peace of our neighbourhood was then disturbed during the latter years of the 8th Century when the Danes came to the area. They still followed the old religion of Thor and Odin and ruthlessly plundered any Christian Church they came across and mercilessly killed any believer of the ‘White Christ’. Several churches and many homes around our area suffered in this way. At this stage, Vikings had little on their mind except rape, plunder, and slaves, though if they came against a bigger force they often claimed to come to trade. They stole anything of value they could get into their boats and were said to have the biggest international slave ring in the whole of the world at that time.

All this sounds terrible by today’s standards but was in many ways the way of the world in that era. Certainly Vikings suffered bad reporting, as the only ones that wrote about them at the time were monks who suffered greatly at their hands.

Later more people came to settle including further Vikings. The area began to grow and several other hamlets gradually appeared such as Weelsby, adding to innumerable other ‘bys’ which studded the face of Northern Lincolnshire.

However, during the following century there were still constant attacks in and around our area, until around 878AD when came the (so called) Peace of Wedmore, which was between the Danish King, Guthrum and King Alfred of Wessex,following the defeat of he Viking army at the Battle of Edington. The Danish King and his followers were forced by Alfred to turn Christian and the Viking army moved ultimately to East Anglia.

This meant that the kingdom of Mercia, of which we were part, was now split between the two armies, However as King Alfred had ensured that our Viking rulers were now Christian and even though Lincolnshire was now well within the ‘Danelaw’, peaceful relations then existed between the English and the Vikings.

It was at this time that just beyond the hamlet of Oole, another similar township was formed called Outer-by or Itterby. This was around where Seaview Street and Wardall Street exist today. Itterby through the years has been spelt Utterby (1544), Utterbye (1549), Itterbie (1564), Itterbythorpe (1587), Utterbie ( 1591), and Itterbye (1594). In recent times it was also known as Middle Thorpe, Upper Thorpe, High Thorpe and Far Cleethorpes.

These two hamlets were classed as settlements or ‘thorpes’ of the parent village of Clee.

Thrunscoe the third hamlet, which later with the other two eventually became Cleethorpes, was situated between the present Segmere Street and the Buck Beck. At this early stage, it too was part of the parish of Clee.

Our area, also part of Clee parish, at this time possibly had the odd building or two – low, mud-daubed with thatched roofs but mainly would have been wild countryside. It was the home of wild duck and plover and ideal for hunting. As it was also full of creeks it was ideal for safe fishing also. No doubt with the creation of these additional hamlets, our area which eventually became Sidney Sussex began to see greater activity as the population grew.

Peace reigned – but then came the third invader.