Romans, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings
A History of Allerton and Mossley Hill @ allertonOak  
 
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The Romans
The absence of a major river outlet to the sea would account for the absence of Liverpool itself in the historical record before the Norman Conquest. The Romans left neither mention of a usable estuary here nor roads to one, although those of the Dee to the south and the Ribble to the north were of prime importance to them, as witnessed by the important remains they left behind. There might have been a significant earthquake round about the fifth century (Formby is still an epicentre for minor earthquakes) that was responsible for widening what was before in all likelihood just a stream, the rest being down to powerful tidal action.
The local people at the time of the Roman occupation (43 - 410 AD) were a confederation of tribes known to the Romans as the Brigantes. They managed to retain their political identity through a period of conflict until about 70 AD.
Although there is no direct evidence that the Romans were in Allerton or Mossley Hill, they may well have been as they were certainly nearby at Aigburth and Garston. In 1853 and 1855, sections of Roman pavement, possibly part of a road leading to a Mersey crossing point at Hale, were discovered at Otterspool and Grassendale. Then in 1863 some third century Roman coins were unearthed at Otterspool and a second hoard nearby later the same year during the construction of the Cheshire Lines Railway. The nearest Roman town would have been Warrington.
The Anglo-Saxons
Following the departure of the Romans by the 5th century, Germanic peoples from the coastal regions of north-western Europe, probably driven by geographical changes caused by encroachment of the sea, began to migrate to Britain. They became known as Anglo-Saxons after two of their regions of origin (Anglia and Lower Saxony) to distinguish them from the native Celtic peoples, the Britons. By the year 600, the Britons still occupied the western part of the country, but in 678 the north-west of England was absorbed into the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria when the River Mersey was adopted as its south-west boundary.
By the late 800s, Alfred the Great had become the dominant ruler of an England where the Germanic and Celtic peoples had largely intermingled and the common language was Anglo-Saxon, also known as Old English. The district of Wallasey on the other side of the River Mersey from Allerton means island of the strangers in Anglo-Saxon, as the area may have been left to the original Celtic people because of its isolated position bounded by marshland and two river outflows. The presence of Anglo-Saxon culture in Allerton is attested by the name itself, which means alder-tree settlement in their language. It is also present in some neighbouring districts: Aigburth - place of oaks, Dingle - deep dell, Garston - grassy settlement, Gateacre - possibly goat field, Hale - a slope (also Halewood), Oglet - oak tree by water, Speke - possibly brushwood, Wavertree - wavering tree and Woolton - Wulfa's settlement. However, the names of several nearby places betray their Celtic origins, for example, quoting Welsh for comparison, Penketh - pen coed, wooded top, Ince - ynys, island and Liscard - coed llys, wooded court.
The Vikings
Norse expeditions had started by the beginning of the 8th century, but they really gathered pace after the so-called unification of Norway in 872 under King Harald I. Many wealthy and respected chieftains posed a threat to Harald, who harassed them until they left Norway. A large number settled peacefully in the newly founded Viking kingdom of Dublin and some became Christianised by the native Irish. However they were expelled from Ireland beginning in 902 by Cearbhall, King of Leinster, and continuing until 1014 with the Battle of Clontarf, near Dublin, under forces led by Brian Boru, known as the High King of Ireland.
Many of the Vikings from Ireland settled finally on the Wirral peninsula and in the coastal regions of south-west Lancashire, on poor quality land largely uninhabited, and hence undisputed by, the locals. Because of the local geography, there were more Viking settlements in Wirral and to the north of Liverpool than to the south, but the names of some of Allerton's neighbouring districts do have Viking origins: Childwall - field with a spring, Thingwall - assembly field and Toxteth - Toki's landing place. In particular, Thingwall indicates a major meeting point or parliament for the entire region and suggests a significant concentration of people of Scandinavian origin throughout the south Liverpool area.
 
Acknowledgements and Further Reading
Otterspool at Mike Royden's Local History Pages. The book Viking Mersey by Stephen Harding, Countyvise Ltd., Birkenhead, 2002, is also recommended.
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