The Argument for Gledhill as an Ancient Yorkshire Surname
from a Norse Language Root
Peter Gledhill


See Peter's biographical details at the foot of this article.

Contact Peter


Pre 1275 AD!!! ‘Gledehul from / in the Land of Bjorke - (Bjorkeland)’ is convincingly argued to be the genuine ancient Viking root of our name, as recorded in Wakefield AD1275. Our name can be shown to be from Viking times. See how uncorrupted Viking influence in Yorkshire and the North to this day directly links the originally recorded name to that language root. Brief references to Old English or Anglo Saxon tongues, established old spellings surrounding it, also give new cause for thought. Solid evidence, with words and pronunciation guides from the Scandinavian tongues backed by modern local site visits, give real interpretation. This in-depth previously unpublished analysis certainly wets appetite for debate. You will be amazed!!

A Viking Gledhill pre 1275AD!!! When the writer found the first accurate written record of the name was in Wakefield as Gledehul from the land of Bjork(e) or Bjorkeland, lots of inter-locking information was already in place for the writer to justify a theory of a simple very localised language root for the name. If accepted origins did refer to where ‘kites’ lived, why not the same name springing up everywhere else in Britain – or elsewhere - where kites would have, without question, lived - because e.g. the ubiquitous Red Kite was resident throughout Britain even a protected bird as a valuable scavenger in the middle ages. The Gledhill Coat of Arms has actually references to a Hen, (not a Hawk) of all things, a facsimile of which is carved upon the door lintels above the Arms, of the later family seat of Barkisland Hall built 1612. Hawks of every type were common place in far off days and game plentiful. Being reasonable, why isolate a small area with a particular bird description for a clan name? ‘Glead(e) Hill’ Almondbury, Huddersfield, is from the same era and administrative area, yet differing spelling to ‘Glede’. ‘Lead’ pronounced ‘leed’, was a village at the time near Tadcaster, and gives good rise to think two different words on those lines existed. English language Bibles translated from Latin and / or Greek came along much later than 1275, and Glede or Glead could therefore be used in that translation, with later meanings thus used, (viz; as in ‘ good hawk’) from translation of the pre French / Latin languages in which ALL were written! Is there a Hebrew, Greek or Arabic version of ‘Glede’, Gledhill from the earlier Bible’s writings in Greek? No. Established are differing spellings of Glede from the time. Glead, Gleade, Glede, and the old English variants such as ‘gleodda’ which when spoken pronounced in a similarly same way as Glede, i.e. ‘Glayadder’ = ‘Gleeodda’, and goes towards proving relationships between the languages ( to which great reference is made within). One asks the honest question that in violent, hard, dark age life would the populace really have worried about Deuteronomy’s ‘glede’ hawk, from a Latin Bible to which few would have literate access, or anything remotely academic about birdie friends, when survival was the key, and the greatest influence was practical Anglo – Saxon - Norse (Viking / early English), verbally expressed?

Nordic tongues have lasting influence on Northern dialects, places, names, and land descriptions to this day. The Wakefield record of 1275 gives direct connection to a current Norwegian surname, also an area near Bergen, Norway (Bjorkeland) – the long lasting nature of language use reflected in history, and current Scandinavia. These rare events are not seen in southern Britain. Evidence is found in Northern Britain - the known area of Danelaw, Yorkshire and Pennine dialect, Norway, post the Norman Conquest, and progressions of an ‘English’ tongue after 1066. It is shown that looking at spelling isn’t enough – pronunciation and sounds of the tongue have to be understood and certainly ‘glede’ ( meaning variants of pleasing, good ) as is wouldn’t be ‘gleed’ when pronounced - and ‘hul’ is now established by research to be a hollow, or steep sided small valley, examples of which exist throughout all Yorkshire Viking areas so named to the present day and presented within the text. ‘Glead however, would have been ‘gleed’. Is this indeed a different word? Given that Hawks were protected by law, and deemed ‘good’ for the community, good or pleasing descriptions, would still be valid as a language influence and not that specifically from the feathered. ‘Hul’, (corrupted), could be wheel: Hjul, (modern) Hjól (old Nordic)!! Yet ‘Hul’ is today and was a meaning for a hollow or steep sided smaller valley, which from 2005 site visits and available photography today still reflects this meaning above all others specifically at Beck Hole, Brockhole, Mankinhole and quite definitely, Barkisland itself! All are only within the known Viking geographic areas. Pronounced ‘Yule’!!!

Please read the theory!

The Argument for Gledhill as an Ancient Yorkshire Surname from a Norse Language Root
by Peter Gledhill

As with most Gledhills one supposes, curiosity as to the name was with one from an early age. Also one must presume a lot of folk just happy to have an easy answer to that question for the mantelshelf with the painted coat of arms thereon may not have either; interest, means, time or inclination, to examine any alternative to a kite/hawk basis. But within Peter’s own Yorkshire family a couple of meanings were given to the writer as a child, the bird thing, but also a glad place, or happy hill. But what is the most likely? Looking at web site after web site, so many folk appear to pontificate studiously on the source, including someone muttering the ‘glede’ hawk mentioned in Deuteronomy within the Bible! Is there a middle-eastern Gledhill I ask? No!!

When the writer discovered the first record of the name in Wakefield as Gledehul from the land of Bjork(e) or Bjorkeland, lots of already inter-locking information bits were already in place, so the writer set out herein to justify a simple language root for the name. But then as it all came together, a real solid case appeared particularly when the Nordic tongues have had such a lasting influence on our Northern dialects, place names, descriptions of the land, and are reflected in our case to this day by street names, churches, towns, and then a direct connection to a current Norwegian surname which lasting nature of which old surnames still reflect in recorded history here and in Scandinavia. That series of events, is rare, if at all in southern Britain. Further supporting evidence is found in archaeology in Britain and Norway, in recorded historical circumstances in Norway, the Norman Conquest and known progression of an ‘English’ tongue after 1066.

The writer also tries to show that just looking at spelling isn’t enough – the pronunciation and sound of the tongue has to be understood.

Also, when reading this missive, please, please, realise that any and all academic literature existing and from which comment as to meanings and that can be quoted for interpretation of ‘old English’ or Norse, is often conjecture quoted on and from existing interpreted linguistic interpretation as with’ sau-by’, as in ‘farmstead on sour ground’, herein itself discredited.

The writer believes that, coming from a different direction, looking laterally, accepted interpretation can be reviewed, challenged and changed. Investigation was finally spurred by that original accurate recording of the name in records at Wakefield, Yorkshire originally given to the writer via Durham University sources as spelled ‘Bjorkeland’ and ‘Gledehul’ from the text.

This work is based on what is, what exists in Nordic record, what exists in topographical feature in accordance with that language, in the long lasting dialectic word, and that often quoted in Domesday which is well before some of the work bringing forth later comment.

Hawks of every type were everywhere in those far off days when most areas were wooded and bog / fen lower down were the norm as near rivers or valley streams, and game was particularly plentiful everywhere. There is no Hebrew or Arabic Gledhill from the Bible. One had to ask the question in real honesty that in the often violent hard life of the dark ages would the populace really have worried about a hawk from the bible, or anything remotely academically complex about feathered friends in identifying folk around them when survival was the key, and the greatest influences about them were usually verbally expressed Anglo-Saxon-Nordic?

The writer believes that, coming from a different direction, looking laterally, accepted interpretation can be reviewed, challenged and changed. Investigation was finally spurred by that original accurate recording of the name in records at Wakefield, Yorkshire given to the writer via Durham University sources as spelled ‘Bjorkeland’ and ‘Gledehul’ from the text.

Possessing modest knowledge of Scandinavian tongues, then being married to a Scandinavian speaking all, enabled comparison and examination of lasting Norse–Saxon language influences in the Yorkshire dialectic word, current language here and Scandinavia, and also written in early place names known to be from that time throughout the North of England. But to do this one has to take into account pronunciation of the older words, which is covered later within but would give rise to a mis-interpretation of the old words by those not familiar with, or trying too hard regarding Norse, - or old English, and then giving an assumed meaning.

Although I do go a bit deep later, ‘Bergetorp’ is a current village near York, spelled like that in the Domesday book of 1086. Known to be of Norse origin with Saxon based church, it would have been pronounced: Bear-yer-torp. Today, its ‘Burythorpe’!! Torp = grassy knowl, no trees. Berge = rock outcrop. I.e. Place of rock outcrop near grass. Although ‘Thorpe’ is also interpreted as a Viking ‘daughter’ or spin off settlement.

So, thanks to life’s kind fortune allowing him to be very well travelled throughout Scandinavia and northern Europe, the writer is now understanding and speaking passable Norwegian / Swedish / and able to understand written Danish, also French, bits of German, having picked up snippets here and there. He has visiting many historical sites throughout the area including the Scottish Northern and Western Isles, Ireland, noting and visiting sites and historical details in Norway, Sweden and briefly in Denmark, making enquiry from ideas, reading, and finally watching TV documentaries. Then the innate curiosity developed from one’s Yorkshire upbringing and formative year’s work training, i.e., an investigative nature, kicked in.

This presentation certainly isn’t the most in depth that professional research for a degree project would require, nor was it so intended, but every informative source is not just speculative, it exists - all around us. It started as a personal venture for fun, which may well now carry weight, and as far as is known, is a view not before presented.

The skill of any observer / investigator stems from a willingness to see, hear, and recognise seemingly unconnected oblique significance in circumstance or event to connect from it - howsoever told, to challenge or put new light on older positions. Collating this view, so presenting versions of events, logically based to bisect pre-conceptual thinking, giving plausible alternatives to be examined then proven. The writer has been such a successful investigator at varying times in his life from the beginnings of his first main career, where he was a commended officer, and in C. I. D. at an early age.

It is believed a provable position can be made for the ‘good place to be’ ‘pleasing environment or place to settle’ and accurately by the literal translation of ‘hul’, Good glade or hollow case prior to any hawk tale, making the name ancient indeed.

If its accepted very localised origin did refer to where kites lived, why not the same name sources springing up everywhere else in Britain – or elsewhere - where this bird would have, and certainly with the Red Kite did, without question, live? None exist! Yet it is well known that birds of prey were indigenous to British skies, the Red Kite being so ubiquitous and valuable that in the middle-ages it was protected by law.

One commentator’s book assures us we are Gaelic Gledes in what is modern Scotland -and outlaws, then to be named after the glede hawk, connected to a falconer’s job, and to be in any case from where the hawks lived. All can be addressed. Indeed the Norse word for the hawk is, surprise, surprise, HAUK. Where is the glede, or glead?

We feel it can be shown by argument Gledhill is most likely from a particularly Norse language root – i.e. the verb ‘å glede’ (to please, or be glad about a subject), from which pronunciation of the word our English ‘Glad, or to be glad’ comes, (Angle-Saxon ‘gleoda’), backed by simple historically recorded evidence, rather than descriptions of wildlife on it’s own, (which would not - given the times and prolific wildlife, have allowed the actual narrow focussed location of name source). The spelling Glead existed at the same time, well, well!! Then, we move to show the same language evidence gives rise to a credible basis for the foundation of modern Sowerby (Bridge) previously used by a commentator, but mis-understood (see Calderdale County Council websites) and published - wrongly interpreting the ‘Scandinavian’ words. Indeed the then writer seemingly failed to take account of a wider, deeper understanding of the languages or characteristics of pronunciation. Has this happened more often?

For this pronunciation, it may help the reader to understand some Nordic vowel sounds. Ø = er, å = or, æ = ahre, aa = or, and the crunch word ‘glede’ = ‘glayadder’. Saxon ‘gleoda’ would sound like ‘glayohda’, matching in form, ‘glayadder’.

Taking an agreed basis that Gledhill was first recorded in Wakefield, Yorkshire, around 1275 as Gledehul, from the land of Bjørk! i.e. Bjørk(e)land, that is, currently, logically, Barkisland. This spelling was donated directly from research by parties at Durham University. Bjorkeland, unchanged in spelling is a rare, but factual Norwegian surname today and a place name near Bergen, Norway. Were they those who returned to Norway from the Yorkshire Bjorkeland? Were the settlers Bjorkelands from Norway?? One would naturally use the ‘ø’ (‘er’), on this from the name ‘Bjørn’, so as written here, sometimes its there, some not. However further evidence supporting the above unchanging spelling arguments as with Bjørn, being used in earliest times is presented. .

It means land of birch trees. Barkisland today is a perfect habitat. Please read on as to ‘hul’, which also matches with both language and topography.

Right, Bjørkeland, is now logically Barkisland, so:

Vi er (we are) Gledehul (Glayaddahool) fra (from) Bjorkeland i (in) Saubrig, og (and) Sau By ?

Complete: Vi er Gledehul fra Bjorkeland i Saubrig og Sau By?

Der er god Norsk! (That’s good Norwegian) It even looks right!

You ligg hem sick! Yorkshire dialect = you stay at home sick!

Du ligge hjem syk! Nordic for the same!! Good job we aren’t looking at the popular Yorkshire surname ‘Sykes’ or the street ‘Sykehouse Lane’ eh? They are all over the Calder Valley. Scandinavian hospital? That is ‘sykhuset’, the sickhouse, in Norsk, and in Swedish with the same pronunciation but slightly different spelling, ‘sjukehus’.

In Yorkshire dialect to say even today "tha’s laykin wit’ bairns bi’t’ beck" means you are playing with the children by the stream or river. Modern Norsk would be :

"Du leker med barna på bekken", or, you layk(play) with children by the beck! The words layk, bairn and beck (en = the, definite article and at the end of the word) are the same as any Scandinavian, for all intents.

The East Yorkshire Coast fishing cobble has Viking design root. Fact. Indeed dialect ganza, or genza in Wensleydale and Swaledale, and on the north east coast is a pullover / jumper. The name to this day is ‘genser’ in Norway for pullover or jumper. These examples are not co-incidence, and play a major part in this argument.

During the post Roman period Britain had numerous invaders from Northern Europe, ending with the ‘Vikings’ last known as raiders around AD850 ish, if you don’t count French spoken Willy the Conk in 1066. We are now told from digs and excavation that this relationship didn’t just stop there, but a continual assimilation of the peoples had taking been place.

Once ashore Norsemen roamed far and wide, but preferred and settled in hill country particularly the dales areas, suitable for their sheep, cattle and lifestyle, hence influences are still seen in many dialects and words still used today inside Yorkshire, Northumbria and Cumbria, Scotland’s Western and Northern Isles. Even post Norman, the language and cultural difference from the softer ‘French’ or ‘Latin’ language influences took hundreds of years to fully take hold in the north of England, reflected in historical references to harsh strange northerner’s speech even at the time of the Wars of the Roses, e.g. the famous Battle of Towton Moor, nr. Tadcaster, Yorkshire, Palm Sunday, 1461, St Alban’s Hertfordshire, and elsewhere.

This deep influence reflects everyday general English words elsewhere today if one takes the trouble to look. Terms like ‘church’ for instance come directly from the pronunciation of ‘kirke’; western coast’s sheercha, and eastern sheerka, visible in Yorkshire places as Kirk Hammerton or Kirkbymoorside, Kirkby Malzeard, Felixkirk, (Church of St Felix as of today at the village, known to be a Saxon base, pre-dating Norman, near Thirsk, N. Yorkshire) Kirkburton (Huddersfield, Calder Valley) and obviously in Scottish kirks with hard ‘k’. Eglise, no connection, in principal as ecclesiastical, etc. from the French / Latin.

Latin style grammar only started to change ‘English’ to a ‘modern form’ generally in about 1250 AD.(established). Norman writing was Latin or French of course, (as it was with their recording scribes) languages of the Court and (Roman) Church. The Domesday book was written in ‘short Latin’. What is also clear from runes and carvings is there was a commonality in some respects in the collective northern European root giving rise to an ability of these people to always communicate verbally to greater or lesser degree from the start. See as example the Orkney Isles’ really ancient monuments which following known Viking break-in do contain said runes. Angles and Saxons who came to Britain and those migrating north to Scandinavia from northern Europe all had a common language root and used runes, although a lot found today is actually graffiti. Shetland and Orkney accept this being the case as normal.

The Swedes as Vikings, are known to have moved more into the Baltic indeed Russ gave his name to Russia. But more importantly for us, the British Isles were targeted in the ‘Viking’ era by the so called ‘Danes’. Let’s quantify this.

Archaeological evidence shows even down to the history of Dublin, York, and to the battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066, (pre William of Normandy and Hastings) large numbers of those taking part were, for all intents Norwegian by today’s DNA evidence from skeletal remains, (‘Blood of the Vikings’, Dr. Julian Richards, British TV documentaries 2003 – 2004 ) and some related to King Harold. Not much evidence of what the name would suggest today as present day Denmark is in the north of Britain. It is fact that Tøstig of Northumbria got help from Norwegian relatives before the battle of Stamford Bridge against King Harold, his brother. In 1066, after the Norman victory at Hastings notwithstanding, the unavoidable mixing of population at peasant level in the North in particular was already widespread. It gave rise to the Harrying of the North by William from York to subdue the troublesome population mix, when 22000 people between York and Durham were slaughtered, and land burned, out of hand. South of the Humber / Mersey line is marked on history maps today as mainly Saxon – north is predominantly Norse, or ‘Danish’. After all the total population of the then Britain was only around three and a half million. Never forget Normans were originally ‘North Men’ settled and assimilated into northern France.

The reputation of being vicious fighters, and with unrestrained rape and pillage, basically spread from only one source, Lindisfarne Gospels. Yet at York and Dublin, Cumbria and Wirral near Liverpool (recently) evidence specifically proves they were also good traders and indeed ‘Normans’ were originally ‘Viking’. Traders, farmers and stockmen with sheep (staple meat) in albeit very violent times they were. Despite the actually excellent social rule structures, historically the whole of Scandinavia over that period of time carried the coverall term the Daneland. Evidence shows Vikings also farmed everywhere they settled including Iceland, Greenland and Færo, and therefore is there a false overall impression? Remains in Greenland have shown even that they had great difficulty moving mind-set from farmer to hunter-gatherer when in difficulty, thus causing communities to die out as a direct result. There is evidence of very old unusual small fields at Barkisland!

So we return to the effect on the historical name. Was a time in Angle / Saxon times when family names were John son of Bill etc., from …place…, a practice only discontinued in principal since around 1948 in Norway, and recognisable today in names like Johansdottir/Johanssen (John’s daughter / son) in Iceland or Færo. (yes, this is correct spelling) This mixing and similarity of overall tongues and rank names can also be seen in the origins of the British title jarle or today’s Earl, and more. However as a group or clan name they had to come from somewhere.

Taking into account a principal of people ethnically outlined above, there is also a very simple explanation as to actual foundation of what the name Gledhill / Gledehul is from, i.e. coming from that word which today means to please (deg gleder meg - it pleases, glad to be there) in Norse / Danish. Hill, well that has logically changed from ‘hul’. But a group of people to be settled and then from / at a pleasing hill, (hyll, medieval English) or good place to be settled, we would get Glede and Hul. Pleasing (is actually an English meaning - from a word with a French base ‘plaisir’,) whilst ‘glede’ (glayadder) also to mean a place you are glad to be, farm or develop contextually, and Norse. (Gleoda, is Saxon, but said quickly sounds the same, - North Germanic = same root!) In days of hardship the benefits were definitely something to be recorded, particularly with an established leader, let us say a Bjork(e) because it specifically identifies that place within a leader’s land area. There is no evidence of settlements at places spelled ‘Glead’.

However, ‘hul’ or today ‘hul’ means glade or hollow, not a hill: ‘bakke’ or ‘the hill’, ‘bakken’ No connection here for spelling hill, unless mis-spelled or written from the old English ‘hyll’. That could be another corruption on interpretation. Indeed this word could be another clue. An important clue.

Using the word ‘hull’ for hole, gives rise to a basic meaning in Norse showing a potentially final, logical, rule following genealogy answer from the original written word. It gives an identity to ‘Gledehul’ accurately within the Norse language in the area identity of Bjorkeland. We looked at the Norse word ‘hull’ meaning ‘hole’ as in sock or ground as in eg. mining, alternatively to a derivative of wheel (hjul), (Courtesy of Mark Grace, Kuwait), while still seeing Bjorkeland as a literal area of Birch trees, not just a ‘name’. Then, looking more closely at detailed dictionaries we found the exact word ‘hul’(single ‘l’) has also a meaning for glade / hollow / small (deep) valley in the countryside.

This gave exciting justification for more exploration, and the result of work on this word compounded the original basis. It gives a greater accuracy to the original theory using ‘glede’ (spoken glayadder) from the descriptive verb å glede ( ‘or glayadder’) being pleasurable or good to be in, but ‘hul’ from ‘hull’(hole) used as a descriptive term (as in the dictionary) for a hollow in the land, sheltered glade, deep small valley. Using a check the test on Teutonic language similarity, did this again stack up? Yes, this matches ‘huhl’ in German, and variation in Danish for the exact description of a deep hollow in the countryside. It also matches population habits of using area descriptions for names at that time.

So, if the few places using ‘hole’ today within the name match topographically and particularly at Barkisland, Gledehul could now thus be directly and literally translated as: those living in or coming from the pleasurable or good glade / hollow in the land of

(or where ) birch-trees grow. But, can this ‘hole’ (hul) name thing in itself be corroborated by topographical description, existing places, interpretation in practice or cicumstance, and / or then be isolated within the Yorkshire area? Well yes, actually it can!

Given the pronunciation (hool or yule) to explain spelling changes from ‘hul(l)’ to hole, in the area, Huddersfield’s Brockholes, matches the requirement for description, and Mankinhole is on the hills alongside the Calder Valley above Todmorden and Mythlomroyd, in Halifax post coding. (Courtesy of a suggestion by Mark Grace, Kuwait) Mankin and Brock holes are both within our name’s specific area and locals were interviewed who said in their memory, Mankinholes was known as Mankin Hollow!

However, on the Yorkshire East coast of known Viking activity we have Boggle Hole, on the North Yorkshire Moors, Beck Hole. All quoted fit the identification of deep fertile very pleasant places thank you, and are ‘holes’, deep dips or small hollow / valleys in the surrounding countryside rather than larger, longer valleys or ‘dahls’ – dales all where Danelaw ruled and Norsemen wandered. One slant to this ‘hole’ description – mining activity, did not take place in the specific areas concerned. Identifying Beck Hole in particular near Goathland on the North Yorkshire Moors for example, it is an extremely lovely hamlet with a small bridge over the River Esk accessed down 1:4 narrow roads or banks on all sides, and 90degree bends. It is perfectly described in these terms of ‘hole’ and ideal for the little settlement still there. In direct translated descriptive terms ‘the hul(l) of / with the river’. This fits Norsemen describing places by natural feature, and ‘beck’, as a remaining relic in the Yorkshire dialects. It would be a good guess as stated above that the ‘hul’ would have been pronounced as today like our modern ‘hole’, i.e. ‘yule’or ‘hool’. Anyone visiting Barkisland and that area will not need to be told how hilly that is.

All the evidence stands up to question, and it is felt we are now very close to, if not actually there, for a definitive answer within a Viking language.

We have ship-right from Norse, ‘skip’ and Skipper, meaning ship, and master, and starboard from ‘ stirbord ’!! Yet still the language with our name involves the verb or descriptive å glede, this time with HUL and fully covering both parts of the name, as is! We have shown pronunciation isn’t gleed either! We will again cover that shortly.

Here we go again: The generally accepted basis for Gledhill is the old name for a hawk, or kite, the Glede – the easy option. But was this either right, or similarly just a coverall term? If so, an accepted Hawk-hill or those living where the hawk lives, would surface, yet it really could only be an easy, simplistic answer. There is strong argument here from Gleadless, Gleadhall (mis interpreted ‘hul’) no hawks etc., but very much also bad to be, no happiness, and the rest.

But here we have another problem. At the same time era as we see Gledehul written and recorded, Glead Hill, Yorkshire and Lancashire, Gleadsmoss Cheshire, and Gleadless, Sheffield area, also existed. Nor does it bear resemblance at all to the old Saxon word, ‘Gleoda’, which if said quickly matches ‘Glayadder’ and is from the same Teutonic Germanic language source, referenced here as a beginning for ‘Gledhill’ with the same ‘happy’ meaning. Indeed, any Glead base is and was always spoken as ‘Gleed’, and not the short pronunciation historically known to be associated with ‘Gledhill’, which does match ‘Gleoda’, and Glayadder’. Proof for this ‘eeed’ can be offered by the still standing Saxon Church of St. Mary, at the village of Lead near Saxton, North Yorkshire, destroyed in the Black Death leaving the stone church, always known as ‘Leed’, not a short ‘Ledd’, and all the other ‘gleads’ which still have and use the long sound.

Any ‘Glead’, pronounced gleed, may well be quite separate issues. Also NO settlement or known population existed on Glead Hills, (Yorkshire or Lancashire) or at Gleadsmoss, Cheshire.

Nordic for bird, is ‘fly’. Hardly similar. As previously noted, ‘hawk’ = ‘hauk’, and a hawk bird would logically be ‘hauk fly’. Now ‘ en glede hauk fly’ would comfortably be ‘a happy hawk type bird’. But, the thrust is ‘glede’ or ‘gleoda’, as a descriptive term, ‘glad, or please’ and given the repeating fact the name is not sourced anywhere else where the darned birds would certainly be, too simple, easy, and very unlikely as a birdie description. Yet versions of ‘gli’ relating to in ‘old English’ as in gliding / fly compound this theory.

Kites glide, they float about in the air, we hear one say, a gliding bird, and glede is glide! No it is not! To glide in Norse would be GLI. Or to give the verb å gli, (modern English = to glide). Now where does glede fit? It doesn’t! En gli fly’ = a gliding bird! This broadly matches in ‘old English)

Our name spelling is clear, ‘glede -----‘, pronounced ‘glayadder’ and from those times, it’s in the book! Written in the book! It is important in our case, because the spelling in the book of 1275 match today in Scandinavia not just in Wakefield, rather than be seen as audibly corrupted at a time when places called Glead had it seems, existed for some time!

It is because of this, we can justifiably eliminate corrupted versions of ‘gli’ or ‘glee’ which would not fit together with any known pronunciation for a misheard version of ‘glede’, nor fit with a version of ‘hul’, together recorded as Gledehul. (Glayadderhool’), or as in ‘old English’ ‘gleoda’, ‘glayodda’. That combination would for birds, have been glihauk, or ‘glifly’.

We can infer from this a consistency, reflected in the root of Bjork(e) in Norway further inferring a language viz: ‘glayadder’ to be glad about’ name basis. Glede pronounced: glayadder., spelled Gledehul, (later heard {and is seen as Gladder, Glad etc.} as Gladhill, for instance, is a very logical step given simple folk and a verb base pronounced as described said quickly, and developed, moving to Gledhill, and in fact would be more accurate reflections of first spoken versions. Often those hearing ‘Gledhill’ on a telephone in the south of England in 2005, spell Gledhill as ‘Gladhill’ as they hear and interpret it.

The old Nordic influences are admitted elsewhere when again referencing Calderdale County Council websites on Sowerby history where a commentator has quoted that source and that Sowerby is mentioned as an old established settlement in the 1086 Domesday book, written in ‘short latin’, spelled as Saur By. Saur By was also recorded as the place of an acquired good royal hunting park area, post 1066.

From 1818, the writer’s family are from Sowerby Bridge. Before that, Skircoat, pre 1793, also a Halifax area. The writer grew up in dialect speech referring to Sowerby Bridge as Sow Brig. Given the arguments on language, modern Scandinavian tongues, from Denmark, Norway and Sweden whilst looking the same to us, are not. Yet have very identifiable root. Words are often spelt differently between them but Sweden did change most, and was more closely connected with the French court in the middle ages, whereas Denmark and Norway did not, and still use the most original spellings, and fit best. Syk (N) - sjuk (S) for sick, as above.

Sau (pronounced sow) in Scandinavian is sheep. Brig is a dock, or trading post area. A bridge is / was a BRU. ( see Bruecke in German – same root) As to Yorkshire dialect Sow-Brig, perhaps it was an old way of describing a ‘sheeptown’s dock’ or, gathering point / trading post – the Saubrig? Sowerby itself is on the hilltop on the overlooking Pennine hills, and in a direct line to Barkisland along the ridge with it’s established buildings, and could / would be the main ‘sheep town or village’. (Ham or hamlet are long established Saxon words) But Sow’by (Sauby) it would have been, even today!! Maybe the term ‘bridge’ as in over obstacle crossing, became so described in English after being later modified or corrupted by colloquial use from brig. The French ‘pont’ for bridge, had no possible part in this, nor Bru / Bruecke. Local to modern Sowerby Bridge, a few k’s down stream on the Calder, is Brighouse, at which is Sykehouse Lane. Sykhus gate på Brighus would in direct translation today be Sykehouse Lane in Brighouse!!! Dialect Yorkshire, ‘Briggus'.
To see the original as Saur, would be acceptable. Looking at changed words, it’s nearly always the end or suffix that changes, not the beginning, (even with Gled---dle- etc.,) so dropping or adding the ‘r’ would be an expected change written down to fit the heard sound, as with church. To interpret this ‘Saur’ as English ‘sour’ would need the letters to be ‘SUR’ the old and current word for sour. Pronunciation is much different to sau too, viz: ‘Sooor’ (rolling the ‘r’ but giving rise to a logical later English ‘sour’). Therefore we stick with Sau, or sheep, pronounced ‘sow’ known to be kept by Norsemen.

That is very Logical.

The written, published, and recorded interpretation also claiming to be an interpretation of Norse of Saur By being ‘a farmstead on / near sour ground’ as on one book website again quoted by Calderdale Council, is just simply not on when the language is examined. Not only wrong as in ‘saur’, but ‘place’ in the same language context would be ‘sted’, or a variation ‘stad’, hence modern English ‘farmstead’, homestead, etc.! ‘Saur-sted’ even. But ‘By’ indicates substantial settlement in those terms. In any case once more as with today, Norwegian language was / is simplistic as in ‘skal vi hjem’ (shall we home) for ‘so shall we now go home’ in English. Swedish, would be longer also, as in ‘nar skal vi åke(a) hjem’ (note extra verb åke, to go, pronounced ‘orka’, and showing up some aforesaid differences) but following newer English style. Howsoever, if Saur By was that bad, they wouldn’t be there in the first place! In days of real survival one doesn’t plant a farm on sour ground! These folk were successful and clever. That is most Illogical.

One correspondent on this matter called Sykes has proven Viking D N A specific to Honley, Huddersfield. Discussion on this is continuing.

Please also here refer to Sowerby near Thirsk, North Yorkshire, at the top of the Vale of York. Known Nordic roots in the area, direct trade line to the found Viking Coppergate settlements now called Jorvik, (York). Same root.

Historically, Yorkshire hill farms and huge cottage industries certainly raised sheep and processed wool for the large wool trade until the industrial revolution, and then, grew accordingly in mills and factories. They traded the wool in the transport routes of the valleys throughout the whole Yorkshire dale and Pennine regions using the drover routes, often across hill ridges, then canals and railways. It is how Halifax, Huddersfield, Spenborough, (the heavy woollen districts) and Bradford areas later grew to be the wool centres of the world, apart from having unlimited soft water for the processing.

Found artefacts discovered in York, and Dublin have Rogaland roots. Sites excavated near Stavanger (Rogaland commune) in the re-construction from the Iron Age have turned up traded goods from far far away, including amber and oriental beads. That also re-enforces trading principal and an established River Humber entry from south west Norway following a flooding tide clockwise around Britain (it ebbs counter clockwise, across northern Scotland, and down the West coast), from which the Calder River (flowing at Sowerby Bridge) via the Aire, eventually runs. They went up the shallow Derwent from the Humber to fight at Stamford. (see later) Before any modern ‘wears’ like at Naburn (York) the river was tidal over 40 miles inland. These people followed rivers, carrying boats over shoals, even recorded across Russia. The tidal ebb and flow around Britain provides excellent overall evidence of why which Viking would be where, and why, as excellent seamen.

Repeating without apology that hawks of every type would be everywhere in those days when most areas were wooded, or bog / fen lower down as near rivers or valley streams, and game particularly plentiful, being reasonable, why specifically isolate a small area with a particular description from birds for a clan name?

If it did refer to where a kite lived ,then the niggle keeps shouting, ney bellowing, why not the same name sources springing up everywhere else in Britain where this bird would have lived, and did without question, live? None exist. Therefore this source really is unlikely in the beginnings.

But, later, post 1066 may be, the hawk referral could be answered post Norman, post 1066 when total feudalism was imposed. Although this skill eventually gave us the directly connected name ‘Falconer’.

Only the coming of the Normans who violently imposed their rule ruthlessly in the North particularly, would give rise to a later logical ‘hawk’ related source for Gledhill, when the sport of falconry as was, belonged exclusively to royal blood under Norman rules and had been largely imported as a serious and royal activity from France. Death followed for those who disobeyed them, in an already vicious time, and later upon any who poached any wildlife up to relatively recent times, when they were even sent to America then Oz or New Zealand post 1776 and Britain losing the American colonies.

If as history has recorded that the area around Saur By became a royal hunting reserve around 1075, irrespective of whatever a hawk’s name was, those working as Falconers, for the Lords connected with the sport in a royal sporting area would be invariably the indigenous peasant population pressed into use, may be those from the land of Bjorke, e.g. including the Gledehul’s and immediately there is a case that the connection with a generic term for hawks would be attached erroneously, with a subsequent later interpretation of name being of origins hawk connected, and away from the established Norse language root. As did Fletcher, Wheeler, (see ‘hjul’, and ‘hjuler’) Tanner and the rest become identified with trades. It is possible, but unlikely long term, or no one would have needed ‘Falconer’. If correct they would have been Gleders. That may seem silly, but if the glede hawk was really a source, possible. It wasn’t. ‘ER’ being a descriptive add on to the specific function. i.e. The fletch. The wheel. The falcon, etc. and To join, joiner.

The writer was once shown a coat of arms by one proud Gledhill living in Devon, with a black bird purporting to be a hawk in one corner. Although one didn’t say at the time, it was contrived to justify hawks. However we have information that a cockerel may well be involved somewhere in the heraldry which would as later have relevance to the house carvings. The basic Arms were specifically given in 1612, - by ‘Norroy’, to one John Gledhill of Barkisland, and are also carved in the stone door lintel of Barkisland Hall, with initials of John and spouse, ( now a grade 1 listed building) built in 1638 on a known previously known site of the same purpose. Arms are clearly described in the book as, in simple form; dark blue background, three lozenges, (diamonds) white, lozenges edged in black. That is also confirmed many places. No birdies. That family and his brother William’s died out around 1698, no issue.

However let’s look at the carving above the door at Barkisland Hall. There is quite clearly a hen type bird carved in the stone block above the Arms. But we still find some snags here if we try and connect a kite directly to an established Gledhill even seeing the carvings above the door at Barkisland Hall.

There are two distinctly separate carvings. Given that there are the wife’s and master’s initials on the lintel is it not reasonable that her insignia (or connected) was carved by courtesy alongside his coat of arms???? As landed gentry of the time, John G and family could well have been involved with Falconry themselves giving rise to the hawk thing, as it is the only clear evidence on a bird; but it is a rather fat bird for a bird of prey. More like a partridge or pheasant - plus, there is no hooked beak, always present in birds of prey. Given any mason’s excellent skill, it would seem rather unbelievable such a descriptive mistake as kite to partridge (or cockerel) would be made – particularly when Mr. John G was paying heavily for the house! Arms and bird are quite separate items, and the Gledhill Arms are shown with simply three lozenges on a plain background.

If the kite had been of such importance within the name one could have had expectations it would have been a major feature within it when Norroy designed the Arms. It is known that property ‘GledhilI’ connected has been on this site since ca.1112, one being destroyed several years before 1638 precipitating the building of the current hall, (Backing original information from the late Mrs Hilda Gledhill), and one would have expected a ‘kite’ to be thus important enough for the Arms. The picture has been shown to practising professional Falconers and bird of prey breeders, all of whom said it is certainly not a known bird of prey, more partridge, pheasant or hen.

Yes, early research from one Hilda Gledhill now dec’d, from Barkisland a Gledhill historian in 1988, who worked for the Halifax papers, also revealed that within the larger site of the current Barkisland Hall (built 1638) stood buildings dating from 1112, the seat of that Gledehul clan. On that visit she took us (Peter, (writer) Jeremy, (youngest son) and Kjerstin, (my wife), pronounced Shesstin) to the current Hall and showed us the coat of arms carved in the door lintel, issued to Gledhill’s in the year 1612. The then owner one Mr. Rhodes kindly showed us around.

Spellings overall as in variants have often changed and may be particularly seen in ‘hul to hall’, without using early meaning and also Latin educated scribes handwriting his / her own spellings from commonly heard sounds as late as the Tudors. It did however reflect the true sounds as seen in given examples, ‘church’. Kirke would sound in Norse, ‘sh’. The ‘cha’ as in cha-cha at the end, is well reflected that way. English shop is kjopp, kjorte – shirt = directly as heard ( a long way from chemise, French) etc., etc.. Glad reflects fast spoken Glayadder. (Glede)

But to really get to grips with long term influence and lasting names, we must use Norway, where we have further positive name longevity argument. One Harold Farhar a major Norwegian leader had sworn not to cut his hair until he’d united Norway in the mid 800sAD because of continual bickering and violence. Until then, and covering the GB Viking era they were very much at war within themselves internally for 200 years, with the taking of hostages, fights and anything else. This could well have provided the general basis for a need to loot, pillage and extend influence outside Scandinavia for internal cash need including ransoms, or for some a chance to get away – escape even - from unpleasant matters at home taking women and animals with them as particularly in Iceland, Greenland, Færo.

It seems more than simple luck that recorded Viking violence and raiding seems to have declined everywhere around the same time Harold succeeded in his fighting to unite Norway internally from AD865ish leaving normal continuing trade in place. So called British ‘Danegeld’ has been found all over Norway, often away from the sea in their terms – from paid ransoms inland?? There is so much that could be expanded upon away from accepted paths. This term ‘geld’ was also normally used by Saxons for money, and post Norman as a term for tax.

Gledehul, Bjørkeland, etc., as bits being a language / Norse root, from longevity of words and names of that time, are further strengthened by more actual records from Farhar, not hearsay. Place names in Norway, - commune or county names - haven’t changed since the Viking times of Harold Farhar (fairhair) and to whose memory a monument exists today at Haugesund, on the west coast, Norway. (This next item can be again seen reflected in person’s names throughout Scandinavia, as with Bjorkeland.) The central obelisk is surrounded by smaller ones each carrying the name of a ‘kingdom’ joining Norway as a united country under him post the battle of Halfres Fjord around 865AD. The battle site is near Sola, Stavanger airport, and another monument, of three huge swords embedded in rock, is erected there to mark the spot. These many kingdoms throughout Norway are still so named today, and most have not even changed the spelling since that time for example; Vestfold,(where there is a major Viking burial ground at Borre), Østfold, Vest Opland, Rogaland etc.. Tønsberg the festning ([castle] (the only stone structure of that type and time in Norway), town on Oslo fjord is certainly the same. This 865AD battle was the last in a long episode, and took place on water with only a little being on land.

Looking at the way languages in the north reflect our very old roots, as above quoted examples of Kirk, well known Viking base words also involve the Norse ‘by’ as in Whitby, Wetherby, Selby, and much more. Dale is directly from ‘dal’ (pronounced darl) ( as in Nordal ) and northern ‘fell’ directly from ‘fjeld’, the wider hills and mountains, (pronounced fyell) as in Nordfjeld, (Northmountain,) and gate is still ‘gate’ meaning street or entrance to, (pronounced today ‘garter’ and could directly relate to Leeds’s ancient centre street, Briggate. As ‘Dock street’, it leads directly from the river and massive old trading system to the sea around which Leeds grew, and centre of the later trans-Pennine canal system, the Leeds – Liverpool canal. Although there is a long established bridge across the River Aire here, it adds weight to a corruption of the meaning of Brig, dock / trade area to bridge, as we have illustrated at Sauby.

One must also bear in mind that British common use of ‘street’ stems from the use of ‘street’ by the Romans. Now, although this Norse word, ‘gate’, today used as street, it has its real meaning in the ‘entrance / leading to’ context, and of course still gives the broad most correct interpretation to field or garden restraints and entrances, i.e. ‘the gate’ as with York.

But basic language continues to make sense as it does in that most famous of Viking places, York; the Viking museum on Coppergate was called Jorvik. But one hundred k’s north of Oslo is Gjøvik. (pronounced = Yerveek), So let’s see York’s ancient streets within the walls, of Micklegate, Monkgate, and the most common of all, Kirkgate – that is obvious given this text, there is always, but always, a church on Kirkgate (Church Street) (entrance way to church) anywhere. The Roman name for York was ‘Eboracum’. Not exactly a close match! York is clearly a derivative of a Jorvik, even Gjøvik, (Yerveek)!

A Scottish commentator’s assurance of gaelic source for ‘Gledes’ as a defining name for outlaws is also contradicted as it fits the ‘glad to be’ broad interpretation. ‘Those who (are glad to be or to please) themselves’, i.e. independent, beyond the law, and like in Orkney and Shetland, Gaelic dialect is factually influenced by Norse to the present day, and they certainly sailed the West Coast of Scotland, Norwegians owning the islands at varying times. The castle in Lochranza at the top of the Isle of Arran was built by a Norwegian Stein, who owned Arran to around AD1200ish. The writer has also been here, and it looks lovely in the sunset. This point again weighs in our favour.

More evidence, Kirkbymoorside(n), (n, referring to discarded suffix in a definite article as above beck-en) in Ryedale in North Yorkshire can be literally translated as ‘church town at the moor edge ’. I.e. Sheerkabymoreseeda! Note the form KirkBY. (SauBY). It fits that description nestling beneath the North York Moors and with ancient history including a Roman Road, Whitby the port known to have Viking and Saxon roots and Captain Cook! They have found remains just below the Whitby Abbey – which is dating from AD600 and the Abbess Hilde. Note the spelling! It is where modern Christian Easter was finally permanently dated at the Synod of Whitby around AD665!

Another simple Norse example given above at the start of this screed, is all over Yorkshire, the suffix in many place names, ‘thorpe’. Try putting ‘torp’ into Microsoft auto routes and see how many pop up all over Scandinavia, loads and loads!!

A final snippet of information. The writer’s family is from Sowerby area and in the early 1800’s the area known today as Sowerby Bridge was in fact known as ‘Warley’ with Sowerby Bridge there!! This ‘bridge’ thing was compounded in every respect with the building of the canals and railways, the completed Rochdale Canal (Aire and Calder, Calder & Hebble navigations) through from Yorkshire to Lancashire being fully opened in 1804, then came railways a few years later with very substantial bridge structures thereafter needed. On the basis of a large existing trade one of the first and then technically advanced wool processing complexes of the Industrial Revolution was built at a then named Sowerby Bridge, fed raw wool by the hills and transported with new canals and railways.

The long-lasting nature of the early indigenous history and culture is as plain to see anywhere in northern Britain, emphasised by the long lasting affect of the spoken language influence as seen in any Yorkshire, Cumbrian (Cumberland and Westmoreland as was) or Northumbrian dialect and words used today throughout with older people.

The writer b. 1944, used to speak dialect normally and well, when at school in the Calder area of the West Riding up to 1959. When moving to Leeds, his new school pals often didn’t know what had been said, and he had to modify his spoken word. Hence his familiarity and recognition of a Yorkshire dialectic tongue, per se. It later made learning Norwegian easier than normal for a Brit, as is said about Northumberland too.

But extensive travel, reading, and discussion or questions placed with those more learned, learning languages himself, direct exposure to the Nordic cultures since 1977, collecting personal observations as far as Ireland, the Northern Isles, and obvious intense interest in the subject has given a certain positive enthusiasm to this project.

However he accepts his own history could lay him open to bias in the argument, but it is hoped checks and balances have been put in place.

We believe that a more logical and deep seated local case exists for the literal translation form Norse, i.e. clan Gledehul (those glad to settle in a good valley / hollow, from a version of the verb å glede – ( or glayadder, or gleoda) to be glad about, please, or made feel good) living specifically in the good glade or pleasing hollow in Bjørkeland.

Its people are joint original residents of the area following occupation and mixing of Anglo-Saxon-Norse populations well before 1066, as indicated in the Domesday Book. The majority of place and name spelling accuracy ‘Saur By’ from that Domesday Book can be seen, (as most recorded therein) - as with my current village, to be close to the same today!

What we believe has been proved is that we are real descendants from well before the Norman came and changed Britain for ever.

This argument enscribed herein clearly shows the name

  • Can be literally translated from the Norse
  • Topography at Barkisland and quoted places reflects the name,
  • now logically and uniquely specific to an area of population,
  • follows a well established language pattern, matched in old English or Saxon root.
  • Street name influence to this day in the Calder Valley and known settlement of people,
  • the spoken form still showing up in ethnic dialectic speech.
  • Bjorkeland still exists today as is both as a place and surname that accurately matches Barkisland in a corrupted form
  • Fits a long established Scandinavian surname history proving a lasting habit in that regard for longevity,
  • Fits an historical pattern that is recorded in ancient documents,
  • Matches within that individuality a very much broader and factual Yorkshire history,
  • Shows consistency in the area’s overall Norse influence from geographic Yorkshire and to the north, and, from some with area roots, D N A.
  • The writer believes from his enquiries, and back up photographs not published here, that this interpretation of evidence gives a high level of probability and reasonableness in favour of an ancient Norse root to the name, from a version of ‘å glede’, (gleoda, Saxon, Old English, spoken in same way) and ‘hul’ factually as hollow, both together satisfying the needs of a specific language and recorded name - ‘Gledehul’ and location, and not - given the nature of the original name, other interpretations regarding nationwide or biblical indigenous birdie populations, and / or misinterpreting ‘hul’, (unless changed to hill from hyll - medieval English) or indeed, hall.

    Peter Gledhill

    © May 2005 Peter Gledhill GB-YO7 3LA

    The first edition of this paper was published on this website in April 2005.

    Biographical Details

    Peter Gledhill is a Yorkshireman born at Bradford in the West Riding to an old Sowerby Bridge family originally farmers and canal people. Educated at Hipperholme Grammar School near Brighouse in the Calder Valley, and at Roundhay School, Leeds, he studied law and insurance before becoming a commended Police Officer. A singer - musician, he developed a hobby as an entertainer which developed into his being a professional international country music artist and businessman.

    This life took him throughout Europe and Scandinavia, and every corner of Great Britain including Ireland presenting a unique on - going opportunity to gain knowledge in a way often unavailable to casual travellers. Now semi-retired he lives near the North Yorkshire market town of Thirsk with his Norwegian wife and pet cats.

    There have been moments of real doubt, but as more learned folk gave advice information and matching snippets were found on the ‘net’, the more convincing the argument became. Enjoy the read!

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