About

The Bamburgh Research Project (BRP) is an independent, non-profit archaeological project investigating Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland, one of the most important archaeological sites currently under excavation in northern England. We are also investigating a prehistoric site just a few miles from the castle, the Bradford Kaims. Since 1996 we’ve been working to uncover the history of this fascinating castle and its environs, from prehistory to the present day. We aim, through our work, to bring this past to life for everyone.

This blog is a place for us to share our news, our work and our passions with anyone and everyone who is interested in what we do. During the open season (17th of June to the 20th of July 2018), we’ll be blogging our archaeology as we dig it, so you can share in our finds, our frustrations and, of course, our fun – we hope you’ll share with us in turn!

Outside the summer season, we’ll be blogging our thoughts and ideas about the news and issues that are important to us in our work. It’s not all work, though: we’ll be reporting on some of the fun stuff we get up to through the course of the year. And of course, we’ll be sure to keep you up to date with any interesting out-of-season developments!

If you’re interested in getting involved with the BRP and its work, or just finding out more about what we do, come and visit us at  www.bamburghresearchproject.co.uk. We welcome any comments you have to make about what we do or what we have to say.

12 thoughts on “About

  1. Thank you for all the hard work and investment of time in the Bamburgh Research Project.

    We visited Bamburgh Castle yesterday and really enjoyed it, including the finds in the archaeology section. My son Coenraad found his namesake in the castle (Coenred who was king of Bernicia 704 – 709). I have researched our genealogy for these past 25 years, and I am often struck by the repetition of names within the family lines, sometimes after a hiatus of 300 – 600 years. This time-lapse is truly amazing, and a first for me.

    The way our Coenraad is connected is via Siward, the Earl of Northumberland. Siward married into the Royal family of Bernicia in around 1032, marrying Aelflaed of Bernicia, who was a grand daughter of Uhtred the Bold. After marrying, Siward settled a family feud that dated back to Uhtred’s time. He also became responsible for the upbringing of the young Malcolm, future king of Scotland (Malcolm III Caenmore) who died at Alnwick in battle, south of Bamburgh. He would no doubt have entered the Bamburgh compound through the St Oswald’s Gate on numerous occasions.

    Another related example of repetition of names is Waltheof. Waltheof was Uhtred the Bold’s father, and Waltheof II was the surviving son of Earl Siward who unfortunately fell out with William the Conqueror, and was beheaded in 1079 in Winchester.

    The Waltheof I ancestry is back down the line to Coenred as I understand, although we are discussing events that happened more than 1000 years ago and there is not a lot of documentary evidence

    Earl Siward of Northumbria had two grandsons, both called Siward (the Blond and the Red) via his son Osbern, who died young in battle against MacBeth at Dunsinane in 1054. Both the grandsons called Siward distinguished themselves in battle and services to kings. One of those Siwards is our ancestor and his progeny became Balfour with the mark of an Otter’s head in their heraldry. The otter’s head is based on this Siward killing a Danish accomplice of Donald Bane who was a challenger to the throne of Scotland. This Dane was called Ottar, hence the otter’s head. This is memorialized by a Latin deed which is reflected in family genealogy e.g. Burke’s Peerage. “Siward, cui dat Edgar rex vallem de Or at Maey pro capite Ottar Dani” (1097)

    The other Siward was the forefather of the Armstrong clan, and distinguished himself in battle where he carried Edgar of a horse that had been injured, on his one arm. Edgar never became king of England but did spend time in the Middle East during the crusades. I understand that Siward the Red is known to have been there as well, and there are indications that they joined the Varangian Guards for a time. I am not sure when this battle would have happened, and the Armstrong website information puts it too late in the 11th Century. If my memory serves me correctly, Siward the Red rescued Edgar during a battle in the 1090’s. Based on Osbern’s death in 1054, the two Siward boys would have been quite young then, and in their 40’s at the time they provided their services in the late 11th Century.

    In other words, Lord Armstrong may have restored direct family heritage through strength in arms. I have a feeling he knew this when he undertook his magnum opus in his old age. It would be interesting to find out from you if this was the case or whether you agree with this connection.

    I have myself been drawn to restore ancient buildings in the same way, as I did in Riga in 2000. I became a member of the Church Council of the Anglican Church of St Saviour’s, fundraising and supervising restoration works. This was well before I even knew our Balfour family members had been instrumental in the building of this church in 1857 as part of a group of British merchants in Latvia at that time. I do remember having a very powerful urge to invest my time and energy in the restoration, which in hindsight appears to be linked to family. Old church records further confirmed that a direct ancestor had come through Riga in 1574 on his way to lead the Scottish regiments in the service of the Swedish to the siege of Wesenburg.

    We always walk in our forefather’s footsteps.

    F.C Balfoort – Dutch branch of Balfour family

    • We are delighted that you enjoyed your visit to the castle. It is a fascinating place in a spectacular setting, so not hard to understand why it has been a focus of occupation and a place of importance for so many centuries! It seems a great many people find a fascination in history and archaeology through the process of researching a family tree. We know that the 1st Lord Armstrong was very proud of his Northumbrian roots, but whether he felt a particular affinity to Bamburgh, beyond wanting to preserve and restore this important site for the nation, we are less certain.

      Genealogy is not our area of expertise but if you do have any particular questions regarding the Earls of Bamburgh we would try and answer than as well as we are able. The best contact is graemeyoung@bamburghresearchproject.co.uk

      • Thank you for your answer with Graham’s details, whom I will write to now. I also have a picture to share with you from our Roskilde research which is very similar to the gold piece you have which you named “the Beast”. I think it is actually a Jelling style design from Denmark which would confirm the presence of Danish Vikings on site, which does not surprise me. I will send it to Graeme because I can’t attach it here.

        Best regards,

        Ferdinand

  2. Were you aware that Edgar was the last male member of the house of Wessex with Wessex being founded by Cerdic Vreichvras (Strongarm) and also known by the Welsh as Caradoc Vreichvras (Shortarm)?
    Both Malcolm lll by his marriage to Edgar’s sister, Margaret of Wessex, and the Siwards grandfather, earl Siwards marriage to Godiva of Wessex made them members of the house which would be ‘of the Strongarm’.

  3. That is very interesting. The link to Strong Arm now makes a lot of sense. This because Earl Siward had a son called Osbern who died at the battle of Dunsinane against MacBeth in 1054 on the side of his dad, to claim back the Scottish throne for Malcolm III, who was a ward of Siward’s since 1034 when his father Duncan I was killed by MacBeth. Osbern named his two sons Siward, one of them blond and the other red haired. They both travelled with Edgar and landed in Scotland. One of them attended the wedding of Edgar to Queen Margaret the Saint at Dunfermline, and the records confirm this. Siward Fairbairn was the progenitor of the Armstrong clan, hence the coat of arms with the Strong Arm. Our Balfour progenitor was Siward the Red, his brother. I didn’t know the Strong Arm connection came from so much earlier. During research I have found many such repetitions over hundreds of years preceding including the repetition of names like Waltheof II, a younger son of Earl Siward who was given this name from his maternal line. Your comment fills in another piece of the puzzle.

    • I first started my research 20 years ago and found to many could be’s and a reluctance to fill in the blanks by the then Clan Trust so I took it on myself to find what was conviently forgotten.
      Ferdinand, I came across the Rudmins theory in 02, which I totally agreed with, and not long after that found Andrew Godsells ‘Arthur and Cerdic’ with Godsell in complete agreement. Whether it was his running for a public office or whatever its no longer on the web.
      There are several scandels that were covered up during this time by our family as well as the Norman disinformation campaign of Godfrey and his contemporaries. For one, Earl Siward did not take sick of dysentary and have himself dressed in his armor to face death,, he was murdered by Elfgar, Godiva’s son and Edward the Confessors nephew. And I feel the earls mother was either the Queen mother Aelfthyrth, making him Ethelreds half-brother or perhaps Canute’s eldest daughter that married Uchtred the Bold.
      later, LA

  4. Dear Lowell,

    thanks for the additional insights. Andrew Godsell’s book of 2012, 15 Minutes of Fame, is still accessible on Google. Relevant parts are from page 69. Interesting reading. I believe the times after the Norman invasion were incredibly turbulent in England. Scandals and re writing of history were the order of the day I suppose.

    I think Siward was the son of one of Cnut’s sisters instead due to his Danish name. Cnut’s father (Sveyn Forkbeard) had two daughers. Siward is an old Viking name meaning, not surprisingly, sword, and its is known to this day in Denmark. Siward’s appointment as Earl of Northumbria and authority over England in Cnut’s absences also indicates he was held in esteem and a trusted party to Canute, another possible indicator of kinship. Also note that Siward bequeathed land to the church in the early 1050’s where St Olaf’s church now stands, which I understand is documented in Church records. I have hypothesized Siward to be a nephew to Cnut, or a cousin.

    And further, Siward’s entry into an Anglo- Celtic family of the House of Bernicia suggests he had the societal standing and support to do so, based on his own royal connections I believe.

    The use of the name St Olaf for the church in York was unusual and I believe the first time that name was given to a church in England. I understand Siward is allegedly buried under the baptismal font of St Olaf’s, as recounted to me by the Church pastor when I visited York for research. Based on our hypothesis, Siward may be related to St Olaf (Olaf II of Norway) through Halfdan. I have a photo I took of Olaf’s effigy, a wood cutting in Oslo’s National Museum. It is a surprising lifelike and recognizable face of one of our ancestors if so. The relationship is likely via Harald Blauzahn and may be one interesting piece of information towards confirmations of the connections.

    In terms of the rewriting of what actually happened with Siward’s death, I am not sure how to put that in context. Our ancestor passed away in 1055, 11 years before William and his merry band arrived in England. If it is a rewriting of history, the “new” account appears to be eulogising rather than derogatory.

    Also note that Siward lost his son Osbern, but Waltheof II survived albeit as a teenager at the time. I think Waltheof would have been quite strongly interested to contest any illicit and inappropriate attacks on his father, as far as I can discern from researching him. A genetic trait on doing the right thing I suppose, which I can clearly still see to this day.

    The reference to dysentery comes from Henry of Huntingdon I believe, whose mother was Maud, daughter of Waltheof II, and that would make Henry a direct descendant of Siward’s, possibly more interested in noting the most accurate record I believe.

    Further, based on my research in Jorvik it became clear why there would have been rampant dysentery, as the original Viking community outgrew resources and human waste overwhelmed nature’s ability to deal with it. It is interesting there is quite a clear cut off point from archaeological discoveries. Shellfish middens found in old York all predate around 1040 I understand, at which point it appears shellfish had died out in the river Ouse, due to over eating or pollution. No more shellfish was consumed by the population, the average height of men based on skeletons dated from that time reduced quite significantly after this point, and I assume the long drops in the closely built properties on the banks of the Ouse resulted in waterborne disease.

    Interested in your views on my Sunday ruminations, as usual,

    Wishing you well,

    Ferdinand

    • hey Ferdinand,
      You don’t know how much I appreciate finding someone with knowledge of those times. I’ve found that interest into it in the UK is somewhat an untouchable, which is the main reason I felt it needed researched. Here’s my scenario from the pieces I’ve put together.
      Siwards grandfather was Styrbjorn Olaf’s son. Styrbjorns sister married Harold Bluetooth. Whether it was Harold daughter by his first wife or Styrbjorns sister, meaning Styrbjorn (our white bear) kidnapped and raped his niece having Bjorn, a child with a bears ears. This I feel is the reason Harold deserted Styrbjorn in his attempt to regain Sweden. My belief is Swein, Bjorn and Thorkil are those that escaped rather then die.
      The only reference I’ve found regarding Bjorn Styrbjornsson comes from the questionable Manarafen Saga that in the year 980 Bjorn is identified as a Sturaesman of Wessex with a mercenary troop that included just Thorkel, no Tall yet. In 980 Bjorn would be serving the evil queen mother Aelfthrith as Ethelred was still to young. My belief is Bjorn and perhaps Thorkil were the ones responsible for the death of Edward the Martyr thus earning Bjorn a title, a ring, and the crowns regrettable debt. With his leverage he was able to come and go as he pleased and I feel was instrumental in bringing down the crown by informing Swein as to battle deployment and who to kill.
      Magnussen and Morris’s Grettir the Strong tells of Bjorn’s final battle in which Grettir calls him “a braggart ring bearer”, this to me exposes the question as to who Siwards father was. Both the Armstrong’s and Johnston’s say he was Hringo Bjorn. H’ ring o’ Bjorn, the ring of Bjorn. I personally feel Siwards family history was conveniently forgotten to save the embarrassment.
      According to the chronological record Bjorn died in 1012-13. At this same time Ethelred and his court went into exile in Normandy. I believe Siward grew up in his court do in part to his close relationship he had with Edward and Godiva but more so as in 1014 his daughter Sybil Fitz Siward was born in Normandy.
      There’s more to the story but supers waiting, til later. Lowell

    • As I mentioned before Bjorn died around 1013 and months later Thorkil defects with Ethelred giving him a daughter and making him an earl. With Ethelreds death Thorkil is forgiven by Canute and continues to be one of his earls. Then and about a year later Siwards daughter and likely Osbjorn were born in addition to Ethelred giving a daughter to Uchtred to wed.
      With Siward growing up in Ethelreds court he would have witnessed the birth of Emma’s children and my belief is he became their protector and remained in Normandy while Emma went back to England to wed Canute. Siward would remain in Normandy until Godiva’s marriage to Drogo of Mantes and with the death of Uchtred anf tbe killing of his son, a concern for Ethelreds daughter and her son Gospatrick is quite likely the reason for his return to England during Canute’s reign.
      With the death of Canute in 1035 Emma’s sons Alfred and Edward would return to England to console their mother. Alfred would be apprehended by men working for Godwin, turned over to Canute’s son Harold and murdered. Harold’s death would be short lived with Harthecanutes rule beginning in 1040.
      Prior to this Drogo would die around 1038 and Godiva returned to England wedding Leofric of Mercia. The belief is Leofric was married to a sister of Thormond, and he probably was but he was also married to Godiva of Wessex and had just the one son Elfgar.
      In 1040 Harthacnut asked his half brother Edward to return and rule jointly. Edward was still angry that Harthacnut took a well clad ship from Godwin as repentance for his part in Alfred’s death and so it was no time that Harthacnut died while dining. Poisoned?
      When Edward returned he brought Godiva’s son Ralph with him and made him earl of Herefordshire. Then around 1048 the A/S chronicle record Eustace the first came courting the kings sister but screwed up by killing villagers then lied to Edward regarding the circumstances. Edward sent Godwin to punish the villagers but learned the truth and refused to follow the kings orders. The brought on the battle of the earls with it finally being resolved and the death of Eustace in the year 1049. It is at the same time Siward married the widow Godiva. We then find Godiva invited to dine with the king and he dies. Poisoned?
      So from this my firm belief is Godiva was feeling poorly and realized if she died all of her wealth would go to Leofric and Elfgar leaving her first born Ralph nothing. A divorce was arranged but Edward got wind of it and due to his living off his friends in Normandy was obliged to offer her to Eustace. With Eustace’s death Siward stepped in. This angered Elfgar as Siward was a father figure to his half brother Ralph. We have two tellings of Siwards death, one that he stood waiting for death and the other mentioned seldom was that he kept from the walls of York. My copy of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle has three entries for the year 1055, the third reads “In this year Siward died and then was summoned a great council, seven fays before midlent, and they outlawed Elfgar the earl because it was cast upon him that hr was a traitor to the king and to all the people of the land. And he made a confession of it before all the men who were gathered there, though the words escaped him in intentionally.”
      Elfgar was poisoning Siward and I don’t doubt had a hand in his mothers death. Due to Siwards size the dosage was to weak with Siward making a recovery. Elfgar and his associates, likely Godwin boys, rode to York and finished the job by throwing Siward off the walls.
      With Elfgar outlawing he would enlist the Welsh to raid and burn Ralph Herfordshire and would be inlawed by Edward only to find a year later Ralph dieing of mysterious causes.
      It was in my first inquiries into our history that I read during renovations to St Olives of York a man of large stature (6’8″) was found beneath the tower steps. If Siward committed suicide as is claimed he couldn’t be buried on hallowed ground. Where ever he is, a DNA and forensic investigation would answer our thousand year old myth story. Lowell

      • Wonderful. You have really done some amazing research. I also read very early on that a tall man was found during renovations of St Olaf’s, but when I asked the vicar of St Olaf’s he didn’t know. Instead he pointed at the baptismal font and suggested Siward was buried under there. Renovations of St Olaf’s were apparently done in the 19th Century (last time 1887) so will probably have to follow that thread of research to find out more.

        I will need to digest the three detailed write ups you have sent through. From an initial glance it certainly addresses a number of inconsistencies inherent in my hypotheses.

        Very enjoyable,

        Ferdinand

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