Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire

Lancashire and the British Kingdom of Rheged

Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire (2018), 167, (1), 1–19.

Abstract

Amongst sources for Northern history in the sixth century are Welsh poems, including eulogies by Taliesin to Urien, ruler of Yrechwydd and Rheged. Yrechwydd will be north Yorkshire; Rheged can be taken as east Cumbria. It was not Galloway and Dumfries, despite what is said. Nor did Urien rule from Carlisle. His main territory was the south, with Furness as part of it, so that the obscure “Merin Rheged” of early Welsh texts was therefore Morecambe Bay, not the Solway Firth. Besides locating Rheged, we can explain its name. It will have been derived from Latin receptus, meaning ‘retreat, refuge’, appropriate for the Penrith-Appleby region, with hills around it. If correct, these conclusions have implications not only for Dark Age politics and archaeology but for the town of Rochdale. If Rheged did not extend down to it (as sometimes suggested), the place may yet have a name of similar origin, indicating a British settlement there in the seventh century.

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Author details

Breeze, Andrew