A new novel by Richmond author Rod Flint brings to life the hills and valleys of Richmondshire at the time when the new town and castle of ‘Richemund’ were just being built.
Building upon the characters of Ealdgith and Hravn who he introduced in his first novel, The Year 1070-Survival he returns to the theme of what life was like in the immediate aftermath of the brutal Harrying of the North.
The Doomsday Book reveals that the dales above Richmond and Leyburn were unproductive in the 1080s, while lower Swaledale and Wensleydale were farmed intensively in order to sustain the large Norman garrison based upon Richmond and smaller outlying castles.
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Most of those who survived the ‘harrying’ in the winter of 1070 would have entered the service of the new Norman land holders, working as bondsmen providing free labour and sustaining their families at a subsistence level.
Contemporary historical sources also tell us that across the North, as in other parts of the country, the Normans were unable to control the hills, forests and remoter areas.
English men and women who valued their freedom, and still had the will to resist, fled there as outlaws.
The Normans called the people of these ‘free zones’ the ‘silvatici’, or ‘men of the woods’. We remember them today as ‘the green men’.
Rod’s latest novel, The Year 1071-Resistance and Revenge is set in the hills immediately to the north and west of Richmond.
Rod said: “These hills are now just poor grassland and rough heather. They have been devastated by centuries of lead mining that saw trees cut down for pit-props and to fuel furnaces, whilst the soil was poisoned by lead waste and acidic rain.
“In all probability, a thousand years ago these hills and valleys would have been forested, clad in a mixture of trees, scrub and upland pasture. If the dispossessed people fled anywhere, it would have been there.
“Whilst many would have tried to hide and survive, others would have used this woodland sanctuary as a place from which to resist and take revenge upon those who had destroyed English society.”
This is the basis for Rod’s story about the Richmondshire resistance.
The resistance is led by Ealdgith and Hravn under the direction of Earl Gospatrick of Northumberland. Gospatrick is an historical character, responsible for the series of Northern uprisings that culminated in the repressive harrying of 1070. This is his last act of defiance.
The Year 1071-Resistance and Revenge’ is available now through Amazon on Kindle and in paperback.
Further details can be found at www.hindrelag.uk