VIKING WIRRAL ON WHEELS
A Discovery Of Wirral’s Nordic Past
w/ Dr Clare Downham (Reader in Viking Age history at the Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool), Bido Lito! Cycling Club and Ryde
The Wirral peninsula – bounded to the west by the River Dee, and to the east by the River Mersey – has always stood at the crossroads of different cultures. From this fusion a distinct local identity and a vibrant creative culture has emerged.
This was as true in the Viking age as it is now. At the beginning of the tenth century, Vikings settled in the Wirral creating their own mini-state with it’s parliament or ‘thing’ at Thingwall. Place names and archaeological discoveries show the interaction of Welsh, Irish, English and Scandinavian peoples, and Wirral’s contact with far reaching trade routes. Proud locals displayed their success, fashionable taste and sense of identity by commissioning sculptured monuments, some of which can still be seen today.
A living tradition of Viking-inspired folklore flourished into recent times. At Thurstaston, the Norse god Thor is said to have dropped his magic hammer, while Cnut was claimed to have set up his throne on the seafront on Leasowe and challenged the tide not to come in and dampen his feet.
Dr Clare Downham is Reader in Viking Age history at the Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool. She studied at St Andrews and Cambridge before working in Dublin and Aberdeen and has published three books on the medieval history of Britain and Ireland.
For Future Yard Festival, Bido Lito! Cycling Club and Ryde will head out on two wheels to explore some of Wirral’s legendary Viking sites, guided by Dr Downham’s expert insight. Following the leisurely 1.5 hour ride, Dr Downham will give a talk at Birkenhead Priory, shining a light on Wirral’s unique Viking heritage.