Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Yr Hen Ogledd

“The Old North”
Northern Britons

Yr Hen Ogledd, also known as the “Old North” or the “Northern Britons,” refers to a historic region.

The Old North covered a broad area, which includes parts of modern-day northern England and southern Scotland. It extended roughly from the Solway Firth in the west to the River Forth in the east.

Scholars use the term Hen Ogledd, or “Old North” from Welsh poetry to refer to kingdoms in Britain, such as Rheged.

Yr Hen Ogledd | History

Historical Context and Kingdoms
Yr Hen Ogledd was a distinct cultural and political entity in the early medieval period. It developed after the withdrawal of the Roman legions from Britain, leading to the fragmentation of the island into smaller kingdoms or principalities, each with its own rulers. Some of these included Rheged, which was centered around what is now Cumbria and southern Scotland, and Strathclyde, which covered parts of southern Scotland.

Yr Hen Ogledd was comprised of several kingdoms, including Elmet, Rheged, Gododdin (or Votadini), and Strathclyde. Prominent rulers from this region include Urien Rheged, a celebrated warrior-king, and Gwallawg ap Llaenog, who is mentioned in early Welsh poetry.

As in other parts of Britain, Christianity began to take hold in the Old North during the early medieval period. Several monastic centers, such as Whithorn in Galloway (modern-day Scotland) and Abercorn in West Lothian, were established, contributing to the spread of the Christian faith.

Cultural Exchange and Poetry and Literature
The Old North had strong cultural ties with Wales, and the people in this region spoke Cumbric, a language closely related to Old Welsh. The Yr Hen Ogledd and the Britons of Wales maintained connections and cultural exchanges.

The poetry of this region, particularly the Gododdin, an epic poem attributed to Aneirin, is one of the earliest known pieces of Welsh literature. It commemorates warriors who fell in battle against the Anglo-Saxons during the early medieval period.

Decline and Integration
Over time, the political landscape of the Old North changed. It was gradually absorbed into other political entities. Strathclyde was integrated into the Kingdom of Alba, which eventually became the Kingdom of Scotland. The region also saw changes in rulership and the influence of Anglo-Saxon and Viking powers.