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The Founding of Yorkshire (Deira)

British Kingdoms, Roman Occupation and Angle Conquest


Kingdoms Having Territory Within the Historic County of Yorkshire

         Brythonic Kingdoms 71AD           Brythonic Kingdoms 6th/7th century          Angle Kingdom 626AD


At the point of Roman occupation the land now identified as Yorkshire consisted of the British Kingdom of the Parisii, roughly equating to the East Riding, and territory of the powerful Kingdom of the Brigantes, a federation of former independent British tribes.  Roman occupation of the region lasted from 71AD to 407AD. 

After the departure of the Romans, the Ceasariensis (Province) became the Kingdom of Northern Britain.  This kingdom was short lived due to internal conflict that soon resulted in its subdivision into smaller British kingdoms, amongst which was the kingdom of Ebrauc.  By this time the former Kingdom of the Parisii formed part of Ebrauc and was known as ‘Deywr’, the brythonic word for ‘waters’ from where the river and area of ‘Derwent’ has derived.

Many Angles had settled in Deywr since around 420AD after being hired as mercenaries to help protect the area against attack from the north. They anglicised its name to ‘Deira’ and by 559 took control of the area under their leader Ælla who pronounced himself King.  Ælla continued to advance into Ebrauc and in 580 completed its absorption into his Kingdom of Deira, by then roughly equating to the East and North Ridings. 

After Ælla’s death in 588, King Æthelric ruled until 604 when Æthelfrith, King of neighbouring Bernicia to the north, deposed him and usurped Prince Ēadwine (Prince Edwin) in the process. The Bernicians had taken much land from the Britons including Dunoting in the north Pennines in 595.  By 616, Prince Edwin, who had been in exile in East Anglia, was able to gain the support of his host, King Raedwald, and assemble an army to challenge Æthelfrith for the Deiran throne. 

In slaying Æthelfrith in battle, Edwin not only restored the Deiran dynasty to Deira but the lands of Bernicia also came under its realm. Within a year of taking the crown Edwin had crushed opposition in North Rheged to the north-west and much of it was absorbed by Bernicia whilst Dunoting was ceded to Deira.  He then expelled King Ceredig ap Gwallog to annex Elmet and in 626 took the petty kingdom of Meicen, near modern day Doncaster.  This completed the creation of a Kingdom of Deira whose land comprised the entire land within all three Ridings of Yorkshire and whose borders would instantly be recognised as ‘Yorkshire’ to this day.  Yorkshire was thereby founded by King Edwin in 626AD.  Any references to post 626 Angle ‘Deira’ should therefore be read as references to the history of Yorkshire.