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The Kingdom of Elmet

Our classic understanding of British history, as taught in schools, is that the Romans conquered Britain and ruled it for centuries before being forced back to Rome by troubles at home. They abandoned the British Isles to a group of tribes who had been softened by life under them and who were therefore vulnerable to the waves of Angles and Saxons who gradually invaded, overtaking the land and making it their own well before the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066. However, of necessity, this version of history is a reduced one: almost nothing is reliably known of Central Britain before c. 550. The Romans had never really controlled the North, and even in the south effective Roman control ended long before the departure of the Roman military from Roman Britain in 407. By 550, the region was controlled by Brittonic-speaking peoples; to the east were the Anglian realms of Bernicia and Deira; to the north were the Picts, and the Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riata lay to the northwest. All of these peoples would play a role in the history of the Old North.

Battles were fought between the tribes of this land, not just against the encroaching Anglo-Saxons. What we now know as the West Riding of Yorkshire was then the kingdom of Elmet, an independent Brittonic realm, the precise borders of which are unclear: in the south the boundary was probably the River Sheaf and in the east the River Wharfe. Deira lay to the north and Mercia to the south, Craven to the west. These kingdoms were all in the south of what was known as the Hen Ogledd or Old North. Elmer survived relatively late in the period of Anglo-Saxon conquest, being invaded and conquered by Northumbria in the autumn of 616 or 626,