The Anglo-British Cemetery at Bamburgh An E-Interview with Graeme Young of the Bamburgh Castle Research Project
The Heroic Age Issue 4 Winter 2001
The ultimate age of the settlement at Bamburgh is unknown. Documentary sources tell us that it was originally a British settlement later conquered by the Angles. According to the Historia Brittonum (c. 830), it’s original name was Din-Guaïroï. Two further Irish sources may also record the name as Dún Guaire i Saxanaib, the destination of Fianchnae mac Báetáub in a saga title whose text has been lost, and an annal entry that records “Expungnatio Ratho Guali la Fiachnae mac Báetáin”. According to the Historia Brittonum, Din-Guaïroï was added to Bryneich [Bernicia] by Ida, the reputed first king of the Anglian dynasty of Bernica. Bede dated the beginning of Ida’s reign to 547, claiming that he was the founder of the Northumbrian royal dynasty. From the Moore Memoranda and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, we know that Ida is credited with a 12 year reign. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle claims that Ida built the first stockade and then the wall of the fortress, although this is unlikely as Anglo-Saxons of the period were not fortress builders. The stockade and wall referred to were likely built by the British. The first Anglian king to appear in the historic record with any confidence is Æthelfrith, grandson of Ida, who ruled from c. 592-616. It was against Æthelfrith that the expeditions recorded among the Irish were targeted. According to the Historia Brittonum, Æthelfrith gave Din-Guaïroï to his wife Bebbab, from whom it was named Bebbanburh [Bamburgh]. Bede’s Historia (III.6, III.16) also claims Bamburgh was named for Queen Bebbe, although he does not name her husband. The rediscovery of the cemetery at the base of the Bamburgh fortress is the first surviving archaeological proof of the transition between the British and Anglian inhabitants of Bamburgh.