The BP exhibition

life and legend

6 March – 22 June 2014

Exhibition closed

Supported by BP BP logo

Organised by the British Museum, the National Museum of Denmark, and the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Discover Norse placenames near you

Find out whether the name of your village, town or city has its origins in Old Norse.

This map shows all English, Welsh, Irish and a selection of Scottish placenames with Old Norse origins. In England, these are more prevalent north of the line marked in black which represents the border described in a treaty between King Alfred and the Viking leader, Guthrum, made between AD 876 and 890.

This description – up the Thames, and then up the Lea, and along the Lea unto its source, then in a straight line to Bedford, then up on the Ouse to Watling Street – is traditionally thought to demarcate the southern boundary of the ‘Danelaw’ – the region where ‘Danish’ law was recognised. In reality it may have been more of a ‘legal fiction’ than a real border, but it does seem to roughly mark the southern limits of significant Scandinavian settlement in Britain.

For an up-to-date guide to the interpretation of the names of England's cities, towns and villages visit the University of Nottingham’s Key to English Place-Names, which was used as the source of the data in our map, with kind permission.

With thanks to our colleagues at the University of Leicester and Nottingham, working on the Leverhulme Trust funded programme 'The Impact of Diasporas on the Making of Britain' and to Thomas Owen Clancy, Dr Rachel Butter and Dr Simon Taylor for providing some of the Scottish place-name data.

With thanks also to mySociety Ltd, for their help in building the map.

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