How Norwegian Vikings brought Irish Gaelic words to Swaledale

Creeton Close with its field barn on the top wall, house platform in the bottom right quarter, and above and to the right the estate boundary wall descending from the moor top to the road below.

Creeton Close with its field barn on the top wall, house platform in the bottom right quarter, and above and to the right the estate boundary wall descending from the moor top to the road below.

Creeton Close, a two-acre enclosed pasture between Gunnerside and Low Row in upper Swaledale, is notable for having what appears to be an ancient house-platform cut from its steep slope, and for its extremely unusual name, which seems to have come from the Gaelic language of Ireland, courtesy of Norwegian Vikings.

This strange occurrence is explained because the Norwegian Vikings who settled upper Swaledale in the early 900s had come by a circuitous route. Having first settled the northern isles of Scotland they ventured south along the Irish Sea and settled again around Dublin and County Wicklow. There they absorbed into their Old Norse language some words of Irish Gaelic, especially relating to land.

When the Irish kicked out the Vikings, they took to their boats again and came to north-west England. Many settled there, while others came over the Pennines and settled in upper Swaledale, which now has a preponderance of Old Norse place-names. Among them are a few that have no roots in Old Norse, nor in Old English, nor Old Welsh, nor any other of the early languages sometimes found in the area.

One such is the field recorded in 1844 as Creeton Close, which by its location at the extremity of a farm settlement and next to a moor-top and hillside boundary wall that separated the village estates of Gunnerside and Low Row, seems likely to have been named form the Gaelic word crioch, pronounced cree, and the Old Norse word tún, which together mean ‘boundary house-enclosure’. For a more detailed explanation, visit the Swaledale place-names web page Creeton Close.

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About Will Swales

Amateur historian with a special interest in Swaledale, Yorkshire.
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