The harrying of the north

Published February 3, 2014 by Kat

I’ve been spending time poking about for a good historical fiction setting. The Scottish border around the time of the Norman conquest has been promising. Malcolm III killed Macbeth and his named heir, Lulach, in the 1050s. Malcolm then spent his time running slave raids in the north of England and generally being a stinker until the Norman invasion in 1066… or rather, for some time afterwards, as the citizens of Northumbria got tired of being bothered by him and started to revolt against William the Conqueror who wasn’t protecting them. In 1069 tensions boiled over a lot of William’s men and castles were slaughtered and burned. William got angry.

Then in the winter of 1069-1070 William marche to York and set his army to harry the north. They slaughtered people and livestock, poisoned wells, salted the earth, and burned the crofts. It was an act of genocide and basically depopulated the north of England for years to come. One sources estimates that 100,000 people died.

In 1086 William ordered that information about all the lands, people, and production of England be gathered into the Domesday Book. I’ve just received a copy of it. Here are two pictures: the first of a page from a southern Shire, the second from Yorkshire. Don’t bother to read it, just look at the shape of the text:


In the south there were land, serfs, mills, and breweries. In Yorkshire there was… land. Nothing else. Total desolation.

Anyway, here is a little timeline of events I’ve compiled for myself:

900 Donald II dies, Kingdom of Alba forms, Constantine II succeeds
942-54 Malcolm I reigns. Slays Ceallach of Moray, unites northern Scotland
945+ King Edmund hands Cumbria over to Malcolm I
954-62 Scots capture oppidum Eden = Edinburgh in Lothian, farthest south they’d controlled. Indulf rules. Succeeded by Cuilen
962 Edgar the Peaceful grants autonomy to Northumberia, Tees to Tweed
971-95 Kenneth II invades Strathclyde
978 Aethelred the Unready becomes king of England
1016 Aethelred the Unready dies
1018 Malcolm II defeats Northumbrians at Carham. King Owain dies, leaves kingdom to Malcolm.
1028 William the Conqueror born
1031 Canute of Denmark and England confirms Malcolm’s conquests
1034 Duncan I accedes
1040 Duncan defeated by English at Durham, is toppled, Macbeth kills him and succeeds
1042 Edward the Confessor becomes King of England
1045 Duncan/Malcolm’s family attempts to overthrow Macbeth
1050 Odo appointed Bishop of Bayeux
1053 Earl Godwin, the main opposition to William’s succession to English throne, dies. His son Tostig becomes Earl of Northumbria.
1054 English invasion led by Northumbria
1057 Malcolm kills Macbeth, Lulach succeeds
1058 Malcolm III, son of Duncan, kills Lulach and succeeds.
1059 Malcolm attempts to arrange marriage with Edward’s kinswoman margaret, it fails. Instead he sometime married Viking widow Ingibiorg, they have sons Duncan, Domnall/Donald, Malcolm
1061 Scots invade Northumbria, plunder Lindisfarne
1065 Northumbria revolts against Tostig, sends reps to Edward’s court where they confer with Tostig’s brother Harold. It is clear Tostig can’t retain his power in Northumbria. Harold tells Edward this. Tostig is removed from power then outlawed when he won’t leave. Bitter divide between brothers.
1066 Edward the Confessor dies in January, succeeded by Harold Godwinson (son of Earl Godwin)
Tostig pokes at English shore in May, no success, retreats to Scotland for the summer
Tostig and Harald Hardrada invade Northumbria in September. King Harold marches north and kills them
Battle of Hastings in October, King Harold killed by arrow to the eye. His mother offers William his weight in gold for the body, but William refuses and throws it into the sea
Edgar AEtheling is nominated king, but submits to Normans in December
1068 William marches to York in the summer, fomenting rebellion melts away, some including Edgar going to Malcolm III’s court
1069 Edgar Aetheling returns to England to join revolt
In January William’s appointed earl Robert de Comines and party are slaughtered in Durham. Rebels kill York’s castle guardian and his men. William returns to York and slaughters rebels. Others rebellions break out over the country. Edgar AEtheling seeks assistance from Sweyn II of Denmark (Canute’s nephew). Fleet raids east coast of England, Danes+Angles retake York. William marches army to York, where he buys off the Danes. Then he Harries the North.
1069-70 Harrying of the North. Scottish raids contribute to disorder. Hoards of coins buried.
1070 Sweyn returns to England, raides along Humber and East Anglia
1071 William replaces Anglo-Saxon leaders with Normans in the North
Malcolm marries Aetheling’s sister Margaret. Claims his raids into England are redressing the wrongs against his wife’s people. Have six sons, Edward, Edmund, Ethelred, Edgar, Alexander, David, and two daughters Edith and Mary
1072 William marches to Scotland in a counter-invasion against Malcolm. Treaty of Abernethy. Malcolm becomes William’s vassal. Edgar Aetheling expulsed from Scottish court.
1074 Edgar submits to William
1075 Oderic Vitalis, chronicler, born
Cnut raids English coast with 200 ships
1078 Malcolm seizes Lulach’s wife, all his son’s treasures and cattle, to put down revolt
1079 Malcolm raids between Tees and Tweed in August/September, Normans don’t respond, Northumbrians get restive
1080 William sends son to invade Scotland, he gets to Falkirk between Scotland-proper and Lothian, Malcolm submits to authority and gives his son Duncan as hostage
Bishop of Durham murdered by locals in Northumbria. William sends brother Odo to harry Northumbria, drives nobility into exile
1082-3 Marianus Scotus, chronicler, dies
1083 William’s wife Matilda dies
William’s son Robert rebels with support from French
1085 Malcolm and Ingibiorg’s son Domnall dies
Lulach’s son Mael Snechtai dies
1086 Domesday Book returns come in
Cnut dies in July
1087 William the Conqueror dies on September 9. Son Robert gets Normandy, son William gets England. Family doesn’t arrange funeral–monks finally do. Service interrupted by petty quarrel. Body too large for tomb, bursts as it is lowered in
1088 Odo rebels
1091 Malcolm seiges Newcastle, trying to gain land, withdraws when English march
1093 Malcolm III invades England, claiming Cumbria. Meeting with new English King William Rufus to discuss Cumbria doesn’t happen. Malcolm goes back to Scotland angry, returns with army and wastes Northumberland. On way back to Scotland he is attacked by Earl of Northumbria. Dies at Battle of Alnwick. Margaret dies of sorrow nine days later.
1094 Malcolm’s brother Donalbane and son Duncan (sent by Normans) fight for the crown. Donalbane wins. England sends Malcolm’s next son Edgar to be king, Donalbane cedes throne to him. Succession after this follows primogeniture.
Alexander becomes king
1096 First Crusade begins
1100 William’s son William dies, Henry becomes king of England
1124 Alexander I dies
1250 Margaret, Malcolm’s wife, is canonized
1286 Alexander III dies, Scottish Wars of Independence foment


Pioneer food stores: Smoky Mountains

Published January 8, 2014 by Kat

chard or mustard greens
husk tomatoes

General Store:
dried fish
salt pork
cream of tartar

Livestock produce:

scuppernong grapes, raisins
apples, crabapples
maple syrup


Published November 27, 2013 by Kat

I’m a sucker for floor plans, especially floor plans for sprawling 17th, 18th, and 19th century houses. So of course I’ve thought about the floor plan of the manor house at Broch Tuarach, affectionately called Lallybroch. Haven’t you? Oh–I’m still on about Outlander, here, btw.

In the first book Jamie tells Claire that it was built in 1702 and was full of forward-thinking innovations, such as brick ovens built into the kitchen fire and ceramic stoves to warm the rooms instead of fireplaces. Later, Herself seems to forget these details, and says that 1721 is carved on the lintel (which is supposed to be Jamie’s year of birth, though it couldn’t have been, not if he turned 23 on May 1, 1743. Details details.) There are fireplaces everywhere. Details details.

Here is my disclaimer: I am not a scholar of architectural history. I am not even British. I am just a house nerd who has read books. So here are my thoughts on the probable floorplan of Lallybroch.

First, it would have been symmetrical. This was the heyday of Palladian symmetry. Double-stack houses had become the norm by 1700, by which I mean, the main rooms were in the center of the house with a symmetrical sprawl of smaller rooms on either side.

Second, the main stair was likely in the front hall. By now the “hall” was nothing more than a grand entryway and passage. The family dined elsewhere, the servants had their own hall in the basement. Some words in the fourth book made it sound, to me, like Herself agreed that the main stair is in the front hall. So there.

Third, it would have been built on a half-sunk basement, and that basement is where the kitchen would have been. It is easy to read the text and imagine the kitchen on the same level as the main rooms, but that would have been unlikely. Approaching the house from the front or back, one probably took a half-flight of stairs either up to the main rooms or down to the kitchens and offices, and when the family is entering the kitchen from the back door, they’re going down stairs to do it.

Fourth, it probably had the basement, the “ground” level with major rooms, the first floor with another major room plus the family’s bedchambers, and an attic under a hipped roof, where lived the house servants and the children. One of the books, I can’t remember which, corroborates this, though another has Jamie descending two staircases to get from his bedchamber to the main rooms, so (question marks). Probably Herself wanted to emphasize the moment where Jamie stopped hurrying (on the family stairs) and switched into stately Laird mode (on the hall stairs), and forgot. Herself is wonderful, but sometimes she does forget.

This leaves us with the question of Lallybroch’s size. It was the main house of a modest estate, with approximately sixty crofts. There don’t appear to be masses of servants running the place, because the family does some of the cooking–Jamie says that his mother had just put dinner on to cook when he was born, and his sister cooked dinner the day after their mother died. There is enough of a staff to provide some upstairs/downstairs division of labor, however. We know this because Mary MacNabb is taken on as a kitchen maid, not a house maid or maid-of-all-work.

All right, now to the floor plan. I have been thinking about Coleshill House when I think about Lallybroch. The plans for Coleshill House were drawn up in 1650, and they were revolutionary in several ways. I think a house that was revolutionary in England in 1650 would probably still be fairly fresh in the Scottish Highlands in 1702. Coleshill House is a flexible, sensible floor plan with plenty of rooms, but not so many they wouldn’t be used. It has the right number of floors. The ends of its corridors have backstairs in them, instead of the window seats described at Lallybroch–backstairs were a fairly new innovation at the time. While the house’s footprint provides for a huge basement, that doesn’t mean that the basement was full of swarms of servants. Much of the space is set aside for storage and chores that require space of their own, such as dairy and laundry. I think Coleshill is just about right.

Here are plans of all four floors of Coleshill House from Google Books. Look at page 161 (sorry I couldn’t point the link directly there). There is also text about why the Coleshill floorplan is notable.

If you don’t care to click through, my own drawings of the two main floors are at the bottom of this post. I have flubbed the hall stair a little bit, but these drawings gives you a broad idea of the “fine” part of the house. A two-part central space, four medium-sized rooms, eight closets or cabinets. These would have been quite small, perhaps 8’x 8′, and used for wardrobes, studies, or body servants. It would certainly be easy to renovate them into bathrooms, updating the house for the 20th century. The only non-symmetrical room is the Steward’s, or Factor’s, room on the ground floor. This is where Ian and Jamie did business, and where tenants went to pay rent on Quarter Days. Instead of closets, this room has a broad staircase down to the basement, which would have been used for bringing food up from the kitchens. The large room on the ground floor would have been the dining parlor. The large room on the upper floor would have been the grand chamber, used for the most formal of receptions. The hall is two stories tall, with a railing looking down in the second story.

If you didn’t click through above, the attic is divided into six roughly equal spaces. The basement contains kitchen, pantry, larder, tripartite store room, servant’s hall, housekeeper’s room, cellars, dairy, and still room.

The only thing Lallybroch has that Coleshill doesn’t is a small “gun room” in between the hall and the parlor. I wonder if Herself was thinking of the armoury at Abbotsford House, the sprawling fairy-tale home of Sir Walter Scott. I have looked at a lot of 18th century house plans, and never seen one with a room for weapons on the ground floor. Powder rooms in the basement, yes.

Lallybroch level 1

Lallybroch level 2

Outlandish words

Published November 26, 2013 by Kat


Outlander: Fraser’s Ridge floor plan

Published November 20, 2013 by Kat

I am hip-deep in the Outlander series and loving it. It probably isn’t fair, in the heat of the moment (in the middle of the sixth book) to say that this is the series I’ve been looking for my entire life… but right now I feel like I’ve been waiting to read these books. They’re long, dreamy, funny, touching, romantic and endlessly interesting. I did think that the third book was a weak link and almost gave up. I’m so glad I didn’t. Four and five and six have been one beautiful ever-shifting tromp through the Colonial wilderness, and I love it.

I have started a Pinboard here.

I’m also a lover of floor plans, so of course I’ve been thinking about the floor plan of the big house at Fraser’s Ridge. I’ve come up with a symmetrical, Colonial floor plan that encompasses all of the spaces mentioned in the books and none that aren’t. Here it is:



Since I finished these plans about 400 pages ago, I have been paying attention to descriptions of movement within the house, and found nothing to contradict my plan.

Having said that, I feel that there are missing spaces–spaces that a big house of the time would have had. Maybe not a house deep in the smoky mountains, though. Maybe they are spaces for River Run, not Fraser’s Ridge. A root cellar, a lean-to, a scullery, and a work room for a loom and spinning wheel for example.


Pinboard: Sycamore Lane

Published June 13, 2013 by Kat

Silver. Pewter. Ironstone. Cut glass. Blue and brown transferware. Repousse. Hydrangeas. Delphiniums. Nigella. Lavender. Chamomile. Bone handles. Mother of pearl handles. Lace: crocheted, tatted, knitted, spindle. Linen. Lawn. Muslin. Carafes, gravy boats, covered vegetable bowls, berry spoons. Darjeeling. Assam. Lump sugar. Crewel. Cross stitch. Boracic soap. Big black bottles of medicine you can pour down the sink.

Miss Marple would like it here.

Sycamore Lane

Puffin clothbound classics

Published May 1, 2013 by Kat

Had to share this picture on this blog as well as my personal one–my daughter’s future bedtime stories.


My father read chapter books to me at bedtime starting when I was four or five years old. I remember The Secret Garden and Black Beauty, The Wizard Of Oz and Gulliver’s Travels and The Gift Of The Mikado.

Two years till I start reading them to Mimi. Meanwhile, they’re beautiful.