Sunset in Loch Ken

A Land set apart by

The Angles and Gall-Ghàidheil (Foreign Gael)

During the course of the seventh century, the Angles of Northumbria conquered the Britons of Southwest Scotland, first known in Ptolemy’s second century map, as the Novantae and Selgovae (Segloes in the 8th century Ravenna Cosmography). At its height, the Angles dominated a territory that extended north of the Humber Estuary to the Lothians in modern Scotland, and west into Cumbria, Galloway and Carrick (see map below). The territories of Bernicia and Deira lay at the core of the kingdom, until it ceased to exist as an independent kingdom in the ninth century, when Deira was conquered by the Vikings and formed into the kingdom of York. This new kingdom was forged by Vikings drawn from Denmark and Ireland, and by dynasties like the Uí Ímair, who had already established themselves in Ireland, and others in the western and northern parts of Scotland, including the Hebrides and Orkney. They were a formidable maritime force, capable of launching land raids within Ireland and Britain, forging alliances with ruling families and the preserve that would become known as the Viking Age.  It was during this period, a new ethnic group, the Gall-Gàidheil, the ‘foreign-Gael’ are first mentioned in the Irish Annals briefly between 856 and 858, who provide the first reference to this name in Ireland. However, it remains the case that even after decades of academic research, we are nowhere near to understanding when the name Gall-Gàidheil came to define the mainland of modern Galloway.

Very little is known about the early history of the region of Galloway, which was occupied by the Romans, but we have a fairly comprehensive list of Northumbria bishops from 731 until it seems, the Angles lost control of the region in the ninth century, when the ecclesiastical settlement at Whithorn was apparently burned by fire and abandoned. For two centuries, the territory north of the Solway Firth had been part of Northumbria and an appendage of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom. I have compiled a list below noting their source and any comments. Each extract and reference mentioned tells its own story; analysed, evaluated and scrutinised by historians and scholars alike over the centuries, adds to our understanding, interpretation and re-interpretation of medieval history crossing the borders between the north of England and southern Scotland, including modern Galloway. They raise more questions than answers, particularly, the break-up of Northumbria to the west in Galloway, the role played by the kings of the Scots and Cumbrians during the first half of the tenth century, and their relationship with the Scandinavian Vikings, who settled in Western Isles of Scotland. This List begins with the Venerable Bede of Jarrow and the Anglo-Saxon bishops of Whithorn.

[1] Pechthelm, bishop of Whithorn

1) Venerable Bede of Jarrow

A.D. 731: At vero provinciae Northanhumbrorum, cui rex Ceolwulfus praest, quatuor nunc episcopi praesulatum tenant; Wilfridus in Eboracensi ecclesia, Ethelwaldus in Lindisfarnensi, Acca in Hagulstadensi ecclesia, Pecthemus in ea, quae Candida Casa vocatur, quae nuper, multiplicatis fidelium plebibus, in sedem pontificates addita ipsum primum habet antistitem. Pictorum quoque natio tempore hoc et foedus pacis cum gente habet Anglorum, et catholicae pacis et Veritatis cum universali ecclesia particeps exsistere Gaudet. Scoti, qui Britanniam incolunt, suis contenti finibus nil contra gentem Anglorum insidiarum moliuntur aut fraudium. Britones, quamvis et maxima ex parte domestico sibi odio gentem Anglo rum et totius catholicæ ecclesiæ statutum Pascha minus recte moribusque improbis impugnent, tamen et divina sibi et humana prorsus resistente virtute, in neutro cupi tum possunt obtinere propositum; quippe, qui quamvis ex parte sui sint juris, nonnulla tamen ex parte Anglo rum sunt servitio mancipati.

[Translation] But in the province of the Northumbrians, where King Ceolwulf reigns, four bishops now preside; wufrid in the church of York, Ethelwald in that of Lindisfarne, Acca in that of Hagulstad, Pechthelm in that which is called the White House, which, from the increased number of believers, has lately become an epis copal see, and has him for its first prelate. The Picts also at this time are at peace with the English nation, and rejoice in being united in peace and truth with the whole Catholic Church. The Scots that inhabit Britain, satisfied with their own territories, meditate no hostilities against the nation of the English. The Britons, though they, for the most part, through innate hatred, are adverse to the English nation, and wrong fully, and from wicked custom, oppose the appointed Easter of the whole Catholic Church; yet from both the Divine and human power withstanding them, can in no way prevail as they desire; for though in part they are their own masters, yet elsewhere they are also brought under subjection to the English.

[Giles, Rev. J. A.: Complete Works of Venerable Bede in the original Latin, collated with the Manuscript and Various printed editions (London, 1843), Vol. III, pp. 294-95]

[Comment] Alan Anderson translates the first sentence as “But over the province of the Northumbrians, which Ceolwulf rules, four bishops now hold sway: Wilfred in the church of York; Ethelwald in that of Lindisfarne; Acca in that of Hexham; Pechthelm in that which is called Whithorn, and which, through increase of the ranks of the faithful, has recently been raised to the see of an episcopate, and has him as its first bishop”.


[Anderson, Alan O: Scottish Annals from English Chroniclers A.D. 500 to 1286, p. 52-3]

[2] Acca, bishop of Hexham from 709 to 732

1) Chronicle of Hexham

A.D. 732:  Acca. Sunt tamen qui dicunt quod eo tempore episcopalem sedemin Candida (Casa) inceperit et prseparaverit.

[Rainer, James: History of the Priory of Hexham, Vol. 1 in The publication of the Surtees Society (Durham, 1864), Vol. Xliv, p. 35]

[Comment] It is unknown why Bishop Acca withdrew or left his diocese of Hexham. However, tradition claims he became bishop of Whithorn in 732.  

[3] District of Kyle in Ayrshire

1) Continuation of Venerable Bede

A.D. 750: Eadberctus  campum  Cyil  cum aliis  regionibus  suo  regno  addidit.

[Plummer, Charles: Venerabilis Baedae Historiam Ecclesiasticam (Oxford, 1896), Vol. 1, p. 362]

[Translation] Edbert added to his kingdom the plain of Kyle, with other districts.

[Anderson, Alan O: Scottish Annals from English Chroniclers A.D. 500 to 1286, p. 56]

[4] Frithwald, bishop of Whithorn

1) Simeon of Durham

A.D. 764: His quoque temporibus Frithwald episcopus Candidse-casse ex hoc saeculo migravit, pro quo Pectwine in loco illius episcopus subrogatur.

[Symeonis Dunelmensis Opera et Collectanea, Vol. I, published in the Publications of the Surtees Society, (Durham, 1868), Vol. LI (1867), p. 22]

[Translation] At this time also, Frithwald, bishop of Candida Casa [Whitherne], departed this life, and Phectwine was appointed bishop in his stead.

[The Historical Works of Simon of Durham, translated by Rev. Joseph Stevenson in the Church Historians of England (London:  Seeley's, 1855), Vol. III, pt. II, p. 451]

2) Henry, archdeacon of Huntingdon

A.D. 765: Tunc etiam Fridwald episcopus Witern (wrongly has Ceastrensis) vivere destitit, qui factus fuerat episcopus VI annon regni Ceolwlf. Eo tempore Witwine factus est episcopus Witern.

[Arnold, Thomas: Henrici Archidiaconi Huntendunensis Historia Anglorum (London, 1879), p. 125]

[Comment] Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, MSS. D, E. notes Frithwald, bishop at Whithorn, died on the Nones of May, 763. He was consecrated at Chester on the eighteenth before the Kalends of September, in the sixth winter of Ceolwulf’s kingship; and he was bishop twenty-nine winters. Then Pechtwin was consecrated as bishop of Whithorn at Elfet ee (perhaps Elvet river, Durham), on the sixteenth before the Kalends of August.

[5] Pectwine, bishop of Whithorn

1) Simeon of Durham

A.D. 777. Anno Dcc.lxxvij Pechtwine, episcopus Candidae-casae, xiij kal. Octobris migravit ex hoc saeculo ad aeternae salutis gaudium,qui eidem ecclesise xiiij annis praefuit.

[Symeonis Dunelmensis Opera et Collectanea, Vol. I, published in the Publications of the Surtees Society, (Durham, 1868), Vol. LI (1867), p. 25]

[Translation] Pichtwine, bishop of Candida Casa, departed from this life on the thirteenth of the kalends of October [19th Sept.], to the enjoyment of everlasting salvation, having presided over that church fourteen years.

[The Historical Works of Simon of Durham, translated by Rev. Joseph Stevenson in the Church Historians of England (London:  Seeley's, 1855), Vol. III, pt. II, p. 451]

2) Henry, archdeacon of Huntingdon

A.D. 776: Quo annon Witwine episcopus Witterne, xxiv, anno episcopatus sui, morte affectus est.

[Arnold, Thomas: Henrici Archidiaconi Huntendunensis Historia Anglorum (London, 1879), p. 126]

[Comment] Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, MSS. D, E. notes, 776, this year died bishop Pectwin, on the thirteenth before the Kalends of October. He was bishop fourteen winters.

[6] Ethelbert, bishop of Whithorn

1) Simeon of Durham

A.D.777: Cui Ethelbyrht successit [Translated], Ethelbyrht succeeded him (source as above).

[Comment] Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, MSS. D, E. notes, And in the same year Ethelbert was consecrated as bishop of Whithorn in York, on the seventeenth before the Kalends of July.

2) Henry, archdeacon of Huntingdon

A.D. 777: Eodem annon Edelbert sacratus est apud Eoverwic espscopus in Witterne.

[Arnold, Thomas: Henrici Archidiaconi Huntendunensis Historia Anglorum (London, 1879), p. 126]

[7] Ethelbert, bishop of Whithorn

A.D. 789: Eodem anno, hoc est dcclxxxix Dominicse Incarnationis anno, Ethelbertus, sede sua in Candida Casa relicta, Haugustaldensem episcopatum suscepit, cui octo annis prsefuit.

[Rainer, James: History of the Priory of Hexham, Vol. 1 in The publication of the Surtees Society (Durham, 1864), Vol. Xliv, p. 35]

[Translation] In the same year, that is in the 789 year from the Lord's incarnation, Ethelbert left his see in Whithorn and received the bishopric of Hexham, which he ruled for eight years.

[Anderson, Alan O: Scottish Annals from English Chroniclers A.D. 500 to 1286, p. 59]

[Comment] Ethelbert is mentioned on several occasions exercising his episcopal functions. On 16 kal. August, 791, he and archbishop Eanbald consecrated Baldwulf to the see of Whithorn (Saxon Chron., 335) at a place called Hearrahalch, i. e., Locus Dominorum (Simeon, col. 111). On 8 kal. Junii, 795, at York, he, archbishop Eanbald, and bishops Higbald and Baldwulf, consecrated Eadulf king of Northumbria; (Saxon Chron., 338), and, on 18 kal. Sept., 796, Ethelbert, Higbald, and Badwnlf consecrated Eanbald II. bishop of York in a monastery called Sochasburgh (Sockburn, Sadberge, or Sockbridge?) (Simeon, col. 111).

[8] Baldwlf, bishop of Whithorn 790-805

1) Simeon of Durham

A.D.790. Eodem anno Badwlf ad Candidam-casam ordinatur episcopus in loco qui dicitur Hearrabalch quod interpretari potest Locus Dominorum.

[Symeonis Dunelmensis Opera et Collectanea, Vol. I, published in the Publications of the Surtees Society, (Durham, 1868), Vol. LI (1867), p. 30]

[Translation] In the same year, Baduulf was consecrated bishop at Candida Casa [Whitherne] in the place called Hearrahaleh, which may be interpreted, "the place of lords."

[The Historical Works of Simon of Durham, translated by Rev. Joseph Stevenson in the Church Historians of England (London:  Seeley's, 1855), Vol. III, pt. II, p. 456]

2) Henry, archdeacon of Huntingdon

A.D. 791: Enbaldus vero archi-episcopus Eboracensis sacravit Baldulf episcopum apud Witerne.

[Arnold, Thomas: Henrici Archidiaconi Huntendunensis Historia Anglorum (London, 1879), p. 129]

[9] Baldwlf, bishop of Whithorn

1) Simeon of Durham

A.D. 798. Id est iiij idus Augusti, Eanbaldus archiepiscopus obiit in monasterio quod dicitur Etclete, corpusque ejus magno comitante agmine ad Eboracam civitatem portantes, in ecclesia beati Petri Apostoli sepultum est honorifice. Statim vero alter Eanbaldus, ejusdem ecclesise presbyter, in episcopatum est electus, convenientibus ad ordinationem ejus Ethelberto et Hygbaldo atque Badwlfo episcopis, in monasterio quod dicitur Sochasburg xviij kal. Septembris, die Dominica.

[Symeonis Dunelmensis Opera et Collectanea, Vol. I, published in the Publications of the Surtees Society, (Durham, 1868), Vol. LI (1867), p. 34]

[Translation] On the fourth of the ides of August [10th August], archbishop Eanbald died in the monastery called Etlete (Edete), and his body, accompanied by a great multitude, being conveyed to the city of York, was honourably interred in the church of the blessed apostle Peter; and another Eanbald, a priest of the same church, was at once elected to the episcopate; bishops Ethelbert, Hygbald, and Badwlf meeting at his consecration, at a monastery called Sochasburg, on Sunday the eighteenth of the kalends of September.

[Comment] At Bigwell on 11 June, 803, “Ecgbert was concentrated bishop of diocese of Lindisfarne by Eanbald, archbishop of York, Eanbert, bishop of Hagustald and Baldwulf, bishop of Whithern.  His date of death is unknown, but appears to have been still in alive in c.805.

[10] Hearthured, bishop of Whithorn

A.D. c.820: Defuncto Ecgberto Lindisfarnensi episcopo, Heatheredus successit.

[Thorpe, Benjamin: Chronicon Florentii Wigorniensis (London, 1848), Vol. I, p. 65]

1) Florence of Worchester

Terra Pictorum Gentis

Nomina Episcoporum Candida Casa








[Thorpe, Benjamin: Chronicon Florentii Wigorniensis (London, 1848), Vol. I, p. 246]

[Comment] In the Chronicle of Florence of Worchester and MS Vespasian B vi in the British Library, Heathured is the last-named bishop c.833-36. Other chronicles omit his name, and follow William of Malmesbury. He describes Candida Casa as a place at the very end of England, next to Scotland, and after naming Badwulf the last bishop, notes “I have not come across any other bishops of this place. In fact, the bishopric soon came to an end, for, as I have said, Candida Casa was on the English frontier, and an easy victim for raids by Picts and Scots” (William of Malmesbury, The Deeds of the Bishops of England Gesta Pontificum Anglorum translated by David Preest (Woodbridge, 2002), pp. 171-2). He lists as the bishops of Candida Casa, Pecthelm, first bishop, followed by Frithwald, Pectwine, Æthelberht and Baldwulf, the last named of five bishops, who appear in similar lists, such as those found in the Textus Roffensis, compiled between 1122 and 1124.

2) Textus Roffensis

Nomina episcorum aecclesiae quae dicitur Candi(da) casa

[Translation] Names of the bishops of the church of Candida casa

i. Pehthelm

ii. Froðowald (Frithwald)

iii. Hehtwine (Pehtwine)

iv. Eðedlberht

v. Æadwulf (Beadwulf)

[Lists of Archbishops of Canterbury, Bishops of England and Scotland translated from Textus de Ecclesia Roffensis per Ernulphum episcopum, compiled between 1122 and 1124, Rochester Cathedral Library, MS A.3.5]

In his Studies in the History of Old English Literature (Oxford, 1953), p. 5, Kenneth Sisam says the contemporary MS. Vespasian B vi is good evidence that there was at least one bishop after Baldwulf, who is last heard of in 805. That the ‘Whitern line’ ended with Baldwulf is an inference of ex silentio, based on a lack of contemporary to the contrary. William of Malmesbury probably relied on a copy of the lists of MS. Vespasian B vi made before they were added to. The existence of such a copy is attested by MS. Tiberius B v. This Christ Church compilation of the time of Archbishop Sigeric (990-4) contains, in corrupt form, the same lists of the bishops and royal genealogies, the Lindisfarne line stopping at Baldwulf as they do in the original list MS. Vespasian B vi.  If indeed, there were other bishops after Heathured, the list was never updated to include them.

The Bishopric of Whithorn may have continued after Heathured and supplied locally at Whithorn, but no direct evidence can be deduced, as the monastic community disappear into historical obscurity. It would take nearly 200 years before the sun that had set on the Angles, would rise out of obscurity and when it did, the region was ruled by Fergus, lord of the Gall Gáidheil, and the bishopric of Whithorn revived by Gilla-Aldan, who was elected bishop by Thurstan, Archbishop of York in England. In his Deeds of the Bishops of England (Gesta Pontificum Anglorum), William of Malmesbury, writing in 1125 of the newly revived bishopric of Whithorn, makes an interesting comment, he located the ecclesiastical centre of Whithorn, Candida Casa “at the very end of England, next to Scotland”. The church was established by St. Ninian at Whithorn about 400 AD, and with only one exception, the abbey of Iona in Argyllshire, it is the most important ecclesiastical site in modern Scotland. The name is derived from Latin, casa (meaning, hut or house), and candida (meaning white, shining or glittering), and refers possibly to the stone used to construct it, or the whitewash use to paint it.

William’s location of Candida Casa at the very end of England, next to Scotland, is worth considering further, as it is one of the few earliest references that provides a vague attempt to place its location, since Bede, writing in 731, said it was in the province of Bernicia. Whether William ever travelled north from Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire, England to visit the shrine of St. Ninian at Whithorn, has gone unrecorded. Nevertheless, his statement could be interpreted in more than one way, Whithorn was either located in England or it bordered England with Scotland. By 1125, the boundaries of England and Scotland were still fluid with David, king of Scots, claiming a right to Northumbria and Cumbria in the north of England. In the Orkney Saga, compiled originally in Iceland towards the end of the twelfth century, there is a similar description, but is less ambiguous and mentions Galloway.  In the Saga, the Norse equivalent to Galloway is Gaddgeðlar. Although, strictly not an historical work, it describes how Earl Thorfinn of Orkney, sometime between 1037 and 1045, sailed south from Orkney with his fleet to raid Sudreyjar (Hebrides) and various parts of Scotland, and lay at anchor off Gaddgeðlar where Skotland borders on England.   From there, he sent some of his troops south to raid the English coast, as the people had driven all their livestock out of his reach. When the English realised that the Vikings had arrived, they gathered together, made a counter-attack, recovered all that had been stolen and killed every able-bodied man among them except for a few they sent back to tell Thorfinn this was how they discouraged the Vikings from their raids and looting.

To William of Malmesbury, the bishopric of Whithorn was part of Northumbria and the archdiocese of York in England, a claim asserted by Thurstan, Archbishop of York in 1125.  Its revival marked a transition in the politics of Fergus of Galloway, who asserted kingship over a territory already in contraction by then.  David, king of Scots, and younger son of Malcolm III, had already begun the process of reclaiming the lands of the old kingdom of Strathclyde, also known as Cumbria, which in the mid eleventh century had been either overrun or seceded to the Gall Gáidheil. He would also extend his ambitious further south to claim his right to the territories of Northumbria and Cumbria, regions all in northern England. Between the fall of Whithorn into obscurity and forging of a new identity in Galloway, we have the Viking Age and increased Scandinavian activity in Irish Seaboard.  In the next section, consideration is given to those records that seem to preserve clues as to when Galloway was set apart and a new kingdom forged under its own kings and the old kingdom of the Angles replaced by a new elite or existing one redefined.  

The Viking Age and Scandinavian Influence

The Bernicia and Deria kingdom of Northumbria