Hartlepool and the North East

The namestones in this collection come from two different sites in the North East, Hartlepool and Billingham, which were some of the most important religious sites in northern England.

Established just a few years after Lindisfarne, Hartlepool was run by women and was home to both monks and nuns, with a village built around it.Its founding abbess, Hieu, is said to be one of the first in charge of a double monastery and her successor, Hilda, is described as a brilliant and energetic leader whose advice was sought by kings. She went on to become one of the most influential figures in the Christian conversion of the Anglo Saxons, and abbess of the famous Whitby Abbey.Today, all that survives of Hartlepool are the faint outlines of some wooden buildings and the cemetery where many of the bodies were found facing north to south – unusual for a Christian burial.

Browse Hartlepool and Billingham namestones

Most of the namestones are etched with female names like Hildithryth and Hildigyth, but some also bear a male and a female name, like the one dedicated to Vermund and Torhtsuid. In contrast to the ones from Lindisfarne, these all have distinctively square tops.

-Uguid's namestone

Hartlepool, AD 650-750

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Alevb-'s namestone

Hartlepool, AD 650-750

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Edilwine's namestone

Hartlepool, AD 650-750

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Beorhtgyd's namestone

Hartlepool, AD 650-750

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'Pray for us all' namestone

Billingham, AD 700-750

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-Uguid's namestone Hartlepool, AD 650-750

Distinctive cross

This stone is one of the few that was found directly above an in situ human burial. Discovered in October 1843, the skeleton was positioned in a east-west alignment, with the head facing west. The head was resting on a small, square stone. There is no border on this namestone, but it is carved deeply with a cross, each of the ‘arm-pits’ of the cross have a deep socket, and the centre of the cross has a raised band. The upper quadrants may have been inscribed, however only a small section of a single letter survives which is not enough to read. In the lower quadrants, the end of a name survives; ‘UGUID’. Therefore, this name would have ended ‘gyth’ which is known to be a feminine type of name ending, derived from the Old English for ‘battle’.

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Alevb-'s namestone Hartlepool, AD 650-750

Less is more!

This namestone is very plain in its design – perhaps less is more! The lower half is emblazoned with Old English Latin chracters ‘ALEVB’, which is surprising as no other recorded examples of the name Aleub are known.

It was found in 1843 while workmen dug a drain near South Terrace. An account from the time says that it was found around 4 feet below the ground surface, near the edge of the cliffs in or just above a grave; ‘… at the spot where they supposed the head had rested, they found the stone’.

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Edilwine's namestone Hartlepool, AD 650-750

This namestone was likely made to commemorate someone called Edilwine. Its rectangular shape is typical of those from Hartlepool, where many of the namestones found commemorate women. This one, however, was probably made for a man. Although the inscription is hard to read, it has been reconstructed by expert Elizabeth Okasha as probably being ‘Ediluini’, a form of the masculine name Edilwine. ‘-uini- or ‘wine’ is a fairly common ending, derived from the Old English for ‘friend’, and can also be seen on several examples from Lindisfarne.

The design is a very simple border and cross, but stands out from the rest (literally!) because the cross is in relief with unusually large roundels at the end of each arm.

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Beorhtgyd's namestone Hartlepool, AD 650-750

Alpha and Omega

The name is a form of the female personal name Beorhtgyd; the letters BERCHT II GYD are clearly inscribed in ‘insular majuscules’ – Old English Latin capital letters. The upper half says A II Ω – shorthand for a phrase from the Bible, Revelations XX II 13 which says ‘I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end’.

Insular script includes several different scripts (or what we might call ‘fonts’), each used for a different function. Majuscules, which took longer to write, were usually reserved for the most important documents and religious scripts. Various different ‘minuscule’ fonts (lowercase) were used for things like letters, accounting records, and other non-religious tasks.

This namestone is in such good condition that when you look carefully, you can still see the lines from the straight-edge from which the arms were ruled.

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'Pray for us all' namestone Billingham, AD 700-750


Some namestones have decorated borders, but this one is pretty unique; it is filled with text. Reading clockwise, you can make out part of a Latin phrase II ORAT EPRO II F.— —.]INIB’ I. Originally, it probably read ORATE PRO FRATRIBUS NOSTRIS ET PRO CUNCTIS CHRISTIANIS HOMINIB(US), which means something like “Pray for all of us, our Christian people”.

The triangular or pyramid-like symbol is an ‘Alpha’. Many of the namestones are inscribed with Alpha and Omega, shorthand for a phrase from the Bible, Revelations XX II 13, which says ‘I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end”. The Omega has broken off on this namestone, but these symbols are found on stones from Lindisfarne and Hartlepool, linking the three sites.

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