About two miles north-east of Bielby, on the edge of Hayton, lie the ruins of an ancient Roman military fortress, an important archaeological site. The University of Durham, Dept of Archaeology, led an excavation between 1995 and 1998 with assistance from local residents and University of Leeds students. A well, a bath-house and many other parts of the Roman fortress have been identified.
Origin of name
Biel•by is an interesting name, with the first syllable deriving from Slavonic root meaning 'White' and the second syllable Danish for 'farm'. Since there is one time period that fits precisely with the emergence of permanent name changes in what used to be named Northumbria, we can tell from this unusual etymology and the historical timeline the approximate date the village was established. This also fits the known population growth path of the village.
Bielby means 'White' Farm (белый (Biele or Byele) Etymology 9th century AD Old Russian for "White" Biele etymology in Old Russian, the favoured theory postulates that a Belarusian warrior joined his new rulers, the Vikings, to go west and conquer. Joining forces with Ivar the Boneless (See History Channel series The Vikings (Ragnar Lodbrok)), they captured the region in about 865/6 AD. The farm with a water supply potential was gifted as a reward for fighting. This would have been preferred by a Belarusian who most likely was skilled in raising geese from his homeland (goose farming was and is widespread in Belarus. Bielby has always been a goose farm). Vikings allied with new forces, and requested assistance in fighting foreign battles as a demonstration of allegiance. Hence the fighter from Biele (White Russia) fought to demonstrate his loyalty and received the farm as payment (though this was less common). We have no evidence that 'Bielby' was a village before the Vikings came. It was a tiny farm for many generations in the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries with less than 3 households by the 11th century Domesday Archive on Bielby (1086 information with image of Short hand Latin). It is interesting that the total rent collected from tenants in Bielby dropped from 1066 to 1086 from £56 to £8.
Formation and development of the modern spellings of the name Bielby/Beilby
Mr. White's goose farm (Byeli's or Bieli's farm) became Biele bi which eventually became Bielebi. The central syllable was dropped, the final i changed to y and the name became Bielby. (Source is from St. Giles Anglican Church in Bielby. Two publications for sale there on the origin of the name Bielby researched by local priests in the 20th century).
The sequence of Kiev's rulers aligning with the Vikings just a few years before Ivan the Boneless' victory in Northumbria give strong favour to this theory according to specialists in England and Belarus. As the Vikings expanded into many areas like Northumbria. they began renaming locations...Jorvik (York) in 865/6 AD. by Ivar the Boneless Ivar the Boneless sacks Northumbria in 865/6 AD. The idea that a warrior from 'Biele' (white in Russian) received a reward for fighting is enhanced by recent identification that duck and geese have been commonly raised in Belarus from the Middle Ages till modern times. Since Viking name changing and influence fades in the 10th and 11th century, it is unlikely the name emerged in the 11th century. This would put the establishment of Bielby (sometimes spelled Beilby) as it is now known at approximately 865/866 AD or shortly after that. Long enough before 950 AD that the name would be retained with its distinctive blend of White Russian and Viking syllables.
An interesting alternate theory on the origin of the name Bielby claims Roman roots. The ruins of the Roman fort just 2 miles from Bielby makes this idea possible, however, hard evidence lacks to support this theory and the 'by' ending dates to the Viking invasion. Since no Roman ruins have been discovered in Bielby it is unlikely. See the surnamedb for more on this theory.
Because the surname appears only after the Danes conquering of northern England, the Belarus (White Farm) theory is favoured. Especially in light of the name changes the Vikings instituted in other known situations like Jorvik. The Vikings had just successfully established dominance in Slavic regions a few years before their massive invasion with the Great Heathen Army of the Northumbrian region. The Bielarusian region between the ocean and Kiev was at the time a forest of white bark birch trees (it still is for the most part). Sometimes called the land of white (in Russian/Belarusian language the word 'белый' transliterates into English as 'Biele' with a strong 'bee sound. As there was no organized national government throughout the white forests north of Kiev, the mercenary theory matches precisely the actual known history of the Vikings. In addition, one regional farm animal commonly raised in the White forests of Belarus were ducks and geese. Some Eastern Europeans were taken as slaves by the Vikings, but it is unlikely that a slave would have been given a farm or had a farm named after him. Therefore of the three possibilities, the conscript warrior from Belarus best fits the historical record as of 2014. It is quite ironic that white geese are still being raised on farms in the village of Bielby to this day.
Other uses of Bielby There are roads named Bielby in Lawrenceville, Indiana (USA), in Chapel Hill (near Brisbane) Australia, and in Beverley, East Riding of Yorkshire (England).
One home in Bielby is proudly named Bielbyville. Most homes in Bielby have a name plate sign displayed either on the front exterior wall or in the yard (even though the homes are modest in size). Another House at the end of the village is Manor Cottage where many a farmers worked on land next to the house (although since 2009 been empty).
Bielby has an Anglican church (St. Giles), which dates back more than 900 years to approximately the same time that many of the Viking settlers converted to Christianity in northern England. The age of St. Giles further highlights the Bielarusian/Viking theory. The Methodist revival which swept England and America in the 18th century still has a visible presence in Bielby, although the old Methodist Church building in the village is now a private residence.
The Great Heathen Army of the Vikings captured much of the area in 866, and, in 876, their remnants settled permanently in parts of the Yorkshire countryside. The Great Heathen Army marched directly through the section Bielby would be established near in 865, conquering what would become York in 866. Viking kings ruled the whole region around Bielby, known to historians as "The Viking Kingdom of Jorvik", for almost a century. In 954, the last Viking king, Eric Bloodaxe, was expelled and his kingdom was incorporated in the newly consolidated Anglo-Saxon state.
So about 1,150 years ago, after the Danes invaded as far east as Kiev, it is believed that a Slavonic mercenary with the Danes (from Biele-rus Belarus the land of White Russia, just north-west of Kiev) was given a small farm as a reward for his service with the Danish conquerors (although he probably was not Danish). So the name Bielby means the 'farm of the man from the land of white' or simply 'White farm'. Debate continues to this day on why the land of Bielarus was called Biele (white) белый. A common theory is that 'Biele' (белый) refers to the scores of Birch trees scattered all over Bielarus. During the 9th century when the Vikings contacted Rus lands as far south as Kiev, the Slavs had solidified their influence and settlements in Bielarus. Thus the Slavs were historically positioned well to provide mercenaries for the Danes. In 860 the Vikings established Kiev. In 865 they set up Jorvik (York).
The Danes and their 'mercenaries' set up Jorvik as their ruling headquarters in England. Jorvik eventually became York as the pronunciation was modified slowly over time. The discovery in the 1970s of an archaeological treasure of information depicting this era of York's history is organized at the Jorvik Viking Centre in York.
At sometime the Bielby farm became a duck and goose farm for the nearby Pocklington Estate. This may have been the original purpose of the Bielby farm. Further research is needed to confirm or deny this theory. The nearby hay farm grew into Hayton East Riding of Yorkshire. The nearby grist mill grew into Millington. The village has been called Bieli's Farm (with a strong ee sound), Belebi, Bielebi, Bielby, Beilby and a variety of other names; then finally it was changed back to Bielby. (Source for these names found inside St. Giles Church in two different booklets written years ago by priests who are regional historical writers). Also it is interesting to note the similarity between the Biel (Beel) sound and белый in Russian which means 'white'.
By the 11th century Bielebi (Bielby) had almost 10 residents. (Doomsday 1086 project)
By the end of the 20th century Bielby had approximately 280 residents.
People named Bielby
Until recently, residents named Bielby lived in the village. The last Bielby was an Alice Bielby who formerly taught in the village school during the middle 20th century. (source: A Bielby village bearer of the key for St. Giles Church in 2001) There are no known Bielbys left in the village.
Some Bielby's have their names spelled Beilby or Beelby on different documents. This was many times unintentional. In some cases it was intentional to alleviate regular errors.
There are people bearing the name Bielby or Beilby living across England, Canada, the USA, Australia,New Zealand, South Africa and elsewhere. Some Bielbys who spread throughout England became famous for their glass-blowing skill. The Beilby goblets boast the highest auction prices of any King's goblets sold in markets in recent history. Rev. Beilby Porteus was a well-known preacher and author who was Bishop of London from 1787 until his death in 1809.
Some of the Bielbys in Canada and America have known forefathers who were Methodist (see the John Bielby family and descendants from Lake City, Michigan, immigrating from Ontario to Michigan in about 1900. Also his grandfather, Richard Milson Bielby, was a noted Holiness Church member in Huntsville, Ontario during the last half of the 19th century) He is mentioned in Methodist articles from that time period as a significant lay member of their movement. Traces of Methodist influence from England into America via the Bielbys exist primarily in Canada. Other than St. Giles Church, the old Methodist Church-which is now a home, no other religious organizations were represented in Bielby.
In addition to St. Giles, The College Arms (a small pub serving lunch and dinner), Bielby is mostly residential, with a few newer homes. Geese are still raised on the edge of the village. The Pocklington Canal still provides a splendid water supply for such purposes. A Beck also runs close to Bielby and used to drive an old flour Mill, but from time to time it can flood, as it did in June 2007, overflowing the streets of Bielby up to the doorsteps of some homes.
Much of the information in this article was gathered from two booklets that an Anglican priest wrote, and from visiting the village and interviewing residents or observation. A copy of the Bielby histories may be purchased in St Giles Church (confirmed in 2001).
The parish church of St Giles has recently been restored. Plaster has been removed and sandstone walls restored. Two arches on the outside of the church, and a pillar and skeleton[clarification needed] on an inside wall, have been uncovered. Removal of the external rendering has uncovered a history of the church, with pillars and arches now visible that would have been part of a larger structure. Inside, an ancient blue-coloured painting was revealed, showing the legs of St Christopher. The plasterwork had deteriorated to such an extent that when efforts were made to protect it, it crumbled off the wall in fragments. The box pews are among the best-preserved in the East Riding of Yorkshire.
- "Key Figures for 2011 Census: Key Statistics: Area: Bielby CP (Parish)". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
- "2001 Census: Key Statistics: Parish Headcounts: Area: Bielby CP (Parish)". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 14 May 2008.
- "Bielby". Surnamedb.com. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
- English Heritage. "Church of St Giles (1084123)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
- Gazetteer — A–Z of Towns Villages and Hamlets. East Riding of Yorkshire Council. 2006. p. 3.
Media related to Bielby at Wikimedia Commons