Orm – The Viking Warrior


ORM (sometimes spelt ORME) was a Viking, probably one of the Halfdans, who was born in the early part of the eighth century in what is now known as Sweden, around 750 AD, “Orm of the Scandinavian Peninsula,” joined a group of sailors, under the leadership of a Viking Sea King who had ambitions of plundering the coast of Scotland and capturing land for Viking settlements.

According to legend, ORM was noted for his tremendous skill in battle together with his great strength. However, it seems that in battle he was apt to become subject to strange fits of berserk rage and frequently flung down his weapon and would rush unarmed to meet his adversary, which eventually would lead to his downfall.

There are many stories told about ORM, some of which may have some foundation of truth. It is said that he used to wield a sword with one hand that any other man would have difficulty in wielding with two hands. It is also said, on one occasion, to have crushed the skull of a large bear, which attacked him, with one blow of his fist. It was Orm’s boast that he could wrestle and defeat any two strong men of his day.

Nevertheless, when he joined the Viking sea king’s adventure, at the age of about 30, he led a handful of men, in their Viking longboat and were enthusiastically welcomed into the invading army. As they neared the coast of Scotland, the Scots came out in their own ships to engage in battle. The leader of the Viking forces, fearful that the Scots may be too strong, called his men them together and in an effort to spur-on his army, promised that he would grant the rulership of the captured territory to the first man who put his foot on Scottish soil.

The battle with the Scots was fought about a mile from the coast of Scotland, and as the Scottish ships drew closer, the Vikings swarmed on board. Although outnumbered three to one by the Scots, the fearsome Vikings won the day. When Orm’s ship came alongside of one of the Scottish ships, ORM was the first to board, and it was said, that with one blow of his mighty sword he killed the three Scots, and then slaughtered a further six until he was overcome by one of his notoriously, uncontrollable fits of rage.

Flinging aside his sword, he rushed at his nearest Scot and, lifting him high in the air he bludgeoned the head on the side of the ship. However, in doing so he neglected other Scot fighters, and as he turned to defend himself, the broad axe of the Scottish Chieftain severed his leg just above the knee. Not to be beaten, the story has it, that ORM picked up the Scottish chief in his arms and “bear-hugging” him, crushed him to death.

This incident marked the end of the battle with ORM and his crew victorious despite being outnumbered – three to one. Using the basic surgery that the Vikings possessed, they succeeded in bandaging Orm’s leg and as the night was drawing near, the invading army spent it off the coast of Scotland. The next morning, despite his frightful injuries, Orm insisted on leading his crew on the invasion, and as the Viking ship neared the coast Orm picked up his severed leg and threw it on the shore before the others had the opportunity to land; so claiming the reward for having been the first man to put his foot on Scottish soil!

The Viking chief kept his word and Orm became ruler of the captured territory. After subjugating the Scottish people, he settled in the new country, a few months later sailing back to Scandinavia to return with his wife and establish a life in Britain.

Orm had seven children, four boys and three girls. The girls married and nothing further is heard of them. Two of the sons in accordance with the Viking customs went away to far distant lands and whilst information is scant, it is believed that one of his sons reached the Mediterranean Sea and eventually travelling to India.

The other two of Orm’s children both married and had children although one died in battle at an early age. The surviving son was a man of tremendous strength like his father and it is known that he eventually, had four children and that the family that gradually migrated south towards what is now Lincolnshire. During this migration, these descendants populated many parts of the North of England.

Born in 965, or thereabouts, it was an heir, and prominent thane, retaining the family name, Orm, and holding a number of significant estates, that gave his name to our village (amongst a number of others including Ormskirk and Ormesby).

Marrying into royalty, with Etheldreda daughter of Siward, the Earl of Northumbria and niece of Duncan, King of Scotland – (this) Orm had a son Gamel (now taking the surname de Spofford) who eventually acquired significant,and large, estates in the counties of York, Lincoln, Derby, Stafford, Salop and Chester.

Upon the death of the Earl of Northumbria, Edward the Confesser intervened in the succession and appointed Tostig Goodwinson (the king’s brother in law) to the position. Tostig was extremely unpopular with both his subjects and peers alike, and in 1064 ordered the murders of a number of neighbouring, critical lords, including Gamel.

Gamel’s son, Gamelbar inherited the family estates and further developed his position as a successful thane. In 1065, and to avenge his father’s murder, Gamelbar led a revolt against Tostig, marched to York and defeated his house troops. The “bloody” feud continued between the two houses until, in 1065, King Edward sent his brother-in-law Harold to secure a truce.

Successfully accomplished, Harold recommended that Tostig be stripped of his title and be exiled. Upon King Edwards death in 1066, Harold became king, although the succession was disputed by many parties including Harald Hardrada of Norway, claiming that Edward had promised him the crown and to establish his claim, he immediately launched an invasion.

Unsurprisingly, Tostig joined forces and between them they succeeded in conquering York. Upon learning of the fall of York, the now King Harold, “force marched” his troops to the north where he caught Tostig and Hardrada by surprise. They were defeated at the Battle of Stamford Bridge with both Tostig and Hardrada killed.

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However, even as the fighting was being concluded, news reached the King about William’s, norman army landing on the south coast of England. He immediately put his exhausted, and still bloodied army on a march south to meet them.10 days later, they met at the battle of Hastings, where Harold died (as did his two remaining brothers) – and the successful, William became “William the Conqueror”.

During this time, Gamelbar de Spofford remained loyal to King Harold and in 1068 participated in a revolt against King William and his Norman court to restore the English crown. However the revolt was defeated with William exacting his revenge for the treason, stripping the de Spofford family of all of its estates, castles and mansions.