Viking Origins


The precise origins of the Ormerod Family are shrouded in the mists of time, but it is known that "Ormerod" was originally a place name, referring to a clearing or area of land (rod) belonging to a man named Orm.

The original "Ormerod" is in Cliviger in East Lancashire, close to the border with the West Riding of Yorkshire.

"Orm" is a Viking name, meaning "snake" or "dragon".

Such an Orm may well have cleared the land at Ormerod for his family, and thus provided the name of this place.


From the Domesday Book we learn that significant areas of land in that Northern area of England were owned by a Gamel and Orm his son. They were Christian Vikings who had settled in the Yorkshire area, and by the middle of the 11th century this Orm was already a man of considerable importance.

In 1055 Orm paid for the restoration of the Saxon Church at Kirkdale.

In 1771 the plasterwork was removed from the south doorway of this church, exposing the Saxon sundial that recorded Ormís generosity.

The names Orm and Gamel are also remembered in the names of two characters at the Jorvik Viking Museum in York.


An account of the lives of Gamel and Orm is contained in a genealogical account of The Spofforth or Spofford Family; Burke, Ashworth P.; Harrison and Sons, London, 1897. (pp. 2-5)

"The ancestors of this very ancient family held large possessions in the neighbourhood of the Forest of Knaresborough in Yorkshire previous to the Conquest, and a list of them may be found in the Domesday Book.

ORM, the grandfather of GAMELBAR DE SPOFFORD was a prominent Northumbrian thane. It is supposed that he was born in 965 or thereabouts, and had died before the reign of EDWARD the Confessor. It is evident from the many references in Domesday Book to his son Gamel and to his grandson, GAMELBAR that the ORM of Domesday was the brother and not the father of Gamel. The name shows Danish descent. Thoresby, speaking of the Danes, says, "that there was also a person of eminence amongst them there, called Arm or Orm, is evident from several places that do yet bear his name. So this Arm is the same with ORM, an ancient family both amongst the Danes and Northern English, whose Dano-Saxon manuscript is called from him, Ormulum. (Thoresby's Hist. of Leeds, vol. 2, p.195.) Orms, Grims, Spils, Osgods, and Thors left abiding traces of themselves in Northumbria, of which Yorkshire was a part.

GAMEL a Northumbrian nobleman, son of Orm, had large possessions in cos. York, Lincoln, Derby, Stafford, Salop, and Chester. They were laid waste soon after his death. He seems to have been a man of generous feelings, shown in his princely gift of his manor of Neweton to the Church of St. Peter of York. Probably he had estates in the other Northern counties to which the Domesday survey did not extend. He did not live to see the downfall of his country, and the ruin of his family and of his friends, caused by the Norman invasion, for before that time he had been treacherously murdered by Tosti. This Tosti had been made Earl of Northumberland in 1055 after Siward's death; Siward's son being thought too young for that office.

GAMELBAR DE SPOFFORD, the son of Gamel, soon avenged his father's death, by an attack on Tosti culminating in a revolt of the Northumbrians in 1065, in which many of his body guard were slain. Harold was sent to York to restore tranquillity. Morcar was made Earl of Northumberland the same year. In 1066, Tosti induced the King of Norway to join him in an invasion of England. They stormed York, defeated Morcar, but were themselves defeated by Harold at Stamford Bridge, on 23 Sept. 1066, in a battle in which both Tosti and the King of Norway were slain. Ten days after this victory Harold himself was defeated and killed at Hastings. Thus the murder of Gamelbar's father, leading up to the battle at Stamford Bridge, thereby preventing Harold from giving his whole energies to guarding against the impending invasion of William the Conqueror, became a potent cause of the downfall of the Anglo-Saxons. The manor of Spofford was in the large parish of Spofford on a branch of the Nidd, a tributary of the Wharfe, convenient to Gamelbar's mansion in the City of York, and to his other estates. It must have had great advantages, for his successor, William de Percy, upon whom the Conqueror had bestowed it, selected it, out of all his large estates in that neighbourhood, as his home, and made it the head of his barony. For several generations it was the chief seat of the Percy family.

Gamelbar was an active participant in the attempt to free his country in 1068-9, but was forced to submit to WILLIAM the Conqueror. All of his estates were confiscated and it is probable that his life paid forfeit for his patriotism. Some of his family became tenants of Percy; some sought refuge in the cloister. Sir Henry Ellis in his General Introduction to Domesday Book refers to " lands which were seized from Gamelbar, Merlesuain, and other Saxon thanes of the North, after the suppression of the rising in 1069 "; (Vol. 1, pp.7-14) also "The lands of Gislebertas Tison, consisting of twenty-nine manors, were evidently forfeited upon the ravaging of Yorkshire, ten had belonged to Gamelbar and one to Gamel." Of six which had belonged to Gamelbar it is said "Has terras habet Gislebertus Tison, sed wastae sunt omnes," and referring to lands of Berengarius de Todeni, "These also twenty nine manors were forfeited lands, eighteen had belonged to Gamel and five to Torbrand." Of eleven of Gamel's manors it. is said "Has terras habuit Gamel, et nunc Berengarius habet, set wastae sunt omnes." (Vol. 1, p.493). "After the desolation of the Norman Conquest, for such it was, many remnants of the greater families of the Saxon times found no asylum but in the cloister; some are traced as monks, and some obtained the rule of Monasteries." (Vol. 1, pp.17-18). There yet remain reminders of Gamelbar and of his brother Orm, in the old Saxon dials at Edstone and Kirkdale, a full description of which can be found in an interesting work entitled Old Yorkshire, (pp.35, 45 & 147).

Gamelbar de Spofforth had a son, WILLIAM DE SPOFFORTH, who held in 1066, according to Domesday Book, four ploughs and nine villains and ten borderers, four acres of meadow, wood pasture one mile long and one mile broad, the whole sixteen quarenteens long and twelve broad. Either Gamelbar or his son, William, joined with Aldred, Archbishop of York, in resisting the imposition of the Danegelt, and his estates were confiscated in 1068, and bestowed on the Norman adventurers. His Son, WALTER, was killed during the invasion of England by Malcolm, King of Scotland. His son, JOHN, was living in 1105, and m. Juliana, dau. of Nigel de Plumpton, and had issue a son, HENRY, who was living temp. STEPHEN, who was father of ELWINE, living 1186, who had a son GAMEL, who was Marshal to Niger de Plumpton. His son, WILLIAM, attended a Parliament at St. Albans, temp. JOHN, and had a son, NICHOLAS, who was living 1265, and m. Dyonysia de Plumpton, and had a son, ROGER, living in the reigns of EDWARD I and II. He joined with the Lords Pembroke and De Warrenne in an insurrection against the King, and assisted in conveying Piers Gaveston, the King's favourite, from Scarborough Castle to Blacklow Hill, near Warwick, where he was beheaded. Roger obtained pardon for the rebellion and murder in 1313. He had a son, ROBERT, who was living temp. EDWARD III, and m. a dau. of William Castelay, and had issue."

Further details of Gamel and Orm, and their link to Kirkdale, can be found by visiting the Kirkdale link.