3: The Viking Years II

The Ketil Anthroponyms: Introduction

Posted on April 27, 2019 by Craig Cameron deQuetteville

The Lewis Chessmen; chess pieces carved in Norway from ivory, excavated from the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides

The problem with drawing conclusions too quickly is that other evidence becomes overlooked. In the United Kingdom and Ireland today, there are over 50 Ketil-related place-names ranging from the Shetland Islands to the Orkney Islands to the Highlands of Scotland, from the Scilly Islands off the southwestern tip of Cornwall to the coast of Kent, and from ancient East Anglia (Norfolk and Suffolk) to ancient Northumbria (Lancaster, Yorkshire and North Yorkshire) and the lowlands of Scotland.

In addition to that, there are 10 Ketil-related names in Normandy, France and the Channel Islands. How can we account for so many with such a wide area of distribution, given the time period during which the Vikings raided and settled those places, from roughly 750 to 1066? As late as 1080, there are entries in the Domesday Book for a man named Ketil who had owned before the conquest at least five estates in and around what is today Dorset and Wiltshire, though there appear to be no places named after him (In fact, there are approximately a dozen men named Ketil throughout England who are listed in the Domesday Book).

So then, how far back in time can we reasonably trace Ketil’s presence? If we are to posit the existence of a single man named Ketil who flourished in the 9th century and died in 887, as told by Richer of Rheims, then the earliest birth-year for him would be sometime around 815, or more likely around 820, which would still make him an old man of 67 at his death. It is known that Scandinavian sons would start ‘aviking’ as early as 16 years old. That there was a Ketil who set out from a base in both the Shetland and Orkney Islands at some point in the 790s seems possible, but substantiated by fewer facts. It could also have been sometime in the mid-830s.

Perhaps present-day Kettlester in the Shetlands and Kettletoft in the Orkneys were farms that acted as way-stations for travel between a home-base in Norway and slave-raiding grounds in Scotland and Ireland. However, this date may go back farther. If Caitill Find was indeed King of the Gall Gaidhal with a home-base on the ancient site of the Dal Riatan capital on Bute in the 850s, he could be one and the same as our Ketil, presuming both had ranged as far as the Francian coast in the 840s. The Irish sources for Caitill Find claim he was killed in battle while fighting in Scotland, but they don’t say when or in which battle.

It could be that he lost a battle but survived and retreated to his reserves in Francia, and was then lost to the Icelandic annalists. Perhaps he made allegiances with Danish Vikings to help them conquer Brittany or in raids up and down the Loire valley in the early 860s. As his successes accumulated, he established settlements in Quettehou and Quettetot for provisioning his ventures. Into the late 860s and 870s, he shifted his focus to join the Great Viking Army of Guthrum and Hastein and gained land in England.

Then, by the 885 he returns to Francia to take part in the Great Army’s attack on Paris. Perhaps he established more settlements in the Cotentin, in what was nominally Brittany, and in Calvados, then still considered Nuestria, which would become the Quetteville towns; Quettreville-sur-Sienne, Cretteville and Quetteville. But it is also possible that these towns arose in the first or second generations after Ketil. As Jennings and Kruse point out, certain suffixes of an anthroponym suggest that settlements extended further inland and were subsequent to the original ones along the coast (though nothing in –ville suggests this).

The Ketil Anthroponyms: Normandy

Posted on April 27, 2019 by Craig Cameron deQuetteville


There are 10 place names extant today in France and the Channel Islands derived from the eponymous Viking, Ketil. An ancient islet, no longer in existence, upriver from the mouth of the Seine near Freneuse is shown on maps with the name Quetivel. Elsewhere, in Upper Normandy and the Avranches, there is no occurrence of Ketil-related names.

In Calvados, there are at least two other locations named after Ketil. In the Neustrian pagus known as the Lieuvin, whose seat was Lisieux, is a modern canton named Quetteville, which lies on the Calvados side of the border with Eure. A small village with that name lies in a valley with a tributary of the Morelle river. Whether this villa would have been accessible to Viking boats 1000 years ago is difficult to determine, but it is possible. The church of St Laurent, situated on a hill, shows evidence of having been built sometime in the mid-eleventh century, around the same time as some of the parish churches on Jersey and Guernsey. Whether or not this Quetteville could have been a villa settled by the same Ketil as those in the Cotentin remains a mystery. It does not fit easily into the pattern of settlement we will see in the Cotentin.

The other Ketil-related settlement is modern-day Biéville-Quétiéville, the result of a merger of small communes southwest of Caen. Quétiéville, with its church of St-Martin de Quétiéville, was also once its own commune. The church was built around the end of the twelfth century. Quétiéville lies within the boundary of the ancient canton of the Pay d’Auge. On a map from 1716 it appears as “Quetreville”.

Quétiéville in relation to Caen (bottom right corner)

There is also a hamlet northeast of Bayeux called Chédeville and another in Northwest Calvados, Chefdeville. It is not clear whether either patronymic is related to Ketil. There is also mention made of a sergenterie of Quetteville west of Bayeux, although this might be in a 13th or 14th century context.

La Manche

But it is in the La Manche that we see the clearest pattern of early Ketil settlements. The earliest one historically may have been what is at present the village and former canton of Quettehou in the Val de Saire on the northeastern coast of the Cotentin peninsula (though the supposition that it is the earliest is provisional). Its borders appear to be more or less intact from ancient times. The name first appears in documents as Chetellehou in 1042, as Chetehol in 1080 and 1081, as Chetehoil in 1080 and 1082, as Chetehulmum in 1066 and 1083 and Ketelhou and Ketehou in 1214.

Counter-clockwise from top right: Quettehou, Quetteville(in Cherbourg), Quetteville, Quettetot, Cretteville (near La Haye-du-Puit), Quettreville-sur-Sienne (near Coutances)

While historians agree that ‘Quette-‘ represents the Viking, Ketel/Ketil, there is disagreement about the meaning of ‘–hou’. René Lepelley reads it as the Old Norse ‘-holmr’, meaning ‘islet’; many others attribute it to the Anglo-Saxon ‘hoh’ or ‘ho’, which can be translated as a ‘rocky promontory or escarpment overlooking a plain or sea’. As the village of Quettehou, with its ancient church of Saint Vigor, is situated on a hill overlooking a forested plain where there was a Frankish village called Ysemberville before the Vikings arrived, a conclusion could be drawn that Ketil, a Viking chieftain or members of his clan, conquered the local people and established a re-named settlement there sometime in the ninth century, or possibly the tenth. In 1082, Mathilde, the widow of William the Conqueror, endowed the entire barony of Quettehou to her Trinity Abby at Caen. There is no mention of a family bearing a name related to this location.

In the vicinity of Cherbourg, there is one other mention of a Ketil-related place-name. In the Inventaire-Sommaire des archives départémentale (p. 418, 427) there are several references to records ranging from the late 13th century to the early 15th century involving ‘une vallée nommé le val de Quetivel, assise en Esquedreville et Octeville’ (pp 338, 428, 436,440, 446) that include a Quetivel Mill (pp 416, 423, 428) and a Quetivel Lock (416). No deQuetteville family name is recorded for this area, though several well-known Jersey family names from that era appear as parties to contracts involving that parcel of land, such as Barneville, Le Seelleur, Picot, Martin and Nicol(l)e.

On the other hand, another commune in the area of Cherbourg bears the name Quettetot. It is located farther inland than Quettehou, situated in the northwest quadrant of the Cotentin, west of Valognes, on an ancient route from Cherbourg to Martinvast to Bricquebec, so it might have been settled at a later time. But its suffix, ‘-tot’ is unambiguously Old Norse; ‘-topt’ being the term for ‘farm’. Does this fact speak for the general dating of the settlement as earlier than the ‘-villes’, following the logic of the analysis offered by Jennings and Kruse? Again, no family is known to have had the surname, Quettetot.

Apart from these settlement names, there are three Quettevilles in the La Manche. In proximity to Quettetot, but several kilometers northwest of it, is a hamlet that today gives the name Quetteville to a road (D65) near Helleville. That road crosses a stream that has a road running parallel to it called Rue de Moulin de Quetteville. In “Les Vivrots en Helleville” a local historian writes that in 1197 the territory of Helleville was dividied into two parishes, one dedicated to St Pierre and the other to St Germain[i]. The church to be built to St Pierre was too far from the fief of Thomas de Kéteville and his vassals, so Thomas began construction of a church to St Germain without permission; “Guillaume, par le Grâce de Dieu, évéque de Coutances… fit savoir que Thomas de Kéteville a aumôné au prieuré d’Heauville, le doit de présentation à l’église Saint Pierre de Helleville »[ii]. Since there was no church already in existence at this location in 1197, it might be reasonably concluded that Thomas’ was a minor fief. Whether or not he or his family were the ones who settled in Jersey is not easy to ascertain, but it remains a possibility.

The commune of Helleville; with hamlet of Quetteville adjacent and inside

To revisit a point claimed in “The Viking Years I”, the hamlet of Quetteville is one of two Ketil-named settlements in proximity to a village and commune named after Ketil’s brother, Helgi. Adjacent to Quetteville and southwest of it is Helleville. The rue de Quetteville even passes through it. Though there is not unanimity among scholars that Helleville is named after Helgi, a majority of them conclude that it is. Until now, however, no one has identified this Helgi as the brother of Ketil. From Helleville to Quettetot it is approximately 10 km as the crow flies.

Two other communities with proximity to Jersey vie for the position of the caput of the de Quetteville family members who eventually settled in Jersey, Quettreville-sur-Sienne and Cretteville. Quettreville-sur-Sienne lies in the south-west quadrant of La Manche department, about five kilometers inland from the coast at the intersection of the ancient route between Coutances and Granville and the river Sienne. In a charter from 1124 confirming the donation of the Church of Ste Agathe to the Abby of Savigny, which was founded in 1112, the scribes write Quettreville as Ketilvilla, and again in 1133 as Keteville. It is only by 1243 that the first reference to Ketrevilla appears and in 1278 it becomes Quettreville (was thus due to the change of sovereigns after 1204?).

Quetrrevile-sur-Sienne in relation to Jersey, Coutances, La Haye-du-Puits

The Wikimanche article on Quettreville-sur-Sienne reports that in 1048, when Robert ‘Guiscard’ de Hauteville leaves Normandy to join his brothers in southern Italy, he is accompanied by the seigneur de Say (probably Goffridus, later seneschal for Roger de Hauteville in Apulia and justicier of Calabria ) and several soldiers from Quettreville. Other sources indicate that Robert Guiscard travelled with 5 knights and about 30 men of arms to Italy. In all likelihood, they travelled by sea rather than overland. Although a village of Hauteville-sur-Mer is in close proximity to Quettreville, there are some who argue that the village where the sons of Tancred de Hauteville set out from is Hauteville-la-Guichard.

It is sometime after the conquest of Sicily in 1065, and specifically the occupation of Catania in Sicily in 1060, that certain of these men return to Quettreville and establish a church in the name of Ste Agathe (the only one in Normandy). A chapel of Ste Agathe existed on the coast of St Martin parish in Jersey at the foot of Le Mont des Landes near Archirondel at one end of St Catharine’s Bay. Is it possible that this was a family chapel belonging to or frequented by the deQuetteville family, or attached to the fief es quetivel?  Could a junior branch of a minor seigneurial family have migrated to Jersey, or married into a family there, at around this time (1080-1120) and established a fief in St Martin?    

La Manche: Quettreville-sur-Sienne

Once again, we find here a fairly large commune in the vicinity of Quettreville named after Helgi. It is Heugueville-sur-Sienne. In this case, all the scholars are united in their opinion that Heugueville is named after Helgi. Though Heugueville and Quettreville are not contiguous with each other, they are close enough to be near-neighbours (only about 6 to 8 km separates them). And each one appears to have strategic value. Quettreville sits on the road to Bréhal and the coast and next to the Sienne and Heugueville sits on the northern shore of the mouth of the Sienne, just east of Coutances. Also of note is that Quettreville, Heugueville, Quetteville and Helleville all end in -ville. Does this suggest that these were Frankish or Breton farmsteads known to locals by their -ville designations prior to the arrival of the Vikings and whose previous owners were simply replaced by Hebridean-Scandinavian owners?

Heugueville-sur-Sienne; note proximity to Quettreville-sur-Sienne bottom, centre

One other possibility remains, however. Cretteville lies in the south-east quadrant of the Cotentin midway on a line between St Sauveur-le-Vicomte and Carentan. It is the settlement that is farthest inland of all the Ketil-related ones. The two earliest references to Cretteville date to 1154 and 1157 and are separate confirmations by King Henry II of donations made by his seneschal, Richard de la Haye, to the Abby of Blanchelande. The first one refers to “ecclesias autem de Chetevilla et de Bollevilla”. The second one, based on a copy made in 1671, refers to “Cretteville”, but this surely an error made by the copyist (there are several), retroactively projecting the name of Cretteville, which began being called ‘Quitreville’ and ‘Cretavilla’ in the 13th century. There are a number of references to people named de Quetteville in the latter half of the 12th century in charters and assize rolls that are either definitively or plausibly from Cretteville. The earliest, and perhaps most prominent of these, is Hugh de Chetevilla, also known as Hugh de Quetteville.    

La Manche: Cretteville

So how does the distribution of Ketil toponyms relate to the historical or pseudo-historical figures that we have mentioned above? If we follow the line of generations from our purported Viking, Ketil, we have to account for at least three generations. ‘Count’ Rollo establishes Normandy as a county or dukedom in 911 and his son William Longsword extends it to the Cotentin and the Channel Islands by 933, though absolute control is not established until William the Bastard triumphs at the battle of Val-es-Dunes in 1045.

The first two generations of Vikings who settled along the Seine River married local Frankish women who bore them French-speaking Christian sons to inherit their lands. The Vikings in western Normandy, on the other hand, appear to have maintained their Norse language and Viking ways throughout the 10th century and into the 1020s. With one centre of power in Bayeux, they continued to work as mercenaries for whomever would hire them, be that the King of France, the Duke of Normandy, the Duke of Brittany or any Viking warlord.

Only in 1049 was the diocese of Coutances fully restored and re-building was allowed to begin. This is roughly co-terminous with the building of stone churches on Jersey, such as in the parish of St Martin. Hiberno-Norse, Norse, Danish and Dano-Saxon men eventually married Frankish or Breton women, but some of them also probably insisted on bringing women with them from their home countries. In some Scandinavian naming traditions, though there are no surnames for centuries, the grandson will inherit the grandfather’s name. With this in mind, we cannot rule out the possibility that a third-generation Ketil existed as part of the clan of Ketil (this is something for further consideration).

But whoever first settled what is today Quettreville — perhaps as early as 866 — starting a farm there and perhaps a mill, it must have been one of Ketil’s Viking associates, if not a son or grandson or the man himself. For it is from Quettreville-sur-Sienne, or Chetelvilla, that the first person so-named must have originated. As such, we imagine a man being born here sometime in the 1020s, maybe the second son of a landowner. By 1040, with no hope of acquiring property of his own, he takes up with another young upstart from a family of them. Several have already travelled to southern Italy to seek their fortunes as mercenaries. They are the de Hautevilles. Having left his village, the great-great grandson of Ketil needed to be called something among all the other men who shared his first name. Among these early Norman mercenaries in Italy there is even one called Ansketil, a member of the Drengot family, who is only ever referred to by a single name. Here we are getting close enough to the historical record to begin drawing firmer conclusions. 

[i] (http://helleville.free.fr/images/les%20vivrots.pdf).

[ii] Kéteville near Héauville et Helleville – http://helleville.free.fr/images/les%20vivrots.pdf

The Ketil Anthroponyms: United Kingdom and Ireland

Posted on April 27, 2019 by Craig Cameron deQuetteville

(The Schema here is as follows: Names in light-face font are topographical; names in bold-face font are settlements; italicized words are historical areas)

Shetlands, Orkneys, Hebrides (Dal Riata), Ireland, Alba, Strathclyde, Northumbria, Mercia, East Midlands (Five Boroughs), East Anglia, Wessex (Essex, Kent), Cornwall, Wales, Francia (Normandy)

Geographical Features – (37) – North to South

NORTHERN ISLANDS – Shetlands and Orkneys (790s-830s?)

  1. Kettla Ness, East Burra, Shetland Islands;
  2. Kettlester, Yell, Shetland Islands, (hamlet);
  3. The Kettle, Muckle Skerry, Orkney Islands, (coastal water feature, Bay);
  4. Kettle Geo, or The Kettle, Mainland, Orkney Islands;
  5. Kettletoft, Sanday, Orkney Islands, (hamlet);

PICTLAND (Cait – Caithness and Sutherland –, Fidach – Inverness –, Fortriu – Moray –, Ce – Mar and Buchan –, Circinn – Angus and the Mearns –, Fib – Fife –, Fotla – Athol –): ALBA:

SCOTLAND – Alba, Dal Riata, Strathclyde


  • Kettle Pool, Hallkirk (fields); PICTLAND, Cait: ALBA: SCOTLAND, Caithness (810s-820s)
  • Kettle Pool, Muir of Ord, Highland (inland water feature); PICTLAND, Sutherland: ALBA: SCOTLAND, Inverness-shire (810s-820s)
  • Kettle Holes, Moray, (inland water feature); PICTLAND, Sutherland: ALBA: SCOTLAND, Moray (810s-820s)
  • Kettle Loch, Elgin, Moray (inland water feature); PICTLAND, Sutherland: ALBA: SCOTLAND, Moray (810s-820s)


  1. Kettlepool Moss, Huntley (fields); PICTLAND, Circinn: ALBA: SCOTLAND, Aberdeenshire (830s-870s)
  2. Kettle on the Isle of May, Fife, Scotland, also known as Kettle Ness (promontory); PICTLAND, Fib: ALBA: SCOTLAND, Fife (830s-870s)
  3. Kettlebridge, Cupar, Fife, Scotland; VILLAGE (830s-870s)
  4. Kettlehill, (anc. Coaltown of Burnturk), Fife, Scotland; HAMLET (830s-870s)
  5. Kettle Pool, Greystead, Carlisle (inland water feature); RHEGED: STRATHCLYDE: SCOTLAND: ENGLAND, Cumbria (830s-870s)
  6. Kettleholm, Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland (see also Kettleholm Moor); HAMLET (830s-870s)
  7. Kettle Hole, Carlisle, near Corbridge (inland water feature); RHEGED: STRATHCLYDE: ENGLAND, Cumbria (830s-870s)
  8. Kettlestoun Hills, Linlithgow, West Lothian (hill, range of hills); DEIRA, NORTHUMBRIA (830s-870s)

ENGLAND (North = Northumbria – Deira and Bernicia –; Midlands = Mercia, East AngliaFive Boroughs; South = Wessex, Essex, Sussex, Kent, Dumnonia


  1. Kettlewell Ings Reach, Hambleton, York, Yorkshire, (inland water feature, on the river Ouse); NORTHUMBRIA (865-880s)
  2. Kettles Beck, Lawkland, Craven, North Yorkshire, (creek); NORTHUMBRIA (865-880s)
  3. Kettle Spring Wood, Bishop Thornton, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, (forest); NORTHUMBRIA (865-880s)
  4. Kettlestang Hill, Laverton, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, (hill, mountain); NORTHUMBRIA (865-880s)
  5. Kettle Ness, Lythe, Scarborough, North Yorkshire (promontory); NORTHUMBRIA (865-880s)
  6. Kettlethorpe, Wakefield, North Yorkshire, (close to other Kettlethorpe); HAMLET: NORTHUMBRIA (865-880s)
  7. Kettlesing, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England (see also Kettlesing Bottom and Kettlesing Head); HAMLET: NORTHUMBRIA (865-880s)
  8. Kettlewell, Craven, North Yorkshire; HAMLET: NORTHUMBRIA (865-880s)
  9. Kettleness, Lythe, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, (see also Kettleness Sand, and Kettleness Scar (island)); HAMLET: NORTHUMBRIA(865-880s)
  10. The Kettle, Farne Islands, North Sunderland, Northumberland, (Bay); STRATHCLYDE (865-880s)
  11. Kettleburn Dene, Middleton, Carlisle, Northumberland, (valley); STRATHCLYDE (865-880s)
  12. Kettle Sike, Bewcastle, Carlisle, Cumbria, (water feature); STRATHCLYDE (865-880s)

East Midlands (Five Boroughs)

  • Kettle Wood, Hathersage, Derbeyshire Dales, Derbeyshire, East Midlands (forest); FIVE BOROUGHS (Derby) (877)
  • Kettleby Covert, Bigby, Lincolnshire, East Midlands, England (forest); FIVE BOROUGHS (Lincoln) (877)
  • Kettleby, Bigby, Lincolnshire, East Midlands; HAMLET: FIVE BOROUGHS (Lincoln) (877)
  • Kettlethorpe, West Lindsay, Lincolshire, East Midlands; HAMLET: FIVE BOROUGHS (Lincoln) (877)

West Midlands (Mercia)

  • Kettle Mere, Ellesmere, Shropshire, (inland water feature); MERCIA (865-880s)
  • Kettlehulme, Lyme Handley, Cheshire East; VILLAGE: MERCIA (865-880s)
  • Kettles Wood, Birmingham, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, (forest); MERCIA (865-880s)
  • Kettlepin Rough, Madresfield, Malvern Hills, Worcestershire, (forest); MERCIA (865-880s)
  • Kettlebrook (anc, Bolehall), Tamworth, Staffordshire; HAMLET: MERCIA (865-880s)

East Anglia

  • Kettlehill Covert, or Plantation, Gayton, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, (forest); EAST ANGLIA (879)
  • Kettlehill Plantation, Blakeny, Norfolk, (forest); EAST ANGLIA (879)
  • Kettlestone Belts, Kettlestone, Norfolk (forest); EAST ANGLIA (879)
  •  Kettlestone (anc. Kettlestuna), Norfolk (see also Kettleston Common); VILLAGE: EAST ANGLIA (879)
  • Kettlebrig Strip, Wretham, Breckland, Norfolk,(forest); EAST ANGLIA (879)
  • Kettle’s Grove, Campsey Ash, Suffolk, (forest); EAST ANGLIA (879)
  • Kettlebaston (anc. Kitelbeomastuna), Babergh, Suffolk; HAMLET: EAST ANGLIA (879)
  • Kettleburgh (anc. Kettleberga, Ketelbihetelbirga, Cetelbirig, Ketdesbirig, Chetel-), Suffolk Coastal, Suffolk; VILLAGE: EAST ANGLIA (879)

South (Kent and Cornwall)

  • Kettles Shaw, Lamberhurst, Tunbridge Wells, (forest); KENT (892?)
  • Kettle Reeds Shaw, Hurst Green, Tunbridge Wells, (forest); KENT (892?)
  • Kettle Corner, East Farleigh; VILLAGE: KENT (892?)
  • Kettle Green, Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, see nearby Kettle Green Wood in Great Munden; HAMLET: ESSEX (892?)
  • Kettlebury Hill, Pitch Place, Thursley, Waverly, Surrey, (hill); SUSSEX (892?)
  • Kettle Plantation, Colaton Raleigh, Devon, (wood); DUMNONIA(?) (840s)
  • Kettle’s Bottom, Sennen, Penzance, Cornwall, (islet with lighthouse); DUMNONIA (840s)
  • Kettle Point on Old Grimsby, Isles of Scilly, Cornwall, (promontory), see also Kettle Bottom; DUMNONIA (840s)