Genealogy of the Scales Family

The Arrival of the Scales Name in England

Viking Origins
The Scales surname is of Scandinavian origin. The most likely original form in the Old Norse language is skáli, meaning a shelter or dwelling. There are places called Skáli in Iceland and the Faroe Islands and the word forms part of many place names throughout the Nordic countries. In turf houses constructed by Viking settlers in Iceland, the main room was known as the skáli. Scapa and Skaill in Orkney have the same origins.
Norse expeditions had started by the beginning of the 8th century, but they really gathered pace after the so-called unification of Norway in 872 under King Harald I. Many wealthy and respected chieftains posed a threat to Harald, who harassed them until they left Norway. A large number settled peacefully in the newly founded Viking kingdom of Dublin and some became Christianised by the native Irish. However they were expelled from Ireland beginning in 902 by Cearbhall, King of Leinster, and continuing until 1014 with the Battle of Clontarf, near Dublin, under forces led by Brian Boru, known as the High King of Ireland.
The Viking Diaspora in North-West England
Many of the Vikings from Ireland settled finally on the Wirral peninsula (having being granted permission to do so by Edelfrida, daughter of Alfred the Great) and in the coastal regions of Cumbria and especially Lancashire (less well documented but clear from place names), on poor quality land largely uninhabited, and hence undisputed by, the locals. There were many Danish Vikings in the area as well, especially in Wirral, as attested by place names ending in -by.
The Danes originally settled in East Anglia from 865 but soon moved north to Northumbria. Analysis of place names suggests a further migration to Cumbria and south-west Scotland and from there to join the Norwegians on the Isle of Man. It is thought that the Wirral Danes arrived in quantity from there.
The existence of two places called Thingwall (Old Norse for assembly field), one in central Wirral and one on the outskirts of what is now Liverpool, points to these being major meeting points or parliaments for the entire region and suggests a particular concentration of Scandinavian people in these areas.
There are two hamlets in Cumbria called Scales. The one lying 8 miles north-east of Keswick is the best known as it lies in popular fell walking country (nearby are Scales Fell and Scales Tarn). The other is 6 miles south of Ulverston (with a farm nearby called Scales Park). North-east of Penrith near Kirkoswald are Scales Moor and a cluster of farms: Scales, Scales Hall, Scale Ho and Howscales. There is also a hamlet called High Scales near Bromfield in north Cumbia. A number of other places in the far north of England have Scale as part of their name and there are many farms so named. Most of these place names will have Danish Viking origins.
Documentary sources list many places with related names in existence in south-west Lancashire in the 12th and 13th centuries that are no more. Among these are Eschales, Le Scholes, Scales (in West Derby, Liverpool, very near Thingwall), Scoles and Scalecroft. These place names are probably the result primarily of ex-Norwegian Viking settlement.
The Viking Diaspora in Northern France
The Vikings, both Danish and Norwegian, began to invade northern France in the early ninth century and were officially granted the land that now corresponds to the eastern part of Normandy in a treaty of 911. Normand is the word for northman in several Scandinavian languages. By 933 they had grabbed land to the west making up an area that more or less corresponds to the present geographical region of Normandy. The Northmen became the frenchified Normans through the merging of their language and culture.
The Duchy of Normandy emerged around 1000. William II, Duke of Normandy, laid claim to the English throne when his cousin Edward the Confessor died without heir. The claim was disputed by Harold, leading to the Norman Conquest of England. English nobles were initially permitted to keep their land, but rebellions over the next four years led William to grant much of it to his own followers, and the native English aristocracy was essentially wiped out. One of the Norman nobles who had come over with William was a certain Hardouin d’Escaliers, who became Hardwin de Scalers when he settled in England. He and his descendants, mostly associated with the counties of Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, constituted the Scales nobility of the first 450 years following the Norman Conquest. It is with them that most of this site is concerned.
Possible Origins of the Present Scales Name
It is highly significant that the UK censuses of the 19th century show a particular concentration of the Scales name in Lancashire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. Thus it seems that those now in possession of this name owe its origins to Norman, Irish or Danish Vikings, with noble or plebeian roots depending upon the part of the country to which they can trace their ancestry.
The Viking Diaspora in Northern Italy
The Italian surname della Scala has the same Scandinavian origin as Scales. The della Scala family became the historically important Lords of Verona from 1263 to 1387 and were also known by the more Germanic version Scaliger. This family were indeed of German origin, derived from Lombard stock. A related German name, common today, is Schaller. The Lombards originated in southern Scandinavia and already occupied parts of northern Germany in the early Christian era. By the 6th century, they had migrated to much of northern Italy.
Entering the Hamlet of Scales near Ulverston
Maps produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Maps reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.
Freely licensed image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
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