The Last Kingdom historical accuracy: What did York really look like?

The Last Kingdom historical accuracy: What did York really look like?

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The Last Kingdom is on Netflix now and the series has been a huge hit with fans of Anglo-Saxon history. The show tells the story of the unification of England and the reign of King Alfred the Great (played by David Dawson). History expert Rory Naismith spoke exclusively to about some of the location mishaps in the series.

Did York really look as it does in The Last Kingdom?

The Last Kingdom is a popular historical drama featuring Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Alexander Dreymon), who was born a Saxon but was raised by Danes.

Throughout the series, his loyalty is torn between both sides as he continues to keep allies from both groups.

In the fourth season, he chose to support the Saxons and continue on with Alfred’s vision to unite England as one kingdom.

Fans will have noticed each time a new location is featured, the name of the location is shown in both modern English and as it was known at the time.

York was known as Eoferwic, and a huge siege took place in the series, as well as in The Saxon Stories, on which the show is based.

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Rory Naismith is a professor in Anglo-Saxon history, and he told of how York would have looked very different in real life.

He said: “It goes back to a Roman city in the late ninth century. The key thing was, it wasn’t a big bustling metropolis where you have these substantial stone buildings.

“York would have been more like a shanty town, it would have been temporary buildings and a population no bigger than a few thousand.

“Think of a car boot sale setting, it’s not really a place people lived permanently. It would have been characters like the archbishop and Viking kings staying there full time.”

Naismith pointed out how the location was known for housing a large mint, and it was one of the key locations for making coins.

He added: “One thing I remember from watching it is it gives an image of Anglo-Saxon towns that kind of look like a modern village, with spread outhouses and muddy streets.

“That would have been true for parts of the town, but not all of it. You would have open areas for growing grains, fruit and vegetables, and keeping animals.”

With this in mind, the location in the series seems to be far grander than it would have been in real life.

Naismith said: “It would have been a bit more mixed with fewer big monumental buildings.”

The series is, to an extent, inspired by real historical figures and events from the Anglo-Saxon period.

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This being said, it was also based on The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell, so there is an element of creative license involved.

Fans of the series have looked for evidence of the show being historically accurate, but they still enjoy the show for its dramatic twists.

Naismith has previously pointed out how Winchester, which was considered the main kingdom of England, was also depicted differently in the series.

Winchester featured heavily in the latest season, as it was stormed by the Viking warlord, Sigtryggr (Eysteinn Sigurðarson) and Uhtred’s old friend, Brida (Emily Cox).

The series is predominantly filmed in Budapest, Hungary, and the kingdoms are created using impressive sets.

Ian Hart, who played Father Beocca in the series, said his family had always been impressed with the sets.

He said: “The Wessex set itself – you get a sense of streets and the formation of what a town might have been as a post-war village.

“As the wealth of Wessex grows and recedes, you see the change of that whole thing. And similarly, with Bebbanburg, this kind of fortress, you can’t praise highly enough. It’s incredible what they do.”

Jamie Blackley, who played Eardwulf, added: “The amazing sets are built so beautifully, the small towns which are fully built is something I’ve never experienced before, which means part of the work when you get there is already done for you because it transports you there.”

The locations may not have been the most historically accurate, but the cast and fans still feel as if they have stepped back in time.

The Last Kingdom is streaming on Netflix now

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