Origin of the Harding name – and the “Hardinger

Harding is a Germanic or Anglo-Scandinavian name, and is still used in Norway today for people who come from the Hardanger fjord area, and their dialect is Hardingmål.  The name is also used in Norway and Sweden (as Hårding - pronounced as "Hawding" - or Hardingz) to represent a "Tough Guy". A cross-country skier would for example be a Harding

Hello, I am Steve Harding, a Harding from Wirral in north-west England: welcome to my “Harding” page, I hope you like it!

Click the picture to see this clip of Erling Skjalgsson address the Hardinger at a meeting of the Thing assembly.
From the 2005 Rygekongen Festival, Hafrsfjord, 2005.

Click here to hear (and download) Erling address the Hardinger.

 (thanks to Nigel Harding). From Balder.no

The Harding name seems to have its origins in Scandinavia and Germany.  It appears to be an old Nordic/Teutonic term for "tough guy" and is still used as such in Sweden and Norway.   There seems to be two sources which may be linked, one from Norway - the Hardanger Fjord, where people are still called "Hardings" or “Hardinger  (Viking times: "Hardingar"): the dialect of the people from this area is known as Hardingmål.  The other as Danish/Angle hordes where they were recorded in the Anglo Saxon Rune Poem as the Germanic warrior tribe "Heardingas".  Both groups may have originated from the same source – the Charudes of the Jutland peninsula, who under pressure of expanding groups around them moved to Horderland/Hardanger area where they became the Horders or Hardinger. Ancient forms: Harding, Hardinge, Hartung, Hearding, Hadding, Herdan, Herden, Herdene.  The name also appears in Nordic/Teutonic mythology: in Icelandic literature they are the "Haddings" and their legendary leader Hadding is protected by both Thor and Odin. In German mythology Hadding appears as Hartung.

In Viking times and before Harald Harfagre had tried to unite Norway at the end of the 9th century, Hardanger was a separate kingdom ruled by King Harding. He apparently lived in the village of Kinsarvik, which now has the excellent Harding Motel og Hyttentun, but in Viking times it had a boat house which held King Harding's ships (the walls of this boat house still exist today). The Norwegian Hardings have their own saga about him (recalled here by Tor Instanes):

King Harding ruled Hardanger in the time of the Vikings (c.900ad) and lived in Kinsarvik. During a crusade to eastern England in 900ad King Harding was captured by the English and put in a prison tower. The Hardings liked their King and decided to rescue him. They equipped a Viking ship, called Hardinggeita (lit. "The Harding ship") to set sail to England and set their King free. The Hardings painted one side of the ship white and the other side black. When they approached the English shore they did so with the white side facing towards the shore...

... after which they managed to get to the prison tower and switched the king with an old man dressed like the king. Then they set sail and made their escape but with the black side of the ship facing the shore...

The English did not recognize them as the invaders as they were looking for a white ship. The saga ends with King Harding returning safely to Kinsarvik, Hardanger. For another version of the saga visit the Kinsarvik page.

Kinsarvik, (with promotional video for Hardangertun) and the excellent Harding Motell/ Hyttetun sounds like a great place of pilgrimage for the Harding clan. And for footie fans there is even a Harding Soccer Team, where? .. you've guessed it, in Kinsarvik! “i vakre Hardanger – in beautiful HardangerHeia Harding!  

And there are some connections with another Scandinavian group - the Normans: the following web-site in France http://hagdik.fr/prenoms-normands/says: HARDING (anglo-scandinave) : « celui qui est dur, solide, fort » - attesté en Normandie dans le nom de lieu Hardinvast.


The Harding Fiddle (Hardingfele).

The Harding fiddle (Harding fele or “Hardanger Fiddle”) has been said to be "almost as famous as Stave Churches and Viking Ships", and one of its famous exponents is Hallvard T Bjørgum.  Download this "wonderful piece" and visit Karin Code's web site.



Hardingmål or Hardingemål is a dialect of Norwegian still spoken in Hardanger/ Hordaland. F.ex. “Dai” is used instead of De (“You”), fann is used instead of fant (“found”), ikkje instead of ikke (“not”):  Dai fann ikkje sildæ: “you didn’t find any herring”. 

In terms of the introduction of the name into the British Isles this extract is probably not far off the mark.  

"The Vikings, a fierce sea faring nation, acquired settlements in the 9th century at the northern tip of Scotland. It is from this group that the family name Harding emerges. Researchers found the origin of this surname Harding by referring to documents such as the Orkneyinga Sagas, the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland the Inquisitio and translations of local manuscripts, baptismals and tax records, found in the north at Dingwall, and in the Orkneys and Shetlands. The first record of the name Harding in England was in Derbyshire where they were seated from very ancient times, some say well before the Norman conquest.... The family name Harding emerged as a Scottish clan or family in this northern territory of Derbyshire where they were recorded as a family of great antiquity seated with manor and estates in that shire. The late Lord Harding, Scion of the family name, claimed to be descended from the Heardingas/Hardinger, a celebrated Viking race who settled in and near Derbyshire. They were widely recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086: their seat at that time was Kings Newton in Derbyshire, but later branching out to Combe Martin and Upcot in Devon. They held considerable estates in Madingley (Cambridge), Vallathie and Tamworth".

Kings Newton, at the Derbyshire/Leicestershire border and also within the Danelaw, there is the 17th century home of the Hardinge Family, restored in 1910 and the excellent pub/hotel The Hardinge Arms - like the Harding Motell at Kinsarvik, this is strongly recommended to all pilgrims of the Harding/ Hadding clan!  A stain glass window at Madingley Hall (just west of Cambridge near the Cavendish Laboratory) proudly shows Baron Harding.

This is where the Heardingas appear, in connection with “Ing” and the East-Danes:

·  Ing wæs ærest mid East-Denum

·  gesewen secgun, he siððan est

·  ofer wæg gewat; wæn æfter ran;

·  ðus Heardingas ðone hæle nemdun.

·  Ing was first seen by men among the East-Danes,

·  till, followed by his chariot,

·  he departed eastwards over the waves.

·  So the Heardingas named the hero.

Hear this reciting of the poem in old and modern English

… and if you’re really interested, hear Julian Glover (introduction by Sir Ralph Richardson) with his superb reading of Beowulf


In Icelandic literature they are the "Haddings" and their legendary leader Hadding is protected by both Thor and Odin: see part 24 and onwards of from Viktor Rydberg's TEUTONIC MYTHOLOGY

It has to be remembered that patrilineal surnames did not come into common use in the British Isles until the 14th Century. Here is a record of the escapades of one the earliest recorded Hardings – Thomas Harding from Wirral from 1353:
Hardings in Wirral: Extract from "Calendar of Cheshire Trailbaston Proceedings 1353" ed. P. Booth in Cheshire History (vol. 12, 1983):
·  Henry Cherleton v. Robert Poole and Thomas Harding.

·  Henry Cherleton complained that Robert Poole and Thomas Harding killed his dog at Great Neston, Wirral on Friday 1st Feb. 1348 and broke his hedges. They denied guilt. Jury verdict - Not guilty.


Although the name Harding clearly has Germanic roots, despite some claims to the contrary it is impossible to properly trace surname lineages from these areas into the British Isles since the “patrilineal” system of surnames came well after the Anglo Saxon and Viking Age invasions and colonisations. Its use as a proper surname in the British Isles possibly evolved in England from a description of someone coming from these groups of people or possibly from Anglo-Scandinavian communities using the expression to describe a particular tough guy in a village or region.  Ultimately when in these various communities patrilineal surnames did eventually emerge, one particular Harding passed his name to his sons and daughters and so on.  In Scandinavia this never happened because the use of patrilineal surnames is quite recent, and in the case of Iceland they still use the “son of and daughter of” system of surnames.  




There may well have been a number of these tough guys around starting different lineages when paternal surnames came into being.  We can get an idea of this from the 1891 Census and maps showing the distribution of people with the surname Harding.  There appear to be 3 separate main cores in England: I – Northern England (focusing on Yorkshire-Lancashire); II – Southern England; III -  South-West England and an additional smaller core (IV) in Eastern Scotland

Adapted from the 1891 census and Ancestry.com

The highest density (compared to other surnames) was in what is now the Borough of Dacorum, incorporating Hemel Hempstead (NE part of Core II). This was formerly the Hundred of Dacorum (Latin for "of the Danes") within the old Danelaw. It was also listed in the Domesday book as Tring and Danais.  When there is enough data available the Y-DNA results for the Hardings may give us a better idea as to how many different lineages there are. For example a Harding – whose paternal lineage is from the Wirral (- the peninsula between the Rivers Dee and Mersey to the SW of Core I) - took part in the Wirral & West Lancashire Genetics project and was found to belong to haplogroup K*xR1 – the orange sector in Fig 3 of http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/25/2/301.full.pdf .


Some well-known Hardings include Gunnar Harding prize winning author/poet/critic from Sundsvall, Sweden and Daniel Harding the principal guest conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and Nottingham Forest footballer Dan Harding.
Famous past Hardings include
Peder (Petrus) Harding, 13th century hero of the Baltic Sea island of Gotland. The (uncoloured) rose symbol on his gravestone at the church in Vall/Visby has become an emblem for Gotland and appears on the coat of arms for their annual Medieval Festival:


Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Medeltidsveckan
The rose of Peder (Petrus) Harding, 13th century hero of Gotland


Descendants of Peder apparently bear the name Hardingz in Gotland.

Visit the Kinsarvik, Hardanger page

… and visit the Wirral & West Lancashire Viking Anniversary page.


The site is maintained by Stephen Harding