- Anglo-Saxon London
Following the virtual abandonment of the Roman city, the area's strategic location on the
River Thamesmeant that the site was not deserted for long. From the late 5th century, Anglo-Saxonsbegan to inhabit the area.
There is almost no reliable evidence about what happened in the London area during the Sub-Roman "Dark Age" period from around 450 AD to 600 AD. Although early Anglo-Saxon settlement avoided the area immediately around Londinium, there was occupation on a small scale of much of the hinterland on both sides of the river. There is no contemporary literary evidence, but the area must for some time have been an active frontier between Saxons and Britons.
Instead, by the 7th century a village and trading centre named "Lundenwic", was established approximately one mile (1.6km) to the west of "Londinium" (named "Lundenburh" or "London Fort" by the Saxons) [ [http://www.uk-genealogy.org.uk//england/London/gazetteer/A.html Extract from "The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales, 1894-5"] ] . Probably using the mouth of the
River Fleetas a trading ship and fishing boat harbour.
Lundenwic in the early eighth century, was described by the Venerable Bede as "a trading centre for many nations who visit it by land and sea". The word "wic" was an
Old Englishword for 'trading town' [ [http://www.economist.co.uk/cities/findStory.cfm?city_id=LDN&folder=Facts-History www.economist.co.uk] - London history] , so "Lundenwic" literally meant 'London trading town'.
Archaeologists were for many years puzzled as to where early Anglo-Saxon London was located, as they could find little evidence of occupation within the Roman city walls from this period. However in the 1980s it was 'rediscovered' after extensive excavations were reinterpreted as of an urban character by archaeologists Alan Vince and Martin Biddle working independently [ [http://www.channel4.com/history/microsites/T/timeteam/archive/timeteamlive/extract_d.html Channel4 timeteam] ] [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=N-ApRVytCXAC&pg=PA128&lpg=PA128&dq=alan+vince+martin+biddle+london&source=web&ots=o8XKzsepxf&sig=Rg0M7_F2yAi845rmimTnE35Ed0I#PPA128,M1 Archaeology in British Towns: From the Emperor Claudius to the Black Death By Patrick Ottaway. Google books] ] . Recent excavations in the
Covent Gardenarea have uncovered the extensive Anglo-Saxon settlement dating back into the 7th century. The excavations show that the settlement covered about 600,000 square metres, stretching from the present-day National Gallery site in the west to Aldwych in the east.
By about 600 AD Anglo-Saxon England had become divided into a number of small kingdoms (see
Heptarchy) From the mid-6th century, the London area was incorporated into the East Saxonskingdom, which extended as far west as St Albansand included all of later Middlesex, and probably Surreytoo for a time.
In 604 Saeberht of the East Saxons converted to
Christianityand London received Mellitus, its first post-Roman bishop. At this time Essex owed allegiance to the BretwaldaEthelbert of Kent, and it was under Ethelbert that Mellitus founded the first St. Paul's Cathedral, traditionally said to be on the site of an old Roman Temple of Diana (although Christopher Wrenfound no evidence of this). This would have only been a modest church at first and may well have been destroyed after he was expelled from the city by Saeberht's pagan successors in 616. Christianity did not return until around 675 when Theodore of Tarsusinstalled St Eorconwealdas bishop.
The new town came under direct
Mercian control in c.670 as the East Saxon kingdom of which it had once been part was gradually reduced in size and status. After the death of the Mercian king Offa in 796, control of London was disputed between Mercia and Wessex.
Vikingsbecame increasingly common from around 830 onwards. London was attacked in 842 in a raid that was described by a chronicler as the "great slaughter". In 851 another raid on London, reputedly involving 350 ships, came to plunder the city.
In 865 the Viking "
Great Heathen Army" launched a large scale invasion of East Angliaand soon overran East Anglia, Merciaand Northumbriaand came close to controlling most of England. By 871 they had reached London, and are believed to have camped within the old Roman walls during the winter of that year. Although it is unclear what happened during this time, London may have come under Viking control for a period.
In 878 however, English forces led by King
Alfred the Greatdefeated the Vikings at the Battle of Edingtonand forced the Viking leader Guthrum to sue for peace. The Treaty of Wedmoreand the later Treaty of Alfred and Guthrumdivided England into Alfred's Saxon controlled kingdom and Danish controlled Danelaw.
English rule in London was restored by 886. King Alfred quickly set about establishing fortified towns or "
Burhs"/"Burghs"/"Burgs" across England to improve defences, London was no exception. Within ten years, settlement within the old Roman walls was re-established, but known as "Lundenburh"/"Lundenburg". The Roman walls were repaired and the defensive ditch re-cut. This move was effectively the beginning of the present City of London, the boundaries of which are still to some extent defined by the ancient city walls.
As the focus of the city was moved back to within the old Roman walls, the older settlement of "Lundenwic" was largely abandoned and gained the name of "Ealdwic" or "old settlement". The name survives today as
10th century London
Alfred appointed his son-in-law
Earl Aethelred of Mercia, who was the heir to the destroyed Kingdom of Mercia, as Governorof London and established two defended Boroughsto defend the bridge which was probably rebuilt at this time. The southern end of the Bridge was established as the Borough of Southwarkor "Suthringa Geworc" (defensive work of the men of Surrey) as it was originally known. From this point, the City of Londonbegan to develop its own unique local government.
After Aethelred's death, London came under the direct control of English kings. The
Kingdom of Englandestablished by Alfred was expanded by his son Edward the Elderwho won back much land from Danish control. By the early 10th century London had become an important commercial centre. Although the capital of the Kingdom of England was in Winchester, London became increasingly important as a political centre. King Aethelstan held many Royal Councils in London and issued laws from there. King Aethelred the Unreadyfavoured London as his capital and issued the Laws of Londonthere in 978.
The Vikings return
It was during the reign of Aethelred that Viking raids began again, led by King
Sweyn Forkbeardof Denmark. London was attacked unsuccessfully in 994, but numerous raids followed. By 1013 London underwent a long siegeand Aethelred fled abroad. King Sven died but his son Canute continued the attacks, and the following year overran the city.
Aethelred returned with his ally Olaf of
Norwayto reclaim London. A Norse sagatells of a battle during the Viking occupation where Aethelred returned to attack Viking-occupied London. According to the saga, the Danes lined London Bridgeand showered the attackers with spears. Undaunted, the attackers pulled the roofs off nearby houses and held them over their heads in the boats. Thus protected, they were able to get close enough to the bridge to attach ropes to the piers and pull the bridge down, thus ending the Viking occupation of London. There is some speculation that the nursery rhyme " London Bridge is falling down" stems from this incident.
Following Aethelred's death in 1016, his son
Edmund Ironsidewas declared king. The Vikings however returned and again placed London under siege. Initially the city's defenders were able to hold back the invaders. However, Edmund was eventually forced to share power with Canute. When Edmund died Canute became the sole King of England. After two short lived Danish kings, ( Harold Harefootand Harthacanute) the Saxon line was restored when Canute's stepson Edward the Confessortook up the throne in 1042.
Run up to the Norman invasion
Following Edward's death, no clear heir was apparent, and his cousin, Duke
William of Normandy, claimed the throne. The Royal Council, however, met in the city and elected the dead King's brother-in-law, Harold Godwinsonas King. He was crowned in Westminster Abbey. William, outraged by this, then sent an army to invade England.
Norman and Medieval London
History of London
History of Anglo-Saxon England
* Billings, Malcolm (1994), "London: a companion to its history and archaeology", ISBN 1 85626 153 0
*Inwood, Stephen. "A History of London" (1998) ISBN 0333671538
* [http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/English/Collections/Onlineresources/RWWC/themes/1295/1287 Reassessing what we collect website – Anglo-Saxon London] History of Anglo-Saxon London with objects and images
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