16 NOVEMBER 1867, Page 12


MPERFECT as is our account of the vestiges of Early London, 1. it may bethought by some readers that we have devoted too large a space to the results of mere antiquarian research and hypo- thesis. But the positive historical facts respecting Roman London which have descended to us are so few and meagre that we are or necessity driven to archmology for what the chroniclers fail to supply. The first mention of London occurs, as we have said, in. the pages of Tacitus, and its fate in the revolt of the Keith under Boadicea is described by him in a few emphatic words. When, after his arrival at Londinium from the West of England, Suetonius found that his military plans required the abandonment of this. mart of commerce, "neither the supplications nor the tears of the inhabitants could induce him to change his purpose. The signal for the march was given. All those who chose to follow the ensigns were taken under his protection ; but of those who, en account of their advanced age, the weakness of their sex, or the of the situation, thought proper to remain behind, not one escaped the rage of the barbarians." This, then, is the first- great catastrophe of London on record. It soon, however, rose again from its ruins, and under the name of AUGUSTA became an important centre and point of traffic. Out of the fifteen Roman iters enumerated in the itinerary of Antoninus, seven commence or terminate at LONDENIUM. It appears to have shared the general fate of Roman Britain. We have only two or three- specific references to it which are of any importance. An incident in the history of Londinium, about the year 290, is referred to in- a fulsome panegyric of the Emperor Maximian, in the follow- ing words : — "By so thorough a consent of the Immortal Gods, 0 unconquered Cresar ! has the extermination of all the- enemies whom you have attacked, and of the Franks more especially, been decreed, that even those of your soldiers who,. having missed their way on a foggy sea, reached the town of LoNrinTrust, destroyed promiscuously and throughout the city the- whole remains of that mercenary multitude of barbarians that,. after escaping the battle, sacking the town, and attempting flight, were still left—a deed whereby your provincials were not only saved, but delighted by the sight of the slaughter." Christianity now began to take a firm hold on Britain, and we find three- British Bishops mentioned as attending the Council of Arles in 314, one of whom is Restitutus, Bishop of London. In 368- London was rescued from the Picts and Scots, who had advanced thither and reduced the city to great misery and distress, by the Roman General Theodosius, who became soon afterwards Governor- of Britain. The fate of London during the dark years of anarchy and invasion which followed mast be left to conjecture, for we- have no historical notice whatever of it, until we read in an entry in'the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, under the year 457, that " Hengest. and /Esc his sou fought against the Britons at the place which is- called Crecganford [Crayford], and there slew 4,000 men ; and the Britons then forsook Centlond [Kent], and in great terror- fled to Lundenbyrig [London]." When next London appears in the Chronicle it is a Saxon town, but under what circumstances it passed from the hands of the Britons to those of the Saxons we- are entirely ignorant. Of course no reliance can be placed on. the date assigned to the flight of the Britons to Loudon. Nor do we derive much more information on the subject from the date of the establishment of the Kingdom of the East Saxons, to. which London is supposed to have become either the capital or a. dependency. The dates of 527 and 587 are variously assigned to the first King of Essex, and perhaps we shall not be far wrong in. assuming that somewhere about the latter date London became. Saxon. Not improbably it passed through a period of desolation and desertion before the Saxon town rose among the ruins of LONDINIUM. It seems, with the Kingdom of the East Saxons, to. have fallen under the supremacy of the Kings of Kent, and according to Bede, Augustine, the Christian missionary to Kent, consecrated Mellitus Bishop of London in 604. The foundation of the first Cathedral church on the site of St. Paul's is attributed to Sibert, of the East Saxons, nephew of King Ethelbert of Kent,. in the year 610. The charters, however, from early Saxon Kings on which the antiquity and greatness of St. Paul's rest are of doubtful authority. The Christianity of the Saxon occupiers of London certainly was still of a very doubtful and precarious character, for we read of a relapse into paganism and the expulsion of Mellitus. The confused records of the Heptarchy are scarcely more explicit about Loudon than those of the Roman period. In 664 it is said to have been ravaged by the plague ; in 764, 798, and 801 to have suffered greatly from fires,—in 798, indeed, to have been nearly wholly burnt down, numbers of the inhabitants perishing in the flames. On the subjection of the South-Eastern Kingdoms to Wessex, London, with the rest, owned Winchester as the capital city ; but the city itself was of sufficient importance in 833 for a Witenagemote to be held there, perhaps on account of the subject to be discussed therein, the best means of repelling the incursions of the Northmen, to whose attacks London would be especially exposed, and to whom its mer- cantile wealth would be a great temptation. For London, as Bede tells us, had become under the Saxons "an emporium of many nations, who arrived thither by land and by sea." In 839 the Northmen took and plundered the city, and again in 851 or 852, when they wasted it with fire. It again fell Into their pos- session in the disastrous period which immediately preceded the accession of Alfred, and after the treaty which he made with the Northmen in the first year of his reign (872), they retired to London, and established themselves there in garrison. Alfred retook it from them, after a short siege, about the year 884, and repaired and strengthened the fortifications, and partly rebuilt the city, committing it to the governorship of his son-in-law, Ethelred, whom he made Earl of Marcia. After Ethelred's death London was delivered up with Oxford by his widow, Elfieda, to her brother, King Edward, so that the city seems to have been granted to Ethelred as a possession as well as a government. In 894 the wife and two sons of the Danish chief Hastings were brought prisoners to London by the citizens from Bronflete (South Benfleet), in Ease; where Hastings had erected a castle, taken by Earl Ethelred. In 895 the Northmen towed their ships up the Thames into the Lea, on which river they fortified themselves, at a spot about twenty miles from London. Here they were at- tacked by the Londoners and other forces, who were repulsed with the loss of four King's thanes. " At the harvest time Alfred led his army to the neighbourhood to protect the reapers. As he was one day riding along the bank of the river, he perceived a spot where it was practicable by the erection of a fort on each bank of the river to prevent the return of the enemy's vessels. Before the completion of the work the Danes abandoned their quarters," and marched across the country to the Severn, where they established themselves for the winter, while. "their ships were taken possession of by the Londoners, who destroyed whatever spoil they were unable to carry off." After the temporary cessation of the invasions of the Northmen, in the palmy days of the Anglo-Saxon Monarchy, London grew rapidly in importance. King Athelstane had a palace there, and he also ordained there should be eight minters at London, six only being assigned to Winchester (still the capital), and seven to Rochester. In 916 it is said that a malignant fever carried off a large number of the inhabitants, and in 982 the city was nearly destroyed by a fire. During the reign of Ethelred II. the Danes several times attempted to take the city, but were always unsuccessful, Ethelred making the place his usual abode. In 1013 Sweyn invested the city, but again had to retire ; but Ethelred abandoning the kingdom, the citizens at length opened their gates to Sweyn. On his death London recalled Ethelred, who on the landing of Canute in 1016 in Kent remained shut up in that city, where Prince Edmund joined him, and Ethelred dying, Edmund was there proclaimed King. Canute besieged the city three times in the year 1016. On one of these occasions it is that we have the story of his cutting a canal through the marshes on the south side of the Thames, in order to carry his ships to the west of the wooden bridge which then extended across to Botolph Gate. But all Canute's efforts to take the city failed, and on the agreement come to between the rival candidates for the Crown Loddon was assigned to Edmund, and here he was assassinated. After Edmund's death, by a Council held in London in 1016 Canute was acknow- ledged sole King. He is said to have then levied 10,500/. on London, as its contribution to the payment of his Danish troops. Canute, however, kept his Christmas in London, and there gave his con- federate, Edric, the just reward of his treachery to King Edmund, his dead body being cast over the city wall, and there left unburied. The citizens of London appear to have been represented in the Witenagemote held at Oxford in 1036 to determine the succession of the Crown, in the account of which in the Saxon Chronicle the presence of the Lithmen of London is mentioned. In a general

council of the clergy and people held in the city in 1041, Edward the Confessor was chosen King, and in another great council held there in 1047 fourteen ships-of-war were ordered to be fitted out to protect the coasts against the Danes. Earl Godwin had a house in Southwark, and one of the manors there, and when he had assembled a fleet and army in 1052, he is said to have sailed through London Bridge on the south aide for the purpose of attacking the royal fleet of fifty sail lying at Westminster. An accommodation, however, was arrived at, and Godwin was restored to his dignities. On the completion of the Abbey at Westminster in 1065, Edward the Confessor summoned a general assembly to meet in London. On his death Haiold was crowned King, and accepted by the citizens of London. On the death of Harold the citizens declared for Edgar Atheiing, and held the city against William. After defeating a body of men sent over the river to oppose him, and destroying Southwark, William marched up the Thames and seized Wallingford, whence he could ravage the neighbouring counties and prevent the citizens from obtaining supplies. The clergy and some of the chief men proving faithless to the cause, the Londoners lost heart, and and at length followed their example in sending a deputation to the Duke with the keys of their city. William, giving them many good words as to his intentions, entered the city, and was crowned on the Christmas Day following. The serious disturb- ances which attended the ceremony are too well known to need recapitulation. Probably they were made the pretext for the step which he took of erecting a strong fortress on the east of the city, on a site where very probably a fortress had existed from the time of the extension of the limits of the walls of Roman Lon- don. Having curbed the spirit of the citizens by this erection, he soon afterwards granted them charters confirming to them all the laws and special privileges which they enjoyed under the rule of King Edward the Confessor. And thus (with this paper guarantee) London passed once more under the yoke of another alien race.