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Title: Early London
       Prehistoric, Roman, Saxon and Norman

Author: Walter Besant

Release Date: March 28, 2018 [EBook #56865]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


Produced by Chris Curnow, Les Galloway and the Online
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With 146 Illustrations and a Reproduction of Agas’ Map of London in 1560.

“For the student, as well as for those desultory readers who are drawn by the rare fascination of London to peruse its pages, this book will have a value and a charm which are unsurpassed by any of its predecessors.”—Pall Mall Gazette.

“A vivid and fascinating picture of London life in the sixteenth century—a novelist’s picture, full of life and movement, yet with the accurate detail of an antiquarian treatise.”—Contemporary Review.

With 116 Illustrations and a Reproduction of Ogilby’s Map of London in 1677.

“It is a mine in which the student, alike of topography and of manners and customs, may dig and dig again with the certainty of finding something new and interesting.”—The Times.

“The pen of the ready writer here is fluent; the picture wants nothing in completeness. The records of the city and the kingdom have been ransacked for facts and documents, and they are marshalled with consummate skill.”—Pall Mall Gazette.

With 104 Illustrations and a Reproduction of Rocque’s Map of London in 1741-5.

“The book is engrossing, and its manner delightful.”—The Times.

“Of facts and figures such as these this valuable book will be found full to overflowing, and it is calculated therefore to interest all kinds of readers, from the student to the dilettante, from the romancer in search of matter to the most voracious student of ‘Tit-Bits.’”—The Athenæum.

With 108 Illustrations, mostly from contemporary prints.
With 108 Illustrations, mostly from contemporary prints.

“The book is at once exact and lively in its statements; there is no slovenly page in it—everywhere there is the sense of movement and colour, and the charm which belongs to a living picture.”—Standard.

“One is struck by the admirable grouping, the consistency and order of the work throughout, and in none more than in this latest instalment.”—Pall Mall Gazette.

The Survey of London



America The Macmillan Company
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Vespas. MS. A VIII.





Publisher's Device




1. The Geology 3
2. The Site 17
3. The Earliest Inhabitants 33
1. The Coming of the Romans 53
2. The Roman Rule 57
3. The Aspect of the City 79
4. Remains of Roman London 95
5. The Building of the Wall 112
6. London Bridge 128
7. London Stone 133
8. The Desolation of the City 135
1. The Coming of the Saxons 153
2. Early History 161
3. The Danes in London 169
4. The Second Saxon Occupation 176
5. The Second Danish Occupation 190
6. Town and People 196
7. Thorney Island 231
8. Saxon Remains 243 vi
1. William the Conqueror 249
2. Domesday Book 262
3. William Rufus 272
4. Henry I. 275
5. The Charter of Henry I. 279
6. Stephen 289
7. FitzStephen the Chronicler 301
8. The Streets and the People 321
9. Social Life 337
10. A Norman Family 345
1. The River Embankment 351
2. The Riverside Discoveries 353
3. Strype on Roman Remains 356
4. The Clapton Sarcophagus 361
5. 363



King Edgar adoring the Saviour Frontispiece
Geological Map of the Site 7
Statues of King Lud and his two Sons, Androgeus and Theomantius 19
The Marshes of Early London 25
Side of Font, East Meon Church, Hampshire 36
Side of Font, East Meon Church, Hampshire 37
Offa being invested with Spurs 39
An Archer 42
Figures reconstructed from Ancient Clothes and Remains found in a Bog 43
Figures in Wood at Wooburn in Buckinghamshire, supposed to represent Itinerant Masons 45
Pavement before the Altar of the Prior’s Chapel at Ely 49
Statue of a Roman Warrior found in a Bastion of the London Wall 58
Roman Knife-handle—Figure of Charioteer, Bronze 60
Carausius 61
A Sea Fight 66
Tomb of Valerius Amandinus (A Roman General) 67
Coffin Lids found in London 71
Bronze Roman Lamp found in Cannon Street 75
Method of Swathing the Dead 77
Dow Gate 79
Tessellated Pavement 81
Roman Sandals taken from the Bed of the Thames 89
The Laconicum, or Sweating Bath 90
Tessellated Pavement 91
Roman Roads radiating from London 93
Roman Altar to Diana found in St. Martin’s-le-Grand 95
Roman Bath, Strand Lane 97
Roman Antiquities found in London, 1786 101
Roman London 102
Statuettes of Roman Deities 103
Roman Sepulchral Stone found at Ludgate by Sir Christopher Wren 107
Roman Statue discovered at Bevis Marks 108
Roman Antiquities found in London in 1786 109
Roman Remains found in a Bastion of London Wall 113
Roman Arch, London Wall 122
A Ship 126 viii
An Anglo-Saxon Warrior Facing   136
Ancient Copper Bowl found in Lothbury 138
The Ark 142
King and Courtiers 146
A Group of Anglo-Saxon Spearmen 154
Gregory the Great, St. Benedict, and St. Cuthbert 156
Lady in a Chariot 157
Family Life 159
Aelfwine 161
The Coronation of a King 162
Aldhelm presenting “De Virginitate” to Hildelida, Abbess of Barking, and her Nuns Facing   162
King Ethelbald 164
King in Bed 166
The Perils of the Deep 167
Slaves waiting on a Household 171
Guthlac carried away by Devils 172
Saxon Minstrels 174
Playing Draughts 175
The Alfred Jewel (Reverse)     The Alfred Jewel (Obverse) 177
Page from Gospel Book given by Otho I. to Athelstan, Grandson of Alfred the Great; on it the Anglo-Saxon Kings took the Coronation Oath 178
From King Alfred’s “Orosius” 179
King Cnut and his Queen, Emma, presenting a Cross upon the Altar of Newminster (Winchester) 181
The King receiving a Deputation 183
Anglo-Saxon Warriors approaching a Fort 185
A Fight 186
Diagram of Canal 188
King Edward the Confessor’s Palace at Borstal (Brill) 193
A Solar 196
Building a House 197
October. Hawking 198
A Banquet 199
Saxon Ladies 201
Saxon Horn 202
Merchantmen with Horses and Camels 203
A Banquet 205
Glastonbury Abbey 206
Anglo-Saxon Nuns 207
Conferring the Tonsure 208
A Burial 209
Saxon Church at Greenstead 211
St. Dunstan 213
The Last Day Facing 214
Anglo-Saxon Modes of Punishment 216
The Flogging of a Slave 216
Three Men in Bed 218 ix
Mother and Child 219
Drawing Water 220
St. Luke, from St. Chad’s Gospel Book, date about 700 A.D. 221
Anglo-Saxon Husbandman and his Wife 223
Feeding the Hungry 225
Going to the Chase 226
The Hawk Strikes 226
Feasting 227
Anglo-Saxon House 229
The Situation of Westminster 231
St. Dunstan at the Feet of Christ 233
Monks 235
The Famous “Book of Kells” MS. of the Gospels in Latin, written in Ireland (A.D. 650-690) 237
Rood over the South Door of Stepney Church 239
Edward the Confessor’s Chapel 241
Ancient Enamelled Ouche in Gold discovered near Dowgate Hill; probably Ninth Century 243
An Ancient Comb found in the Ruins of Ickleton Nunnery 244
Duke William comes to Pevensey 249
King Harold shown in a Mêlée of Fighting-Men 251
Charter of the City of London given by William the Conqueror 252
A Norman Knight 253
Norman Horsemen 255
Harold trying to pull the Arrow from his Eye 255
Norman Archers 255
William the Conqueror and his Knights (from the Bayeux Tapestry) 257
Bishops 258
The Seal of Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, Half-brother of William I. 259
Part of a Page of Domesday Book 263
William I. and II., Henry I. and Stephen Facing 264
Norman Soldiers 267
Norman London 269
Norman Capitals from Westminster Hall 273
Seal of St. Anselm 275
Norman Arch, in the Cloisters, Westminster Abbey Facing 276
Coronation of Henry I. 279
An Ancient Seal of Robert, Fifth Baron FitzWalter 281
The Temple Church 283
A Fight 291
Costume of English Kings of the Eleventh Century. Anglo-Norman Ladies of High Degree Facing 292
St. John’s Chapel, Tower of London, Norman Architecture 295
March. Field Work. September. Boar-Hunting 303
Matron and Maid 305
A Horseman 308
Tilting 313
Tilting in Boats 314
Dancing 315 x
The Chase 317
The White Tower 319
Representation of Orion 322
Craftsman at work on a House 323
London Wall 325
A Norman Hall 327
Three Bishops 329
Building a House Facing 338
A Family Group 339
Lady saving a Stag from the Hunters 341
Saxon Doorway, Temple Church 343





By Prof. T. G. Bonney, F.R.S.

The buildings of a town often succeed in masking the minor physical features of its site—irregularities are levelled, brooks are hidden beneath arches and find ignominious ends in sewers; canals, quays, and terrace walls may be wholly artificial. To realise completely the original contours of the ground is often a laborious process, demanding inductive reasoning on the evidence obtained in sinking wells, in digging the foundations of the larger buildings, or in making cuttings and tunnels. Still the broader and bolder features cannot be obscured, however thick the encrusting layer of masonry may be. What, then, are these in the case of Greater London? Its site is a broad valley, along the bed of which a tidal river winds in serpentine curves as its channel widens and deepens towards the sea. On either side of this valley the ground slopes upwards, though for a while very gently, towards a hilly district, which rises, sometimes rather steeply, to a height of about 400 feet above sea-level. Towards the north this district passes into an undulating plateau, the chalky uplands of Hertfordshire; on the south it ends in a more sharply defined range, which occasionally reaches an elevation of about 800 feet above the sea—the North Downs. The upland declines a little, the valley broadens towards the sea, as the river changes into an estuary. Between the one and the other there is no very hard and fast division; the ground by the side of each is low, but as a rule by the river it is just high enough to be naturally fit for cultivation, while by the estuary it is a marsh. But as the ground becomes more salubrious, the channel becomes more shallow, and at one place, a short distance above the confluence of a tributary stream from the north—the Lea—this change in the character of the valley is a little more rapid than elsewhere.

These conditions seem to have determined the site of the city—the original nucleus of the vast aggregate of houses which forms the London of to-day. Air and water are among the prime requisites of life; no important settlement is likely to be established where the one is insalubrious, the other difficult to obtain. Thus men, in the days before systems of drainage had been devised, would shun the marshes of Essex and Kent, and, in choosing a less malarious site, would seek one where they4 could get water fit to be drunk, either from brooks which descended from the uplands, or from shallow wells. These conditions, as we shall see, were fulfilled in the site of ancient London; these for long years determined its limits and regulated its expansion.

Let us imagine London obliterated from the valley of the Thames; let us picture that valley as it was more than two thousand years ago, when the uplands north of the river were covered by a dense forest, and the Andreds Wald (as it was afterwards named) extended from the Sussex coast to the slopes of the Kentish Downs. We gaze, as we have said, upon a broad valley, through which the tidal Thames takes its winding course, receiving affluents from either side. These are sometimes mere brooks, sometimes rivers up which the salt water at high tide makes its way for short distances. The brooks generally rise among the marginal hills; the rivers on the northern side start far back on the undulating plateau; but on the southern the more important have cut their way completely through the range of the North Downs and are fed by streams which began their course in the valley of the Weald. Of the latter, however, probably not one is directly connected with the earliest history of London; of the former, only the Fleet, which, rising on the southern scarp of Hampstead Heath, ultimately enters the Thames near Blackfriars Bridge. But both the one and the other at later stages in the development of London may require a passing word of notice.

What, then, do we see at this earliest phase in the history of the future metropolis? At once we are impressed with the fact that the Thames formerly must have flowed in a channel broader but straighter than its present one; a channel which is now indicated by a tract of alluvial land a few feet below the general level of the valley, and but little above high-water mark. Traces of this may be seen here and there between Chelsea and London Bridge, in the low ground about Millbank and along the river-side at Westminster, and in that which runs from Lambeth along the right bank of the Thames. But the most marked indication of this alluvial plain begins about a mile below London Bridge. Here the left bank of the river is formed, as it has been from the bend at Hungerford Bridge, by a terrace ranging at first from about 25 feet to 40 feet above mean tide level, a most important physical feature, for it determined, as we shall see, the site of London. But on the opposite shore, the strip of lower ground—often about four or five hundred yards wide—on which river-side Southwark is built, continues until, at Bermondsey, it widens rather suddenly to about a mile and a half. So it goes on past the junction of the Lea, now widening, now contracting slightly, as, for instance, opposite to Purfleet and above Greenwich, but always a broad lowland through which the present tidal river takes a wholly independent and sinuous course. This plain is formed of silt which the Thames itself has deposited over the debatable region where river and sea begin to meet. It is but little above high-water mark; much of it less than a dozen feet5 above ordnance datum. A similar low plain, about half a mile wide, may be traced for a few miles up the valley of the Lea, and indications of this may be found here and there by the side of the Thames above Chelsea; but commonly they are wanting, and always are limited in extent. In their absence, the river bank is higher, for it is formed by the scarp of that terrace to which we have already referred. The difference in elevation between these plains is not great, for the second begins at about 20 to 25 feet above ordnance datum; but it shelves from this gently upwards, forming the remainder of the more obvious bed of the valley, till it reaches a height of about 100 feet. At about this level, though it is impossible to be quite precise, the steeper slopes, more especially on the northern side of the river, and the hills, continue to rise till sometimes—as at Hampstead and at Highgate—they reach an elevation of rather over 400 feet. We cannot, however, do more than speak in general terms, for in a valley like that of the Thames—mainly excavated in a soft and tenacious clay—a large part of the rainfall runs off, forming numerous brooklets and small streams, which carve out many minor undulations and shallow ramifying valleys.

The lowest alluvial plain, in olden days, must have been a desolate marshland, the haunt of wildfowl and the home of ague; so we pass it by, to describe more particularly the ground which overlooks it. The valley as a whole—in the neighbourhood of London—is carved out of strata assigned by geologists to the earlier part of the Tertiary era, the period called the Eocene. These rest upon a mass of chalk some 650 feet thick beneath the junction of Tottenham Court Road with Oxford Street—which rises to the surface towards the Kentish Downs on the one side and in the Hertfordshire hills on the other. Near London this rock is not exposed, but it begins to show itself near Deptford and Charlton, and is yet more conspicuous about Dartford and Purfleet, so that it evidently forms a true basin beneath London. Of what lies beneath it we shall speak hereafter, for this is a matter of more importance to the future history of London than at first might be supposed. The Eocene strata take the same basin-like form as the underlying chalk, so that while the lowest of them rises to the surface north and south of London, it is rather more than 200 feet below sea-level at Hungerford Bridge. This rock, called the Thanet Sand, is a marine deposit; it is a very light grey or buff-coloured sand, formed almost entirely of quartz grains, and it occupies a more limited area than the overlying strata, its thickness beneath London commonly varying from about 20 to 40 feet. The Thanet Sand seldom, if ever, reaches the surface to the north or the south-west of London, but it may be seen to the south-east, as about Woolwich and Croydon.

Over the Thanet Sand comes a rather variable group of clays and sands called the Woolwich and Reading Beds. They extend over a larger area and generally run a little thicker than it does, for beneath London they are usually about 50 or 60 feet,6 and occasionally rather more. The fossils are sometimes fresh-water forms, sometimes estuarine or marine, so that the deposit probably marks the embouchure of one or possibly two large rivers. Next comes that brownish clay which is so constantly turned up in digging sewers or foundations, especially on the lower slopes of the hills. Its name—the London Clay—is taken from the metropolis; but it covers, or at any rate has covered, a much more extensive area, for it can be traced at intervals (large masses having been removed by denudation in some districts) as far as Marlborough on the west, the Isle of Wight on the south, and Great Yarmouth on the north. The same cause has reduced its thickness in parts of the metropolitan districts. Beneath Trafalgar Square, for example, it is 142 feet, and in some wells even less, but the total thickness must have been—indeed in some places it still is—rather more than 400 feet. At the base a band of pebbles commonly occurs. This, under the central part of London, is inconspicuous; but farther away, especially towards the south and the east, it is often 20 to 30 feet thick, and sometimes more. It consists of well-rounded flint pebbles, generally not so big as a hen’s egg, mixed with quartz sand. This gravel lies at or near the surface over a considerable area about Blackheath, Charlton, and Chiselhurst, and is now generally distinguished from the London Clay by a separate name—the Blackheath or the Oldhaven Beds. Both this formation and the London Clay contain fossils, sometimes rather abundantly, which indicate a marine origin, though the deposit cannot have been formed at a long distance from land, for estuarine species occur in it; while fossil fruits and pieces of wood are sometimes common in the London Clay, the latter being often riddled by the borings of teredines (a bivalve mollusc which still exists and makes great havoc in timber). So that in all probability both the gravel and the clay were connected with the rivers already mentioned.

Above the London Clay comes a group of sands, occasionally containing intercalated beds of clay, which once must have had almost as wide an extent as it, but in the London area it is reduced to isolated fragments, capping the clay hills at Hampstead, Highgate, and Harrow. Here the deposit is less than 100 feet in thickness, for so much has been washed away, but it often reaches quite 300 feet on the dry moorland about Chobham, Aldershot, and Weybridge.

Then comes a great gap in the geological record. The beds just mentioned belong to the Eocene, but after these nothing more is found till we are very near the end, if not actually out of, the Pliocene period. This long interval, in the district with which we are concerned, was occupied by earth-movements, the result of which was denudation rather than deposition. As we have already said, the chalk and the overlying Eocene strata are bent into the form of an elongated basin, which is related to the long dome-like elevation from which the hills and valleys of the Weald have been sculptured. Basin and dome alike are the results of wave-like movements which began to affect a large portion of Europe soon after the7 latest Eocene deposits in the London area were formed, movements of which the Alps and the Pyrenees are more conspicuous monuments. But these folds first began at a still earlier epoch—that which separates the newest part of the chalk from the oldest beds of the Eocene. Even then the London basin and the Wealden dome must have been outlined, though less boldly than now; for beneath the City the Thanet Sand and the Woolwich and Reading Beds are pierced in borings, and are together about 90 feet in thickness. But high up on the North Downs the pebble bed at the bottom of the London Clay may be seen resting on the chalk. So this district in early Eocene times must have been higher than the former one by at least the above-named amount; or, in other words, the basin of the Thames and the dome of the Weald must have been already indicated.



The later earth-movements, however, were on a much grander scale. Under London Bridge the base of the London Clay is about 90 feet below the sea-level, while on the North Downs it is about 750 feet above it, so the displacement since it was laid down has been at least 840 feet. The uplift in the central part of the Weald was doubtless much greater, but as denudation must have begun as soon as ever dry land appeared, we cannot say to what height the hills in this part may have risen. Still, when we remember that the valleys of the Wey, the Mole, and the Medway, which drain the northern half of the Weald, have cut completely through the range of the North Downs on their course towards the Thames, and are the makers of the valleys in which they flow, we can understand the magnitude of the work of denudation. But that work was far too complicated, the subject is far too difficult and full of controversies, to be discussed in these pages; we must content ourselves with mentioning a few facts which have more or less affected the history of the metropolis.

As the rivers flowed, they transported and deposited the débris of the land, and if ever a submergence occurred, the same work would be done by tides and currents of the sea. The earliest deposits, obviously, would be formed in places which are far above the present beds of the streams. Most of these deposits would be washed away, their materials would be sorted out and transferred to lower levels, as the valleys were widened and deepened, and as the surface of the ground approached more nearly to its present contours. Thus gravels, sands, and clays are found at various levels down nearly to the present level of the Thames. The oldest of them, deposited within a radius of about ten miles from London Stone, lie rather more than 300 feet above the sea.1 These last are probably connected with similar sands and gravels which cover considerable areas in the Eastern Counties, and may have been deposited at an epoch when even the outline of the present valley system of the Thames had not been delineated. Upon this question, however, it is needless to enter. The next deposit, supposing these patches of sand and gravel to be of one age—a very doubtful matter,—is the Boulder Clay—a stiff, tenacious clay, often studded with pieces of chalk, from minute grains to biggish lumps, which commonly are fairly well rounded, together with flints, both rounded and angular, and fragments of other rocks. These have been derived, generally speaking, from the north and from various places, often at long distances, either on the eastern side of England, or in Scotland, or occasionally even in Norway. The clay also appears to have been formed from materials which came9 from the same direction. But little of this Boulder Clay now remains in the neighbourhood of London; the nearest patch is found on the higher ground on either side of the 300 feet contour-line between Whetstone, Finchley, and Muswell Hill—perhaps also at Hendon. To what extent the valley system of the Thames was sculptured when the Boulder Clay was formed; why the latter stops short on the northern slopes; under what circumstances it was deposited—are all subjects of controversy which it is impossible to discuss in these pages. Suffice it to say that the clay indicates, to some extent at least, the action of ice; and that as the patches of it and of the associated gravels occur at different levels (a fact which is still more obvious in other districts) and appear to exhibit a general correspondence in distribution with the present contours of the ground, several valleys must have been by then partially, if not completely, defined. In the main valley—as, for example, near Erith—fine sandy clays or “brick earth” occur, which some geologists consider to be at least as old as this clay. The climate, when this “brick earth” was deposited, certainly must have been much colder than it is at present, for remains of the musk-sheep have been found in it, and at that time the valley of the Thames must have been excavated nearly to its present depth. But on the slopes of this valley, and of its tributaries, beds of gravel are found, containing stones which must have been washed out of the Boulder Clay; and as these gravels often extend to more than a hundred feet above the present level of the river, the changes since they were deposited must have been considerable. They contain the bones of extinct mammals, such as the woolly rhinoceros and the mammoth, with others indicative of a climate distinctly colder than at present. But as these also have been found almost at the present level of the river, the animals must have remained in this country till it had assumed very nearly its present outlines. For instance, the tooth of a mammoth was discovered in 1731, 28 feet below the surface, when a sewer was dug in Pall Mall. Many bones of this and other animals have been found in the “brick earth” of Ilford; and a splendid pair of tusks, obtained in 1864, is now preserved in the British Museum, South Kensington. Here “the ground forms a low terrace, bordering the small river Roding on the one side, and on the other it slopes gradually down to the Thames. The height of the surface at the pits is about 28 feet above the Thames.”2 It is therefore certain that the river valley was cut down nearly to its present level while the climate was still much colder than it is at present, and very probable that its depth was much increased after the chalky Boulder Clay had been deposited; for these gravels, as has been said, are strewn over the lower slopes up to about a hundred feet above the present river. At Highbury Terrace they even reach 154 feet, and at Wimbledon 190 feet.

These gravels have yielded the remains, not only of the mammoth, but also of10 man. His bones indeed have hardly ever been discovered, but stones chipped into shape by his hands are far from rare. They are almost always made of flint, a material which was abundant, could be readily trimmed, and afforded a good and durable cutting edge. These implements are never smoothed or polished, and exhibit many varieties of form. They range from mere flakes, the artificial origin of which cannot always be proved, but which in all probability were used as knives and scrapers, to instruments which could only have been made at the cost of considerable time and some skill. Similar remains have been found elsewhere in the more eastern and southern counties of England and on the Continent. The people, however, who fashioned such implements hardly can have been so far advanced in civilisation as the wandering tribes of Esquimaux in Northern Greenland.

These worked flints are very rarely found either below 20 or above 100 feet from the sea-level, but between these heights they are not uncommon. About two centuries ago a well-worked flint, something like a spear-head in shape, was found with an elephant’s (mammoth’s) tusk “opposite black Mary’s, near Grayes Inn Lane.”3 Implements of various shapes have been obtained from the gravel near Acton, Ealing, Hackney, Highbury, and Erith, as well as at Tottenham Cross, Lower Edmonton, and other places in the valley of the Lea. But the most interesting localities hitherto investigated are in the neighbourhood of Stoke Newington and of Crayford. The worked flints at the former place are found at more than one level, and indicate a progress in manual skill sufficient to lead observers to the conclusion that they belong to more than one epoch. The newest of these implements, flint flakes with occasional more elaborate specimens, were so abundant and have occurred in such a manner as to suggest to their discoverer (Mr. Worthington Smith) that they lay on the actual surface where they were fashioned by the workers of olden time. “The floor upon which this colony of men lived and made their implements has remained undisturbed till modern times, and the tools, together with thousands of flakes, all as sharp as knives, still rest on the old bank of the brook just as they were left in Palæolithic times. In some places the tools are covered with sand, but usually with four or five feet of brick earth.... That (the floor) was really a working place where tools were made in Palæolithic times is proved by the fact of my replacing flakes on to the blocks from which they were originally struck.”4 At Crayford also, a layer of flint chips was found by Mr. F. C. J. Spurrell in “brick earth” at the foot of a buried cliff of chalk. The circumstances under which these flakes occurred led him to the conclusion that this also was the site of an old “workshop” of flint implements.5

These gravels may be assigned to a time—probably towards the conclusion of11 the Glacial epoch—when the climate of Britain was still cold, when the higher hills were permanently capped by snow, and when glaciers may have lingered in the more mountainous regions. All through the spring and early summer the rivers would be swollen with melting snow, the torrents from the highland districts would be full and strong, and thus denudation would be comparatively rapid—the more rapid because the latest deposits, the Boulder Clay with its associated gravelly sands, would be incoherent and in many places still unprotected by vegetation. Very different would be the brooks and the rivers which then traversed the valley of the Thames from those which now creep through lush water-meadows or glide “by thorpe and town.” The final sculpturing of the valleys—all that has been effected since the date of the Chalky Boulder Clay—may have been accomplished with comparative quickness. Still, since the time when the oldest of these flint implements were lost by their owners, the beds of the valleys have been lowered, in some places by not less than a hundred feet. The district also, until the greater part of this final sculpturing was accomplished, was inhabited by men whose habits of life were throughout substantially the same.

The alluvial deposits, as already stated, rise but little above the surface of the river at high tide. Their thickness varies, but commonly it is from about 12 to 20 feet. The lowest part is generally gravel and sand—materials indicating that the conditions which produced the older deposits of a like nature passed away gradually. This is followed by river silt, with occasional thin beds of peat or with indications of old land surfaces on which flourished woods of oak or even of yew. Below the Port of London, marine shells are rather abundant in the lower part of the silt; these indicate that the general level of the land was a little lower than it had been during the preceding age, perhaps even than it is at present. These alluvial deposits have yielded implements of smoothed or polished stone, of bronze and of iron; also canoes, and even relics of the Roman occupation of Britain. In other words, they have yielded antiquities belonging mainly to prehistoric times, though the record is continued up to a comparatively recent date. Marshy or peaty ground occurs even within the limits of the city,6 as at one corner of St. Paul’s Cathedral, in Finsbury Crescent, and near London Wall, as well as at Westminster. Thorney—the “Isle of Thorns”—the site of the Abbey, was formerly a low insular bank of gravel among marshes. The lake in St. James’s Park indicates the track of the Tyburn, which traversed one of these swamps. It was a brook of some size, and traces of it may be found in the names Marylebone (le-bourne7), and Brook Street. One branch of it passed “through Dean Street and College Street till it fell into the Thames by Millbank Street.”8 The water from the slopes north of Hyde Park made12 another stream called the Westbourne; this, after following a path still suggested by the Serpentine, found its way to the Thames through a fenny district which is now Belgravia (see also p. 26).

Such, then, is the structure of the valley of the Thames; such are the deposits which form its surface on either side, and on which the metropolis has been built. But we must now look a little more closely at their distribution, for by this the growth of London in ancient times was largely determined. The broad terrace already mentioned on the left bank of the Thames, the site of mediæval London, consists, for a couple of miles or so inland, mainly of a flint gravel more or less sandy, seldom exceeding 20 feet in thickness, and commonly rather less, which rests upon the tenacious London Clay. Here and there this gravel may be traversed by a small stream, but the most marked break in its level is formed by a brook which, flowing from the slopes of Hampstead and Highgate, at last has cut its bed down to the clay and has broadened out into a creek as it joins the Thames. It was known in its lower reaches as the Fleet (see p. 27). This gravel terrace made London possible; this stream formed its first boundary on the west. The rain-water is readily absorbed by the gravel, but is arrested by the underlying clay. It can escape in springs wherever a valley has been cut down to the level of saturation, but if it is not tapped in this way the gravel will be full of water to within a few feet of the surface, so that a shallow well will yield a good supply. The first settlement was placed upon this gravel, by the river-side, where the channel is still deep at high tide; it was limited on the west by the slopes descending to the Fleet, on the east by the lower ground which shelves downwards towards the mouth of the Lea. From this nucleus, enclosed within the Roman fortification, the town expanded, as times became more peaceful, along the lines of the great roads; and at an early date a tête-du-pont would undoubtedly be formed at Southwark.

But without entering into the details of this development, let us pass over some centuries and see how the growth of London was for a long time conditioned and limited by this gravel. The metropolis spread13 “eastward towards Whitechapel, Bow, and Stepney; north-eastward towards Hackney, Clapton, and Newington; and westward towards Kensington and Chelsea; while northward it came for many years to a sudden termination at Clerkenwell, Bloomsbury, Marylebone, Paddington, and Bayswater: for north of a line drawn from Bayswater, by the Great Western Station, Clarence Gate, Park Square, and along the side of the New Road to Euston Square, Burton Crescent, and Mecklenburg Square, this bed of gravel terminates abruptly, and the London Clay comes to the surface and occupies all the ground to the north. A map of London, as recent as 1817, shows how well defined was the extension of houses arising from this cause. Here and there only beyond the main body of the gravel there were a few outliers, such as those at Islington and Highbury, and there habitations followed. In the same way, south of the Thames, villages and buildings were gradually extended over the valley-gravels to Peckham, Camberwell, Brixton, and Clapham; while, beyond, houses and villages rose on the gravel-capped hills of Streatham, Denmark Hill, and Norwood. It was not until facilities were afforded for an independent water-supply by the rapid extension of the works of the great Water Companies that it became practicable to establish a town population in the clay districts of Holloway, Camden Town, Regent’s Park, St. John’s Wood, Westbourne, and Notting Hill.”9

It is possible that the position of the older parks—St. James’s, the Green Park—and Hyde Park may have been indirectly determined by the fact that over much of them the gravel is thin or the clay actually rises to the surface.

Every old settlement outside the earlier limits of the metropolis marks the presence of sand or gravel. Hampstead and Highgate, which early in the nineteenth century were severed from London by nearly a couple of miles of open fields, stand upon large patches of Bagshot Sand, which caps the London Clay and is sometimes as much as 80 feet thick. This yellowish or fawn-coloured sand may be seen almost anywhere in the old excavations at the top of Hampstead Heath, and the difference of the vegetation on this material and on the clay of the lower slopes cannot fail to be noticed. On the latter, grass abounds; on the former, fern, furze, and even heather. The junction of the sand and the clay is indicated by springs which supply the various ponds. These are occasionally chalybeate, like the once-noted spring which may still be seen in Well Walk, Hampstead. Harrow stands on another outlying patch of Bagshot Sand. Enfield, Edmonton, Barnet, Totteridge, Finchley, Hendon, and other old villages are built upon the high-level gravels which have been already mentioned.

The shallow wells are no longer used in London itself. Infiltration of sewage, in some cases of the drainage from churchyards, had rendered many of them actually poisonous; clear, sparkling, even palatable, though the water might be, there was often “death in the cup.” There was a terrible illustration of this fact during the visitation of the cholera in 1854. A pump, the water of which was much esteemed, stood by the wall of the churchyard in Broad Street (south of Oxford Street). The water became infected, and the cholera ravaged the immediate neighbourhood. But though most of these pumps were closed barely sixty years ago, some, like that in Great Dean’s Yard, Westminster, were in use for quite another quarter of a century. It has now disappeared, but that within the precincts of the Charterhouse is still standing. Thus London was limited to the gravel till it was able to obtain water from other sources.10

The first step in this direction was early in the seventeenth century, when the14 New River Company had its origin, and for many years this was the only Company by which water was supplied to London; but seven others were subsequently founded.11

The New River Company obtains its water from the Lea, the original source being nearly forty miles from London, but the supply has been since increased by sinking wells. The East London draws upon the same river. Five of the other Companies get their water from the Thames, some miles above London, augmenting their supply by means of wells, and the Kent Company draws exclusively from deep wells in the chalk. As these Companies were founded the metropolis began to spread rapidly over the areas which they supplied, but it did so in a regular and systematic fashion. Houses fed by the mains of a Water Company must keep, as it were, in touch with their base of supply, because of the cost of laying a long line of pipes to supply a solitary house. Thus a town which draws its water from mains advances block by block into the surrounding country, and is not encircled by a wide fringe of scattered dwellings.

In the London area, however, there is a way in which the occupant of an isolated house can obtain a supply of water, though it is not a cheap one. He may bore through the London Clay into the underlying sands and gravels. When a porous stratum rests on one that is impervious, the former becomes saturated with water up to a certain level, dependent on local circumstances, and in this case a well sunk sufficiently deep into it will be filled. But if the porous stratum be also covered by one which is impervious; if all three be bent into a basin-like form; and if the porous one crop out at a considerably higher level than the place where a well is needed, then it may be water-logged to a height sufficient to force the water up the bore-hole, perhaps even to send up a jet like a fountain. Wells of this kind are termed Artesian, from Artois in France, where they have been in use for several centuries, and they began to be sunk in England about a century ago. The London Clay was pierced, and the water-logged sands and gravels belonging to the lowest part of the Tertiary series were tapped. These basin-formed beds crop out at an elevation generally of about one hundred feet above the Thames; thus they were charged with water to a considerable height above the level of the river, and it very commonly at first spouted up above the surface of the ground; but as the wells increased in number, its level was gradually lowered, for the area over which these beds are exposed is not very extensive, and a stratum cannot supply more water than it receives by percolation from the rainfall. At first everything went well; consumers were like heirs who had succeeded to the savings of a long minority, for water had been accumulating in this subterranean basin-like reservoir during myriads15 of years; but after a time the expenditure began to exceed the income, and the water-level sank slowly, till now it is many yards below the surface of the ground.

But when this source of supply evidently was becoming overtaxed, another was found in the underlying chalk. This rock absorbs water rapidly, but parts with it very slowly. Professor Prestwich found by experiment that a slab of chalk measuring 63 cubic inches drank up 26 cubic inches of water (all it could hold) in a quarter of an hour; yet when left to drain for twelve hours it parted with only one-tenth of a cubic inch.12 So that an ordinary well is useless. But the upper part of the chalk, generally to a depth of rather more than 300 feet, is traversed by fissures, and these are full of water. So a bore-hole is carried down till one of them is struck, and they are so abundant that failures are rare. In this way the water-supply of London is materially augmented.

This source also—at any rate in the immediate neighbourhood of London—is becoming overtaxed, so an effort has been made to obtain water from yet greater depths. Below the chalk is an impervious clay (Gault), and beneath this comes a brownish sand, followed by some other beds not quite so porous (called the Lower Greensand), which are succeeded by thick clays. These sandy rocks crop out at the surface to the north of London in Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire, and to the south in Surrey and Kent. So they reasonably might be expected to pass beneath the metropolis, to be saturated with water, and to yield a large supply as they do at Paris, the geological position of which bears a considerable resemblance to that of London. Bore-holes have been put down in search of these sands at Kentish Town, Meux’s Brewery (Tottenham Court Road), Richmond, Streatham, and Crossness. They have also been sunk beyond the metropolitan area at Ware, Cheshunt, Harwich, and Chatham. At the last place the Lower Greensand is only about 40 feet thick, instead of 400 feet as it is south of the North Downs.13 It was expected to occur under London at a depth of about 1000 feet in round numbers, but in every case it was found to be either wholly absent or so thin as to be worthless. This is true even so far away as Ware and Harwich on the northern side, and perhaps as Croydon on the southern. In the days when this Lower Greensand, and even a considerable thickness of strata which elsewhere comes beneath it, were deposited, a large island or peninsula composed of much older rocks must have risen above the sea in the region over which London and all its environs now stand. So there is no hope of increasing the supply of water from any beds older than the upper part of the chalk. But a good deal more may be obtained from this rock, if it be tapped at longer distances from the metropolis. To this process, however, there are two objections: one, that the number of wells and of16 conduits which will be required in order to collect the water will probably make it a rather costly source of supply; the other, that if large demands be made on the water stored up beneath the chalk hills, the level of the surface of saturation in this rock will be appreciably lowered, many springs will be dried up, and the streams will be seriously diminished, which will greatly injure thousands of acres of water-meadows and many important industries. Large sums would have to be paid as compensation, and this would add greatly to the cost of any scheme. It is doubtful whether more water ought to be withdrawn from the Thames and its tributaries; and rivers which flow through a thickly populated country can hardly be regarded as safe from sewage contamination. It is therefore not improbable that, within a few years, the metropolis will have to follow the example of Liverpool and of Manchester, and seek another source of water-supply at a yet greater distance than has been done by those cities.

T. G. Bonney.



It is due to the respect with which all writers upon London must regard the first surveyor and the collector of its traditions and histories that we should quote his words as to the origin and foundation of the City. He says (Strype’sStow, vol. i. book i.):—

“As the Roman Writers, to glorify the City of Rome, drew the Original thereof from Gods, and Demi-gods, so Geoffrey of Monmouth, the Welsh historian, deduceth the Foundation of this famous City of London, for the greater Glory thereof, and Emulation of Rome, from the very same original. For he reporteth, that Brute, lineally descended from the Demi-god Eneas, the son of Venus, Daughter of Jupiter, about the Year of the World 2855, and 1108 before the Nativity of Christ, builded the City near unto the River now called Thames, and named it Troynovant, or Trenovant. But herein, as Livy, the most famous Historiographer of the Romans, writeth, ‘Antiquity is pardonable, and hath an especial Privilege, by interlacing Divine Matters with Human, to make the first Foundations of Cities more honourable, more Sacred, and as it were of greater Majesty.’

This Tradition concerning the ancient Foundation of the City by Brute, was of such Credit, that it is asserted in an ancient Tract, preserved in the Archives of the Chamber of London; which is transcribed into the Liber Albus, and long before that by Horn, in his old Book of Laws and Customs, called Liber Horn. And a copy of this Tract was drawn out of the City Books by the Mayor and Aldermen’s special Order, and sent to King Henry the VI., in the Seventh year of his reign; which Copy yet remains among the Records of the Tower. The Tract is as followeth:—


Inter Nobiles Urbes Orbis, etc. 1. Among the noble Cities of the World which Fame cries up, the City of London, the only Seat of the Realm of England, is the principal, which widely spreads abroad the Rumour of its Name. It is happy for the Wholesomeness of the Air, for the Christian religion, for its most worthy Liberty, and most ancient Foundation. For according to the Credit of Chronicles, it is considerably older than Rome: and it is stated by the same Trojan Author that it was built by Brute, after the Likeness of Great Troy, before that built by Romulus and Remus. Whence to this Day it useth and enjoyeth the ancient City Troy’s Liberties, Rights, and Customs. For it hath a Senatorial Dignity and Lesser Magistrates. And it hath Annual Sheriffs instead of Consuls. For whosoever repair thither, of whatsoever condition they be, whether Free or Servants, they obtain there the refuge of Defence and Freedom. Almost all the Bishops, Abbots, and Nobles of England are as it were Citizens and Freemen of this City, having their noble Inns here.’

These and many more matters of remark, worthy to be remembered, concerning this most noble City, remain in a very old Book, called Recordatorium Civitatis; and in the Book called Speculum.

King Lud (as the same Geoffrey of Monmouth noteth) afterward (about 1060 Years after) not only repaired this City, but also increased the same with fair Buildings, Towers, and Walls; which after his own Name called it Caire-Lud, or Luds-Town. And the strong Gate which he builded in the west Part of the City, he likewise, for his own honour, named Ludgate.

And in Process of Time, by mollifying the Word, it took the Name of London, but some others will have it called Llongdin; a British word answering to the Saxon word Shipton, that is, a Town of Ships. And indeed none hath more Right to take unto itself that Name of Shipton, or Road of Ships, than this City, in regard of its commodious situation for shipping on so curious a navigable River as the Thames, which swelling at certain Hours with the Ocean Tides, by a deep and safe Channel, is sufficient to bring up ships of the greatest Burthen to her Sides, and thereby furnisheth her inhabitants with the Riches of the known World; so that as her just Right she claimeth Pre-eminency of all other Cities. And the shipping lying at Anchor by her Walls resembleth a Wood of Trees, disbranched of their Boughs.

This City was in no small Repute, being built by the first Founder of the British Empire, and honoured with the Sepulchre of divers of their Kings, as Brute, Locrine, Cunodagius, and Gurbodus, Father of Ferrex and Porrex, being the last of the Line of Brute.

Mulmutius Dunwallo, son of Cloton, Duke of Cornwall, having vanquished his Competitors, and settled the Land, caused to be erected on, or near the Place, where now Blackwell-Hall standeth (a Place made use of by the Clothiers for the sale of their Cloth every Thursday), a Temple called the Temple of Peace; and after his Death was there interred. And probably it was so ordered to gratify the Citizens, who favoured his Cause.

Belinus (by which Name Dunwallo’s Son was called) built an Haven in this Troynovant, with a Gate over it, which still bears the Name of Belingsgate [now Billingsgate]. And on the Pinnacle was a brazen Vessel erected, in which was put the ashes of his Body burnt after his Death.

The said Belinus is supposed to have built the Tower of London, and to have19 appointed three Chief Pontiffs to superintend all Religious Affairs throughout Britain; whereof one had his See in London, and the other Sees were York and Carleon. But finding little on Record concerning the actions of those Princes, until we come to the reign of King Lud, it is thought unnecessary to take any further Notice of them. He was eldest son of Hely, who began his Reign about 69 years before the Birth of Jesus Christ. A Prince much praised by Historians for his great Valour, noble Deeds, and Liberality (for amending the Laws of the Country, and forming the State of his Common-weal). And in particular, for repairing this City, and erecting many fair Buildings, and encompassing it about with a strong stone Wall. In the west Part whereof he built a strong Gate, called Ludgate, as was shewed before, where are now standing in Niches, over the said Gate, the Statues of this good King, and his two Sons on each side of him, as a lasting Monument of his Memory, being, after an honourable Reign, near thereunto Buried, in a Temple of his own Building.

Taken from the old Lud Gate.

This Lud had two Sons, Androgeus and Theomantius [or Temanticus], who being not of age to govern at the death of their father, their Uncle Cassivelaune took upon him the Crown; about the eighth Year of whose reign, Julius Cæsar arrived in this Land, with a great power of Romans to conquer it. The Antiquity20 of which conquest, I will summarily set down out of his own Commentaries, which are of far better credit than the Relations of Geoffrey of Monmouth.

The chief Government of the Britons, and Administration of War, was then by common advice committed to Cassivelaune, whose borders were divided from the Cities on the sea coast by a river called Thames, about fourscore miles from the sea. This Cassivelaune before had made continual Wars with the other Cities; but the Britons, moved with the coming of the Romans, had made him their Sovereign and General of their Wars (which continued hot between the Romans and them). [Cæsar having knowledge of their intent, marched with his army to the Thames into Cassivelaune’s Borders. This River can be passed but only in one place on Foot, and that with much difficulty. When he was come hither, he observed a great power of his enemies in Battle Array on the other side of the River. The Bank was fortified with sharp stakes fixed before them; and such kind of Stakes were also driven down under water, and covered with the river. Cæsar having understanding thereof by the Prisoners and Deserters, sent his Horse before, and commanded his Foot to follow immediately after. But the Roman Soldiers went on with such speed and force, their Heads only being above water, that the Enemy not being able to withstand the Legions, and the Horse, forsook the Bank and betook themselves to Flight. Cassivelaune despairing of Success by fighting in plain battle, sent away his greater forces, and keeping with him about Four Thousand Charioteers, watched which way the Romans went, and went a little out of the way, concealing himself in cumbersome and woody Places. And in those Parts where he knew the Romans would pass, he drove both Cattle and People out of the open Fields into the Woods. And when the Roman Horse ranged too freely abroad in the Fields for Forage and Spoil, he sent out his Charioteers out of the Woods by all the Ways and Passages well known to them, and encountered with the Horse to their great Prejudice. By the fear whereof he kept them from ranging too far; so that it came to this pass, that Cæsar would not suffer his Horse to stray any Distance from his main Battle of Foot, and no further to annoy the enemy, in wasting their Fields, and burning their Houses and Goods, than their Foot could effect by their Labour or March.]

But in the meanwhile, the Trinobants, in effect the strongest City of those Countries, and one of which Mandubrace, a young Gentleman, that had stuck to Cæsar’s Party, was come to him, being then in the Main Land [viz. Gaul], and thereby escaped Death, which he should have suffered at Cassivelaune’s Hands (as his Father Imanuence who reigned in that city had done). The Trinobants, I say, sent their Ambassadors, promising to yield themselves unto him, and to do what he should command them, instantly desiring him to protect Mandubrace from the furious tyranny of Cassivelaune, and to send some into the City, with authority to take the Government thereof. Cæsar accepted the offer and appointed them to21 give him forty Hostages, and to find him Grain for his Army, and so sent he Mandubrace to them. They speedily did according to the command, sent the number of Hostages, and the Bread-Corn.

When others saw that Cæsar had not only defended the Trinobants against Cassivelaune, but had also saved them harmless from the Pillage of his own Soldiers, the Cenimagues, the Segontiacs, the Ancalites, the Bibrokes, and the Cassians, by their Ambassies, yield themselves to Cæsar. By these he came to know that Cassivelaune’s Town was not far from that Place, fortified with Woods and marshy Grounds; into the which a considerable number of Men and Cattle were gotten together. For the Britains call that a Town, saith Cæsar, when they have fortified cumbersome Woods, with a Ditch and a Rampire; and thither they are wont to resort, to abide the Invasion of their Enemies. Thither marched Cæsar with his Legions. He finds the Place notably fortified both by Nature and human Pains; nevertheless he strives to assault it on two sides. The Enemies, after a little stay, being not able longer to bear the Onset of the Roman Soldiers, rushed out at another Part, and left the Town unto him. Here was a great number of Cattle found, and many of the Britains were taken in the Chace, and many slain.

While these Things were doing in these Quarters, Cassivelaune sent Messengers to that Part of Kent, which, as we showed before, lyeth upon the Sea, over which Countries Four Kings, Cingetorix, Caruil, Taximagul, and Segorax, reigned, whom he commanded to raise all their Forces, and suddenly to set upon and assault their Enemies in their Naval Trenches. To which, when they were come, the Romans sallied out upon them, slew a great many of them, and took Cingetorix, an eminent Leader among them, Prisoner, and made a safe Retreat. Cassivelaune, hearing of this Battle, and having sustained so many Losses, and found his Territories wasted, and especially being disturbed at the Revolt of the Cities, sent Ambassadors along with Comius of Arras, to treat with Cæsar concerning his Submission. Which Cæsar, when he was resolved to Winter in the Continent, because of the sudden insurrection of the Gauls, and that not much of the Summer remained, and that it might easily be spent, accepted, and commands him Hostages, and appoints what Tribute Britain should yearly pay to the People of Rome, giving strait Charge to Cassivelaune, that he should do no Injury to Manubrace, nor the Trinobants. And so receiving the Hostages, withdrew his Army to the Sea again.

Thus far out of Cæsar’s Commentaries concerning this History, which happened in the year before Christ’s Nativity LIV. In all which Process, there is for this Purpose to be noted, that Cæsar nameth the City of the Trinobantes; which hath a Resemblance with Troynova or Trenovant; having no greater Difference in the Orthography than the changing of [b] into [v]. And yet maketh an Error, which I will not argue. Only this I will note, that divers learned Men do not think Civitas Trinobantum to be well and truly translated The City of the Trinobantes: but that22 it should rather be The State, Communalty, or Seignory of the Trinobants. For that Cæsar, in his Commentaries, useth the Word Civitas only for a People living under one and the self-same Prince and Law. But certain it is, that the Cities of the Britains were in those Days neither artificially builded with Houses, nor strongly walled with Stone, but were only thick and cumbersome Woods, plashed within and trenched about. And the like in effect do other the Roman and Greek authors directly affirm; as Strabo, Pomponius Mela, and Dion, a Senator at Rome (Writers that flourished in the several Reigns of the Roman Emperors, Tiberius, Claudius, Domitian, and Severus): to wit, that before the Arrival of the Romans, the Britains had no Towns, but called that a Town which had a thick entangled Wood, defended, as I said, with a Ditch and Bank; the like whereof the Irishmen, our next Neighbours, do at this day call Fastness. But after that these hither Parts of Britain were reduced into the Form of a Province by the Romans, who sowed the Seeds of Civility over all Europe, this our City, whatsoever it was before, began to be renowned, and of Fame.

For Tacitus, who first of all Authors nameth it Londinium, saith, that (in the 62nd year after Christ) it was, albeit, no Colony of the Romans; yet most famous for the great Multitude of Merchants, Provision and Intercourse. At which time, in that notable Revolt of the Britains from Nero, in which seventy thousand Romans and their Confederates were slain, this City, with Verulam, near St. Albans, and Maldon, then all famous, were ransacked and spoiled.

For Suetonius Paulinus, then Lieutenant for the Romans in this Isle, abandoned it, as not then fortified, and left it to the Spoil.

Shortly after, Julius Agricola, the Roman Lieutenant in the Time of Domitian, was the first that by exhorting the Britains publickly, and helping them privately, won them to build Houses for themselves, Temples for the Gods, and Courts for Justice, to bring up the Noblemen’s Children in good Letters and Humanity, and to apparel themselves Roman-like. Whereas before (for the most part) they went naked, painting their Bodies, etc., as all the Roman Writers have observed.

True it is, I confess, that afterward, many Cities and Towns in Britain, under the Government of the Romans, were walled with Stone and baked Bricks or Tiles; as Richborough, or Rickborough-Ryptacester in the Isle of Thanet, till the Channel altered his Course, besides Sandwich in Kent, Verulamium besides St. Albans in Hertfordshire, Cilcester in Hampshire, Wroxcester in Shropshire, Kencester in Herefordshire, three Miles from Hereford Town; Ribchester, seven Miles above Preston, on the Water of Rible; Aldeburg, a Mile from Boroughbridge, on Watheling-Street, on Ure River, and others. And no doubt but this our City of London was also walled with Stone in the Time of the Roman Government here; but yet very latewardly; for it seemeth not to have been walled in the Year of our Lord 296. Because in that Year, when Alectus the Tyrant was slain in the Field,23 the Franks easily entered London, and had sacked the same, had not God of his great Favour at that very Instant brought along the River of Thames certain Bands of Roman Soldiers, who slew those Franks in every Street of the City.”

We need not pursue Stow in the legendary history which follows. Let us next turn to the evidence of ancient writers. Cæsar sailed for his first invasion of Britain on the 26th of August B.C. 55. He took with him two legions, the 7th and the 10th. He had previously caused a part of the coast to be surveyed, and had inquired of the merchants and traders concerning the natives of the island. He landed, fought one or two battles with the Britons, and after a stay of three weeks he retired.

The year after he returned with a larger army—an army of five legions and 2000 cavalry. On this occasion he remained four months. We need not here inquire into his line of march, which cannot be laid down with exactness. After his withdrawal certain British Princes, when civil wars drove them out, sought protection of Augustus. Strabo says that the island paid moderate duties; that the people imported ivory necklaces and bracelets, amber, and glass; that they exported corn, cattle, gold and silver, iron, skins, slaves, and hunting-dogs. He also says that there were four places of transit from the coast of Gaul to that of Britain, viz. the mouths of the Rhine, the Seine, the Loire, and the Garonne.

The point that concerns us is that there was before the arrival of the Romans already a considerable trade with the island.

Nearly a hundred years later—A.D. 43—the third Roman invasion took place in the reign of the Emperor Claudius under the general Aulus Plautius. The Roman fleet sailed from Gesoriacum (Boulogne), the terminus of the Roman military road across Gaul, and carried an army of four legions with cavalry and auxiliaries, about 50,000 in all, to the landing-places of Dover, Hythe, and Richborough.

No mention of London is made in the history of this campaign. Colchester and Gloucester were the principal Roman strongholds.

Writing in the year A.D. 61, Tacitus gives us the first mention of London. He says, “At Suetonius mirâ constantiâ medios inter hostes Londinium perrexit cognomento quidem coloniâ non insigne sed copiâ negotiatorum et commeatuum maxime celebre.”

This is all that we know. There is no mention of London in either of Cæsar’s invasions; none in that of Aulus Plautius. When we do hear of it, the place is full of merchants, and had been so far a centre of trade. The inference would seem to be, not that London was not in existence in the years 55 B.C. or 43 A.D., or that neither Cæsar nor Aulus Plautius heard of it, but simply that they did not see the town and so did not think it of consequence.

If we consider a map showing the original lie of the ground on and about the site of any great city, we shall presently understand not only the reasons why the24 city was founded on that spot, but also how the position of the city has from the beginning exercised a very important influence on its history and its fortunes. Position affects the question of defence or of offence. Position affects the plenty or the scarcity of supplies. The prosperity of the city is hindered or advanced by the presence or the absence of bridges, fords, rivers, seas, mountains, plains, marshes, pastures, or arable fields. Distance from the frontier, the proximity of hostile tribes and powers, climate—a seaport closed with ice for six months in the year is severely handicapped against one that is open all the year—these and many other considerations enter into the question of position. They are elementary, but they are important.

We have already in the first chapter considered this important question under the guidance of Professor T. G. Bonney, F.R.S. Let us sum up the conclusions, and from his facts try to picture the site of London before the city was built.

Here we have before us, first, a city of great antiquity and importance; beside it a smaller city, practically absorbed in the greater, but, as I shall presently prove, the more ancient; thirdly, certain suburbs which in course of time grew up and clustered round the city wall, and are now also practically part of the city; lastly, a collection of villages and hamlets which, by reason of their proximity to the city, have grown into cities which anywhere else would be accounted great, rich, and powerful. The area over which we have to conduct our survey is of irregular shape, its boundaries following those of the electoral districts. It includes Wormwood Scrubbs on the west and Plaistow on the east. It reaches from Hampstead in the north to Penge and Streatham in the south. Roughly speaking, it is an area seventeen miles in breadth from east to west, and eleven from north to south. There runs through it from west to east, dividing the area into two unequal parts, a broad river, pursuing a serpentine course of loops and bends, winding curves and straight reaches; a tidal river which, but for the embankments and wharves which line it on each side, would overflow at every high tide into the streets and lanes abutting on it. Streams run into the river from the north and from the south: these we will treat separately. At present they are, with one or two exceptions, all covered over and hidden.

Remove from this area every house, road, bridge, and all cultivated ground, every trace of occupation by man. What do we find? First, a broad marsh. In the marsh there are here and there low-lying islets raised a foot or two above high tide; they are covered with rushes, reeds, brambles, and coarse sedge; some of them are deltas of small affluents caused by the deposit of branches, leaves, and earth brought down by the stream and gradually accumulating till an island has been formed; some are islands formed in the shallows of the river by the same process. These islands are the haunt of innumerable wild birds. The river, which now runs between strong and high embankments, ran through this vast marsh.25 The marsh extended from Fulham at least, to go no farther west, as far as Greenwich, to go no farther east; from west to east it was in some places two miles and a half broad. The map shows that the marsh included those districts which are now called Fulham, West Kensington, Pimlico, Battersea, Kennington, Lambeth, Stockwell, Southwark, Newington, Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, Deptford, Blackwall, Wapping, Poplar, the Isle of Dogs. In other words, the half at least of modern London is built upon this marsh. At high tide the whole of this vast expanse was covered with water, forming exactly such a lovely lake as one may now see, standing at the water-gate of Porchester Castle and looking across the upper stretches of Portsmouth harbour, or as one may see from any point in Poole harbour when the tide is high. It was a lake bright and clear; here and there lay the islets, green in summer, brown in winter; there were wild duck, wild geese, herons, and a thousand other birds flying over it in myriads with never-ending cries. At low tide the marsh was black mud, and on a day cloudy and overcast a dreary and desolate place. How came a city to be founded on a marsh? That we shall presently understand.


Many names still survive to show the presence of the islets I have mentioned.26 For instance, Chelsea is Chesil-ey—the Isle of Shingle (so also Winchelsea). Battersea has been commonly, but I believe erroneously, supposed to be Peter’s Isle; Thorney is the Isle of Bramble; Tothill means the Hill of the Hill; Lambeth is the “place of mud,” though it has been interpreted as the place where lambs play; Bermondsey is the Isle of Bermond. Doubtless there are many others, but their names, if they had names, and their sites have long since been forgotten.

Several streams fell into the river. Those on the north were afterwards called Bridge Creek, the Westbourne, the Tybourne, the Fleet or Wells River, the Walbrook, and the Lea. Those on the south were the Wandle, the Falcon, the Effra, the Ravensbourne, and other brooks without names. Of the northern streams the first and last concern us little. The Bridge Creek rose near Wormwood Scrubbs, and running along the western slope of Notting Hill, fell into the Thames a little higher up than Battersea Bridge. The Westbourne, a larger stream, is remarkable for the fact that it remains in the Serpentine. Four or five rills flowing from Telegraph Hill, at Hampstead, unite, and after running through West Hampstead receive the waters of another stream formed of two or three rills rising at Frognal. The junction is at Kilburn. The stream, thus increased in volume, runs south and enters Kensington Gardens at the head of the Serpentine, into which it flows, passing out at the south end. It crosses Knightsbridge at Albert Gate, passes along Cadogan Place, and finally falls into the Thames at Chelsea Embankment. Of the places which it passed, especially Kilburn Priory, we shall have more to say later on. Meantime we gather that Kilburn, Westbourne Terrace, Knightsbridge, and Westbourne Street, Chelsea, owe their names to this little stream.

The Tyburn, a smaller stream, but not without its importance, took its rise from a spring called the Shepherd’s Well, which formed a small pool in the midst of the fields called variously the Shepherd’s Fields, or the Conduit Fields, but later on the Swiss Cottage Fields. The site is marked by a drinking-fountain on the right hand rather more than half way up FitzJohn’s Avenue. The water was remarkable for its purity, and as late as fifty or sixty years ago water-carts came every morning to carry off a supply for those who would drink no other. The stream ran down the hill a little to the east of FitzJohn’s Avenue, crossed Belsize Lane, flowed south as far as the west end of King Henry’s Road, then turning west, crossed Avenue Road, and flowed south again till it came to Acacia Road. Here it received an affluent from the gardens and fields of Belsize Manor and Park. Thence south again with occasional deflections, east and west, across the north-west corner of Regent’s Park, receiving another little affluent in the Park; then down a part of Upper Baker Street, Gloucester Road, taking a south-easterly course from Dorset Street to Great Marylebone Lane. It crossed Oxford Street at the east corner of James Street, ran along the west side of South Molton Street, turned again to the south-west, crossed Piccadilly at Brick Street, and running across Green Park it27 passed in front of Buckingham Palace. Here the stream entered upon the marsh, which at high tide was covered with water. Then, as sometimes happens with marshes, the stream divided. One—the larger part—ran down College Street into the Thames; the other, not so large, turned to the north-east and presently flowed down Gardener’s Lane and across King’s Street to the river.

The principal interest attaching to this little river is that it actually created the island which we now call Westminster. The island was formed by the detritus of the Tyburn. How many centuries it took to grow one need not stop to inquire: it is enough to mark that Thorney Island, like the Camargue, or the delta of the Nile, was created by the deposit of a stream.

The Fleet River—otherwise called the River of Wells, or Turnmill Brook, or Holebourne—the fourth of the northern streams, was formerly, near its approach to London, a very considerable stream. Its most ancient name was the “Holebourne,” i.e. the stream that flows in a hollow. It was called the River of Wells on account of the great number of wells or springs whose waters it received; and the “Fleet,” because at its mouth it was a “fleet,” or channel covered with shallow water at high tide. The stream was formed by the junction of two main branches, one of which rose in the Vale of Health, Hampstead, and the other in Ken Wood between Hampstead and Highgate. There were several small affluents along the whole course of the stream. The spot where the two branches united was in a place now called Hawley Road, Kentish Town Road. Its course then led past old St. Pancras Church, on the west, between St. Pancras and King’s Cross Stations on the east side of Gray’s Inn Road, down Farringdon Road, Farringdon Street, and New Bridge Street, into the Thames. The wells which gave the stream one of its names were—Clerkenwell, Skinnerswell, Fagswell, Godwell (sometimes incorrectly spelt Todwell), Loderswell, Radwell, Bridewell, St. Chad’s Well. At its mouth the stream was broad enough and deep enough to be navigable for a short distance. It became, however, in later times nothing better than an open pestilential sewer. Attempts were made from time to time to cleanse the stream, but without success. All attempts failed, for the simple reason that Acts of Parliament without an executive police and the goodwill of the people always do fail. Three hundred years later Ben Jonson describes its condition:—

Whose banks upon
Your Fleet Lane Furies and not Cooks do dwell,
That, with still scalding steam, make the place Hell;
The banks run grease and hair of meazled hogs,
The heads, houghs, entrails, and the hides of dogs;
For, to say truth, what scullion is so nasty
To put the skins and offals in a pasty?

The banks continued to be encumbered with tenements, lay-stalls, and “houses of office,” until the Fire swept all away. After this they were enclosed by a stone28 embankment on either side, and the lower part of the river became a canal forty feet wide, and, at the upper end, five feet deep, with wharves on both sides. Four bridges were built over the canal—viz. at Bridewell, at Fleet Street, at Fleet Lane, and at Holborn. But the canal proved unsuccessful, the stream became choked again and resumed its old function as a sewer. Everybody remembers the Fleet in connection with the Dunciad

To where Fleet Ditch with disemboguing streams
Rolls its large tribute of dead dogs to Thames.

In the year 1737 the canal between Holborn and Fleet Street was covered over, and in 1765 the lower part between Fleet Street and the Thames was also covered.

So much for the history of the stream. Its importance to the city was very great. It formed a natural ditch on the western side. Its eastern bank rose steeply, much more steeply than at present, forming originally a low cliff; its western bank was not so steep. Between what is now Fleet Lane and the Thames there was originally a small marsh covered with water at high tide, part, in fact, of the great Thames marsh; above Fleet Lane the stream became a pleasant country brook meandering among the fields and moors of the north. The Fleet determined the western boundary, and protected the city on that side.

The Walbrook, like the Westbourne, was formed by the confluence of several rills; its two main branches rose respectively in Hoxton and in Moorfields. It entered the city through a culvert a little to the west of Little Bell Alley, London Wall. It ran along the course of that alley; crossed Lothbury exactly east of St. Margaret’s Church; passed under the present Bank of England into Princes Street; and next under what is now the Joint Stock Bank, down St. Mildred’s Court, and so across the Poultry. It did not run down the street called “Walbrook,” but on the west side of it, past two churches which have now vanished—St. Stephen’s, which formerly stood exactly opposite its present site; and St. John, Walbrook, on the north-east corner of Cloak Lane,—and it made its way into the river between the lanes called Friars’ Alley and Joiners’ Hall. The outfall has been changed, and the stream now runs under Walbrook, finding its way into the Thames at Dowgate Dock.

When the City wall was built the water was conducted through it by means of a culvert; when the City ditch was constructed the water ceased, or only flowed after a downfall of heavy rain. But the Walbrook did not altogether cease; it continued as a much smaller stream from a former affluent rising under the south-east angle of the Bank of England. The banks of the Walbrook were a favourite place for the villas of the wealthier people in Roman London; many Roman remains have been found there; and piles of timber have been uncovered. A fragment of a bridge over the stream has also been found, and is in the Guildhall Museum.

It has been generally believed that the Walbrook was at no time other than a very small stream. The following passage, then, by Sir William Tite (Antiquities29 found in the Royal Exchange) will perhaps be received with some surprise. The fact of this unexpected discovery seems to have been neglected or disbelieved, because recent antiquaries make no reference to it. Any statement, however, bearing the name of Sir William Tite deserves at least to be placed on record.

“With respect to the width of the Walbrook, the sewerage excavations in the streets called Tower-Royal and Little St. Thomas Apostle, and also in Cloak Lane, discovered the channel of the river to be 248 feet wide, filled with made-earth and mud, placed in horizontal layers, and containing a quantity of black timber of small scantling. The form of the banks was likewise perfectly to be traced, covered with rank grass and weeds. The digging varied from 18 feet 9 inches in depth, but the bottom of the Walbrook was of course never reached in those parts, as even in Princes Street it is upwards of 30 feet below the present surface. A record cited by Stow proves that this river was crossed by several stone bridges, for which especial keepers were appointed; as also that the parish of St. Stephen-upon-Walbrook ought of right to scour the course of the said brook. That the river was navigable up to the City wall on the north is said to have been confirmed by the finding of a keel and some other parts of a boat, afterwards carried away with the rubbish, in digging the foundations of a house at the south-east corner of Moorgate Street. But whether such a discovery were really made or not, the excavations referred to appear at least to remove all the improbability of the tradition that ‘when the Walbrook did lie open barges were rowed out of the Thames or towed up to Barge yard.’ As the Church of St. Stephen-upon-Walbrook was removed to the present site in the year 1429, it is probable that the river was ‘vaulted over with brick and paved level with the streets and lanes through which it passed’ about the same period; the continual accumulation of mud in the channel, and the value of the space which it occupied, then rapidly increasing, equally contributing to such an improvement.”

Whether Sir William’s inference is correct or no, the river in early times, like the Fleet, partook of the tidal nature of the Thames.

Attempts have been made to prove that a stream or a rivulet at some time flowed along Cheapside and fell into the Walbrook. It is by no means impossible that there were springs in this place, just as there is, or was, a spring under what is now the site of the Bank of England. The argument, or the suggestion, is as follows:—

Under the tower of St. Mary-le-Bow were found the walls and pavement of an ancient Roman building, together with a Roman causeway four feet in thickness. The land on the north side of London was all moorish, with frequent springs and ponds. The causeway may have been conducted over or beside such a moorish piece of ground. Of course, in speaking of Roman London we must put aside altogether West Chepe as a street or as a market. Now it is stated that in the year30 1090, when the roof of Bow Church was blown off by a hurricane, the rafters, which were 26 feet long, penetrated more than 20 feet into the soft soil of Cheapside. The difficulty of believing this statement is very great. For if the soil was so soft it must have been little better than a quagmire, impossible for a foot-passenger to walk upon, and it would have been beyond the power of the time to build upon it. But if the rafters were hurled through the air for 400 feet or so, they might fall into the muddy banks of the Walbrook.14 A strange story is told by Maitland:—

“At Bread Street Corner, the North-east End, in 1595, one Thomas Tomlinson causing in the High Street of Cheap a Vault to be digged and made, there was found, at 15 feet deep, a fair Pavement, like that above Ground. And at the further End, at the Channel, was found a Tree, sawed into five Steps, which was to step over some Brook running out of the West, towards Walbrook. And upon the Edge of the said Brook, as it seemeth, there were found lying along the Bodies of two great Trees, the Ends whereof were then sawed off; and firm Timber, as at the first when they fell: Part of the said Trees remain yet in the Ground undigged. It was all forced Ground, until they went past the Trees aforesaid; which was about seventeen Feet deep, or better. Thus much hath the Ground of this City (in that Place) been raised from the Main.” (Maitland, vol. ii. pp. 826-827.)

It would seem as if at some remote period there had been at this spot either a marsh, or a pond, or a stream. If a stream, when was it diverted, and how? Or when did it dry up, and why? And did the stream, if there was one, run north, west, south, or east? There is no doubt that the ground has been raised some 18 feet since Roman times, for not only were the buildings under Bow Church at that depth, but opposite, under Honey Lane Market, Milk Street, and Mercers’ Hall, Roman remains have been found at the same depth.

In any case, West Chepe could not have come into existence as a market on the site of a running stream or on a quagmire, and the diversion or the digging up of the stream, if there was one, must have taken place before the settlement by the Saxons.

The Lea can hardly be considered as belonging to London. It is within the memory of men still living that suburbs of London have grown up upon its banks. But the marshes which still remain formed anciently an important defence of the City. They were as extensive, and, except in one or two places, without fords. The river which ran through them was broad and deep. It was probably in these marshes that the Roman legions on one occasion fell into difficulties. And except for the fords the Lea remained impassable for a long way north—nearly as far as Ware.

As regards the streams of the south, they have little bearing upon the history of the City. The essential point about the south was the vast extent of the marsh31 spread out before the newly founded town. Until the causeway from Stonegate Lambeth to the rising ground at Deptford was constructed these marshes were absolutely impassable. Four or five streams crossed them. The most westerly of these, the Wandle, discharges its waters opposite to Fulham; it is a considerable stream, and above Wandsworth is still dear to anglers. At its mouth a delta was formed exactly like that at Thorney; this was called afterwards Wandsworth Island. The Falcon Brook ran into the Thames above Battersea; it seems to have been an inconsiderable brook. No antiquary, so far as I know, has ever explored its course. The Effra is an interesting stream, because until quite recently—that is, within the last fifty years—it ran, an open, clear, and very beautiful brook, through the Dulwich Fields and down the Brixton Road past Kennington Church. In Rocque’s map it is made to rise about half a mile west of Dulwich College, near a spot called Island Green, which now appears as Knights’ Hill; but I am informed by a correspondent that this is wrong, and that it really rose in the hills of Norwood. It was a pretty stream flowing in front of cottages to which access was gained by little wooden bridges. The stream was overhung by laburnums, hawthorns, and chestnut trees. I myself remember seeing it as a boy in Dulwich Fields, but it was by that time already arched over lower down. There was a tradition that ships could formerly sail up the Effra as far as Kennington Church. It falls into the Thames nearly opposite Pimlico Pier. Had it kept its course without turning to the west it might have formed part of King Cnut’s trench, which would have accounted for the tradition of the ships. Another and a nameless stream is represented on old maps as flowing through the marsh into the Thames opposite the Isle of Dogs. The most easterly stream is the Ravensbourne, which at its mouth becomes Deptford Creek. This, like the Wandle and the Lea, was higher up a beautiful stream with many smaller affluents.

As for the land north and south of this marsh, it rises out of the marsh as a low cliff from twenty to forty feet high. On the south side this cliff is a mile, two miles, and even three miles from the river. On the north side, while there are very extensive marshes where now are Fulham, South and West Kensington, the Isle of Dogs, and the Valley of the Lea, further eastward the cliff approaches the river, touches it and overhangs it at one point near Dowgate, and runs close beside it as far as Charing Cross, whence it continues in a westerly direction, while the river turns south.

Behind the cliff on the south rose in long lines, one behind the other, a range of gentle hills. They were covered with wood. Between them, on high plateaux, extended heaths of great beauty clothed with gorse, heather and broom, bramble and wild flowers.

On the north the ground also rose beyond the first ridge of cliff, but slowly, till32 it met the range of hills now known as Hampstead and Highgate. All the ground was moorland waste and forest, intersected with rivulets, covered with dark ponds and quagmires: a country dangerous at all times, and sometimes quite impassable. On the northern part was the great forest called afterwards the Middlesex Forest.

Such in prehistoric days was the site of London. A more unpromising place for the situation of a great city can hardly be imagined. Marsh in front, and moor behind; marsh to right, and marsh to left; barren heath on the south to balance waste moorland on the north. A river filled with fish; islets covered with wild birds; a forest containing wild cattle, bear, and wolf; but of arable land, not an acre. A town does not live by hunting; it cannot live upon game alone; and yet on this forbidding spot was London founded; and, in spite of these unpromising conditions, London prospered.



Who were the earliest settlers and inhabitants of London?

Those who have seen the lake-dwellings of Glastonbury—to take a familiar illustration—and have considered the conditions necessary to such a colony, will come to the conclusion that there, at all events, lake-dwellers would find everything that Nature could give them. Thus, at Glastonbury the huts of the inhabitants were planted on wooden foundations in a marshy place, covered with water at high tide, perhaps at low tide as well. There was land within reach where the people could keep cattle, or could plough and sow and reap. That they did keep cattle and grow corn there is evidence in the things found beside and around the huts. Again, at Glastonbury there were many islets and a large extent of low-lying ground which were the homes and the resting-places of countless wild birds. And at Glastonbury the people were on a creek of the sea, and, by rowing a mile or two down the creek they could find themselves in deep water abounding with fish. All these conditions were also present at London: a deep and broad stream containing fish in abundance; an extensive marsh covered with islets where were wild birds in multitudes; and raised lands, such as that lying between Ludgate Hill and Charing Cross, which might be used for pasture or for tillage. If any remains of lake-dwellings were ever found among the marshes and shallow backwaters of London, it must have been long before such things were understood, so that they were swept away without so much as a record of their existence. It is not certain that there were such settlements here. If vestiges of them had ever been found among the marshes and tidal lagoons of the Essex coast, it would strengthen the theory that this prehistoric people had villages here. I believe, however, that no such remains have been found in Essex. My theory wants confirmation. I cannot prove, though I believe, that lake-dwellings were the first settlements on the London marshes: that the people drove piles into the mud and laid beams across—there was plenty of wood either on the Surrey hills or on the northern heights; that they made a floor or foundation of clay; that they carried uprights round the circular foundation; that they made their cottages wind and rain proof, with wattle and daub at the sides, and thatch for the roof;34 that every house had its boat, its net, its slings; that they grew corn on the land around; that they had flocks and herds; that they lived in such comfort as they knew or desired.

Whence they came, how long they stayed, why they departed or disappeared, I know not.

What I surmise, however, is theory. Whether it is true or not matters little; what happened next is more certain.

If you consider the site of London once more you will realise—I have already called attention to the point—that the cliff on the north side closes in and overhangs the river in two little hillocks beside the Walbrook. Between the feet of the two hills there is no marsh; the stream running down between the hills forms a natural port; either hillock is fit for the construction of a fort, such as forts were then. Hunters in the forest discovered these two hill-tops, with the moorland and the woods behind, and the river and the marsh in front. They came; they built their fort, protected partly by the steeply sloping sides to south and east, partly by stockade and trench; and they called the place Llyn Din, the Lake-Fortress. Why they came, when they came, how they dispossessed the lake-dwellers, against what real or imaginary foe they constructed their fort, I know not.

Nor do I know how long the people continued to occupy peacefully the fortress they had constructed. It may have been a period of many hundreds of years. The fort may have been besieged and taken a hundred times. Meantime there began, either before or after the construction of this fort or settlement of Llyn Din, some communication between the people of the island and those of the Continent. Trade was opened up; the islanders learned that there were many things which they could exchange and sell. There were Phœnicians who came for tin; there were Germans and Gauls who came for iron, skins, and slaves.

Trade began, but not yet in London, where the fisherman’s coracle was the only boat upon the river, and the cry of the wild duck, the song of the lark, and the swish of the water or the whistle of the wind among the reeds were the only sounds.

Higher up the Thames, as we know, there was an island, named, long afterwards, Thorney. It was a very large island, considering its position, being about a quarter of a mile in length and rather less in breadth. On the west side of this island was a branch of the great marsh already described; on the east side the river was broad and shallow and could be forded at low water, the ford conducting the traveller to another low island, afterwards called Lamb Hythe, probably meaning the Place of Mud. This was the lowest ford on the river, and the most convenient for those desirous of passing from Dover or the districts of Kent and Surrey to the north, or from the north and midland to Dover, then the principal, perhaps—unless Southampton had been founded already—the35 only trading port. So that the great highway which ran right through the country from Dover to Chester, with branches or affluents on either side, crossed the Thames at this point, passing straight through the marsh and ford. In other words, before the Port of London came into existence at all, Thorney was a stage or station on the highway up and down which flowed the whole trade of the island. Again, in other words, while London was as yet only a rude hill fortress, perhaps while it was only a village of lake-dwellers in the marsh, perhaps before it came into existence at all, Thorney was a place thronged with those who daily went across the ford and marsh, a busy and a populous place. This statement may not be readily accepted. Let us therefore examine more closely into the reasons which support it.

Archæological conclusions of every kind rest upon evidences which may be classified under five heads: (1) the evidence of situation; (2) the evidence of excavation; (3) the evidence of ancient monuments; (4) the evidence of tradition; and (5) the evidence of history, to which may be added the evidence of coins.

1. The Evidence of Situation.—This we have seen already. Thorney was a stepping-stone lying between a marsh and a tidal river fordable at low tide. It was on the great highway of trade from the north to the south. At high tide the marsh was covered with water and extended from the site of the future Abbey to the site of the future Buckingham Palace; it covered the sites of St. James’s Park, Tothill Fields, the Five Fields, part of Chelsea, Earl’s Court, and Victoria. At low tide it was a broad expanse of mud, relieved by patches of sedge and rush. One could wade across the marsh either at high or low tide. The way was marked by stakes, and by large stones laid in the mud. On the other side, the river, here much broader than below, was fordable at low water. The way, also marked by stakes, conducted the traveller from Thorney to Lamb Hythe, afterwards called Lambeth.

2. Evidence of Excavation.—Excavation has shown, what nothing else could have disclosed, the presence on this spot of the Romans. In 1869, a date at which the Roman occupation of Thorney had not been surmised, a very fine sarcophagus was found in the nave of the Abbey with the name of Valerius Amandinus upon it. A cross is cut upon the cover, so that the occupant—perhaps not the first—was a Christian. Probably he was a Christian of the third or fourth century. The sarcophagus is now placed at the entrance of the Chapter-House (see p. 67). Ten years ago another discovery was made: in digging a grave under the pavement of the nave a fine mosaic pavement was discovered. There was therefore a Roman villa on this spot. And during the last few years, which have witnessed a great deal of digging at Thorney, Roman fragments have been found in great quantities. There was therefore, most certainly, a Roman settlement upon this island.


3. Evidence of Ancient Monuments.—The evidence of monuments is simply this. The great high road through the Midlands to Chester and to York, found here as a beaten track by the Romans, converted by them into a Roman road after the customary fashion, named afterwards by the Saxons Watling Street, ran formerly straight along what is now the Edgware Road; when it reached the spot now covered by the Marble Arch it continued down Park Lane, or, as it was once called, Tyburn Lane, till it reached the end of the marsh already described. There it broke off abruptly. At this point the traveller began to wade through the marsh. Arrived at Thorney, he made of it a resting-place for the night. In the morning, when he proceeded with his journey, he forded the river at low tide, and presently found himself once more upon a solid road, the memory of which is still preserved in Stangate Street, Lambeth.

From Archæologia, vol. x.

4. We have next the Evidence of Tradition.—According to this authority we learn that the first Christian king was one Lucius, who in the year 178 addressed a letter to the then Pope, Eleutherius, begging for missionaries to instruct his people and himself in the Christian faith. The Pope sent two priests named Ffagan and Dyfan, who converted the whole island. Bede tells this story; the old Welsh chroniclers also tell it, giving the British name of the king, Lleurwg ap Coel ap Cyllin. He it was who erected a church on the Isle of Thorney, in place of a temple of Apollo formerly standing there. We are reminded, when we read this story, that St. Paul’s Cathedral was said to have been built on the site of a temple of Diana.

This church, it is said, continued in prosperity until the arrival, two hundred and fifty years later, of the murderous Saxon. First, news came up the river that the invader was on the Isle of Rum, which we call Thanet; next, that he held the river on both banks; then that he had overrun Essex, that he had overrun Kent.37 And when that happened the procession of merchandise stopped suddenly, for the ports of Kent were in the hands of the enemy. There was no more traffic on Watling Street. The travellers grew fewer daily, till one day a troop of wild Saxons came across the ford, surprised the priests and the fisher-folk who still remained, and left the island as desolate and silent as could be desired for the meditation of holy men. This done, the Saxons went on their way. They overran the midland country; they drove the Britons back—still farther back—till they reached the mountains. No more news came to Thorney, for, though the ford continued, the island, like so many of the Roman stations, remained waste.

From Archæologia, vol. x.

In fulness of time the Saxon himself settled down, became a man of peace, obeyed the order of the convert king to be baptized and to enter the Christian faith; and when King Sebert had been persuaded to build a church to St. Paul on the highest ground of London, he was further convinced that it was his duty to restore the ruined church of St. Peter on the Isle of Thorney beside the ford. Scandal, indeed, would it be for the throng that once more daily passed through the ford and over the island to see, in a Christian country, the neglected ruins of a Christian church. Accordingly the builders soon set to work, and before long the church rose tall and stately. The Miracle of the Hallowing, often told, may be repeated here. On the eve of the day fixed by the Bishop of London for the hallowing and dedication of the new St. Peter’s, one Edric, a fisherman, who lived in Thorney, was awakened by a loud voice calling him by name. It was midnight. He arose and went forth. The voice called him again from the opposite side of the river, which is now Lambeth, bidding him put out his boat to ferry a man across the river. He obeyed. He found on the shore a venerable person whose face and habiliments he knew not. The stranger bore in his hands certain vessels which, as Edric perceived, could only be intended for church purposes. However, he said nothing, but38 received this mysterious visitor into his boat and rowed him across the river. Arrived in Thorney, the stranger directed his steps to the church and entered the portal. Straightway—lo! a marvel—the church was lit up as by a thousand wax tapers, and voices arose chanting psalms—sweet voices such as no man had ever heard before. He stood and listened. The voices, he understood, could be none other than those of angels come down from heaven itself to sing the first service in the new church. Then the voices fell, and he heard one voice loud and solemn; and then the heavenly choir uplifted their voices again. Presently all was still: the service was over; the lights went out as suddenly as they had appeared; and the stranger came forth.

“Know, O Edric,” he said, while the fisherman’s heart glowed within him, “know that I am Peter. I have hallowed the church myself. To-morrow I charge thee that thou tell these things to the Bishop, who will find in the church a sign and a token of my hallowing. And for another token, put forth again upon the river, cast thy nets, and thou shalt receive so great a draught of fishes that there will be no doubt left in thy mind. But give one-tenth to this my holy church.”

So he vanished, and the fisherman was left alone upon the river bank; but he put forth as he was directed, and cast his net, and presently brought ashore a miraculous draught.

In the morning the Bishop with his clergy, and the King with his following, came up from London in their ships to hallow the church. They were received by Edric, who told them this strange story. And within the church the Bishop found the lingering fragrance of incense far more precious than any that he could offer; on the altar were the drippings of wax candles (long preserved as holy relics, being none other than the wax candles of heaven), and written in the dust certain words in the Greek character. He doubted no longer. He proclaimed the joyous news. He held a service of thanksgiving instead of a hallowing. Who would not hold a service of praise and humble gratitude for such a mark of heavenly favour? And after service they returned to London and held a banquet, with Edric’s finest salmon lying on a lordly dish in the midst.

How it was that Peter, who came from heaven direct, could not cross the river except in a boat was never explained or asked. Perhaps we have here a little confusion between Rome and Heaven. Dover Street, we know, broke off at the edge of the marsh, and Dover Street led to Dover, and Dover to Rome.

5. We are now prepared for the Evidence of History, which is not perhaps so interesting as that of tradition. Clio, it must be confessed, is sometimes dull. One misses the imagination and the daring flights of her sister, the tenth Muse—the Muse of Fiction. The earliest document which refers to the Abbey is a conveyance by Offa, King of Mercia, of a manor called Aldenham to “St. Peter and the people of the Lord dwelling in Thorney, that ‘terrible’—i.e. sacred—place which is at39 Westminster.” The date of this ancient document is A.D. 785; but Bede, who died in 736, does not mention the foundation. Either, therefore, Bede passed it over purposely, or it was not thought of importance enough to be mentioned. He does relate the building of St. Paul’s; but, on the other hand, he does not mention the hundreds of churches which sprang up all over the country. So that we need not attach any importance to the omission. My own opinion is that the church—a rude country church, perhaps—a building like that of Greenstead, Essex, the walls of split trees and the roof of rushes, was restored early in the seventh century, and that it did succeed an earlier church still. The tradition connected with this church is as ancient as anything we know about it, and the legend of Lucius and his church is at least supported by the recent discoveries of Roman remains and the certainty that the place was always of the greatest importance.

Nero MS., D. 1.

There is another argument—or an illustration—in favour of the antiquity of some church, rude or not, upon this place. I advance it as an illustration, though to myself it appears to be an argument. I mean the long list of relics possessed by the Abbey at the Dedication of the year 1065. We are not concerned with the question whether the relics were genuine or not, but merely with the fact that they were preserved by the monks as having been the gifts of various benefactors—Sebert, Offa, Athelstan, Edgar, Ethelred, Cnut, Queen Emma, and Edward himself. A church of small importance and of recent building would not dare to parade such pretensions. It takes time even for pretences to gain credence and for legends to grow. The relics ascribed to Sebert and Offa could easily have been carried away on occasion of attack. As for the nature of these sacred fragments, it is pleasant to40 read of sand and earth brought from Mount Sinai and Olivet; of the beam which supported the holy manger; of a piece of the holy manger; of frankincense presented by the Magi; of the seat on which our Lord was presented at the Temple; of portions of the holy cross presented by four kings at different times; of bones and vestments belonging to Apostles and Martyrs and the Virgin Mary, and saints without number, whose very names are now forgotten. In the cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle you may see just such a collection as that which the monks of St. Peter displayed before the reverent and uncritical eyes of the Confessor. We may remember that in the ninth and tenth centuries the rage for pilgrimising extended over the whole of Western Europe; pilgrims crowded every road, they marched in armies, and they returned laden with treasures—water from the Jordan, sand from Sinai, clods of earth from Gethsemane, and bones and bits of sacred wood without number. When Peter the Hermit arose to preach, it was but putting a match to a pile ready to be fired. But for such a list as that preserved by history, there was need of time as well as of credulity.

Roman Britain, we have said, was Christian for at least a hundred and fifty years. Therefore it would be nothing out of the way or unusual to find monastic buildings on Thorney in the fourth century. There was as yet no Benedictine Rule. St. Martin of Tours introduced the Egyptian Rule into Gaul—whence it was taken over to England and to Ireland. It was a simple Rule, resembling that of the Essenes. No one had any property; all things were in common; the only art allowed to be practised was that of writing. The older monks devoted their whole time to prayer; they took their meals together—bread and herbs with salt—and, except for common prayer and common meals, they rarely left their cells; these were at first simple huts constructed of clay and bunches of reeds; their churches were of wood; they shaved their heads to the line of the ears; they wore leather jerkins, probably because these lasted longer than cloth of any kind; many of them wore hair shirts. The wooden church became a stone church; the huts became cells built about a cloister; next, the cells themselves were abolished, and a common dormitory was substituted.

All this evidence very clearly, in my opinion, points to the main fact that Thorney was occupied by the Romans because it was a busy and crowded station on the high road of British trade.

I have dwelt at some length upon this subject, because the theory of the earlier antiquity of a town at Thorney, if it can be proved, brings the foundation of London to a comparatively recent period, though it still leaves us in the dark as to the date.

We have various records as to this trade. We need not suppose that Himilco visited and described the island, but we must not hastily reject the evidence of Pytheas, whose travels took place about the middle of the fourth century B.C. Pytheas coasted round Gaul, landed on the shores of Brittany, and worked up the41 Channel till he came to a place called “Cantion,” which is perhaps Dover, and perhaps the North Foreland. Here he landed, and here he stayed for some time, namely, during the whole of the summer. He found that a great deal of wheat was raised in the fields; that it was threshed in covered barns instead of unroofed floors as in the south of France; that the climate was cloudy and wet; that the longest day was nineteen hours, and that on the shortest day the sun does not rise more than three cubits above the horizon; that there were cultivated fruits, a great abundance of some domestic animals and a scarcity of others; that the people fed on millet, vegetables, roots, and fruit; and that they made a drink of honey and wheat—a kind of beer.

The next traveller in Britain of whom an account remains was Posidonius, about a hundred years before Christ. He described the tin mines in Cornwall. He says that the tin is made up into slabs shaped like knuckle-bones, and carried to an island named Ictis, “lying in front of Britain”—another account makes this island six days’ sail from Cornwall. The channel between Ictis and Britain was dry at low tide, when the tin was carried over. It was then taken across to Gaul, and carried across the country by thirty days’ journey to Marseilles. The estuary between Thanet and Kent, now silted up, was formerly open for ships at high tide, and fordable at low tide.

The following is the account given by Avienus, a writer of the fourth century (quoted in Charles I. Elton’sOrigins of English History):—

“Beneath this promontory spreads the vast Œstrymnian gulf, in which rise out of the sea the islands Œstrymnides, scattered with wide intervals, rich in metal of tin and lead. The people are proud, clever, and active, and all engaged in incessant cares of commerce. They furrow the wide rough strait, and the ocean abounding in sea-monsters, with a new species of boat. For they know not how to frame keels with pine or maple, as others use, nor to construct their curved barks with fir; but, strange to tell, they always equip their vessels with skins joined together, and often traverse the salt sea in a hide of leather. It is two days’ sail from hence to the Sacred Island, as the ancients called it, which spreads a wide space of turf in the midst of the waters, and is inhabited by the Hibernian people. Near to this again is the broad island of Albion.”

Elton quotes Posidonius on the trade in tin. The merchants, he says, buy the tin from the natives, and carry it over to Gaul.

Here, then, we have proof of an ancient and extensive trade in tin, and of a certain stage in civilisation.

There is, however, more.

In the second century B.C. the people had towns, which were stockaded forts, and villages. They lived in beehive huts, built with wood and wattle, having roofs of fern and thatch. They were skilled in some of the arts. They could make cloth and linen for summer and for winter use; they could dye these materials various colours. They could work in gold, and wore collars, bracelets, and rings of gold. They dyed their hair red. They wore a cuirass of plaited leather or chain mail; for42 arms they carried sword, pike, bow and arrow, and the sling. They also had scythed war-chariots. Their weapons were of steel, they could therefore work in iron; they used a wheeled plough.

Fifty years before the Roman invasion the King of Soissons, Divitiacus, had made a partial conquest of South Britain, but for generations before this there had been immigration into the island from Belgium and settlements had been made along the coast and the rivers.

The internal and external trade of the country is proved by the evidence of coins.

Strutt’sSports and Pastimes.

Where there is a coinage there is trade. That is to say, trade may be carried on without a coinage, but the existence of a coinage is a proof that the art of trading is understood, and has long been carried on. Now the people of this island had their own coinage before Julius Cæsar landed. How long before is quite uncertain. Some of their ancient coins are believed to be of the second century B.C. These are supposed to have been modelled on the coins of the Greeks of the age of Philip of Macedon, but taken from Gaulish patterns. At the same time, some of the coins have the appearance of being “centuries older than Cæsar’s first expedition” (Monumenta Historica Britannica, Introd. 151). In either case they are a proof of long-standing trade, and may have been of very remote antiquity. That the trade was internal is proved by the fact that ancient British coins belonging to the south of the country have been found in the north.

We may, therefore, safely conclude that all these facts point to the existence of a large trade between the island and the Continent. It was not out of charity that the tin mines were worked, and the tin sent to Thanet for exportation.

If now we consider the Roman highways, which were certainly based on the more ancient tracks, we shall find, not only that five of them converge on London, but also that London, considering the vast forests as well as the course of the rivers and the conformation of the coast, was actually the true centre for the reception and distribution of imports, and for the reception and forwarding of exports. And we may further conclude that since Pytheas and Posidonius were evidently received with hospitality and travelled about everywhere without fear of violence, the people of the island were accustomed to visits of foreigners who came to trade. In a word, it is impossible to say when trade first began between Britain and the Continent; impossible to estimate its extent; and impossible to ascertain when the principal centre of trade was found to be most conveniently placed at or near the site of London.


From Archæologia, vol. vii.

When first we hear of London at all we learn several very suggestive facts. First, that the City was already the resort of merchants; next, that there was a close connection with, and a great intercourse between, Gallia and Britannia; thirdly, that the people of the south, at least, possessed the same arts, the same civilisation, as the Gauls. And the latter had already arrived at that stage when certain things, impossible to be grown or produced on their own soil, had ceased to be luxuries, and had become necessaries. Again, we learn shortly afterwards that the island was thickly populated. Queen Boadicea’s army, raised wholly in the eastern counties, contained many thousands; so many that the scattered bands of her army were able to destroy a great number—history loosely says 70,000, which we may take to stand for a great number—of the inhabitants of Verulam, London, and Camulodunum. Again, another point, never yet considered in this connection, seems also to indicate dense population. All the way from London down to the Nore, round a large part of the coast of Essex, and along the coast of Lincolnshire where the foreshore is a marsh, there runs a great and magnificent embankment. It is not, so far as can be judged, Roman; that is to say, it has none of the Roman characteristics: it is a great solid wall of earth faced with stone which has stood for ages, only giving way at points here and there, as at Barking in the reign of King Stephen, and at Dagenham in the reign of Queen Anne. Now, in order to construct such a work two things are necessary: there must be abundance of labour, also new ground for cultivation must be in demand. Both these requisites point to a large population. Given a large population; given also a demand for foreign commodities among the44 wealthier class; given, further, the production of goods wanted abroad—slaves, metals, skins, wool—we can have no doubt that the trade of Britain, the northern and midland part of which passed over Thorney, was continuous and very considerable.

In other words, this islet in the midst of marsh and ford, which we have been always assured was in early times a wild and desolate spot; chosen, we are also told, as the site of a monastery on account of its seclusion and remoteness; was, long before any monastery was built there, the scene of a continuous procession of those who journeyed south and those who journeyed north. It was a halting and a resting place for a stream of travellers which flowed continuously all the year round. By way of Thorney passed the merchants, with the wares which they were going to embark at Dover bestowed upon pack-horses. By way of Thorney they drove the long strings of slaves to be sold in Gaul and perhaps carried into Italy. By way of Thorney passed the caravans for the north. Always, day after day, even night after night, there was the clamour of those who came and of those who went: such a clamour as used to belong, for instance, to the courtyard of an old-fashioned inn, in and out of which lumbered the loaded waggon grinding heavily over the stones, the stage-coach, the post-chaise, the merchant rider on his nag—all with noise. The Isle of Thorney was like that courtyard: it was a great inn, a halting-place, a bustling, noisy, frequented place, the centre, and, before the rise of London, the heart of Britain. No quiet, desolate place, but the actual living centre of the traffic of the whole island. Not a fortress or a place of strategic importance, but, as regards the permanent population, a gathering of people drawn together in order to provide for the wants of travellers—a collection of inns and taverns.

Thus far we have got. In very early times London was a settlement of lake-dwellers, then it became a British fortress. Meantime, communications were established with Gaul by way of Dover, trade began; the natural highway for trade from the midland and the north was by way of the most easterly ford over the Thames, therefore Thorney became a busy and important place, as lying on the trade route of London.

At some time or other merchants found out that London was a much more convenient and more central place than Dover. The voyage was along the Kentish coast, for a few miles beyond Dover, and passed by the strait which parted Thanet from the mainland into the estuary of the Thames, whence it was safe and easy sailing up the stream to the new trading port of the lake-fortress.

The next development, naturally, was the diversion of a large part of the trade from Thorney to London. This diversion took place at the spot we now call Marble Arch, where the course of the highway was abandoned, and a new road traced along what is now Oxford Street and Holborn into the City of London. And thus, gradually, the importance of Thorney dwindled away. That it remained the stepping-stone for a large part of the trade till the building of London Bridge there can be no45 reason to doubt. Perhaps a considerable part of the trade would have been carried by the old way still but for the embankment of the river, which destroyed the ford. There remained the Ferry, which continued until the middle of the last century. A good deal of trade, no doubt, still crossed by the Ferry, but when London Bridge was built, and the shipping lay in the river for the reception of the merchandise, the route to Dover became gradually abandoned. This we may readily believe would be some time in the fourth century.

It has been said that no dates can be ascertained which will guide us in assigning any period to these events. There is, however, one fact which gives a negative evidence: when Pytheas made his famous voyage to Britain he does not seem to have seen London. He says nothing about it. It seems from his account that trade with Gaul had not yet assumed considerable proportions; that with the Phœnician ships for tin was confined to the south-western district, and London, which has never been anything but a place of trade, was not even mentioned to this traveller. Perhaps—but I do not think that this was so—London did not yet exist.

From Archæologia, vol. xviii.

Who were the people that built this fortress over the lake and received the merchants? They were Celts, and the name that they gave to their citadel, Llyn Din, is Celtic. Their manners and customs are as well known as those of any ancient people; their religion is described at length by many historians; they had poets, musicians, and priests. They wore on occasion robes embroidered with gold; they had copied the civilisation of their neighbours the Gauls. The evidence of the barrows in which the dead were buried shows a great variety of implements and the knowledge of some arts. Their weapons were mostly of bronze; their swords were of the “leaf” shape; the spear-heads were of bronze, and their long knives also of bronze. They carried shields of bronze. They wore neither helmet nor cuirass; round the neck they placed an iron collar and round the body an iron belt. They had stone clubs and flint-headed arrows; they had bronze trumpets; they knew how to coin money; they practised the art of pottery, making very good vases and pots; and they made, and used, the terrible war-chariot—a piece of one was discovered some time ago in Somersetshire.

Again, it is necessary to clear up our ideas concerning the early trade of London. When we speak on the subject, we are naturally inclined to think of a mediæval town settled with government residents, a better class, market-places, trade regulations, and46 all the accessories of a late period. Let us, therefore, with a view to this clearance of understanding, consider the conditions of trade in the centuries—I repeat that I do not consider that the coming of the Romans had anything to do with the foundation of London—before the Roman period.

I. The first trading port of the Thames, as we have seen, was that of Thorney Island—a small place at best, and incapable of enlargement on account of the marsh-land all round it in every direction except the south.

II. The discovery of London—with its high ground overhanging the river, its port of the outflow of the Walbrook, its greater safety, its ease of access by sea and river—diverted much of the trade from Thorney, and gradually all the trade.

III. It is impossible to assign any date for this diversion: only one point is certain, that some importance was attached to Thorney as a trading centre in Roman times, because the islet is full of Roman remains.

IV. We take up the story, therefore, at some indefinite period which began as long before the arrival of the Romans as the reader pleases to assume, and continued until after the massacre by Boadicea’s insurgents.

The first and most important condition to be observed is that the trade of London could only be carried on during the summer months. It was only in the summer that the ships ventured to cross the Channel; crept along the coast of Kent, and passed through the channel between Thanet and the mainland into the river. During the winter months the sailing of the ships was entirely stopped; the ocean was deserted. This condition was observed for many centuries afterwards: no ships ventured to put out for six months at least in the year; even the pirates of the North Sea hauled up their vessels, and when the Danes came, they remained for six months every year in their winter quarters.

It was also only in the summer that inland trade could be carried on. During the winter intercommunications were most difficult, and in many places impossible; towns were isolated and had to depend on their own resources; village was separated from village by fenland, moorland, forest, and trackless marsh: there could be no transport of goods; there were no markets.

The main limitation, therefore, of early trade was that it had to be carried on during the summer months alone: allowing for the time taken up by the voyage to and from the port at either end, the foreign trade on which the inland trade depended was of necessity confined to a few weeks.

What does this mean? That the exports had to be brought to the Port by a certain time: they came on the backs of slaves or by pack-horses. The imports had to be carried into the country for sale and distribution as a return journey by the same slaves and pack-horses. The goods were brought from the country down to the quays, which were rough and rude constructions on piles and baulks of timber on47 either side of the mouth of the Walbrook, and were there exchanged for the imports. The ships discharged one cargo, then took in another, and sailed away. Nothing was left over; there was no overlapping of one year with another; there was no storage of goods over the winter. When the ships were gone and the caravans had started on their journey through the country, there was nothing more to be done at the Port till the next season. London might fall asleep, if there were any London.

In other words, the trade of London at this period was nothing more than an annual Fair held in the months of July and August, frequented by the foreign merchants bringing their imports and carrying off the exports in their vessels, and by the traders, who led their long processions of pack-horses and slaves from the country to the port, arriving at the time when the ships were due; they exchanged what they brought for the goods that came in the ships, and then went away again. Where they spent the winter it is impossible to say. It is, however, quite certain that they came to London in the summer from north, east, south, and west; that they could not come at any other time. These considerations enable us to understand that London was crowded every summer during the few weeks of trade, but that in winter there was no trade, no communication with any other place, and no communication with abroad. Were there no merchants who stored goods and kept them over who lived in London permanently? None. As yet, none.

The place was, in fact, exactly like Sturbridge beside Cambridge. During the annual Fair in summer Sturbridge was a considerable town; trading of all kinds and from all countries crowded to the place; the shops and booths were arranged in streets; these streets were filled with traders and private persons who came from all parts of the country to the Fair. When the Fair was over the traders disappeared, the booths were swept away, the place became a large common, empty and deserted till the next season.

This was the case with London. The trading season was in July and August, as I read the story: during these months the high ground either on the east or the west of Walbrook was covered with shops and booths made of wattle and clay. When the Fair was over the temporary structures were taken down, or perhaps left to be repaired in the following season; the conflux of people vanished, and there was no Port of London for another year. London had no importance at all except during the short season of the Fair. Nor were there any residents of importance. There were left none others than the humble folk who fished in the river, trapped the birds of the marsh, hunted in the forests, and worked for the ships while they were in the Port.

I think that the annual Fair was held on the west side of Walbrook, for the simple reason that the Romans, when they built their citadel, chose the eastern side—that is to say, they took the eastern hill because they were unwilling to interfere with the trade of the place, which was mainly carried on upon the western hill.48 There was no bridge as yet—otherwise there could have been no massacre by the offended Queen (see p. 59). As to the time when trade became large, and so continuous as to demand the erection of warehouses and the creation of a body of wholesale merchants, I am not able to offer even an approximate opinion. My conclusions belong to an earlier time, yet partly a Roman time, when London represented nothing but an annual Fair, while there were no public buildings, no municipal institutions, no officers or rulers, except the temporary administrators of a temporary exhibition. And, as at a Fair, when it was over nothing was left in store or warehouse for the next year. The ships left their imports behind them, and brought back exports with them.

It would be interesting to inquire into the continuance of the summer trade and the slackness of the winter long after the character of the annual Fair had left London. Galleys came, we know, from Venice and Genoa every summer; ships laden with wine came every summer from Bordeaux; ships of the Hanseatic League put out and came into port every summer from north Europe and the Baltic. What was done in the twelfth century, for example, during the winter? What amount of trade could have been carried over roads which for two-thirds of the year were practically impassable?

The theory of the Fair explains why Cæsar made no mention of London, and why the Romans at first placed no permanent garrison in the place: they saw it crowded for a few weeks, and then deserted and of no account. The massacre of Boadicea first awakened them to a sense of its strategic as well as its commercial importance. When they built their citadel and their bridge it was not only to defend the trade of a few weeks and the scanty population of fisher-folk, but also to seize and to occupy a stronghold of capital importance as a great military as well as a great commercial centre. It also explains why no remains of pre-Roman buildings have been found on the site of London. Because there were none. The copia mercatorum came, stayed a few weeks or days, and went away. They found inns and booths for their accommodation; when they left, the inns and booths were closed, or left to fall to pieces, for another twelve months.

In the course of time, when the bulk of trade increased and goods of all kinds began to be stored in warehouses and kept over from year to year, the limits of the busy time were naturally extended. There was a great deal to be done in the way of warehousing, arrangement for the next summer, arrangement with retail merchants and the owners of caravans which went about the country. But there still remained the time—six or eight months—during which no ships arrived in port, and the roads of the country were impassable.

The warehousing, with the rise of a class of men who held the warehouses and became wholesale merchants, marks a period of extension and increase in the trade of the Port.


From Archæologia, vol. x.

With the Romans came the time of good roads, warehouses, a settled and continuous trade, a class of wholesale merchants, quays of convenient size, new and artificial ports, and the residence for life of a wealthy and highly civilised community who built villas along the banks of the Walbrook, and imitated, though imperfectly, the arts and civilisation of Bordeaux, Marseilles, Treves, and even of Rome.


One point more may be noticed before we step into the open light of history. The position of London from the very first has been that of a town which has had to depend upon outside or distant places for her supplies. In front of her, on either side of her stretched marshes; behind her stretched moorland: she could grow nothing for her own people. Outside other towns lay farms, gardens, and pastures: outside London there was neither farm, nor garden, nor pasture; except the fish in the river and the fowl in the marsh-land, there was nothing. The merchant in the time of Agricola, as much as the merchant in the time of Victoria, lived upon food brought in by private enterprise.

The prehistoric monuments existing in and round London are two in number: they are the river embankment and the Hampstead barrow. The date of the embankment cannot be guessed: there is nothing at all to mark the time of its construction. For trade purposes an embankment must have been made as soon as trade in London began to develop. We shall see presently what happened on the north bank. But it was not enough to improve the river at London Port: it was necessary to reclaim the marsh-land all along the river north and south. The wall so built has often been repaired, but it is substantially the same as that originally constructed. Few know or consider the greatness of the work or the extent of ground it has converted from marsh-land into pasture. Those who wish to see it may walk along it from Barking to Tilbury, or from Tilbury to Southend.

The Hampstead barrow has been called Queen Boadicea’s grave. There is, however, nothing to lead to the belief that the British Queen lies buried here. In November 1894 the barrow was opened and carefully examined. Nothing was found in it—no weapons, no cups, no ornaments, no bones, no human dust; nothing but “pockets” of charcoal. There may have been interments in the barrow; the bodies may have been entirely destroyed so as to leave no trace behind: such things have been known; but they are not customary. Prof. Hales has suggested that the barrow is a simple boundary hillock, a position which he has defended with much learning. However, the question cannot be determined.

There is one name still surviving in London which may possibly belong to the London of pre-Roman times. The Welsh name for London is Caer Ludd—the City of Ludder Lud. Now Lludd among the Welsh was the same as Lir, an ocean-god (Charles Elton, Origins of English History). Can we see in the name Ludgate the survival of the name of a Celtic god to whom perhaps a temple stood on the hillock overlooking the Thames in the south and the Fleet in the west?





In August of the year 55 B.C., Cæsar landed on the coast of Britain with eighty ships, and two legions, the 7th and the 10th. He stayed in the country three weeks, and during that short period he fought two battles. In the summer of the following year he landed again with an army of thirty or forty thousand men and eight hundred ships. The Britons retreated before his advance, and fought him first at the passage of the Stour, when they were defeated, and next at a fortified ford across the Thames, perhaps the place indicated by tradition, now called “Cowey Stakes,” near Walton on Thames, where they were again defeated. He then marched upon the stronghold of Cassivellaunus, the British general, took it by storm, accepted the submission of the tribes and departed, leaving the island nominally submissive to the Roman power. He tells us that the manners and customs of the people of Kent closely resembled those of the Gauls, but that in the more northern parts the people were much ruder. He also tells us that the trade with Gaul was carried on by way of Kent.

I have shown the reasons for believing that there was an extensive trade with Gaul; that it passed through Kent by the road afterwards called Watling Street and over Thorney Island; that Thorney was a populous and prosperous place; and that London when the Romans came was already a port with a considerable amount of trade.

Nearly a hundred years passed away before the islanders were again disturbed by their Roman conquerors. The prudence of Augustus would not allow any increase to the garrisoned frontier of the vast Empire. During this century great changes took place in the island. Many of the Gauls, escaping from their conquered country, had crossed the Channel and settled in Britannia: the Atrebates on the country north and south of the upper Thames; the Parisii in Yorkshire; the Belgæ between the Solent and the Bristol Channel. The islanders knew the use of money; they adopted iron and steel for their weapons instead of bronze; they worked their gold, silver, and iron mines; they exported cattle, hides, slaves, wheat and barley, and sporting dogs; their chieftains grew rich; they built cities.

During this century of development London may possibly have been founded.54 As we explained in the last chapter, the first essential fact to be discovered was the central position of London as a port. This once grasped, the rest would follow easily and quickly. However, this guessing at a date in a prehistoric event is of little use. The fact is, we do not know when London was founded, but I have attempted to prove that the City began with an annual Fair.

It was eighty-eight years after Cæsar’s first visit that Britain was again invaded. The invasion was undertaken partly at the instigation of one Bericus, a British prince who had fled to Rome for protection; partly because, though a so-called province, the country paid no tribute and sent no hostages; partly because of the belief that it was rich in gold, silver, and pearls.

The Emperor Claudius therefore resolved upon a new invasion of Britain. Four legions, the 2nd, the 9th, the 14th, and the 20th, together with cavalry and auxiliaries, making perhaps 50,000 men, formed the army of invasion under Aulus Plautius in the year A.D. 43. Some delay was caused by the mutinous conduct of the troops, who declared that Britain lay beyond the limits of the world and refused to embark. However, they agreed at length to follow their General. With Aulus Plautius were Vespasian, afterwards Emperor, and Vespasian’s brother, Flavius Sabinus. What happened next to the Roman army is vaguely told by Dion Cassius. The whole passage is confused: it is evidently written by one who has no map before him: there is only one thing clear, viz. that at high tide there was a broad expanse of water, and at low tide a marsh. Consider the passage—Dion’s account is quoted in Edwin Guest’sOrigines Celticæ, vol. ii. p. 397:—

“When they had come to a certain river which the barbarians did not think the Romans could pass without a bridge, and on that account were encamped on the opposite side somewhat carelessly, he sends forward the Keltoi, whose custom it is to swim, with their arms, even over the most rapid rivers; and they having thus fallen on their opponents unexpectedly, though they hit none of the men, and only wounded the horses that drew the chariots, yet, as they were thus thrown into confusion, the riders could no longer be sure of their safety. He sent over also Flavius Vespasianus, the same who afterwards obtained the supreme power, and his brother Sabinus, who served under him as lieutenant, and so they also, having somewhere passed the river, slew many of the barbarians who were not expecting them. The rest, however, did not fly; but on the following day, having again come to an engagement, they contended on almost equal terms, till Cneius Osidius Geta, after running the risk of being captured, so thoroughly defeated them that he obtained triumphal honours, though he had never been Consul. The Britons having withdrawn themselves thence to the river Thames whence it empties itself into the ocean and at flow of tide forms a lake, and having easily passed it, as being well acquainted with such parts as were firm and easy of passage, the Romans followed them, but on this occasion failed in their object. The Keltoi, however, having again swum over, and certain others having passed by a bridge a little higher up, engaged them on several sides at once, and cut off many of them; but following the rest heedlessly, they fell into difficult marshes, and lost many of their men.”

The learned antiquary, Dr. Guest, is of opinion that London had as yet no existence, for it lay beyond the limits of the Trinobantes; that the marshes in which Aulus Plautius found himself entangled were those of the river Lea; that when he55 withdrew his soldiers he encamped on what is now the site of London, and that his camp began the City. He also supposes an uninhabited marsh-land stretching from the Lea to the Brent. All this is pure assumption. Nothing is said by the historian about any camp on the site of London. Moreover, Dion Cassius says nothing about the foundation of London, which, when he wrote his history about the end of the second century, was a very great and important city. And, as we have seen, Tacitus, writing in A.D. 61, speaks of London—it is the first mention of the town—as a populous and much-frequented place. One cannot believe that such a city would spring up and flourish in eighteen years. That London is on the confines or outside the confines of the Trinobantes does not affect the question, because most assuredly the foundation of London and its importance were due to its central position as a port and place of trade. My own opinion, already advanced, is simply that, at the coming of the Romans, London had arrived at importance on account of the annual Fair, but on no other account.

The first observation, however, that occurs on reading this passage is that the historian wrote without a map and without any knowledge of the country. It is perfectly impossible even to guess where the “certain river” was; how far it was from the Thames; where, upon the Thames, the Romans fell into the marshes; or where was the bridge over which some of the army passed. Dr. Guest thinks that the historian or the document from which he obtained his account confused the Lea with the Thames. That, however, brings us no nearer his point, which is that the Roman camp in which, after the engagements, Aulus Plautius awaited the arrival of the Emperor Claudius, was on the site of London and was the actual origin of the City. We may observe that there was not any bridge over the Thames for at least a hundred years after this battle. The only British bridges were those of which two or three examples, perhaps, survive, as on Dartmoor, where a narrow and shallow stream is crossed by slabs of stone lying on boulders or upright blocks. It is perfectly certain that there was no such bridge over the Thames; there may have been one over the Lea, but higher up. For “bridge” read ford perhaps. But the whole narrative is too confused. If the camp had been upon one of the twin hillocks overhanging the Walbrook, the historian would scarcely fail to call attention to the fact that on this spot had grown up one of the largest and most important towns in the Roman Empire. But a little consideration will show that Aulus Plautius would not have placed his camp on that place. First, even a Roman army did not march through thick forest and over trackless swampy moorland without an object. Either London was already settled, or it was a desolate and unknown place. If the former, Aulus may very well have encamped there, using the ordinary roads of communication. But in that case he cannot be said to have founded the town. If the latter, there was no road, or path, or way of getting at the place at all, save through the forests and moors which closed it in on the north and west, or over the marshes, or across the56 river. Now the first thing the Romans did on getting into a marsh was to get out of it as best they could—and to encamp on this hillock with marshes and forest all around, without a road of any kind or description, without any means of procuring supplies, would have been a military blunder which a Roman general was incapable of committing. It seems to me, therefore, perfectly certain that Aulus did not encamp upon the hill above Walbrook.

For the purposes of this work it is not necessary to inquire where he did encamp. We may, however, point out that the road from Dover to the north broke off near Lambeth, where the marsh began, and that it began again where the marsh ended on the other side opposite Thorney; that the invaders would certainly use this road; that there was here a ford at low tide, and that at high tide the marsh became a lake; so that I think we need go no higher up the river. The place was Lambeth or Westminster as I read it.

The taking of Camulodunum (Colchester) was followed by the submission of the tribes. The Emperor was himself present at the conclusion of the war, and held a splendid triumph, at which was exhibited an imitation of Camulodunum, which was attacked and defended by thousands of British captives reserved to kill each other in this mimic war.

The story of the Roman conquest reveals a people stubborn and brave. Tribe after tribe, nation after nation, fought for freedom; they were defeated, submitted, revolted, and were defeated again. Their young men were taken prisoners, were sent to Rome to grace the shows by fighting in the arena, or were enrolled in regiments and served in foreign countries. Vespasian and Titus won the south with thirty pitched battles; Aulus Plautius conquered the Midlands. A line of forts was constructed from the Severn to the fens; a colony of discharged soldiers was planted at Camulodunum, and the Britons were turned out of their farms to make room for these colonists.



The second appearance of London in history springs out of the revolt of the Iceni under Boudicca, or, as her name is Latinised, Boadicea. She was the widow of Prasutagus, King of the Iceni, who bequeathed his kingdom, hoping thereby to make the possession safe, to the Roman Cæsar jointly with his wife and daughters. The precaution proved useless. His kingdom was pillaged by the captains, and his wife and daughters were dishonoured. With the swiftness of a summer storm, the Britons from Norfolk, from the fens, from the north, rose with one consent and poured down upon the Roman colony. The town of Camulodunum was unfortified; there were no troops except the veterans. Suetonius Paulinus was far away in North Wales when the great revolt broke out. The veterans fought for their lives: those were happy who fell in battle: the prisoners were tortured to death; the women and children were slaughtered like the rest; the 9th Legion, marching to relieve the colony, was cut to pieces, only the cavalry escaping.

Paulinus hastened to London—observe that on its first appearance in history London is a large town. But he judged it best not to make this place his seat of war, and marched out, in spite of the prayers of the inhabitants. He allowed, however, those who wished to follow with the army. As soon as the Roman army was out of the town, the Britons—there was clearly more than one army of rebels—entered it and slaughtered every man, woman, and child. At the same time they entered Verulam and murdered all the population. Over 70,000 people are said to have been massacred in the three towns of London, Camulodunum, and Verulam. We need not stop to examine into the figures. It is enough that the three towns were destroyed with, we are told, all their inhabitants. The battle at which Suetonius Paulinus defeated the rebels was decisive. The captive Queen killed herself; the tribes dispersed. Then followed a time of punishment; and, as regards London, some must have escaped, for those who still lived went back to the City, rebuilt their houses, and resumed their ordinary occupations.

The Roman conquest, however, was by no means complete. That remained to be accomplished by Agricola. There was continual trouble north of Hadrian’s Wall, but the rest of the island remained in peace for more than a hundred years after the58 defeat of Boadicea. As for London, the City increased every year in wealth and population. The southern part of the island became rapidly Romanised; tranquillity and order were followed by trade and wealth; the country was quickly covered with populous and prosperous towns; the Roman roads were completed; the Roman authority was everywhere accepted.


The distribution of the Roman legions after the defeat of the British Queen is significant. Five only remained: the 2nd, stationed at Isca Silurum—Caerleon; the 6th and 9th, at York; the 14th, at Colchester for a time until it was sent over to Germany; and the 20th, at Deva—Chester. There was no legion in the east—the country of Queen Boadicea; therefore there was no longer anything to fear from that quarter. There was none in London; there was none in the south country. In addition to the legions there were troops of auxiliaries stationed along the two walls of Antoninus and Hadrian, and probably along the Welsh frontier.


We may pass very briefly in review the leading incidents of the Roman occupation, all of which are more or less directly connected with London.

There can be little doubt that after the massacre by the troops of Boadicea the Romans built their great fortress on the east side of the Walbrook. Some of the foundations of the wall, of a most massive kind, have been found in five places. The fortress, which extended from the Walbrook to Mincing Lane, and from the river to Cornhill, occupied an area of 2250 by 1500 feet, which is very nearly the space then considered necessary in laying out a camp for the accommodation of a complete legion. It seems as if the Romans had a certain scale of construction, and laid out their camps according to the scale adopted.

Within this fortress were placed all the official courts and residences: here was the garrison; here were the courts of law; this was the city proper. I shall return to the aspect of the fort in another chapter.

We may safely conclude that the massacre of London by the troops of Boadicea would not have occurred had there been a bridge by which the people could escape. It is also safe to conclude that the construction of a bridge was resolved upon and carried out at the same time as that of the fortress. In another place will be found my theory as to the kind of bridge first constructed by the Roman engineers. In this place we need only call attention to the fact of the construction and to the gate which connected the fort with the bridge.

After the campaigns of Agricola, history speaks but little of Britain for more than half a century; though we hear of the spread of learning and eloquence in the north and west:—

Nunc totus Graias nostrasque habet orbis Athenas;
Gallia causidicos facunda Britannos;
De conducendo loquitur jam rhetore Thule.

And Martial says, with pride, that even the Britons read his verses:—

Dicitur et nostros cantare Britannia versus.

These, however, may be taken as poetic exaggerations.

The Romans, it is quite certain, were consolidating their power by building towns, making roads, spreading their circle of influence, and disarming the people. It has been remarked that the tessellated pavements found in such numbers frequently represent the legend of Orpheus taming the creatures—Orpheus was Rome; the creatures were her subjects.

The first half-century of occupation was by no means an unchequered period of success: the savage tribes of the north, the Caledonii, were constantly making raids and incursions into the country, rendered so much the easier by the new and excellent high roads.


In the year 120, Hadrian visited Britain, and marched in person to the north. As a contemporary poet said—

Ego nolo Cæsar esse,
Ambulare per Britannos,
Sythicas pati pruinas.

He built the great wall from the Solway to the Tyne: a wall 70 miles long, with an earthen vallum and a deep ditch on its southern side, and fortified by twenty-three stations, by castles, and wall towers.

In the collection of
C. Roach Smith, Esq., F.S.A.

Twenty years later, the Proprætor, Lollius Urbicus, drove the Caledonians northwards into the mountains, and connected the line of forts erected by Agricola from the Forth to the Clyde by a massive rampart of earth called the wall of Antoninus.

Again, after twenty years, the Caledonians gave fresh trouble, and were put down by Ulpius Marcellus under Commodus. On his recall there was a formidable mutiny of the troops. Pertinax, afterwards, for three short months, Emperor, was sent to quell the mutiny. He failed, and was recalled. Albinus, sent in his place, was one of the three generals who revolted against the merchant Didius Julianus, when that misguided person bought the throne.

At this time the Roman province of Britain had become extremely rich and populous. Multitudes of auxiliary troops had been transplanted into the island, and had settled down and married native women. The conscription dealt with equal rigour both with their children and the native Britons. Albinus, at the head of a great army, said to have consisted of 150,000 men, crossed over to Gaul and fought Severus, who had already defeated the third competitor, Niger, at Lyons, when he too met with defeat and death.

Severus, the conqueror, came over to Britain in 208-209. His campaign in the north was terminated by his death in 212.

For fifty years the island appears to have enjoyed peace and prosperity. Then came new troubles. I quote Wright15 on this obscure period:—

From Dr. Stukeley’sMedallic History of Carausius.


“Amid the disorder and anarchy of the reign of Gallienus (260 to 268), a number of usurpers arose in different parts of the Empire, who were popularly called the thirty tyrants, of whom Lollianus, Victorinus, Postumus, the two Tetrici, and Marius are believed on good grounds to have assumed the sovereignty in Britain. Perhaps some of these rose up as rivals at the same time; and from the monuments bearing the name of Tetricus, found at Bittern, near Southampton, we are perhaps justified in supposing that the head-quarters of that commander lay at the station of Clausentum and along the neighbouring coasts. We have no information of the state of Britain at this time, but it must have been profoundly agitated by these conflicting claimants to empire. Yet, though so ready to rise in support of their own leaders, the troops in Britain seem to have turned a deaf ear to all solicitations from without. When an officer in the Roman army, named Bonosus, born in Spain, but descended of a family in Britain, proclaimed himself Emperor, in the reign of Aurelian, and appealed for support to the western provinces, he found no sympathy among the British troops. Another usurper, whose name has not been recorded, had taken advantage of his appointment to the government of the island by the Emperor Probus to assume the purple. The frequency of such usurpations within the island seem to show a desire among the inhabitants to erect themselves into an independent sovereignty. We are told that a favourite courtier of Probus, named Victorinus Maurusius, had recommended this usurper to the proprætorship, and that, when reproached on this account by the Emperor, Victorinus demanded permission to visit Britain. When he arrived there, he hastened to the Proprætor, and sought his protection as a victim who had narrowly escaped from the tyranny of the Emperor. The new sovereign of Britain received him with the greatest kindness, and in return was murdered in the night by his guest. Victorinus returned to Rome to give the Emperor this convincing proof of his ‘loyalty.’ Probus was succeeded in the Empire by Carus, and he was followed by Diocletian, who began his reign in the year 284, and who soon associated with himself in the Empire the joint Emperor Maximian. Their reign, as far as regards Britain, was rendered remarkable chiefly by the successful usurpation of Carausius.”

By far the most remarkable of the British usurpers whose history is connected with that of London was Carausius.

This successful adventurer belonged to a time when there sprang up every day gallant soldiers, men who had risen from the ranks, conspicuous by their valour, fortunate in their victories, beloved and trusted by their soldiers. The temptation to such an one to assume the purple was irresistible. Examples of such usurpation were to be found in every part of the unwieldy Empire. To be sure they ended, for the most part, in defeat and death. But, then, these men had been facing death ever since they could bear arms. On any day death might surprise them62 on the field. Surely it was more glorious to die as Imperator than as the mere captain of a cohort. Such usurpers, again, held the crown as they won it, by the sword. They were like the King of the Grove, who reigned until a stronger than he arose to kill him. Carausius was a King of the Grove.

His history, so far as it has been told at all, is written by his enemies. But he was an important man. During his time of power he caused an immense number of coins to be struck, of which there remain some three hundred types. These were arranged about the year 1750 by that eminent antiquary Dr. Stukeley, who not only figured, described, and annotated them, but also endeavoured to restore from the coins the whole history of the successful usurper. Dr. Stukeley—a thing which is rare in his craft—possessed the imagination of a novelist as well as the antiquary’s passion for the chase of a fact.

Carausius was a Briton, born in Wales, at the city now called St. David’s. He was of royal descent. He was of noble presence and great abilities. Maximian found it necessary to continue him in his commands, and bestowed upon him the distinction of a command in the Empress’s Regiment, the Ala Serena—Diocletian’s wife was named Eleutheria Alexandra Serena,—and committed to him the conduct of the expedition against the revolted Gauls. Carausius executed his trust faithfully and effectually. In reward for this service Maximian appointed him to the important dignity of Comes littoris Saxonici, with command of the fleet, whose duty it was to beat back the pirates always cruising about the narrow seas in search of booty. The head-quarters of the fleet were at Gesoriacum (Boulogne), a central position for operations in the Channel or the North Sea.

In the following year Carausius again fought loyally on the side of Maximian. But, says Stukeley, “in person, character, and behaviour he so outshone the Emperor that he exercised an inveterate envy against him.” Shortly afterwards Carausius, being informed that the Emperor’s purpose was to murder him, called his officers together, harangued them, gained them over, secured the fortifications of Boulogne, and awaited events. Maximian prepared to attack him, but was prevented by a mutiny of the troops. Carausius, who had now the 4th Legion and many other troops, was saluted Emperor, and in September A.D. 288 he crossed the Channel, bringing with him the whole of the fleet. It was the most serious rebellion possible, because it could not be put down so long as Carausius maintained by his fleet the command of the sea. It may be doubted whether the joy of London which Dr. Stukeley sees recorded on the coins in consequence of this arrival was real or only official. One thing is certain, there had been a revolt in Britain on account of the tyranny of the Roman Præfect. This was put down, but not by Carausius. He did not enter the country as its conqueror, in which case his welcome would not have been joyous: he was the enemy of the Emperor, as represented by the tyrannical Præfect; and he was a fellow-countryman. National pride was probably appealed to, and with success, and63 on these grounds a demonstration of joy was called for. The first coin struck by the usurper shows Britannia, with the staff emblematic of merchandise, grasping the hand of the Emperor in welcome, with the legend “Expectate veni”—“Come thou long desired.” Another coin shows Britannia with a cornucopia and a mercurial staff with the legend “Adventus Aug.” The words “Expectate veni” were used, Dr. Stukeley thinks, to flatter the British claim of Phrygian descent. They were taken from Æneas’s speech in Virgil:—

Quae tantae tenuere morae, quibus Hector ab oris
Expectate venis.

Perhaps the figure which we have called Britannia may have been meant for Augusta. It is hard to understand why the whole country should be represented by the symbol of trade. On another coin the Emperor’s public entry into London is celebrated. He is on horseback; a spear is in his left hand, and his right hand is raised to acknowledge the acclamations of the people.

Maximian lost no time in raising another fleet, with which, in September 289, a great naval battle was fought, somewhere in the Channel, with the result of Maximian’s complete defeat, and as a consequence the arrangement of terms by which Maximian and Diocletian agreed to acknowledge Carausius as associated with them in the Imperial dignity; it was further agreed that Carausius should defend Britain against the Scots and Picts, and that he should continue to act as Comes littoris Saxonici and should retain Boulogne—the head-quarters of the fleet. The full title of the associated Emperor thus became—

Imp. M. Aur. Val. Carausius Aug.

The name of Aurelius he took from Maximian and that of Valerius from Diocletian as adopted by them.

Coins celebrated the sea victory and the peace. Carausius is represented on horseback as at an ovation; not in a chariot, which would have signified triumph. The legend is “IO X”; that is to say, “Shout ten times.” This was the common cry at acclamations. Thus Martial says of Domitian—

Rursus IO magnos clamat tibi Roma triumphos.

In March 290, Carausius associates with himself his son Sylvius, then a youth of sixteen. A coin is struck to commemorate the event. The legend is “Providentia Aug.”—as shown in appointing a successor.

In the same year Carausius, whose head-quarters had been Clausentum (Bitterne), near Southampton, and London alternately, now marched north and took up his quarters at York, where he began by repairing and restoring the work now called the Cars Dyke.


On his return to London he celebrated his success with sports and gladiatorial contests. Coins were struck to commemorate the event. They bear the legend “Victoria Aug.”

In the year A.D. 291, Carausius appointed a British Senate, built many temples and public buildings, and, as usual, struck many coins. On some of these may be found the letters S.C. He completed the Cars Dyke and founded the city of Granta. He also named himself Consul for Britain.

In the year 293 the two Emperors, Diocletian and Maximian, met at Milan and created two Cæsars—Constantius Chlorus, father of Constantine the Great, and Galerius Armentarius. And now the pretence of peace with Carausius was thrown away. Chlorus began operations against him by attacking the Franks and Batavians, allies of Carausius. He also urged the Saxons and sea-board Germans to invade Britain. Carausius easily drove off the pirates, and addressed himself to the more formidable enemy. Chlorus laid siege to Boulogne, which was defended by Sylvius, son of Carausius. The British Emperor himself chased his assailant’s fleet triumphantly along the coasts of Gaul and Spain; he swept the seas; he even entered the Mediterranean, took a town, and struck Greek and Punic coins in celebration. He also struck coins with his wife as Victory sacrificing at an altar, “Victoria Augg.”—the two “g’s” meaning Carausius and his son Sylvius.

In May 295, while the Emperor was collecting troops and ships to meet Constantius Chlorus, he was treacherously murdered by his officer Allectus. Probably his son Sylvius was killed with him.

This is Dr. Stukeley’s account of a most remarkable man. A great deal is perhaps imaginary; on the other hand, the coins, read by one who knows how to interpret coins, undoubtedly tell something of the story as it is related.

The history of Carausius as gathered by other writers from such histories as remain differs entirely from Dr. Stukeley’s reading. It is as follows:—

He was of obscure origin, belonged to the Batavian tribe of Menapii; and he began by entering, or being made to enter, the service of the British fleet. The people, afterwards called collectively Saxons, were already actively engaged in piratical descents upon the eastern and the southern coast of Britain. They came over in their galleys; they landed; they pillaged, destroyed, and murdered everywhere within their reach; then they returned, laden with their spoil, to their homes on the banks of the Elbe.

To meet these pirates, to destroy their ships, to make them disgorge their plunder, it was found necessary, in addition to constructing a line of fortresses along the shore—of which Richborough, Bradwell, Pevensey, and Porchester still remain,—to maintain a large and well-formed fleet always in readiness. This was done, and the British fleet, whose head-quarters were at Gesoriacum (Boulogne), was constantly engaged in chasing, attacking, and destroying the pirate vessels.65 It was a service of great danger, but also one which gave a brave man many opportunities of distinction. These opportunities were seized by Carausius, who obtained so great a reputation as a sailor that he was promoted grade after grade until he became Admiral, or Commander of the Fleet.

His courage, which had been shown in a thousand dare-devil, reckless acts, was known to all who manned the galleys; every captain and every cabin-boy could rehearse the exploits of Carausius. Moreover, he had in his hands the power and authority of promotion; he was affable and kindly in his manner; he was, in his way, considerate of the men, whom he rewarded generously for bravery; he was eloquent, too, and understood how to move the hearts of men; his portrait can be seen both full face and profile on his coins, and we can judge that he was a handsome man: in short, he possessed all the gifts wanted to win the confidence, the affection, and the loyalty of soldiers and sailors. With an army—for the service of the fleet was nothing less—at his command, with the example of other usurpers before him, and with the rich and fertile province of Britannia in his power, it is not astonishing that this strong, able man should dream of the Purple.

But first it was necessary to become rich. Without a Treasury the army would melt away. How could Carausius grow rich? By seizing London and pillaging the City? But then he would make the whole island his enemy. There was a better way, a more secret way. He redoubled his vigilance over the coasts, but he did not attack the pirates till they were returning laden with their plunder. He then fell upon them and recaptured the whole. But he did not restore the spoils to their owners: he kept them, and in this way became very quickly wealthy. Presently the peculiar methods of the Admiral began to be talked about; people began to murmur; complaints were sent to Rome. Then Carausius learned that he was condemned to death. He was therefore forced to instant action. He proclaimed himself Emperor with Maximian and Diocletian, and he made an alliance with the Franks.

So long as he could rely on his troops, so long as he was victorious, he was safe; and for a long time there could be no opposition. Britain and the legions then in the island acknowledged him. He crossed over and made his head-quarters at Clausentum (Bitterne), near Southampton. He was certainly some time at London, where he had a mint; and he ruled the country undisturbed for some years.

We know nothing whatever about his rule, but there is probably very little to learn. He kept back the Picts and Scots; he kept back the pirates—that is clear from his coins, which speak of victory. We must remember that the reign of a usurper differed very little from that of a recognised Emperor. He preserved the same administration conducted by the same officers; it was only66 a change of name. Just as the government of France under the Republic is practically the same as that under the Empire, so the province of Britain under Maximian knew no change except a change of proprietor when it passed to Carausius.

But the end came. Carausius had to fight when he was challenged, or die.

The two Emperors appointed two Cæsars. To one, Constantius, was given the Empire of the West. He began his reign by attempting to reduce the usurper. With a large army he advanced north and invested Gesoriacum, where Carausius was lying; next, because the port was then, as it is now, small and narrow and impossible of entrance, except at high tide, he blocked it with stones and piles, so that the fleet could not enter to support him.

From a MS. in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

It is impossible to know why Carausius did not fight. Perhaps he proposed to gather his troops in Britain and to meet Constantius on British soil. Perhaps he reckoned on Constantius being unable to collect ships in sufficient number to cross the Channel. Whatever his reasons, he embarked and sailed away. The King of the Grove had run away. Therefore his reign was over.

In such cases there is always among the officers one who perceives the opportunity and seizes it. The name of the officer swift to discern and swift to act in this case was Allectus. He murdered the man who had run away, and became himself the King of the Grove.

Very little is known about Allectus or about his rule. Historians speak of him contemptuously as one who did not possess the abilities of Carausius; perhaps, but I cannot find any authority for the opinion. The facts point rather in the opposite direction. At least he commanded the allegiance and the loyalty of the67 soldiers, as Carausius had done; he seems to have kept order in Britain; as nothing is said to the contrary, he must have kept back the Caledonians and Saxons for four years; he maintained the Frankish alliance; and when his time came, his men went out with him to fight, and with him, fighting, fell. In this brief story there is no touch of weakness. One would like to know more about Allectus. Like Carausius, he was a great coiner. Forty of his coins are described by Roach Smith. They represent a manly face of strength and resolution crowned with a coronet of spikes. On the other side is a female figure with the legend “Pax Aug.” Other coins bear the legends “Pietas Aug.,” “Providentia Aug.,” “Temporum felicitas,” and “Virtus Aug.”

In Westminster Abbey.

He was left undisturbed for nearly four years. Constantius employed this time in collecting ships and men. It is rather surprising that Allectus did not endeavour to attack and destroy those ships in port. When at last the army was in readiness Constantius crossed the Channel, his principal force, under Asclepiodotus, landing on the coast of Sussex. It was said that he crossed with a side wind, which was thought daring, and by the help of a thick fog eluded the fleet of Allectus, which was off the Isle of Wight on the look-out for him.

Allectus was in London: he expected the landing would be on the Kentish coast, and awaited the enemy, not with the view of sheltering himself behind the river, but in order, it would seem, to choose his own place and time for battle.68 Asclepiodotus, however, pushed on, and Allectus, crossing the bridge with his legions, his Frankish allies, and his auxiliaries, went out to meet the enemy. Where did they fight? It has been suggested that Wimbledon was the most likely place. Perhaps. It is quite certain that the battle was very near London, from what followed. I would suggest Clapham Common; but as the whole of that part of London was a barren moorland, flat, overgrown with brushwood, the battle may have taken place anywhere south of Kensington, where the ground begins to rise out of the marsh. We have no details of the battle, which was as important to Britain as that of Senlac later on, for the invader was successful. The battle went against Allectus, who was slain in the field. His routed soldiers fled to London, and there began to sack the City and to murder the people. Constantius himself at this moment arrived with his fleet, landed his troops, and carried on a street fight with the Franks until every man was massacred. Two facts come out clearly: that the battle was fought very near to London; and that when Allectus fell there was left neither order nor authority.

This is the third appearance of London in history. In the first, A.D. 61, Tacitus speaks of it, as we have seen, as a City of considerable trade; in the second, the rebellion of Boadicea, it furnishes the third part of the alleged tale of 70,000 victims; at this, the third, the defeated troops are ravaging and plundering the helpless City. In all three appearances London is rich and thickly populated.

We may also remark that we have now arrived at the close of the third century, and that, so far, there has been very little rest or repose for the people, but rather continued fighting from the invasion of Aulus Plautius to the defeat of Allectus.

It is true that the conscription of the British youth carried them out of the country to serve in other parts of the Roman Empire; it is also true that the fighting in Britain was carried on by the legions and the auxiliaries, and that the Lex Julia Majestatis disarmed the people subject to Roman rule. Looking, however, to the continual fighting on the frontier and the fighting in the Channel, and the incursions of the Scots and Picts, one cannot believe that none of the British were permitted to fight in defence of their own land, or to man the fleet which repelled the pirate. Those who speak of the enervating effects of the long peace under the Roman rule—the Pax Romana—would do well to examine for themselves into the area covered by this long peace and its duration.

It was not in London, but at York, that Constantius fixed his residence, in order to restrain the Picts and Scots. The importance attached to Britain may be inferred from the fact that the Emperor remained at York until his death in A.D. 306, when his son, Constantine the Great, succeeded him, and continued in the island, probably at York, for six years. Coins of Constantine and also of his mother, Helena, have been found in London.


In the year 310, Constantine quitted the island. A period of nearly forty years, concerning which history is silent, followed. This time may have been one of peace and prosperity.

The government of the country had been completely changed by the scheme of defence introduced by Diocletian and modified by Constantine. Under that scheme the Roman world was to be governed by two Emperors—one on the Danube, and the other in the united region of Spain, Gaul, and Britain. The island was divided into five provinces of Britannia Prima and Britannia Secunda; Lower Britain became Flavia Cæsariensis and Maxima Cæsariensis; between the walls of Hadrian and Antoninus was the Province of Valentia. Each province had its own Vicarius or Governor, who administered his province in all civil matters.

The Civil Governor of Britain was subject to the Præfectus of Gaul, who resided at Treviri (Treves) or Arelate (Arles). He was called Vicarius, and had the title Vir Spectabilis (your Excellency). His head-quarters were at York. The “Civil Service,” whose officers lived also in the fort, consisted of a Chief Officer (Princeps), a Chief Secretary (Cornicularis), Auditors (Numerarii), a Commissioner of Prisons (Commentariensis), Judges, Clerks, Serjeants, and other officers. For the revenues there were a Collector (Rationalis summarum Britanniarum), an Overseer of Treasure (Præpositus Thesaurorum). In the hunting establishment there were Procuratores Cynegiorum. The military affairs of the state were directly under the control of the Præfect of Gaul. The Vicarius had no authority in things military. We have seen also how one general after another fixed his head-quarters, not in London, but at York, or elsewhere. London played a much less important part than York in the military disposition of the island. There were three principal officers: the Count of the Saxon Shore (Comes littoris Saxonici), the Count of Britain, and the Duke of Britain. The first of these had the command of the fleet—Carausius, we have seen, was Comes littoris Saxonici—with the charge of the nine great fortresses established along the coast from Porchester to Brancaster. The Duke of Britain had his head-quarters at York, with the command of the 6th Legion and charge of the wall. It is not certain where were the head-quarters of the Count of Britain. Each of these officers, like the Vicarius, had his own establishment. The permanent forces in Great Britain were estimated at four, afterwards two, legions with auxiliaries, the whole amounting to 19,200 infantry and 1700 cavalry. Surely a force capable of repelling the incursions of Irish, Scots, and Saxons all together!

It is not possible to estimate the effect upon the country of these military settlements; we do not know either the extent of the territory they occupied or the number of the settlers at any colony. Britannia is a large island, and many such settlements may have been made without any effect upon the country. One thing, however, is certain, that foreign settlers when they marry women belong70ing to their new country very speedily adopt the manners and the language of that country, and their children belong wholly to their mother’s race. Thus Germans and Scandinavians settling in America and marrying American women adapt themselves to American manners and learn the English tongue, while their children, taught in the public schools, are in no respect to be accounted different from the children of pure American parentage. Even the most marked and most bigoted difference of religion does not prevent this fusion. The Polish Jew becomes in the second generation an Englishman in England, or an American in America. And in Ireland, when the soldiers of Cromwell settled in County Kerry and married women of the country, their children became Irish in manners and in thought. The descendants of those soldiers have nothing left from their great-grandfathers—not religion, not manners, not Puritan ideas—nothing but their courage.

So that one can neither affirm nor deny that these settlers in any way influenced or changed the general character of the people. Religion would be no hindrance, because all the ancient religions admitted the gods of all people. It is sufficient to note the fact, and to remember that the people so called Britons were after four hundred years of Roman rule as mixed a race as could well be found. In London the mixture was still greater, because the trade of Roman London at its best was carried on with the whole habitable world.

The language spoken among the better sort—the language of the Court, the Forum, and the Port—was undoubtedly Latin. All the inscriptions are in Latin; none are in Celtic. The language of the common people of London was like that of the modern pidgin-English, a patois composed of Latin without its trappings of inflexions and declensions—such a patois as that from which sprang Mediæval French and Provençal, mixed with words from every language under the sun: words brought to the Port by sailors who still preserved the Phœnician tongue; by Greeks from Massilia; by Italians from Ostia and Brundusium; by Norsemen from Gotland and the Baltic; by Flemings, Saxons, and Germans.

The legionaries contributed their share to the patois as spoken by the country folk. But there were few soldiers in the fort of Augusta; the London dialect, except among the slaves working at the Port or waiting in their barracoons to be exported for the gladiatorial contests, was pidgin-Latin.

The Emperor Constans came over in 347. He was murdered, three years after leaving this country, by Magnentius, a native of Britain. The rise and fall of this pretender involved the ruin of many of his own countrymen and the soldiers of the Roman occupation. One Paulus, surnamed Catena, was sent to London in order to punish the adherents of Magnentius. Then follows a very singular story. The cruelties of Paulus excited the deepest indignation, insomuch that the Civil Governor of the province, the “Vicarius,” Martinus by name, endeavoured to interpose on71 behalf of the victims. Failing to move the judge to mercy, he tried to save his friends by murdering him. When this attempt also failed, he committed suicide. Paulus returned to Rome, carrying with him a multitude of prisoners, who were tortured, imprisoned, executed, or exiled.

The Picts and Scots took advantage of the disorder to invade the country after the departure of Paulus. It is evident that the regular troops had been withdrawn or were in confusion, because troops were brought over from Gaul to drive back the invaders.

A H Burkitt FSA 1851

Some ten years later the Picts and Scots renewed their attacks. They defeated and slew the Count of the Saxon Shore, and they defeated the Duke of Britain. The Emperor Valentinian therefore sent Theodosius with a very large force into the island. He found the enemy ravaging the country round London—it was probably at this period, and in consequence of the repeated invasions from the north, that the wall of London was built. In another place will be found an account of the wall. It is sufficient to state here, that it was most certainly built in a great hurry and apparently at a time of panic, because stones in the City—from public buildings, the temples, the churches, and cemeteries—were seized wherever possible and built up in the wall.


However, Theodosius drove back the invaders with great slaughter. He found that there were many of the native population with the enemy. He adopted a policy of conciliation: he relieved the people of their heavy taxation, and rebuilt their cities and fortresses.

Here follows an incident which illustrates at once the dangers of the time and the wisdom of Theodosius. I quote it from Wright (The Celt, the Roman, and the Saxon, 1852 edition, p. 378):—

“There was in Britain at this time a man named Valentinus, a native of Valeria, in Pannonia, notorious for his intrigues and ambition, who had been sent as an exile to Britain in expiation of some heavy crime. This practice of banishing political offenders to Britain appears to have been, at the time of which we are now speaking, very prevalent; for we learn from the same annalist, that a citizen of Rome, named Frontinus, was at the time of the revolt just described sent into exile in Britain for a similar cause. Men like these no sooner arrived in the island than they took an active part in its divisions, and brought the talent for political intrigue which had been fostered in Italy to act upon the agitation already existing in the distant province. Such was the case with Valentinus, who, as the brother-in-law of one of the deepest agitators of Rome, the vicar Maximinus (described by Ammianus as ille exitialis vicarius), had no doubt been well trained for the part he was now acting. As far as we can gather from the brief notices of the historian, this individual seems, when Theodosius arrived in Britain, to have been actively engaged in some ambitious designs, which the arrival of that great and upright commander rendered hopeless. Theodosius had not been long in Londinium when he received private information that Valentinus was engaged with the other exiles in a formidable conspiracy, and that even many of the military had been secretly corrupted by his promises. With the vigour which characterised all his actions, Theodosius caused the arch-conspirator and his principal accomplices to be seized suddenly, at the moment when their designs were on the point of being carried into execution, and they were delivered over to Duke Dulcitius, to receive the punishment due to their crimes; but, aware of the extensive ramifications of the plot in which they had been engaged, and believing that it had been sufficiently crushed, Theodosius wisely put a stop to all further inquiries, fearing lest by prosecuting them he might excite an alarm which would only bring a renewal of the scenes of turbulence and outrage which his presence had already in a great measure appeased. The prudence as well as the valour of Theodosius were thus united in restoring Britain to peace and tranquillity; and we are assured that when, in 369, he quitted the island, he was accompanied to the port where he embarked by crowds of grateful provincials.”

In the year 383 Britain furnished another usurper or claimant of the people, in the person of Magnus Maximus. He was a native of Spain, who had served in Britain with great distinction, and was a favourite with the soldiers. Now the73 troops then stationed in Britain are stated by the historian to have been the most arrogant and turbulent of all the Imperial troops.

The career of Maximus, and his ultimate defeat and death at Aquileia, belong to the history of the Roman Empire.

One of the officers of Theodosius, named Chrysanthus, who afterwards became a bishop at Constantinople, pacified Britain—one hopes by methods less brutal than those of Paulus Catena.

The people, however, had little to congratulate themselves upon. Their country with its five provinces was regarded as a department of the Court of Treves. When there was any trouble in the Empire of the West, the legions of Great Britain were withdrawn without the least regard for the defence of the country against the Picts and Scots; and the division into provinces was a source of weakness. Moreover, the general decay of the Empire was accompanied by the usual signs of anarchy, lawlessness, and oppression. The troops were unruly and mutinous; time after time, as we have seen, they set up one usurper and murdered another; they were robbed by their officers; their pay was irregular. The complexity of the new system added to the opportunities of the taxing authorities and the tax-collector. The visit of the Imperial tax-gatherers was worse than the sack of a town by the enemy. Torture was freely used to force the people to confess their wealth; son informed against father, and father against son; they were taxed according to confessions extorted under torture.

The end of the Roman occupation, however, was rapidly approaching. Theodosius died in 395, and left his Western dominions to Honorius. There were still two legions in Britain: the 6th, at Eboracum (York); and the 2nd, at Rutupiæ (Richborough). There were also numerous bodies of auxiliaries. Early in the fifth century these soldiers revolted and set up an Emperor of their own, one Marcus. They murdered him in 407, and set up another named Gratian, whom they also murdered after a few months, when they chose an obscure soldier on account of his name, Constantine.

He at once collected his army and crossed over to Gaul. His subsequent career, like that of Maximus, belongs to the history of Rome.

It would appear that the withdrawal of the legions by Constantine was the actual end of the Roman occupation. The cities of Britain took up arms to repel invasion from the north and the descent of the pirates in the west, and in 410 received letters from Honorius telling them to defend themselves.

The story told by Gildas is to the effect that Maximus took away all the men capable of bearing arms; that the cities of Britain suffered for many years under the oppression of the Picts and Scots; that they implored the Romans for help; and that Roman legions came over, defeated the Picts and Scots, and taught the Britons how to build a wall. This is all pure legend.


The commonly received history of the coming of the Angles, Jutes, and Saxons is chiefly legendary. It is impossible to arrive at the truth, save by conjecture from a very few facts ascertained. Thus it is supposed that the Saxons began, just as the Danes did four hundred years afterwards, by practical incursions leading to permanent settlements; that the words littus Saxonicum signified, not the shore exposed to Saxon pirates, but the shore already settled by Saxons; that in some parts the transition from Roman to Saxon was gradual; that the two races mixed together—at Canterbury, Colchester, Rochester, and other places we find Roman and Saxon interments in the same cemetery; that the Saxons had gained a footing in the island long before the grand invasions of which the Saxon Chronicle preserves the tradition.

This long history of warfare, of civil commotion, of mutiny and usurpation, of conscription and taxation, is not a pleasant picture of Britain under the famous Pax Romana. How did the City of London fare? It was the residence of the Proprætor before the new scheme of Diocletian. This is proved by the discovery of certain inscribed tiles. These tiles record the legions or the officers stationed in various places. At Chester they bear the name of the 20th Legion; at York, those of the 6th and the 9th. At Lymne and Dover the usual inscription is Cl.Br., supposed to mean Classiarii Britannici. Some of the tiles above referred to are inscribed PRB. Lon., or PPBR. Lon., or P.PR.BR. Roach Smith reads these letters Prima Cohors Britanniæ Londinii, and assumes that the first British Cohort was once stationed in London. Wright, however, reads Proprætor Britanniæ Londinii, thus showing that London was the seat of government. As there is no hint elsewhere that the first British Cohort served in Britain, but plenty of evidence as to its being elsewhere, as in Egypt and Germany, Wright’s interpretation is probably the correct one.

Except for the attempted sack of the City after the defeat of Allectus and for the sanguinary revenge by Paulus Catena, London seems to have been but little disturbed by the invasions and the mutinies and the usurpations. Her trade went on. In bad times, as when Magnentius or Maximus drew off the soldiers, and the invaders fell upon the country on the north, the east, and the west, destroying the towns and laying waste the country, London suffered. In the intervals of peace her wharves were crowded with merchandise and her port with ships.

The introduction of Christianity into London, as into Britain generally, began, there can be little doubt, in the second century. The new religion, however, made very slow progress. The first missionaries, believed to have been St. Paul or St. Joseph of Arimathæa, with Lazarus and his two sisters, were probably converts from Gaul who came to Britain in pursuit of their ordinary business. In the year 208 Tertullian mentions the existence of Christians in Britain. Early in the fourth century there were British Bishops at the Council of Arles.


In 324 Christianity was recognised as the religion of the State.

In the year 325 the British Church assented to the conclusions of the Council of Nicæa. In 386 there was an Established Christian Church in Britain, in habitual intercourse with Rome. As to the reality of the Christianity of the people and how far it was mixed up with remains of Mithraism and the ancient faiths of Rome and Gallia, we have no means of judging.


What was the government of London itself at this time? We can find an answer in the constitution of other Roman towns. London never became a municipium—a town considered by the Imperial authorities as of the first importance. There were only two towns of this rank in Britain, viz. Eboracum (York) and Verulam (St. Alban’s). It was, with eight other towns, a colonia. Wright16 is of opinion that there was very little difference in later times between the colonia and the municipium. These towns enjoyed the civitas or rights of Roman citizens; they consisted of the town and certain lands round it; and they had their own government exempt from the control of the Imperial officers. In that case the forum would not necessarily be placed in the fort or citadel, which was the residence of the Vicarius when he was in London with his Court and establishment. At the same time this citadel occupied an extensive area, and the City being without walls till the year 360 or thereabouts, all the public buildings were within that area. The governing body of the City was called the curia, and its members were curiales, decuriones, or senators; the rank was hereditary, but, like every hereditary house, it received accessions from below. The two magistrates, the duumviri, were chosen yearly by the curia from their own body. A town council, or administrative body, was also elected for a period of fifteen years by the curiales from their own body; the members were called principales. The curia appointed, also, all the less important officers; in fact it controlled the whole municipality. The people were only represented by one officer, the defensor civitatis, whose duty it was to protect his class against tyrannical or unjust usurpations of power by the curiales. No one could be called upon to serve as a soldier except in defence of his own town. The defence of the Empire was supposed to be taken over by the Emperor himself. Let every man, he said, rest in peace and carry on his trade in security. But when the Emperor’s hands grew weak, what had become of the martial spirit? The existence of this theory explains also how the later history of the Roman Empire is filled with risings and mutinies and usurpations, not of cities and tribes, but of76 soldiers. At the same time, since we read of the British youth going off to fight in Germany and elsewhere, the country lads had not lost their spirit.17 The people of London itself, however, may have become, like those of Rome, unused to military exercises. Probably there was no fear of any rising in London, and there was not a large garrison in the citadel. The citizens followed their own trade, unarmed, like the rest of the world; even their young men were not necessarily trained to sports and military exercises. Their occupations were very much the same as those of later times: there were merchants, foreign and native, ship-builders and ship-owners, sailors, stevedores and porters, warehousemen, clerks, shopmen, lawyers, priests, doctors, scribes, professors and teachers, and craftsmen of all kinds. These last had their collegia or guilds, each with a curialis for a patron. The institution is singularly like the later trade guilds, each with a patron saint. One would like to think that a craft company, such as the blacksmiths’, has a lineal descent from the Collegium Fabrorum of Augusta. But as will be proved later on, that is impossible. London was a city of trade, devoted wholly to trade. The more wealthy sort emulated the luxury and effeminacy of the Roman senators—but only so long as the Empire remained strong. When one had to fight or be robbed, to fight or to be carried off in slavery, to fight or to die, there was an end, I believe, of the effeminacy of the London citizens.

Let us consider this question of the alleged British effeminacy. We have to collect the facts, as far as we can get at them, which is a very little way, and the opinion of historians belonging to the time.

Gildas, called Sapiens, the Sage—in his Book of Exclamations,—speaks thus contemptuously of his own people:—

1. The Romans, he says, on going away, told the people that “inuring themselves to warlike weapons, and bravely fighting, they should valiantly protect their country, their property, wives and children, and what is dearer than these, their liberty and lives; that they should not suffer their hands to be tied behind their backs by a nation which, unless they were enervated by idleness and sloth, was not more powerful than themselves, but that they should arm those hands with buckler, sword, and spear, ready for the field of battle.

2. He says: “The Britons are impotent in repelling foreign foes, but bold and invincible in raising civil war, and bearing the burdens of their offences; they are impotent, I say, in following the standard of peace and truth, but bold in wickedness and falsehood.”

3. He says: “To this day”—many years after the coming of the Saxons—“the cities of our country are not inhabited as before, but being forsaken and overthrown, lie desolate, our foreign wars having ceased, but our civil troubles still remaining.”

Bede, who writes much later, thus speaks, perhaps having read the evidence77 of Gildas: “With plenty, luxury increased, and this was immediately attended with all sorts of crimes: in particular, cruelty, hatred of truth, and love of falsehood: insomuch that if any one among them happened to be milder than the rest, and inclined to truth, all the rest abhorred and persecuted him, as if he had been the enemy of his country. Nor were the laity only guilty of these things, but even our Lord’s own flock and His pastors also addicted themselves to drunkenness, animosity, litigiousness, contention, envy, and other such-like crimes, and casting off the light yoke of Christ. In the meantime, on a sudden, a severe plague fell upon that corrupt generation, which soon destroyed such numbers of them that the living were scarcely sufficient to bury the dead; yet those who survived could not be drawn from the spiritual death which their sins had incurred either by the death of their friends or the fear of their own.” This declaration of wickedness is written, one observes, ecclesiastically—that is, in general terms.

Claud MS., II. iv.

The opinion of an ecclesiastic who, like Gildas, connects morals and bravery, and finds in a king’s alleged incontinence the cause of internal disasters, may be taken for what it is worth. One undeniable fact remains, that for two hundred years this effeminate people fought without cessation or intermission for their lives and their liberties. Two hundred years, if you think of it, is a long time for an effeminate folk to fight. Deprived of their Roman garrison, they armed themselves; deprived of a government which had kept order for four hundred years, they elected their own governors; unfortunately their cities were separate, each with its own mayor (comes civitatis). They fought against the wild Highlander from the north; against the wild mountain man from the west; against the wild Irish78 from over the western sea; against the wild Saxon and Dane from the east. They were attacked on all sides; they were driven back slowly: they did nothing but fight during the whole of that most wretched period while the Roman Empire fell to pieces. When all was over, some of the survivors were found in the Welsh mountains; some in the Cumbrian Hills; some in the Fens; some beyond the great moor of Devon; some in the thick forests of Nottingham, of Middlesex, of Surrey, and of Sussex. Most sad and sorrowful spectacle of all that sad and sorrowful time is one picture—it stands out clear and distinct. I see a summer day upon the southern shore and in the west of England; I think that the place is Falmouth. There are assembling on the sea-shore a multitude of men, women, and children. Some of them are slaves; they are tied together. It is a host of many thousands. Close to the shore are anchored or tied up a vast number of ships rudely and hastily constructed, the frame and seats of wood, the sides made out of skins of creatures sewn together and daubed with grease to keep out the water. The ships are laden with provisions; some of them are so small as to be little better than coracles. And while the people wait, lo! there rises the sound of far-off voices which chant the Lamentation of the Psalmist. These are monks who are flying from the monastery, taking with them only their relics and their treasures. See! they march along bearing the Cross and their sacred vessels, singing as they go. So they get on board; and then the people after them climb into their vessels. They set their sails; they float down the estuary and out into the haze beyond and are lost. In this way did England give to France her province of Bretagne.



Such, then, was the condition and the government of Roman London-Augusta. It is a City of great trade when first we find it mentioned. The trade had been diverted by a new road, now called Oxford Street, from the old line which previously passed across the more ancient settlement in the Isle of Thorney. London had been at first a British fort on a hillock overhanging the river; then a long quay by the river-side; then a collection of villa residences built in gardens behind the quay. The whole was protected by a Roman fort. By the fourth century, practically the trade of the entire country passed through the port of London. The wealth of the merchants would have become very great but for the fluctuations of trade, caused first by the invasions of Picts, Scots, Welsh, Irish, and “Saxons,” which interfered with the exports and imports; and next by the civil wars, usurpations, and tumults, which marked the later years of the Roman occupation. London under the Romans never became so rich as Ephesus, for instance, or Alexandria.


Let us next inquire what manner of city was this of London under the Romans. At the time of the Roman Conquest it was an unwalled village, protected partly by its situation, which was such as to leave it exposed to attack from one quarter only, before the construction of roads across the marsh; partly by its stockade fort between the Fleet and the Walbrook, and partly by the valour of its inhabitants—there are rumours of battles between the men of London and the men of Verulam. When Paulinus went out to meet Boadicea he left behind him a city without protection, either of walls or soldiers. Evidently there was then no Roman fort or citadel. That was built later. It was placed on that high ground already described, east of Walbrook; it had the advantage of a stream and a low80 cliff in the west, and a broad river and a low cliff on the south. This citadel was of extraordinary strength and solidity. Its foundations have been laid bare (1) at its south-west angle, under Cannon Street Railway Terminus; (2) at its east side, at Mincing Lane, twenty years ago; and (3) part of the north side was uncovered in 1892, on the south side of Cornhill. The wall of this fortress was, no doubt, much like the walls of Porchester and Pevensey which are still standing: it was quadrangular, and set with circular bastions. Its length was about 750 yards, its breadth about 500, so that the area enclosed must have been 375,000 square yards. There is no mention in history of this fortress; it was probably taken for granted by the historians that the castra stativa—the standing camp, the citadel—belonged to London in common with every other important town under Roman rule.

On the north side the wall of the fortress was protected by a ditch which ran from the eastern corner to the Walbrook. Traces of this ditch remained for a long time, and gave rise to the belief that there had been a stream running into the Walbrook; hence the name Langbourne. The main street of the fortress ran along the line of Cannon Street. London Stone, removed from its original position on the south side of the road, probably marked the site of the western gate.

As the town grew, houses, villas, streets arose all round the fortress and under its protection. Within the walls many remains have been found, but none of cemeteries. There were no interments within the walls, a fact which proves by itself the theory of the Roman fortress, if any further proof were needed. Outside the fort there is evidence of cemeteries that have been built over; pavements lie over forgotten graves. A bath has been found by the river-side: this was probably a public bath. When one reads of the general making London his head-quarters, it was in this walled place that his troops lay. In the enclosure were the offices of state, the mint, the treasury, the courts of justice, the arsenal, the record office, and the official residences. Here was the forum, though no remains have been discovered of this or any other public buildings. Here the civil administration was carried on; hither were brought the taxes, and here were written and received the dispatches and the reports.

This citadel was official London. If we wish to know what the City was like, we can understand by visiting Silchester, which was also a walled town. However, at Silchester as yet no citadel has been discovered. There are the foundations of a great hall larger than Westminster Hall. It had rooms and offices around it; it had a place of commerce where were the shops, the verandahs or cloisters in which the lawyers, the orators, the rhetoricians, and the poets walked and talked. Near at hand the guards of the Vicarius had their barracks.

Beneath and around the citadel of London the houses clustered in square insulæ; beyond, on the north side, stood the villas in their pretty gardens. The81 site of the great hall of the London citadel was perhaps discovered in 1666 after the Great Fire, when the workmen laid bare, east of what is now Cannon Street Railway Station, a splendid tessellated pavement.

Within the citadel was the forum, surrounded by lofty columns. One temple at least—probably more than one—lifted its columns into the air. One was to Fortune; another to Jupiter. In other parts of the town were temples to Cybele, to Apollo, to Baal or the sun god, to Mercury, to the Deæ Matres; to Bacchus, who stood for Osiris as well; and to Venus.

From Lysons’ Account of the Roman Villa discovered at Woodchester.

The character of the Roman remains dug up from time to time within these walls shows that it was formerly a place of great resort. Under the protection of this citadel, and later under the protection of the Pax Romana, villas were built up outside the walls for the residence of the better sort. All round the walls also sepulchral remains have been discovered; they were afterwards included in the larger wall of the city which was built towards the close of the fourth century.

London was then, and for many years afterwards, divided into London east and west of the Walbrook. On the western side was the quarter of the poorer sort; they had cottages on the foreshore—as yet there was no wall. The better class lived outside the fort, along the eastern side of Walbrook, and in Cornhill, Threadneedle Street, and Bishopsgate Street. Down below were the three Roman ports,82 afterwards called Billingsgate, Dowgate, and Queenhithe. Walking down Thames Street one finds here and there an old dock which looks as if it had been there from time immemorial.

I have sometimes been tempted, when in Thames Street—that treasure-house of memories, survivals, and suggestions—to think that these narrow lanes sloping to the river are of Roman origin, left when all the rest was wrecked and lost, and that they are still of the same breadth as they were in the fourth century. This, however, is not the case. I shall show presently the origin and meaning of these narrow streets running up the hill from the river into Thames Street: they are all, in fact, connections of the quays on the foreshore with the merchants’ warehouses in Thames Street. Along the better streets, on the north of Thames Street, the traders put up their stalls and kept their shops; the stalls were at first mere temporary sheds resting against the walls of villas. These villas belonged, not to the millionaire Lucullus, for whose palace the whole world could be ransacked, but to the well-to-do merchant, whose taste was not much cultivated. He called in the best artist of the city. “Build me a villa,” he said, “as good as my neighbour’s. Let there be a fine mosaic pavement; let there be fountains; let there be paintings on the walls, lovely paintings—nymphs and fauns, nymphs bathing, plenty of nymphs, dancing girls, plenty of dancing girls; paint me Hercules drunk, Loves flying and playing tricks, warriors with shields, sea pieces, ships; paint me my own ships sailing. And take care of the hypocaust and the warming pipes, and see that the kitchen is suitably furnished.”

The earliest, the natural port of London was the mouth of the Walbrook, called afterwards Dowgate.

In the western wall of the Roman citadel was the gate which served at once for the road or street across the City to Newgate, and for that part of the trade which belonged to the citadel. The Walbrook at this time was a considerable stream. It was partly a tidal stream, but it was fed from above by many tributaries on the moorland. Here the ships first began to load and to unload. For their convenience quays were constructed on piles driven into the mud and shingle of the foreshore. As the trade increased, the piles were pushed out farther and the quays were broadened.

When trade increased and the difficulties of getting through the bridge were felt, another port was necessary. It was perfectly easy to construct one by cutting it out of the soft foreshore and then banking it up with strong piles of timber. Piles and beams were also driven in on either side for the support of quays, which could thus be extended indefinitely. The place chosen was what is now called Billingsgate. It was close to the bridge and the bridge gate; so that while goods could be landed here for the trade of the City—whence they could be easily distributed throughout the north and midland of the83 island,—communication was established with the south by means of the bridge (see Appendices I. and II.).

Later on, but one knows not when, the port of Queen Hythe, formerly Edred’s Hythe, was similarly constructed. I am inclined to believe also that Puddle Dock represents another ancient port; but whether Roman or Saxon, it is now impossible to decide.

The poorer part of the City was that part lying between Puddle Dock and Dowgate: we do not find tessellated pavements here, nor remains of great buildings. The houses which stood upon the pavements were modest compared with the villas of the Roman millionaire; but they were splendid compared with other houses of the City.

For the convenience of the better sort there was the bath, in which everybody spent a part of the day; for the merchants there were the quays; there was the theatre; and there was the amphitheatre. It is true that no trace has ever been found of theatre or of amphitheatre; but it is also true that until recently no trace was found of the Roman citadel, and, as I have said, no trace has ever been found of forum or of temples. We will return to this subject later.

To one standing at the south end of the narrow wooden bridge across the Thames, Augusta, even before the building of the wall, appears a busy and important place. Exactly opposite the bridge, on a low eminence, was a wall, strong though low, and provided with rounded bastions. Above the wall were seen the columns of the forum and of two temples, the roofs of the great hall of justice and of the official offices and residences.

Along the quays were moored the ships. On the quay stood sheds for warehouses in a line. Behind these warehouses were barracoons for the reception of the slaves waiting to be transported to some other part of the Empire, there to await what Fortune had in store for them—perhaps death in a gladiatorial fight, perhaps service on a farm, perhaps the greatest gifts of Fortune, viz. a place in a Roman cohort, opportunities for showing valour and ability, an officer’s commission, the command of a company, then of a legion, then of a victorious army; finally, perhaps the Purple itself and absolute rule over all the civilised world. The streets behind the warehouses were narrow and steep, the houses in them were mean. Everywhere within the area afterwards enclosed by the wall were villas, some small, some large and stately. It was a noisy city, always a noisy city—nothing can be done with ships without making a noise. The sailors and the stevedores and the porters sang in chorus as they worked; the carts rolled slowly and noisily along the few streets broad enough to let them pass; mules in single file carried bales in and out of the city; slaves marched in bound and fettered; in the smaller houses or in workshops every kind of trade was carried on noisily. Smoke, but not coal smoke, hung over all like a canopy.


In such a restoration of a Roman provincial town one seems to restore so much, yet to leave so much more. Religion, education, literature, the standard of necessities and of luxury, the daily food, the ideas of the better classes, the extent, methods, and nature of their trade, the language, the foreign element—none of these things can be really restored.

Under the protection of the citadel the merchants conducted their business; under its protection the ships lay moored in the river; the bales lay on the quays; and the houses of the people, planted at first along the banks of the Walbrook, stretched out northwards towards the moor, and westwards as far as the river Fleet.

It is strange that nothing should be said anywhere about so strong and important a place as the citadel. When was it built, and by whom? When was it destroyed, and by whom? Were the walls standing when the Saxons began their occupation? It appears not, because, had there been anything left, any remains or buildings standing, any tradition of a fortress even, it would have been carried on. The citadel disappeared and was forgotten until its foundations were found in our time. How did this happen? Its disappearance can be explained, according to my theory, by the history of the wall (see p. 112): all the stones above ground, whether of citadel, temple, church, or cemetery, were seized upon to build the wall.

Across the river stood the suburb we now call Southwark, a double line of villas beside a causeway. It has been suggested that Southwark was older than London, and that it was once walled in. The only reasons for this theory are: that Ptolemy places London in Kent—in which he was clearly wrong; that the name of Walworth might indicate a city wall; that remains of villas have been found in Southwark; and that a Roman cemetery has been found in the Old Kent Road. But the remains of houses have only been found beside the high road leading from the bridge. They were built on piles driven into the marsh. Up till quite recent times the whole south of London remained a marsh with buildings here and there; they were erected on a bank or river wall, on the Isle of Bermond, on the Isle of Peter, beside the high road. And there has never been found any trace of a wall round Southwark, which was in Roman times, and has always been, the inferior suburb—outside the place of business and the centre of society. Every town on a river has an inferior suburb on the other side—London, Paris, Liverpool, Tours, Florence: all busy towns have inferior transpontine suburbs. Southwark was always a marsh. When the river-bank was constructed the marsh became a spongy field covered with ponds and ditches; when the causeway and bridge were built, people came over and put up villas for residence. In the Middle Ages there were many great houses here, and the place was by some esteemed for its quiet compared with the noise of London, but Southwark was never London.


Besides the bridge, there was a ferry—perhaps two ferries. The name of St. Mary Overies preserves the tradition. There are two very ancient docks, one beside the site of the House of St. Mary Overies, and one opposite, near Walbrook. In these two docks I am pleased to imagine that we see the ancient docks of London ferry to which belongs the legend of the foundation of the House.

Let us return to the question of amphitheatre and theatre. There must have been both. It is quite certain that wherever a Roman town grew up an amphitheatre grew up with it. The amphitheatre was as necessary to a Roman town as the daily paper is to an American town.

It has been suggested that there was no amphitheatre, because the city was Christian. There may have been Christians in the city from the second century; everything points to the fact that there were. It is impossible, however, to find the slightest trace of Christian influence on the history of the city down to the fourth century. W. J. Loftie thinks that the dedication of the churches in the lower and poorer parts of the town—viz. to SS. Peter, Michael, James, and All Saints—shows that there were Christian churches on those sites at a very early period. This may be true, but it is pure conjecture. It is absurd to suppose that a city, certainly of much greater importance than Nîmes or Arles—where were both theatre and amphitheatre,—and of far greater importance than Richborough—where there was one,—should have no trace of either. Since Bordeaux, Marseilles, Alexandria, and other cities of the Roman Empire were not Christian in the second and third centuries, why should London be? Or if there were Christians here in quite early times, theirs was not the dominant religion, as is clearly shown by the Roman remains. There must have been an amphitheatre—where was it? To begin with, it was outside the City. Gladiators and slaves reserved for mock battles which were to them as real as death could make them, wild beasts, the company of ribalds who gathered about and around the amphitheatre, would not be permitted within the City. Where, then, was the amphitheatre of London?

At first one turns to the north, with its gardens and villas and sparse population. The existence of the villas will not allow us to place the amphitheatre anywhere in the north near the Walbrook.

When the modern traveller in London stands in the churchyard of St. Giles’s, Cripplegate, he looks upon a bastion of the Roman wall where the wall itself took a sudden bend to the south. It ran south till it came to a point in a line with the south side of St. Botolph’s Churchyard (the “Postmen’s Park”), where it again turned west as far as Newgate.

It thus formed nearly a right angle—Why? There is nothing in the lie of the ground to account for this deviation. No such angle is found in the eastern part of the wall. There must have been some good reason for this regular feature in the wall. Was the ground marshy? Not more so than the moorland through which the86 rest of the wall was driven. Can any reason be assigned or conjectured? I venture to suggest, as a thing which seems to account for the change in the direction of the wall, that this angle contained the amphitheatre, the theatre, and all the buildings and places, such as the barracks, the prisons, the dens and cages, and the storehouse, required for the gladiatorial shows. I think that those who built the wall, as I shall presently show, were Christians; that they were also, as we know from Gildas, superstitious; that they regarded the amphitheatre, and all that belonged to it, as accursed; and that they would not allow the ill-omened place of blood and slaughter and execution to be admitted within the walls. It may be that a tradition of infamy clung to the place after the Roman occupation: this tradition justifies and explains the allocation to the Jews of the site as their cemetery. The disappearance of the amphitheatre can be fully explained by the seizure of the stones in order to build the wall.

Mr. C. Roach Smith, however, has proposed another site for the theatre, for which he tenders reasons which appear to me not, certainly, to prove his theory, but to make it very possible and even probable. Many Roman theatres in France and elsewhere are built into a hill, as the rising ground afforded a foundation for the seats. That of Treves, for instance, will occur to every one who has visited that place. Mr. Roach Smith observed a precipitous descent from Green Arbour Court into Seacoal Lane—a descent difficult to account for, save by the theory that it was constructed artificially. This indeed must have been the case, because there was nothing in the shape of a cliff along the banks of the Fleet River. Then why was the bank cut away? Observe that the site of the Fleet Prison was not on a slope at all, but on a large level space. We have therefore to account for a large level space backed by an artificial cliff. Is it not extremely probable that this points out the site of the Roman theatre, the seats of which were placed upon the artificial slope which still remains in Green Arbour Court?

Mr. Roach Smith read a paper (Jan. 1886) placing this discovery—it is nothing less—on record before the London and Middlesex Archæological Association. The remarkable thing is that no one seems to have taken the least notice of it.

Assuming that he has proved his case, I do not believe that he is right as to the houses being built upon the foundations of the theatre, for the simple reason that, as I read the history of the wall in the stones, every available stone in London and around it was wanted for the building of the wall. It was built in haste: it was built with stones from the cemeteries, from the temples, from the churches, from the old fortress, and from the theatre and the amphitheatre outside the wall. As regards the latter, my own view remains unaltered; I still think that the angle in the wall was caused by the desire to keep outside the amphitheatre with all its memories of rascality and brutality.

Treves (Colonia Augusta Treverorum) and Roman London have many points in87 common, as may be apprehended most readily from the accompanying comparison in which Roman Treves and Roman London are placed side by side. We may compare the first citadel of London on the right bank of the Walbrook with Treves; or we may compare the later London of the latter part of the fourth century, the wall of which was built about A.D. 360-390, with Treves.

1. The citadel of London had its western side protected by a valley and a stream whose mouth formed a natural port. The valley was about 140 feet across; the stream was tidal up to the rising ground, with banks of mud as far, at least, as the north wall of the citadel. On the south was a broad river spanned by a bridge. There were three gates: that of the north, that of the west, and that of the bridge on the south. Within the citadel were the official buildings, barracks, residences, and offices. Two main streets crossed at right angles. About half a mile to the north-west (according to my theory) was the amphitheatre. On the north and east was an open moor. On the south a marsh, with rising ground beyond. By the river-side, near the bridge, were the baths.

2. Colonia Augusta Treverorum.—These details are almost exactly reproduced in Treves. We have a broad river in front. On one side a stream which perhaps branched off into two. The gate which remains (the Porta Nigra) shows the direction of the wall on the north from the river. A long boulevard, called at present the Ost Allee, marks the line of the eastern wall, which, like that of London, occupied the site of the Roman wall. A bend at right angles at the end of this boulevard includes the Palace and other buildings. It therefore represents the site of the ancient wall or that of a mediæval wall. It is quite possible that the mediæval wall of the city included a smaller area than the Roman wall, and that the two round towers, here standing in position with part of the wall, represent the mediæval wall. It is also possible, and even probable, that they stand on the site of the Roman wall, which just below the second, or at the second, bent round again to the south as far as the stream called the Altbach, and so to the west as far as the river. That this, and not the continuation of the line of towers, was the course of the Roman wall, is shown by the fact that the baths, the remains of which stand beside the bridge, must have been within, and not outside, the wall. The river wall, just like that of London, ran along the bank to the bridge, and was stopped by the outfall of a small stream. The ground behind the river wall gradually rose. On the other side was a low-lying marsh, beyond which were lofty hills—not gradually rising hills as on the Surrey side of the Thames. The city was crossed by two main arteries, which may still be traced. An extensive system of baths was placed near the bridge on the east side. Within the wall were the Palace of the Governor or of the Emperor, and a great building now called the Basilica; and between them, the remains now entirely cleared away for the exercise ground, once the garden of the barracks. There were three gates, perhaps four. One of them, a most noble monument, still survives. A Roman cemetery has been found88 beyond the Altbach in the south, and another in the north, outside the Porta Nigra.

3. The comparison of Roman Treves with the later Roman London is most curious, and brings out very unexpectedly the fact that in many respects the latter was an enlargement of the citadel. We know that the wall was constructed hastily, and that all the stonework in the City was used in making it. Like the citadel, however, and like Treves, it had a stream on one side, baths and a bridge and a port within the walls; while the official buildings, as at Treves, were all collected together in one spot. We also find the curious angle, which at Treves may be accounted for by an enlargement of the wall, and at London by the custom of keeping the amphitheatre outside the City as a place foul with associations of battle, murder, massacre, and the ribald company of gladiators, retiarii, prisoners waiting the time of combat and of death, wild beasts and their keepers, and the rabble rout which belonged to this savage and reckless company.

That part of London lying to the west of Walbrook was crowded with the houses of the lower classes, and with the warehouses and stores of the merchants. These extended, as they do to this day, all the way from the Tower to Blackfriars. On the rising ground above were the villas of the better class, some of them luxurious, ample, decorated with the highest art, and provided with large gardens. These villas extended northwards along the banks of the little Walbrook. They are also found on the south side in Southwark, and on the west side on Holborn Hill. The principal street of Augusta was that afterwards called Watling Street, which, diverted from the old Watling Street where Marble Arch now stands, carried all the trade of the country through London by way of Newgate, over the present site of St. Paul’s, and so through the citadel, to the market-place and to the port. Another street led out by way of Bishopsgate to the north; and a third, the Vicinal Way, to the eastern counties. The bridge led to a road running south to Dover. There was also a long street, with probably many side streets out of it, as there are at this day, along the Thames.

The things which remain of Roman London and may be seen in our museums are meagre, but they yield a good deal of information as to the condition and the civilisation of the City. The foundation of large villas, the rich mosaics and pavements, the remains of statues, the capitals of pillars, the coins, and the foundations of massive walls, clearly indicate the existence of much wealth and considerable comfort. The smaller things in the glass cases, the keys, the hairpins, the glass bottles, the statuettes, the bells, the tools, the steelyards, the mirrors, all point to a civilisation closely imitating that of the capital itself.

Roach Smith’s Catalogue of London Antiquities.

It is not to a native of London that we must turn for the life of the better class89 in a provincial city of the fourth century, but to a native of Gaul. Ausonius is a writer whose works reveal the daily life of a great city in Gaul. He was born of good family on both sides. His father was a physician; his grandfather a so-called “Mathematician,” in reality one who still practised the forbidden mystery of astrology. Ausonius himself was educated at Toulouse, and he opened a school of rhetoric at Bordeaux. The rhetoricians not only taught, but also practised, the art of oratory. Whether all rhetoricians were also poets is uncertain: the mere making of verse is no more difficult to acquire than the composition of oratory. There were two classes of teachers: the grammarian, of whom there were subdivisions—the Latin grammarian, skilled in Latin antiquities, and the Greek grammarian, who had studied Greek antiquities; and, above the grammarian, the rhetorician. In every important town over the whole Empire were found the rhetorician and the grammarian; they exchanged letters, verses, compliments, and presents. In a time of universal decay, when no one had anything new to say, when there was nothing to stimulate or inspire nobler things, the language of compliment, the language of exaggeration, and the language of conceit filled all compositions. At such a time the orator is held in greater respect even than the soldier. In the latter the townsman saw the preserver of order, the guardian of the frontier, the slayer of the barbarians who were always pressing into the Empire. He himself carried no arms: he represented learning, law, literature, and medicine. Ausonius himself, in being elevated to the rank of consul, betrays this feeling. He compares himself with the consuls of old: he is superior, it is evident, to them all, save in one respect, the warlike qualities. These virtues existed no longer: the citizen was a man of peace; the soldier was a policeman. If this was true of Bordeaux, then far from the seat of any war, it was much more true in London, which every day saw the arrival and the dispatch of slaves captured in some new border fray, while the people themselves never heard the clash of weapons or faced the invader with a sword.

Another profession held greatly in honour was that of the lawyer. The young90 lawyer had a five years’ course of study. There were schools of law in various parts of the Empire which attracted students from all quarters, just as in later times the universities attracted young men from every country. From these lawyers were chosen the magistrates.

Medicine was also held greatly in honour; it was carefully taught, especially in southern Gaul.

From Lysons’ Account of the Roman Villa at Woodchester.

The learned class was a separate caste: with merchants and soldiers, the lawyers, orators, grammarians, and physicians had nothing to do. They kept up among themselves a great deal of the old pagan forms. If they could no longer worship Venus, they could write verses in the old pagan style about her. Probably a great many continued, if only from habit, the pagan customs and the pagan manner of thought. The Church had not yet given to the world a crowd of saints to take the place of the gods, goddesses, nymphs, satyrs, and sprites which watched over everything, from the Roman Empire itself down to a plain citizen’s garden.

The theatre was entirely given over to mimes and pantomimes: comedy and91 tragedy were dead. The pieces performed in dumb show were scenes from classical mythology. They were presented with a great deal of dancing. Everybody danced. Daphne danced while she fled; and Niobe, dancing, dissolved into tears. The circus had its races; the amphitheatre its mimic contests and its gladiatorial displays.

These things were done at Bordeaux; it is therefore pretty certain that they were also done in London, whose civilisation was equally Gallo-Roman. London was a place of importance equal with Bordeaux; a place with a greater trade; the seat of a Vicarius Spectabilis, a Right Honourable Lieutenant-Governor; one of the thirteen capitals of the thirteen Dioceses of the Roman Empire.

From Lysons’ Account of the Roman Villa at Woodchester.

Any account of Roman London must include a description and plan of a Roman villa. The one I have chosen is the palatial villa which was recovered by Samuel Lysons exactly a hundred years ago at Woodchester. The plan is given in his book, An Account of Roman Antiquities discovered at Woodchester; it shows the arrangement of the rooms and the courts.

“The visitor approaching this villa when it was standing observed before him a long low wall with an entrance arch. The wall was probably intended as some kind of fortification; the people in the house numbered enough to defend it against any wandering company of marauders. Within the entrance, where he was received by a porter or guard, the visitor found himself in a large square court, the sides of which were 150 feet. On either side, to east and west, were build92ings entered from the great court: in one there were twelve rooms; in the other a curious arrangement of rooms communicating with each other which were thought to be the baths. The rooms on the west side were perhaps the chambers and workshops of the slaves and servants.

On the north side a smaller gateway gave access to a court not so large as the first, but still a good-sized court, 90 feet square; it was surrounded on three sides by a gallery, which was closed in winter, as the hypocaust under it indicates. From this court access was obtained to a lovely hall, decorated with a mosaic pavement of great artistic value, with sculptures, paintings, vases, and glass. On either side of this hall were chambers, also decorated in the same way. Under the floors of the chambers was the hypocaust, where were kindled the fires whose hot air passed through pipes warming all the chambers. Fragments of statues, of which one was of Magnentius the usurper, also glass, pottery, marble, horns, coins. The building covered an area of 550 feet by 300 feet, and it is by no means certain that the whole of it has been uncovered.

It is interesting to note that on one of the mosaics found at this place is the injunction ‘... B][N][C ...’18—that is, Bonum Eventum Bene Colite—Do not forget to worship Good Luck. To this god, who should surely be worshipped by all the world, there was a temple in Rome.

The Roman Briton, if he lived in such state as this, was fortunate above his fellows. But in the smaller villas the same plan of an open court, square, and built upon one, two, or more sides, prevailed. The walls were made of stone up to a certain height, when wood took the place of stone; the uprights were placed near together, and the interstices made air-tight and water-tight with clay and straw; the roof was of shingles or stone tiles. Wall paintings have been found everywhere, as we have already seen; the pavements were in many cases most elaborate mosaics.”

The construction of a villa for a wealthy Roman Briton is easy to be understood. As to the question of the smaller houses, it is not so easy to answer. A small house, detached, has been found at Lympne. It was about 50 feet long and 30 feet broad. The plan shows that it was divided into four chambers, one of which had a circular apse. The rooms were all about the same size, namely, above 22 feet by 14 feet. A row of still smaller houses has been found at Aldborough. Almost all the streets in London stand upon masses of buried Roman houses. If we wish to reconstruct the city, we must consider not only the villas in the more open spaces as the official residences in the citadel, but also the streets and alleys of the poorer sort. Now at Pompeii the streets are narrow; they are arranged irregularly; there are only one or two in which any93 kind of carriage could pass. The same thing has been observed at Cilirnum (Chesters), in Northumberland, and at Maryport in Cumberland. Very likely the narrow streets leading north of Thames Street are on the same sites as the ancient Roman streets of London in its poorer and more crowded parts. It stands to reason that the houses of the working people and the slaves could not be built of stone.

The nature of the trade of London is arrived at by considering—(1) What people wanted; (2) what they made, produced, and grew for their own use; and (3) what they exported.


To take the third point first. Britain was a country already rich. The south part of the island, which is all that has to be considered, produced iron, tin, lead, and copper; coal was dug up and used for fuel when it was near the surface; skins were exported; and the continual fighting on the march produced a never-failing supply of slaves for the gladiatorial contests. Wheat and grain of all kinds were also largely grown and exported.

As for manufactures, pottery was made in great quantities, but not of the finer kinds. Glass was made. The art of weaving was understood. The arts of painting, mosaic work, and building had arrived at some excellence. There were workmen in gold and other metals.

As for what people wanted. Those who were poor among them wanted nothing but what the country gave them; for instance, the river was teeming with fish of all kinds, and the vast marshes stretching out to the mouth of the Thames were the homes of innumerable birds. No one need starve who could fish in the river or trap birds in the marsh. In this respect they were like the94 common sort, who lived entirely on the produce of their own lands and their own handiwork till tea, tobacco, and sugar became articles of daily use. The better class, however, demanded more than this. They wanted wine, to begin with; this was their chief want. They wanted, besides, silks for hangings and for dress, fine stuffs, statues, lamps, mirrors, furniture, costly arms, books, parchment, musical instruments, spices, oil, perfumes, gems, fine pottery.

The merchants of London received all these things, sent back the ships laden with the produce of the country, and dispatched these imported goods along the high roads to the cities of the interior and to the lords of the villas.

London was the centre of at least five great high roads. In this respect it was alone among the towns of Roman Britannia. These highways are laid down in Guest’sOrigines Celticæ. They connect the City with every part of the island: on the north-east with Colchester; on the north with Lincoln and York; on the north-west with Uriconium (Wroxeter), for Shrewsbury and Wales and Ireland; on the west with Silchester, for Winchester and Salisbury; on the south-east with Richborough, Dover, and Lympne or Lymne; and on the south with Regnum (Chichester)—if we may fill in the part between London and Dorking which Guest has not indicated.

This fact is by itself a conclusive proof that London was the great commercial centre of the island, even if no other proofs existed. And since the whole of the trade was in the hands of the London merchants, we can understand that in times when there was a reasonable amount of security on the road and on the Channel, when the Count of the Saxon Shore patrolled the high seas with his fleet, and the Duke of Britain kept back the Scot and the Pict, the city of Augusta became very wealthy indeed. There were, we have seen, times when there was no safety, times when the pirate did what he pleased and the marauder from the north roamed unmolested about the country. Then the London merchants suffered and trade declined. Thus, when Queen Boadicea’s men massacred the people of London, when the soldiers revolted in the reign of Commodus, when the pirates began their incursions before the establishment of the British fleet, when Carausius used the fleet for his own purposes, and in the troubles which preceded and followed the departure of the legion, there were anxious times for those engaged in trade. But, on the whole, the prosperity of London was continuous for three hundred and fifty years.



If one stands in the Museum of the Guildhall and looks round upon the scanty remains of Roman London there exhibited, one feels a cold doubt as to the alleged wealth and greatness of the ancient city. Is this all that has to be shown after an occupation of nearly four hundred years? There is not much more: one may find a room at the British Museum devoted to this subject; and there are a few small private collections containing nothing of importance. Yet when we consider the length of time since Roman London fell; the long history of reconstruction, fire, and successive occupations; the fact that twice—once for more than a hundred years—London was entirely deserted, we must acknowledge that more remains of Roman London than might have been expected. What exists, for instance, of that other great Roman city now called Bordeaux? What, even, of Lutetia Parisiorum? What of Massilia, the most ancient of Gallic cities?


There are, however, many remains of Roman London which are not preserved in any collection. Some are above ground; some have been dug up and carried away; some have been disclosed, examined, sketched, and again covered up.

Antiquaries have been pleased to find traces of Roman relics of which no memory or tradition remains. Thus, we are assured that there was formerly a Campus Martius in London; its site is said to have been that of the Old Artillery Ground. A temple of Diana is said to have stood on the south side of St. Paul’s. There was a mysterious and extensive crypt called the Camera Dianæ, supposed to have been connected with the worship of that goddess; it was standing in the seventeenth century. Probably it was the crypt of some mediæval house. Stukeley persuaded himself that he found in Long Acre the “magnificent circus, or racecourse, founded by Eli, father of Casvelhun”; he also believed that he had found in Hedge Lane the survival of the agger or96 tumulus of King Eli’s grave. The same antiquary preferred to trace Julius Cæsar’s Camp in the Brill opposite old St. Pancras Church.

It is sometimes stated that excavations in London have been few and scattered over the whole area of the City; that there has been no systematic and scientific work carried on such as, for instance, was conducted, thirty years ago, at Jerusalem by Sir Charles Warren. But when we consider that there is no single house in the City which has not had half a dozen predecessors on the same site, whose foundations, therefore, have not been dug up over and over again, no one can form any estimate of the remains, Roman, British, and Saxon, which have been dug up, broken up, and carted away. During certain works at St. Mary Woolnoth, for instance, the men came upon vast remains of “rubbish,” consisting of broken pottery and other things, the whole of which were carried off to St. George’s Fields to mend or make the roads there. The only protection of the Roman remains, so long as there was no watch kept over the workmen, lay in the fact that the Roman level was in many places too deep for the ordinary foundations. Thus in Cheapside it was 18 feet below the present surface; in other places it was even more.

The collection of Roman antiquities seems to have been first undertaken by John Conyers, an apothecary, at the time of the Great Fire. The rebuilding of the City caused much digging for foundations, in the course of which a great many Roman things were brought to light. Most of these were unheeded. Conyers, however, collected many specimens, which were afterwards bought by Dr. John Woodward. After his death part of the collection was bought by the University of Cambridge; the rest was sold by auction “at Mr. Cooper’s in the Great Piazza, Covent Garden.” Three other early collectors were John Harwood, D.C.L.; John Bagford, a bookseller, who seems to have had some knowledge of coins; and Mr. Kemp, whose collection contained a few London things, especially the two terra-cotta lamps found on the site of St. Paul’s, which were supposed to prove the existence of a temple of Diana at that spot.

Burial-places and tombs have been unearthed in various parts of the City, but all outside the walls of the Roman fortress. Thus, they have been found on the site of St. Paul’s, in Bow Lane, Queen Street, Cornhill, St. Dunstan’s Hill, near Carpenter’s Hall, in Camomile Street near the west end of St. Helen’s Church, in King’s Street and Ken Street, Southwark—outside Bishopsgate in “Lollesworth,” afterwards called Spitalfields. The last named was the most extensive of the ancient cemeteries.

Stow thus describes it:—

“On the East Side of this Churchyard lyeth a large Field, of old time called Lolesworth, now Spittlefield, which about the Year 1576 was broken up for Clay to make Brick: In the digging whereof many earthen Pots called Urnæ were found full of Ashes, and burnt Bones of Men, to wit of the Romans that inhabited here.97 For it was the custom of the Romans, to burn their Dead, to put their Ashes in an Urn, and then to bury the same with certain Ceremonies, in some Field appointed for that purpose near unto their City.


Every of these pots had in them (with the Ashes of the Dead) one Piece of Copper Money, with the Inscription of the Emperour then reigning: Some of them were of Claudius, some of Vespasian, some of Nero, of Antoninus Pius, of Trajanus, and others. Besides those Urns, many other pots were found in the same place, made of a white Earth, with long Necks and Handles, like to our Stone Jugs: these were empty, but seemed to be buried full of some liquid Matter, long since consumed and soaked through. For there were found divers Phials, and other fashioned Glasses, some most cunningly wrought, such as I have not seen the like, and some of Crystal, all which had Water in them, nothing differing in clearness, taste, or savour from common Spring Water, whatsoever it was at the first. Some of these Glasses had Oil in them very thick, and earthy in savour. Some were supposed to have Balm in them, but had lost the Virtue: Many of these Pots and Glasses were broken in cutting of the Clay, so that few were taken up whole.98

There were also found divers dishes and cups of a fine red coloured Earth, which shewed outwardly such a shining smoothness, as if they had been of Coral. Those had (in the bottoms) Roman Letters printed, there were also Lamps of white Earth, and red artificially wrought with divers Antiques about them, some three or four Images, made of white earth, about a Span long each of them: One I remember was of Pallas, the rest I have forgotten. I myself have reserved (amongst divers of those Antiquities there found) one Urna, with the Ashes and Bones, and one Pot of white Earth very small, not exceeding the quantity of a quarter of a Wine Pint, made in shape of a Hare, squatted upon her Legs, and between her Ears is the mouth of the pot.

There hath also been found (in the same Field) divers Coffins of Stone, containing the Bones of Men: These I suppose to be the Burials of some special Persons, in time of the Britons, or Saxons, after the Romans had left to govern here. Moreover, there were also found the Skulls and Bones of Men, without Coffins, or rather whose Coffins (being of great Timber) were consumed.” (Strype, vol. i. bk. ii. chap. vi.)

The description of all the Roman remains found in London would take too long. Let us, however, mention some of the more important (see App. III.).

An undoubted piece of Roman work is the old bath still existing in Strand Lane. This bath is too small for public use: it belonged to a private house, built outside London, on the slope of the low hill, then a grassy field, traversed by half a dozen tiny streams. The bath has been often pictured.

Many pavements, some of great length and breadth, have been discovered below the surface: of these some have been taken up; some have been drawn. More than forty pavements have been found north of the Thames. These were nearly all on the eastern side of the Walbrook, that side which has always been marked out as the original Roman settlement, and many of them were found within the assumed boundaries of the Roman Prætorium.19

Roman remains have been found under the Tower of Mary-le-Bow Church, where there was a Roman causeway; in Crooked Lane, in Clement’s Lane, in King William Street, in Lombard Street, in Warwick Square, on the site of Leadenhall Market, all along the High Street, Borough as far as St. George’s Church, in Threadneedle Street, Leadenhall Street, Fenchurch Street, Birchin Lane, Lime Street, Lothbury, Gracechurch Street, Eastcheap, Queen Street, Paternoster Row, Bishopsgate Street Within, and many other places.

Inscribed stones have also been found in Church Street, Whitechapel, in the99 Tenter Ground, Goodman’s Fields, Minories, in the Tower of London, at London Wall near Finsbury Circus, in Playhouse Yard, Blackfriars, at Pentonville, on Tower Hill, in Nicholas Lane, Lombard Street, in Hart Street, Crutched Friars.

A figure of a youth carrying a bow was found at Bevis Marks. A small altar was dug up in making excavations for Goldsmiths’ Hall.

A large number of objects were found in 1837 by dredging the Thames near London Bridge. They were engraved by the Society of Antiquaries, and published by Mr. C. Roach Smith in his Illustrations of Roman London.

Among other objects which he has used in illustration of his book are pottery, lamps, bronzes, glass, coins, and utensils of various kinds.

A very interesting figure was discovered in Queen Street in 1842. It is described by Mr. W. Chaffers in Archæologia, vol. xxx. p. 543:—

“While watching the progress of the excavations recently made in Queen Street, Cheapside (for the formation of a sewer), I was fortunately enabled to obtain possession of several rare and curious specimens of Roman art. A short distance from Watling Street, a fine piece of Roman wall, running directly across the street, was exposed to view in a remarkably perfect condition, built of flat red tiles embedded in solid and compact mortar. Several others, lower down the street, were also discovered. Within a few yards of the wall, one of the bricklayers, removing some earth, struck his trowel against something which he conjectured to be a brass tap; but, on clearing further, he found it was the right heel of the figure, which lay upon its face. The height of the figure, if standing erect, would be 15 inches; but in its stooping posture, the perpendicular height from the base to the crown of the head is only 11 inches. It is evidently intended to represent a person in the attitude of shooting an arrow from a bow. The bow and arrow were probably of richer metal than the figure itself; but no vestiges of them were discovered. The aperture for the bow is seen in the closed left hand, which held it, and the bent fingers of the right appear in the act of drawing the arrow to its full extent previous to its evolation. The eyes are of silver, with the pupils open; the hair disposed in graceful curls on the head, as well as on the chin and upper lip. The left hand, which grasped the bow and sustained the arrow, is so placed as to bring the latter to a level with the eye; and the steadfast look and determined expression of the whole face are much heightened by the silver eyes. It was found at about the depth of between twelve and thirteen feet.”

In 1825 a small silver figure of Harpocrates was found in the Thames. It is now in the British Museum.

“Early in December 1877 considerable excavations were made at Pie Corner,20 over a space about a 100 feet long and 40 feet broad. At a depth of 11 feet, and at a spot 150 feet, measuring along the houses, from the middle of the great100 gateway of the hospital, the workmen came upon what they took for two great blocks of stone, which lay half inside the front line of the new building and half under the footway of the street. Continuing their excavation they found that the stones were two great coffins lying side by side, close together. A piece was broken off the lid of each, and in this state, before their contents had been disturbed at all, they were seen by Dr. Dyce Duckworth. In the southern sarcophagus was a leaden case containing a woman’s skeleton. This was disturbed hastily, the workmen being anxious to secure the lead. The other sarcophagus contained two skeletons, a man’s and a woman’s. As these had been somewhat displaced when I saw them half an hour later, I will quote a note which Dr. Duckworth has kindly written to me as to their exact position—‘The female faced west (the mediæval ecclesiastical position), the male faced east (layman’s position).’ The sarcophagi lay very nearly, but not precisely, east and west.”

A great many Roman remains were found in 1840 on digging for the foundations of the new Royal Exchange. On the east side of the area there were fragments showing that older buildings had been taken away. In the middle there were found thirty-two cesspools, in some of which were ancient objects. These were cleared out and filled up with concrete. The soil consisted of vegetable earth, accumulation and broken remains of various kinds with gravel at the depth of 16 feet 6 inches. At the western end, however, the workmen came upon the remains of a small building in situ resting on the gravel. The walls of the Old Exchange stood upon this building. When it ceased, oak piles had been driven down and sleepers laid upon the heads of these piles; a rubble wall was discovered below the piles, and under the wall was an ancient pit, sunk 13 feet through the gravel down to the clay.

“The pit was irregular in shape, but it measured about 50 feet from north to south, and 34 from east to west, and was filled with hardened mud, in which were contained considerable quantities of animal and vegetable remains, apparently the discarded refuse of the inhabitants of the vicinity. In the same depository were also found very numerous fragments of the red Roman pottery, usually called Samian ware, pieces of glass vessels, broken terra-cotta lamps, parts of amphoræ, mortaria, and other articles made of earth, and all the rubbish which might naturally become accumulated in a pond in the course of years. In this mass likewise occurred a number of Imperial Roman coins, several bronze and iron styles, parts of writing-tables, a bather’s strigil, a large quantity of caliga-soles, sandals, and remains of leather.” (Sir William Tite.)

The objects taken out of this pit are catalogued and described by Tite in his volume called Antiquities discovered in Excavating for the Foundations of the New Royal Exchange.

Roman pottery, found in Ivy Lane and in St. Paul’s Churchyard, was exhibited at the evening meeting of the L. and Midd. Arch. Soc., Sept. 18, 1860.


Roman keys have been found near St. Swithin’s Church, Cannon Street, at Charing Cross beside the statue of Charles I., beneath Gerard’s Hall Crypt, and in the Crypt of St. Paul’s while preparing for the interment of the Duke of Wellington.

From Archæologia, vol. viii.


“An important discovery was made in the year 1835 on the Coleman Street side near the public-house called the Swan’s Nest; here was laid open a pit or well containing a store of earthen vessels of various patterns and capacities. This well had been carefully planked over with thick boards, and at first exhibited no signs of containing anything besides the native gravelly soil, but at a considerable depth other contents were revealed. The vases were placed on their sides longitudinally, and presented the appearance of having been regularly packed or embedded in the mud or sand, which had settled so closely round them that a great number were broken or damaged in being extricated. But those preserved entire, or nearly so, are of the same material as the handles, necks, and pieces of the light-brown coloured vessels met with in such profusion throughout the Roman level in London. Some are of a darker clay approaching to a bluish black, with borders of reticulated work running round the upper part, and one of a singularly elegant form is of a pale-bluish colour with a broad black border at the bottom. Some are without handles, others have either one or two. Their capacity for liquids may be stated as varying from one quart to two gallons, though some that were broken were of much larger dimensions. A small Samian patera, with the ivy-leaf border, and a few figured pieces of the same, were found near the bottom of this well, and also a small brass coin of Allectus, with reverse of the galley, Virtus Aug., and moreover two iron implements resembling a boat-hook and a bucket-handle. The latter of these carries such a homely and modern look, that, had I no further evidence of its history than the mere assurance of the excavators, I should have instantly rejected it, from suspicion of its having been brought to the spot to be palmed off on the unwary; but the fact of these articles being disinterred in the presence of a trustworthy person in my employ disarms all doubt of their authenticity. The dimensions of the pit or well were about 2 feet 9 inches or 3 feet square, and it was boarded on each side with narrow planks about 2 feet long, and 1½ to 2 inches thick, placed upright, but which framework was discontinued towards the bottom of the pit, which merged from a square into an oval form.” (C. Roach Smith in Archæologia, vol. xxix.)

x — Sites where Roman pavements and remains have been found.
The dotted lines represent streets added at a later date.

The following is a list of the more important tessellated pavements which have been discovered in the City:—


British Museum.
1661. In Scot’s Yard, Bush Lane, with the remains of a large building. This is supposed to have been an official residence in the Prætorium. Sent to Gresham College.
1681. Near St. Andrew’s, Holborn—deep down.
  ” Bush Lane, Cannon Street—deep down.
1707. In Camomile Street—5 feet below the surface, with stone walls.
1785, 1786. Sherborne Lane. Four pavements were found here.
1786. Birchin Lane, with remains of walls and pottery, at depth of 9 feet, 12 feet, and 13 feet.
1787. Northumberland Avenue and Crutched Friars—12 feet deep. Society of Antiquaries.
1792. At Poulett House, behind the Navy Pay Office, Great Winchester Street.
1794. Pancras Lane—11 feet deep.
1803. Leadenhall Street—at depth of 9 feet 6 inches. British Museum.
1805. Bank of England, the north-west corner. British Museum.
1805. St. Clement’s Church.
1835. Bank of England, opposite Founders’ Court, and St. Margaret, Lothbury.
1836. Crosby Square—40 feet long, and 12 feet 1 inch deep.
1839. Bishopsgate Within.
1840. Excise Office Yard, Bishopsgate Street—13 feet deep.
1841. The French Protestant Church, Threadneedle Street—14 feet 2 inches deep.
Two other pavements also found in this street.
  ” West of the Royal Exchange—at the depth of 16 feet 6 inches.
  ” Paternoster Row.
  ” Sherborne Lane, with amphoræ, etc. 104
1843. Wood Street.
  ” King’s Arms Yard, Moorgate Street.
  ” Coleman Street—buildings at a depth of 20 feet, with pottery, sandals, etc.
  ” M. Garnet’s, Fenchurch Street.
1844. Threadneedle Street, near Merchant Taylors’ Hall—at depth of 12 feet.
1847. Threadneedle Street, with the hypocaust and foundation of a house.
1848. Coal Exchange—at depth of 12 feet. Baths or villa with mosaic.
1854. The Old Excise Office, Old Broad Street—at the depth of 13 feet.
  ” Bishopsgate Street—at the depth of 13 feet.
1857. Birchin Lane.
1859. Fenchurch Street, opposite Cullum Street—11 feet 6 inches deep.
  ” On the site of Honey Lane Market, while making trenches for new walls, at a depth of 17 feet the workmen came upon a tessellated pavement; the portion uncovered was 6 or 7 feet long, and 4 feet wide. Some 30 feet north of this pavement, and adjoining a spring of clear water, was found a thick wall which had the appearance of a Roman wall. In the earth were found many skulls and human bones.
  ” Paternoster Row—40 feet long.
  ” East India House—19 feet 6 inches deep. Another pavement found here.
1864. Paternoster Row—9 feet 6 inches deep.
  ” St. Paul’s Churchyard—18 feet deep.
1867. Union Bank of London, St. Mildred’s Court.
1869. Poultry.
  ” Tottenham Yard.
  ” Lothbury.
  ” Bush Lane.
  ” S.E. Railway Terminus.
  ” Cornhill, with the foundations of walls.
  ” Bucklersbury—19 feet deep.
1867-1871. Queen Victoria Street. Roman pavement in the middle of the roadway, Mansion House end. Close beside the pavement was found an ancient well, and a passage ran between.

The things that have been found are all pagan: pottery with the well-known Roman figures upon it, figures certainly not Christian; statues and statuettes of Harpocrates, Atys, Mercury, Apollo, the Deæ Matres; tessellated pavements of which the figures and designs contain no reference to Christianity.

As we have seen, tiles have been found inscribed with the letters PRB. Lon. or PRBR. Lon. (see p. 74).


It is on symbolical monuments that we expect to find evidence of the religion of a people. It is therefore strange that in Roman London, where undoubtedly Christianity was planted very early, we find no trace of the Christian religion. Gildas, who is supposed to have lived in the latter part of the sixth century, refers to the first preaching of Christianity as having taken place soon after the defeat of Boadicea, but reliance cannot be placed on the few historical statements which we find in the midst of his ravings; and he says that the Church was spread all over the country, with churches and altars, the three orders of priesthood, and monasteries. The persecution of Diocletian was felt in Britannia, where there were many martyrs, with the destruction of the churches, and a great falling from the faith. When the persecutions ceased, Gildas goes on, the churches were rebuilt. Tertullian says in A.D. 208, “Britannica inaccessa Romanis loca, Christo vero subdita.” At the Council of Arles, A.D. 314, as we have seen, three British Bishops were present. At later councils British Bishops were always present. Yet no ruins remain in London of a Roman British Church. No monuments, no literature, no traditions remain; only here and there a word—here and there a monogram.

In the year 1813, in the excavations made for the new Custom-House, three lines of wooden embankments were laid bare at the distances of 53, 86, and 103 feet within the range of the existing wharf. At the same time, about 50 feet from the outer edge of the wharf, a wall was discovered running east and west, built with chalk rubble and faced with Purbeck stone, which was probably part of the old river-side wall. No trace of any important buildings was found in the whole of the area thus laid open, but between the embankments there were the remains of buildings interspersed with pits and layers of rushes in different stages of decomposition.

Sir William Tite (Catalogue of Antiquities) speaks of other discoveries along the river:—

“The excavations for sewers, constructed along this part of the boundary of London, appear satisfactorily to have ascertained that nearly the whole south side of the road forming the line from Lower Thames Street to Temple Street has been gained from the river by a series of strong embankments. At the making of the sewer at Wool Quay, the soil turned up was similar to that discovered at the Custom-House; and the mouth of an ancient channel of timber was found under the street. The ground also contained large quantities of bone skewers about 10 inches in length, perforated with holes in the thicker ends, recalling the bone skates employed by the youths of London about the end of the twelfth century, as described by FitzStephen. Between Billingsgate and Fish-street Hill the whole street was found to be filled with piling, and especially at the gateway leading to Botolph Wharf—which, it will be remembered, was the head of the oldest known London Bridge,—where the piles were placed as closely together as they could be driven, as well as106 for some distance on each side. In certain parts of the line the embankment was formed by substantial walling, as at the foot of Fish-street Hill, where a strong body of clear water gushed out from beneath it. At the end of Queen Street also, and stretching along the front of Vintners’ Hall, a considerable piece of thick walling was encountered; and another interesting specimen was taken up, extending from Broken Wharf to Lambeth Hill. At Old Fish-street Hill this embankment was found to be 18 feet in thickness; and it returned a considerable distance up Lambeth Hill, gradually becoming less substantial as it receded inland. Both of these walls were constructed of the remains of other works, comprising blocks of stone, rough, squared, and wrought and moulded, together with roofing-tiles, rubble, and a variety of different materials run together with grout.” (Pp. xxiv.-xxv.)

Again, on the construction of the new London Bridge it was found necessary to take down St. Michael’s, Crooked Lane, and to construct a large and deep sewer under the line of approach. Three distinct lines of embankment were discovered marking as many bulwarks by which ground was gained for the wharves. One of these lines, lying 20 feet under the south abutment of the Thames Street landmark, was made by the trunks of oak trees squared with the axe. Quantities of Roman things were found 100 feet north of the river.

During the demolition of houses for the construction of the new Coal Exchange opposite Billingsgate Market in 1847, the workmen came upon extensive remains of a Roman building. They lay about 60 feet behind the line of Thames Street, and about 14 feet below the level of the pavement. On its western side was a thick brick wall; the foundations were piles of black oak, showing that the building stood upon the Thames mud outside and below the Roman fort; next to the pavement, but without communication, was a chamber, which was believed by those who saw it to be a portion of the “laconicum” or sweating-room of a Roman bath, of which the hypocaust was also found. These interesting investigations could not be continued except by working under the warehouses beyond. They were therefore all covered over, and will probably never again be brought to light.

The sarcophagi which have been found are few in number (see App. IV.). The most important are—(1) that which was found at Clapton, (2) that found within the precincts of Westminster Abbey, and (3) that found in Haydon Square, Minories. The first was found in the natural gravel 2 feet 6 inches below the surface, lying due south-east and west; it is of white coarse-grained marble and is cut from a solid block. It is 6 feet 3 inches long, 1 foot 3 inches wide, and 1 foot 6 inches deep; the thickness is about 3½ inches. The inner surface is smooth, with a rise of half an inch as a rest for the head. No lid or covering was found. It is plain on all sides but the front, which is ornamented with a fluted pattern. In the centre is a medallion, about 12 inches in diameter, containing a bust of the person interred. There is a name, but it cannot be deciphered. The Westminster sarcophagus is107 preserved in the approach to the Chapter-House. That which was discovered at Clapton was of marble. Two, containing enriched leaden coffins, have been found at Bartholomew’s Hospital; and another on the banks of the Fleet River, near to Seacoal Lane. The position of some of these, distant from any cemetery, shows that the Roman custom of making tombs serve as landmarks or monuments of boundaries was followed in Roman London. In making the excavations for the railway station at Cannon Street, there was found across Thames Street a complete network of piles and transverse beams; this was traced for a considerable distance along the river bank and in an upward direction towards Cannon Street. These beams indicate, first, that the ground here—below the hillocks, beside the Walbrook—was marshy and yielding; and, next, that very considerable buildings were raised upon so solid and so costly a foundation.


The following are the most important of the Inscriptions and Sculptures:—

1. A tombstone found by Sir Christopher Wren in Ludgate Hill while digging the foundation of St. Martin’s Church. It is now among the Arundel Marbles at Oxford. The following is the inscription:—“D. M. VIVIO MARCIANO M LEG. II AUG. IANUARIA MARINA CONJUNX PIENTISSIMA POSUIT MEMORIAM.” Which is in full:—“Diis Manibus. Vivio Marciano militi legionis secundae Augustae. Januaria Marina conjunx pientissima posuit memoriam.”

2. Another was found in 1806 behind the London Coffee House, Ludgate Hill, with a woman’s head in stone and the trunk of a statue of Hercules. The following is the inscription:—D. M. CL. MARTINAE AN XIX ANENCLETUS PROVINC CONJUGI PIENTISSIMAE H. S. E.—“Diis Manibus. Claudiae Martinae annorum novendecim Anencletus Provincialis conjugi pientissimae hoc sepulchrum erexit.”

3. Found in Church Street, Whitechapel, about the year 1779:—D. M. JUL. VALIUS. MIL. LEG. XX. V. V. AN. XL. H. S. E. CA. FLAVIO. ATTIO. HER.—“Diis Manibus. Julius Valius miles legionis vicesimae Valerianae victricis annorum quadraginta hic situs est, Caio Flavio Attio herede.”

4. Found in the Tenter Ground, Goodman’s Fields, in 1787; 15 in. by 12 in., and 3 in. thick—of native green marble:—D. M. FL. AGRICOLA. MIL. LEG. VI. VICT.108 V. AN. XLII. DX ALBIA FAUSTINA CONJUGI INCOMPARABILI F. C.—“Diis Manibus. Flavius Agricola miles legionis sextae victricis vixit annos quadraginta duos dies decem Albia Faustina Conjugi incomparabili faciendum curavit.”

Roach Smith’s Catalogue of London Antiquities.

5. Found within the Tower, 1778; 2 ft. 8 in., by 2 ft. 4 in.:—DIS MANIB. T. LICINI ASCANIUS. F.—“Diis Manibus. Tito Licinio, Ascanius fecit.”

6. Found outside London wall near Finsbury Circus—now in the Guildhall Library:—D. M. GRATA DAGOBITI FIL AN XL SOLINUS CONJUGI KAR F C.—“Diis Manibus. Grata Dagobiti Filia annorum quadraginta Solinus conjugi karissimae fieri curavit.”

7. Found in Playhouse Yard, Blackfriars—formerly outside the City wall, now in the British Museum:—“Diis Manibus ... R. L. F. C. Celsus ... Speculator Legionis Secundae Augustae annorum ... natione Dardanus Gu ... Valerius Pudens et ... Probus Speculatores Leg. II. fieri curaverunt.”

8. Found on Tower Hill, 1852; 6 ft. 4 in., by 2 ft. 6 in.:—A ALFID. POMPO. JUSSA EX TESTAMENT ... HER. POS. ANNOR. LXX. NA AELINI H. S. EST.—“A Alfidio Pompo (Pomponio?) jussa ex testamento heres posuit, annorum septuaginta (Na Aelini?), hic situs est.”

9. Found also on Tower Hill; 5 ft. 4 in., by 2 ft. 6 in.:—“DIS ANIBUS ABALPINICLASSICIANI.

10. Found at Pentonville, serving as a paving-stone before the door of a cottage:— “... URNI ... LEGXX GAC ... M ...”

11. Found in Nicholas Lane, near Cannon Street, June 1850, at the depth of 11 or 12 feet, lying close to a wall 2 feet in width. It is only a fragment:—“NUMC ... PROV ... BRITA ...”

12. Found on an ingot of silver within the Tower of London in 1777: “EX OFFI. HONORIM”—i.e. Ex officinâ—from the workshop of Honorinus.

As we have already said, the things that have been found are nearly all pagan. Only on two Roman pavements have been found the Christian symbols, on one coin, and on one stone in the Roman wall. This silence proves, to my mind, that the Christian religion, down to the middle of the fourth century, held a very obscure place among the many religions followed and professed by the people. Except in times of persecution, everybody worshipped any god he pleased—Christ, or Apollo, or the109 Sun, or the Mother. But those who followed the Christian faith were not the soldiers, or their captains, or the Imperial officers, or the rich merchants: they were the lower class, the craftsmen of the cities, and the slaves among whom the Christian hope prevailed.

From Archæologia, vol. viii.

During an excavation at Hart Street, Crutched Friars, there was found at a considerable depth below the surface a fragment of a group representing the Deæ Matres—the Three Mothers. The fragment measures 2 ft. 8 in. in length, 1 ft. 5 in. in width, and 1 ft. 8 in. in depth. The sculpture represented three female figures fully clothed with flowing draperies, each bearing in her lap a basket of fruit. Perhaps their sacellum or temple was close by, but no search for it seems to have been made. This is not the place for enlarging upon the worship of these strange goddesses. Their figures have been found at Winchester, at York, and along the Roman wall; but they were essentially German deities. That they have been found in this country side by side with the classical gods shows that here, as in all other Roman provinces, the people received a great mixture of gods from all parts of the world among their original gods. The Three Mothers represented the productive power of Nature: the fruits signify the annual harvest. It is easy to understand how, starting with this idea, the whole of life—birth, growth, strength, decay, and death—may be connected with the Mothers of all. We may worship the Sun as the creator, or the Deæ Matres as the producers. We may have Baal, Apollo, the Sun—the Father; or we may have Venus, Osiris, or the Matres—the Mothers. A port which was a place of resort for merchants of all nations would, in those days of universal respect and toleration of all gods, offer a strange collection of gods. Long before Christianity was established there were Christians in the City side by side with those who110 worshipped Nature as creator or producer—those who adopted the gods of the Romans and those who preserved the memory and the teaching of the Druids. But, whatever be said or conjectured, nothing can be more remarkable than the absence of Christian symbols.

Returning to the Roman remains found in London, we come to the wall paintings, of which a considerable number have been recovered—“cart-loads,” according to Roach Smith. “In some localities I have seen them carried away by cart-loads. Enough has been preserved of them to decide that the rooms of the house were usually painted in square panels or compartments, the prevailing colours of which were bright red, dark grey, and black, with borders of various colours.”

A quantity of pottery has also been found. Here, in fact, was an extensive industry in the making of fictile vessels. In the year 1677, on the north-west of St. Paul’s Cathedral, were discovered remains of Roman kilns: they were found and sketched by John Conyers. He says that there were four of them lying in the sandy loam from which they were constructed. The one he sketched was 5 feet deep, and the same in breadth. The kiln was full of the coarser kind of pottery. The figures show the form of the vessels. The potters’ marks are very numerous. Some show that the vessels were brought from abroad, but these are comparatively few; the remainder testify to the fact that London was largely engaged in this industry. The red glazed pottery, of which such quantity is found wherever there has been a Roman settlement, is clearly proved to have been made in Gaul and Germany and to have been imported. It was probably superior to the home-made ware. The designs with which the pottery is ornamented are executed with great skill and beauty. Mythological stories are represented, as that of Actæon and Diana, the labours of Hercules, and Bacchanalian processions. There are representations of flowers, fruits, and foliage, field sports, and the contests in the amphitheatre.

Of tiles, whether for roofing, for bonding, for the hypocaust, or other purposes, numbers have been dug up.

Were the windows in the houses of London glazed? Lactantius shows clearly that in his time there were glass windows. “Verius et manifestius est mentem esse quae per oculos ea, quae sunt opposita, transpiciat quasi per fenestras lucente vitro aut speculari lapide obductas.” And Seneca, much earlier, speaks of chambers covered with glass. In Pompeii both glass and the lapis specularis of Lactantius have been found in their window-frames. This should be quite conclusive. The enormous convenience of a window which would admit light and keep out the cold, especially in such a climate as ours, and the fact that in Italy such windows were in common use, are enough to show that these windows were used, because all the luxuries and conveniences of Rome were introduced here, if not by the natives, at least by the Roman officials. Pieces of glass, flat and semi-transparent, of a greenish hue, have111 been found in excavations, and are considered to be window glass. Indeed it would seem absolutely impossible to live in anything but a hut with a fire in the middle and an open door at the side without some such contrivance. There are many days in the year when it is impossible to work in the open air or in rooms exposed to the outer air. As soon as a house was constructed the glazed window—glazed with horn, or glass, or talc—must have followed.

Of coins a very large number have been dug up in excavations. These have been classified and described by Mr. C. Roach Smith in his book on Roman London.



The most important of all the Roman remains in London are the ruins of the wall.

Under the protection of the Citadel the merchants first conducted their business; under its shadow the ships lay moored in the river, the bales lay on the quays, and the houses of the people, planted at first along the banks of the Walbrook, stretched out northwards to the moor and westwards as far as the river Fleet.

Then came the City wall.

It is strange that nothing should be said anywhere about so strong and important a piece of work as the wall. When was it built, and by whom? When was it destroyed, and by whom? Was it standing when the Saxons began their occupation? It appears not.

My theory is this:—According to the opinion of Sir William Tite, which now seems generally accepted (Archæologia, vol. xxxiii.), the wall of London—not the Citadel wall—was built somewhere about the year 360 A.D. There is no record of the building; yet it was a great and costly work. The date of the building is of some importance, because the wall itself was a sign of weakness. There was no need of such a wall in the second or third centuries: the Citadel and the power of the Roman name were enough. In the next century—a period of decay—this assistance failed, the inhabitants ceased to rely on the Roman name. Then they looked around. Augusta was a very large City; it had become rich; it was full of treasure; for want of a wall it might be taken at a rush. Moreover, not only was the Roman arm weakened, but the position of the City was far less secure than formerly. Of old the approaches were mere tracks through forest and over moor; now they were splendid roads. It was by means of these roads, constructed for the use of the legions, that the Picts and Scots were able to descend into the very heart of the country, even within a day or two of London; it was by these roads that the pirates from the east, landing in Essex, would some day swoop down upon the City. At the date suggested by Sir William Tite there was, one can see plainly, insecurity enough; though the people, from long habit, still relied on the legions and on the Roman peace. For nearly four hundred years, without113 any fighting of their own, the citizens had been safe, and had felt themselves safe. After the wholesale exportation of rebels from the Roman soldiery by Paulus Catena, when the invaders of the north came every day farther south and nearer London, it was borne in upon the citizens that the time of safety was over, that they must now defend themselves, and that the city of Augusta lay stretched out for a mile along the river and half a mile inland without a wall or any defence at all.


After the reprisals taken by Paulus Catena in 355 and his withdrawal, the country, nearly denuded of troops, lay open to invasion. But in the year 369 we have seen that Theodosius found the enemy ravaging the country round London, but they did not get in. The wall must have existed already. It was therefore between 355 and 369 that the wall was built. As I read history, it was built in a panic, all the people giving their aid, just as, in 1643, when there was a scare in the City because King Charles was reported to be marching upon it, all the people went out to fortify the avenues and approaches. Another reason for thinking114 this, apart from the general insecurity of the time, is the very significant fact that the wall is built not only with cut and squared stones, but with all kinds of material in fragments caught up from every quarter.

These fragments proclaim aloud that the construction of the wall was not a work resolved upon after careful consideration; that it was not taken in hand with the leisure due to so important a business; that the citizens could not wait for stone to be quarried and brought to London for the purpose; but that the wall was resolved upon, begun, and carried through with all the haste that such a work would allow, though with the thoroughness and strength which the Roman traditions enjoined.

In order to get stone enough for this great wall, the people not only sent to the quarries of Kent, whence came the “rag” and the sandstone, and to those of Sussex, where they obtained their chalk, but they also laid hands upon every building of stone within and without the City; they tore down the massive walls of the Citadel, leaving only the foundations; they used the walls and the columns and the statues of the forum and of the temple, and of all the official buildings; they took down the amphitheatre and used its stones; they even took the monuments from the cemeteries and built them up into the wall.

Fragments of pillars, altars, statues, capitals, and carved work of all kinds may be found embedded in the wall.

They took everything; and this fact is the chief reason why nothing of the Roman occupation—save the wall itself—remained above ground in Saxon times.

It is remarkable that the Roman walls of Sens, Dijon, Bordeaux, Bourges, Périgueux, and Narbonne are in the same way partly constructed of old materials, and that they contained the remains of temples, columns, pilasters, friezes, entablatures, sepulchral monuments, altars, and sculptures, all speaking of threatened danger, and the hasty building of a wall for which every piece of stone in the city was seized and used.

Attempts have been made to show that the wall was built in later times. Cemeteries, it is stated, have been found here and there. We have already seen that there were burials in Bow Lane, in Queen Street, Cheapside, in Cornhill, north of Lombard Street, on St. Dunstan’s Hill, in Camomile Street, and at St. Helen’s Church, Bishopsgate. Now interment within the city was forbidden by law. Hence it is inferred that the wall could not have been Roman work. The answer to this inference is very simple. The City of London was the enclosed town or fort on the eastern hillock; all these places of burial lie without the wall of this Citadel—that is to say, without the town.

As for the wall, so many portions of it remained until this century, so many fragments still remain, it is laid down with so much precision on the older maps, and especially on those of Agas and Wyngaerde, that it is perfectly easy to follow115 it along its whole course. For instance, there were standing, a hundred years ago, in the street called London Wall, west of All Hallows on the Wall, large portions of the wall overlooking Finsbury Circus, with trees growing upon them—a picturesque old ruin which it was a shame to destroy. This part of the wall is shown, with a postern, in the 1754 edition of Stow and Strype. Indeed that edition shows the whole course of the wall very clearly, still standing in its entirety.

Starting from the Tower, it ran in a straight line a little west of north-west to Aldgate; then it bent more to the west and ran in a curve to Bishopsgate; thence nearly in a straight line west by north to St. Giles’s Churchyard, where it turned south; at Aldersgate it ran west again as far as a little north of Newgate, where it turned south once more, crossed Ludgate Hill, and in ancient times reached the river a little to the east of the Fleet, leaving a corner, formerly a swampy bank of the Fleet, which was afterwards occupied by the Dominicans. Fragments of the wall still exist at All Hallows Church, at St. Alphege Churchyard, in St. Giles’s Churchyard, and at the Post Office, St. Martin’s-le-Grand, while excavations have laid bare portions in many other places. For instance, in the year 1852 there was uncovered, in the corner of some building, a very large piece of the wall at Tower Hill. By the exertions of Mr. C. Roach Smith this fragment was saved from destruction, examined carefully and figured. A plate showing that part of it where the ancient facing had been preserved is given in his Illustrations of Roman London. “Upon the foundation was placed a set-off row of large square stones; upon these, four layers of smaller stones, regularly and neatly cut; then a bonding course of three rows of red tiles, above which are six layers of stones separated, by a bonding course of tiles as before, from a third division of five layers of stones; the bonding course of tiles above these is composed of two rows of tiles; and in like manner the facing was carried to the top. The tiles of the third row are red and yellow; and they extend through the entire width of the wall, which is about 10 feet, the height having been apparently 30 feet. The core of the wall is cemented together with concrete, in which lime predominates, as is usual in Roman mortar. Pounded tile is also used in the mortar which cements the facing. This gives it that peculiar red hue which led FitzStephen to imagine the cement of the foundations of the Tower to have been tempered with the blood of beasts.” In the year 1763 there was still standing in Houndsditch part of a Roman tower. It is figured in Roach Smith’sRoman London. The drawing shows that the towers are as square as those still to be traced at Richborough. They were built solid at the bottom, hollow in the middle, and solid again at the top. The middle part contained a room with loopholes for the discharge of missiles and arrows. In the Houndsditch tower a window has taken the place of the loophole. According to FitzStephen, the wall was strengthened by towers at intervals. At the angles, as appears from the bastion in St. Giles’s Churchyard, the towers were circular.


In 1857 excavations at the end of Aldermanbury laid open a remarkable portion of the wall; it was composed of a series of blind arches forming part of the solid masonry.

Nothing is left above ground of the Roman facing; what we see now is the old solid core with perhaps some of the mediæval facing. The uncovering of a large part of the wall at Aldersgate Street is thus described (Archæologia, vol. lii. 609):—

“The Government having determined to erect additional buildings to the General Post Office in St. Martin’s-le-Grand, certain steps were taken in order to ascertain the nature of the ground on which these buildings were to be placed. For this purpose, in the latter part of 1887, shafts were sunk along a line from Aldersgate Street to King Edward Street, some yards south of the old Money Order Office, and parallel to Bull and Mouth Street, a street now swept away. In sinking these pits the workmen came upon the Roman wall, and afterwards, as the process of preparing the site for the new buildings proceeded, a considerable fragment of it was unearthed running east and west, and extending from Aldersgate Street on the one side, to King Edward Street on the other. It was found that the line of buildings and walls forming the southern boundary of the churchyard of St. Botolph, Aldersgate Street, was based upon this wall, and it seems very probable that the churchyard and church above-named partly occupy the ground filling up the original ditch.

The portion of wall exposed, commencing near Aldersgate Street and running westwards, can be well seen for a length of upwards of 131 feet. A considerable length of this has been carefully underpinned, and, I am happy to say, will be preserved. The height remaining varies very considerably, but, measuring from the original ground level, at least eleven or twelve feet of masonry is still standing in places, not in any regular line at the top, but much broken into by the foundations of comparatively modern walls built upon it. Beyond the length named but little of the wall is to be seen, and as it approaches King Edward Street, just beneath the line of the houses in that street, on its eastern side, were discovered the foundations of a semicircular tower, or rather a tower semicircular in plan, with slightly prolonged straight sides. The foundations of this tower—and nothing but foundations remained—did not form any part of the structure of the Roman wall, but came with a butt-joint against it. They were 5 feet 3 inches wide, and composed of rubble-work of Kentish ragstone with some chalk, and a few fragments of old building materials bedded amongst the rubble. The internal measurements of this tower were 17 feet 3 inches by 16 feet, and the foundation of the Roman wall was seen to cross its base. The tower which stood on these foundations is probably an addition to the wall in the mediæval period. It was not Roman, and the foundations had no Roman character. Some pieces of worked stone discovered117 in them showed traces of Norman mouldings, and of foliage of the early English period. It is possible that the first tower west of Aldersgate, seen in Agas’s map of London 1560, may be the one the remains of which are here described.

Turning now to examine the construction of the Roman wall, it appears that it was built in the following manner:—A trench, from 10 feet 9 inches to 11 feet wide and 6 feet deep, was dug in the natural clay soil, the sides of the trench for a distance of 2 feet from the bottom sloping slightly outwards. The lower part of the trench for the depth of 2 feet was then filled in with puddled clay mixed with flints, and the whole well rammed down. Upon this came 4 feet of rubble foundation, lessening in some places to 2 feet, composed of masses of Kentish ragstone, laid in mortar, the larger pieces being placed with some care in the arrangement, so as to form a solid base for the superstructure of the wall itself.

This wall, between 8 and 9 feet thick, as far as could be ascertained, starts with a bonding course of three rows of tiles at the ancient ground level, which is 6 feet 9 inches below the level of Aldersgate Street. Above this course the body of the wall is composed throughout its height of masses of ragstone, with now and then a fragment of chalk bedded very roughly in mortar which has been pitched in, not run in, sometimes with so little care as to leave occasional empty spaces amongst the stones. The stones are often arranged in a rude herring-bone fashion, perhaps for greater convenience in packing them in, but the layers do not correspond in depth with the facing course.

The lowest band of tiles in the wall (at the ground level) is 8 inches high, and consists of three rows, the bed of mortar between them being often thicker than the tiles themselves. The vertical joints, however, are very close. The three bands of tiles above this lowest one are each 4½ inches high and of two rows. All these bands form bonding courses—layers, in fact, through the entire breadth of the wall, binding the rubble core together.

The tiles vary somewhat in size, but one perfect example which could be measured in every direction was 1 foot by 1 foot 4 inches, and from 1 inch to 1½ inches thick. They are set with their greatest length into the wall. Some yellowish tiles here and there form an exception to the great mass, which is red and well burnt.

The height of the spaces of stone facing between each band of bonding tiles is as follows:—The first space counting from the lowest band, 2 feet 4 inches; the second, 2 feet 4 inches; the third, 2 feet 5 inches; and the fourth, 2 feet 10 inches; though these last dimensions are somewhat doubtful, on account of the ruined condition of the upper part of the wall. Each of these spaces, with the exception of the ruined topmost one, of which little can be made out, is divided into five rows of facing stones, in regular rows, all apparently much the same height, though118 the individual stones vary considerably in length. These stones are very irregular in the amount of their penetration into the core of the wall, and there is nothing resembling the method adopted in working the facing stones of the wall of Hadrian, where each stone is cut to a long wedge shape and set with the pointer end into the wall. On the face the stones average from 4 to 5 inches in height, laid in a mortar bed of another inch or more in depth, and their average depth into the wall may be about 9 or 10 inches. They therefore form a mere skin between the tile bonding courses to the thick irregular rubble core. The stones have been brought to a clean face by splitting off their rough surface by the process known as pitching, and have been roughly squared in bed and joints with a hammer. The mortar employed seems to have nothing unusual in its composition. The mortar in which pounded tile forms so large an ingredient is not to be found here.”

In preparing for the new buildings erected, in the summer of 1857, on the north side of the gaol of Newgate, in the Old Bailey, and very near to the site of the City gate which gave its name to the prison, the ground was excavated to a considerable depth, and thus the foundation of the City wall was cut through, and many vestiges of old London were discovered. Among these, Mr. G. R. Corner, F.S.A., obtained a fragment of a mortarium, with the potter’s mark very clearly and distinctly impressed on the rim, but the words singularly disposed within a twisted border.

It is remarkable that a similar fragment, bearing the same mark, was also found in Newgate Street, on the 23rd October 1835, and is now preserved in Mr. Charles Roach Smith’s Museum of London Antiquities at the British Museum.

During the 1857 excavations, abundance of Roman bond-tiles and building materials appeared in and about the City wall; and Mr. Corner observed under a stratum of pounded brick, which was the foundation of a coarse pavement, a layer of burnt wood, the evident remains of a fire during, or previous, to the Roman period. Many feet higher was a similar layer of wood-ashes, produced by the Fire of 1666, or some similar occurrence in later times.

The following letter to Sir Christopher Wren from J. Woodward (June 23, 1707) gives a detailed account of certain excavations in Camomile Street:—

“In April last, upon the pulling down some old Houses, adjoining to Bishops-Gate, in Camomile Street, in order to the building there anew, and digging, to make Cellars, about four Foot under Ground, was discovered a Pavement, consisting of Diced bricks, the most red, but some few black, and others yellow; of nearly of a size, and very small, hardly any exceeding an inch in thickness. The extent of the Pavement in length was uncertain; it running from Bishopsgate for sixty feet, quite under the Foundation of some houses not yet pulled down. Its Breadth was about ten Feet; terminating on that side at the distance of three feet and a half from the City wall.119

Sinking downwards, under the Pavement, only rubbish occurred for about two foot; and then the workmen came to a Stratum of Clay; in which, at the Depth of two feet more, they found several urns. Some of them were become so tender and rotten that they easily crumbled and fell to pieces. As to those that had the Fortune better to escape the injuries of Time, and the Strokes of the Workmen that rais’d the Earth, they were of different Forms; but all of very handsome make and contrivance; as indeed most of the Roman Vessels we find ever are. Which is but one of the many instances that are at this day extant of the art of that people; of the great exactness of their genius, and happiness of their fancy. These Urns were of various sizes; the largest capable of holding full three gallons, the least somewhat above a Quart. All of these had, in them, ashes, and Cinders of burned Bones.

Along with the urns were found various other earthen Vessels: as a Simpulum, a Patera of very fine red earth, and a blewish Glass Viol of that sort that is commonly call’d a Lachrimatory. These were all broke by the Carelessness of the Workmen. There were likewise found several Beads, one or two Copper Rings; a Fibula of the same Metall, but much impaired and decayed; as also a Coin of Antoninus Pius, exhibiting on one side, the Head of that Emperor, with a radiated Crown on, and this inscription, ANTONINUS AVG ... IMP. XVI. On the reverse was the Figure of a Woman, sitting, and holding in her right hand a Patera; in her left an hastapura. The inscription on this side was wholly obliterated and gone.

At about the same depth with the things before mentioned but nearer to the City Wall, and without the Verge of the Pavement, was digg’d up an Human Skull, with several Bones, that were whole, and had not passed the Fire, as those in the Urns had. Mr. Stow makes mention of Bones found in like manner not far off this place, and likewise of Urns with Ashes in them; as do also Mr. Weever after him, and Mr. Camden.

The City Wall being, upon this occasion, to make way for these new buildings, broke up and beat to pieces, from Bishopsgate onwards, S. so far as they extend, an opportunity was given of observing the Fabrick and Composition of it. From the foundation, which lay eight Foot below the present surface, quite up to the Top, which was, in all, near Ten Foot, ’twas compil’d alternately of Layers of broad flat bricks; and of Rag Stone. The bricks lay in double ranges; and, each brick being but one inch and three-tenths in thickness, the whole layer, with the Mortar interpos’d, exceeded not three inches. The Layers of Stone were not quite two feet thick, of our measure. ’Tis probable they were intended for two of the Roman, their rule being somewhat shorter than ours. To this height the workmanship was after the Roman manner; and these were the Remains of the antient wall, supposed to be built by Constantine the Great. In this ’twas very observable that the Mortar was, as usually in the Roman Works, so very firm and hard, that the120 stone itself is easily broke, and gave way, as that. ’Twas thus far, from the Foundation upwards, nine Foot in Thickness, and yet so vast a bulk and strength had not been able to secure it from being beat down in former Ages, and near levell’d with the Ground.

The Broad thin Bricks, above mention’d, were all of Roman make; and of the very sort which, we learn from Pliny, were of common use among the Romans; being in Length a Foot and half, of their Standard, and in breadth a Foot. Measuring some of these very carefully, I found them 17 inches 4/10 in Length, 11 inches 6/10 in breadth, and 1 inch 3/10 in thickness of our Measure. This may afford some light towards the settling and adjusting the Dimensions of the Roman Foot; and shewing the Proportion that it bears to the English; a Thing of so great use, that one of the most accomplished and judicious writers of the last Century endeavour’d to compass it with a great deal of Travel and Pains. Indeed ’tis very remarkable, that the Foot-Rule follow’d up by the Makers of these Bricks was nearly the same with that exhibited on the Monument of Cossutius in the Colotian Gardens at Rome, which that admirable mathematician has, with great reason, pitched upon as the true Roman foot. Hence likewise appears, what indeed was very probable without this confirmation, that the standard foot in Rome was followed in the Colonies, and Provinces, to the very remotest parts of the Empire; and that too, quite down even to the Time of Constantine; in case this was the wall that was built by his appointment.

The old wall having been demolished, as has been intimated above, was afterwards repaired again, and carry’d up, of the same thickness, to eight or nine feet in height. Or if higher, there was no more of that work now standing. All this was apparently additional, and of a make later than the other part underneath. That was levell’d at top and brought to a Plane, in order to the raising this new Work upon it. The outside, or that towards the suburbs, was faced with a coarse sort of stone; not compil’d with any great care or skill, or disposed into a regular method. But, on the inside, there appear’d more marks of workmanship and Art. At the Bottom were five Layers, compos’d of Squares of Flint, and of Free-stone, tho’ they were not so in all parts, yet in some the squares were near equal, about five inches in Diameter; and ranged in a Quincunx order. Over these was a layer of brick; then of hew’n free-stone; and so alternately, brick and stone, to the top. There were of the bricks in all, six layers, each consisting only of a double course; except that which lay above all, in which there were four Courses of Bricks, where the layer was intire. These bricks were of the shape of those now in use; but much larger; being near 11 inches in length, 5 in breadth, and somewhat above 2½ in thickness. Of the stone there were five layers and each of equal thickness in all parts, for its whole length. The highest, and the lowest of these, were somewhat above a foot in thickness, the three middle layers each five inches. So that the whole height of121 this additional work was near nine foot. As to the interior parts or the main bulk of the wall, ’twas made up of Pieces of rubble-stone; with a few bricks, of the same sort of those us’d in the inner facing of the wall, laid uncertainly, as they happen’d to come to hand, and not in any stated method. There was not one of the broad thin Roman bricks, mentioned above, in all this part; nor was the mortar here near so hard as in that below. But, from the description, it may easily be recollected that this part, when first made, and intire, with so various and orderly a disposition of the Materials, Flint, Stone, Bricks, could not but carry a very elegant and handsome aspect. Whether this was done at the expense of the Barons, in the reign of K. John; or of the Citizens in the reign of K. Henry III.; or of K. Richard II.; or at what other time, I cannot take upon me to ascertain from accounts so defective and obscure, as are those which at this day remain of this affair. Upon the additional work, now described, was raised a wall wholly of brick; only that it terminating in battlements, these are top’d with Copings of Stone. ’Tis two feet four inches in thickness and somewhat above eight feet in height. The bricks of this are of the same Moduls, and size, with those of the Part underneath. How long they had been in use is uncertain. But there can be no doubt but this is the wall that was built in the year 1477 in the reign of King Edward IV. Mr. Stow informs us that that was compil’d of bricks made of clay got in Moorfields; and mentions two Coats of Arms fixt in it near Moorgate; one of which is extant to this day, tho’ the stone, whereon it was ingrav’d, be somewhat worn and defaced. Bishopsgate itself was built two years after this wall, in the form it still retains. The workmen lately employed there sunk considerably lower than the Foundations of this Gate; and, by that means, learned they lay not so deep as those of the old Roman Wall by four or five feet.”

“A portion of the ancient wall of London was discovered in Cooper’s Row, Crutched Friars, while preparing for the erection of a warehouse there. The length of this piece of wall is 106 feet 6 inches. The lower part is Roman, and the upper part mediæval. The latter consists of rubble, chalk, and flints, and is 17 feet 4 inches high to the foot face, which is 2 feet wide, and has a parapet or breast wall 5 feet high and 2 feet thick. It is much defaced by holes cut for the insertion of timbers of modern buildings, and is cased in parts with brickwork. On the west side are two semicircular arched recesses. This mediæval wall is set back and battered at the lower part on both sides, until it reaches the thickness of the Roman wall on which it is built. The Roman wall remains in its primitive state to a depth of 5 feet 7 inches, and in this part is faced with Kentish rag in courses, and has two double rows of tiles. The first course is 2 feet 8 inches from the top, and 4 inches thick. The second is 2 feet 2½ inches lower down, and 4½ inches thick. The tiles are from 1¼ inches to 1¾ inches thick, and of the size called sesquipedales, viz., a Roman foot wide, and 1½ feet long. They are laid, some lengthwise and others122 crosswise, as headers and stretchers. At the level of the upper course of tiles is a set-off of half a Roman foot. Below the second course the wall is cased with brickwork forming a modern vault, but at the foot of the brick casing a double row of Roman tiles is again visible 3 feet 9½ inches below the last-mentioned course, and these two courses are 4½ inches thick. These tiles come out to the face of the modern brickwork, which is about 5 inches in advance of the wall above it, so that there would seem to be a second set-off in the wall. One course of ragstone facing is seen below these tile-courses, but the excavation has not yet reached the foundation of the wall. The total height of Roman wall discovered is 10 feet 3 inches. The upper part of the Roman wall is 8 or 9 feet thick.” (L. and M. Arch. vol. iii. p. 52.)

From Archæologia, vol. xxix.

In the autumn of 1874 were discovered the foundations of an old wall supposed to be those of the Roman wall. These remains were examined by Mr. J. E. Price, F.S.A., who thus described them:—


“The excavations were situate at the western end of Newgate Street, at the corner adjoining Giltspur Street, and at but a short distance from the site of the old ‘Compter,’ removed a few years since. The remains were first observed in clearing away the cellars of the houses which separated this building from Newgate Street and covered a considerable area. They were on the north side of the street, and appeared at a short distance from the surface. The City wall ran behind the houses, forming at this point an angle, whence it branched off beneath Christ’s Hospital in the direction of Aldersgate. Adjoining the wall was a long arched vault or passage, and upon the City side of this, a well, approached by a doorway leading to a flight of perhaps a dozen steps. This staircase was arched over, being covered by what is technically termed a bonnet arch. In addition, there were walls and cross walls several feet in thickness, all extremely massive, and with foundations of great strength and durability. These walls were chiefly composed of ragstone, oolite, chalk, and firestone, with an occasional brick or tile, and the vaulted passage of two rings of stonework formed by squared blocks of large dimensions. The width of the passage was from 7 to 8 feet, the stones composing the arch measuring from 2 to 3 feet wide, and nearly 2 feet high. The side walls of the passage were faced with carefully squared blocks laid in little, if any, mortar, and of immense size, some of them being from 4 to 5 feet long by 2 in height, and all such as would be selected in the construction of a building devoted to uses requiring more than ordinary strength. At the junction of the passage with the external wall, the outer facing of the arch was visible; it had been carefully worked, and upon it appeared a hollow chamfer of a decided mediæval type, a circumstance which alone strongly militates against the Roman theory. The mortar also was such as may be usually found in mediæval buildings, but presented none of the characteristics either of Roman mortar or Roman concrete. Nor were there any such unmistakable substances found attached to the tiles, the rubble, or the stonework which made up the section of the City wall. Roman mortar is not easily mistaken; so hard and so durable is it that it is frequently easier to break the stones themselves than the cement which holds them together. In the Roman walls found at the erection of the Cannon Street Railway Station, so solid was the masonry that it was with the greatest difficulty that sufficient could be removed for the introduction of the new brickwork, and much of that enormous building rests upon foundations such as no modern architect could improve.” (Arch. vol. v. pp. 404-405.)

Mr. Price concluded that the foundations thus disclosed were not Roman at all, but of much later date. He thought that they were the foundations of a gate and gaol erected after the Conquest. His view appears to be well founded. And yet the foundations may have been on the site of the Roman wall. He seems to have supposed that the Roman wall did not extend so far west and north, on account of the great area enclosed. But he does not state at what period this great area could have been more fitly enclosed. If we consider that a large part of the City consisted of gardens and villas, there is a reason for the enclosure; while the argument that the wall could not have been defended throughout its length is also met by the fact that it could not be easily attacked because of its length; that the scientific methods of sieges were not invented till much later; that in order to meet them the moat was constructed; and that the wall alone was sufficient for the assailants its builders had in view when it was first erected.

I must reserve the consideration of the mediæval gates for a later time. Meanwhile, it must be noted that neither the Bishopsgate nor Newgate of the later period stood upon the original Roman site.

The Roman foundations of Bishopsgate have been discovered in Camomile124 Street, south-east of the later Bishopsgate; and those of the old gate of Watling Street have been found north of the later Newgate.

There were fifteen bastions, according to Maitland. Of these there are shown on the maps three between the Tower and Aldgate, one at Cripplegate, two in Monkwell Street, one at Christ’s Hospital, and another near the corner of Giltspur Street, 100 feet from Newgate. On the occasion of a fire at Ludgate in 1792, portions of an ancient watch-tower were discovered.

Briefly, therefore, fragments of the wall can be seen on Tower Hill, where there is a splendid piece 250 feet long; at All Hallows on the Wall, where a part was taken down about 1800 in the street called London Wall; at St. Alphege Churchyard, at Cripplegate, and in the Old Bailey. Add to these the discoveries in Camomile Street in 1874, those in Bull and Mouth Street, in Giltspur Street, north of Christ’s Hospital, south of Ludgate, and the foundations in Thames Street.

Between Blackfriars and the Tower ran the old river-side wall. This had been pulled down before the reign of Henry II., but the foundations remain to this day, and have been uncovered in one place at least. The wall ran along the middle of Thames Street. The portion discovered was at the angle where the wall met the river at the foot of Lambeth Hill. It was when works connected with the sewage were being executed that the wall was found nine feet below the surface.

Mr. C. Roach Smith thus describes the finding of the river wall:—


“The workmen employed in excavating for sewerage in Upper Thames Street advanced without impediment from Blackfriars to the foot of Lambeth Hill, where they were obstructed by the remains of a wall of extraordinary strength, which formed an angle at Lambeth Hill and Thames Street. Upon this wall the contractor for the sewer was obliged to excavate to the depth of about 20 feet, and the consequent labour and delay afforded me an opportunity of examining the construction and course of the wall. The upper part was generally met with at the depth of about 9 feet from the level of the present street, and 6 from that which marks the period of the great fire of London, and, as the sewer was constructed to the depth of 20 feet, 8 feet of the wall in height had to be removed. In thickness it measured from 8 to 10 feet. It was built upon oaken piles, over which was laid a stratum of chalk and stone, and upon this a course of hewn sandstones, each measuring from 3 to 4 feet by 2 and 2½ feet, cemented with the well-known compound of quicklime, sand, and pounded tile. Upon this solid substructure was laid the body of the wall, formed of ragstone, flint, and lime, bonded at intervals with courses of plain and curved-edged tiles. This wall continued with occasional breaks, where at some remote time it had been broken down, from Lambeth Hill as far as Queenhithe. On a previous occasion I had noticed a wall precisely similar in character in Thames Street, opposite Queen Street.

One of the most remarkable features of this southern wall remains to be described. Many of the large stones which formed the lower part were sculptured and ornamented with mouldings denoting their use in the friezes or entablatures of edifices at some period antecedent to the construction of the wall. Fragments of sculptured marble, which had also decorated buildings, and part of the foliage and trellis-work of an altar or tomb, of good workmanship, had also been used as building materials. In this respect the wall resembles many of those of the ancient towns on the Continent, which were partly built out of the ruins of public edifices, of broken altars, sepulchral monuments, and such materials, proving their comparatively late origin, and showing that even the ancients did not at all times respect the memorials of their ancestors and predecessors, and that our modern vandalism sprang from an old stock.” (Illustrations of Roman London.)

On the reclaiming of the foreshore I have already (p. 105) given Sir William Tite’s evidence. I here return to the subject, which is closely connected with the river-side wall. Behind the river wall the gentle slope continued until the ground rose from 26 feet above the river to 50 feet. Now, if the theory which considers the dedicating of the churches here shows the extreme antiquity of the town is correct, this ought to have been the most densely populated part of the City in the fourth century. I do not know why it should have been so. The ports of Roman London were, as I have already advanced, two—Walbrook and Billingsgate: the first a natural port; the second an artificial port constructed for convenience close to Bridge Gate. There was no port along the south front of London between the Fleet and the Walbrook; there was no reason why this part should have been crowded. The wall was not built on the edge of the cliff (if there were a cliff) for very good reasons; the slope, more likely, was levelled for a space on both sides the wall. When, for instance, in King John’s reign, the town ditch was constructed, a ledge of 10 feet was left between the foot of the wall and the beginning of the slope of the moat. The same rule must have been observed in the construction of this wall.

This wall was constructed as far as Walbrook, where the stream and the banks were 230 feet wide. Here was the earliest port of London. What happened next is matter of conjecture, but it seems quite certain that the wall would end with a round bastion or tower protecting the entrance; that the mouth of the port was further protected by a stout chain capable of resisting the strongest ships; that within, on the banks of the stream, were many quays with vessels moored alongside; that on the opposite bank stood the west side of the Citadel, with its gate, whence, perhaps, we get the name of Dowgate.

The south wall of the Citadel, which extended as far as Mincing Lane,126 served as the river-side wall for that distance. It was continued from that point to the present site of the Tower—a distance of 450 yards—with a new wall. No remains, I believe, have yet been found of that last piece of work. Between the old river wall and the river is now a long and narrow strip of land of varying breadths, but generally 300 feet. It contains a series of parallel streets, narrow and short, running down to the water; these streets are now lined with tall warehouses, except in one or two places, where they still contain small houses for the residence of boatmen, lightermen, porters, and servants. The history of this strip of land is very curious. Remark that when the wall was built the whole foreshore lay below it without any quays or buildings on piles—a slope of grass above a stretch of mud at low water. The first port of London was Walbrook. Within the stream ships were moored and quays were built for the reception of the cargoes. During the Roman occupation there were no water-gates, no quays, and no ports west of Walbrook.

From Tib. MS., B. v.

The Roman name of the second port, which was later called Billingsgate, is not known. Observe, however, that there was no necessity for a break in the wall at this place, because the port was only a few yards east of the first London Bridge with its bridge gate in the wall of the Citadel. A quay, then, was constructed on the foreshore between the port and the bridge. Everything, therefore, unloaded upon this quay was carried up to the head of the bridge, and through the bridge gate into London.

Later on, when the third port was constructed at Queenhithe, the builders must have made an opening in the wall. Now, at Walbrook, at Billingsgate,127 and at Queenhithe the same process went on. The people redeemed the foreshore under the wall by constructing quays and wharves; they carried this process farther out into the bed of the river, and they extended it east and west. At last, before the river wall was taken down as useless and cumbersome, the whole of this narrow strip, a mile long and 300 feet broad, had been reclaimed, and was filled with warehouses and thickly populated by the people of the port, watermen, stevedores, lightermen, boat-builders, makers of ships’ gear, sails, cordage, etc., with the eating-houses and taverns necessary for their wants.

This process, first of building upon piles, then of forming an embankment, was illustrated by the excavations conducted for the construction of London Bridge in 1825-35. There were found, one behind the other, three such lines of piles forming embankments. The earliest of these was at the south end of Crooked Lane; the second was 60 feet south of the first; the third was 200 feet farther south.

The sixteenth-century maps of London may also be consulted for the manner in which the quays were built out upon piles. It is obvious that more and more space would be required, and that it would become more and more necessary to conduct the business of loading and unloading at any time, regardless of tide.

These considerations strengthen the evidence of Sir William Tite and his opinion that the whole of the streets south of Thames Street must have been reclaimed from the foreshore of the bank by this process of building quays and creating water-gates for the convenience of trade.

The destruction of the wall, which had vanished so early as the twelfth century, is thus easily accounted for. Its purpose was gone. The long lines of quays and warehouses were themselves a sufficient protection. The people pulled down bits of it for their own convenience, and without interference; they ran passages through it and built against it.



We come next to the consideration of the bridge. It is not a little remarkable that of the three great buildings belonging to Roman London—Citadel, Wall, and Bridge—not one should be so much as mentioned, save incidentally. One would think that the building of a bridge across a broad tidal river was an engineering feat worthy of admiration and of record. It was not so; we merely discover that a bridge existed; we are not told when it was erected, or what kind of bridge it was. Although it is certain that the people of southern Britannia possessed many arts and carried on commerce and lived with some show of civilisation—“people,” it has been remarked, “who possess mints and coin money do not live in huts of wattle and daub,”—yet there is nothing to show that they could build bridges. The Romans could and did. The names of stations in Britain show that they bridged many rivers—Pontes, Ad Pontium, Tripontium, Pons Ælii, for instance. The date of the construction of the first bridge across the Thames is nowhere recorded. We have seen that it has been hastily conjectured from a passage in Dion Cassius that a bridge existed over the Thames at the time of the invasion of Aulus Plautius.

We have already considered this passage. It may be permitted in addition to remark: (1) That the author had evidently an imperfect acquaintance with the topography, or he would not have spoken of the mouth of the Thames being so near London. (2) That he had heard the country described, very justly, as marshes. (3) That the marshes extended the whole way from Richmond to Tilbury. (4) That there could not have been a bridge across a tidal river of sufficient breadth for the whole of this distance. Whatever was existing in London at that time, whether the copia mercatorum mentioned by the Roman historian was really found there, or whether there was a ferry across, it is certain that the people frequenting London could not build bridges except of the elementary kind made of flat stones, such as are found over the narrow and shallow streams of Dartmoor. Guest considers that the marshes were those of the river Lea in the east of London; and certainly they are broad enough to bring an enemy into trouble; and higher up the stream is narrow enough for a bridge of rude construction. He says:—


“When the Romans came down the Watling Street to the neighbourhood of London, they saw before them a wide expanse of marsh and mudbank, which twice every day assumed the character of an estuary, sufficiently large to excuse, if not to justify, the statement in Dio, that the river there emptied itself into the ocean. No dykes then retained the water within certain limits. One arm of the great wash stretched northwards, up the valley of the Lea, and the other westward, down the valley of the Thames. The individual character of the rivers was lost; the Romans saw only one sheet of water before them, and they gave it the name of the river which mainly contributed to form it. When they stated that they crossed the Thames, they merely meant that they crossed the northern arm of the great lake which spread out its waters before them, and on either hand.”

There are, however, certain considerations which point in a different direction. We have already seen that the chief highway of traffic, the only communication between the north and the south, lay along what was afterwards Watling Street; that it passed down the Edgware Road, along Park Lane, stopping short of the marsh which covered the Green Park as far as Thorney Island; that a ford, perhaps left uncovered at low tide, led over the marsh to the island; that on the other side of the island (which is Westminster) there was another ford across the river to the renewal of the road—at Stangate—on the south side. Formerly this was part of the high road; the pack-mules and the slaves crossed every day at low tide. The water, which is now confined between two perpendicular walls, was then distributed at high tide over the immense marsh which begins below Richmond and extends to the coasts of Essex. The embankment of the river for business purposes in the City and the building of the bridge deepened and scoured the channel, so that the ford only became available afterwards in dry seasons, though up to the time of Queen Elizabeth it was still fordable after a drought. This ford seems to answer all the requirements of the narrative; it is just the place where troops, ignorant of the way, would step aside into deep water and so fall into difficulties. It is also the place where the army, following the road, would arrive at the river.

In considering the early history of the City, we must remember not only the connection of Westminster with this ford, but also the great and important fact of the trade which was carried on up and down the road over Thorney, making the place a busy centre of traffic before there was a Port of London at all. Whether the Port of London existed when the Romans began their occupation has been questioned. To me it is quite plain that it did. If there was no Port of London, then the merchandise intended for all the country inland was taken by river to Thorney. This much is certain, that the Romans established themselves in a fort on the east of the Walbrook. The building of this fort could not be undertaken until the position of the place and the navigation of the river were well known, because all the stone must have been brought by water. We will suppose, then, that an ordinary camp occupied this site before the fort was built. If we now consult the map we observe that the position, though it guarded the river, was isolated with respect to the way of trade and to the way of war.

It was therefore imperative to acquire the means of communication with that way. Had the Romans been unable to acquire that communication, the Roman130 settlement overhanging Walbrook would never have been built. In other words, the situation demanded a bridge, and a bridge was built. The date of the first London bridge is that of the first Roman occupation of London, i.e. the period immediately following the massacre under Boadicea.

What kind of bridge was built? First, we must remember that to build a bridge of stone over a broad and deep tidal estuary was a work which had never yet been attempted anywhere in the Empire. Certainly among the people of London there were none who would venture to attempt so great a work, while I do not believe that the military engineers themselves would attempt it. Next, it was a work which would certainly take a great deal of time; later on, for instance, the first stone bridge took thirty years to accomplish. Thirdly, it would be a costly work.

The answer must be sought in the bridges built by the Romans in other places about the same time. Two of these especially may be chosen. They are (1) the bridge over the Rhine constructed by Julius Cæsar in ten days, and (2) the Roman bridge over the same river at Mayence, of which a model exists in the museum of that town.

There can be no doubt that this bridge at London was, to begin with, a wooden bridge. The reasons for this conclusion are, briefly, as follows:—

1. It was built after the rebellion of Boadicea and the massacre of the people of London. It was intended as a military bridge connecting the Citadel of London, built immediately after that event, with the southern ports.

2. The construction of a stone bridge over a broad, deep, and tidal river would have been a work involving a long time and immense cost. Trajan’s Bridge over the Danube was built about the year 104 A.D., but the Danube is not a tidal river. There is no example of a stone bridge over a tidal river, that I know of, belonging to this age.

3. The engineers who formed part of the army would naturally be ordered to build the bridge, and would do so after the manner which they had learned and practised with other military bridges.

4. The accounts of and reference to the bridge during the next thousand years or so clearly suggest a wooden bridge. Snorro Sturleson, the Icelander, speaks of it as wooden and sustained by piles. The planks which formed the mainway must have been loosely laid together with gaps between, for a large number of Roman coins have been found in the bed of the river below; these had apparently rolled through. The bridge is reported to have been carried away or greatly damaged in 1091. It was burned in 1136.

5. The first stone bridge of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries took thirty years to complete. A military bridge, such as I conceive the first London Bridge to have been, could not be allowed to remain unfinished for years.

The course of events, as I have already suggested, was as follows:—


1. London was unprotected until after the massacre by the troops of Boadicea.

2. The importance of the place was then apprehended, and the Roman Citadel on the eastern hill over the Walbrook was constructed to protect the port and the town, and contained the garrison, the officers, and the officials.

3. The walls of the Citadel were built of stone from the Kentish quarries. The bridge, however, was built of wood, as being convenient, cheap, and easy of construction.

There were two models to choose from—perhaps more, but the two will suffice.

The first of them, as stated above, was Cæsar’s bridge over the Rhine, built in ten days.

This was a Pons Sublicius, supported by piles.

Two piles were driven into the bed of the river by a hammer or mallet called a fistuca. They were set side by side, and in a sloping direction, in order to withstand the force of the current. Opposite to them were two other piles similarly driven into the bed of the river. Each pair of piles were kept in place and strengthened by cross struts. Cross pieces, each two feet in diameter, were laid across each pair, and joists, for which purpose were used the trunks of trees either roughly squared or not squared at all, were placed upon them.

The piles were further strengthened by the construction in front and at the sides of a pier or sterling formed by smaller piles driven in side by side. The sterling was filled with stones or rubble, and beams were laid from one joist to another, over which were placed wattle and reeds; the whole, covered with earth and gravel, made a roadway and completed the bridge.

A more elaborate structure is that of which an actual portion exists in the museum at Mayence, with a model of one of the piers.

In this bridge the sterling was constructed with piles set side by side in lines or rows; but they were double, and between each row of piles were placed beams of wood; transverse rows of piles crossed the sterling, also double, and strengthened with timber laid between. The whole was filled up with stones and rubble.

Two of the piles are preserved in the museum; they appear to be about 25 feet in length, and are sharpened at the end. At a later date, if not at the outset, stones were laid upon the sterling. If this method was adopted for the first London Bridge, the supporting piles rose out of the opposite angles of the sterling, after which Cæsar’s method was followed.

The reason why no mention is made of the construction of the bridge is, first, that no history mentions any buildings in Roman London; and next, that the Citadel and the bridge were built by soldiers quietly, without the counsel or the consent of the citizens, if there were any—if, that is, the copia mercatorum really existed. In a few days, or a few weeks, the Thames was spanned by a bridge which would be repaired, burned, repaired again, and so continue for twelve hundred years to come.132 The first bridge was about the same length as the second, viz. 626 feet long. It was not nearly so high, however. Its breadth was 40 feet. We may be certain that this was the breadth, because it was the breadth of Cæsar’s bridge, i.e. the most convenient breadth for the passage of troops; and secondly, because that was the breadth of the second bridge, built by one of those Fratres Pontifices, who usually made their bridges narrow, like those of Avignon and Les Saintes. Peter of Colechurch, however, would not build his stone bridge of a less convenient breadth than that of the old wooden one. The drawbridge came later, when the wall was built and the river gate. At first the bridge was open at both ends, but was commanded by the fort overhanging the north end.

It has been supposed that the bridge was constructed for the purpose of traffic, and that the Watling Street was diverted just at the site of the Marble Arch in order that the traffic might cross the bridge. This supposition is quite unfounded; there were no wheeled vehicles along the tracks which served for roads; all the traffic was carried by slaves, or by pack horses and mules. To slaves, to mules, to drivers, to merchants, a ford was part of the journey, not to be regarded as an impediment. And besides, it was much shorter, when one had arrived before Thorney, to cut straight across the marsh than to go along the new road leading into London. The diversion of Watling Street and the construction of the bridge were for military, not commercial purposes. The Romans understood the natural advantages of their position; they hastened to improve it by direct communication with the north and with the south.

The building of the bridge therefore preceded the building of the wall by some 300 years.

To sum up, the date of the bridge is also the date of the first military settlement on the site of London. It is also the date of the stone fort erected beside the Walbrook. After the bridge was built the road was constructed; its modern names are Oxford Street and Holborn; it connected London by land with the great highway of the island. Both the road and the bridge were at first needed for purely military purposes. When the Port of London increased in importance, when it became easier to carry goods for export and to receive imported goods by London than to go all the way to Dover, the caravans adopted the new road and poured into London what they had previously taken to Dover. But neither the new road nor the bridge was built for anything but military purposes.

The first allusion to the bridge occurs in the Chronicle under the year A.D. 457, when the Britons, defeated at Crayford or Creganford by the Saxons, fled for life, taking refuge in London. Of course, if there had been no bridge, the defeated army could not have entered London in this wild haste; in fact they would not have attempted it.



Besides the wall, there are two other monuments, still surviving, of Roman London. One is “London Stone”; the other is the Roman bath in the Strand, which I have already mentioned (p. 98).

There does not appear to be any exact account of the stone as it was before the fire which so grievously diminished it. Strype says that it was much worn away, only a stump remaining. What is left is nothing but a fragment. There was formerly, however, a large foundation. It stood on the south side of Cannon Street, from which point all the mileage of the roads was measured. In the romance of Sir Bevis of Hampton there is a great battle in the streets of London:—

“So many men were now seen dead.
For the water of the Thames for blood ran red:
From St. Mary Bow to London Stone.”

The first Mayor of London, Henry FitzAylwin, lived in a house on the north side of St. Swithin’s, and was called Henry FitzAylwin of London Stone.

Stow describes the stone in the following words:—

“On the south side of this high Street [Candlewick Street] near unto the Channell is pitched upright a great stone called London Stone, fixed in the Ground very deep, fastened with Bars of Iron, and otherwise so strongly set, that, if cartes do runne against it through negligence, the wheeles be broken and the stone is left unshaken. The cause why the stone was there set, the very time when, or other memorial hereof, is there none; but that the same hath long continued there is manifest, namely, since, or rather before the time of the Conquest, for in the ende of a fair written Gospel Booke given to Christes Churche in Canterbury by Ethelstane, King of the West Saxons, I find noted of landes or rentes in London belonging to the said churche, whereof one parcel is described to lie neare unto London Stone. Of later time we read that in the yeare of Christe 1135, the first of King Stephen, a fire which began in the house of one Ailward, neare unto London Stone, consumed all east to Aldgate, in which fire the Priorie of the Holy Trinitie was burnt, and west to St. Erkenwald’s shrine in Paule’s Church: and these are the eldest notes that I read thereof. Some have said this stone was set as a marke in the middle of the City within the wall, but in truth it standeth farre nearer unto the river of Thames than to the Wall of the City.” (Strype’s Stow, vol. i. bk. ii. chap. xiii.)

James Howell (Londinopolis, p. 4, 1657) adopts Camden’s opinion:134 “London Stone I take to be a Mile mark or Milliary such as was in the market place at Rome from which were taken dimensions of all Journies every way considering it is near the midst as it lyeth in length.”

Wren thought that the stone originally belonged to some considerable monument in the Forum, for in the adjoining ground on the south side were discovered tessellated pavements and other extensive remains of Roman workmanship and buildings while men were digging for cellars after the fire. On this point Mr. Price pertinently reminds us that the Miliarium Aureum at Constantinople was not in the form of a pillar, as at Rome, but a fine building, under whose roof stood statues of Constantine, Helena, Trajan, Hadrian, and many other figures.

And Maitland says that some people held the stone to be significant of the City, devotion to Christ, and of His care and protection of the City, and quotes certain rhymes of Fabian (vol. ii. bk. ii. p. 1047):—

“It is so sure a Stone
That that is upon sette,
For though some have it thrette
With Manases grym and grete,
Yet Hurte had it none.
Cryst is the very Stone
That the Citie is set upon
Which from all hys Foone
Hath ever preservyd yt.”



We now come to the period about which, so far as London is concerned, there are no historians and there is no tradition. Yet what happened may be read with certainty. The Roman legions were at last withdrawn. Britain was left to defend herself. She had to defend herself against the Saxon pirates in the east; against the Picts and Scots in the north; and against the wild tribes of the mountains in the west. Happily we have not in these pages to attempt the history of the two centuries of continual battle and struggle which followed before the English conquest brought at last a time of rest and partial peace. But we must ascertain, if we can, how London fared during the long interval.

Let us take the evidence (I.) of History; (II.) of Excavation; (III.) of Site; (IV.) of Tradition.

I. Of History.

For more than 200 years London is mentioned once, and once only, by any history of the time. The reference is in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. “This year”—A.D. 457—“Hengist and Æsc his son fought against the Britons at the place called Cregan Ford, and there slew four thousand men; and the Britons then forsook Kent and in great terror fled to London.” They sought safety beyond the bridge and within the walls.

Otherwise there is a dead silence in the Chronicle about London. We hear about this place and that place being attacked and destroyed, but not London. Now, had there been any great battle followed by such a slaughter as that of Anderida, it must certainly have been mentioned. There never was any such battle. London decayed, melted away, was starved into solitude, but not into submission.

London was founded as a commercial port. We have seen that at first the trade of the country passed to the south over Thorney Island; but that, after the convenience of London had been discovered, it went to London. As a trading centre London was founded, and as a trading centre it continued. The people were always as they are now, traders. It was not the military capital; it was not, until late in the Roman occupation, the head-quarters of the civil administration. It flourished or it decayed, consequently, with the prosperity or the decline of trade.

The Saxons did not love walled cities; the defence of so long a136 wall—nearly three miles round—required a much larger army than the East Saxons could ever raise. And as yet the Saxons had not learned to trade. Besides, they loved open fields; walls they thought were put up for purposes of magic. “Fly! Fly! Avoid the place lest some wizard still lingering among the ruins should arise and exercise his spells. Back to the freedom and the open expanse of the fields!” Therefore, when the people of London went out and gradually disappeared, the Saxons were not moved to take their places.

If they came within sight of the grey walls of London they felt no inclination to enter; if out of curiosity they did enter, they speedily left the silent streets and ruined houses to the evil spirits and witches who lurked among them. The empty warehouses, the deserted quays, the wrecked villas, the fragments of the columns, seized for the building of the wall, the roofless rooms, spoke to them of a conquered people, but offered no inducement to settle down.

The Romano-British fleet was no more—it disappeared when the last Count of the Saxon Shore resigned his office; the narrow seas lay open to the pirates; the seas immediately began to swarm with pirates; the merchantmen, therefore, had to fight their way with doubtful success. This fact enormously increased the ordinary risks of trade.

The whole country was in continual disorder; there was no part of it where a man might live in peace save within the walls of a city. Rich farms were destroyed; the splendid villas were plundered and burned; orchards and vineyards were broken down and deserted; brigands and marauders were out on every road; wealthy families were reduced to poverty. What concerned London in all this was that there was no more demand for imports, and there were no more of the former exports sent up to be shipped. The way was closed for shipping, the highroads were closed, no more exports arrived, no more imports were wanted, trade therefore was dead.

II. The evidence of Excavation.

The whole of Roman London is lost, except for the foundations, some of which still lie underground. All the churches, temples, theatres, official buildings, palaces, and villas are all gone. They were lost when the Saxons took possession of the town. The names of the streets are gone—their very tradition has perished. The course of the streets is lost and forgotten. This fact alone proves beyond a doubt that the occupation of London was not continuous.21 The Roman gate of Bishopsgate lay some distance to the east of the Saxon gate; the Roman gate in Watling Street lay some distance to the north of the later Newgate; the line of the Ermin Street did not anywhere coincide exactly with the Roman road; the new Watling Street of the Saxons actually crossed the old one. We may note, also, 137that an ancient causeway lies under the tower of St. Mary le Bow. How can these facts be reconciled with the theory of continuous occupation? The Saxons, again, did not come in as conquerors and settle down among the conquered. They cannot have done so; otherwise they would have acquired and preserved something of Roman London. And though we should not, at this day, after so many years and so many fires, expect to find Roman villas standing, we should have some of the old streets with Roman or at least British names. All that is left to us, by tradition, of Roman London is its British name.

Tib. MS. C. VI.

The destruction of a deserted city advances slowly at first, but always with acceleration. The woodwork of Roman London was carried off to build rude huts for the fisher-folk and the few slaves who stayed behind. They had at least their liberty, and lived on beside the deserted shore. The gentle action of rain and frost and sunshine contributed a never-ceasing process of disintegration; clogged watercourses undermined the foundations; trees sprang up amid the chambers and dropped their leaves and decayed and died; ivy pulled down the tiles and pushed between the bricks; new vegetation raised the level of the ground; the walls of the houses either fell or slowly disappeared. When, after a hundred years of desolation, the Saxon ventured to make his home within the ruined walls of the City, even if it were only to use the site after his manner at Silchester and Uriconium, as a place for the plough to be driven over and for the corn to grow, there was little indeed left of the splendour of the former Augusta.

Another argument in favour of the total desertion of London is derived from a consideration of the houses of a Roman city. The remains of Roman villas formed within the second and longer wall sufficiently prove that in all respects the city of Augusta was built in the same manner as other Roman cities; as Bordeaux, for instance, or Treves, or Marseilles. If, then, the conquerors had occupied London in the fifth century, they would have found, ready to their hand, hundreds of well-built and beautiful houses. It is true that the Saxon would not have cared for the pictures, statues, and works of art; but he would have perceived the enormous superiority of the buildings in material comfort over his own rude houses. It is absurd to suppose that any people, however fierce and savage, would prefer cold to warmth in a winter of ice and snow.

Again, it is not probable, not even possible, that in a city where such a construction was easy, owing to the lie of the ground, the Romans should have neglected to make a main sewer for the purpose for which the Cloaca Maxima was made, viz. to carry off the surface rainfall from the streets. Perhaps the Roman sewer may still be discovered. The outfall was certainly in the foreshore, between Walbrook and Mincing Lane; but the foreshore has long since been built upon and the sewer closed. It is reasonable to suppose that if the Saxons had found it they would have understood its manifold uses and would have maintained it.


Roach Smith’sCatalogue of London Antiquities

It has pleased the antiquary to discover on the site of the Roman fort, or Citadel, the traces of the four broad streets at right angles which were commonly laid down in every Roman town. Indications of their arrangement, for instance, are still found at Dorchester, Chester, Lincoln, and other places. The antiquary may be right in his theory, but it must be acknowledged that the Roman streets in other parts of London have been built over and the old ways deflected. Surely if the Saxon occupation had taken place in the fifth century, the old arrangement of streets would have been retained on the simple principle that it entailed the least trouble.

Consider, next, the Roman villa. “Their general plan is that of two or three courts open to the air, with open windows running round them, out of which lead small rooms of various kinds—the sleeping rooms and the women’s rooms generally being at the back, and the latter sometimes quite separated from the rest” (Hayter Lewis, Cities, Ancient and Mediæval). There is not in the accounts or pictures of any Anglo-Saxon house that we possess any similarity whatever to the Roman villa.139 If, however, the Saxon had occupied London in the fifth century, he would certainly have adopted the Roman house with its arrangements of separate rooms in preference to his own rude hall, in which all the household together slept on rushes round the central fire.

Again, had the Saxon occupied London in the fifth century, he would have found the houses provided with an apparatus for warming the rooms with hot air, both easy and simple, not at all likely to get out of gear, and intelligible to a child. Is it reasonable to suppose that he would have given up this arrangement in order to continue his own barbarous plan of making a great wasteful fire in the middle of the hall?

And he would have found pavements in the streets. Would he have taken them up and gone back to the primitive earth? Would he not rather have kept them in repair for his own convenience? And he would have found aqueducts and pipes for supplying conduits and private houses with water. Would he have destroyed them for mere mischief? One might mention the amphitheatre, which certainly stood outside the wall, but according to my opinion, as I have explained, the amphitheatre was destroyed in order to build the great wall, which was put up hurriedly and in a time of panic.

It may be objected that in later centuries the great house became somewhat like the Roman villa in being built round a court. The answer is that the mediæval court was not the Roman garden with a fountain and corridors; it was the place of exercise and drill for the castle. Even the country house built round its little court had its windows opening into the court, not looking out upon the country, thus showing something of a survival of the fortress. The mediæval court, of which so many instances are extant, belonged at first to the castle, and not to the villa.

III. The evidence of Site.

We must return to the position of London. We have seen that at the outset the City had in the north a wild and quaggy moor with an impenetrable forest beyond. On the east it had a marsh and a considerable stream flowing through that marsh; on the south a broad tidal river, and beyond that a vast marsh stretching a long way on both sides. On the west the City had a small stream in a marshy bed, and rising ground, which was probably in Roman times cleared and planted. Unlike any other town in the world, except Venice of later times, London had not an inch of land cultivated for her own food supplies, not a field for corn, not a meadow for hay, not an orchard or a vineyard or anything. She was dependent from the beginning, as she is still dependent, upon supplies brought in from the outside, except for the fish in the river. She was supplied by means of the Roman roads; by Watling Street and the Vicinal Road from Essex and from Kent; from the west by the highway of the Thames, and by ships that came up the Thames.

Now if a city wholly dependent upon trade experiences a total loss of trade,140 what must happen? First those who work for the merchants—the stevedores, lightermen, boatmen, porters, carriers, warehousemen, clerks, and accountants—are thrown out of work. They cannot be kept in idleness for ever. They must go—whither? To join the armies.

Next, the better class, the wealthier kind, the lawyers, priests, artists, there is no work for them. They too must go—whither? To the camp. Finally, when gold is no longer of any use because there is nothing to buy, the rich people themselves, with the officers of state, look round the decaying city and see no help for it but that they too must go. As for the slaves, they have long since broken away and fled; there was no longer any provision in the place; they had to go.

With bleeding hearts the rich men prepared to leave the place where they had been as luxurious as they could be in Rome itself when Rome was still at its best and proudest. They took with them only what each could carry. The tender girls carried household utensils, the boys carried arms, the parents carried the household gods—it is true that Christianity was the religion of the state, but their household gods had been in the house for long and had always hitherto brought good luck! Their sofas and tables, their rich plate and statues, their libraries, and their pictures, they left behind them; for these things could not be carried away. And so they went out through what their conquerors would in after-time call the New Gate, and by Watling Street, until they reached the city of Gloucester, where the girls remained to become the mothers and grandmothers of soldiers doomed to perish on the fields of disaster, and the boys went out to join the army and to fight until they fell. Thus was London left desolate and deserted. I suppose that a remnant remained, a few of the baser sort, who, finding themselves in charge of the City, closed the gates and then began to plunder. With the instinct of destruction they burned the houses after they had sacked them. Then, loaded with soft beds, cushions and pillows, and silk dresses, they sat down in their hovels. And what they did then and how they lived, and how they dropped back into a barbarism far worse than that from which they had sprung, we may leave to be imagined. The point is that London was absolutely deserted—as deserted as Baalbec or Tadmor in the wilderness,—and that she so continued for something like a hundred and fifty years.

How was the City resettled? Some dim memory of the past doubtless survived the long wars in the island and fifteen generations—allowing only ten years for a short-lived generation—of pirates who swept the seas. Merchants across the Channel learned that there were signs of returning peace, although the former civilisation was destroyed and everything had to be built up again. It must not be supposed, however, that the island was ever wholly cut off from the outer world. Ships crossed over once more, laden with such things as might tempt these Angles and Saxons—glittering armour, swords of fine temper, helmets and corslets. They found deserted quays and a city in ruins; perhaps a handful of savages cowering in141 huts along the river-side; the wooden bridge dilapidated, the wooden gates hanging on their hinges, the streets overgrown; the villas destroyed, either from mischief or for the sake of the wood. Think, if you can, of a city built almost entirely of wood, left to itself for a hundred and fifty years, or left with a few settlers like the Arabs in Palmyra, who would take for fuel all the wood they could find. As for the once lovely villa, the grass was growing over the pavement in the court; the beams of the roof had fallen in and crushed the mosaics in the chambers; yellow stonecrop and mosses and wild-flowers covered the low foundation walls; the network of warming pipes stood up stark and broken round the débris of the chambers which once they warmed. The forum, the theatre, the amphitheatre, the residence of that vir spectabilis the Vicarius, were all in ruins, fallen down to the foundations. So with the churches. So with the warehouses by the river-side. As for the walls of the first Citadel, the Prætorium, they, as we have seen, had long since been removed to build the new wall of the City. This wall remained unbroken, save where here and there some of the facing stones had fallen out, leaving the hard core exposed. The river side of it, with its water gates and its bridge gate, remained as well as the land side.

IV. The evidence of Tradition is negative.

Of Augusta, of Roman London, not a fragment except the wall and the bridge remained above ground; the very streets were for the most part obliterated; not a tradition was left; not a memory survived of a single institution, of an Imperial office or a custom. I do not know whether any attempt has been made to trace Roman influences and customs in Wales, whither the new conquerors did not penetrate. Such an inquiry remains to be made, and it would be interesting if we could find such survivals. Perhaps, however, there are no such traces; and we must not forget that until the departure of the Romans the wild men of the mountains were the irreconcilable enemies of the people of the plains. Did the Britons when they slowly retreated fall back into the arms of their old enemies? Not always. In many cases it has been proved that they took refuge in the woods and wild places, as in Surrey, and Sussex, and in the Fens, until such time as they were able to live among their conquerors.

The passing of Roman into Saxon London is a point of so much importance that I may be excused for dwelling upon it.

I have given reasons for believing—to my own mind, for proving—that Roman London, for a hundred years, lay desolate and deserted, save for the humble fisher-folk. In addition to the reasons thus laid down, let me adduce the evidence of Mr. J. R. Green. He shows that, by the earlier conquests of the Saxon invaders, the connection of London with the Continent and with the inland country was entirely broken off.142 “The Conquest of Kent had broken its communications with the Continent; and whatever trade might struggle from the southern coast through the Weald had been cut off by the Conquest of Sussex. That of the Gwent about Winchester closed the road to the south-west; while the capture of Cunetio interrupted all communication with the valley of the Severn. And now the occupation of Hertfordshire cut off the city from northern and central Britain.” We must also remember that the swarms of pirates at the mouth of the Thames cut off communication by sea. How could a trading city survive the destruction of her trade?

From Claud MS., B. iv.

The Saxons, when they were able to settle down at or near London, did so outside the old Roman wall; they formed clearings and made settlements at certain points which are now the suburbs of London. The antiquity of Hampstead, for instance, is proved by the existence of two charters of the tenth century (see paper by Prof. Hales, London and Middlesex Archæological Transactions, vol. vi. p. 560).

I have desired in these pages not to be controversial. It is, however, necessary to recognise the existence of some who believe that London preserved certain Roman customs on which was founded the early municipal constitution of London, and that there was at the same time an undercurrent of Teutonic customs which did not become law. I beg, therefore, to present this view ably advocated by Mr. G. L. Gomme in the same volume (p. 528), for he is an authority whose opinion and arguments one would not willingly ignore.

His view is as follows:—


1. He does not recognise the desertion of London.

2. He does recognise the fact that the A.S. did not occupy the walled city.

3. That the new-comers had at first no knowledge of trade.

4. That they formed village settlements dotted all round London.

5. That the trade of London, when it revived, was not a trade in food, but in slaves, horses, metals, etc.

6. That the villages were self-supporting communities, which neither exported nor imported corn either to or from abroad, or to and from each other.

One would remark on this point that while London was deserted the villages around might very well support themselves; but with London a large and increasing city, the villages could not possibly support its people as well as their own. The city was provided from Essex, from Kent, from Surrey, and from the inland counties by means of the river.

7. That everywhere in England one finds the Teutonic system.

8. That in London the Teutonic customs encountered older customs which they could not destroy, and that these older customs were due for the most part to Roman influence.

Observe that this theory supposes the survival of Roman merchants and their descendants throughout the complete destruction of trade and the desertion of the City, according to my view; or the neglect of London and its trade for a century and more after the Saxon Conquest, according to the views of those who do not admit the desertion. Mr. Gomme quotes Joseph Story on the Conflict of Laws, where he argues that wherever the conquerors in the fall of Rome settled themselves, they allowed the people to preserve their municipal customs. Possibly; but every city must present an independent case for investigation. Now, according to my view there were no people left to preserve the memory of the Roman municipality. 22 9. That the A.S. introduced the village system, viz. the village tenure, the communal lands around, the common pasture-land beyond these.

10. That the broad open spaces on the north of London could not be used for agricultural purposes, and “they became the means of starting in London the wide-reaching powers of economical laws which proclaim that private ownership, not collective ownership, is the means for national prosperity.”

11. That the proprietors who became the aldermen of wards “followed without a break the model of the Roman citizen.”

This statement assumes, it will be seen, the whole theory of continued occupation; that is to say, continued trade, for without their trade the Roman citizens could not live.


12. That the existence of public lands can be proved by many instances recorded in the Liber Custumarum and elsewhere.

13. That the management of the public lands was in the hands of the citizens.

14. That the Folkmote never wholly dominated the city; nor was it ever recognised as the supreme council, which was in the hands of the nobles.

15. That the ancient Teutonic custom of setting up a stone as a sign was observed in London.

16. That there are many other Teutonic customs which are not represented in any collections of city law and customs.

17. That there are customs which may be recognised as of Roman origin, e.g. the custom of the Roman lawyers meeting their clients in the Forum. In London the sergeants-at-law met their clients in the nave of St. Paul’s.

Surely, however, there is nothing Roman about this. There was then no Westminster Hall; there were no Inns of Court; the lawyers must have found some place wherein to meet their clients. What place more suitable than the only great hall of the city, the nave of the Cathedral?

18. That there was a time when London was supported by her agriculture and not by her commerce.

As I said above, the settlements round London could not, certainly, support much more than themselves; and if we consider the common lands of the city—moorland and marsh-land with uncleared forest,—these could certainly do little or nothing for a large population.

19. That FitzStephen speaks of arable lands and pastures as well as gardens.

Undoubtedly he does. At the same time, we must read him with understanding. We know perfectly well the only place where these arable lands could exist, viz. a comparatively narrow belt on the west: on the north was moorland till we come to the scattered hamlets in the forest—chiefly, I am convinced, the settlements of woodcutters, charcoal-burners, hunters, and trappers; on the south were swamps; Westminster and its neighbourhood were swamps; the east side was covered, save for the scattered settlements of Stepney, by a dense forest with swamps on the south and east.

20. That the common lands of the city were alienated freely, as is shown by the Liber Albus.

21. That Henry I. granted to the citizens the same right to hunt in Middlesex as their ancestors enjoyed.

22. That this privilege “may have been drawn from the rights of the Roman burghers.”

It may; but this seems no proof that it was.

23. That the “territorium of Roman London determined the limits of the wood and forest rights of Saxon and later London.”

Perhaps; but there seems no proof.


It appears to me, to sum up, that these arguments are most inconclusive. It needed no Roman occupation to give the hunting people the right to hunt; nor did it need a Roman occupation to make the better sort attempt to assume the government; nor did it need the example of Rome for the lawyers to assemble in a public place; nor, again, need we go to Rome for the cause of the breaking up of an archaic system which had outlived its usefulness. If there were Roman laws or Roman customs in the early history of London—a theory which I am not prepared to admit—we must seek for their origin, not in a supposed survival of the Roman merchant through a century of desertion and ruin, but in Roman books and in written Roman laws.

Neither does the theory against the desertion of London seem borne out by the histories of Matthew of Westminster, Roger of Wendover, Nennius, Ethelwerd, Geoffrey of Monmouth, and Henry of Huntingdon. Let us examine into these statements, taking the latest first and working backwards.

I. Matthew of Westminster (circa 1320).

Matthew says that when the Romans finally left the island the Archbishop of London, named Guithelin (A.D. 435), went over to Lesser Britain, previously called Armorica, then peopled by Britons, and implored the help of Aldrœnus, fourth successor of King Conan, who gave them his brother Constantine and two thousand valiant men. Accordingly, Constantine crossed over, gathered an army, defeated the enemy, and became King of Britain. He married a lady of noble Roman descent, by whom he had three sons: Constans, whom he made a monk at Winchester; Aurelius and Uther Pendragon, who were educated by the Archbishop of London—presumably, therefore, in London.

In the year 445 Constantine was murdered. Vortigern, the “Consul of the Genvisei,” thereupon went to Winchester and took Constans from the cloister, and crowned him with his own hands, Guithelin being dead. The two brothers of Constans had been sent to Brittany.

Vortigern then began to compass the destruction of the King, for his own purposes; he took the treasury into his own custody; he raised a bodyguard for the King of 100 Picts, whom he lavishly paid and maintained; he filled them with suspicions that if he were gone they would lose their pay. One evening, therefore, they rose—this bodyguard of Picts,—seized the King and beheaded him. This was in London. Vortigern, pretending great grief, called together the citizens of London and told them what had been done. As no one of the royal House was at hand, he elected himself and crowned himself King.

In 447 the country was overrun by Picts and Scots; there was also a famine followed by a pestilence. In 448 Germanus, a holy priest, led the Britons out to fight, and gave them a splendid victory over the enemy. But when Germanus went away the Picts and Scots came back again.


Vortigern invited the Saxons, the Angles, and the Jutes to come over and settle. They came; Hengist led them: they defeated the Picts and Scots: they invited more of their own people. Vortigern, who already had a wife and children, fell in love with Rowena, daughter of Hengist, and married her, to the disgust of the people.

Cædman’sMetrical Paraphrase, Bodleian Library.

Vortigern was deserted by the nobles, who made his son Vortimer King; but he was poisoned in the year 460 and died in London, where he was buried.

In 461 occurred the great slaughter of Britons by Hengist at Amesbury.

In 462, the Saxons imprisoned Vortigern until he gave up all his cities in ransom. They seized on London, York, Winchester, and Lincoln, destroying churches and murdering priests.


Then the Britons sent ambassadors to Brittany, entreating Aurelius and Uther Pendragon to come over.

The Prophecy of Merlin, which is attached to the year 465, is clearly a late production: it foretells, for instance—being wise after the event,—that the dignity of London shall be transferred to Canterbury; it also speaks of the gates of London, which are to be kept by a brazen man mounted on a brazen horse.

Aurelius, with his brother Uther Pendragon, came over from Brittany; they began by setting fire to the Citadel, in a tower of which Vortigern was lying, and so destroyed him.

In 473, Aurelius gained a great victory over Hengist. This was followed by other successes. The victories of Aurelius were frequent and overwhelming. Yet the Saxons, somehow, in spite of their decisive defeats, were strengthening and extending their hold rapidly and surely.

In 498, Aurelius died.

Uther Pendragon succeeded him and was crowned at Winchester. After another glorious victory Uther brought his prisoners to London, where he kept Easter exactly like a Norman king, surrounded by the nobles of the land.

In 516, Uther Pendragon, grown old and infirm, was poisoned at Verulam. His son Arthur succeeded him, being elected by Dubritius, Archbishop of London, and all the bishops and nobles of the land.

In 517, Arthur went out to besiege York, but was compelled to fall back upon London.

In 542, Arthur, after an unparalleled career of glory, died of his wounds in Avalon, and was succeeded by his cousin Constantine, who pursued the sons of Modred, and finding one concealed in a monastery of London, “put him to a cruel death.”

Under the date 585, London is mentioned as then being the capital of the kingdom of Essex.

In 586, Theonus, Archbishop of London, fled into Wales, seeing all the churches destroyed. He took with him those of the priests who had survived the massacres, and the sacred relics.

London, therefore, according to the story, was deserted, but not until the year 586.

In 596, Augustine landed on the Isle of Thanet and converted many.

In 600, the Pope sent the pallium to Augustine of London.

In 604, Mellitus was consecrated Bishop of London.

The writer then proceeds with the history as we have it in other chronicles.

II. Roger of Wendover (d. 1256).

A.D. 460. He says that Vortimer was buried in London.

462. Roger mentions London as one of the cities taken.


473. Roger mentions the great victory of Aurelius in Kent.

498. Roger makes the statement that Uther kept his Easter in London.

517. Arthur falls back upon London.

542. Constantine kills Modred’s son in London.

586. Flight of Theonus, Bishop of London.

It seems thus that Matthew of Westminster followed Roger of Wendover, who died A.D. 1237, so that even he wrote of these events 650 years after the alleged flight of the Bishop.

III. Geoffrey of Monmouth.

Geoffrey of Monmouth, who died some time in the latter half of the twelfth century—he was made Bishop of St. Asaph in 1152—provides the materials especially for the romance of King Arthur, for the story of King Lear, and other delightful inventions and traditions.

By Geoffrey we find it stated (1) that Vortimer was buried in London; (2) that the Saxons took London—A.D. 462 (?); that Aurelius, after his great victory, restored London, “which had not escaped the fury of the enemy”; that Uther Pendragon kept his Easter in London; that Arthur retired upon London; that Modred’s son seized upon London and Winchester; that Theonus was Archbishop of London; that Constantine captured one of Modred’s sons in a monastery of London; that Theonus fled from London with the surviving clergy.

IV. Nennius.

Nennius contains none of these statements or stories, but he says that Vortimer was buried in Lincoln.

V. Ethelwerd.

Ethelwerd says that in 457 the Britons, being defeated in a battle in Kent, “fled to London.” He says no more about London.

VI. Henry of Huntingdon (circa 1154).

He mentions the Battle of Creganford or Crayford, which, as we have already seen (p. 135), is recorded in the A.S. Chronicle, with the retreat to London. He makes no mention at all of London after that event till after the conversion and the arrival of Mellitus. Not a word is said about the events alleged by the later Chroniclers, while the great achievements of Arthur are shown to have been battles fought and victories won in the west country. Since, however, he mentions the massacre at Anderida, is it conceivable that he would have passed over any such event had it happened in London? And is it conceivable that, had London continued to be a city of trade and wealth, the Saxon would not have attacked it?

To sum up this evidence, we find that writers most nearly contemporary make no mention of London at all for a hundred and fifty years. We find Chroniclers six hundred years later mentioning certain events of no importance, and agreeing in149 the desertion of London, which they place about the year 586. The date signifies little, but the reference shows that there was certainly in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries a tradition which pointed to a period of ruin and desertion. Geoffrey of Monmouth seems to have furnished most of the victories and great doings of the Britons, who were so victorious that they were continually driven back into the forests and into the mountains. When a traditional king succeeds, or holds his court, or dies, it is natural to provide him with a city, and there was London ready to hand. At the same time there was the tradition that at one time London was deserted. And so the whole matter is explained, and fits into the only working theory which accounts for the almost complete silence of the A.S. Chronicle as to the once great and glorious and wealthy city of Augusta.





The life of London began again somewhere about the end of the sixth century. As London was created for purposes of trade, and as it fell with the destruction of trade, so it was restored for purposes of trade. The merchants from beyond the seas heard that peace, some kind of peace, had returned to this land; the mouth of the Thames no longer swarmed with pirates, for there was nothing left on which they could prey. From Dover the adventurous merchantman crept timidly along the coast—there was no enemy in sight; the skipper ventured into the narrow channel between Thanet and the mainland—no ship was there, no sign of pirate craft; timidly he sailed up the broad estuary of the Thames—not a sail did he encounter. There were no ships; when the Saxon migration exhausted itself, the Saxon forgot straightway the art of shipbuilding and the mystery of navigation; his ships were to him like those wings on certain insects which provide for the one flight—that achieved, the wings drop off. During the hundred years and more, while the invasion was becoming a conquest, the ships had rotted or been burned. Yet the strange merchants knew not what reception they would meet. Along the low and marshy shores of the Thames, as the estuary narrowed, there was not a sign of human habitation—who would dwell in the marsh when he could dwell on the land? There were no fishermen even. There were no signs of life, other than the cry of the birds whirling overhead and the plunging of the porpoise round the bows.

Presently they arrived at London. They knew it as London—not Augusta, which had been its name for a few years only. There was the bridge of which they had heard; but its planks and piles were falling into decay. There was the sea wall, and, behind, the land wall—grey, overgrown with wall-flowers, with that yellow flower that grows to this day only on and beside Roman stations. The wall was strong yet, though half in ruins. And there stood the ancient gates with their rusty hinges and decayed woodwork. There were the ancient ports which we know as Billingsgate and Dowgate, at the mouth of the Walbrook. There were the quays, broken down and decaying and deserted. Where were the people of London? There was no smoking hearth; there was no smoking altar; there was no sound of blacksmith’s forge, or of any craft, or trade, or business.


They moved alongside a quay—it was at Billingsgate; a couple of men landed and the rest waited under arms.

These scouts walked about the quay, and boldly penetrated into the town. After half an hour they returned with the news that the place was really deserted. There was no one there, neither merchant, nor Saxon, nor Briton.

Harleian MS., 603.

Then these traders landed their cargo and began cautiously to explore the country round, carrying their goods for sale. They found farmsteads dotted about, each containing one family, with its chief, its sons and daughters, and its slaves. They went north and east as far as Ongar and Abridge, and even beyond the great forest. The people received them without any attempt to kill or murder them: they were interested at least in the weapons offered for barter.

What more? Trade revived: the foreign merchants came back, the men of Rouen, the men of Bordeaux; and some of the East Saxons themselves, forgetting their prejudice against towns, came in to settle and took to trade. Some of the Britons came out of their retreats in the forests and found shelter and freedom, and perhaps wealth, in the city. London was founded a second time.

The desertion of London, the solitude of London, the return of the merchants, the repeopling of the place, are not described by historians, but have been related here as they must have happened. There seems to me to be no other way of explaining the facts of the case.

In the beginning of the seventh century London is again mentioned. The following is the testimony of Bede, who wrote one hundred and twenty years after155 the events recorded. The main facts were most certainly remembered, while the actual condition of London at the date would be probably less clearly known. His words are these:—

“In the year of our Lord, 604, Augustine, Archbishop of Britain, ordained two bishops, viz. Mellitus and Justus: Mellitus to preach to the province of the East Saxons, who are divided from Kent by the river Thames, and border on the Eastern Sea. Their metropolis is the city of London, which is situated on the bank of the aforesaid river, and is the mart of many nations resorting to it by sea and land. At that time, Sebert, nephew to Ethelbert by his sister Ricula, reigned over the nation, though he was under subjection to Ethelbert, who, as has been said above, had command over all the nations of the English as far as the river Humber. But when this province also received the word of truth, by the preaching of Mellitus, King Ethelbert built the church of St. Paul, in the city of London, where he and his successors should have their episcopal see. As for Justus, Augustine ordained him bishop in Kent, at the city which the English named Rhofescestir, from one that was formerly the chief man of it, called Rhof. It was almost twenty-four miles distant from the city of Canterbury to the westward, and contains a church dedicated to St. Andrew the apostle. King Ethelbert, who built it, bestowed many gifts on the bishops of both those churches, as well as on that of Canterbury, adding lands and possessions for the use of those who were with the bishops.”

And in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle we have the following brief entry:—“A.D. 604. This year the East Saxons received the faith and baptism under King Sebert and Bishop Mellitus.”

At this time, then, the King of Kent was the overlord of the Essex men, who had as well their own King. And their “metropolis” was London, where King Ethelbert built their first church—St. Paul’s. Also London was “the mart of many nations.” This was doubtless true in the eighth century when Bede wrote. How far was it true at the beginning of the seventh? Some advance had been made, that is certain. For the Bishop, London was the metropolis, the mother city. Whatever official and central life belonged to the diocese was placed, therefore, in London.

It would be interesting, if it were possible, to trace the gradual change in the manners and customs of the Saxons which enabled them to live in towns. That it was very gradual we may learn from the small number of towns in Saxon England, from the large number of Roman-British cities left “waste,” and from the fact that not until Alfred’s time did they begin to build or to restore the walls of their towns. It was, however, a Saxon population that occupied London as soon as the days of desolation were fulfilled. This is certain from the names of the streets, which, with one doubtful exception, are all Saxon—why the name of the river itself never became Saxon is a fact impossible to explain. First came the merchants with the sailors and156 the ships. They established themselves, as of old, along the river, beside the ports afterwards called Billingsgate and Dowgate or Walbrook. These ports with their quays were easily repaired by means of piles and planks. The ships and traders came with the spring, and in the summer the chapmen, with their caravans of pack-mules and pack-horses, rode from one clearing to another with their wares. Then it became convenient that some should stay all the year at the port. The streets within the river wall began to be reconstructed and houses rose, and the country folk, losing their dread of magic, began to drop in and to settle among the ruins of Augusta and near their new friends the foreign merchants.

From St. Athelwold’s “Benedictional” (10th cent.).

The site of the Citadel was still marked by a broad and open area; its walls were gone—we have seen that they were used to build the City wall; it was partly occupied by buildings then in ruins; its four gates were all open—through them ran the road for wheeled vehicles to London Stone, and so down to London Bridge. North of these streets, i.e. north of Cannon Street, lay a great expanse of land, enclosed by the wall, with the remains of Roman villas and the débris of streets and157 houses lying scattered over it. This large area was the ancient Augusta. A great part of it was cultivable land overgrown by trees and bushes, wanting nothing more than the removal of foundations here and there and the clearance of the underwood. Where there is cultivable land there will be land-owners. Before long every acre within the wall had its proprietor. From private property thus acquired by settlement grew up most of the City wards; they were manors belonging to certain families. On this subject I have spoken elsewhere. (See Mediæval London, vol. ii. chapter v.) The Saxon settlement of London, according to this view, followed the return of the foreign merchants. They repaired the quays and restored the ports; it is probable that they repaired the wooden bridge. They occupied that part of Thames Street which lies round the mouth of the Walbrook and Billingsgate. The country people, perceiving that no harm followed, despite the magic of the walls, began to settle in the waste parts of the north within the old walls. There they carved out estates and made farms and orchards, and gradually filled up the whole area, and, also gradually, learned the meaning of trade. As they filled up the area enclosed by the walls, they absorbed the mixed population of foreign residents, craftsmen, and the “service” of the port. This view of a gradual settlement, in the north first, afterwards158 spreading south, seems partly borne out by the broad waste places—the Room-lands and ground in the Saxon city. Thus West Cheap, now a narrow street, was then a broad waste-land; there was another Room-land at East Cheap on the site of the old Roman citadel; and there were Room-lands near Billingsgate and Dowgate. That there was also a Room-land at Newgate may be accounted for by the simple fact that here were the shambles, and that no one cared to settle down, build a house, and cultivate a piece of ground in a place so foul and noisome.

Prudentius MS., 24199.

And if Bede is right in saying that London in 604 was a “mart of all the nations,” then this Saxon occupation must have commenced fifty years before—we can hardly suppose a period of less than fifty years for the re-establishment of London trade; but the silence of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as to the restoration of London, and the vagueness of Bede’s statement made two hundred years afterwards, forbid us to consider the assertion that London was “the mart of all the nations” to be accepted literally.

As for the people by whom the settlement of London was effected, they could be no other than the East Saxons, the people of Essex. If we look at the map, it is clear that the situation of the town invited them, and that in a very remarkable manner it lay open to them. The river, peculiarly their own river, for they were settled along the coast where it rose above the marshes, conveyed them easily to the place. An impenetrable forest covered the whole of the north, but left a way over a high moorland, between the forest and the marsh, from the settlements along the shore to the walls of London. There was no such way open for the men of Mercia, of Anglia, of Kent, or of Wessex; to them there was only the river.

To the argument from the nature of the site we must add the very important fact that, when first we hear of London restored, the City is under the rule of the King of Essex. It is true that the overlord of Essex was the King of Kent. But if London had been settled by the men of Kent, how would the King of Essex, never so strong as other kinglets, have acquired his right of superiority?

I must, however, refer to a paper read by Mr. T. W. Shore before the London and Middlesex Archæological Society in March 1900, in which he contends that London was resettled from Kent. His argument is, briefly, as follows:—

1. The natural way of outlet or extension for Kent would be up the Thames. That Kentish men did emigrate and settle beyond their marsh is proved by the laws of King Wihtred (A.D. 685), in which it is laid down that Kentish men carry their laws and customs “beyond the march.”

2. Names connected with Kent are common round London E. of Kennington, Kensington, Kenton, Kentish Town, Kenley, Kent’s Town.

3. The Kentish custom of gavelkind, by which the estate was divided among all the sons equally, the youngest son taking the homestead, prevailed, and in some places lingered long in many villages and manors round London, viz. Kentish159 Town, Stepney, Mile End, Hackney, Canonbury, Newington Barrow (Highbury), Hornsey, Islington, Streatham, Croydon, Peckham Rye, Kensington, Walworth, Vauxhall, Wandsworth, Battersea, Lambeth, Barnes, Sheen (Richmond), Petersham, Edmonton, Fulham, Tottenham, Ealing, Acton, and Isleworth.

Claud MS., B. iv.

This list (the authority for which is Thomas Robinson on Gavelkind) is long and unimportant. It becomes more important when Glanville is quoted as saying that partible inheritance was only recognised by the law courts when it could be proved to have been always in use. Now if in the twelfth century the use of gavelkind could be proved customary beyond the memory of man, the antiquity of the use on the manors is certainly established.

London, then, was surrounded by manors under gavelkind. Further out, the Archbishop of Canterbury had demesnes at Harrow and Hayes. In the reign of King John he converted gavelkind fees into knights’ fees.


4. Mr. Shore also calls attention to the two claims in William’s Charter, that all burgesses are law-worthy, and that thus every child is to be his (not his or her) father’s heir.

These words prove, he suggests, that there were no bondmen in London, as there were none in Kent, and that gavelkind, the peculiar Kentish custom, obtained in London at that time.

This view is submitted for the readers consideration. Against it we have to set the undoubted fact, as stated above, that the King of Essex was the Lord of London, although his overlord was the King of Kent. Had London been settled by Kentish men, how would the King of Essex get a footing there? Is it not much more reasonable to suppose that the City was first settled by the men of Essex; that the King of Kent became by battle and victory the overlord; that Kentish men naturally flocked to the place and acquired lands, and that they brought with them their own customs? We may thus explain the facts of the names and the Kentish customs. As regards the clauses in the Charter, I fail to see their importance. If there were slaves in London, they would not be accounted burgesses, and would not be named, for slaves had no rights; and the framers of the Charter would naturally use the word “his” rather than “his or her.”

As to the custom of gavelkind, it is thus laid down in the Thirteenth-Century Custumal (see Elton, Origins of English History):—

“‘If any tenant in gavelkind die, having inherited gavelkind lands and tenements, let all his sons divide that heritage equally. And if there be no male heir, let the partition be made among the females in the same way as among brothers. And let the messuage (or homestead) also be divided among them, but the hearth-place shall belong to the youngest son or daughter (the others receiving an equivalent in money), and as far as 40 feet round the hearth-place, if the size of the heritage will allow it. And then let the eldest have the first choice of the portions, and the others afterwards in their order.’”

“‘In like manner as to other houses which shall be found in such a homestead, let them be equally divided among the heirs, foot by foot, if need be, except the cover of the hearth, which remains to the youngest, as was said before; nevertheless, let the youngest make reasonable amends to his co-parceners for their share by the award of good men’” (pp. 189-190).



Let us return to the establishment of Christianity in London. It was in 604, as we have seen, that the East Saxons were baptized, their king, Sebert, being the nephew of Ethelbert, King of Kent, who was his overlord. It was Ethelbert, and not Sebert, who built St. Paul’s for Mellitus, the first Bishop of London. Christianity, however, is not implanted in the mind of man altogether by baptism. Mellitus was able to leave his diocese a few years after its creation in order to attend a synod at Rome, and to confer with the Pope on the affairs of the Church. This looks as if his infant Church was already in a healthy condition of stability. So long as Ethelbert lived, at least, there was the outward appearance of conformity; but when he died, in 616, his son Eadbald “refused to embrace the faith of Christ,” as Bede has it. Does this mean that he had not yet been baptized? In that case the “conversion” of the people can only mean the conversion of some among them. Perhaps, however, the words mean that he relapsed. In the next sentence we are told that his example was followed by many who, “under his father, had, either for favour, or through fear of the King, submitted to the laws of faith and chastity.” This king, Eadbald, took to wife his father’s widow—a crime for which, as the historian tells us, “he was troubled with frequent fits of madness, and was possessed by an evil spirit.”

From Cædmon’s Metrical Paraphrase
(10th cent.).

However, his example was the signal for revolt. King Sebert died and was succeeded by his three sons, “still pagans.” Therefore the conversion of the East Saxons, at least, had not been complete. These princes “immediately began to profess idolatry, which during their father’s reign they had seemed a little to abandon”; they also granted liberty to the people to serve idols. Therefore the conversion had been by order of the King. The people, then, nothing loth, returned to their ancient gods and their old practices.

Some, however, remained faithful, and the services of the Church were still carried on at St. Paul’s, with sorrowful hearts.

We now chance upon a glimpse of the East Saxon mind, for the three princes,162 though they were no longer Christians, desired to get what they could for their own advantage out of the new religion. They observed that the most important part of the Christian ritual was the celebration of the Eucharist, in which the communicants received each a morsel of white bread. Clearly this was magic: the white bread was a charm: it protected those who received it from dangers of all kinds. They therefore called upon Mellitus to give them this charm, but without the profession of the Christian faith. In the words of Bede, they said, “Why do you not give us also that white bread, which you used to give to our father Saba (for so they used to call him), and which you still continue to give to the people in the church?” To whom he answered, “If you will be washed in that laver of salvation, in which your father was washed, you may also partake of the holy bread, of which he partook; but if you despise the laver of life, you may not receive the bread of life.” They replied, “We will not enter into that laver, because we do not know that we stand in need of it, and yet we will eat of that bread.” And being often earnestly admonished by him, that the same could not be done, nor any one admitted to partake of the sacred oblation without the holy cleansing, at last they said in anger, “If you will not comply with us in so small a matter as this, you shall not stay in our province”; and accordingly they obliged him and his followers to depart from their kingdom.

Royal MS. 2, B. vii.

Mellitus, thus forced to abandon his work, retired to Canterbury, where he met Justus, Bishop of Rochester, also turned out of his diocese, and Laurentius, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was also meditating flight.

The two former resolved on passing over to France, there to await the event.


From Dean Spence’sThe Church of England (Cassell).

The three princes of the East Saxons, we are told, did not long survive their apostasy. For, marching out to battle with the West Saxons, they were all three slain and their army cut to pieces. Nevertheless, the people of London and Essex refused to acknowledge this correction and remained in their paganism.

The story of Eadbald’s conversion and the restoration of Christianity to the kingdom of Kent is suspicious. It is as follows:—Laurentius, the Archbishop, appeared before the King one day, and taking off his shirt, showed his shoulders red and bleeding, as if with a grievous flagellation. He told the King that he had received this “Apostolical” scourging from St. Peter himself, as a punishment for thinking of deserting his flock. “Why,” asked the Apostle, “wouldest thou forsake the flock which I committed to you? To what shepherds wouldest thou commit Christ’s sheep which are in the midst of wolves? Hast thou forgotten my example, who, for the sake of those little ones, whom Christ recommended to me in token of His affection, underwent, at the hands of infidels and enemies of Christ, bonds, stripes, imprisonment, afflictions, and, lastly, the death of the cross, that I might at last be crowned with Him?”

King Eadbald accepted this miracle as a warning: he abjured the worship of idols, renounced his unlawful marriage, and embraced the faith of Christ. Laurentius, on this happy turn of events, sent for Mellitus and Justus to return. The latter was restored to his see of Rochester; the former, however, found his Londoners obstinate in their relapse. Unfortunately, Eadbald, the penitent, had not the same power that his father had enjoyed. It took nearly half a century to get Christianity firmly established in London.

About the year 635, thirty years after their defeat by the men of Wessex, the East Saxons returned to the faith. Their conversion was due in the first instance to the persuasion and arguments of Oswy, King of Northumbria, with his “friend”—as Bede calls him—his subject King, Sigebert of the East Saxons. When these arguments had prevailed, Sigebert, having been baptized, asked for priests to preach to his people. Cedda, afterwards Bishop of London, undertook the task, with such success that the whole people embraced Christianity. Again, however, they fell away, led by Sighere, one of the two Kings of the East Saxons. Their defection was caused by a pestilence, which was interpreted to mean the wrath of their former gods. It was in the year 665. The two Kings of the East Saxons were no longer “friends” of Northumbria, but of Mercia; and the King of the Mercians sent Jarumnan, Bishop of Lichfield, to bring the people back again. The Bishop was aided in his efforts by Osyth, queen of the apostate Sighere, afterwards known as St. Osyth. There was as little difficulty in securing a return as a relapse: Essex once more became Christian, and this time remained so. The missionary Bishop, Erkenwald, the Great Bishop, who remained in the memory of London until the Reformation, was the chief cause of the complete conversion of the people. He did not rest satisfied with the baptism of kings and thanes: he went himself among the rude and ignorant164 folk; he preached to the charcoal-burners of the forest and to the rustics of the clearing; he founded Religious Houses in the midst of the country people; he became, in life and after death, the protector of the people. He made it impossible for the old faith to be any longer regarded with regret. To the time of Erkenwald belong not only St. Osyth (her name survives in Size Lane) and St. Ethelburga, whose church is still standing beside Bishopsgate, but also St. Botolph, to whom five churches were dedicated.

St. Osyth was the mother of Offa, whose memory is preserved by Bede. He succeeded his father Sighere as one of the Kings of Essex, then subject to Mercia. He accompanied Coinred, King of the Mercians, ingoing to Rome, and in surrendering everything in order to become a monk.


“With him went the son of Sighere, King of the East Saxons above-mentioned, whose name was Offa, a youth of most lovely age and beauty, and most earnestly desired by all his nation to be their King. He, with like devotion, quitted his wife, lands, kindred, and country, for Christ and for the Gospel, that he might receive an hundredfold in this life, and in the world to come life everlasting. He also, when they came to the holy places at Rome, receiving the tonsure, and adopting a monastic life, attained the long-wished-for sight of the blessed apostles in heaven.” (Giles’s Trans. vol. iii. p. 237.)

Harl. MS., Roll Y. 6.

His memory was preserved in London long after his death—even, indeed, until recent times—on account of this wonderful example of piety at first, and afterwards by the tradition which ascribed the site of St. Alban’s Church, Wood Street, in the City, to that of the chapel of King Offa’s palace. That tradition is gravely considered by Maitland, who decides against it. This Offa must not be confounded with the much greater Offa, King of the Mercians.

Documents relating to London are few in these centuries. The earliest notice of London among those collected and published in J. M. Kemble’sCodex Diplomaticus Aevi Saxonici, and in Benjamin Thorpe’sDiplomatarium, dates as far back as the year 695, if it is genuine; but it is said to be an early forgery. The document professes to be Bishop Erkenwald’s Charter of Barking Abbey. Reciting the lands given to the Abbey, it says, “Sexta juxta Lundoniam unius manentis data a Uulfhario rege. Septima supra vicum Lundoniae data Quoenguyda uxore.” What street is here intended? There is a deed by which Ethelbald, King of the Mercians, gives to165 Aldwulf, Bishop of Rochester, the right of sending one ship to the port of London without paying taxes or dues. It is dated 734.

In 734, King Ethelbald grants to the Bishop of Rochester leave to pass one ship without toll into the Port of London. In another charter the same King speaks of “Lundon tune’s hythe.” King Canulf of Mercia speaks of a Witenagemot in London—“loco praeclaro oppidoque regale.” In 833 there was another Council held in London by Egbert, presumably after his defeat at Charmouth.

The same King (743 or 745) allows to the venerable Bishop Mildred of Worcester all the rights and dues of two ships which may be demanded of them in the hythe of London town.

In the year 857, King Burgred of Mercia assigns to Bishop Alhune “aliquam parvam portionem libertatis, cum consensu consiliatorum meorum, gaziferi agelluli in vico Lundonioe: hoc est, ubi nominatur. Ceol-munding-chaga, qui est non longe from Westgetum positus.” Where was Ceol-munding-chaga? Where was Westgetum? And is the English preposition a mistake of Kemble’s?

In the year 889, “Alfred rex Anglorum et Saxonum et Aethelred sub regulus et patricius Merciorum ... Uuaerfrido, eximio Huicciorum antistiti, ad aecclesiam Weo-gernensem in Lundonia unam curtem quae verbotenus ad antiquum petrosum aedificium, id est, aet Hwaetmundes stane a civibus apellatur, a strata publica usque in murum ejusdem civitatis, cujus longitudo est perticarum xxvi et latitudo in superiori parte perticarum xiii et pedum vii et in inferiori loco perticarum xi et vi pedum, ad plenam libertatem infra totius rei sempiternaliter possidendum, in aecclesiasticum jus conscribimus et concedentes donamus.”

We have now arrived at the coming of the Danes. It seems a just retribution that the Saxons should in their turn suffer exactly the same miseries by robbery and murder as they had themselves inflicted upon the Britons. One knows not when the Northmen first tasted the fierce joy of piracy and marauding on the English coast; probably they began as soon as the farms and settlements of the English were worth plundering. It must be remembered that as yet there was little cohesion or joint action among the “kingdoms,” and that war was incessant between them. Read, for instance, the following passage from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. It relates the wars of one year only, the year 823. Think of the condition of the country when all these battles and all this slaughter were crammed into one year only:—


“This year there was a battle between the Welsh and the men of Devon and Camelford; and the same year Egbert, King of the West Saxons, and Bernulf, King of the Mercians, fought at Wilton, and Egbert got the victory, and there was great slaughter made. He then sent from the army his son Ethelwulf, and Ealston his bishop, and Wulfherd his ealdorman, into Kent with a large force, and they drove Baldred the King northwards over the Thames. And the men of Kent, and the men of Surrey, and the South Saxons, and the East Saxons submitted to him; for formerly they had been unjustly forced from his kin. And the same year the King of the East Angles and the people sought the alliance and protection of King Egbert for dread of the Mercians; and the same year the East Angles slew Barnulf, King of Mercia.”

Attempts were made at combined action. In the year 833, for instance, as we have seen, King Egbert called a Witenagemot at London. This was attended by the King of Mercia and the bishops. The deliberations, however, of this Parliament did nothing to prevent the disasters that followed.

Harl. MS., 4751.

The share which fell to London of all the pillage and massacre was less than might have been expected. Thus, in 832 the Danes ravaged Sheppey; in 833 Dorsetshire. In 835 they were defeated in Cornwall; in 837 at Southampton and Portland; in 838 in Lindsey, in East Anglia, and in Kent. In 839 “there was great slaughter at London, at Canterbury, and at Rochester.” In 840 the Danes landed at Charmouth; in 845 at the mouth of the Parrett in Somersetshire; in 851 at Plymouth; in the same year the Saxons got some ships and met the enemy on the sea, taking nine ships and putting the rest to flight, but, which is significant, the Danes wintered that year on Thanet. “And the same year there came 350 ships to the mouth of the Thames, and the crews landed and took Canterbury and London by storm, and put to flight Berthwulf, King of the Mercians, with his army, and then went south over the Thames into Surrey.” King Ethelwulf with the men of Wessex met them at Ockley, and defeated them with great slaughter. In the same year the Saxons met them on the sea in ships and beat them off. They seem to have been driven out of the country by these reverses, for in 854 we read of battles fought in Thanet, which looks like an attempt to settle there again; and in 855 they succeeded in wintering on that island. In 860 they stormed and burned167 Winchester, and were then driven off by the men of Hampshire. In 865 they sat down in Thanet and made peace with the men of Kent for a price; but they broke their word. In 866 the Danes took up their winter quarters with the East Angles and made peace with them. In 867 there was fighting in Northumbria, the kings were slain, and the people made peace with the Danes; in 868 the Mercians made peace with them. In 870 the “army” marched into East Anglia from York and there defeated King Edmund (St. Edmund) and destroyed all the churches and the great and rich monastery of Medehamstede (Peterborough)—“at that time,” says the Chronicle, “the land was much distressed by frequent battles ... there was warfare and sorrow over England.” Both in 870 and in 871 there was fighting all the summer at and near Reading. In 872 “the army went from Reading to London and there took up their winter quarters”; in 874 they wintered at Repton; in 875 some marched north, and some south, wintering at Cambridge. In that year Alfred, now King, obtained a fleet and fought seven Danish ships successfully. In168 876 the Danes were at Wareham; in 877 their fleet was cast away and the army fled to the “fortress” of Exeter. In 878 there was fighting in the west country; in 879 the Danes were at Fulham on the Thames. Some of the Danes then crossed the Channel and visited France, leaving a part of the army in England. In 882 King Alfred fought them on the sea. The chronicle of 883 is brief, but extremely important: “That same year Sighelm and Athelstan carried to Rome the arms which the King had vowed to send thither, and also to India, to St. Thomas, and to St. Bartholomew, when they sat down against the army at London; and there, thanks be to God, they largely obtained the object of their prayer.”

Harl. MS., 4751.

If this brief chronicle be followed on the map, it will be perceived that, although fighting went on year after year in various parts of the country, London was in the grasp of the Danes for no more than twelve years. The area of the battlefield into which the Danes had converted England extended year by year, but always included London.



The Danes, then, held London for twelve years. In after years, when the country was governed by Danish kings, large numbers of Danes settled in London, and, with the national readiness to adapt themselves to new conditions and new manners (compare the quick conversion of Normans to French language and manners), they speedily became merged in the general population. Very soon we hear no more of Danes and English as separate peoples, either in London or in the country. London, indeed, has always received all, absorbed all, and turned all into Londoners. During this first Danish occupation, of which we know nothing, one of two things happened: either the occupiers settled down among the citizens, leaving them to follow their trades and crafts in their own way; or they murdered and pillaged, drove away all who could fly, and then sat down quietly and remained, an army in occupation in a strong place. Everything points to the latter course, because the ferocity of the Danes at this time was a thing almost incredible. London was, for the moment, ruined. It was not deserted by the lowest class, for the simple reason that an army requires people for the service of providing its daily wants. Food—grain and cattle—was brought in from West and East Anglia; the river supplied fish and fowl—wildfowl—in abundance. But fishermen and fowlers were wanted; therefore these useful people would not be slain, except in the first rush and excitement of victory. In the same way armourers, smiths, makers of weapons, bakers, brewers, butchers, drovers, cooks, craftsmen, and servants of all kinds are wanted, even by the rudest soldiery. In the fifth century, when the trade of London deserted her, the people had to go because the food supplies also were cut off. Since the Danish army could winter in London for twelve years, it is certain that they had command of supplies. Therefore, after the first massacres and flight, the lower classes remained in the service of their new lords. Moreover, by this time, the enemy, having resolved to stay in the country, had doubtless made the discovery that it is the worst policy possible to kill the people who were wanted to bring them supplies, or to murder the farmers who were growing crops and keeping cattle for them to devour.

The Danes occupied London for twelve years. At the best it was a bad time170 for the people who remained with them. Rough as was the London craftsman of the ninth century, he was mild and gentle compared with his Danish conqueror and master.

If we inquire whether the trade of London vanished during these years, it may be argued, first, that the desire for gain is always stronger than the fear of danger; secondly, that merchant-ships were accustomed to fight their way; thirdly, that when a strong tide or current of trade has set steadily in one direction for many years, it is not easily stopped or diverted; fourthly, that when the first massacre was over, the Danes would perhaps see the advantage of encouraging merchants to bring things, if only for their own use; for they were ready to buy weapons and wine, if nothing else, and there were a great many things which they wanted and could not make for themselves. As for the interior, there could be no trade there during the disturbed condition of the country.

A note made a hundred and fifty years later shows that the Danes did at least consume the importations of foreign merchants. When they murdered Alphage, Archbishop of Canterbury, they were drunk with wine. We cannot suppose that an army whose soldiers regarded strong drink as the greatest joy of life did not perceive the advantages of procuring wine in abundance by means of the merchants who brought it from France and Spain.

I allow the weight of these reasons. I admit that there may have been still some trade carried on at the Port of London. I shall presently give reasons for supposing, on the other hand, that London was again ruined and deserted.

Let us see what manner of men were these soldiers who became owners of London for twelve years and afterwards furnished kings to England and law-abiding burghers to the City.

We may learn their manners from the pages of the historian Saxo Grammaticus.

To begin with, the Danes were a nation of warriors, as yet not Christians. And Christianity, when it came, brought at first little softening of manners. It presented much the same Devil to the popular imagination, but with a face and figure more clearly outlined; it localised Hell, which remained much the same for the Christian as for the pagan, only it furnished more exact details and left no doubt as to the treatment and sufferings of the lost. The only honour paid to any man was that due to valour; the only thing worthy of a man’s attention was the maintenance of his strength and the increase of his courage. The king must lead in battle; he must sometimes fight battles of wager; he had his following or court of lords, who were bound to fight beside him, and to die, if necessary, with him or for him. If he should by any lucky accident escape the accidents of battle, murder, and sudden death, and so enter upon old age, he must abdicate, for a king who could no longer fight was absurd.

The Danes had troops of slaves: some born in slavery; some captives of171 war; the craftsmen of London were no doubt slaves because they were captives—they had survived the storm of the City. A slave had no rights at all; his master could do what he pleased with him; he was flogged, tortured, scorned, reviled, and brutally treated; it was a time when the joy of fighting was followed by the joy of revenge, when to make a captive noble eat the bread of servitude and drink the water of humiliation filled the victor with a savage joy. As for the women, they were reserved for the service and the lusts of the captors. It pleased the chivalry of the Dane to cast the daughters of kings into the brothel of the common soldier.

Tib., B. v.

Of course they had the virtue of courage—it is, however, suspicious that, among the Danes, as in all savage nations, their courage had to be kept up by constant exhortations, charms, and songs. There were unexpected panics and routs and shameful flights of these invincible Danes as well as of the Saxons: this would seem to show that their vaunted courage was liable to occasions of failure. They were, however, marvellously free from fear of pain; they seem to have disregarded it altogether. Of one man it is related that rather than marry a certain princess who was offered him he chose to be burned to death; and in a poem it is told of another that, when he was wounded so grievously that his entrails were exposed, he refused the help of a slave because he was a slave, and the help of a woman because her birth was not noble, and so he remained till one of free and honourable birth came along, who tied him round with withies and carried him off to a house. Honour and loyalty were not so much admired as demanded. Treachery and rebellion were ruthlessly punished. In some cases the wretched criminal was tied by thongs passed under the sinews of his heels to the tails of wild bulls and then hunted to death by hounds. Other punishments there were. As for the women, those of free birth were modest172 and chaste: to be detected in an amour involved such a barbarous punishment as the cutting off of the nose.

Harl. MS., Roll Y. 6.

Their weapons were swords, clubs, axes, bows, slings, and stones. Those who could afford to buy them wore mail coats and helmets; they carried banners; they blew horns; they fought on foot; and the battle was decided by single combat, hand to hand, with great slaughter and prodigies of valour. Like the Red Indians, they were able to work themselves up into a kind of frenzy before fighting. Sometimes there were Amazons among them. They all messed together, king and nobles and soldiers. When at home they gathered in the great hall at night with fires blazing, with torches, and with hangings to keep out the draughts. Their food was for the most part simple—beef, mutton, pork, with huge quantities of bread. Their drink was chiefly ale, served in horns. After supper they played games. We must remember how long were the winter evenings which had to be got through. Games of some kind were necessary, and there were a great number of games. The minstrel played the harp and sang warlike songs of the deeds of great warriors. They “flyted” each other, i.e. endeavoured to reduce each other to silence by abuse and insult, a game which gave great opportunities to a man of imagination. Such specimens of173 “flyting” as remain show that it might be, and most likely was, coarse and obscene to the last degree. They told stories of their leaders and wove impossible fictions of their bravery, their endurance, and their generosity. They bragged over impossible deeds, a thing which we find the knights of the fourteenth century also doing in their game of gabe; they called in jugglers, tumblers, mimes, and singers of love-songs and drinking-songs. It is to be noted that, although they loved the acting and the singing, they held the calling of actors and minstrels in great contempt. Sometimes they tugged at a rope, as in our old game of French and English. Sometimes, when they were well drunken, they began a very favourite pastime, that of bone-throwing. It was in this way that St. Alphage was murdered. For the Danes sent for him and began to throw beef bones at him, perhaps in play, and expecting to see the Archbishop dodge the bones dexterously. He did not—one struck him on the head and he fell dead.

As for the religion of these people before and after their conversion, they believed boundlessly. They believed in giants and in dwarfs, in ghosts and in devils, in fate, in a whole array of gods and goddesses, in the Land of Undeath, in the Underground Land, in magic and sorcery, in charms and philtres, in ordeals. All these things, with modifications, they continued to believe long after they were received into the bosom of the Christian Church. And they were full of stories, legends, and traditions—a wild, imaginative people, with a limited horizon of knowledge, beyond and outside which all was blackness, with the terror of the unknown.

Such were the people who came every year with their army, harrying and plundering, murdering and destroying, till they found it more convenient to winter in the country, which they did, occupying the islands of Thanet. Such were the people who obtained possession of London; such were the people who afterwards flocked to the City in the days of King Cnut and settled down among the rest of the heterogeneous London folk.

There are no traces of this first Danish occupation. The churches dedicated to Danish saints, Magnus and Olaf, were erected afterwards. Probably the Danes at this time left not one church standing.

In 883 Alfred obtained possession of the City—“after a short siege”—the historians write. The only authority for this short siege is the paragraph in the A.S. Chronicle already quoted. “They sat down against the army of London; and there they largely obtained the object of their prayer.” After the battle of Ethandun, the Danes retired from Cirencester to Chippenham, and there wintered. In the same year another body of them collected and wintered at Fulham on the Thames. This fact makes me ask why, when London was theirs, the Danes should winter at Fulham instead of at the City itself. Surely London offered winter quarters174 superior to those of Fulham, that little village in a marsh. There seems to me no explanation except one, namely, that the City was once more deserted. The same thing which happened to Augusta may have happened also to Saxon London. The whole of its trade was destroyed; the river and the channel were in the hands of the Northmen; the City had been taken with the customary massacres and plunder; it was no longer possible to live in the place; no supplies could be taken there because there were no longer any means of buying for them or paying for them. Therefore, save for the wretched remnant of fishermen and slaves, the streets were desolate and the port was deserted. We may draw a picture of burned houses and roofless churches; of broken doors and narrow lanes, cumbered with useless plunder dragged from the houses and left in the streets because it could not be carried away; of dead bodies left unburied where they fell in defence or in flight along the streets and in the houses; of City gates lying open to any who chose to enter; of the City wall broken away, having never been repaired since the Britons fled before the Saxons came. This ruined and deserted city Alfred recovered. How? By a siege? What kind of siege would it be when there were no walls to defend; not enough men to man the walls, and not enough of the besiegers to attack them?

From Strutt’s Sports and Pastimes. From Luttrell’s Psalter.

Does not the Chronicle answer these questions?

In A.D. 880. The “Army”—i.e. the Danes—“which had sat down at Fulham, went over sea to Ghent, and sat there one year.”

In A.D. 881. The “army went farther into France.”

In A.D. 882. “The army went far into France and there sat one year.”

In that year Alfred fought a sea-battle against “four Danish ships”—only four—took two, and received the surrender of the other two. But it was not with “four” ships that Cnut and Sweyn proposed to attack London.

In A.D. 883. “The army went up the Scheldt and sat there one year.”

This was the same year that Alfred “sat down against the army of London.”

The main body of the Danes was lying up the Scheldt; the Danish fleets were represented by four vessels; what kind of army was that before which Alfred sat down?

My own reading of the story is that the small force of Danes in, or near, London, retired without fighting, and that Alfred, meeting with no opposition, marched into the City and began at once, understanding the enormous advantage of possessing the place, to consider steps in order to secure that possession. He seems to have had a whole year during which he was left in peace, or comparative175 peace, in order to consider the position. Meantime, there was more fighting to be done before these measures could be fairly taken in hand. The Danes, retiring from London, divided into two parts: one division went into Essex; the other crossed the river and fell upon Rochester. Here Alfred met them and put them to flight; they escaped across the seas to their own country. Alfred’s fleet defeated the Danish fleet at the mouth of the Stour, but were themselves defeated in their turn.

Roy. MS. 2, B. vii.

The following year, 886, was again a year of peace, according to the Chronicle. The “Army” wintered in France near Paris. Alfred received the “submission of all the English except those who were under the bondage of the Danishmen.” This passage, if we were considering the history of the country, should set us thinking. In this place it is enough to note that Alfred took advantage of the respite to repair London. And he placed the City under the charge of Ethelred his son-in-law. So, whether by siege or by battle, or, as I rather believe, by the retirement of the enemy, Alfred recovered London, and, as soon as the condition of his affairs allowed, he repaired it and rebuilt it, and made it once more habitable and secure for the resort of merchants and the safeguarding of fugitives, of women, and of treasure.



It is sometimes said that one of the earliest acts of King Alfred in gaining possession of London was to build a fortress or tower within the City. The authority for this statement seems to be nothing more than a passage in the Chronicle, under the year 896. “Then on a certain day the king rode up along the river and observed where the river might be obstructed, so that the Danes would be unable to bring up their ships. And they then did thus. They constructed two fortresses on the two sides of the river.” This seems but a slender foundation for the assumption of Freeman that Alfred built a citadel for the defence of London. “The germ of that tower which was to be first the dwelling-place of kings and then the scene of the martyrdom of their victims.” I see no reason at all for the construction of any fortress within the City except the reason which impelled William to build the White Tower, viz. in order to keep a hold over the powerful City. And this reason certainly did not influence Alfred. It is quite possible that Alfred did strengthen the City by the construction of a fortress, though such a building was by no means in accordance with the Saxon practice. It is further quite possible that he built such a tower on the site where William’s tower stood later; but it seems to me almost inconceivable that Alfred, if he wanted to build a tower, should not have reconstructed and repaired the old Roman citadel, of which the foundations were still visible. I confess that I am doubtful about the fortress. What Alfred really did, as I read the Chronicle, was to construct two temporary forts near the mouth of the Thames, so as to prevent the Danish ships from getting out. He caught them in a trap.

Let us renew the course of the Danish invasions so far as they concern London. In 893 one army of Danes landed on the eastern shores of Kent and another at the mouth of the Thames. In 894 King Alfred fought them and defeated them, getting back the booty. Some of the Danes took to their ships and sailed round to the west, whither the King pursued them. Others fled to a place near Canvey Island called Bamfleet, where they fortified themselves. Then, for the first time after the Conquest, we find that London is once more powerful, and once more filled with valiant citizens. For the Londoners marched out under Ethelred, Earl of Mercia,177 their governor, attacked the Danes in their stronghold, took it, put the enemy to flight, and returned to London with all that was within the fort, including the women and the children. In 895 the Danes brought their ships up the Thames and towed them up the Lea to the town of Ware, but the year afterwards the Londoners made their ships useless: whereupon the Danes abandoned them, and the men of London took or destroyed them. Maitland says that “a few years ago”—he writes in 1786—“at the erection of Stanstead Bridge, remains of these ships were found.”

T. Reveley, Wantage.

King Alfred was able to equip and to send out an efficient fleet. In the year 901, to accept the generally received date, which now appears, however, more than doubtful, the great King Alfred passed away. No king or captain, in the whole history of London, ever did so much for the City as Alfred. Circumstances, chance, geographical position, created London for the Romans, and restored it for the Saxons. Circumstances, not the wisdom of kings, gave London, in after ages, its charters and its liberties. It is the especial glory of Alfred that he discerned the importance of the City, not only for purposes of trade, but as a bulwark of national defence. He repaired the strong walls which, in a time when ladders and mines were not yet part of the equipment of war, made the City impregnable; he gave security to merchants; he offered a place of safety to princesses and great ladies; a treasure-house which could not be broken into and a rallying-place for fugitives. He gave the newly-born City a strong governor and a strong government; he made it possible, as was shown two hundred years later, to maintain the independence of the people even though the whole country except this one stronghold should be overrun. London continued under the rule of Ethelred, Earl of the Mercians, till178 his death in 912, when King Edward “took possession of London.” In 917 there was fighting with the Danes in Mercia, and in 918 about Hereford and Gloucester; from 919 till his death in 924, King Edward was continually occupied in fighting and in fortifying towns. By King Athelstan was fought and won the great battle of Brunanburgh, when there was slain five kings and seven earls. This victory, Maitland says, was “chiefly obtained by the bravery of the Londoners, who were the best troops in the army.” The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle does not say anything about the London troops.

Augustin Rischgitz.
Cotton MS., Tiberius, A. 2.


Maitland points out, as an indication that London was now in flourishing condition, the fact that Athelstan, in apportioning the number of coiners for each town, allotted to London and Canterbury the same number, and that the highest number. To consider this an indication of prosperity is indeed to be thankful for small mercies. To me it is a clear proof, on the other hand, of the comparative decline of London, since she was considered of no greater importance than Canterbury.

Augustin Rischgitz.
Cotton MS.

At this period, however, the cities of England, all of which without exception had been taken and devastated by the “army,” had sunk to a point of poverty as low as any touched even in the fifth and sixth century—those centuries of battle and disaster,—and perhaps lower, for the Saxons were slow in becoming residents180 in a walled city, and would be ready to return if possible to the old life in the open.

Let us go back to the Chronicle. In the year 945, King Edmund held a Witenagemot in London, chiefly occupied with ecclesiastical affairs.

During the reigns of Edmund and Edred (940-955) there was fighting in Northumberland, but no new incursions of the Danes. Under the powerful rule of Edgar there was an almost unbroken peace of seventeen years. In 979 began the disastrous reign of Ethelred, when the Danish incursions were renewed on a larger scale, and when the glory of England departed.

Let me here quote the opinion of Freeman as to the position of London at this time.

“The importance of that great city was daily growing throughout these times. We cannot as yet call it the capital of the kingdom, but its geographical position made it one of the chief bulwarks of the land, and there was no part of the realm whose people could outdo the patriotism and courage of its valiant citizens. London at this time fills much the same place in England which Paris filled in Northern Gaul a century earlier. The two cities, in their several lands, were two great fortresses, placed on the two great rivers of the country, the special objects of attack on the part of the invaders, and the special defence of the country against them. Each was, as it were, marked out by great public services to become the capital of the whole kingdom. But Paris became a national capital only because its local count grew into a national king. London, amidst all changes within and without, has always kept more or less of her ancient character as a free city. Paris was a military bulwark, the dwelling-place of a ducal or a royal sovereign; London, no less important as a military post, had also a greatness which rested on a surer foundation. London, like a few other of our great cities, is one of the ties which connect our Teutonic England with the Celtic and Roman Britain of earlier times. Her British name still lives on, unchanged by the Teutonic conquerors. Before we first hear of London as an English city she had cast away her Roman and Imperial title: she was no longer Augusta: she had taken again her ancient name, and through all changes she clave to her ancient character. The commercial fame of London dates from the early days of Roman dominion. The English Conquest may have caused an interruption for a while, but it was only for a while. As early as the days of Æthelberht the commerce of London was again renowned. Ælfred had rescued the city from the Dane; he had built a citadel for her defence, the germ of that Tower which was to be first the dwelling-place of kings, and then the scene of the martyrdom of their victims. Among the laws of Æthelstan none are more remarkable than those which deal with the internal affairs of London and with the regulation of her earliest commercial corporations. During the reign of Æthelred the merchant city again became the object of special and favourable181 legislation. His institutes speak of a commerce spread all over the lands that bordered on the western ocean. Flemings and Frenchmen, men of Ponthieu, of Brabant, and of Luttich, filled her markets with their wares and enriched the civic coffers with their toils. Thither, too, came the men of Rouen, whose descendants were, at no distant day, to form no small element among her own citizens. And worthy and favoured above all, came the seafaring men of the Old-Saxon brotherland, and pioneers of the mighty Hansa of the North, which was in days to come to knit together London and Novogorod in one bond of commerce, and to dictate laws and distribute crowns among the nations by whom London was now threatened. The demand for toll and tribute fell lightly on those whom English legislation distinguished as the men of the Emperor.”

Stowe MS., 944 (11th cent.).

The part played by London in the country during the momentous hundred182 years following Ethelred’s accession shows the importance of the City. That Londoners fought at Maldon is not to be doubted. That year witnessed the shameful buying of peace from the pirates whom the English had been defeating and defying since the days of Alfred. It was hoped by the Danes to renew the bribe of 991 in the year following. They came up the Thames, but they were met by the Londoners with their fleet and defeated with great slaughter. In the following year Bamborough was taken by the Danes and the north country ravaged. In the year 994, after the news of the taking of Bamborough and the flight of the Thanes at Lindesey, encouraged by their successes, the Danes attempted an invasion on a far more serious scale. This time the leaders were Olaf, King of the Norwegians, and Swegen, King of the Danes. They sailed up the Thames with a fleet of ninety-four ships. The invaders arrived at London and delivered an assault upon the wall. It must be remembered that the river side of the wall was then standing. We are not informed whether the town was attacked from the land side or the river side. The attack was, however, repelled with so much determination, and with such loss to the besiegers, that the two kings abandoned the attempt that same day and sailed away. The victory and the safety of the City were attributed to the “mild-heartedness of the holy Mother of God.”

As for the Northmen, since they could not pillage London they would ravage the coast; and, taking horses, they rode through the eastern and southern shores, pillaging and ravaging and murdering man, woman, and child. These large words must not be taken to imply too much. When a band of marauders rode through the country, especially a country with only a few roads or tracks, they were limited in their field of robberies by the limited number of roads, by the distances between the settled places, by their own desire to return as quickly as possible, and by their inability to carry more than a certain amount of booty. Two or three small loops drawn inland from the anchorage of their ships would mark the extent of their forays from that part. However, they were bought off. In this case Olaf kept his word. He was a Christian already, but he received confirmation from Bishop Ælfreah, and on his return to his own country he spent the rest of his life in promoting Christianity. In St. Olave, Silver Street; St. Olave, Hart Street; St. Olave, Jewry; and St. Olave, Tooley Street, we have four churches erected to the memory of the saintly Northman who kept his word, and, having promised to return no more, stayed in his own country.

Swegen came back, though after some delay, to revenge the foulest treachery. It was that of England’s Bartholomew Day, when, by order of King Ethelred, certainly the very worst king who ever ruined his generation, all the Danes in the land were treacherously murdered at one time. Among those victims was Gunhilda, Swegen’s own sister, with her husband and her son. Swegen came over and landed at Sandwich. It was nine years since the payment of Olaf and himself.183 During these nine miserable years there had been an unbroken series of defeats and humiliations, with the treacheries and jealousies and quarrels which in rude times follow in the train of a weak king. Swegen made himself master of the whole kingdom except London. He attempted the siege of the City with a mighty host; he assaulted the walls; and he was beaten back. As ten years before, he wasted no time in trying to take a place too strongly fortified and defended. Ethelred, however, deserted the town, retiring to the Isle of Wight with his ships. Queen Emma went over to Normandy, taking her sons Edward and Alfred; and London, having no longer a king to fight for, opened her doors to the Danish conqueror.

Swegen died immediately afterwards. He left two sons: Harold, who succeeded to the Danish kingdom, and Cnut, a youth of nineteen, who was proclaimed King by the Danish fleet. What follows was certainly done at London. “Then counselled all the Witan who were in England, clergy and laity, that they should send after King Ethelred: and they declared that no lord was dearer to them than their natural lord, if he would rule them better than he had before done. Then sent the King his son Edward hither with his messengers and ordered them to greet all his people: and to say that he would be to them a loving lord and amend all those things which they abhorred, and each of those things would be forgiven which had been done or said to him on condition that they all with one consent would be obedient to him without deceit. And they there established full friendship, by word and by pledge, on either hand.... Then during Lent King Ethelred came home to his own people: and he was gladly received by them all.” He also promised to govern by the advice of his Witan.

Royal MS. 2, B. vii.


There followed the defeat of Cnut, who sailed away to Denmark; the marriage of Edmund Atheling with the widow of the murdered Segefrith; the return of Cnut; the treachery of Eadric; and the loss of southern England. Edmund, however, held out in the north for a time: finally, Cnut overran the north as well as the south, and all England, except London, was in his power. He proposed an expedition against London. While on his way thither he heard that King Ethelred was dead. He called a gemot of the Witan. All who were without the walls of London assembled at Southampton and chose Cnut as the lawful King of England. At the same time the smaller body which was within London chose Edmund king. He was crowned, not at Kingston in Surrey, the usual place for coronations, where still may be seen the sacred stone of record, but at St. Paul’s in London.

The history of the wonderful year that followed belongs to the country rather than to London. It was the year when one great and strong man restored their spirit to a disgraced and degraded people; won back a good half of the land; and, if he had lived, would have reconquered the rest—the year of Edmund Ironside. On St. Andrew’s Day, some months after his father, this great soldier died in London. They buried him in the Minster of Glastonbury, which held the bones of Edgar.

It was at the beginning of this short reign that Cnut commenced the famous siege of London. “The ships came to Greenwich at Rogation days. And within a little space they went to London and dug a great ditch on the south side and dragged their ships to the west side of the bridge; and then afterwards they ditched the city round, so that no one could go either in or out: and they repeatedly fought against the city; but the citizens strenuously withstood them. Then had King Edmund, before that, gone out: and then he overran Wessex and all the people submitted to him.” Thus the Chronicle. The siege was raised by the arrival of Edmund.

This is a very brief and bald account of a most memorable event. We learn two or three things from it—first, that in some way or other the citizens made the passage of the bridge impossible, yet twenty years later Earl Godwin’s ships passed through the southern arches. He, it is true, had previously secured the goodwill of the Londoners. It is possible that, in the case of Cnut, they may have barred the way by chains. It is, next, certain that the river wall was standing, otherwise an attack upon the south of the City would have been attempted. London was secure within its wall, which ran all round it. The Danes had no knowledge of sieges: they had neither battering rams, nor ladders, nor any means of attacking a wall: they never even thought of mining. It is, next, certain either that the population of London was so large as to man the whole wall, a thing difficult to believe, or that the Danish army was so small that it could only attack at certain points. And it is also certain that the Danes could not keep out supplies; the way was open either into Kent or into Essex or to the north. The account also makes it clear that the185 bridge had been repaired; that it was maintained in good order; and that it was strongly fortified. Cnut, it is evident, did not propose to attempt the City by means of the bridge.

Let us now go back a little in order to consider the condition of the bridge and the story of King Cnut’s trench. It is not certain whether the Saxons at the time of their first settlement kept the bridge in repair; the intercourse between the King of Kent and the King of the East Saxons may possibly have been carried on by a ferry. At the same time it was so easy to keep the bridge open that one feels confident that it was maintained. When the Danes got possession of London their movements are pretty closely followed, but no mention is made of the bridge. I am inclined to think that during their occupation the piles stood up across the river, partly stripped of their upper beams, and that it was Alfred who repaired the bridge when he repaired the wall. That the bridge was standing and in good repair in the time of King Edgar is proved by the curious story of the witch and her punishment which belongs to that time (see p. 222).

Harl. MS., 603.

“In the year 993,” says the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, “came Olaf with 90 ships to Staines and ravaged thereabouts; and went thence to Sandwich, and so thence to Ipswich, and that all overran, and so to Maldon.” How, it is asked, would Olaf sail past the bridge? There can be two answers to this question. It looks, to begin with, considering that Sandwich, Ipswich, and Maldon all lie close together,186 near or on the coast, as if Olaf had no business at Staines at all. Why, Staines is 120 miles from the North Foreland, round which the fleet must sail. And the answer to the question is, therefore, that some other place is intended. If, however, Olaf did really sail up the river to Staines, then the bridge must have been in a ruinous condition. But the stout piles remained, or at least as many of them as were wanted to show how the work could be restored or rebuilt. Snorri Sturlason, the Icelander, who wrote in the thirteenth century, has preserved a curious account of the bridge (Chronicles of London Bridge, p. 16).

Harl. MS., 603.

“They—that is, the Danish forces—first came to shore at London, where their ships were to remain, and the City was taken by the Danes. Upon the other side of the River is situate a great market called Southwark—Sudurvirke in the original—which the Danes fortified with many defences; framing, for instance, a high and broad ditch, having a pile or rampart within it, formed of wood, stone, and turf, with a large garrison placed there to strengthen it. This the King Ethelred—his name, you know, is Adalradr in the original—attacked and forcibly fought against; but by the resistance of the Danes it proved but a vain endeavour. There was, at that time, a Bridge erected over the River between the city and Southwark, so wide, that if two carriages met they could pass each other. At the sides of the Bridge, at those parts which looked upon the River, were erected Ramparts and Castles that were defended on the top by pent-house bulwarks and sheltered turrets, covering to the breasts those who were fighting in them; the Bridge itself was also sustained by piles which were fixed in the bed of the River. An attack, therefore, being made, the forces occupying the Bridge fully defended it. King Ethelred being thereby enraged, yet anxiously desirous of finding out some means by which he might gain the Bridge, at once assembled the Chiefs of the army to a conference on the best method of destroying it. Upon this, King Olaf engaged—for you will remember he was an ally of Ethelred—that if the Chiefs of the army would support him with their forces, he would make an attack upon it with his ships. It being ordained then in187 council that the army should be marched against the Bridge, each one made himself ready for a simultaneous movement both of the ships and of the land forces.”

King Olaf then constructed a kind of raft or scaffold which he placed round his ships so that his men could stand upon them and work. As soon as they reached the bridge they were assailed by a hail-storm of missiles, which broke their shields, and forced many of the ships to retire. Those that remained, however, made fast the ships with ropes and cables. Then the rowers tugged their hardest; the tide turned in their favour; and crash! down fell that part of the bridge and all the people who were on it into the river. Thus Ethelred was restored. In memory of this exploit the Norse Bard sang:—

“And thou hast overthrown their Bridges, Oh thou Storm of the Sons of Odin; skilful and foremost in the Battle! For thee was it happily reserved to possess the land of London’s winding City. Many were the shields which were grasped sword in hand, to the mighty increase of the conflict; but by thee were the iron-banded coats of mail broken and destroyed....

Thou, thou hast come, Defender of the Earth, and hast restored into his kingdom the exiled Ethelred. By thine aid is he advantaged, and made strong by thy valour and prowess; Bitterest was that Battle in which thou didst engage. Now in the presence of thy kindred the adjacent lands are at rest, where Edmund, the relation of the country and the people, formerly governed.”

There is nothing about all this in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. It may have happened; but it could not have been invented with a stone bridge in view, the piers of which all King Olaf’s ships together could not move. Of a wooden bridge constructed in the way described above the thing seems quite possible.

The next event in the history of the bridge is the unsuccessful siege by Cnut. In the course of this siege the besiegers dug the trench round the south end of the bridge and dragged their ships through it, so as to attack London all along the river face. Maitland, the historian, pleased himself by thinking that he had discovered vestiges of the trench all the way round. In his time (circa 1740) there were meadows and pastures and orchards over the whole of south London.

“By a diligent search of several days,” Maitland says, “I discovered the vestigia and length of this artificial water-course: its outflux from the river Thames was where the Great Wet Dock below Rotherhithe is situate: whence, running due west by the seven houses in Rotherhithe Fields, it continues its course by a gentle winding to the Drain Windmill: and, with a west-north-west course passing St. Thomas of Watering’s, by an easy turning it crosses the Deptford Road, a little to the south-east of the Lock-Hospital, at the lower end of Kent Street; and, proceeding to Newington Butts, intersects the road a little south of the turnpike; whence, continuing its course by the Black Prince in Lambeth Road, on the north of Kennington, it runs west-and-by-south, through the Spring garden at Vauxhall, to its influx into the Thames at the lower end of Chelsea Reach.”

The position of this trench has been the subject of much discussion. I submit the following as a reasonable solution of the question:—


Why should it have been a long canal? The conditions of the work were exactly the same whatever place should be selected, viz. the Danes would have to dig through the river embankment on both sides of the bridge. They would also have to dig through the causeway. In the latter part of the work certainly, and in the former part probably, they would have to remove buildings of some kind. The continual wars (800-1000) with the Danes make it quite certain that Southwark must then have been in a very deserted and ruinous condition.

Why should Cnut make his canal a single foot longer than was necessary? We may assume that he was not so foolish. Now the shortest canal possible would be that in which he could just drag his vessels round. In other words, if a circular canal began at CB, and if we draw an imaginary circle GEG round the middle of the canal, it is evident that the chord DF, forming a tangent to the middle circle, should be at least as long as the longest vessel. I take the middle of the canal as the deepest part: there would be no time to construct a canal with vertical sides.

Now (see diagram)

AD2 = AE2 + DE2.

If r is the radius AB or AD and 2a the breadth of the canal and 2b the length of the chord DF,

r2 = (r - a)2 + b2;

[therefore] 2ar = a2 + b2;

[therefore] r = (a2 + b2)/2a.

This represents the length of the radius in terms of the length of the largest vessel and the breadth of the canal, and is therefore the smallest radius possible for getting the ships through. Now the great ship found in Norway in the year 1880 is undoubtedly one of the finest of the vessels used by Danes and Norsemen. The poets speak of larger ships, but as a marvel. Nothing is said about Cnut having ships of very great size. This vessel was 68 feet in length, 16 feet in breadth, and 4 feet in depth. She drew very little water; therefore a breadth of canal equal to the breadth of the vessel would be more than enough. Let us make the chord 70 feet in length, and the breadth of the canal 16 feet. Then

2b = 70, or b = 35,


2a = 16; [therefore] a = 8; [therefore] r = (352 + 82)/16 = 80 (very nearly).

So that AE in this radius of the inner circle is 64 feet in length.


But it was by no means necessary to form a semicircle. Any canal formed in two parallel circles whose radii are 64 to 80 feet would be sufficient for the purpose. Nor would it matter how short the canal was made: a hundred feet probably represented the whole of this mighty work of Cnut, and this cutting, after breaking down the embankment and the causeway, was excavated in the soft mould of the reclaimed marsh. Where, then, are Maitland’s four miles or so?

As soon as the siege was raised and the Danes departed, the embankment was repaired; the broken causeway was filled up again; the soft earth and mud left by the short canal and the encroachments of the tide through the broken bank were speedily levelled, and all traces of the work disappeared.

This bridge was carried away by the tide in 1091. In 1097, according to the A.S. Chronicler, either the bridge had not yet been repaired, or it had again suffered. He says, “in repairing the Bridge that was nearly washed away.” The maintenance of the bridge at this time was provided for by an assessment levied on the counties of Surrey and Middlesex. It was burned down in the destructive fire of 1136. Again it was rebuilt in wood. But in the year 1176 began the building of the long-lived and illustrious bridge of stone, constructed by that great Pontifex, Peter of Colechurch. The new stone bridge was built a little to the west of the wooden bridge.



By the death of Edmund, Cnut was left without a rival. Edmund died on the 30th of November. At Christmas, Cnut summoned to London the Witan of all England to name and crown their king. He questioned witnesses as to the portions of the kingdom, if any, assigned by Edmund to his brothers. As for his infant children, they were not considered. It was found that no portions had been assigned to Edmund’s brothers. Whereupon the meeting unanimously chose Cnut as king of all England. And he was crowned in Paul’s Minster by Archbishop Living. Then the country, in the hands of the strongest king who had ever ruled it, settled down to peace for nineteen years. Never before, not even during the occupation of the Romans, was England at peace for so long. There were no tumults at home; there were no pirates on the seas. As for London, she has no history during this reign. The Chronicle only says as follows:—“A.D. 1018. In this year the tribute was delivered throughout the whole English nation: that was, altogether, two and seventy thousand pounds besides that which the townsmen of London paid, which was ten and a half thousand pounds.”

If the sum paid was at all in proportion to population, London then contained an eighth part of the whole people. Curiously, the population of London is in the same proportion to-day.

A.D. 1023. This year King Cnut, within London, in St. Paul’s Minster, gave full leave to Archbishop Æthelnothe and Bishop Brithwine and to all the servants of God who were with them that they might take up from the tomb the Archbishop St. Elphege.” This they did, and transported the remains to Canterbury, where they still lie. This archbishop, who had been murdered by the Danes, was sainted. There is a church in the City of London dedicated to him.

The manner of the exhumation and translation, as described in the Translatio S. Elphegi by Osborne, is quoted by Wright (The Celt, the Roman, and the Saxon) to illustrate the sturdy independence and the turbulence of the Londoners.


“When Archbishop Elfey had been slain by the Danes in 1012, the Londoners purchased his body of the murderers, and deposited it in St. Paul’s Cathedral. After Cnut had obtained the crown by conquest, and peace was restored, Archbishop Agelnoth (Elfey’s successor) applied to the king to give up the body of the martyr to the monks of Canterbury. Cnut, who was then holding his court in London, consented, but he would only undertake to get the body away by deceiving the citizens. He gave orders to his huscarles, or household soldiers, to disperse themselves in parties, some on the bridge and along the banks of the river, whilst others went to the gates of the city, and there raised tumults and riots. By dint of promises and persuasions, the men who had the care of the body of Elfey were prevailed upon to assist in the plot, and, whilst the attention of the citizens was called to the disturbances at the gates, the sacred deposit was carried by stealth to the river and there placed in a boat, which was rowed in all haste beyond the limits of the capital, and then landed in Kent. The king stood on the bank of the Thames, and watched its progress with anxious eye, for he was afraid of the citizens. When the latter discovered the trick which had been played upon them, they sent out a party in pursuit of the fugitives, who, however, had reached a place of safety before they were overtaken.”

A.D. 1035. This year,” says the Chronicle, “died King Cnut.” If, as Freeman maintains, King Alfred was the most perfect character in all history, then is Cnut the wisest and the strongest character in English history. He founded a standing army with his regiment of Huscarles, or Guards; he respected old laws and customs; he recognised the right of the people to accept or refuse new laws; he defined the right of hunting, leaving every man free to hunt over his own land; he denounced the slave trade; he ordered that there was to be no trading on Sunday—surely the weekly day of rest is the greatest boon ever bestowed upon men who have to work for their living. He enjoined the discharge of church duties and the payment of church dues. All these things, however, belong to the history of England.

On the death of Cnut a Witenagemot was held at Oxford for the election of his successor. How the kingdom was partitioned between Harold and Hardacnut; how the partition was found impossible; how Harold ruled over all England; how evil was his rule and how disastrous—these things belong to English history. London, which suffered from Harold’s misrule with the rest of the kingdom, had been mainly instrumental in the election of that king. She was represented at Oxford by her “lithsmen,” i.e. her sea-going men. Were they the merchants? or were they the Danes—men of the sea—who formed a considerable part of her population? Freeman thinks they were the latter; there seems, however, no reason for adopting that view, or for supposing that in a general parliament of the kingdom the Danes of London should be called upon to send special representatives. Why were not the Danes of Leicestershire, or of Norfolk, where there were so many, also called? There is, however, a passage in the laws of Athelstan which seems to clear up this point. Athelstan conferred the rank of Thane on every merchant who made three voyages over the sea with a vessel and cargo of his own. Therefore, in calling the Witenagemot these navigators—men of the sea—who had in this manner obtained192 the rank of Thane were summoned by right. The “lithsmen” were not the merchants; they were not the Danes; they were simply the merchant adventurers who had traded outre mer, beyond the seas and back for three voyages, and claimed for that service the rank of Thane.

The reign of Harold is only important to us for these reasons—First, the part played by London in the election of the king. Next, the illustration of the savagery which still remained among the Danes, and was shown in their horrible treatment of the Etheling Alfred and his men. Alfred, the son of Ethelred, thought that the death of Cnut would give him a chance of succession. He therefore came over, accompanied by a small following. But “Godwin, the earl, would not allow him.” His fate is recorded in the A.S. Chronicle:—

“But Godwin him then let,
and him in bonds set;
and his companions he dispersed;
and some divers ways slew;
some they for money sold,
some cruelly slaughtered,
some they did bind,
some they did blind,
some they did mutilate,
some did they scalp;
nor was a bloodier deed
done in this land
since the Danes came,
and here accepted peace.
Now is our trust in
the beloved God,
that they are in bliss,
blithely with Christ.
The etheling still lived,
who were without guilt
so miserably slain.
Every ill they him vowed,
until it was decreed
that he should be led
to Ely-bury,
thus bound.
Soon as he came to land,
in the ship he was blinded;
and him thus blind
they brought to the monks;
and he there abode
the while that he lived.
After that him they buried,
as well was his due
full worthily,
as he worthy was,
at the west end,
the steeple well-nigh,
in the south aisle.
His soul is with Christ.”

And lastly, the fact that Harold was buried at Westminster, the first of our kings buried there. His half-brother, Hardacnut, had the body exhumed and thrown into the mud of the marsh round Thorney—“into a fen,” says the Chronicle. Thorney stood in a fen, and it is not likely that the new king would desire his savage deed—yet, was it more savage than the acts of Charles II. at the Restoration?—to be concealed. One knows not how many tides ebbed and flowed over the body of the dead king as it lay among the reeds; but presently some—perhaps the monks—taking pity on the poor remains put them into a boat, carried them down the river, and buried them in the little church of St. Clement’s, which, like Thorney, stood on the rising ground of the Strand. And there his dust lies still.

Hardacnut fell down in a fit—“as he stood at his drink”—at Kennington Palace, having crossed over from Westminster to attend a wedding feast. He was buried at Winchester with his father. But before he was well buried the people had chosen, at London, his half-brother, Edward, as king.193

The Plan of BORSTAL.
From Archæologia, vol. iii.

The reign of Edward the Confessor brought little change to London. The194 Danish pirates renewed their attacks, but there was now a fleet well equipped to meet them. The head-quarters of the fleet were at London, or at Westminster. It is said that when Earl Godwin made his demonstration, which threatened rebellion, he passed through the south arches of London Bridge, designing to meet and attack the royal fleet of fifty sail lying at Westminster. It is noticeable that he first assured himself of the goodwill of the City.

A statute of Edward the Confessor (forty-sixth chapter of his laws), in which he appoints the time for holding the hustings, thus speaks of London, and is quoted in the Liber Albus:—

“Therefore in London, which is the head of the realm and of the laws, and always the Court of his lordship the king, the Hustings ought to sit and be holden on the Monday in each week. For it was formerly founded after the pattern and manner, and in remembrance, of Great Troy, and to the present day contains within itself the laws and ordinances, dignities, liberties, and royal customs, of an ancient Greek Troy. In this place therefore are kept the intricate accounts, and the difficult pleas of the Crown, and the Courts of his lordship the King for all the realm aforesaid. And she alone ever doth invariably preserve her own usages and customs, wherever such King may be, whether upon an expedition or elsewhere, by reason of the tumults of the nations and peoples of the realm: in accordance with the ancient customs of our good forefathers and predecessors, and of all the princes, nobles, and wise seniors of all the realm aforesaid.”

In the year 1065 King Edward the Confessor sets forth the history of Westminster as he understood it:—

“Wherefore”—after a general introduction—“I, by the Grace of God King of the English, make it known to all generations to come of time after me, that, by instruction of Pope Leo for penitence and the remission of my sins I have renewed and improved the Basilica of Saint Peter which is situated near the walls of London, the chief city of the English, and on the west side of it, is called Westminster. It was built anciently by Mellitus, first bishop of London, companion and friend of Saint Augustus, first bishop of Canterbury, and by Saint Peter, himself performing an angelic task, and was dedicated by the impression of the Holy Cross and the smearing of the Holy Chrism: but by frequent invasions of barbarians and especially of the Danes (who in the lifetime of my father Ethelred had made an irruption into the kingdom, and after his death divided the kingdom with my brother Eadmund and captured and killed my brother Alfred miserably) was neglected and nearly destroyed.”

I do not know how long a time was necessary for the complete absorption of the Danes among the general population: but there are memories of Danish settlements around St. Clement Danes and outside Bishopsgate Street—perhaps the existence of such a settlement may account for the burial of King Harold in the church of St. Clement.

The Danes, therefore, occupied London first for a period of twelve years. We do not expect to find any remains of that brief occupation: and indeed there are none. When Cnut and his sons were kings they ruled, but did not occupy, the City195 for some five-and-twenty years. We might expect some remains of that period. If Cnut built the King’s House at Westminster, then the vaults and crypts which were filled with cement when the Houses of Parliament were built were probably his work, and the Painted Chamber destroyed by fire in 1835 was also his work. Otherwise there is nothing, not a stone or a fragment, which we can recognise as Danish work. One little relic alone remains. During excavations for a warehouse in the south side of St. Paul’s Churchyard there was found a Danish gravestone inscribed with Runic characters, probably of the tenth or eleventh century. It is now in the Guildhall Museum.



From Turner’s Domestic Architecture.

Such is the history of London from the beginning of the seventh century to the third quarter of the eleventh century. We have next to consider—

1. The appearance of the town and the nature of the buildings.

2. The trade of the town.

3. The religious foundations.

4. The temporal government.

5. The manners and customs of the people.


I. The Appearance of the Town

Cædmon’sMetrical Paraphrase (10th cent.), Bodleian.

If there had been any persons living to remember Augusta when the army of King Alfred took possession of the place, then, indeed, they would have shed tears, while standing on the rickety wooden bridge, to behold the shrunken and mean town which had taken the place of that stately City: to consider the ruins of noble houses; to see how trees grew upon the crumbling wall; to mark how great gaps showed the site of City gates; how broad stretches of ground lay waste, where once had stood the Roman villas. After a year or two, when the wall was repaired, and people flocked again to the “mart of all nations,” the aspect of the City improved. The stones of old erections—those above ground—had been used to repair the City wall; new gates had been built and the old gates had been restored; the quay was once more covered with merchandise, and the river was again filled with shipping—among the vessels was the king’s fleet maintained to keep off the Danes. The town behind the quays was rebuilt of wood—within two hundred years it was five times either wholly, or in great part, destroyed by fire. There were no palaces or great198 houses; some few had the great hall for the living-room and for the sleeping-room of servants and children, with the “Solar” or the chamber of the lord and lady, the Lady’s Bower, and the kitchens (see also p. 224).

After the time of Alfred, London rapidly advanced in prosperity and wealth. The restoration of the wall was recognised as an outward and visible sign of the security enjoyed by those who slept within it: trade increased; the wealth of the people increased; their numbers increased, because they were safe. Stone buildings began to be erected, and the outward signs of prosperity appeared. London threw out long arms within her walls. The vacant grounds, the orchards and fields and gardens began to be built over. Artificers of the meaner kind and trades of an offensive kind were banished to the north part of the town. The lower parts, especially the narrow lanes north of Thames Street, became more and more crowded. Quays under the river wall extended east and west; the foreshore was built upon; the river wall was gradually taken down, but I know not when its destruction began or was permitted. The shipping in the river was doubled and trebled in amount; some of the ships lying off the quays were too large to pass the bridge; the warehouses became more ample; Thames Street, or the street behind the wall, then the only place of meeting for the merchants, was thronged every day with the busy crowd of those who loaded and unloaded, who came to buy and to sell. The ports of the Walbrook and Billingsgate being found insufficient, that of Queen Hithe, then called Edred’s Hithe, was constructed: quays were built round it, and perhaps a new gate was formed in the river wall.

From The Old English Calendars (11th cent.), Cotton MS.

In the year 981, Fabyan says (p. 128) that a fire destroyed a great part of the City of London.

“But ye shall understand that at this day, the City of London had most housing and buylding from Ludgate toward Westmynster, and little or none where the Chiefe or hart of the Citie is at this day, except in divers places where housing be they stood without order, so that many towns and cities, as Canterbury, Yorke, and other, divers in England passed London in building at those days, as I have seen and known by an old book in the Guildhall named Domesday.”

I quote this passage but cannot give credence to the statement, for the simple reason that London was always a place of trade, and that where her shipping and199 her quays and ports lay, there were her people gathered together. Probably at this time the northern parts of the City were not yet built over and occupied. But how could the City successfully hold her own against the Danes if her people lived along Fleet Street and the Strand?

A very important question arises as to the rights of the citizens over the lands lying around the City.

Prudentius MS., 24199 (11th cent.).

If we consider, for instance, the county of Middlesex, we observe that it is bounded by the river Colne on the west and by the Lea on the east. The Thames is its southern march: that of the north was partly defined by the manors belonging to St. Albans Abbey in after times. The whole of the northern part, however, was covered with a vast forest which extended far on either side of Middlesex, and especially into Essex. Another forest occupied the greater part of Surrey, beginning with wastes and heaths as soon as the land rose out of the marsh.

Some kind of right over these forests, and especially over that in the north, which was especially easy of access, was necessary for the City, as much as its rights over the river. For as the river was full of fish and the marshy river-side was full of innumerable birds, so the forest was full of game—deer, boar, hares, rabbits, and every kind of creature to be hunted and trapped and to serve as food. Also200 the forest furnished timber for building purposes, a feeding-ground for hogs, and wood and charcoal for fuel. The City would not exist without rights over the forest.

If we ask what these rights were, we find that London certainly claimed possession of some lands. Thus in the A.S. Chronicle it is stated that in the year 912 “King Edward took possession of London and of Oxford, and all the lands which owed obedience thereto.” What were these lands? Surely they lay outside the wall.

In the laws of Athelstan, injunctions are laid down for the pursuit of thieves “beyond the March.” What was the March?

In the laws of Cnut the right of every man to hunt over his own land is recognised.

And in Henry the First’s Charter we find the clause, “And the citizens of London shall have their chaces to hunt, as well and fully as their ancestors have had: that is to say, in Chiltre, and in Middlesex, and in Surrey” (see p. 279).

In the same Charter, which was avowedly a recognition of old rights, he gives them the county of Middlesex, with which was included the City of London, “to farm” for the annual payment of £300 a year.

From all of which it appears that the county of Middlesex had been regarded as including London, and, in a sense, a part of London, and that a large part of its lands “owed obedience” to London. In that part the citizens could hunt, just as they could fish in the river and trap birds in the river-side marshes.

II. The Trade of the Town

The early trade of London can be approximately arrived at by taking into consideration (1) that London was the principal receiving, distributing, and exporting place; (2) what it had to sell; and (3) what it wanted to buy.

Nearly everything that was wanted was made on the farms and in the towns. On the farms, the butter, cheese, bread, beer, bacon, were prepared; the grain was grown and ground; the fruit and vegetables were grown in the gardens; the honey was taken from the hives; spinning, weaving, carpentering, clothing, shoemaking were all carried on in the house. Nothing that could be made in the house was bought; nothing that could be made in the house was exposed for sale in the market. What, then, did the people want, and what did they buy? First, they wanted, as necessities, metal for working, weapons, knives, and utensils. Next they wanted salt. Iron and salt were the two absolute necessities of life that could be obtained only by purchase or by barter. If we pass on to luxuries, the wealthier class drank foreign wine in addition to home-made beer, cider, and metheglin; they dressed in foreign silk; they used gold and silver cups, which were made by London goldsmiths; they201 imported foreign glass; spices brought from outre-mer; and weapons made abroad of finer temper and better workmanship than their own. The Church wanted ecclesiastical vestments, pictures, incense, and gold and silver vessels. All these things the City had to offer and to sell. For purposes of purchase or of exchange the City was prepared to buy slaves, wool, metal, corn, and cattle. All over the country the people bred slaves and sold them; they sent to London large quantities of wool; they also sent lead, tin, iron, jet, fish, and cattle. And there was a great demand among the foreign merchants, though there was but a small supply, for the lovely embroidery of the Anglo-Saxon women, and for the beautiful goldwork of the Anglo-Saxon goldsmiths. The position of the goldsmiths in London, where they were the richest and most important citizens, proves that there was more than a home demand for their work. The words used for the arts and for many articles of common use show that they were at first imported, and from a nation where the Latin language was largely used. Common objects, such as candle, pin, wine, oil; names of weights and measures; names of coins are also derived from Roman sources. Wright’s theory that the people in the cities spoke Latin, and that the Saxon gradually became amalgamated with the people in the cities before the grand irruption may account for the survival of Latin names for common objects. One means of introducing these words may have been the communication kept up by the Church with the Continent, and especially between the monasteries of England and France.

Royal MS. 2, B. vii.


That the trade of London was large and constantly increasing is certain. The abundance of gold in the country is instanced by the wealth of the shrines and the monasteries, and the importance and value of the exports. Sharon Turner23 sums up this advance in trade in such general terms as I have indicated:—

“The property of the landholders gradually multiplied in permanent articles raised from their animals, quarries, mines, and woods; in their buildings, their furniture, their warlike stores, their leather apparatus, glass, pigments, vessels and costly dresses. An enlarged taste for finery and novelty spread as their comforts multiplied. Foreign wares were valued and sought for; and what Anglo-Saxon toil or labour could produce, to supply the wants or gratify the fancies of foreigners, was taken out to barter. All these things gave so many channels of nutrition to those who had no lands, by presenting them with opportunities for obtaining the equivalents on which their subsistence depended. As the bullion of the country increased, it became, either coined or uncoined, the general and permanent equivalent. As it could be laid up without deterioration, and was always operative when it once became in use, the abundance of society increased, because no one hesitated to exchange his property for it. Until coin became the medium of barter, most would hesitate to part with the productions they had reared, and all classes suffered from the desire of hoarding. Coin or bullion released the commodities that all society wanted, from individual fear, prudence, or covetousness, that would for its own uses have withheld them, and sent them floating through society in ten thousand ever-dividing channels. The Anglo-Saxons were in this happy state. Bullion, as we have remarked, sufficiently abounded in the country, and was in full use in exchange for all things. In every reign after Athelstan the trade and employment of the country increased.”


The principal work of London was that of collecting and distributing. The port was the centre to and from which the whole business of the country came and went. It was the king’s part to maintain the high roads, but the Roman203 skill in road-making was lost; branching off from the highways, in connection with the villages, were tracks through the forests and over the moors. It is an indication of the old spirit of tribal separation that merely to be seen on such a track was suspicious. “... If a far coming man or a stranger journey through a wood out of the highway, and neither shout nor blow his horn, he is to be held a thief and either to be slain or redeemed.” Many of the monasteries lay far outside the high road and in the midst of woods; they were apparently in communication with the world by the medium of streams and rivers. Tintern, Fountains, Dryburgh, Crowland, Ely, for instance, stood beside streams or rivers.

Harl. MS., 603.

There is abundant evidence as to the extent of the trade carried on in the port of London. There were merchants from Gotland, that strangely-placed emporium of eastern and northern commerce. Thousands of coins have been found on the island—Roman, Byzantine, and Anglo-Saxon, giving evidence of the wealth and enterprise of the merchants, who conducted their caravans across Russia and their ships from the Baltic to the German Ocean and the shores of the Bay of Biscay. We hear of Frisian merchants trading to “Lunden tunes Hythe” in the seventh century. The Norsemen were not all pirates. Othere describes the trade with England in skins of bear, marten, otter, reindeer, in eider-down and204 whalebone; in ropes made of whale and sealskin. In Ethelred’s laws we read of Frisians, called Flandrenses, of the men of the Emperor, men of Rouen, of Normandy, and of France.

It would seem that the greater part of the foreign trade remained in the hands of the foreign merchants, but not all. Athelstan conferred the rank of Thane on one who had voyaged three times to the Mediterranean. And in the Dialogues of Ælfric we have the English merchant’s own account of himself and his trade:—

“I say that I am useful to the king and to ealder men and to the rich and to all people. I ascend my ship with my merchandise and I sail over the sea and sell my things and buy dear things which are not produced in this land, and I bring them to you here with great danger over the sea: and sometimes I suffer shipwreck, with the loss of all these things, scarcely escaping myself. ‘What do you bring to us?’ ‘Skins, silks, costly gems, and gold; curious garments, pigments, wine, oil, ivory and orichalcous; copper and tin, silver, glass, and such like.’”

The voyage of ships from the south and the south-east to London was much safer than we should expect for such small craft as then formed the trading vessels—short, unwieldy, carrying a single mast and a single sail. The ships bound for London hugged the shore round the South Foreland and then, instead of sailing round the North Foreland, they passed into the estuary of the Thames by the shallow arm of the sea called the Wantsum, which there divided Thanet from the mainland and made it an island. At either end of this passage the Romans had constructed a fortress: that on the north called Regulbium, now Reculver; that on the south Rutupiæ;, now Richborough. The latter stood upon a small island separated from the mainland by a narrow channel. The site of Sandwich was another islet lying south of Rutupiæ. The passage was kept open partly by the flow of two or three rivers into it from the highlands of Kent. It gradually, however, silted up and shrank; yet ships continued to pass by this channel until the sixteenth century, when it became too shallow for the lightest ships. The Wantsum must be borne in mind whenever one speaks of early navigation to and from the port of London, because it saved the ships from the rough and dangerous passage round the North Foreland.

The business of distribution, collection of exports, and internal traffic was conducted entirely by English merchants. Every year the chapman started on his rounds. He set out with his caravan of horses laden with goods and conducted by a troop of servants, all armed for defence against robbers; the roads were cleared of wood and undergrowth on either side to prevent an ambush—they were the old Roman roads, many of which still continue; the antiquarian is pleased to find evidences here and there of a road decayed and not repaired, but deflected by an easier way. Where there were no Roman roads there were tracks and bridle205paths; forests covered the country, and even in summer there was danger of quagmires and bogs. The chapman rode not from village to village, or from house to house, but from one market-place to another, reporting himself to the Reeve on his arrival. When the season was over, when he had sold or exchanged his stock, he returned to London, his caravan now loaded with wool, skins, and metals for export, and perhaps with a company of miserable slaves to be sold across the seas.

Royal MS. 2, B. vii.

The Gilds or Guilds, out of which sprang so great a number of trade corporations and companies, are met with very early. We shall have to consider this subject later on; let us note here, however, that the actual rules of many early Guilds have survived. They were not trades unions: that is, they did not exist for the purpose of keeping up prices and wages. They were essentially social, even convivial in character; they were benefit societies; and they were religious. We have the complete code of the “Frith Guild” of London under Athelstan. The laws are drawn up by the Bishop and the Reeve. The members, who were numerous, met together once a month for social purposes; they feasted and drank together; when a member died each brother gave a loaf, and sang, or paid for singing, fifty psalms. There was an insurance fund to which every member contributed fourpence in order to make good the losses incurred by the members; they also paid a shilling towards thief-catching; they were divided into companies of ten and into groups of hundreds; each company and each group had its own officer. The pursuit and206 the conviction of thieves were the principal objects of this Guild. In a commercial city theft or the destruction of property is the crime which is most held in abhorrence by the citizens.

There was a Guild of another kind, peculiar, apparently, to the City of London. It was called the Cnihten Guild (see p. 329). We shall have occasion to speak of this Guild at greater length farther on. For the present it is enough to say that it was in all probability—for its laws have perished—an association bound together by religious forms and vows for the defence of the City—the “Cnihten” were in fact the officers of the City militia, which consisted of all the able-bodied citizens; they were trustees for the funds collected for the purpose of providing arms for the citizens; they administered an estate belonging to the town called the Portsoken, lying outside Aldgate, whose rents were received and set aside, or expended in the repair of gates and walls, as well as providing arms.


Attempts have been made to derive the Anglo-Saxon Guilds from the Roman collegia. It is not impossible, supposing that the imitation came through Gaul. At the same time, the points of resemblance on which the theory rests are so extremely slight that one is not disposed to accept it as proved. That is to say, they are points of resemblance such as naturally belong to every association of men made for purposes of mutual support and for the maintenance of common interests. Thus:—

1. Under the Roman Empire there existed collegia privata, associations of men bound together for trade purposes.

2. They were established by legal rights.

3. They were divided into bodies of ten and a hundred.

4. They were presided over by a magister and decuriones—a President and a Council.

5. They had their Treasurer and their Sub-Treasurer.


6. They could hold property in their corporate capacity.

7. They had their temples at which they sacrificed.

8. They had their meeting-houses.

9. They had a common sheet.

10. They had jus sodalitii, the laws, rights, and duties of the members.

11. They admitted members on oath.

12. They supported their poor.

13. The members had to pay contributions and subscriptions.

14. They buried their dead publicly.

15. Each had its day of celebration or feast.

Prudentius MS., 24199 (11th cent.).

Now, suppose we found among the Chinese or the ancient Mexicans institutions with similar laws, should we be justified in claiming a Roman origin for them? Not at all. We should merely note the facts, and should acknowledge that humanity being common to every age and every country, such rules must be laid down and maintained by every such association as a Company or Guild in the interests of any trade or mystery. So far and no farther the Anglo-Saxon Guild is a copy of the Roman collegium. Unless further points of resemblance are found, we shall be justified in believing that the Guild was not derived by the Saxon from the Roman, and that the latter was not preserved among the provincial towns of England. Against the theory it may also be argued that if it was so preserved, every Guild208 being separated from every other could develop on independent lines, and that some of the Roman names at least would be preserved, and some of the Roman customs, apart, that is, from the customs common to every such association in every age and in every country.

III. The Religious Foundations

Harl. MS., Roll Y. 6.

The religious spirit, which has always been found among the Teutonic peoples, was strongly manifested in the Saxon as soon as he became converted. He multiplied monasteries and churches; all over the country arose monastic houses; Bede mentions nineteen of them, including those of Ely, Whitby, Iona, Melrose, Lindisfarne, and Beverley. He does not, however, include Westminster, Romsey, Barking, or Crowland. Kings, queens, princesses, and nobles, all went into monasteries and took the vows; partly, no doubt, from fear of losing their souls, but partly, it is certain, from the desire to enjoy the quiet life, free from the never-ending troubles of the world; free also from its temptations and from its attractions. The monastery provided peace in this world and bliss in the world to come. It has been too much the custom to deride the rule and the discipline, the daily services, the iteration that made prayer and praise a mere mechanical routine. Yet it is easy to209 understand the kind of mind on whom this deadening effect would be produced. It is also easy to understand the kind of mind to which a rigid rule would be like a prop and a crutch on life’s pilgrimage; to which daily services, nightly services, perpetual services, would be so many steps by which the soul was climbing upwards. Again, to a harassed king, arrived, after many years of struggle and battle, at middle age or old age, think how such a house, lying in woods remote, among marshes inaccessible, would seem a very haven of rest! Or again, to the princess who had suffered the violent and premature deaths of her brothers, her father, most of her people; who remembered the tears and grief of her widowed mother; who had passed through the bereavements which made life dreadful in a time of perpetual war; how admirable would it seem to preserve her virginity even in marriage, and, as soon as might be, to retire into the safety and the peace of the nunnery!

Cædmon’s Metrical Paraphrase (10th cent.), Bodleian Library.

In the year 731, the year of his death, Bede wrote:210 “Such being the peaceable and calm disposition of the time, many of the Northumbrians, as well of the nobility as of private persons, laying down their weapons, do rather incline to dedicate themselves and their children to the tonsure and monastic vows than to study martial discipline. What will be the end thereof the next age will show.”

The next age did show very remarkably what happens to a country which puts its boys into monasteries. In the next age the people continued still to flock into the monasteries; they not only deserted their duties and their homes, they also deserted their country; they flocked in crowds on pilgrimage to Rome as to a very holy place; noble and ignoble, laity and clergy, men and women, not only went on pilgrimage, but went to Rome in order to die there. Those who could neither take the monastic vows nor die at Rome put on the monastic garb before they died.

Anglo-Saxon London, during the eighth century, thus became profoundly religious, and although the history of the time is full of violence, it is also full of exhortations to the better life. The Bishops constantly ordered the reading of the Gospels. Every priest, especially, was to study the Holy Book out of which to preach and teach. The modern spirit of an Anglo-Saxon sermon is most remarkable, and this in spite of the superstitions in which the time was plunged. The churches, for instance, were crammed with relics; perhaps the people regarded them as we regard collections in a museum. Here were kept pieces of the sacred manger, of the true Cross, of the burning bush, of St. Peter’s beard, of Mary Magdalene’s finger. There were also the popular beliefs about witchcraft. The priests inveighed against witches—“that the dead should rise through devil-skill or witchcraft is very abominable to our Saviour; they who exercise such crafts are God’s enemies and truly belong to the deceitful Devil.” The priests were also zealous in forbidding and in stamping out all heathen survivals, such as fountain worship, incantations of the dead, omens, magic, man worship, the abominations practised in various sorts of witchcraft, worship of elms and other trees, of stones, and other “phantoms.” Long after Christianity had covered the land, the people practised their old incantations for the cure of disease, for good luck in enterprise, against poisons, disease, and battle. They had a thousand omens and prognostics; days were lucky or unlucky; days were good or bad for this or that kind of business—it is within living men’s recollection that Almanacks were published for ourselves giving the lucky and the unlucky days—those beliefs are hardest to destroy which are superstitious and irrational and absurd. Are we not living still in a mass of superstitious belief? It is sufficient to record that the Saxons were as superstitious as our grandfathers—even as superstitious as ourselves.

It is interesting to note the simple and beautiful piety of Bede and other Anglo-Saxon writers, and to mark the extraordinary credulity with which they relate marvels and miracles. Every doctrine had to be made intelligible, and explained and enforced by a special miracle. Take, for instance, the doctrine of the efficacy of masses for the dead. Who could continue in doubt upon the subject after such testimony as the following? Who can argue against a miracle?

In the year 679—only a few years before the history was written—a battle was fought near the river Trent between Egfrith, King of the Northumbrians,211 and Ethelred, King of the Mercians. There was left for dead on the field of battle one Imma, a youth belonging to the king. This young man presently recovered, and binding up his wound tried to escape unseen from the field. Being captured, however, he was taken to one of Ethelred’s earls. Being afraid of owning himself for what he was, he said he was a peasant who had brought provisions for the army. The earl ordered him to be cared for and properly entertained as a prisoner. Now he had a brother called Tunna, a priest, and the Abbot of a monastery. This priest heard that Imma was dead, and went to search for his body on the field of battle. He presently found one so like that of his brother that, carrying it to the monastery, he buried it and said masses for the soul. Now when Imma had recovered of his wounds, the earl ordered him to be bound so that he should not escape. Lo! as fast as the bonds were laid upon him they were loosened. The earl suspected witchcraft; he was assured by Imma that he knew no spells. Being pressed, however, he confessed who and what he was, viz. no peasant, but a soldier belonging to King Egfrith. Then the earl carried him to London and there sold him as a slave to a certain Frisian, who bound him with new fetters. But at the third hour of the morning they all fell off; and so every morning; wherefore the Frisian, not knowing what to do with this miraculous slave, allowed him to return on promise of sending his ransom. Now when Imma conversed with his brother, he discovered that the loosening of his bonds had been miraculously effected in answer to the masses said for his soul.


The ravages of the Danes in the eighth and ninth centuries destroyed most of the monasteries. For, at first, being heathens, they rejoiced in the destruction and pillage of holy houses and churches, which were rich, full of precious things in gold and silver, embroidery, pearls and gems, silks and fine stuffs. Wearmouth, they destroyed, also Jarrow, Tynemouth, Coldingham, Crowland, Peterborough. When212 the destroyers retired, those of the monks who had escaped murder timidly came back. Crowland Abbey, for instance, found itself reduced to the Abbot and two monks.

When Alfred had restored peace, he tried to renew some of the monasteries, but failed; no one would become a monk. With nunneries he succeeded better, founding one at Shaftesbury and one at Winchester. Glastonbury, in the time of Dunstan, was served by Irish priests. In the precinct of Paul’s Minster there was a college—St. Martin’s-le-Grand was a college; but there was in London at this time neither monastery nor nunnery. Why?

It may be explained on the ground that at the time when the great zeal for monasteries moved the hearts of the people there was comparative peace in the land, and it was sought to build a religious house far away from what were thought to be the disturbing influences of a town. For instance, St. Erkenwald, Bishop of London, founded two houses, but placed neither in London; one of these he built at Barking down the river, the other at Chertsey up the river. Other instances occur. Romsey, Crowland, Medehamsted (Peterborough), Lindisfarne, Iona, Ely, Glastonbury, not to speak of many later foundations, were placed in quiet retreats far from the busy world. Westminster, it is true, was built on an island once populous and lying on the highway of trade; but the earlier foundation was destroyed by the Danes, and Edward’s House arose long after the highway had been turned aside and most of the trade diverted. Still, Westminster was never remote from the haunts of men, and it may be observed that when the foundation of new houses began they were erected in and around London itself, with no thought of seclusion. Again, when the Danish troubles came upon the land and the monasteries were sacked, for many years the monastic life became impossible; the old desire for it entirely vanished, and long years passed before it awakened again. When it did, monastic houses were founded within the walls of London, or close beneath the protection of the walls, as at St. Mary Overies and Bermondsey and Aldgate. The Danish pillage was not forgotten.

Another explanation of the absence of monastic houses in Saxon London may be the fact, which one is apt to overlook, that every Minster was provided with a college, or a monastic house where the priests—not monks—lived the common life, though not yet the celibate life; where they had a school and where they brought up boys for the Church. In Domesday Book there are no lands owned by religious houses in London except by the Church of St. Paul’s, which had lands in Essex and elsewhere; by certain individual canons, the Bishop of London, who had lands in Middlesex, Hertford, and Essex; and by the Church of St. Martin’s, the Abbey of Westminster, and the Abbey of Barking.213

Claud MS., A. iii.

The churches of London, with the houses, were at first built of wood. You may see a Saxon church, such as those which were dotted all over the City area, still standing at Greenstead, near Chipping Ongar, in Essex (see p. 211). When the houses began to be built of stone, the churches followed suit; you may see a stone Saxon church at Bradford-on-Avon, near Bath. The churches were quite small at first, and continued to be small for many centuries. They were by degrees provided with glass, with richly decorated altars, with chapels and with organs: in the last respect being better off than their successors in the eighteenth century, when many City churches had no organ. Bede describes an organ as a214 “kind of tower made with various pipes, from which, by the blowing of bellows, a most copious sound is issued; and that a becoming modulation may accompany this, it is furnished with certain wooden tongues from the interior part, which the master’s fingers skilfully repressing, produce a grand and almost a sweet melody.”

And Dunstan, who was a great artificer in metals as well as a great painter, constructed for himself an organ of brass pipes.

It is interesting to gather, from the dedications of the City churches, those which certainly date from Saxon times. Thus there are five dedicated to Allhallows, of which four are certainly ancient; of the churches dedicated to Apostles, there are two of St. Andrew, three of St. Bartholomew, one of St. James, one of St. Paul, three of St. Peter, one of St. Stephen, four of St. Mary, one of Mary Magdalene; of later saints, St. Martin, St. Bridget, St. Benedict, St. Anne, St. Clement, St. Giles are represented, while Saxon or Danish saints are found in St. Ethelburga, St. Swithin, St. Botolph, St. Olave, St. Magnus, St. Vedast, and St. Dunstan. None of the Norman saints seem to have crossed the water. None, certainly, supplanted the Saxon saints, while not one British saint remained in Saxon England, which shows how different was the Norman Conquest from the Saxon occupation.

Nero MS. C iv.

If ecclesiastical law means anything, then the London citizen must have spent most of his time in doing penance. Besides the common crimes of violence, perjury, theft, and so forth, the Church advanced the doctrine that there were eight capital crimes, namely, pride, vainglory, envy, anger, despondency, avarice, greed, and luxury. For greed a man had to fast and do penance for three years. For despondency, he had to fast on bread and water till he became once more exhilarated.

The chief weapon of the Church at a time when the executive is weak is penance. For the Anglo-Saxon his priest was armed with a code of penances so long and so heavy that one cannot believe that it was ever enforced. Can we, for instance, believe that free men would consent to live on the coarsest food and do penance for three years as a punishment for eating with too great enjoyment? We are told that if a man killed any one in public battle he was to fast forty nights. Then King Alfred must have been doing penance all the days of his life—which is absurd. Again, can one believe that sinners consented to wear iron chains round the body, to lie naked at the feet of the person offended, to go about with a rope round their necks, to abstain from water, hot or cold? Can we believe that any one, especially any rich or noble person, would sell his estate, give one-third to the poor, one-third to the clergy, and keep no more than one-third for himself and his family?

Penance, however, could be commuted by payments in money. This shows, not the greed and avarice of the Church, but the weakness of the Church. Another way of getting through penance was by paying people to perform the penance for the sinner. Thus, a man who was ordered a thirty-six days’ fast could engage twelve men to fast for three days each. Or if he was ordered a year’s fast, he would arrange for 120 men to fast, in the same way, for three days each. As I said above, it is the weakness of the Church that one perceives. The Bishops denounced215 crime; they showed the people how grievous a sin was this or that, by imposing heavy penance; then because only a few would consent to perform such penances, they were obliged to be content with evasions and vicarious performance. As the Church grew stronger, penance became more reasonable.

There was a church in nearly every street, and a parish to every church. Some of the churches were built as an act of penance. We are sometimes tempted to believe that the power of the Church must have been an intolerable tyranny; yet the violence of the time called for the exercise of arbitrary authority, and, at the very worst, it was better to be in the hands of the Church than in those of the King.

IV. The Temporal Government

In the administration of the City, the Bishop and the Portreeve were the two principal officers; the former represented more than the ecclesiastical life, because the Church governed the life of every man at every step in his pilgrimage from the cradle to the grave. The Portreeve was the king’s officer: he looked after customs, dues, tolls, etc. The port is neither “Porta,” the gate; nor “Portus,” the harbour; it is “Portus,” the enclosed space: “Portus est conclusus locus quo importantur merces et inde exportantur” (Thorpe, 1. 158). The Portreeve was the civil magistrate, as the Bishop was the ecclesiastical. Other officers were the “Tungerefa,” or Tunreeve, whose business it was to inquire into the payment of custom dues. The “Caccepol” (Catchpole), or Beadle, was perhaps a collector. And there were the Jurats or Jurors, called sometimes testes credibiles, who acted as witnesses in every case of bargain or sale. The laws of Edgar said: “Let every one of them on his first election as a witness take an oath that neither for profit, nor for fear, nor for favour, will he ever deny that which he did witness, nor affirm aught but what he did see and hear. And let there be two or three such sworn men as witnesses to every bargain.” The “Wic-reeve” is also mentioned, but this is probably only another name for Town-reeve. He is mentioned in an edict issued by two Kentish kings, Hlothhere and Edric (673-685). “If any Kentish man buy a chattel in Lundewic, let him have two or three witnesses or a king’s wic-reeve.” Wright takes this officer to have been one appointed by the Kings of Kent to look after their interests in a town belonging to the Kings of Essex. Why should it not mean simply the reeve of the port, i.e. the reeve of the Kings of Essex? “If it be afterwards claimed of the man in Kent, let him then vouch the man who sold it him, or the wic at the king’s hall.” Criminals were tried in open court by their fellows. They might be acquitted by the oaths of those who had known them long. If they were found guilty, the punishments were cruel: they were deprived of hands, feet, tongue, eyes; women were hurled from cliffs into the river, or burned; floggings were inflicted. Ordeals were practised—that of the “corsned,” or consecrated barley-bread, which only the216 innocent could swallow;—this ordeal was supposed to have killed Earl Godwin; that of cold water, that of hot water, that of hot iron. Not, however, the ordeal by battle. Of all other ordeals the event was uncertain: in that by battle one or the other had to die. The citizen of the tenth century had the greatest possible objection to such an ordeal. Later on, under Norman rule, he protested continually against this liability, until the King conceded his freedom from it.

Claud MS., B. iv.
Harl. MS., 603.

The Anglo-Saxon laws are simply amazing as regards the punishments ordered for those offenders who were of servile rank. Their savage cruelty shows that the masters were afraid of the slaves. If a slave woman stole anything she might be whipped unmercifully, thrown into prison, and kept there; thrown over a precipice, drowned, or even burned to death. In the last case she was to be burned by eighty other women slaves, every one of whom was to contribute a log towards the fire. If a man slave committed a similar offence he might be stoned to death by eighty other slaves, and if one of those eighty missed his mark three times he was to be flogged. Since, however, slaves cost money, and were valuable property, it is not probable that they were often destroyed for slight offences. On the other hand, they were cruelly flogged. A small drawing in a contemporary MS. shows the flogging of a slave. He is stripped naked; his left foot is confined by a circle; two men are flogging him with thorny handles. The cruelty of the punishment, thus brought home to one, seems atrocious. But flogging was not the worst or the most cruel punishment. Every kind of mutilation was practised in ways almost unspeakable. Mutilation, indeed, was continued as a punishment long after the Conquest. We217 shall see, for instance how Henry I. punished the “moneyers” who had debased the coin by striking off their right hands and depriving them of their manhood. Eyelids were cut off, noses, lips, ears, hands, feet; the victims of this barbarity were to be seen on every road in every town. Those who were not slaves, but freemen, were, as a rule, treated with far more clemency. First, for the man not taken red-handed, there was the ordeal to which he might appeal. There was next the “compurgation,” in which the accused had to find a sufficient number of reputable persons to swear that he was not capable of the offence charged. Or again, many offences could be cleared by penance, and since penance included fasting, which is impossible for the weak and the old, the repetition of prayers and singing of Psalms was allowed as a substitute; and since these do no good except to the penitent, compulsory almsgiving was further allowed as a substitute. So that, although the Church attempted to make of the last mode of punishment a real and substantial fine in proportion to the means of the sinner, the natural, certain, and inevitable result followed: that all crimes could be atoned for by those who could pay the fines, and that in the Christian Church there was one law for the rich and another for the poor. Also, as naturally followed in course of time, it became customary to classify most crimes by a kind of tariff. Those of violence, greed, and lust, which were common in an age of violence, were priced at so much apiece. Those, however, of murder of kin, arson, treason, witchcraft, were held “bootless,” i.e. not to be atoned for by any fine. Then a very curious institution existed, called the Frank pledge. Every man in the country belonged to a tithing or company of ten; every company of ten belonged to a company of a hundred; every crime had to be paid for by the tithing, or the hundred; thus it happened in this way it was made the interest of every one that the tithing or the hundred should be kept free from crime.

The punishment of women by drowning was practised in very early times by the ancient Germans and Anglo-Saxons. It was continued down to the middle of the fifteenth century, when it was finally, but not formally, abolished. But women were drowned on the Continent in the eighteenth century. The London places of execution were the Thames, and the pools of St. Giles, Smithfield, St. Thomas Watering, and Tyburn. Sometimes the criminal was sewn up in a sack with a snake, a dog, an ape—if one could be procured—and a cock.

The right of taking a part in the government of his country was always held and claimed by the Anglo-Saxon freeman. Thus in London, all causes were tried, and all regulations for the ordering of the City were made, by the citizens themselves in open court. The Hustings, a Danish Court, was held once a week, on Monday. The Folkmote was held on occasion, and not at stated times. The men were called together by the bell of St. Paul’s, to Paul’s Cross; there, in a tumultuous assemblage, everything was discussed, not without blows and even slaying or wounding, for every man carried his knife. It was difficult to persuade the citizens to meet without arms,218 because to carry no arms was the outward mark of the slave; even the clergy carried arms. Only while performing penance the freeman must lay aside his sword; and that, no doubt, was a greater penalty than the fast. Another distinguishing mark of the freeman was his long hair: the slaves had their hair cut close; the most shameful punishment that could be inflicted on a free woman was to cut off her hair.

Wright is of opinion that the existence of London was continuous, and that it was never taken or sacked by the Saxons. We have seen the evidence for the desertion of the City. He adduces the example of Exeter, where English and Welsh continued to live on equal terms; he acknowledges that this could only have been done by virtue of an original composition with the English conquerors.

Harl. MS., 603.

He points out, however, apart from his theory, the very important fact that London was in many respects a free commercial city, making laws for itself and claiming privileges and concessions which imply claims to the exercise of independent jurisdiction, notably in the law made by the Bishop and Reeves of London for the citizens in the year 900. Such powers the City certainly possessed and used at that and earlier times; they were, however, powers not laid down by law, but assumed as the occasion demanded, and neither disputed nor allowed by the King. Later on, the citizens pretended to have possessed their privileges from the first foundation of their City, which they carried back as far as the foundation of Rome.


V. The Manners and Customs of the People

Cædmon’sMetrical Paraphrase (10th cent.), Bodleian Library.

As regards the poor of London, the laws relating to them were most strict and clear. Everybody had to give to the Church the tenth part of his possessions and incomings: the tithe, according to a law of Ethelred, was to be divided into three equal parts, of which one was to go to the maintenance of the church fabric—the altars, the service of the church, and the offices belonging thereto; the second part was to go to the priests; and the third part to “God’s poor and needy.” Archbishop Egbert issued a canon to the same effect. King Edgar enjoined the same division. And not only did tithes carry with them this provision for the poor, but the faithful were also exhorted to other almsgiving. For instance, if a man fasts, let him give to the poor what he has saved by his abstinence; and if by reason of any infirmity he is unable to fast, let him give to the poor instead. Every church, every monastery, had its guest-house or poor-house, where the poor were received and fed. Archbishop220 Wilfred, in 832, fed daily, on his different manors, twenty-six poor men: to each he gave yearly twenty-six pence for clothing; and on his anniversary he gave twelve poor men each a loaf of bread and a cheese, and one penny. This practice was continued after his death by endowments. In the same way there were endowments for the poor at Canterbury, Ely, and elsewhere. We must, therefore, remember that round every parish church in the City of London there were gathered daily, for their share of the tenth part, “God’s poor and needy”—the aged, the infirm, the afflicted—belonging to that parish.

Augustin Rischgitz.
Nero MS., C. iv. (10th cent.).

The daily life of the King in his palace or on his journeys is not difficult to make out. That of the people, the priest, the merchant, the craftsman, is impossible to discover—only a few general customs can be noted. To begin with, the Anglo-Saxon was a mighty drinker: in drinking he was only surpassed by the Dane; bishops were even accused of going drunk to church; all classes drank to excess. They had drinking bouts which lasted for days: during this orgy they illustrated their Christian profession by praising the saints and singing hymns between their cups, instead of singing the old war songs; the young king, Harthacnut, as we know, drank himself to death. But the feasting and the hard drinking seldom fell to the lot of the ordinary craftsman.221 We may believe that this honest man drank as much as he could get and as often as he could afford, but ale and mead then, as now, cost money. How the craftsman worked, for what wage, for how long, how he was housed, how he was fed, we may ask in vain.


Like the Dane, the Anglo-Saxon was of an imaginative nature; he not only believed in spirits and demons, but he made a great and complete scheme of mythology into which we need not here inquire; when he was converted to Christianity he surrendered himself to a blind belief in the doctrines of the Church. Many noble and royal persons in the revival of the eighth century showed, as we have seen, the sincerity of their belief so far as to lay down their rank and enter monasteries, or to go off barefooted on pilgrimage. With the majority, their new religion was something added to the old. We are not to222 suppose that this old mythology was known to the common people, any more than the book of Ovid’sMetamorphoses was known to the average Roman citizen. The Christian Church introduced its teaching gradually, being content to pass over many pagan practices. The Church said nothing while the people continued to believe that the foul fiend entered into the body of a person newly dead and walked about in that body all night. They believed in the power of raising spirits, in magic and witchcraft; they wore amulets and charms for protection; they believed in “stacung,” i.e. “sticking,” a method of killing an enemy by which the slayer simply stuck a thorn or a pin into his enemy and prayed that the part wounded might mortify and so cause death. It was an easy method, but one that offered the obvious objection that you cannot stick a pin into any part of a man without causing him pain; nor can you pray at the same time without his hearing the prayer. Therefore one must believe that the would-be murderer ran great risk himself of being murdered. There were, however, instances in which persons were believed to have caused death by this method. In the tenth century, for instance, we get a glimpse of wild justice. We see a man running madly through the streets; he reaches the nearest gate; he flies across the moor, where none pursue him; he is heard of no more. The crowd which ran after him turned back. They made for a house—not a hovel—a substantial house, where he had lived with his aged mother; they beat down the door; they rushed in; they came out shouting that they had found the accursed thing; they dragged out the old woman shrieking for mercy. “Witch! sorceress! She has bewitched Ælsie by sticking and by prayer. He is sick unto death. She must die.” They hauled her along the streets; they reached the bridge; they hurled the poor creature, now covered with blood and shrieking no longer, into the river. She floated for a second; she sank; again she rose to the surface; then she was seen no more, and the crowd returned. The King for his part confiscated the lands of the sorceress and her son.

Loftie gives the following passage concerning this event. It is from a document in the Society of Antiquaries. Note by the way that it proves the existence of the bridge in 960 or thereabouts:—


“Here is made known in this writing, that bishop Æthelwold and Wulfstan Uccea exchanged lands, with the witness of King Ædgar and his ‘witan.’ The bishop gave to Wulfstan the land at Washington, and Wulfstan gave him the land at Jaceslea and at Aylesworth. Then the bishop gave the land at Jaceslea to Thorney, and that at Aylesworth to Peterborough; and a widow and her son had previously forfeited the land at Aylesworth, because they had driven an iron pin into Ælsie, Wulfstan’s father, and that was detected: and they drew the deadly thing forth from her chamber. They then took the woman and drowned her at London Bridge; and her son escaped, and became outlaw; and the land went into the hands of the king; and the king then gave it to Ælsie, and Wulfstan Uccea his son gave it again to Bishop Æthelwold, as it is here above said.”

The method of “sticking” was continued, but with modifications. The operator no longer stuck a thorn into his enemy. He made a waxen image of him and stuck pins into the image, with a prayer that the man might feel the agony of the wound; he placed it before the fire, and prayed that as the waxen image melted away, so his enemy might waste away and die. The superstition lingered long; perhaps it still has followers and believers. In the fifteenth century the greatest lady in the land was compelled to do penance and was committed to a life-long prison for practising this superstitious rite.

Royal MS. 2, B. vii.

Philtres and love potions were greatly in request; the people practised astrology and divination. Their medicine was much mixed with superstition: thus they knew the medicinal properties of certain plants, but in using them certain prayers had to be said or sung; they practised bleeding, but not when the moon was crescent and the tide was rising; the use of relics was prescribed for every possible disease.

It is a great pity that we have neither an Anglo-Saxon house nor any detailed description of one left. There are, it is true, some drawings of houses in the MSS. of the period, but the buildings are presented conventionally; they are indicated for those who would recognise them without too great an adherence to truth. Take that on p. 225. There is, it will be perceived, a central hall. On one side is the224 chapel—part of the wall is taken out so as to show the lamp burning before the altar; beside the chapel is a small room, perhaps the chaplain’s chamber; on the other side are two chambers: one belongs to the men-at-arms, the other to the maids; the court is full of beggars, to whom the lord and the lady are serving food, while the maids are bringing out clothes for two adults who are standing at the door in a state of Nature. There is a round building at the back—the walls of the house are of masonry up to a certain height, when timber begins; there is but one floor. The hall was hung with cloths or tapestry; it was furnished with benches and with movable tables on trestles.

In the Saxon household the special occupation of the women was the construction of clothing. They carded the wool; they beat the flax; they sat at the spinning-wheel or at the weaver’s loom; they made the clothes; they washed the clothes; they embroidered and adorned the clothes; the female side in a genealogy was called the spindle side. Kings’ daughters, notably the grand-daughters of King Alfred, distinguished themselves by their work with the spinning-wheel and the needle. The Norman admired the wonderful work of the Saxon ladies; the finest embroideries shown in France were known as English work. Thomas Wright (Womankind in Western Europe, p. 60) gives very complete testimony on this point:—


“The Anglo-Saxon ladies of rank were especially skilful in embroidery, and that from a very early period. English girls are spoken of in the life of St. Augustine as employed in skilfully ornamenting the ensigns of the priesthood and of royalty with gold, and pearls, and precious stones. St. Etheldreda, the first Abbess of Ely, a lady of royal rank, presented to St. Cuthbert a stole and maniple which she had thus embroidered with gold and gems with her own hands. At a later period, Algiva or Emma, the queen of King Cnut, worked with her own hands a stuff bordered in its whole extent with goldwork, and ornamented in places with gold and precious stones arranged in pictures, executed with such skill and richness that its equal might be sought through all England in vain. Dunstan is said to have designed patterns for the ladies in this artistic work. The early historian of Ely tells a story of an Anglo-Saxon lady who, having retired to lead a religious life in that monastic establishment, the nuns assigned to her a place near the Abbey, where she might occupy herself more privately with young damsels in embroidery and weaving, in which they excelled. We trace in early records the mention of women who appear to have exercised these arts as a profession. We find, for instance, in the Domesday Book, a damsel named Alwid holding lands at Ashley in Buckinghamshire, which had been given to her by Earl Godwin for teaching his daughter orfrey or embroidery in gold, and a woman named Leviet or Leviede is mentioned in Dorsetshire as employed in making orfrey for the king and queen.”

It is also remarked by Wright that the names given to women indicate a high respect for womanhood: such as the names of Eadburga—the citadel of happiness; Ethelburga—the citadel of nobility; Edith (Eadgythe)—the gift of happiness; Elfgiva-the gift of the fairies; Elfthrida—the strength of the fairies, or the spiritual strength; Godiva (Godgifa)—the gift of God.

Harl. MS., 603.

There are, so far as I know, no traditions of any nunnery in London before the Conquest. The name Mincing Lane, which is certainly Mincheon Lane or Nuns’ Lane, points probably to property belonging to a nunnery. Perhaps there was a nunnery within the City before the occupation by the Danes. If so, it perished and was forgotten. Just as men were required to fight and not to lead monastic lives, so women were required to become mothers of fighting men, and not to enter a cloister. I think there may have been a nunnery, because London did not escape the wave of religious revival, and also because one was necessary for the education of girls. At nunnery schools the girls were educated with far greater care than our own girls till the last twenty years or so. They learned Latin, rhetoric, logic, and, according to Wright, “what we call popular science.” They also learned embroidery.226 “From the statements of the Anglo-Saxon writers, we are led to believe that the Anglo-Saxon nuns had no objection to finery themselves, and they are accused of wearing white and violet chemises, tunics, and veils of delicate tissue, richly embroidered with silver and gold, and scarlet shoes.” (Wright, p. 86.)

Royal MS. 2, B. vii.

The evening of the ordinary man was not wholly given up to drinking. The musicians came in and played on harp and trumpet, pipes, horn, and fiddle. The gleemen sang and recited; the tumbling-girls played their tricks.

Royal MS. 2, B. vii.

The Anglo-Saxon love of music and poetry gives us a higher opinion of the people than we might form from all that we have learned. Applying all his qualities, good or bad, to the Londoner, it will be found that he has transmitted them to the generations coming after him. For he was a lover of freedom, valiant in the field; a lover of order and justice; impatient under ecclesiastical control, yet full of religion; fond of music, poetry, singing and playing; given to feasting and227 addicted to drunkenness. These attributes distinguished the Londoner in the tenth century, and they are with him still after a thousand years.

Claud MS., B. iv. (11th cent.).

The sports and pastimes of the City were the same for London as for the rest of the country. The citizens were passionately fond of hunting and hawking; they baited animals, as the bull, the bear, and the badger; they were fond of swimming, skating, and rowing, of dancing, and of tomfoolery, jumping, tumbling, and playing practical jokes. Of these amusements, hunting was by far the most popular with all classes. We have seen that the Londoner had deep forests on all sides of him, beyond the moor on the north of his wall, beyond the Dover causeway on the south, beyond the Lea on the east, beyond Watling Street on the west. The forests were full of wild cattle, bears, elk, buffalo, wild boars, stags, wolves, foxes, hares, and the lesser creatures; as for the wolves, they were a terror to every village. Athelstan and Edgar organised immense hunts for the destruction of the wolves; under the latter they were so greatly reduced in number that he is generally said to have exterminated them. As regards the hunting of the elk or the wild boar, it was a point of honour to meet the creature face to face after it had been roused from its lair by the dogs, and driven out maddened to turn upon its assailant. In single combat the hunter met him spear and knife in hand, and either killed or was killed. Sometimes nets were employed; these were stretched from tree to tree. Dogs drew the creatures into the nets, where they were slaughtered. Once Edward the Confessor, a mighty hunter, discovered that his nets had been laid upon the228 ground by a countryman. “By God and His Mother!” cried the gentle saint, “I will serve you just such a turn if ever it comes in my way.”

The country was famous for its breed of dogs. There were bloodhounds strong enough to pull down bulls; wolfhounds which could overtake a stag or a wolf or a bear; a kind of bulldogs remarkable for their overhanging jowls; harriers, greyhounds, water spaniels, sheep-dogs, watch-dogs, and many other kinds.

The Game Laws, which restricted the right of hunting, formerly universal, were introduced by Cnut. Every man, however, was permitted to hunt over his own land.

Akin to hunting was the sport of hawking. This was greatly followed by ladies, for whom other kinds of hunting were too rough. Hawks of good breed were extremely valuable. It was not only by hawking that birds were caught. The Londoner employed nets, traps, slings, and bird-lime. He had only to go down the river as far as Barking or Greenwich to find innumerable swarms of birds to be trapped and netted. Of his indoor pastimes one must not omit to mention the making and answering of riddles, a game with pawns—“taeflmen”—and dice, called “taefl,” and the game of chess. The last of these was a fearful joy on account of the rage which seems always to have seized the man who was defeated. Witness the following anecdote:—

“Among the most enthusiastic of chess-players was Cnut the Great, but he was by no means an agreeable antagonist. When he lost a game, or saw that he was on the eve of doing so, he very commonly took up the huge chess-board on which he played, and broke it on the head of his opponent. He was on one occasion playing with his brother-in-law, the Earl Ulf, when the earl, seeing that he had a forced mate, and knowing the king’s weakness for knocking out the brains of successful antagonists, quietly left the table. Cnut, who guessed his motive, shouted after him: ‘Do you run away, you coward?’ To which the other, who had lately rescued the king in an unfortunate engagement with the Swedes, replied, ‘You would have been glad to have run faster at the Helga, when I saved you from the Swedes who were cudgelling you.’ Cnut endeavoured to bear the retort patiently, but it was too irritating for his temper. On the following morning he commanded one of his Thanes to go and murder Ulf; and though, in anticipation of the king’s vengeance, Ulf had taken sanctuary in the church of St. Lucius, the bloodthirsty order was carried into effect.”

The education of the boy was conducted at monasteries. One knows that there were schools in every monastery, and that every minster had its school; and that probably the four oldest schools of London—St. Paul’s, St. Martin’s, St. Anthony’s, and St. Mary-le-Bow, were of Anglo-Saxon foundation. We know, further, that at these schools the teaching was carried on by means of catechism, and that the discipline was severe, but we do not know what children were admitted to these schools, and whether the child of the craftsman was received229 as well as the child of the Thane. Athletics were not neglected—leaping, running, wrestling, and every kind of sport which would make the body more active and the frame more capable of endurance were encouraged. Until the time of Alfred very few even of the highest rank could read or write. The monasteries with their schools did a great deal to remove the reproach. The boys rose before daybreak and joined the brethren in singing the Psalms appointed for the early service. They assisted at first mass and at the mass for the day; they dined at noon and slept after dinner; they then repaired to their teacher for instruction.

Harl. MS., 603.

Food in London was always plentiful; it was very largely the same as at present. The people killed and ate oxen, sheep, and swine; they had game of all kinds; wild birds in myriads frequented the marshes and the lowlands of Essex; the rivers were full of fish. Barley-bread was eaten by children and the lower orders; they had excellent orchard-land, and a plentiful supply of apples, pears, nuts, grapes, mulberries, and figs. In the winter they had salted meat. Their drink was ale, wine, mead, pigment, and morat. Pigment was a liquor made of honey, wine, and spice. Morat was a drink made of honey mixed with the juice of mulberries.

The Londoner’s house was luxurious, according to the luxury of the time. The walls were adorned with hangings, mostly of silk embroidered with figures in needlework. These hangings and curtains were of gaudy colours, like the fashionable dresses. The benches, seats, and footstools were richly carved. The tables were sometimes decorated with silver and gold. The candlesticks were of bone or of silver. The mirrors were of silver. The beds were provided with rich and soft pillows and coverings, bearskins and goatskins being used for blankets. There was great store of silver cups and basins; the poorer sort used vessels of wood and horn. Glass began to come into general use about the time of the Norman230 Conquest. At least twelve different precious stones were known. Spices were also known, but they were difficult to procure and highly prized. The warm bath was used constantly, but not the cold bath, except as a penance.

In every city, town, nay, every monastery and every village, it was necessary that there should be artificers to make everything that was wanted. The women did the weaving, sewing, dressmaking and embroidery. We need not attempt to enumerate the trades of the men. A list of them will be found in Mediæval London. (See vol. i. App. ii.)

The population of London can only be guessed, but there are certain facts which afford some kind of clue. Thus, when Alfred entered the City there was practically no population, unless the slaves of the Danes remained. The City filled up rapidly with the increase of security and the development of trade. Foreign merchants once more flocked to the Port; they settled in the City and became Londoners. The defeat of Swegen and Olaf, and afterwards of Cnut, clearly proves that the citizens were strong enough to beat off a very large and powerful army. This fact is alone sufficient to prove that the City contained a population enormous for the period. In the twelfth century FitzStephen says that London could furnish 60,000 fighting men—a manifest exaggeration. In Domesday Book, prepared after the devastating wars of William, and with the omission of some counties and many towns, we arrive at a population of a million and a half. If we allow for London an eighth part of the population of the whole country, we have 187,500. For other reasons (see p. 190), I think that the population of London at the beginning of the eleventh century was probably about 100,000.

There are many other things about the City of King Edward which we should like to know. Among them are: the procedure at a folkmote; the exact procedure in the trial of a person charged with an offence; the real extent of the power exercised by the Church, e.g. those penances so freely imposed, were they laid upon all citizens or only upon certain persons more devout than the rest? What kind of education was given to the boys and girls of the lower classes? Again, one would like to know what was the position and what the work of a slave in London. Outside London, Domesday Book records 26,500 slaves in all; but in London itself nothing is known about their number. Taking the population of London as one-eighth that of the whole country, the number of slaves would be about 3300. Since there is no trade which has ever been held in contempt by the working classes of London, it is probable that there was no trade specially set apart for the slaves.



From Westminster, by Sir Walter Besant.

Let us turn to the sister city, as yet only Thorney, the Isle of Bramble. We all know the legend of St. Peter’s Hallowing. The legend became in later times an article of faith. The right of Sanctuary at Westminster was made to rest upon the sanctity of a place so blest as to have been consecrated by Peter: on the strength of this sanctity Westminster claimed the tithe of the Thames fishermen from Staines to Gravesend; and as late as 1382 a Thames fisherman representing Edric had the232 right to sit at the same table as the prior; he might demand of the cellarer ale and bread, and the cellarer again might take for him of the fish’s tail as much as he could with four fingers and the thumb erect.

Sebert was buried in the church, and his tomb is pointed out to this day. Walsingham says that when his grave was opened for the purpose of removing his body from the old church to the new, “his right hand was found perfect, flesh and skin, nails and bones, up to the middle of his arms.” And Robert of Gloucester writes:—

“Segbrit that I remped was a right holy man,
For the Abbey of Westminster he foremost began:
He was the first king that thilke church gan rere,
And sithe at his ende day he was buried there.
Seven hundred yere and six there were nigh agon,
Sithe that he was buried faire under a ston:
And some dede of him was also hooly found
As thilk day that he was first laid in the ground.”

Bede makes no mention at all of Westminster Abbey. But the first Charter in which it is mentioned, that of King Offa of Mercia, in 785, calls it St. Peter’s. Bede’s History ends at the year 731; therefore the Abbey was founded between 731 and 785; or, which is more likely, the foundation was too small and insignificant for Bede to mention it. King Offa says, “I have given to St. Peter and the Lord’s people dwelling in Torneis, in loco terribili, quod dicitur aet Uuestminster.” There is another ancient charter, without date, still existing, under which one Ælfhelm grants lands to the Abbey. Considering the facts already dwelt upon—the religious fervour of the eighth century, the general desire for the monastic life, and the absence of monasteries or nunneries in London, we may very reasonably infer that Westminster would open her doors to the citizens, and these would endow and enrich her. So that the vanished foundation may very well have been a great and splendid monastery. As we have nothing to go upon but conjecture and inference concerning it, we may accept anything we please.

Then came the troubles of the Danes in the ninth century. It is not to be supposed that, when they were ravaging the whole island and destroying everywhere the religious houses, Westminster would be spared. Indeed, they seem to have actually occupied Thorney, according to Ethelred’s Chronicle, and to have been besieged there by Earl Ethelred. It certainly was not the only time that they visited a place so convenient and lying on the old high road. One visit was probably quite enough so far as the monks were concerned.

Edgar and Dunstan founded the Abbey anew—in this first great dissolution of the monasteries the younger monks probably took up arms and became fighting-men with the rest. However this may be, the monks of Westminster were lost: the new Abbey had to be served by monks from Glastonbury.233

Rischgitz Collection.
From a MS. in the Bodleian Library.

A document still exists, perhaps a forgery, but yet of great value, purporting to be the King’s charter granting estates to the Abbey. Its importance to us lies in the fact that, forgery or not, it does give the boundaries of the estate claimed and possessed by the monks. A very noble estate it is. You can lay it down on the map very easily. On the north it was bounded by the line of Oxford Street; on the east by the Fleet river; on the south by the Thames; on the west by the Tyburn and a line drawn from the present site of Buckingham Palace to Victoria Station, and thence to the outfall of the King’s Scholars’ Pond Sewer, east of Albion Terrace in the Grosvenor Road. Of this large manor a good portion was marsh-land, but there were pastures and meadows south of the present Oxford Street, and as far as Holborn and the Fleet. Later on the Abbey acquired the land between the Tyburn and the Westbourne, that is to say, that part now bounded by the Serpentine in Hyde Park and the two sewers known as King’s Scholars’ Pond Sewer and the Ranelagh Sewer.


This, however, was the demesne of the Abbey under Edgar’s foundation. He brought thither twelve monks of the Benedictine order from Glastonbury, and gave them presents in gold as well as in lands. Still it remained a poor foundation till the coming of the Confessor.

Of this church, that of Edgar, I suppose there is not a fragment left above the ground. Nor need we speculate as to the kind of church that it was.

Beside the Abbey, on the east side of it, it is said that King Cnut erected a royal palace. At least tradition ascribes the palace to him, and there are several reasons which make it as certain as can be that the King did build a palace of some kind—whether great or small—on Thorney. It is stated that he loved to converse with Wulnoth, Abbot of St. Peter’s. Now even in these days it is not so very easy to get from London to Westminster for the purpose of conversation, and King Cnut was the busiest man in the whole island, so it is at all events likely that he built some sort of dwelling near the Abbey. It is positively stated that his palace was burned in the time of the Confessor; there is a bull by Pope Nicholas II. (1058-1061), in which it is said that “the place where the church and monastery are built was anciently the seat of kings—therefore by the authority, etc., we grant and solidly confirm that hereafter, for ever, it be the place of the kings’ constitution and consecration, the repository of the Imperial Regalia, and a perpetual habitation of monks.” This is pretty plain. But there are other points which seem to indicate that Cnut was the first builder of a palace here. The story of the removal of St. Alphage’s remains from St. Paul’s to Canterbury proves the wholesome fear with which the King regarded the citizens of London. He caused his men to simulate riots and tumults at the City gates, so that when all the citizens hurried thither in hopes of a fight, the removal could take place unseen. He would not willingly remain within the City walls. Besides, he had with him his small standing army of 3000 huscarles (house men), whom he carried about with him. The housing of these men in London—men of a different nationality—would be an ever-present danger if they were billeted upon the citizens: one could not expect that the Londoners, who had twice beaten off Cnut’s father and once beaten off Cnut himself, would regard the intrusion of this army within their walls with satisfaction.

What kind of palace was that which Cnut erected? I am of opinion that it contained the central group of buildings associated with the name of Edward the Confessor, which remained, with many changes of windows and roof, down to the fire of 1834. Outside, there were the offices of state, the barracks, the guest-chambers, and so forth. We shall return to the subject again.

There is one more reason to believe that the palace of Westminster was built by Cnut. When Edric the traitor was beheaded, his body was “flung out of window into the Thames.” Some writers have stated that this would be impossible at Westminster. Quite the contrary; but it would have been impossible at London,235 for the simple reason that there were no windows overlooking the river, but that there was a great stone wall with towers and bastions running all along the river side: at Westminster, on the other hand, there were always houses built upon the banks with windows overlooking the river.

Let us meantime recognise Cnut as the founder of the “King’s House” of Westminster. It seems that both Harold and Hardacnut occupied the palace of Westminster from time to time.

Nero MS., C. iv.

King Edward’s first charter, granted to Wulnoth and the monks of Westminster, was dated from the King’s House—in regis palatio—of London.

Edward the Confessor resolved to restore and to rebuild and to re-endow the Monastery of St. Peter. He was moved thereto partly because he was a special votary of that Apostle; partly because he had vowed a pilgrimage to St. Peter’s tomb at Rome, and his Council would not let him go; partly because to build and to endow a church was an act very pleasing to the Lord; and partly because he possessed that love of building found in so many kings of all ages and of all countries.

He carried his resolution into effect. He built a church worthy of his vow, and a church which was by far the noblest and grandest edifice in the country. It was236 the first English example of the cruciform church: it occupied an area nearly equal to that of the present church; the windows were filled with stained-glass representing passages in the life of our Lord and in the lives of the saints; it contained a noble organ; the altars blazed with gold and precious stones; the vestments of the priests were as magnificent as embroidery, silk, and cloth of gold could be made; the King and his warriors came to worship from the palace hard by; the rustics from the farms around came to worship side by side. In the splendour of the church, in the austerity of the monks, in the equality of the worshippers, there was taught to the world every day that religion regardeth not the rank or the power of a man. Of Edward’s church little now remains, only some pillars and passages, some substructures, the chapel of the Pyx, and some broken columns of the Infirmary Chapel.

Edward did not witness the consecration of his church. His last act was to sign the charter of the foundation. It was consecrated without him. His queen, Edith, sat in the King’s place, with her brothers, Harold and Gurth, and the new minster was consecrated by Archbishops Stigand and Aldred, while the King lay in his palace close by, slowly dying. After the consecration of the church the first function was the burial of its founder. The next was the coronation of Harold.

We shall have more to say, later on, concerning the coronation of our kings and queens. Let us conclude our notice of Saxon London with the coronation service of a Saxon king. It is that of Ethelred, and was probably followed word for word in the crowning of King Harold:—

“Two bishops, with the witan, shall lead him to the church, and the clergy, with the bishops, shall sing the anthem, ‘Firmetur, manus tua,’ and the ‘Gloria Patri.’

When the king arrives at the church, he shall prostrate himself before the altar, and the ‘Te Deum’ shall be chaunted.

When this is finished, the king shall be raised from the ground, and having been chosen by the bishops and people, shall, with a clear voice, before God and all the people, promise that he will observe these three rules.

The Coronation Oath

‘In the name of Christ, I promise three things to the Christian people, my subjects:—

First, That the church of God, and all the Christian people, shall always preserve true peace under our auspices.

Second, That I will forbid rapacity and all iniquities to every condition.

Third, That I will command equity and mercy in all judgments, that to me and to you the gracious and merciful God may extend his mercy.’

All shall say Amen. These prayers shall follow, which the bishops are separately to repeat:—


‘We invoke thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty and Eternal God, that this thy servant (whom, by the wisdom of thy divine dispensations from the beginning of his formation to this present day, thou hast permitted to increase, rejoicing in the flower of youth), enriched with the gift of thy piety, and full of the grace of truth, thou mayest cause to be always advancing, day by day, to better things before God and men: that, rejoicing in the bounty of supernal grace, he may receive the throne of supreme power; and defended on all sides from his enemies by the wall of thy mercy, he may deserve to govern happily the people committed to him with the peace of propitiation and the strength of victory.’

Augustin Rischgitz.
Written in Ireland (A.D. 650-690). Now in the possession of Trinity College, Dublin.


Second Prayer

‘O God, who directest thy people in strength, and governest them with love, give this thy servant such a spirit of wisdom with the rule of discipline, that, devoted to thee with his whole heart, he may remain in his government always fit, and that by thy favour the security of this church may be preserved in his time, and Christian devotion may remain in tranquillity; so that, persevering in good works, he may attain, under thy guidance, to thine everlasting kingdom.’

After a third prayer, the consecration of the king by the bishop takes place, who holds the crown over him, saying:—

‘Almighty Creator, Everlasting Lord, Governor of heaven and earth, the Maker and Disposer of angels and men, King of kings and Lord of lords! who made thy faithful servant Abraham to triumph over his enemies, and gavest manifold victories to Moses and Joshua, the prelates of thy people; and didst raise David, thy lowly child, to the summit of the kingdom, and didst free him from the mouth of the lion and the paws of the bear, and from Goliath, and from the malignant sword of Saul and his enemies; who didst endow Solomon with the ineffable gift of wisdom and peace: look down propitiously on our humble prayers, and multiply the gifts of thy blessing on this thy servant, whom, with humble devotion, we have chosen to be king of the Angles and the Saxons. Surround him everywhere with the right hand of thy power, that, strengthened with the faithfulness of Abraham, the meekness of Moses, the courage of Joshua, the humility of David, and the wisdom of Solomon, he may be well-pleasing to thee in all things, and may always advance in the way of justice with inoffensive progress.

May he so nourish, teach, defend, and instruct the church of all the kingdom of the Anglo-Saxons, with the people annexed to it; and so potently and royally rule it against all visible and invisible enemies, that the royal throne of the Angles and Saxons may not desert his sceptre, but that he may keep their minds in the harmony of the pristine faith and peace! May he, supported by the due subjection of the people, and glorified by worthy love, through a long life, descend to govern and establish it with the united mercy of thy glory! Defended with the helmet and invincible shield of thy protection, and surrounded with celestial arms, may he obtain the triumph of victory over all his enemies, and bring the terror of his power on all the unfaithful, and shed peace on those joyfully fighting for thee! Adorn him with the virtues with which thou hast decorated thy faithful servants; place him high in his dominion, and anoint him with the oil of the grace of thy Holy Spirit!’

Here he shall be anointed with oil; and this anthem shall be sung:—

‘And Zadoc the priest, and Nathan the prophet, anointed Solomon king in Sion; and, approaching him, they said, May the king live for ever!’

After two appropriate prayers, the sword was given to him, with this invocation:—


‘God! who governest all things, both in heaven and in earth, by thy providence, be propitious to our most Christian king, that all the strength of his enemies may be broken by the virtue of the spiritual sword, and that Thou combating for him, they may be utterly destroyed!’

The king shall here be crowned, and shall be thus addressed:—

‘May God crown thee with the crown of glory, and with the honour of justice, and the labour of fortitude; and by the virtue of our benediction, and by a right faith, and the various fruit of good works, thou mayst attain to the crown of the everlasting kingdom, through His bounty whose kingdom endures for ever!’


After the crown shall be put upon his head, this prayer shall be said:—

‘God of Eternity! Commander of the virtues! the Conqueror of all enemies! bless this thy servant, now humbly bending his head before thee, and preserve him long in health, prosperity and happiness. Whenever he shall invoke thine aid, be speedily present to him, and protect and defend him. Bestow on him the riches of thy grace; fulfil his desires with every good thing, and crown him with thy mercy.’

The sceptre shall be here given to him, with this address:—


‘Take the illustrious sceptre of the royal power, the rod of thy dominion, the rod of justice, by which mayest thou govern thyself well, and the holy church and Christian people committed by the Lord to thee! Mayest thou with royal virtue defend us from the wicked, correct the bad, and pacify the upright; and that they may hold the right way, direct them with thine aid, so that from the temporal kingdom thou mayest attain to that which is eternal, by His aid whose endless dominion will remain through every age.’

After the sceptre has been given, this prayer follows:—

‘Lord of all! Fountain of good! God of all! Governor of governors! bestow on thy servant the dignity to govern well, and strengthen him, that he become the honour granted him by thee! Make him illustrious above every other king in Britain! Enrich him with thine affluent benediction, and establish him firmly in the throne of his kingdom! Visit him in his offspring, and grant him length of life! In his day may justice be pre-eminent; so that, with all joy and felicity, he may be glorified in thine everlasting kingdom.’

The rod shall be here given to him, with this address:—

‘Take the rod of justice and equity, by which thou mayest understand how to soothe the pious and terrify the bad; teach the way to the erring; stretch out thine hand to the faltering; abase the proud; exalt the humble; that Christ our Lord may open to thee the door, who says of himself, I am the door: if any enter through me, he shall be saved. And He who is the key of David, and the sceptre of the house of Israel, who opens and no one can shut; who shuts and no one can open; may he be thy helper! He who bringeth the bounden from the prison-house, and the one sitting in darkness and the shadow of death! that in all things thou mayest deserve to follow him of whom David sang, Thy seat, O God, endureth for ever; the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Imitate him who says, Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, has anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.’

The benedictions follow:—

‘May the Almighty Lord extend the right hand of his blessing, and pour upon thee the gift of his protection, and surround thee with a wall of happiness, and with the guardianship of his care; the merits of the holy Mary; of Saint Peter, the prince of the Apostles; and of Saint Gregory, the apostle of the English; and of all the Saints, interceding for thee!

May the Lord forgive thee all the evil thou hast done, and bestow on thee the grace and mercy which thou humbly askest of him; may he free thee from all adversity, and from all the assaults of visible or invisible enemies.

May he place his good angels to watch over thee, that they always and everywhere may precede, accompany, and follow thee; and by his power may he preserve thee from sin, from the sword, and every accident and danger!

May he convert thine enemies to the benignity of peace and love, and make thee gracious and amiable in every good thing; and may he cover those that persecute and hate thee with salutary confusion; and may everlasting sanctification flourish upon thee!


May he always make thee victorious and triumphant over thine enemies, visible or invisible; and pour upon thy heart both the fear and the continual love of his holy name, and make thee persevere in the right faith and in good works, granting thee peace in thy days; and with the palm of victory may he bring thee to an endless reign!


And may he make them happy in this world, and the partakers of his everlasting felicity, who have willed to make thee king over his people!

Bless, Lord, this elected prince, thou who rulest forever the kingdoms of all kings.

And so glorify him with thy blessing, that he may hold the sceptre of Solomon with the sublimity of a David, etc.

Grant him, by thy inspiration, so to govern thy people, as thou didst permit Solomon to obtain a peaceful kingdom.’242

Designation of the State of the Kingdom

‘Stand and retain now the state which thou hast hitherto held by paternal succession, with hereditary right, delegated to thee by the authority of Almighty God, and our present delivery, that is, of all the bishops and other servants of God; and in so much as thou hast beheld the clergy nearer the sacred altars, so much more remember to pay them the honour due, in suitable places. So may the Mediator of God and men confirm thee the mediator of the clergy and the common people, on the throne of this kingdom, and make thee reign with him in his eternal kingdom.’

This prayer follows:—

‘May the Almighty Lord give thee, from the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, abundance of corn, wine, and oil! May the people serve thee, and the tribes adore thee! Be the lord of thy brothers, and let the sons of thy mother bow before thee: He who blesses thee shall be filled with blessings, and God will be thy helper: May the Almighty bless thee with the blessings of the heaven above, and in the mountains, and the vallies; with the blessing of the deep below; with the blessing of the suckling and the womb; with the blessings of grapes and apples; and may the blessing of the ancient fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, be heaped upon thee!

Bless, Lord, the courage of this prince, and prosper the works of his hands; and by thy blessing may his land be filled with apples, with the fruits, and the dew of heaven, and of the deep below; with the fruit of the sun and moon; from the tops of the ancient mountains, from the apples of the eternal hills, and from the fruits of the earth and its fulness!

May the blessing of Him who appeared in the bush come upon his head; and may the full blessing of the Lord be upon his sons, and may he steep his feet in oil!

With his horn, as the horn of the rhinoceros, may he scatter the nations to the extremities of the earth; and may He who has ascended to the skies be his auxiliary for ever!’

Here the coronation ends.”



As for the monuments which remain of Saxon London there are none; the Roman monuments are older, the mediæval monuments are later. There is not one single stone in the City of London which may be called Saxon. In Westminster the fire of 1835 swept away the buildings which belonged perhaps to Cnut; certainly, with alterations, to Edward the Confessor. Some of the bases of Edward’s columns still exist under the later pavement; the chapel of the Pyx, and portions of the domestic buildings appropriated to the use of the school, were built by Edward.


Roach Smith’s Catalogue of London Antiquities.

Of Saxon coins many have been found. Perhaps the most important find happened on June 24th, 1774, in clearing away the foundations of certain old houses near to the church of St. Mary at Hill, when a quantity of coins and other things placed in an earthen vessel eighteen or twenty inches beneath the brick pavement or cellar were dug up. The vessel was broken by the pickaxe and the coins fell out upon the ground. The workmen, thinking from their blackened appearance that they were worthless, threw them away, but a foreman, finding that they were silver, collected all he could, some three or four hundred pieces. Within the earthen vessel was a smaller one containing coins in a high state of preservation, together with a fibula of gold finely worked in filigree, with a sapphire set in the centre, and four pearls, of which one was lost. The coins consisted entirely of pennies of Edward the Confessor, Harold II., and William the Conqueror. They are stamped with the name of the Moneyer and the place where he kept his Mint. The Minters or Moneyers belonging to London were:—

(1) Under Edward the Confessor:

Durman, Edwin, Godwin, Wulfred, Sulfine, and Wulfgar.


(2) Under Harold:

Edwin, Gefric, Godric, Leofti, and Wulgar.

(3) Under William:

Ægelric, Ælffig, Godwine, Leofric, and Winted.

It is at first sight strange that so very little should survive of six hundred years’ occupation. Look, however, at other cities. Nothing survives except those buildings, like the pyramids, or King Herod’s temple, built of stones too huge to be carried off. What is there in Paris—in Marseilles—in Bordeaux—in any ancient city to mark the occupation of the city from the fifth to the eleventh century? Considering the character of the people; considering, too, the arts and architecture of the time; it would be strange indeed if Saxon London had left a single monument to mark its existence.

Archæologia, vol. xv.

If, however, there are no buildings of Saxon origin, there are other remains. The names of streets proclaim everywhere the Saxon occupation. Thus, Chepe, Ludgate, Bishopsgate, Addle Street, Coleman Street, Garlickhithe, Edred’s Hithe (afterwards Queen’s Hithe), Lambeth Hill, Cornhill, Gracechurch Street, Billingsgate, Lothbury, Mincing Lane, Seething Lane, Aldermanbury, Watling Street, Size Lane, Walbrook, and many others, occur at once. Or, there are the churches whose dedications point to the Saxon period: as, St. Botolph, St. Osyth, St. Ethelburga, All Hallows, and others.

Streets within the City that are perhaps later than the Conquest are Fenchurch Street, Leadenhall Street, Lombard Street, Old Broad Street, Great Tower Street,245 and Tower Hill. Streets with trade names, such as Honey Lane, Wood Street, Friday Street, the Poultry, Bread Street, are almost certainly of Saxon origin.

Stow speaks of an ancient road or street running from Aldgate to Ludgate which was cut off by the enclosure of St. Paul’s Churchyard. A glance at the map will show that when West Chepe was an open market, a broad space, the way from east to west, may very well have struck across St. Paul’s Churchyard to Ludgate Hill, leaving the Cathedral, then much smaller than the Norman building, plenty of room on the south side. No traces of the Danish Conquest exist, but there are traces of Danish residence, first, in the names of the churches of St. Magnus and St. Olave, of the latter there were many; in the name of St. Clement Danes, which perhaps preserves the memory of a Danish quarter, but the subject is obscure; in the Court called the Hustings, held every Monday, the name of which is certainly derived from the Danes. The similarity, however, of Danish and Saxon institutions made the adoption of the latter easy. The absorption of the Danes by the Saxons was in a few years so complete that no memory was left to their descendants of their Scandinavian origin. In London the families of Danish descent were like those of Flemish or Norman descent: they saw no reason to remember their origin, and were English as well as London citizens.





After Hastings William advanced upon the City, and finding his entrance barred, burned Southwark.

The historians commonly attribute this act, which they consider as the burning of a large and important suburb, to a threat of what the Norman would do to London herself, unless the City surrendered. This is the general interpretation of an act which I believe to have been simply the usual practice of William’s soldiers, without orders. They fired the fishermen’s huts because they always set fire to everything. Such was the way of war.


Historians, indeed, seem not to understand the position of London at this time, and the spirit of her citizens.

London, in a word, was not afraid of William. We have seen that the City had been able to beat off six successive sieges by Danes and Northmen; and this within the memory of men over forty. Are we to believe that a city with such a history of defiance and victory was going to surrender because Duke William had won a single battle? Why, King Cnut had won a dozen, yet the town would not surrender. Then, as to the burning of Southwark. That suburb was never more than one line of houses on an embankment and two along a causeway. In times of peace there stood upon the causeway certain inns for the reception of traders and250 their goods; and on the embankment certain cottages for the fishermen of the Thames and some of the river-side people, the stevedores, lightermen, and wharfmen. The inns were wooden shanties, they were mere shelters; the cottages were mere huts of wattle and daub. In time of war the inns were deserted. If there were no traders there could be no need of inns. William’s soldiers fired these deserted inns, and, at the same time, the thatch of the fishermen’s huts; not with any deep political object, but, as I have said, because they were Norman soldiers, on whose coming the villages burst into spontaneous combustion. As for the fishermen, they looked on, with their families, from a safe position in their boats in the middle of the river. When the soldiers had gone they returned and put on a new thatch. As for the City’s feeling the least alarm because these cottages were burned, nothing could be more absurd. The City looked on from the battlements of her river-wall and shouted defiance. Then William turned and rode away. He had no stomach for a long and doubtful siege of London while the new armies of the English were forming.

The Londoners took time to consider their next step. They had within their walls Edgar Atheling, grandson of Edmund Ironside; they had many of the Bishops; they were quite strong enough to refuse submission: but they had also among themselves many “men of Rouen”; they were already familiar with the Normans; their Bishop, William, was of French, if not of Norman, origin. They took time, then, to consider; there was no hurry; they could keep out William as long as they pleased, just as they had kept out Cnut. They began, probably on the advice of the two earls, by electing young Edgar Atheling as their king. Why, however, did William sit down at Berkhampstead? It has been suggested that he could thus cut off the earls from their earldoms. But when they wished to withdraw from London, they did so, and betook themselves to these earldoms without molestation, so that William did not cut them off. The reason for thus withdrawing is not apparent, though one can understand that the Atheling was unable to persuade or to command them to unite against the common enemy, and they retired to their own country, leaving the Londoners to themselves, seemingly without any promise or pledge to raise new armies in their own earldoms.

It is also suggested that, by harrying the country around, William was cutting off the City and depriving it of supplies. He certainly did harry the country, as is proved by the depreciation in the value of land wherever his footsteps had been (see English Historical Review, vol. xiii. No. 49). But, first of all, the harrying of the country was necessitated by the needs of the army which had to be fed; and secondly, London never was cut off: the river remained open, and Essex, once the garden of England, was not touched and still remained open.

In other words, neither the burning of Southwark, nor the harrying of the country, nor any threats of the Conqueror moved the proud City at all. She who251 had beaten off Cnut—still living in their memory as the great king—even when he had command of the river and had invaded the City by land, who had broken down six sieges of the Danes, was certainly not going to surrender at a word because the invader had won a single victory.

Vit. MS., A. xiii.

William, for his part, did well to consider before attacking London. Thirty years before, as he knew perfectly well, another king had ridden to London like himself, only to find the gates shut. Cnut laid siege to London: he was beaten off: he had to divide the kingdom with Edmund Ironside. Not till London admitted him was he truly King of England. William certainly knew this episode in history very well, and understood what it meant. In the north there were Saxon lords who needed nothing more than the support and encouragement of London to raise an army equal to that of Harold’s, and to march south upon him. William, who had many friends in London, therefore waited.

In London there was much running to and fro; much excitement, with angry debates, in those days. The funeral procession, simple and plain, carrying the body of Harold from the field of battle to the Abbey of Waltham, had passed through the City. It must have passed through the City, because there was no other way. The King was dead; who was to succeed him? And some said Edgar Atheling; and252 some said nay, but William himself—strong as Cnut; just as Cnut; loyal to his people as Cnut.

First they chose the Atheling, but when the great bell of St. Paul’s rang for the Folkmote, to Paul’s Cross all flocked—the craftsmen in their leathern doublets, the merchants in their cloth. All assembled together; all the citizens and freemen of the City, according to a right extending beyond the memory of man, and a custom as old as the City itself, claiming for every man the right of a voice in the management of the City.

Standing above the rest was the Bishop; silent at first amid the uproar, silent and watchful, beside him the Atheling himself, a stripling unable to wield the battle-axe of Harold; beside him, also, the Portreeve, the chief civil officer of the City; behind the Bishop stood his clergy and the canons of St. Paul’s. Outside the throng stood the “men of Rouen” and the “men of Cologne,” who had no voice or vote, but looked on in the deepest anxiety to learn the will of the people.

Augustin Rischgitz.

Then arose an aged craftsman, and after him another, and yet a third, and the burden of their words was the same: “I remember how King Cnut besieged us, and behind our walls we laughed at him.”

And all the people cried, “Yea! yea!”

“And he drew his ships by the trench that he cut in the mud round the bridge, and we fought the ships and beat him off.”

And all the people cried, “Yea! yea!”

“And we would have none but our own king, Edmund Ironside.”

And all the people cried, “Yea! yea!”

Meantime the Bishop listened and bowed his head as if in assent. And when all had spoken, he said, “Fair citizens, it is true that King Cnut besieged you and that you beat him off, like valiant citizens. Remember, however, that in the end you made Cnut your king. Was he a just king—strong in battle and in peace merciful—was he, I say, a good king?”

And all the people lifted up their voices, “Yea, yea.” For the memory of King Cnut was more precious with them than that of any other king since the great King Alfred.

Much more the Bishop said. In the end, by order, as he said, of the253 Folkmote—whom he had persuaded to their good, he set off with the Portreeve and Edgar Atheling. He was ready to offer the submission of the City on conditions. What were those conditions? They were almost certainly similar to those which the city of Exeter afterwards proposed: viz. that William should promise to be a law-abiding king. He made that promise. He entered the City, whose gates were thrown open to him.

MS. 2, A. xxii.

London made William king. What did William do for London in return? He gave her, probably soon after his coronation, his famous Charter. It could not have been before his coronation, because he describes himself as king, and from the nature of the contents it must have been given very shortly after his reign began. This document is written on a slip of parchment no more than six inches in length and one in breadth. It contains four lines and a quarter.

There are slight variations in the translation. The following is that of Bishop Stubbs:—


“William, King, greets William, Bishop, and Gosfrith, Portreeve, and all the burghers within London, French and English, friendly; and I do you to wit that I will that ye be all law worthy that were in King Edward’s day. And I will that every child be his father’s heir after his father’s day. And I will not endure that any man offer any wrong to you. God keep you.”

It is the first charter of the City.

This charter conveys in the fewest possible words the largest possible rights and privileges. It is so clear and distinct that it was certainly drawn up by the citizens themselves, who knew then—they have always known ever since—what they wanted. We can read between the lines. The citizens are saying: “Promise to grant us three points, these three points, and we will be your loyal subjects. Refuse them, and we will close our gates.” Had the points been put into words by the keenest of modern lawyers, by the most far-seeing lawyer of any time, they could not have been clearer or plainer. They leave no room at all for evasion or misconception, and they have the strength and capability of a young oak sapling.

The points were these: Every man was to have the rights of a freeman, as those rights were then understood, and according to the Saxon customs.

Secondly, every man was to inherit his father’s estate.

Thirdly, the King would suffer no man to do them wrong.

Consider what has grown out of these three clauses. From the first we have derived the right, among other things, for which every man of our race would fight to the death—the right of trial by our fellow-citizens, i.e. by jury. I do not say that the citizens understood what we call Trial by Jury, but I do say that without this clause, trial by jury could not have grown up. London did not invent the popular method of getting justice; but she did preserve the rights of the freeman, as understood by Angle, Saxon, and Jute alike, and by that act preserved for all her children developments yet to come; among others, this method of trial, which has always impressed our people with the belief that it is the best way of getting justice that has yet been invented.

As for the second, the right of inheritance. This right, which includes the right of bequest, carries with it the chief spring of enterprise, industry, invention, and courage. Who would work if the fruits of his work were to be taken from his children at his death by a feudal lord? The freeman works with all his heart for himself and his family; the slave works as little as he can for his master. The bestowal of this right was actually equivalent to a grant—a grant by charter—to the City—of the spirit of enterprise and courage. Who would venture into hostile seas, and run the gauntlet of pirates, and risk storm and shipwreck, if his gains were to be swept into the treasury of a feudal lord?

As for the third point, the promise of personal protection, London was left with no one to stand between the City and the King. There never has been any one between the King and the City. In other cities there were actually three255 over-lords—king, bishop, earl,—and the rights of each one had to be separately considered. The citizens of London have always claimed, and have always enjoyed, the privilege of direct communication with the sovereign. No one, neither earl nor bishop, has stood between them and their King, or claimed any rights over the City.

From the Bayeux Tapestry.

Now these liberties, and others that have sprung from them, we have enjoyed so long that they have become part of ourselves. They are like the air we breathe. When an Australian or an American builds a new town, he brings with him, without thinking of it, the rights of the freeman, the right of inheritance, the right of owning no master but the State. We cannot understand a condition of society in which these rights could be withheld. Picture to yourself, if you can, a country in which256 the king imposed his own judges upon the people; a king who could order them as he pleased; could sentence, fine, banish, imprison or hang without any power of appeal; who could make in his own interest his own laws without consulting any one; who could seize estates at their owner’s death and could give the heirs what he pleased, as much or as little; who could hand these heirs over to be the prey of a feudal lord, who only suffered them to live in order that he might rob them. That was the position of a city under a feudal lord, but it was never the position of London.

It must be added that William’s Charter conferred no new liberties or privileges upon the City. London asked for none: the City was content with what it had. William surrendered none of the power or authority of the sovereign. London asked for no such surrender. We shall see, in the charters which followed, how jealously the royal authority was guarded.

From a modern point of view it would seem an unpatriotic thing for the City to throw over the Saxon heir; but we must remember that Cnut, the best and strongest king they had had since Alfred, was a Dane, that the City was full of Normans, and that the memory of the Saxon Ethelred was still rankling among them. What better argument could the Bishop advance than the fact that William was known everywhere to be a just man, faithful to his word, and strong—the strongest man in western Europe? Above all things the country desired in a king, then and always, so long as kings ruled and after kings began to reign, was that he should be strong and faithful to his word.

The principal citizens24—among them Edgar Atheling himself—rode forth, met William, and giving hostages, made their submission, and he “concluded a treaty with them,” that is, he promised to respect their laws. According to the A.S. Chronicle, William “vowed that he would be a loving lord” to the City.

William was crowned at Westminster. It is uncertain whether the rival whom he had slain had been crowned at Westminster or at St. Paul’s—probably the latter, as the cathedral church of London. William, in that case, was the first of our kings to be crowned at Westminster. The place was chosen because it contained the tomb of the Confessor, to whom William claimed to succeed by right.

Dean Stanley has told the story of this memorable coronation with graphic hand. It was on Christmas Day. The vast Cathedral, which, newly built, was filled with the burgesses of London—sturdy craftsmen for the most part—“lithsmen” or sailors, merchants—anxious to know whether the old custom would be observed of recognising the voice of the people. It would: every old custom would be jealously observed. But there was suspicion: outside, the Cathedral was guarded by companies of Norman horse. Two prelates performed the ceremony: for the Normans, Godfrey, Bishop of Coutances; for the English, Aldred, Archbishop of257 York. Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury, had fled into Scotland. When the time came for the popular acclamation, both Bishops addressed the people. Then came the old Saxon shout of election, “Yea—yea.” The Norman soldiers, thinking this to be an outbreak of rebellion, set fire to the Abbey Gates—why did they fire the Gates?—upon which the whole multitude, Saxon and Norman together, poured out in terror, leaving William alone in the church with the two Bishops and the Benedictine monks of St. Peter’s. A stranger coronation was never seen!

Stanley points out the connection, which was kept up, of the Regalia with King Edward the Confessor.


“The Regalia were strictly Anglo-Saxon, by their traditional names: the crown of Alfred, or of St. Edward, for the King; the crown of Edith, wife of the Confessor, for the Queen. The sceptre with the dove was the reminiscence of Edward’s peaceful days after the expulsion of the Danes. The gloves were a perpetual reminder of his abolition of the Danegelt—a token that the King’s hands should be moderate in taking taxes. The ring with which, as the Doge to the Adriatic, so the King to his people was wedded, was the ring of the pilgrim. The coronation robe of Edward was solemnly exhibited in the Abbey twice a year, at Christmas and on the festival of its patron saints, St. Peter and St. Paul. The ‘great stone chalice,’ which was borne by the Chancellor to the altar, out of which the Abbot of Westminster administered the sacramental wine, was believed to have been prized at a high sum ‘in Saint Edward’s days.’ If after the anointing the King’s hair was not smooth, there was King Edward’s ‘ivory comb for that end.’ The form of the258 oath, retained till the time of James II., was to observe ‘the laws of the glorious Confessor.’ A copy of the Gospels, purporting to have belonged to Athelstane, was the book which was handed down as that on which, for centuries, the coronation oath had been taken. On the arras hung round the choir, at least from the thirteenth century, was the representation of the ceremony, with words which remind us of the analogous inscription in St. John Lateran, expressive of the peculiar privileges of the place:—

‘Hanc regum sedem, ubi Petrus consecrat aedem,
Quam tu, Papa, regis; inungit et unctio regis.’

The Church of Westminster was called, in consequence, ‘the head, crown, and diadem of the kingdom.’

Royal MS. 2, B. vi.

The Abbot of Westminster was the authorised instructor to prepare each new king for the solemnities of the coronation, as if for confirmation; visiting him two days before, to inform him of the observances, and to warn him to shrive and cleanse his conscience before the holy anointing. If he was ill, the Prior (as now the Subdean) took his place. He was also charged with the singular office of administering the chalice to the King and Queen, as a sign of their conjugal unity, after their reception of the sacrament from the Archbishop. The Convent on that day was to be provided, at the royal expense, with 100 simnels (that is, cakes) of the best bread, a gallon of wine, and as many fish as became the royal dignity.”


The coronation happily over, William began to build his Tower. The City should be fortified against an enemy by its strong wall—the stronger the better—but he was not going to allow it to be fortified against himself. Therefore he would build one Tower on the east and another on the west of the City wall, so that he could command ingress or egress, and also the river above or below the bridge. The Tower on the east became the great White Tower, that in the west was the Castle Montfichet. He was, however, in no hurry to build the greater fortress: the City was loyal and well disposed, he would wait: besides, he had already one foot in the City in Montfichet Tower. So it was not until eleven years after Hastings that he commanded Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester, to undertake the work. The history of the Tower will be found in its place. It took more than thirty years to build.

Archæologia, vol. i.

One of the many great fires which have from time to time ravaged London occurred in 1077, and another in 1087 or 1088; this burned St. Paul’s. Maurice, Bishop of London, began at once to rebuild it. Matthew of Westminster, writing at the beginning of the fourteenth century, says “necdum perfectum est.”

It is a great pity that William’s Domesday Book does not include London. Had it done so, we should have had a Directory, a Survey, of the Norman City. We should have known the extent of the population, the actual trades, the wealth, the civic offices, the markets, motes, hustings, all. What we know, it is true, amounts to a good deal; it seems as if we know all; only those who try to restore the life of early London can understand the gaps in our knowledge, and the many dark places into which we vainly try to peer.


A second Charter granted by William the Conqueror is also preserved at the Guildhall. It is translated as follows:—

“William the King friendly, salutes William the Bishop and Sweyn the Sheriff, and all my Thanes in East Saxony, whom I hereby acquaint that I have granted to Deorman my man, the hide of land at Geddesdune, of which he was deprived. And I will not suffer either the French or the English to hurt them in anything.”

Of this Deorman or Derman, Round (Commune of London, p. 106) makes mention. Among the witnesses to a Charter by Geoffrey de Mandeville, occurs the name of “Thierri son of Deorman.” It is impossible not to suppose that this “Deorman” is the same as William’s “man” of the Charter. Thierri belonged to a rich and prosperous family; his son Bertram held his grandfather’s property at Navington Barrow in Islington, and was a benefactor to the nuns of Clerkenwell. Bertram’s son Thomas bestowed a serf upon St. Paul’s about the beginning of the thirteenth century.

It has always been stated that William the Conqueror brought Jews over with him. But Mr. Joseph Jacobs (Jews of Angevin England), investigating this tradition, inclines to believe that there were no Jews in England before the year 1073 or thereabouts, when there is evidence of their residence in London, Oxford, and Cambridge. Their appointed residence in London was Old Jewry, north of Cheapside.

Stanley recalls the memory of one of those mediæval miracles which seem invented in a spirit of allegory in order to teach or to illustrate some great truth. It was a miracle performed at the tomb of Edward the Confessor:—

“When, after the revolution of the Norman Conquest, a French and foreign hierarchy was substituted for the native prelates, one Saxon bishop alone remained—Wulfstan, Bishop of Worcester. A Council was summoned to Westminster, over which the Norman king and the Norman primate presided, and Wulfstan was declared incapable of holding his office because he could not speak French. The old man, down to this moment compliant even to excess, was inspired with unusual energy. He walked from St. Catherine’s Chapel, where the Council was held, straight into the Abbey. The King and the prelates followed. He laid his pastoral staff on the Confessor’s tomb before the high altar. First he spoke in Saxon to the dead king: ‘Edward, thou gavest me the staff: to thee I return it.’ Then, with the best Norman words that he could command, he turned to the living king: ‘A better than thou gave it to me—take it if thou canst.’ It remained fixed in the solid stone, and Wulfstan was left at peace in his see. Long afterwards King John, in arguing for the supremacy of the Crown of England in matters ecclesiastical, urged this story at length in answer to the claims of the Papal Legate. Pandulf answered, with a sneer, that John was more like the Conqueror than the261 Confessor. But, in fact, John had rightly discerned the principle at stake, and the legend expressed the deep-seated feeling of the English people, that in the English Crown and Law lies the true safeguard of the rights of the English clergy. Edward the Confessor’s tomb thus, like the Abbey which incases it, contains an aspect of the complex union of Church and State, of which all English history is a practical fulfilment.” (Westminster Abbey, p. 35.)

The City already contained a mixed population of Saxons, Danes, Normans—“men of Rouen,” and Germans—“men of the Emperor.” There were also Norwegians, Flemings, Gascons, and others of foreign descent in the City when William succeeded. Without insisting too strongly on the actual magnitude of the trade, small indeed compared with that which was to follow, we may point to this gathering of various peoples as a proof that the trade of London was already considered by the whole of western Europe as considerable, and, indeed, of the highest importance. Many more Normans came over after the Conquest. It is said that they chose London in preference to Rouen, because it was “fitter for their trade, and better stored with the merchandise in which they were wont to traffic.” There was also a large settlement of craftsmen in London and in other towns; among them, especially, were weavers and builders. Of these the weavers became, and remained for many generations, extremely unpopular. Cunningham (Growth of English Industry and Commerce, p. 179) suggests an explanation for the otherwise unintelligible hostility of the people towards the weavers. He thinks that before the Conquest weaving was not a national industry; that weavers were brought over by William and remained foreigners, not as taking “scot and lot” with the people.

William appears to have been true to his word as regards the City: he neither oppressed the people himself, nor did he suffer others to do them any harm.



The following are the returns of Domesday Book for the villages round London which are included in this Survey. The translations are those of the Rev. William Bawdwen, 1812:—

Stepney.—“In Osuluestan (Ossulston) hundred, the Bishop of London holds Stibenhede (Stepney) for thirty-two hides. There is land to twenty-five ploughs. Fourteen hides belong to the demesne, and there are three ploughs there; and twenty-two ploughs of the villanes. There are forty-four villanes of one virgate each; and seven villanes of half a hide each; and nine villanes of half a virgate each; and forty-six cottagers of one hide; they pay thirty shillings a year. There are four mills of four pounds and sixteen shillings save fourpence. Meadow sufficient for twenty-five ploughs. Pasture for the cattle of the village, and fifteen shillings. Pannage for five hundred hogs, and forty shillings. Its whole value is forty-eight pounds; and it was worth the same when received; in King Edward’s time fifty pounds. This manor was and is part of the see.

In the same village Hugh de Berneres holds five hides and one virgate of land under the bishop. There is land to four ploughs. There is one plough in the demesne; and the villanes have three ploughs. There is one villane of half a hide; and six villanes of three virgates; and two bordars of half a virgate; and three cottagers of two acres and a half; and one mill of sixty-six shillings and eightpence. Meadow sufficient for four ploughs. Pannage for one hundred and fifty hogs, and three shillings and a half. The whole is worth six pounds; the same when received; in King Edward’s time seven pounds. Sired held two hides and a half of this manor, he was a canon of St. Paul’s, he might give and sell it to whom he would without leave of the bishop. In King Edward’s time the canons of St. Paul held two hides and a half for their Sabbath day’s support (de dominico victu suo); and Doding held one virgate, and one mill of the proper manor of the bishop; he could not give or sell it without his leave.

In the same village the wife of Brien holds five hides of the bishop. There is land to two ploughs and a half. There is one plough in the demesne, and the villane might make one plough. There is one villane of half a hide; he pays four263 shillings a year for his house; and another villane of half a hide, pays eight shillings. Roger the sheriff holds a half a hide, and fifteen bordars of ten acres, pay nine shillings. Pannage for sixty hogs. Pasture for the cattle of the village, and five shillings. It is altogether worth sixty shillings; when received the like; in King Edward’s time one hundred shillings. William, the bishop, held this land in demesne, in the manor of Stibenhede (Stepney), on the very day on which King Edward died.

In the same village Rannulf Flambard holds three hides and a half of the bishop. There is land to five ploughs. There are two ploughs in the demesne; and three ploughs belonging to the villanes. There are fourteen bordars of one hide and a half. Meadow for two ploughs and two shillings. There is no pasture. Wood (nemus) to make hedges. It is altogether worth four pounds. Goduin held this land under Bishop William. In King Edward’s time he could not give nor sell it without leave of the bishop. [Orig. 127, b. 1.]

From the original in the Public Record Office.

In the same village William de Ver holds one hide of the bishop. There is land to one plough, and it is there in the demesne. This land is worth sixteen shillings; the like when received; in King Edward’s time twenty shillings. In King Edward’s time, William, the bishop, held this land in demesne with his manor of Stibenhede (Stepney).

In the same village Engelbric, a canon, holds of the bishop one hide and one virgate. There is land to one plough, and it is there in the demesne. There is one villane of one virgate; and four bordars of seven acres each; and one cottager. It is worth altogether forty shillings; the like when received; in King Edward’s time forty shillings. The same canon held it of Bishop William. In King Edward’s time he could not sell it.264

In the same village the Bishop of Lisieux holds one hide and a half of the Bishop of London. There is land to one plough; and there is a half a plough there; and a half may be made. There are two bordars of five acres each; and two cottagers of four acres; and one cottager. In the whole it is worth forty shillings; the like when received; in King Edward’s time fifty shillings. Bishop William held this land in demesne on the very day King Edward died.

Royal MS. 14 C VII.

In the same village, William, the chamberlain, holds one hide and a half, and one virgate, of the bishop. There is land to one plough and a half. There is one plough in the demesne; and a half may be made. There is one villane of one virgate; and six bordars of five acres. It is in the whole worth thirty shillings; when received the like; in King Edward’s time forty shillings. Bishop William held this land in demesne on the day on which King Edward died.

In the same village Aluric Chacepul holds one hide of the bishop. There is land to one plough, but the plough is wanting. This land is worth ten shillings; the like when received; in King Edward’s time thirteen shillings and fourpence. Bishop William held this land in demesne in King Edward’s time.

In the same village Edmund, son of Algot, holds one mill of the bishop, which is worth thirty-two shillings and sixpence; the like when received; but it was not there in King Edward’s time.

In the same village Aluuin, son of Britmar, holds one mill which is worth twenty shillings; the like when received; in King Edward’s time the like. He himself held it of Bishop William.”

Fulham.—“In Fvleham (Fulham) the Bishop of London holds forty hides. There is land to forty ploughs. Thirteen hides belong to the demesne, and there are four ploughs there. Among the freemen (franc) and the villanes are twenty-six ploughs; and ten more might be made. There are five villanes of one hide each; and thirteen villanes of one virgate each; and thirty-four villanes of half a virgate each; and twenty-two cottagers of half a hide; and eight cottagers with their own gardens. Foreigners and certain burgesses of London hold amongst them twenty-three hides of the land of the villanes. Thirty-one villanes and bordars dwell under them. Meadow for forty ploughs. Pasture for the cattle of the village. For half the stream ten shillings. Pannage for one thousand hogs, and seventeen pence. Its whole value is forty pounds; the like when received; in King Edward’s time fifty pounds. This manor was and is part of the see.

In the same village Fulchered holds five hides of the Bishop of London. There is land to three ploughs. There is one plough in the demesne; and one plough of the villanes, and a third may be made. There are six villanes of half a hide; and four cottagers of eight acres; and three cottagers. Meadow for one ox. Pasture for the cattle of the village. Pannage for three hundred hogs. Its whole value is sixty shillings; the like when received; in King Edward’s time one hundred265 shillings. Two sokemen held this land; they were vassals of the Bishop of London; they could not give or sell without leave of the bishop in King Edward’s time. [Orig. 127, b. 2.]

Manor.—In the same village the canons of St. Paul hold of the King five hides for one manor. There is land to five ploughs. Three hides belong to the demesne, and there are two ploughs there. The villanes have two ploughs, and a third may be made. There are eight villanes of one virgate each; and seven villanes of half a virgate each; and seven bordars of five acres each; and sixteen cottagers; and two bondmen. Meadow for five ploughs. Pasture for the cattle of the village. Pannage for one hundred and fifty hogs. It is worth, in the whole, eight pounds; the same when received; in King Edward’s time ten pounds. The same canons of St. Paul held this manor in demesne in King Edward’s time, and it is for their support (de victu eorum).”

Rugmere.—“Ralph, a canon, holds Rugemere (Rugmere). It answered for two hides. There is land to one plough and a half. There is one plough in the demesne, and half a plough may be made. Wood (nemus) for the hedges, and four shillings. This land is worth thirty-five shillings; the same when received; in King Edward’s time forty shillings. It was, in King Edward’s time, and is now in the demesne of the canons.”

St. Pancras.—“The canons of St. Paul hold four hides to Scm Pancratium (St. Pancras). There is land to two ploughs. The villanes have one plough, and another plough may be made. Wood for the hedges. Pasture for the cattle, and twentypence. There are four villanes who hold this land under the canons; and seven cottagers. Its whole value is forty shillings; the same when received; in King Edward’s time sixty shillings. This manor was and is in the demesne of St. Paul.”

Islington.—“In Isendone (Islington) the canons of St. Paul have two hides. Land to one plough and a half. There is one plough there, and a half may be made. There are three villanes of one virgate. Pasture for the cattle of the village. This land is and was worth forty shillings. This laid and lies in the demesne of the church of St. Paul.

In the same village the canons themselves have two hides of land. There is land there to two ploughs and a half, and they are there now. There are four villanes who hold this land under the canons; and four bordars and thirteen cottagers. This land is worth thirty shillings; the same when received; in King Edward’s time forty shillings. This laid and lies in the demesne of the church of St. Paul.”

Hoxton.—“In Hochestone (Hoxton) the canons of St. Paul have one hide. Land to one plough, and it is now there; and three villanes hold this land under the canons. Pasture for the cattle. This land was and is worth twenty shillings. This laid and lies in the demesne of the church of St. Paul.


Manor.—The canons hold Hochestone (Hoxton) for three hides. There is land to three ploughs, and they are there; and seven villanes who hold this land; and sixteen cottagers. It is worth in the whole fifty-five shillings; the same when received; in King Edward’s time sixty shillings. This manor belonged and belongs to the church of St. Paul.

The canons of St. Paul have, at the bishop’s gate, ten cottagers of nine acres, who pay eighteen shillings and sixpence a year. In King Edward’s time they likewise held them, and they had the same.”

Westminster.—“In the village where the church of St. Peter is situate, the abbot of the same place holds thirteen hides and a half. There is land to eleven ploughs. Nine hides and one virgate belong to the demesne, and there are four ploughs therein. The villanes have six ploughs, and one plough more may be made. There are nine villanes of one virgate each; one villane of one hide; and nine villanes of half a virgate each; and one cottager of five acres; and forty-one cottagers who pay forty shillings a year for their gardens. Meadow for eleven ploughs. Pasture for the cattle of the village. Pannage for one hundred hogs. And twenty-five houses of the knights of the abbot and of other vassals, who pay eight shillings a year. Its whole value is ten pounds; the same when received; in King Edward’s time twelve pounds. This manor was and is in the demesne of the church of St. Peter, of Westminster.

In the same village Bainiard holds three hides of the abbot. There is land to two ploughs, and they are there in the demesne, and one cottager. Pannage for one hundred hogs. Pasture for the cattle. There are four arpents of vineyard, newly planted. Its whole value is sixty shillings; when received twenty shillings; in King Edward’s time six pounds. This land belonged and belongs to the church of St. Peter.”

Hampstead.—“The Abbot of St. Peter holds Hamestede (Hampstead) for four hides. Land to three ploughs. Three hides and a half belong to the demesne, and there is one plough therein. The villanes have one plough, and another may be made. There is one villane of one virgate; and five bordars of one virgate; and one bondman. Pannage for one hundred hogs. In the whole it is worth fifty shillings; the same when received; in King Edward’s time one hundred shillings.

In the same village Rannulf Pevrel holds under the abbot, one hide of the land of the villanes. Land to half a plough, and it is there. This land was and is worth five shillings. This manor altogether laid and lies in the demesne of the church of St. Peter.”

Tyburn.267—“The abbess of Berking holds Tiburne (Tyburn) of the King; it answered for five hides. Land to three ploughs. There are two hides in the demesne, and there is one plough therein. The villanes have two ploughs. There are two villanes of half a hide; and one villane of half a virgate; and two bordars of ten acres; and three cottagers. Pasture for the cattle of the village. Pannage for fifty hogs. For herbage fortypence. It is worth in the whole fifty-two shillings; the same when received; in King Edward’s time one hundred shillings. This manor always belonged and belongs to the church of Berking.”

Harl. MS., Roll Y. 6.

Eia.268—“Geoffry de Mandeville holds Eia (qu. Ealing). It answered for ten hides. There is land to eight ploughs. In the demesne are five hides, and there are two ploughs therein. The villanes have five ploughs, and a sixth may be made. There is one villane of half a hide; and four villanes of one virgate each; and fourteen others of half a virgate each; and four bordars of one virgate; and one cottager. Meadow for eight ploughs, and for hay sixty shillings. For pasture seven shillings. Its whole value is eight pounds; when received six pounds; in King Edward’s time twelve pounds. Harold, son of Earl Ralph, held this manor, whom Queen Eddid protected (custodiebat) with the manor on that very day on which King Edward died. Afterwards William, the chamberlain, held it of the Queen in fee for three pounds a year rent; and after the death of the Queen he held it in the same manner of the King. There are now four years since William relinquished the manor, and the rent (that is twelve pounds) is not paid to the King from it.

In the same hundred Ralph holds of Geoffry one hide and a half. There is land to one plough, and it is there; and four bordars of fourteen acres; and one bondman. Meadow for one plough. Pasture for the cattle, and thirteen pence. Wood (nemus) for the hedges. This land is worth twenty shillings; when received, and in King Edward’s time, thirty shillings. Two of King Edward’s sokemen held this land; they might sell it to whom they would.”

Stepney.—“Robert Fafiton holds four hides of the King in Stibenhed (Stepney). There is land to three ploughs, and they are now there. There is one villane of fourteen acres; and another of twelve acres; and Roger, the sheriff, has one hide; and a bordar of half a hide and half a virgate. Pannage for sixty hogs, and four shillings. It is worth in the whole twenty shillings; the same when received; in King Edward’s time eight pounds. Sired, a canon of St. Paul’s, held this manor; he might sell it to whom he would. In King Edward’s time the Bishop of London disputed his right to it (reclam se habe debere). Besides these four hides there are now fifty-three acres of land, which were not there in King Edward’s time, which Hugh de Berneres usurped on the canons of St. Paul, and added it to this manor, as the hundred testifies.

Robert, son of Rozelin, holds of the King three hides and a half in Stibenhed (Stepney). Land to two ploughs. Two hides are in the demesne, and there is one plough therein. The villanes have one plough. There is one villane of one virgate; and eight bordars of half a virgate each; and four cottagers of nineteen acres. Meadow for two ploughs; and wood for the hedges (nemus ad sepes). The whole is worth fifty-three shillings; when received ten shillings; in King Edward’s time four pounds. Aluuin Stichehare held this land for one manor; he was a vassal of King Edward’s; he might sell it to whom he would. The Bishop of London claims it.”

Chelsea.—“Edward de Sarisberie holds Chelched or Cercehede (Chelsea) for two hides. There is land to five ploughs. One hide is in the demesne, and there are now two ploughs there. The villanes have one plough, and two ploughs might yet be made. There are two villanes of two virgates; and four villanes of half a virgate each; and three bordars of five acres each; and three bondmen. Meadow for two ploughs. Pasture for the cattle of the village. Pannage for sixty hogs, and fifty-two pence. Its whole value is nine pounds; the same when received, and always. Wluuene, a vassal of King Edward’s, held this manor; he might sell it to whom he would.”

Kensington.—“Aubrey de Ver holds Chenesit (Kensington) of the Bishop of Constance. It answered for ten hides. There is land to ten ploughs. There are four ploughs in the demesne there, and the villanes have five ploughs, and a sixth might be made. There are twelve villanes of one virgate each; and six villanes of three virgates. A priest has half a virgate; and there are seven bondmen.269 Meadow for two ploughs. Pasture for the cattle of the village. Pannage for two hundred hogs. And three arpents of vineyard. Its whole value is ten pounds; when received six pounds; in King Edward’s time ten pounds. Eduuin, a thane of King Edward’s, held this manor, and might sell it.”



Islington.—“Derman holds of the King half a hide in Iseldone (Islington). There is land to half a plough. There is one villane there. This land is and was worth ten shillings. Algar, a vassal of King Edward’s, held this land, and he might sell and give it.”

Lisson Green.—“Lilestone (Lilestone) answered for five hides. Eideua holds it of the King. There is land to three ploughs. Four hides and a half are in the demesne, and there are two ploughs there. The villanes have one plough. There are four villanes of half a virgate each; and three cottagers of two acres; and one bondman. Meadow for one plough. Pasture for the cattle of the village. Pannage for one hundred hogs. For herbage threepence. Its whole value is sixty shillings; the same when received; in King Edward’s time forty shillings.’ Edward, son of Suan, a vassal of King Edward’s, held this manor, and might sell it.”

According to the A.S. Chronicle, King William held a great Council, and had much discourse “as to how the land was holden and by what men. He sent over all England into every shire his men, and let them inquire how many hundred hides were in each shire, and what land and cattle the King himself had in the shire, and what rent he ought to receive yearly in each. He let them also inquire how much land his archbishops had, and his other bishops and his abbots, and each and what and how much every man had who held land within the kingdom, as well on land as on cattle, and how much each was worth.”

It must be remembered that the King under the Feudal system was the overlord of all estates, and there was no land which was not under the King as overlord. In the Survey of Middlesex there is no manor returned as belonging to the Crown. In Ossulston Hundred, the King held 12½ acres of “No man’s land”; he also had thirty cottagers in one place and two in another. Twenty-two owners of manors in Middlesex are entered in Domesday, of these the Church had by far the largest share, viz. the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Abbot of Westminster, the Abbot of the Holy Trinity at Rouen, the Abbess of Barking, and the Bishop and Canons of St. Paul. The last owned the principal part of Ossulston Hundred.

The largest manor round London was Stepney: at a very early period the hamlets of Shoreditch, Stratford Bow, Hackney, Bethnal Green, Whitechapel, Spitalfields, St. George’s in the East, Shadwell and Limehouse are supposed to have been carved out of the great manor and parish: in other words, the original parish of Stepney extended from the great north road of Bishopsgate Without to the River Lea. That a great part of Ossulston Hundred belonged to St. Paul271’s is shown by the fact that Twyford, Willesden, Harlesden, Totehill, St. Pancras, Islington, Newington, Horton, Hoxton, and Drayton all belonged to this church. The Abbot of Westminster held the manor—only second in size to Stepney—of his church, that of Hampstead, that of Hendon, and another manor, probably Belsize. There were only eight lay proprietors of manors in the county.

It is clear from the Domesday that London was confined within its wall; that Westminster had no existence as a town; that outside the walls the only parish inhabited, except by farmers, was a part of Stepney; and that the northern part of the county, as is proved by the “pannage” for swine, was covered with forest beginning beyond Islington and Kentish Town, and covering Hampstead and Highgate, and so east and west to Willesden on the west and the Essex Forest on the east.

In other words, there lay, all around London, a broad belt of manors belonging to the Church. We may consider how the ownership of this land would affect building and settlement outside the walls. We find, what we should expect, the first settlement on the Moorland immediately north of the walls; Smithfield and Clerkenwell the first suburbs. We then find houses built as far as the “Bars” in the Whitechapel Road, then in Holborn, and then in Fleet Street and in Bishopsgate Without. Beyond the Bars there are difficulties; they seem to be surmounted in Chancery Lane and St. Giles’s, also along the Strand, but not on the east side, nor on the north. It would be interesting had one the time to trace the gradual removal of the prohibition to build on the part of the Bishop of London, the Abbot of Westminster, and the Chapter of St. Paul’s.



This king—of a strange and inexplicable personality—gave no Charter to the City so far as is known, nor do there appear to have been any events of importance in London itself during his reign. One or more destructive fires, a hurricane, and a famine, or at least a scarcity, are mentioned.

William Rufus followed his father’s example in being crowned at Westminster. And as the Conqueror was crowned by a Norman and a Saxon Bishop, so he also was crowned by the Norman Archbishop of Canterbury and the last Saxon Bishop, Wulfstan.

In the Chronicle of Florence of Worcester, it is mentioned that on the outbreak of the Civil War, the year after the accession of William Rufus, he collected his army in London; that it consisted mainly of English whom he made loyal by promising “just laws”; that while William was besieging Pevensey, the garrison of Rochester fell upon the people of Canterbury and London with fire and sword. Had the King taken from London the power of defence? Were there no walls and gates, or were there traitors within the walls and gates? The A.S. Chronicle says nothing of this massacre; it speaks, however, of discontent. When the rebellion in favour of Robert broke out, the King “was greatly disturbed in mind; and he sent for the English, and laid his necessities before them, and entreated their assistance. He promised them better laws than had ever been in this land, and forbade all unjust taxes, and guaranteed to his subjects their woods and hunting. But these concessions were soon done away. Howbeit the English came to the aid of their lord the King, and they then marched towards Rochester.”

William spent very little time in London or at Westminster. Once he held his Christmas at the King’s House, Westminster, and twice he held Whitsuntide there. At the feasts of Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide the King feasted in public, wearing his crown.

In the year 1092, Florence of Worcester says that a fire destroyed nearly the whole of London. The A.S. Chronicle does not notice the event. Like the alleged massacre in London by the men of Rochester, we may suppose that the damage was exaggerated.


Archæologia, vol. xxvii.

The slender annals of the City during this reign do not, therefore, tell us much. As for its internal condition, the trade and the prosperity of the place, it is not to be supposed that in a time of continual wars, internal and external, the trade of London could possibly advance; nor is it likely that when the hand of the King was heavy with exactions and unjust taxation upon the rest of his kingdom, London would escape. In reading the history of this king, one is continually wishing that a layman had written an account of his sayings and doings. The ecclesiastics were embittered against a man who was not only a derider of the Church, but also a robber of the Church; who held in his own hand, keeping them vacant, bishoprics and monasteries; who dared to say that he had no belief in saints; who discouraged the conversion of Jews, and even persuaded the Jews to hold a public debate with Christians as to the tenets of their faith, promising to become a convert if they should defeat the Christians. This part of the story is, however, doubtful. William of Malmesbury believed it. He says, “The thing was done, to the great fear of the Bishops and clergy, fearing with pious solicitude for the Christian faith, and from this contest the Jews received nothing but confusion, though they often boasted that they had been conquered not by argument but by power.” One would like to have been present at the debate.

The few glimpses we get of London do not point to prosperity or to contentment. The A.S. Chronicle (A.D. 1097) says, “Many shires which are bound to duty in works at London were greatly oppressed in making the wall round the Tower, in repairing the bridge which had been almost washed away, and in building the King’s Hall at Westminster. These hardships fell upon many.”

The memory of the general misery of the time is preserved in a curiously suggestive manner: by the record of those strange and monstrous events which only occur in times of trouble and injustice. There was an earthquake; there was a very late harvest; lightning struck the head off a crucifix. There was a deluge of rain such as had never before been seen; there was a hard frost which froze rivers;274 there was a rapid thaw which tore away bridges; there was a famine, so severe, in some parts, that the dying wanted attention and the dead wanted burial; there was a comet; there were stars which fought with each other; there was a high tide which ran up the Thames and inundated many villages; the devil appeared in person to many, speaking to them in woods and secret places. It is not reported what he said, which is a pity; he seems, however, to have been in a gracious mood, no doubt because things were going on quite to his liking. Lastly, a spring at Finchampstead began to flow with blood, an omen which filled everybody, except the King, with terror and gloomy forebodings. The King, it is reported, laughed at the omen.

William’s sudden and tragic death—clearly a proof of Heaven’s displeasure—gave rise to a whole group of omens and dreams. The Abbot of Cluny is reported to have told the brothers on the very morning after the death, long before the news could have arrived, that King William was “last night brought before God, and that he was sentenced to damnation.” The King himself was terrified by a dream the night before his death; a monk had a terrible dream which he brought to the King the very morning of his death. And so on. The point remains that all these monstrous signs and portents indicate a time of general terror, when no one knew what taxes or burdens might be laid upon him by a king who was strong of will, not afraid of Pope or Bishop, or anything that the Church could do or threaten: a king of strange freaks and uncertain temper: influenced by no one; feared for his courage; respected for his success in war; beloved by his favourites; prodigal and extravagant; a free-thinker; a man of no private morality; and of so little respect for the Church that he made his Bishops and Abbots strip off the gold from their shrines, and melt down their chalices. Wherever he went his Court was composed chiefly of young men who wore flowing hair and extravagant dress; who, as the Chronicle says, “rivalled women in delicacy of person, minced their gait, and walked with loose gesture and half-naked.” They plundered the country far and wide; what they could not devour they sold or destroyed. If it was liquor, they washed their horses’ legs with what they could not drink. “Droves of harlots” followed the Court. No wonder the fountain of Finchampstead ran with blood. At the same time, it must be remembered that the ecclesiastics who wrote these things were not likely to take a favourable view of their oppressor.




William Rufus was killed on Thursday, August 2, 1100, and buried on Friday. Henry rode off to London without the least delay: he arrived on Saturday; conferred with the leading citizens on the same day, and was actually crowned at Westminster on Sunday. Haste such as this shows not only his desire to get crowned before his elder brother could interfere, but points to the danger to the realm if the throne were vacant even for a single day. J. R. Green, in a paper on the election of Stephen, dwells upon the importance and the power of the citizens of London, who could thus of their own authority elect and crown a king. But, in fact, the City only repeated in the case of Stephen their action in the case of Henry. The latter rode at headlong speed from the New Forest to London—he must have ridden night and day. To be sure, it was the height of summer, when the roads were dry and hard. He presented himself before the Bishop and Portreeve and the notables of London. “Make me your king,” he said. “In return I will give you what you most desire, peace and order. I will do more. I will marry Maude, daughter of Malcolm, King of Scots, and of Margaret, sister of Edgar, heiress of the line of Alfred, and will make the crown secure and the country free from civil war.” They agreed. It is generally believed that the citizens made a bargain with Henry for new privileges. What they wanted most was a strong king, who would make peace and keep it; enforce his laws; put down highway robbery and oppression and piracy, and make trade possible. There was not much thought of new privileges, but first and foremost—of order. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, was absent. The King was crowned by Maurice, Bishop of London, who had the greatest share276 in his election. Three months later the King’s wife, Maude, the Saxon heiress, was also crowned in the Abbey, and feasted in the Red King’s Hall, to the unspeakable joy of the whole country.

It has generally been stated that Henry bestowed upon the City the famous Charter, by which their liberties were greatly widened, in the very first year of his reign, as a reward for their support and election. There are, however, strong reasons for believing that at the beginning of his reign he confined himself to promises or to a confirmation of his father’s Charter, and that the document known as his Charter was granted in reality in the year 1130, five years before his death. What the City obtained from Henry was a time of peace: when criminals had no mercy to expect; when a man might drive his caravan of pack-horses from fair to fair without fear of robbers; and the King acted up to his promise that none should do his people wrong. That he was an expensive king: that he demanded money without end or stint, was pardoned in return for the priceless boon of peace and order.

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I have thought it best to consider Henry’s Charter in a separate chapter, clause by clause, in connection with the gradual rise of the power of the Londoners, as is fitting for the most important of all the Charters by which London rose to liberty and greatness. It will suffice here to indicate generally the nature of the Charter by quoting the words of Bishop Stubbs, Constitutional History, p. 439:—

“The Charter of Henry I. shows a marked advance. The City is recognised as a distinct unity, although that unity depends on hereditary succession only: it is independent of county organisation, the county in which it lies is itself let at ferm to the citizens; it is placed on a level with the shires, it is to have a sheriff of its own and a justiciar: as a greater privilege still, it is to elect its own sheriff and justiciar, and to be open to no other jurisdiction than that of its own elected officers. The citizens are not to be called before any court outside their own walls, and are freed from Danegeld, from scot and lot, from responsibility from the murder-fine and obligation to trial by battle: they are freed from toll and other duties of the kind throughout all England, at the ports as well as inland. They are to possess their lands, the common lands of their township, and their rights of coursing in Chiltern, Middlesex, and Surrey. Yet with all this no new incorporation is bestowed: the churches, the barons, the citizens, retain their ancient customs; the churches their sokens, the barons their manors, the citizens their township organisation, and possibly their guilds.”

In the year 1125 there was done a deed of justice grim and terrible: one which caused the ears of all who heard it to tingle. One does not know how far London was concerned with it. But that there were “moneyers” or minters in London is certain. Three, viz. Achard, Lefwin Besant, and Ailwin Finch, were moneyers of London in 1149. And nothing is said as to any exception in favour of London. There had been grave and universal complaints about the coinage, which was debased by those who struck it. Henry considered the subject, he doubtless tested the coins; he made up his mind that all were guilty, and thereupon “commanded that all the minters in England should be deprived of their right hands and should be277 also, in another well-known manner, mutilated. And this “because a man may have a pound and yet not be able to spend a penny in the market.” He means that the pound might consist of debased money. Accordingly, Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, sent over all England, and invited every minter to come to Winchester at Christmas, without letting any one know what awaited him: and when they obediently journeyed thither, thinking probably they were to receive some new privilege, his men took them one by one, cut off their right hands and deprived them of their manhood. “All this was done within twelve days, and with much justice, because they had ruined this land with the great quantity of bad metal they had all corrupted.” A strong king, truly! One can imagine the discourse of the unhappy minters on the way. Some signal mark of the King’s favour was coming, some promotion from the Bishop, larger powers, greater profits. The Bishop said never a word of his purpose; he received them courteously; he invited them as to a feast; and then, one by one—Alas! Poor Minters! Never more did they debase the coinage. This summary and terrible act of justice, if it included London, must have fallen upon some of the most eminent merchants in the City: not, one hopes, upon Orgar the Proud, of whom we hear more in connection with deeds and documents of the time and as one of the notables of the City.

In the year 1126 a famine fell upon the land.

In 1132 a fire which began at the house of Gilbert Becket in West Chepe destroyed the greater part of the north-east quarter of London.

During this reign the Priory of the Holy Trinity, that of St. Mary Overies, and the Priory and Hospital of St. Bartholomew were founded. It is generally asserted that the Benedictine Nunnery of Clerkenwell was founded by one Jordan Briset in 1100, but Mr. H. J. Round has now proved that both this nunnery and the Priory of St. John were founded about the year 1145. Queen Maude also founded the Lazar-House of St. Giles in the Fields. (See Mediæval London, vol. ii. p. 311.)

There were grave complaints by ecclesiastics against the luxury and effeminacy of the age—but every age has its complaints of luxury. Young men wore their hair as long as women. They also dressed with as much splendour and attention as women; they crowned themselves with wreaths of flowers. Despite the revival of religion, the corruption of morals attributed to William Rufus was continued under his successor: the King himself was notorious for his amours and infidelities. He was led to repentance in his old age by one of those dreams which fill up a good part of the Chronicles. In this dream he saw pass before him a procession. First marched the ploughmen with their tools; next, the craftsmen with theirs; then came the soldiers bearing arms, and with them the Barons and Knights. Last of all came the clergy with their Bishops. But the latter were armed with their croziers, and they ran upon the King as if they would kill him with these hallowed weapons. The dreamer sprang out of bed and seized his sword to defend himself. When he awoke,278 behold! it was a dream. But the terror remained, and Henry set himself to repentance and amendment. No doubt he remembered how a dream of warning had been sent to his brother, by neglect of which he came to his untimely end.

The importance of this reign to the City of London lies mainly in the Charter which we are about to discuss: we must not, however, forget the order which Henry I. established and maintained in every part of his kingdom. This order was especially valued in a place like London, which could only carry on its trade in security when order was maintained. And though London contained so many citizens of Norman birth and descent, the great mass of the people were English, and could not fail to be pleased when Henry showed that he threw himself upon the support of his English subjects, when he married an English wife, and restored through her the line of Alfred to the throne. A great king, a strong king, a just king. What more could the times desire?



We know that in the memorable and brief document which is called William’s Charter, the laws and customs of Edward the Confessor were simply confirmed. Probably the City asked no more and wanted no more. Sixty years later the City, having prospered and grown and being wiser, wished for a definition of their laws and liberties, which was given them by Henry the First. I say sixty, and not thirty years, because, as has been already advanced, it seems probable that Henry’s Charter was granted in the year 1130, and not, as has been generally assumed, at the beginning of his reign. I now propose to take this Charter clause by clause.

Claud MS., A. iii. (contemporary).


“Henry, by the grace of God, King of England, to the archbishop of Canterbury, and to the bishops and abbots, earls and barons, justices and sheriffs, and to all his faithful subjects of England, French and English, greeting.

Know ye that I have granted to my citizens of London, to hold Middlesex to farm for three hundred pounds, upon accompt to them and their heirs: so that the said citizens shall place as sheriff whom they will of themselves: and shall place whomsoever, or such a one as they will of themselves, for keeping of the pleas of the crown, and of the pleadings of the same, and none other shall be justice over the same men of London: and the citizens of London shall not plead without the walls of London for any plea. And be they free from scot and lot and danegeld, and of all murder: and none of them shall wage battle. And if any one of the citizens shall be impleaded concerning the pleas of the crown, the man of London shall discharge himself by his oath, which shall be adjudged within the City: and none shall lodge within the walls, neither of my household, nor any other, nor lodging delivered by force.

And all the men of London shall be quit and free, and all their goods, throughout England, and the ports of the sea, of and from all toll and passage and lestage, and all other customs: and the churches and barons and citizens shall and may peaceably and quietly have and hold their sokes with all their customs; so that the strangers that shall be lodged in the sokes shall give custom to none but to him to whom the soke appertains, or to his officer, whom he shall put there: And a man of London shall not be adjudged in amerciaments of money but of one hundred shillings (I speak of the pleas which appertain to money); and further there shall be no more miskenning in the hustings, nor in the folkmote, nor in any other pleas within the City: and in the hustings may sit once a week, that is to say, on Monday: And I will cause my citizens to have their lands, premises, bonds and debts, within the City and without: and I will do them right by the law of the City, of the lands of which they shall complain to me:

And if they shall take toll or custom of any citizen of London, the citizens of London in the City shall take of the borough or town, where toll or custom was so taken, so much as the man of London gave for toll, and as he received damage thereby; and all debtors, which do owe debts to the citizens of London, shall pay them in London, or else discharge themselves in London, that they owe none: but, if they will not pay the same, neither some to clear themselves that they owe none, the citizens of London, to whom the debts shall be due, may take their goods in the City of London, of the borough or town, or of the country wherein he remains who shall owe the debt: And the citizens of London may have their chaces to hunt, as well and fully as their ancestors have had, that is to say, in Chiltre, and in Middlesex and Surrey.

Witness the bishop of Winchester, and Robert son of Richier, and Hugh Bygot, and Alured of Toteneys, and William of Alba-spina and Hubert the King’s chamberlain, and William de Montfichet, and Hangulf de Teney, and John Bellet, and Robert son of Siward. At Westminster.”

The Charter of Henry the First must be considered both on account of the liberties and privileges it grants, and the light it throws upon the government of the City.

First—The Charter is addressed, not to the City of London with which it was concerned, but to “The Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Bishops and the Abbots, Earls and Barons, Justices and Sheriffs, and all his faithful subjects, French and English, of all England.”

Why was it not addressed to the City? Because as yet there was no City in the modern sense of the word. It might have been addressed to the Bishop and the Portreeve, as William’s Charter: it was addressed to the whole country, because the concessions made to London were understood to concern the whole country.

From a historical point of view, the constitution of London at this time is of very great importance, for the simple reason that, after the Norman Conquest, London, by a succession of fortunate events, almost wholly escaped the changes281 and innovations introduced by the Normans. In the midst of the feudal oppressions and exactions which weighed down the rest of the kingdom, London still preserved untouched and undisturbed the free and independent rights which had belonged to all the towns of the kingdom—there were not many—in Saxon times. In this respect London was not only the one surviving Saxon City, she contained also the very Ark of the English constitution itself.


Let us now return to Henry’s Charter, taking it point by point.

(1) He grants to the citizens the Farm of Middlesex for £300 yearly rent.

That is to say, the citizens of London were to have the right of collecting the King’s demesne revenues within the limits of the County of Middlesex. These revenues consisted of dues and tolls at markets, ports, and bridges, with fines and forfeitures accruing from the penal provisions of forest laws, and from the fines from the Courts of Justice. They were collected by the Sheriff or the Portreeve for the King; or they were farmed by the Sheriff, who paid a fixed sum for the whole, making his own profit or his own loss out of the difference between the sum collected and the sum paid. Now if the collection of dues was granted to the citizens, a corporate body was thereby informally created, though the people might not understand entirely what it meant.

This grant has given rise to some controversy. The views and arguments advanced by Mr. J. H. Round (Geoffrey de Mandeville, App. P, pp. 347 et seq.) appear to me to satisfy all the conditions of the problem and to meet all the difficulties. In what follows, therefore, I shall endeavour to explain the meaning of the concession and its bearing upon the early administration of the City in accordance with the views of this scholar and antiquary.

The important words of the Charter are these:—

“Sciatis me concessisse civibus meis London(iarum), tenendum Middlesex ad firmam pro ccc libris ad compotum, ipsis et hæredibus suis de me et hæredibus meis ita quod ipsi cives ponent vicecomitem qualem voluerint de se ipsis: et justitiarium qualem voluerint de se ipsis, ad custodiendum placita coronæ meæ et eadem placitanda, et nullus alius erit justitiarius super ipsos homines London(iarum).”

Does this grant mean the shrievalty of Middlesex apart from London or of Middlesex including London?282 “In the almost contemporary Pipe Roll (31 Hen. 1) it is called the Ferm of ‘London.’”

In the Charters granted to Geoffrey, Stephen gives him the “Shrievalties of London and Middlesex,” while the Empress gives him the “Shrievalty of London and Middlesex.” Again, “the Pipe Rolls of Henry the Second denote the same firma as that of ‘London,’ and also as that of ‘London and Middlesex.’” In the Roll of Richard the First there is the phrase “de veteri firma Comitat’ Lond’ et Middelsexa.” And Henry the Third grants to the citizens of London—

“Vicecomitatum Londoniæ et de Middelsexia, cum omnibus rebus et consuetudinibus quæ pertinent ad predictum Vicecomitatum, infra civitatem et extra per terras et aquas ... Reddendo inde annuatim ... trescentas libras sterlingorum blancorum.”

Round also maintains that the Royal Writs and Charters bear the same witness. When they are directed to the local authorities it is to those of London, or of “London and Middlesex,” or of “Middlesex.” The three are, for all purposes, used as equivalent terms. “There was never but one ferm and never but one shrievalty.”

I need not follow Round in his arguments against other opinions. The treatment of Middlesex, he says, including London, was exactly like that of other counties. The firma of Herts was £60; that of Essex £300; that of Middlesex, the very small shire, because it included London, and for no other reason, was £300 also.

In other counties the “reeve” took his title from the “shire.” In Middlesex, where the “port” was the most important part of the shire, the “reeve” took his name from the port. The Vicecomes of “London,” or “London and Middlesex,” was the successor of the Portreeve, or he was the Portreeve under another name. The Shirereeve and the Portreeve, then, are never mentioned together; writs are directed to a Portreeve, or to a Shirereeve, but never to both. William the Conqueror addresses, in Anglo-Saxon, the Portreeve; in Latin, the Vicecomes. Round sums up (p. 359):—

“This conclusion throws a new light on the Charter by which Henry I. granted to the citizens of London Middlesex (i.e. Middlesex inclusive of London) at Farm. Broadly speaking, the transaction in question may be regarded in this aspect. Instead of leasing the corpus comitatus to any one individual for a year, or for a term of years, the king leased it to the citizens as a body, leased it, moreover, in perpetuity, and at the low original firma of £300 a year. The change effected was simply that which was involved in placing the citizens, as a body, in the shoes of the Sheriff ‘of London and Middlesex.’”

We find Stephen and the Empress in turn bestowing upon Geoffrey de Mandeville the shrievalty of London and Middlesex. Therefore no regard at all was paid to Henry’s Charter by Stephen or the Empress.283

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From all this it follows that if Henry’s Charter should be dated 1130, the citizens enjoyed the right of electing their Sheriffs and paying the moderate rent of £300 for five years only, out of the whole century. Let me once more quote Round (p. 372):—

“We see then that, in absolute contradiction of the received belief on the subject, the shrievalty was not in the hands of the citizens during the twelfth century (i.e. from ‘1101’), but was held by them for a few years only, about the close of the reign of Henry I. The fact that the sheriffs of London and Middlesex were, under Henry II. and Richard I., appointed throughout by the Crown, must compel our historians to reconsider the independent position they have assigned to the City at that period. The Crown, moreover, must have had an object in retaining this appointment in its own hands. We may find it, I think, in that jealousy of exceptional privilege or exemption which characterised the régime of Henry II. For, as I have shown, the charters to Geoffrey remind us that the ambition284 of the urban communities was analogous to that of the great feudatories, in so far as they both strove for exemption from official rule. It was precisely to this ambition that Henry II. was opposed; and thus, when he granted his charter to London, he wholly omitted two of his grandfather’s concessions, and narrowed down those that remained, that they might not be operative outside the actual walls of the City. When the shrievalty was restored by John to the citizens (1199), the concession had lost its chief importance through the triumph of the ‘communal’ principle. When that civic revolution had taken place which introduced the ‘communa’ with its mayor—a revolution to which Henry II. would never, writes the Chronicler, have submitted—when a Londoner was able to boast that he would have no king but his mayor, then had the sheriff’s position become but of secondary importance, subordinate, as it has remained ever since, to that of the mayor himself.”

As to the “independent position” of the City spoken of in this passage, perhaps that has been partly exaggerated. At the same time, when we consider (1) that London, as Stubbs states and Round agrees, was a bundle of communities, townships, parishes, and lordships, of which each had its own constitution; that (2) as Stubbs states and Round agrees, by Henry’s Charter, “no new incorporation is bestowed; the churches, the barons, the citizens retain their ancient customs”; (3) the really great concession made by Henry; and (4) the continuance of the form, if not the reality, of the Folkmote, we must acknowledge that the independence of the City was relatively great. And we must remember, further, that the Sheriff, or the Portreeve, was not the Mayor, nor was he the Justiciar; he was the financial officer of the King to look after the firma, and the taxes, fines, etc. The various jurisdictions and lordships had their own Courts; the City was not a corporate body; it had no head, unless it was the chief of that shadowy association, the Guild Merchant; it had no commune, and it had no Mayor.

(2) Henry gave them the right to appoint their own Justiciar.

Under the Saxon kings, criminal cases were tried in the Courts held by the Sheriff in his hundred, or the lord over his demesne. There were thus a very great number of Courts, the fines and forfeitures of which went to the owner of the soc or estate. William the Conqueror secured to himself the proceeds of these trials, together with the revenues arising from the new feudal tenures, by establishing the aula regis, the King’s Court, with the Chief Justiciar who sat in it. The aula regis went with the King wherever he went. Before long, persons were appointed to be itinerant justices, so that the aula regis included and suspended all older Courts. These new and uncertain jurisdictions were extremely unpopular. If, however, a city could obtain the privilege of electing its own Justiciar for its own cases, there would be some security of obtaining justice without delays—the Justiciar holding his office on good behaviour only; also that the ancient laws and customs would be observed; that there would be no temptation to impose arbitrary and grievous fines; that the numerous extortions connected with the new feudal tenure, possible where the royal revenues largely depended upon the amounts so raised, might in some measure be checked.


The office of Justiciar of London presents many difficulties, partly because there is no evidence, with a few exceptions, of the existence of such an officer. The office, Round contends (Geoffrey de Mandeville, p. 373), “represents a middle term, a transitional stage, between the essentially local shirereeve and the central ‘justice’ of the King’s Court.” He shows that—

“The office sprang from ‘the differentiation of the sheriff and the justice,’ and represented, as it were, the localisation of the central judicial element. That is to say, the justitiarius for Essex, or Herts, or London and Middlesex, was a purely local officer, and yet exercised, within the limits of his bailiwick, all the authority of the king’s justice. So transient was this state of things that scarcely a trace of it remains. Yet Richard de Luci may have held the post, as we saw, for the county of Essex, and there is evidence that Norfolk had a justice of its own in the person of Ralf Passelewe. Now, in the case of London, the office was created by the Charter of Henry I., a charter which was granted (as I contend) towards the end of his reign, and which expired with the accession of Henry II. It is, therefore, in Stephen’s reign that we should expect to find it [the office of justiciar] still in existence; and it is precisely in that reign that we find the office eo nomine twice granted to the Earl of Essex, and twice mentioned as held by Gervase, otherwise Gervase of Cornhill.”

We find a good deal more.

In the second year of Stephen, the King was called upon to decide between the Priory of the Holy Trinity and the Constable of the Tower concerning certain lands on East Smithfield. Among those present in Court was one Andrew Buchuinte—“Bucca uncta”—an Italian by origin, with many other burgesses of London. The King called upon Andrew to speak in the name of the citizens as their Justiciar. This same Andrew is found as a witness at the investiture of the Priory with the Cnihten gild’s soke in 1125, and again as a witness in the agreement between Ramsey Abbey and Holy Trinity, between 1125 and 1130. During the existence of the office of Justiciar, the King addressed him by name, followed by the Sheriff and the citizens.

In 1339, Andrew had ceased to be Justiciar. He was succeeded by Osbert Octodenarius—“Huit deniers”—whom Garnier calls

Une riche hume Lundreis
Ke mult ert koneiiset de Frans et d’Engleis.

This Osbert was Thomas à Becket’s kinsman and first employer.

In 1141 the Empress addresses a writ to Osbert Octodenarius, as the Justiciar, according to Round’s conclusion, his name being followed by that of the Sheriff.

Eleven years before this, in 1130, the name of Gervase appears as Justiciar; it is in the very year of Henry’s Charter. Round connects this Gervase with Gervase of Cornhill without any reasonable doubt.

Lastly, we find, as stated above, Geoffrey de Mandeville appointed Justiciar by Charter of the Empress. He calls himself “Comes Essex et Justiciarius Londoniæ” in a document of 1142-43. It is therefore certain that this great Earl counted it among his chief honours to be the Justiciar of London. Considering the history of286 this lord, we may well understand the kind of justice which he would mete out to the unfortunate citizens.

(3) He granted that they should not plead without the City walls.

This gave the parties to a civil case the same kind of protection as the preceding clause gave to defendants in a criminal case. The aula regis travelled with the King. Plaintiff, defendant, and witnesses had to travel about with the King also, until they could get their case heard. It was a grievance exactly like that of the present day, when more cases are set down for the day than can possibly be heard, and plaintiff, defendant, and witnesses, and solicitors have to attend, day after day, until their case comes on; those who come up from the country have to live in hotels at great cost; those who live in London have to neglect their business at great loss. It is strange that we should now be submitting to a system quite as iniquitous and, one would say, as intolerable, as that from which London was relieved early in the second quarter of the twelfth century.

(4) The citizens were to be “free from Scot and Lot and Danegeld and all Murder.”

Scot and Lot must be taken together as meaning the levy of taxes by any kind of authority for public purposes. Every citizen had, for civic purposes, to pay his Scot and Lot, i.e. his rates, according to his means. Danegeld was a tax of so much for every hide of land (a hide being probably one hundred acres). It was originally imposed for the purpose of resisting, expelling, or buying off the Danes. It was abolished in the reign of Henry the Second. In any case of murder the hundred in which the murder took place had to pay a fine. This, in a populous city, where violence was rife and murders were frequent, might become a burden of a very oppressive kind. Exemption, therefore, was a privilege of some importance.

(5) None of the citizens should be called upon to wage battle.

When we consider that the only justification of ordeal by battle was the theory that the Lord Himself would protect the right, we ask whether the Age of Faith had already passed away. It had not, but here and there were glimmerings of change. According to G. Norton, no man was ever compelled to fight in order to prove his innocence.

“If any man charged another with treason, murder, felony, or other capital offence, he was said to appeal him, and was termed an appellant; and the defendant, or party charged, was at liberty either to put himself upon his country for trial, or to defend himself by his body. If he chose the latter, the appellant was bound to meet him on an appointed day in marshalled lists, and the parties fought armed with sticks shod with horn. The party vanquished was adjudged to death, either as a false accuser or as guilty of the charge. If the defendant could maintain his ground until the stars appeared, the appellant was deemed vanquished; if the defendant called for quarter, or was slain, judgment of death was equally passed upon him.”—Historical Account of London, p. 360.

(6) A man might be allowed to “purge himself by oath.”

By this ancient method the accused appeared in Court accompanied by his287 friends, compurgators. He swore that he was innocent. His compurgators swore that they believed in his innocence. The number of compurgators was generally twelve.

(7) The citizens were allowed to refuse lodging to the King’s household.

This permission removed a fruitful cause of quarrel. It was intolerable that any man-at-arms might enter any house and demand lodging and entertainment in the King’s name. With the Tower in the east of London, and Baynard’s Castle in the west, and the King’s house a mile or so outside the City, there seems no reason why the King should have claimed this right.

(8) The citizens were to be free of toll, passage, and lestage.

Many people can remember the turnpike toll, the nuisance it was, and the trouble it gave; how, near great cities, roads were found out by which the toll could be evaded. Let them suppose a time when the turnpike toll was multiplied a hundredfold. There were tolls for markets, tolls of passage—fords and ferries, of lestage, a toll of so much for every last of leather exported, tolls of stallage, tolls of murage, tolls of wharfage, tolls of cranage, tolls through and tolls traverse (i.e. tolls for repair of road or street). Then imagine the relief of the London merchant travelling with his wares and his long train of loaded pack-horses from one market-town to another, and from fair to fair, when he was told that henceforth he should travel free and pay no toll. Why did the King grant this privilege, one of the largest and most beneficent in this Charter? Surely in wise recognition of the fact that the more free and unfettered trade was made, the more it would develop and increase, and make his kingdom rich and strong.

(9) No man was to be assessed beyond his means.

The penalty of a fine by way of punishment is at once deterrent and inconvenient. It does not degrade, like flogging; it does not make a man useless and costly, like imprisonment; it does not inflict public disgrace, like the pillory. At the same time, in the hands of a harsh magistrate, it may ruin a man to be fined above his power to pay. The strong feeling on the subject shown in this clause was also illustrated later on, when in Magna Charta it was enacted that a man might be assessed, but “so as not to deprive him of his land, or of his stock in husbandry or in trade.” To this day the ancient feeling against heavy fines survives in the unwillingness always shown by juries to award heavy damages.

(10) There should be no miskennings in the Courts, and the hustings should be held every Monday.

What were miskennings? Nobody knows. It is interpreted to mean that a man shall not unjustly prosecute another in any of the City Courts by deserting his first plea and substituting another. According to Norton,25 it is the same as mis288counting, and it means false pleading or mispleading. He goes on to show that the Normans brought with them considerable proficiency in jurisprudence, and a “mischievous dexterity in special pleading, by which the rights of suitors were often made to depend on the ingenuity of the countors (lawyers), rather than on the real merits of the case.”

I have considered this Charter clause by clause, because in it Henry seems to have given the citizens everything that they could ask or obtain by purchase. London was left, save in one respect, absolutely free. In fact, the citizens never did ask for more. The Charter was framed in order to allow the City to get rich without let or hindrance. One right the King reserved: that of taking their money for himself; and this right, there can be no doubt, was the reason why he surrendered all the rest; the reason why London was encouraged to grow so wealthy and so strong. It was a right, however, which was not felt to be a grievance. It was the very essence of things that in a mediæval kingdom the King should be free to tax his subjects. It will be observed that the rights conferred by the Charter of William are not recited here. Probably they were recognised as a matter of common usage, so that it was no longer necessary to repeat them.



The election of Stephen by London is a fact the full importance of which, in the history of the City, was first brought out by the late J. R. Green. This importance signified, in fact, a great deal more than the election of a king by the City of London, a thing by no means new in the history of the City. First, we know that many Normans flocked over to London after the Conquest. Normans there were before that event, but their numbers rapidly increased in consequence. By this time we see that the immigrants no longer considered themselves Normans only, but Londoners as well. William’s Charter especially recognises and provides for this fusion when he “greets all the burgesses in London, Frenchmen and Englishmen, friendly.” The Normans were his subjects as well as the English: they were not, therefore, aliens in his English cities. For instance, Gilbert Becket, father of the Archbishop, was by birth a burgher of Rouen, and his wife was the daughter of a burgher of Caen. But his son Thomas was always an Englishman. The Normans in London, therefore, took their part without question in the election of a king of England. And they elected Stephen rather than Henry, the son of the Empress, because Henry was also the son of Geoffrey Plantagenet, and the hatred of Norman for Angevin was greater even than the hatred of Welshman for Englishman. It survived the immigration of the Norman into England; it found expression when King Henry died, and when his stepson Geoffrey of Anjou seemed likely to claim the throne of England, as he claimed the duchy of Normandy, in right of his wife. In Normandy, however, the people rose as one man, and chased him out of the dukedom. In London, the City seems to have assumed the power of electing the King of England, as in the case of Henry, and without consulting bishop, abbot, or noble, did elect Stephen, the nephew of King Henry, and crowned him in Westminster. There were, in fact, two forces working for Stephen. The first was this said Norman jealousy of Anjou. The second was perhaps stronger. The religious revival of which we spoke as belonging to the reign of Henry, was spreading over the whole of western Europe. Green calls it the first of the great religious movements which England was to experience. He seems to forget, however, that there was a much earlier religious movement, which filled290 the monasteries and weakened the country, by draining it of fighting-men, in the eighth century.

“Everywhere in town and country men banded themselves together for prayer, hermits flocked to the woods, noble and churl welcomed the austere Cistercians as they spread over the moors and forests of the North. A new spirit of enthusiastic devotion woke the slumber of the older orders, and penetrated alike to the home of the noble Walter d’Espec at Rievaulx, or of the trader Gilbert Becket in Cheapside. It is easy to be blinded in revolutionary times, such as those of Stephen, by the superficial aspects of the day; but, amidst the wars of the Succession, and the clash of arms, the real thought of England was busy with deeper things. We see the force of the movement in the new class of ecclesiastics that it forces on the stage. The worldliness that had been no scandal in Roger of Salisbury becomes a scandal in Henry of Winchester. The new men, Thurstan, and Ailred, and Theobald, and John of Salisbury—even Thomas himself—derive whatever weight they possess from sheer holiness of life or aim.”—Historical Studies.

The outward sign of this movement was the foundation of many religious houses, and the building of many churches. The number and importance of the foundations created in or about London, not taking into account those founded in the country, within a space of about twenty years, indicate in themselves a widespread, deep-rooted, religious feeling. It was an age of fervent faith; Stephen himself, rough soldier that he was, felt its influence.

Now this religious fervour was openly scorned and scoffed at and derided by the Angevins. Contempt for religion was hereditary with them. From father to son they gloried in deriding holy things. In the words of Green: “A lurid grandeur of evil, a cynical defiance of religious opinion, hung alike round Fulc Nerra, or Fulc Rechin, or Geoffrey Plantagenet. The murder of a priest by Henry Fitz-Empress, the brutal sarcasms of Richard, the embassy of John to the Moslems of Spain, were but the continuance of a series of outrages on the religious feelings of the age which had begun long ere the lords of Anjou became Kings of England.”

To the reasons why the City had taken upon itself to elect and to crown Stephen, viz. the Norman hatred of Anjou, and resentment against the man of no religion, must be added two more: the conviction that a strong armed man, and not a woman, was wanted for the country; and a general restlessness which, the moment the old king was dead, broke out everywhere in acts of lawlessness and robbery.

It was not yet a time when peace was possible, save at intervals; the barons and their following must needs be fighting, if not with the common enemy, then with each other. The burghers of London, as well as the barons, felt frequent attacks of those inward prickings which caused the fingers to close round the hilt and to draw the sword. Historians have not, perhaps, attached enough importance to the mediæval—is it only mediæval?—yearning for a fight. There is nothing said about it in any of the Chronicles, yet one recognises its recurrence. One feels it in the air. Only a strong king could keep down the fighting spirit, or make it find satisfaction and outlet in local brawls.

Never in this country, before or after, was there such an opportunity for291 gratifying this passion to be up and cutting throats. Historians, who were ecclesiastics, and therefore able to feel for and speak of the sufferings of the people, write of the horrors of war. The fighting-men themselves felt none of the horrors. Though the country-people starved, the men of war were well fed; though merchants were robbed and murdered, the men of war were not hanged for the crime; to die on the battlefield, even to die lingering with horrible wounds, had no terrors for these soldiers; nay, this kind of death seemed to them a far nobler lot than to die in a peaceful bed like a burgher. Dead bodies lay in heaps where there had been a village—dead bodies of men, women, and children, which corrupted the air. The shrieks of tortured men rang from the castles, and the despairing cries of outraged maidens from the farmhouse. The towns were laid in ruins, the cultivated lands were laid desolate, the country was deserted by the people, yet these things were not horrors to the men of war, they were daily sights. For nearly twenty years the battlefield was the universal death-bed of the Englishman; and since harvests were burned, cattle destroyed, rustics murdered, priests and merchants robbed, one wonders how, at the end of it, any one at all was left alive in England. As for the City of London, it paid dearly for the choice of a king; and in the long run it had to see the other side, the House of Anjou, come to reign over its people.

Nero MS., D. J. (12th cent.).

Henry died on the 1st of December 1135. Twenty-four days afterwards, Stephen received the crown from the hands of the Archbishop. During the interval the country had become, suddenly, a seething mass of anarchy and violence. A strong292 hand had held it down for more than thirty years—a period, one would think, long enough for a spirit of obedience to law and order to grow up in men’s minds. Not yet: the only obedience was that due to fear; the only respect for law was that inspired by the hardest and most inflexible of kings. The words used by the author of the Gesta Stephani were doubtless much exaggerated, but they point to an outbreak of lawlessness which was certainly made possible by the removal of Henry’s mailed hand.

“Seized with a new fury, they began to run riot against each other; and the more a man injured the innocent, the higher he thought of himself. The sanctions of the law, which form the restraint of a rude population, were totally disregarded and set at naught; and men, giving the reins to all iniquity, plunged without hesitation into whatever crimes their inclinations prompted.... The people also turned to plundering each other without mercy, contriving schemes of craft and bloodshed against their neighbours; as it was said by the prophet, ‘Man rose up without mercy against man, and every one was set against his neighbour.’ For whatever the evil passions suggested in peaceable times, now that the opportunity of vengeance presented itself, was quickly executed. Secret grudgings burst forth, and dissembled malice was brought to light and openly avowed.” (Henry of Huntingdon.)

Then Stephen, crossing over from Ouissant (Ushant) with a fair wind, landed at Dover, and made haste to march to London, where he counted upon finding friends. His succession, indeed, was no new thing suddenly proposed; there had been grave discussions, prompted by the considerations above detailed, as to adopting Stephen as the successor. In addition to his reputation as a soldier, Stephen possessed the charm of personal attraction and generosity.

The City, however, as in the case of William the Conqueror and his son Henry, elected Stephen king after a solemn Covenant that, “So long as he lived, the citizens should aid him by their wealth and support him by their arms, and that he should bend all his energies to the pacification of the kingdom.”

Round (see below) discusses this covenant and the assertion in the Gesta that the Londoners claimed the right of electing the king. He compares the oath taken by king or overlord at certain towns in France, such as Bazas in Aquitaine, Issigeac in the Perigord, Bourg sur Mer in Gascony, and Bayonne. At all these places the oath was practically in the same form: the citizens swore obedience and fidelity to the king, while the king in return swore to be a good lord over them, to respect and preserve their customs, and to guard them from all injury. This oath was, in fact, William the Conqueror’s Charter. It was probably neither more nor less than this which the citizens of London exacted from Stephen. Six years later it was the same oath which they exacted from the Empress. Now, as the French towns referred to did not speak or act in the name of the whole kingdom or the province, may not the action of London in 1135 have been, not so much to assert their right to elect the293 king, as their resolution to make their recognition of a successor to the throne, when the succession was disputed, the subject of a separate negotiation?

Royal MS. B VI.
Royal MS. B VI.

At the first Easter after his coronation, Stephen held his Court at Westminster, where he assembled a National Council, to which were bidden the Bishops and Abbots and the Barons, “cum primis populi.” The Easter celebrations had been gloomy of late years, owing to the sadness which weighed down Henry after the death of his son. This function revived the memory of former splendours—“quâ nunquam fuerat splendidior vestibus.” That this Council was attended by the greatest barons of the realm, is proved by the fact that two Charters there granted are witnessed, one by fifty-five, and the other by thirty-six men, including thirty-four noblemen of the highest rank.

Geoffrey de Mandeville by Mr. J. H. Round is much more than a biography: it is a scholarly—a profound—inquiry into the history of England, and especially London, under King Stephen.

Geoffrey de Mandeville was the son of William de Mandeville, who was Constable of the Tower in 1101; and the grandson of Geoffrey de Mandeville, who appears to have come from the village of Mandeville near Trevières in the Bessin, the name being Latinised into “De Magna villâ.”

The elder Geoffrey founded a Benedictine priory at Hurley.

The younger Geoffrey appears at Stephen’s Court in 1136 as a witness to certain deeds. He was created Earl of Essex in 1140: the date being fixed by Round.

But the Empress was already in England: in 1141 (February 2) her great victory at Lincoln placed her for the time in command of the situation, and made Stephen a prisoner. She repaired to Winchester, where (March 2, 1141) she was elected “Domina Angliae.” She was received by the Legate, the clergy, and the people, the monks and nuns of the religious houses. She also took over the castle, with the crown and the royal treasures.

What follows is a remarkable illustration of the power of London. It is thus described by Sharpe (London and the Kingdom, vol. i. p. 48):—


“But there was another element to be considered before Matilda’s new title could be assured. What would the Londoners, who had taken the initiative in setting Stephen on the throne, and still owed to him their allegiance, say to it? The Legate had foreseen the difficulty that might arise if the citizens, whom he described as very princes of the realm by reason of the greatness of their City (qui sunt quasi optimates pro magnitudine civitatis in Angliâ), could not be won over. He had therefore sent a special safe conduct for their attendance, so he informed the meeting after the applause which followed his speech had died away, and he expected them to arrive on the following day. If they pleased they would adjourn till then. The next day (April 9) the Londoners arrived, as the Legate had foretold, and were ushered before the Council. They had been sent, they said, by the so-called ‘commune’ of London; and their purpose was not to enter into debate, but only to beg for the release of their lord the King. This statement was supported by all the barons then present who had entered the commune of the City, and met with the approval of the archbishop and all the clergy in attendance. Their solicitations, however, proved of no avail. The Legate replied with the same arguments he had used the day before, adding that it ill became the Londoners, who were regarded as nobles (quasi proceres) in the land, to foster those who had basely deserted their King on the field of battle, and who only curried favour with the citizens in order to fleece them of their money. Here an interruption took place. A messenger presented to the Legate a paper from Stephen’s Queen to read to the Council. Henry took the paper, and after scanning its contents, refused to communicate them to the meeting. The messenger, however, not to be thus foiled, himself made known the contents of the paper. These were, in effect, an exhortation by the Queen to the clergy, and more especially to the Legate himself, to restore Stephen to liberty. The Legate, however, returned the same answer as before, and the meeting broke up, the Londoners promising to communicate the decision of the Council to their brethren at home, and to do their best to obtain their support.”

The negotiations dragged on. There are clear indications of tumults and dissensions in the City: Geoffrey de Mandeville strengthened the Tower; Aubrey de Vere, his father-in-law, formerly Sheriff and Royal Chamberlain to Henry I., was slain in the streets; the Norman party were not likely to yield without a struggle. However, in June 1141, a deputation of citizens was sent to the Empress, who waited for them at St. Albans. She made one promise, presumably the same made by William her grandfather, by Henry her father, and by Stephen, that she would respect the rights and privileges of the City; she was then formally received by the notables, who rode out to meet her, according to custom, at Knightsbridge.


“Having now obtained26 the submission of the greatest part of the kingdom, taken hostages and received homage, and being, as I have just said, elated to the highest pitch of arrogance, she came with vast military display to London, at the humble request of the citizens. They fancied that they had now arrived at happy days, when peace and tranquillity would prevail.... She, however, sent for some of the more wealthy, and demanded of them, not with gentle courtesy, but in an imperious tone, an immense sum of money. Upon this they made complaints that their former wealth had been diminished by the troubled state of the kingdom, that they had liberally contributed to the relief of the indigent against the severe famine which was impending, and that they had subsidised the King to their last farthing: they therefore humbly implored her clemency that in pity for their losses and distresses she would show some moderation in levying money from them.... When the citizens had addressed her in this manner, she, without any of the gentleness of her sex, broke out into insufferable rage, while she replied to them with a stern eye and frowning brow, ‘that the Londoners had often paid large sums to the King; that they had opened their purse-strings wide to strengthen him and weaken her; that they had been long in confederacy with her enemies for her injury; and that they had no claim to be spared, and to have the smallest part of the fine remitted.’ On hearing this, the citizens departed to their homes, sorrowful and unsatisfied.”

Valentine and Sons, Ltd.

The Empress came to London because she desired above all things to be crowned at Westminster. This was impossible, or useless, without the previous submission of London, and she did not gain her desire. It is readily understood that there were malcontents enough in the City. Her imperious bearing increased the number. Moreover, at this juncture, Stephen’s Queen, Maud, arrived at Southwark with a large army and began, not only to burn and to ravage the cultivated parts of south London, but sent her troops across the river to ravage the north bank. The Empress felt that she was safe within the walls. But suddenly, at the hour of dinner, the great bell of St. Paul’s rang out, and the citizens, obedient to the call, clutched their arms and rushed to Paul’s Cross. The Empress was not296 in the Tower, but in a house or palace near Ludgate. With her followers she had just time to gallop through the gate and escape: her barons deserted her, each making for his own estates; and the London mob pillaged everything they could find in the deserted quarters. Then they threw open the gates of London Bridge and admitted Stephen’s Queen; this done, they besieged the Tower, which was commanded by Geoffrey de Mandeville.

The Empress had stayed in London no more than three or four days. During this time, or perhaps before her entry into the City, she granted a Charter to Geoffrey de Mandeville, in which she recognised him as Earl of Essex—“concedo ut sit comes de Essex”—she also recognised him as hereditary Constable of the Tower, and gave him certain lands.

A Charter, or letter, from the Archbishop of Rouen to the citizens of London, quoted by Round, also belongs, it would seem, though he does not give the date, to this time:—

“Hugo D. G. Rothomagensis archiepiscopus senatoribus inclitis civibus honoratis et omnibus commune London concordie gratiam, salutem eternam. Deo et vobis agimus gratias pro vestra fidelitate stabili et certa domino nostro regi Stephano jugiter impensa. Inde per regiones notae vestra nobilitas virtus et potestas.”

The Normans of Normandy, then, were watching the struggle of Norman v. Angevin in England with the greatest anxiety. The situation was changed; Stephen’s Queen was in London: but the earl was still in the Tower. It was necessary to gain him over. For this purpose she bribed him with terms which were good enough to detach him from the side of the Empress. This Charter is lost, but it is referred to by Stephen six months later as “Carta Reginæ.” There remains only one “Carta Reginæ,” which is, however, important to us because it names Gervase as the Justiciar of London (see p. 285).

Geoffrey meanwhile proved his newly-bought adherence to the King by seizing the Bishop of London in his palace at Fulham, and holding him as a prisoner. A few weeks later, Geoffrey, with a large contingent of a thousand Londoners, fully armed, was assisting at the rout of Winchester.

On the 1st of November the King was exchanged for the Earl of Gloucester. The importance of the event, as it was regarded by the City of London, is curiously proved by the date of a private London deed (Round, G. de M., p. 136): “Anno MCXLI., Id est in exitu regis Stephani de captione Roberti filii regis Henrici.”

At Christmas 1141 the King was crowned a second time, just as, fifty years later, after his captivity, Richard was crowned a second time. Round ascribes Stephen’s second Charter to Geoffrey to the same date. This Charter gave Geoffrey even better terms than he had received from the Empress. He was confirmed as Earl of Essex and as Constable of the Tower: he was made Justiciar and Sheriff of London and Middlesex: and he was confirmed as Justiciar and Sheriff of the counties of Essex297 and Hertford. The Charter acknowledges that Geoffrey was Constable of the Tower by inheritance.

In a few months, Stephen being dead, and his troops dispersed, Geoffrey went over again to the side of the Empress, and once more was rewarded by a Charter, the full meaning of which will be found in Round. It was the last of his many bargains. Matilda’s cause was lost with the fall of Oxford (December 1142).

It would seem that the first care of Stephen was to conciliate the Church, which had grievous cause for complaint. In the words of the Gesta Stephani: “because there was nothing left anywhere whole and undamaged, they had recourse to the possessions of the monasteries, or the neighbouring municipalities, or any others which they could send forth troops enough to infest. At one time they loaded their victims with false accusations and virulent abuse; at another they ground them down with vexatious claims and extortions; some they stripped of their property, either by open robbery or secret contrivance, and others they reduced to complete subjection in the most shameless manner. If any one of the reverend monks, or of the secular clergy, came to complain of the exactions laid on Church property, he was met with abuse, and abruptly silenced with outrageous threats; the servants who attended him on his journey were often severely scourged before his face, and he himself, whatever his rank and order might be, was shamefully stripped of his effects, and even his garments, and driven away or left helpless, from the severe beating to which he was subjected. These unhappy spectacles, these lamentable tragedies, as they were common throughout England, could not escape the observation of the Bishops.”

A Council was held in London as soon as the King’s cause seemed secure. It was there decreed that “any one who violated a church or churchyard, or laid violent hands on a clerk or other religious person, should be incapable of receiving absolution except from the Pope himself. It was also decreed that ploughs in the fields, and the rustics who worked at them, should be sacred, just as much as if they were in a churchyard. They also excommunicated with lighted candles all who should contravene this decree, and so the rapacity of these human kites was a little checked.” (Roger of Wendover.)

It is significant, however, that in the Gesta Stephani some of the Bishops—“not all of them, but several”—assumed arms, rode on war-horses, received their share of the booty, and imprisoned or tortured soldiers and men of wealth who fell into their hands, wherever they could.

In September 1148, after this Council, Stephen held a Court at St. Albans. Among the nobles who attended was the great earl, Geoffrey de Mandeville, a man, says Henry of Huntingdon, more regarded than the King himself. His enemies, however, calling on the King to remember his past treacheries, easily persuaded him that new treacheries were in contemplation. Perhaps the King understood that here was a subject too powerful, one who, like the Earl of Warwick later, was veritably a298 king-maker, and was readily convinced that the wisest thing would be to take a strong step and arrest him. This, in fact, he did.

Geoffrey was conveyed to London and confined in his own Tower, whither a message was brought him that he must either surrender all his castles to the King, or be hanged. He chose the former. So far as London is concerned he vanishes at this point. It is not, however, without interest to note that on his release he broke into open revolt. Like Hereward, he betook himself to the fens and the country adjacent. He seized upon Ramsey Abbey; he turned out the monks, and converted the House into a fortified post; he stabled his horses in the cloisters; he gave its manors to his followers; he ravaged the country in all directions. He was joined by large numbers of the mercenaries then in the country. He occupied a formidable position protected by the fens; he held the castle of Ely; he held strong places at Fordham, Benwick, and Wood Walton. He sacked and burned Cambridge and St. Ives, robbing even the churches of their plate and treasures: all the horrors of Stephen’s long civil wars were doubled in the ferocious career of this wild beast; the country was wasted; there was not even a plough left; no man tilled the land; every lord had his castle; every castle was a robber’s nest.

“Some, for whom their country had lost its charms, chose rather to make their home in foreign lands; others drew to the churches for protection, and constructing mean hovels in their precincts, passed their days in fear and trouble. Food being scarce, for there was a dreadful famine throughout England, some of the people disgustingly devoured the flesh of dogs and horses; others appeased their insatiable hunger with the garbage of uncooked herbs and roots; many, in all parts, sunk under the severity of the famine and died in heaps; others with their whole families went sorrowfully into voluntary banishment and disappeared. Then were seen famous cities deserted and depopulated by the death of the inhabitants of every age and sex, and fields white for the harvest, for it was near the season of autumn, but none to gather it, all having been struck down by the famine. Thus the whole aspect of England presented a scene of calamity and sorrow, misery and oppression. It tended to increase the evil, that a crowd of fierce strangers who had flocked to England in bands to take service in the wars, and who were devoid of all bowels of mercy and feelings of humanity, were scattered among the people thus suffering.”—Gesta Stephani.

Miracles were observed testifying to the wrath of God. The walls of Ramsey Abbey sweated blood. Men said that Christ and His saints slept. Yet, for their comfort, it was reported that the Lord was still watchful, because, when Geoffrey lay down to rest in the shade, behold! the grass withered away beneath him.

The end came. Happily before long Geoffrey was wounded fighting on the land of the Abbey which he had robbed; he treated his wound lightly; he rode off through Fordham to Mildenhall, and there he lay down and died. He had been299 excommunicated: he died without absolution; there was no priest among his wild soldiery, and men said openly that no one but the Pope could absolve so great a sinner. His body, enclosed in a leaden coffin, was brought to London by some Templars: they carried it to their orchard in the old Temple (at the north-east corner of Chancery Lane) and there hung it up, so that it should not pollute the ground. And the citizens of London came out to gibe at their dead foe. After twenty years Pope Alexander III. granted absolution, and the body of the great traitor at last found rest. It may be remarked, as regards the lasting hatred of the Londoners, that their enemy, whose unburied body they thus insulted, was only justiciar over them for two years or so. Great must have been his tyranny, many his iniquities, for his memory to stink for more than twenty years.

We know very little of the condition of London at this time: its trade, both export and import, must have been greatly damaged; when the Empress made her demands for money, the citizens had to assure her of their poverty and inability to comply with them; the fire of 1136, which destroyed nearly the whole City, must have involved thousands in ruin; there were factions and parties within the walls. At the same time the City possessed men and arms. London, we have seen, could send out a splendid regiment of a thousand men: not ragamuffins in leathern doublets and armed with pikes, but men in full armour completely equipped.

As regards the power of Geoffrey, it is certain that the free, proud, and independent City, the maker of kings, the possessor of charters which secured all that freemen could desire, must have been deeply humiliated at its new position of dependence upon the caprice of a soldier without honour and without loyalty: but it was only temporary. And yet we find that the City was represented at the Convention of Winchester. It is therefore certain that though London might be stripped of its charters, it had to be reckoned with. At any moment the citizens might close their gates, and then, even if the enemy garrisoned the Tower, it was doubtful whether the whole force that Matilda could command could compel the opening of their gates.

It will be shown immediately that part of Henry’s Charter, that of the possession, at least, of a City justiciar, remained in force during Stephen’s reign. It cannot be proved that the other part of the Charter, which conferred upon the City the right of electing the justiciar and the sheriffs, was also observed. Maitland says that in the year 1139 the citizens bought the right of electing their sheriffs for the sum of one hundred marks of silver. He gives no authority for the statement, of which I find no mention in Stow, Holinshed, Round or Sharpe. It would seem possible in this time of general confusion and continual war for the right to be claimed and exercised without question. It would also seem possible, for exactly the same cause, that the King would sell the right, year by year, or for the whole of his reign.

There is an episode passed over by historians which seems singularly out of300 place in a time of continual civil war. It is strange that in the year 1147, when all men’s minds in London were presumably watching the uncertain way of war, there should be found citizens who could neglect the anxieties of the time and go off crusading. This, however, actually happened. A small army—say, rather, a reinforcement, of Crusaders, consisting of Englishmen, Germans, and Flemings, sailed in company, bound for Palestine. They were led by Count Arnold of Aerschot, Christian Ghestell, Andrew of London, Vernon of Dover, and Henry Glenville. They put in at Lisbon, and instead of fighting the Saracens in Palestine, joined the Portuguese and fought the Moors at Lisbon. By their aid the city was taken, lost, and retaken. Roger de Hoveden thus comments on the expedition:—

“In the meantime a naval force, headed by no influential men, and relying upon no mighty chieftain, but only on Almighty God, inasmuch as it had set out in a humble spirit, earned the favour of God and manifested great prowess. For, though but few in number, by arms they obtained possession of a famous city of Spain, Lisbon by name, and another, called Almeida, together with the parts adjacent. How true is it that God opposes the proud, but to the humble shows grace! For the army of the king of the Franks and of the emperor was larger and better equipped than the former one, which had gained possession of Jerusalem: and yet they were crushed by a very few, and routed and demolished like webs of spiders: whereas these other poor people, whom I have just mentioned, no multitude could resist, but the greater the numbers that made head against them, the more helpless were they rendered. The greatest part of them had come from England.”

At last, after nineteen years of fighting, peace was made. Stephen was to reign as long as he lived: he was then to be succeeded by Henry. Henry of Huntingdon does justice to the general rejoicing that followed:—

“What boundless joy, what a day of rejoicing, when the king himself led the illustrious young prince through the streets of Winchester, with a splendid procession of bishops and nobles, and amidst the acclamations of the thronging people: for the king received him as his son by adoption, and acknowledged him heir to the crown. From thence he accompanied the king to London, where he was received with no less joy by the people assembled in countless numbers, and by brilliant processions, as was fitting for so great a prince. Thus, through God’s mercy, after a night of misery, peace dawned on the ruined realm of England.”



To the reign of Henry the Second belongs the only description of London in the twelfth century that we possess. It is, of course, that of FitzStephen. I transcribe it in full; and as this description belongs to the Norman rather than the later Plantagenet period, to the twelfth rather than the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, I place it in the Book of Norman London.

Stephanides: Descriptio Nobilissimae Civitatis Londoniae A Description of the Most Honourable City of London
De Situ (Nobilissimae Civitatis London) The Situation thereof
Inter nobiles Urbes Orbis, quas Fama celebrat, Civitas Londonia, Regni Anglorum Sedes, una est quae Famam sui latiùs diffundit, Opes & Merces longiùs transmittit, Caput altiùs extollit: Felix est Aeris Salubritate, Christiana Religione, Firmitate Munitionum, Natura Situs, Honore Civium, Pudicita matronali, Ludis etiam quàm jocunda: & Nobilium est foecunda Virorum: quae singula semotim libet inspicere. Amongst the noble Cities of the World, honoured by Fame, the City of London is the one principal Seat of the Kingdom of England, whose Renown is spread abroad very far: but she transporteth her Wares and Commodities much farther, and advanceth her Head so much the higher. Happy she is in the Wholesomeness of the Air, in the Christian Religion, her Munition also and Strength, the Nature of her Situation, the Honour of her Citizens, the Chastity of her Matrons: very pleasant also in her Sports and Pastimes, and replenished with honourable Personages: All which I think meet severally to consider.
De Clementia Coeli The Temperateness of the Air
Ibi siquidem emollit Animos Hominum Clementia Coeli, non ut sint in Venerem (putres) sed ne feri sint & bestiales, (sed) potius benigni & liberales. In this Place, the Calmness of the Air doth mollify Men’s Minds, not302 corupting them with venereal Lusts, but preserving them from savage and rude Behaviour, and seasoning their Inclinations with a more kind and free Temper.
De (Christiana ibi) Religione Of the Christian Religion there
Est ibi in Ecclesia Beati Pauli Episcopalis Sedes, quondam fuit Metropolitana, & adhuc futura creditur, si remeaverint Cives in Insulam: Nisi forte Beati Thomae Martyris Titulus Archiepiscopalis, & Praesentia corporalis, Dignitatem illam Cantuariae, ubi nunc est, conservet perpetuam. Sed cum utramque Urbium harum Sanctus Thomas illustraverit, Londoniam Ortu, Cantuariam Occasu: Ipsius Sancti Intuitu, cum Justitiae Accessu, habet altera adversus alteram, quod amplius alleget. Sunt etiam, quod ad Christianae Fidei Cultum pertinet, tum in Londonia, tum in Suburbano, tredecem majores Ecclesiae Conventuum, praeter minores Parochianas, centum viginti sex. There is in the Church of St. Paul a Bishop’s See: It was formerly a Metropolitan, and, as it is thought, shall recover the said Dignity again, if the Citizens shall return back into the Island: except, perhaps, the Archiepiscopal Title of St. Thomas the Martyr, and his bodily Presence, do perpetuate this Honour to Canterbury, where now his Reliques are. But seeing St. Thomas hath graced both these Cities, namely, London with his Birth, and Canterbury with his Death; one Place may alledge more against the other, in Respect of the Sight of that Saint, with the Accession of Holiness. Now, concerning the Worship of God in the Christian Faith: There are in London and in the Suburbs 13 greater Conventual Churches, besides 126 lesser Parish Churches: (139 Churches in all).
De Firmitate (& Situ) Urbis On the Strength and Scite of the City
Habet ab Oriente Arcem Palatinam, maximam & fortissimam, cujus & Area & Muri à Fundamento profundissimo exurgunt: Cemento cum Sanguine Animalium temperato. Ab Occidente duo Castella munitissima: Muro Urbis alto & magno duplatis Heptapylae Portis intercontinuante, (Spatio) turrito ab Aquilone per Intercapedines. Similiterque ab Austro Londonia murata & turrita fuit: Sed Fluvius maximus piscosus Thamensis, Mari influo refluoque qui illac allabitur, Moenia illa Tractu Temporis alluit, labefactavit, dejecit. Item sursùm ab Occidente Palatium Regium eminet super Fluvium eundem, Aedificium incomparabile, cum Antemurali & Propugnaculis, duobus Millibus ab Urbe, Surburbano frequenti continuante. It hath on the east Part a Tower Palatine, very large and very strong, whose Court and Walls rise up from a deep Foundation: The Morter is tempered with the Blood of Beasts. On the West are two Castles well fenced. The Wall of the City is high and great, continued with seven Gates, which are made double, and on the North distinguished with Turrets by303 Spaces. Likewise on the South London hath been enclosed with Walls and Towers, but the large River of Thames, well stored with Fish, and in which the Tide ebbs and flows, by Continuance of Time, hath washed, worn away, and cast down those Walls. Farther, above in the West Part, the King’s Palace is eminently seated upon the River: an Incomparable building, having a wall before it, and some Bulwarks. It is two miles from the City, continued with a suburb full of people.
From The Old English Calendar (11th cent.), Cotton MS.
De Hortis (Consitis) Of the Gardens planted
Undique extra Domos suburbanorum Civium Horti Arboribus consiti spatiosi, & speciosi, contigui habentur. Everywhere without the Houses of the Suburbs, the Citizens have Gardens and Orchards planted with Trees, large, beautiful, and one joining to another.
De Pascuis Of their Pastures
Item à Borea sunt Agri Pascui, & Pratorum grata Planities, Aquis Fluvialibus interfluis: Ad quas Molinarum versatiles Rotae citantur cum Murmure jocoso. Proximè patet Foresta ingens, Saltus nemorosi Ferarum, Latebrae Cervorum, Damarum, Aprorum, & Taurorum sylvestrium. On the north Side are Fields for Pasture, and open Meadows very pleasant: among which the River Waters do flow, and the Wheels of the Mills are turned about with a delightful304 Noise. Very near lieth a large Forest in which are woody Groves of wild Beasts; in the Coverts whereof do lurk Bucks and Does, wild Boars and Bulls.
De Agris Of their Fields
Agri Urbis sationales non sunt jejunae Glareae, sed pingues Asiae Campi qui faciunt laetas Segetes, & suorum Cultorum repleant Horrea cerealis Jugere Culmi. The arable Lands are no hungry pieces of Gravel Ground: but like the rich fields of Asia, which bring plentiful Corn, and fill the barns of those that till them with a dainty Crop of the Fruits of Ceres.
De Fontibus Of their Wells
Sunt & circa Londoniam ab Aquilone suburbani Fontes, praecipui Aqua dulci, salubri, perspicua, & per claros Rivo trepidante Lapillos. Inter quos Fons Sacer, Fons Clericorum, Fons Sancti Clementis nominatiores habentur, & adeuntur celebriori Accessu, & majori Frequentia Scholarium & urbanae Juventutis in Serotinis aestivis ad Auram exeuntis. Urbs sanè bona, cùm bonum habeat Dominum. There are also about London, on the North of the Suburbs, choice Fountains of Water, sweet, wholesome and clear, streaming forth among the glistening Pebble-stones: In this Number, Holy Well, Clerkenwell, and Saint Clement’s Well, are of most Note, and frequented above the rest, when Scholars and Youths of the City take the air abroad in the Summer Evenings. A good city when it hath a good Lord.
De Honore Civium Of the Citizens’ Honour
Urbe ista Viris est honorata, Armis decorata, multo Habitatore populosa, ut Tempore bellicae Cladis sub Rege Stephano Bello apti, ex ea exeuntes qui ostentati, haberentur 20,000 Equitum armatos, & 60 mille Peditum aestimarentur. Cives Londoniae ubicunque Locorum prae omnibus aliis Civibus Ornatu Morum, Vestium, & Mensae, Locatione, spectabiles & noti habentur. This City is honoured with her Men, graced with her Arms, and peopled with a multitude of inhabitants. In the fatal Wars under King Stephen, there went out to a Muster, Men fit for war, esteemed to the Number of 20,000 Horsemen, armed, and 60,000 Footmen. The Citizens of London are known in all places, and respected above all other Citizens, for their civil Demeanour, their good Apparel, their Table, and their Discourse. 305
De (Pudicita) Matronis
MS. (12th cent.).
Of their Chastity, and the Matrons
Urbis Matronae ipsae Sabinae sunt. The Matrons of the City may be parallelled with the Sabine Women.
De Scholis Of their Schools
In Londiniis tres principales Ecclesiae: viz. Sedes Episcopalis, Ecclesia S. Martini, Scholas celebres habent & Privilegio & antiqua Dignitate, plerumque tamen Favore personali alicujus vel aliquorum Doctorum, qui secundum Philosophiam noti & praeclari habeantur. Et alii ibi sunt Scholae de Gratia & Permissione. Diebus Festis ad Ecclesias Festivas Magistri cum Discipulis suis Conventus, Gratia Exercitationis, celebrant. Disputant ibidem Scholares, quidam demonstrativè, dialecticè alii: alii recitant Enthymemata: hii meliùs perfectis utuntur Syllogismis. Quidam ad Ostentationem exercentur Disputationem, quae est inter Colluctantes. Alii ad Veritatem, ea quae est Perfectionis Gratia: Sophistae Simulatores Agmine & Inundatione Verborum beati judicantur. Alii paralogizantur: Oratores aliqui quandoque Orationibus rhetoricis aliquid dicunt apposite ad persuadendum, curantes Artis Praecepta servare, & ex Contingentibus nihil omittere. Pueri diversarum Scholarum Versibus inter se convixantur: aut de Principiis Artis Grammaticae, aut de Regulis Praeteritorum vel Futurorum contendunt: Sunt alii, qui, in Epigrammatibus, Rithmis & Metris Fescennina Socios suppressis Nominibus liberius lacerant, Loedorias jaculantur & Scommata, Salibus Socraticis Sociorum, vel forte Majorum Vitia tangunt, ne mordacius Dente rodant procaciori, audacioribus Convitiis Auditores multum videre parati: Ingeminant tremulos Naso crispante Cachinnos. In London, three famous Schools are kept at three principal Churches, St. Paul’s, the Holy Trinity, and St. Martins: which they retain by Privilege and ancient Dignity: Yet for the most Part, by Favour of Some Persons, or some Teachers, who are known and famed for their Philosophy, there are other schools there, upon Good will and Sufferance. Upon the Holidays, the Masters with their Scholars celebrate Assemblies at the Festival Churches. The Scholars dispute for exercise sake: some use Demonstrations, others topical and probable Arguments: some practise Enthymems, others do better use perfect Syllogisms: some exercise themselves in dispute for ostentation, which is practised among such as strive together for Victory: others dispute for Truth, which is the Grace of Perfection. The Sophisters, which are Dissemblers, turn Verbalists, and are magnified, when they overflow in Speech and Abundance306 of Words: some also are entrapped with deceitful Arguments. Sometimes certain orators, with rhetorical Orations, speak handsomely to persuade, being careful to observe the precepts of Art, who omit no matter Contingent. The Boys of divers Schools wrangle together in versifying, or canvas the principles of Grammar, or dispute the rules of the preterperfect and future Tenses. Some there are that, in Epigrams, Rhymes and Verses use that trivial way of abuse. These do freely quip their Fellows, suppressing their names, with a Fescennine and railing Liberty: These cast out most abusive jests: and, with Socratical witty expressions, they touch the Vices of their Fellows, or perhaps of their Superiors, or fall upon them with a satyrical Bitterness, and with bolder Reproaches than is fit. The hearers, prepared for Laughter, make themselves merry in the mean Time.
De Dispositione Urbis How the Affairs of the City are Disposed
Singulorum Officiorum exercitatores, singularum Rerum Venditores, singularum Operarum suarum Locatores, quotidiano Mane per se sunt Locis distincti omnes, ut Officiis. Praeterea est in Londonia supra Ripam Fluminis inter Vina in Navibus, & Cellis vinariis Venalia, publica Coquina: Ibi quotidiè pro Tempore est invenire cibaria Fercula, assa, frixa, elixa, Pisces, Pisciculos, Carnes grossiores Pauperibus, delicatiores Divitibus, Venationum, Avium, Avicularum. Si subitò veniant ad aliquem Civium Amici fatigati ex Itinere, nec libeat jejunus expectare, ut novi Cibi emantur, coquantur, dent Famuli Manibus limphas Panesque, interim ad Ripam curritur, ibi praesto sunt omnia Desiderabilia. Quantalibet Militum vel Peregrinorum Infinitas intrat Urbem qualibet Diei vel Noctis Hora, vel ab Urbe exitura, ne vel hii nimium jejunent, vel alii impransi exeant, illuc si placeat divertunt, & se pro Modo suo singuli reficiunt: Qui se curare volunt molliter, accipiunt Anserem, ne Affricam Avem vel Attagen Ionicum non opus ut quis quaerant, appositis quae ibi inveniuntur Deliciis: Haec equidem publica Coquina est & Civilitati plurimum expediens, & ad Civilitatem pertinens: Hinc est quod legitur in Gorgia Platonis, juxta Medicinam esse Coquorum Officium, Simulachrum, & Adulationem quartae Particulae Civitatis. The several Craftsmen, the several Sellers of Wares, and Workmen for Hire, all are distinguished every Morning by themselves, in their places as well as Trades. Besides, there is in London upon the River’s Bank a public Place of Cookery, among the Wines to be sold in the shops, and in the Wine Cellars. There every day you may call for any dish of Meat, roast, fryed or sodden: Fish both small and great: ordinary Flesh for the poorer Sort, and more dainty for the Rich as Venison and Fowl. If Friends come upon a307 sudden, wearied with Travel, to a Citizen’s House and they are loth to wait for curious preparations and dressings for Fresh Meat: let the servants give them water to wash, and Bread to stay their Stomach, and, in the mean time, they run to the water side, where all things that can be desired are at hand. Whatsoever multitude of Soldiers, or other Strangers, enter into the City, at any Hour of the Day or Night or else are about to depart: they may turn in, bate here, refresh themselves to their Content, and so avoid long Fasting and not go away without their dinner. If any desire to fit their dainty tooth, they take a Goose: they need not to long for the Fowl of Africa, no, nor the rare Godwit of Ionia. This is the publick Cookery, and very convenient for the State of a City, and belongs to it. Hence it is, we read in Plato’s Gorgias, that next to the Physician’s Art is the Trade of Cooks, the Image and Flattery of the fourth part of a City.
De Smithfield Of Smithfield
Est ibi extra unam Portarum statim in Suburbio quidam planus Campus Re & Nomine. Omni sexta Feria nisi sit major Festivitas praeceptae Solemnitatis, est ibi celebre Spectaculum Nobilium Equorum venalium. Spectaturi vel empturi veniunt, qui in Urbe assunt, Comites, Barones, Milites, Cives plurimi. Juvat videre Gradarios Succussatura nitente suaviter ambulantes: Pedibus lateraliter simul erectis quasi a subalternis & demissis: Hinc Equos, qui Armigeris magis conveniunt, durius incendentes, sed expedite tamen, qui quasi a Contradictoribus Pedes simul elevant, & deponunt: Hinc nobiles Pullos juniores, qui nondum Fraeno bene assueti, altius incedunt mollis Crura reponunt: Hinc summarios Membris validis & vegetis. Hinc dextrarios preciosos, elegantis Formae, Staturae honestae, micantes Auribus, Cervicibus arduis, Clunibus obesis. In horum Incessu spectant Emptores, primo Passum suaviorem, postea Motum citatiorem, qui est quasi à contrariis Pedibus anterioribus simul Solo amotis & admotis, & posterioribus similiter. Cum talium Sonipedum Cursus immineat, & aliorum forte qui similiter sunt in Genere suo ad Vecturam validi, ad Cursuram vegeti: Clamor attollitur, vulgares Equos in Partem ire praecipitur: Sessores Alipedum Pueri: Tres simul, aliquando bini Certamini se praeparant, docti Equis imperare, indomitorum lupatis temperant Fraenis Ora: hoc maximè praecaverit ne alter alteri Cursum praecipiat. Equi similiter pro Modo suo ad Certamen Cursus illius se attollunt: tremunt Artus, Morae impatientes, stare Loco nesciunt, facto Signo Membra extendunt, Cursum rapiunt, Agilitate pervicaci feruntur: Certant sessores Laudis Amore, Spe Victoriae Equis admissis subdere Calcaria, & nec minus urgere eos Virgis & ciere Clamoribus. Putares omnia in Motu esse, secundum Heraclitum, & salsam omnino Zenonis Sententiam, dicentis, quoniam, non continget moveri, neque Stadium pertransire. Parte alia stant seorsim Rusticorum Peculia, Agrorum Instrumenta, Sues longis Lateribus, Vaccae distentis Uberibus, Corpora magna Boum, lanigerumque Pecus: Stant ibi aptae Aratris, Trahis & Bigis Equae: quarundam Ventres Foetibus protument: alias, editi Foetus obeunt Pulli lasciviores, Sequela inseparabilis. Without one of the Gates is a certain Field plain (or smooth) both in Name and Situation. Every Friday, except some greater Festival come in the way, there is a brave sight of gallant Horses to be sold: Many come out of the City to buy or look on, to wit, Earls, Barons, and Knights, Citizens, all resorting thither. It is a pleasant Sight there to behold the Nags well fleshed, sleik and shining, delightfully walking, and their Feet on either Side up and down together by turns: or also trotting308 Horses, which are more convenient for Men that bear Arms: these, although they set a little harder, go away readily, and lift up and set down together the contrary Feet on either Side. Here are also young Colts of a good Breed, that have not been well accustomed to the bridle: these fling about, and by mounting bravely, shew their mettle. Here are the principal Horses, strong and well limbed. Here also are Brest Horses, (fit to be joined by couples) very fair and handsome, and sleek about the Ears, carrying their Necks aloft, being well fleshed, and round about the309 Buttocks. The Buyers first look at their soft and slow pace, and after cause them to put on with more speed, and behold them in their Gallop. When these Coursers are ready to run their Race, and perhaps some others, which in their kind are both good for carriage and strong for Travel: The People give a Shout, and the Common Hacknies are commanded to go aside. They that ride are Boys: three together, and sometimes two make matches among themselves, being expert in governing their Horses, which they ride with Curb Bridles, labouring by all Means that one get not the race from the Other. And the very Beasts, in like Manner, after their Fashion, are eager for the Race, while their Joints tremble, and impatient of Delay, endure not Standing still in a Place. When the Token is given, they stretch out their Limbs, and run with all Activity and Speed: the Riders spurring them on, for the love of Praise or the hope of Victory: and exciting them by whips and cries. You would think everything were in motion with Heraclitus: and Zeno’s Opinion to be false, saying that nothing moves from place to place. In another part stand the Country People with Cattle and Commodities of the Field, large Swine and Kine with their Udders strutting out, fair-bodied Oxen, and the woolly flock. There are also Cart-Horses, fit for the Dray, the Plough, or the Chariot: and some Mares big with Foal: together with others that have their wanton colts following them close at their Side. 310
Harl. MS., 4751 (13th cent.).
De Navibus & Mercimoniis Concerning Shipping and Merchandise
Ad hanc Urbem, ex omni Natione quae sub Coelo est, navalia gaudent Institores habere Commercia. Aurum mittit Arabs, Species & Thura Sabaeus, Arma Scythes, Oleum Palmarum divite Silva. Pingue Solum Babylon, Nilus Lapides preciosos. Seres purpureas Vestes. Norwegi, Russi, varium Grisium, Sabelinas. Galli sua Vina. To this City Merchants bring in Wares by Ships from every Nation under Heaven. The Arabian sends his Gold, the Sabean his frankincense and Spices, the Scythian Arms: Oil of Palms from the plentiful Wood: Babylon her fat soil, and Nilus his precious Stones: the Seres send purple Garments: they of Norway and Russia, Trouts, Furs, and Sables: and the French their Wines.
De Antiquitate & Politia Its Antiquity and Government
Urbe Roma secundum Chronicorum Fidem satis antiquior est. Ab eisdem quippe Patribus Trojanis haec prius à Bruto condita est, quam illa à Remo & Romulo. Unde & adhuc antiquis eisdem utitur Legibus communibus Institutis. Haec similiter illis Regionibus est distincta: Habet annuos pro Consulibus Vicecomites: habet senatoriam Dignitatem & Magistratus minores: Eluviones & Aquaeductus in Vicis: Ad Genera Causarum deliberativae, demonstrativae, judiciales Loca sua, Fora singula: habet sua Diebus statutis Comitia. According to the Report of Chronicles, it is more ancient than the City of Rome: For, both being descended from the same Trojan Stock, Brute built this, before Remus and Romulus did the other. Whence still it useth the same ancient Laws and common Institutions. For this our City, like to that, is distinguished by Wards and several Limits: it hath Sheriffs every year, answerable to their Consuls: it hath Aldermen enjoying the dignity of Senators, besides inferior Magistrates: it hath also common Sewers, and conveyances for Water in the Streets. Concerning Causes in Question, there are several Places and Courts for Causes deliberative, demonstrative, and judicial: Upon their set Days also they have their Common-council and great Assemblies.
De Consuetudinibus Ecclesiarum Of the Customs of the Churches
Non puto Urbem esse, in qua sint probabiliores Consuetudines in Ecclesiis visitandis, Ordinatis Dei honorandis, Festis feriandis, Eleemosynis dandis, in Hospitibus suscipiendis, in Desponsationibus firmandis, Matrimoniis contrahendis, Nuptiis celebrandis, Conviis ornandis, Convivis hilarandis, etiam in Exequiis curandis & Cadaveribus humandis. I think there is no City that hath more approved Customs, for frequent311ing the Churches, for honouring God’s Ordinances, observing of Holidays, giving Alms, entertaining Strangers, Confirmation of Contracts, making up and celebrating of Marriages, setting out of Feasts, welcoming the Guests, and, moreover, in Funeral Rites, and burying of the Dead.
Pestes Civitatis The Pests of London
Solae Pestes Londini sunt, immoderata Stultorum Potatio, & frequens Incendium. The only Plagues of London are immoderate drinking of idle Fellows, and often Fires.
Frequentia Nobilium Frequented by Nobles
Ad haec, omnes ferè Episcopi, Abbates, & Magnates Angliae, quasi Cives & Municipes sunt Urbis Londoniae: Sua ibi habentes Aedificia praeclara, ubi se recipiunt, ubi Divites Impensas faciunt, ad Consilia, ad Conventus celebres in Urbem evocati, à Domino Rege, vel Metropolitano suo, seu propriis tracti Negotiis. Moreover, almost all Bishops, Abbots, and Noblemen of England are, as it were, Citizens and Freemen of London. There they have fair dwellings, and thither they do often resort, and lay out a great deal of Money: and are called into the City to Consultations and solemn Meetings, either by the king, or their Metropolitan, or drawn by their own business.
De Ludis Of Sports and Pastimes
Amplius, & ad Ludos Urbis veniamus, quoniam non expedit utilem tantum & feriam Urbem esse, nisi dulcis etiam sit & jocunda. Unde & in Sigillis summorum Pontificum, usque ad Tempora Leonis Papae, ex altera Parte Bullae, sculpto per Impressionem Piscatore Petro, & supra eum Clave quasi Manu de Coelis ei porrecta, & circa eum Versu,
Tu pro me Navem liquisti, suscipe Clavem.
Ex altera Parte impressa erat Urbs, & Scriptura ista, Aurea Roma. Item ad Laudem Cæsaris Augusti & Romae dictum est:
Nocte pluit tota, redeunt Spectacula mane,
Divisum Imperium cum Jove Cæsar habes.
Let us also come at last to their Sports and Exercises: For it is expedient that a City be not only commodious for Gain, and serious in Business, but also pleasant and delightful. Therefore, to the time of Pope Leo, the Popes gave in their seals, on one side of their Bull, St. Peter like a Fisherman, and over him a Key reached forth to him, as it were from Heaven,312 by the hand of God, and this Verse about it:
For me Thy Ship thou didst forsake,
Therefore the Key of Heaven take.
On the other part was stamped a City, with this Inscription, Golden Rome. Also, this was written to the Praise of Cæsar Augustus and Rome:
All night the Sky distils down watry Showers,
The Morning clears again to show the Play:
Great Jove and Cæsar have their several hours,
And in this Universe by turns bear Sway.
De Repraesentatione Miraculorum Representation of Miracles
Londonia pro Spectaculis theatralibus, pro Ludis scenicis, Ludos habet sanctiores, Repraesentationes Miraculorum, quae sancti Confessores operati sunt, seu Repraesentationes Passionum, quibus claruit Constantia Martyrum. London, instead of common Interludes belonging to the Theatre, hath Plays of a more Holy Subject: Representations of those Miracles which the holy Confessors wrought, or of the Sufferings wherein the glorious constancy of Martyrs did appear.
De Pugna Gallorum & Ludo Pilae Of Cock-fighting and Ball
Praeterea quotannis Die, quae dicitur Carnivalia, ut a Puerorum Ludis incipiamus, omnes enim Pueri fuimus, Scholarum singuli Pueri suos apportant Magistro suo Gallos gallinaceos Pugnatores & totum illud Antemeridianum datur Ludo Puerorum vacantium, spectare in Scholis suorum Pugnas Gallorum. Post Prandium exit in Campos omnis Juventus Urbis, ad Ludum Pilae celebrem. Singulorum Studiorum Scholares suam habent Pilam: singulorum Officiorum Urbis Exercitatiores suam singuli Pilam in Manibus. Majores Natu Patres, & Divites Urbis in Equis spectatum veniunt Certamina Juniorum, & Modo suo inveniuntur cum Juvenibus, & excitari videtur in eis Motus Caloris naturalis, Contemplatione tanti Motus & Participatione Gaudiorum Adolescentiae liberioris. Moreover, that we may begin with the Schools of Youth, feeling once we were all Children: Yearly at Shrovetide, the Boys of every School bring fighting cocks to their Masters, and all the Forenoon is spent at School to see these Cocks fight together. After dinner all the Youth of the City goeth to play at Ball in the Fields: the Scholars of every study have their Balls. The Practisers also of all the Trades have every one their Ball in their hands. The ancienter Sort, the Fathers, and the wealthy Citizens, come on Horseback to see the Youngsters contending at their sport, with whom, in a Manner, they participate by Motion: stirring313 their own natural heat in the View of the active Youth, with whose Mirth and Liberty they seem to communicate.
Royal MS. 2, B. vii.
De Ludis bellicosis in Campis Sports in Lent
Singulis Diebus Dominicis in Quadragesima post Prandium exit in Campum Juvenum recens Examen in Equis bellicosis & in Equis Certamine primis: quorum quisque sit aptus in Gyros currere doctus Equo. Erumpunt a Portis catervatim Filii Civium laici, instructi Lanceis & Scutis militaribus: Juniores Hastilibus Ferro dempto praesurcatis, Simulachra Belli cient & agonisticam exercent Militiam. Adveniunt & plurimi Aulici Rege in Vicino prosito & de familiis Consulum & Baronum Ephebi nondum Cingulo donati Militiae Gratia concertandi. Accendit singulos Spes Victoriae: Equi feri adhiniunt, tremunt Artus, Fraenos mandunt, impatientes Morae stare Loco nesciunt. Cum tandem Sonipedum rapuit Ungula Cursum, Sessores Adolescentes divisis Agminibus hii praecedentibus instant, nec assequuntur: hi Socios dijiciunt & praetervolant. Every Sunday in Lent, after Dinner, a Company of young Men ride out into the Fields on Horses which are fit for War, and principal Runners: Every one among them is taught to run the Rounds with his Horse. The Citizens’ Sons issue out through the gates by Troops, furnished with Lances and warlike Shields: The younger sort have their Pikes not headed with Iron, where they make a representation of Battle, and exercise a skirmish. There resort to this Exercise many Courtiers, when the King lies near Hand, and young Striplings out of the families of Barons and great Persons, which have not yet attained to the warlike Girdle, to train and skirmish. Hope of Victory inflames every one. The neighing and314 fierce Horses bestir their Joints and chew their Bridles, and cannot endure to stand still: At last they begin their Race, and then the young Men divide their troops: some labour to outstrip their leaders, and cannot reach them: others fling down their Fellows and get beyond them.
Royal MS. 2, B. vii.
De Ludis Navalibus Sea Fights
In Feris Paschalibus ludunt quasi Praelia navalia: In Arbore siquidem Mediamna Scuto fortiter innexo, Navicula multo Remo & Raptu Fluminis cita, in Prora stantem habet Juvenem, Scutum illum Lancea percussurum: qui, si Scuto illi Lanceam illidens frangat eam, & immotus persistat, habet Propositum, Voti compos est: si vero Lancea integra fortiter percusserit, & per fluentem Amnem dejicietur, Navis Motu suo acta Praeterit. Sunt tamen hinc inde secus duae Naves stationariae, & in eis Juvenes plurimi, ut eripiant Percussorem Flumine absorptum cum primo emersus comparet, vel summa rursus cum bullit in Unda. Supra Pontem & in Solariis supra Fluvium, sunt qui talia spectent, multum rideri parati. In Easter Holidays they counterfeit a Sea Fight: a Pole is set up in the middle of the River, with a Target well fastened thereon, and a young Man stands in a Boat which is rowed with Oars, and driven on with the Tide, who with his Spear hits the Target in his Passage: with which Blow, if he break the Spear and stand upright, so that he hold Footing, he hath his Desire: but, if his Spear continue unbroken by the Blow, he is tumbled into the Water, and his Boat passeth clear away: But on either side this Target two Ships stand in Ward, with many young Men ready to take him up, after he is sunk, as soon as he appeareth again on the top of the water: The Spectators stand upon the Bridge, and in Solars upon the River to behold these Things, being prepared for Laughter. 315
De Ludis Aestivalibus, ut Lucta & hujusmodi Summer Sports
In Festis tota Aestate Juvenes Ludentes exercentur, in Saliendo, in Arcu, in Lucta, Jactu Lapidum, amentatis Missilibus ultra Metam expediendis, Parmis Duellionum. Puellarum Cytheraea ducit Choros, & Pede libero pulsatur Tellus, usque imminente Luna. Upon the Holidays all Summer, the Youth is exercised in leaping, Shooting, Wrestling, casting of Stones, and throwing of Javelins fitted with Loops for the Purpose, which they strive to fling beyond the mark: they also use Bucklers, like fighting Men. As for the Maidens, they have their exercise of dancing and tripping until Moonlight.
Prudentius MS., 24199 (11th cent.).
De Pugna Aprorum, Taurorum, & Ursorum Fighting of Boars, Bulls and Bears
In Hyeme singulis fere Festis ante Prandium, vel Apri spumantes pugnant pro Capitibus & Verres fulmineis accincti Dentibus addendi Succidiae, vel pingues Tauri cornupetae, seu Ursi immanes cum objectis depugnant Canibus. In Winter almost every holiday before Dinner, the foaming Boars fight for their heads, and prepare with deadly Tushes to be made Bacon: or else some lusty Bulls, or huge Bears are baited with Dogs. 316
De Ludentibus supra Glaciem Sport upon the Ice
Cùm est congelata Palus illa magna quae Moenia Urbis aquilonia alluit, exeunt lusum super Glaciem densae Juvenum Turmae: Hii ex Cursu Motu captato citatiore, Distantia Pedum posita, magnum Spatium Latere altero praetenso perlabuntur. Alii quasi magnos Lapides molares de Glacie Sedes sibi faciunt: Sessorem unum trahunt plurimi praecurrentes, Manibus se tenentes: in tanta Citatione Motus aliqui Pedibus lapsi cadunt omnes proni. Sunt alii super Glaciem ludere doctiores, singuli Pedibus suis aptantes, & sub Talaribus suis alligantes Ossa, Tibias scilicet Animalium & Palos Ferro acuto subposito tenentes in Manibus, quos aliquando Glaciei illidunt: tanta Rapacitate feruntur, quanta Avis volans, vel Pilum Balistae. Interdum autem magna procul Distantia ex Condicto, duo aliqui ita ab oppositis veniunt, curritur: Palos erigunt, se invicem percutiunt: vel alter, vel ambo cadunt, non sine Laesione corporali, cùm post Casum etiam Vi Motus feruntur ab invicem procul: &, qua Parte Glacies Caput tangit, totum radit, totum decorticat. Plerumque Tibia cadentis, vel Brachium, si super illud ceciderit, confringitur. Sed Aetas avida Gloriae, Juventus cupida Victoriae, ut in veris Praeliis fortius se habeat, ita in simulatis exercetur. When that great Moor, which washeth Moorfields, at the North Wall of the City, is frozen over, great Companies of Young Men go to sport upon the Ice: then fetching a Run, and setting their feet at a distance, and placing their Bodies sideways they slide a great Way. Others take heaps of Ice, as if it were great Millstones and make Seats: Many going before, draw him that sits thereon, holding one another by the Hand: in going so fast, some slipping with their feet all fall down together, some are better practised to the Ice and bind to their shoes Bones as the Legs of some Beasts, and hold Stakes in their hands headed with sharp Iron, which sometimes they strike against the Ice: and these Men go on with Speed as doth a bird in the air, or darts shot from some warlike Engine: sometimes two Men set themselves at a Distance and run one against another as it were at Tilt, with these Stakes wherewith one or both parties are thrown down, not without some hurt to their Bodies: and after their fall, by reason of the violent Motion are carried a good distance one from another: and wheresoever the Ice doth touch their head it rubs off all the skin and lays it bare: and if one fall upon his leg or arm it is usually broken: But young Men being greedy of honour and desirous of Victory, do thus exercise themselves in Counterfeit Battles, that they may bear the Brunt more strongly, when they came to it in good Earnest. 317
De hiis qui delectantur in Avibus Sport with Birds and Dogs
Plurimi Civium delectantur ludentes in Avibus Coeli, Nisis, Accipitribus, & hujusmodi, & in Canibus militantibus in Silvis. Habentque Cives suum Jus Venandi in Middlesexia, Hertfordseira & tota Chiltra, & in Cantia, usque ad Aquam Craiae. Many citizens take delight in Birds, as Sparrow-hawks, Goss-hawks, and such-like, and in Dogs to hunt in the woody ground. The Citizens have authority to hunt in Middlesex, Hertfordshire, all the Chilterns, and in Kent, as far as Gray-water.
Royal MS. 2, B. vii.
Virtus Londonensium The Valour of Londoners
Londonienses, tunc Trinovantes dicti Caium Julium Cæsarem qui nullas nisi Sanguine fuso Vias habere gaudebat, repulerunt. Unde Lucanus,
Territa quaesitis ostendit Terga Britannis.
The Londoners once called Trinovants, repulsed C. Julius Cæsar who commonly paved his way with blood: whereupon Lucan:
He was afraid and foil’d by Briton’s Hand,
That first presumed to invade their Land.
De hiis quos Civitas London peperit Natives of London
Civitas Londonia peperit aliquos, qui Regna plurima & Romanum sibi subdiderunt Imperium: & plurimos alios, quos Mundi Dominos Virtus evexit ad Deos, ut fuerat, in Appollinis Oraculo, Bruto promissum:
Brute, sub occasu Solis, trans Galliae Regna,
Insula in Oceano est undique clausa Mari:
Hanc pete: namque tibi Sedes erit illa perennis,
Haec fiet Natis altera Troja tuis.
Hic de Stirpe tua Reges nascentur, & ipsis
Totius Terrae subditus Orbis erit.
Et Temporibus Christianis, nobilem illum edidit Imperatorem Constantinum, qui Urbem Romam & Imperialia Insignia omnia Deo donavit, & beato Petro & Sylvestro Papae, qui & Statoris exhibuit officium, & se non amplius Imperatorem, sed Sanctae Ecclesiae Romanae Defensorem gavisus est vocari: &, ne Pax Domini Papae occasione praesentiae ejus secularis strepitus tumultu concuteretur, ipse ab urbe Domino Papae collata, omnino discessit, & sibi Civitatem Bizantium edificavit. Londonia & modernis Temporibus Reges illustres magnificosque peperit. Imperatricem Matildem, Henricum Regem tertium, & beatum Thomam Archiepiscopum Christi Martyrem gloriosum, quali non candidiorem ipsa tulit, nec quo fuerit devinctior alter omnibus Bonis totius Orbis Latini.
The City of London hath brought forth some who have subdued many kingdoms, and the Empire of Rome to themselves: and many others who318 being Lords of this World were deified in another: as Apollo’s oracle did promise Brute:
Brute, thou shalt find an Island in the West,
Beyond the Gauls, environ’d with the Main;
Direct thy journey thither for thy Rest,
And there a second Troy shall rise again.
Kings from thy Heirs and Conquerors shall spring,
Who will the World into subjection bring.
And in the times of Christianity, it brought forth the noble Emperor Constantine, who gave the City of Rome and all the Imperial arms to God, and to St. Peter, and Silvester the Pope, whose stirrup he refused not to hold, and pleased rather to be called Defender of the Holy Roman Church, than Emperor any more. And, lest the peace of our Lord the Pope should suffer any disturbance by the Noise of secular affairs, he left the City and bestowed it on the Pope and founded the City of Constantinople for his own Habitation. London also in these latter times hath brought forth famous and magnificent princes: Maud the Empress: King Henry the Third, and Thomas the Archbishop, a glorious martyr of Christ, than whom no man was more innocent, or more devoted to the general Good of the Latin World.

In connection with this important document certain notes are necessary. There were, FitzStephen says, thirteen larger conventual churches and 126 lesser parish churches. The thirteen conventual churches were, one supposes, St. Paul’s, to which was attached a college of Priests, St. Martin’s le Grand, The Priory of the Holy Trinity, St. Mary Overies, the Hospital of St. Katherine by the Tower, the Priory of St. Bartholomew, the Priory of St. John, the Nunnery of Clerkenwell, the Hospital of St. James, St. Mary Spital, the Hospital of St. Thomas of Acon, the Hospital of St. Giles, and the Abbey of Bermondsey. It is possible, however, that his list did not include houses so far from London as St. Giles, St. James, and319 Bermondsey. It certainly did not include Westminster Abbey. The number of parish churches indicates that the City was now completely divided into parishes. Little change, if any, was made in the City parishes from the time of the Confessor till the Great Fire. After this many of the old parish churches were not rebuilt; and at the present day we continually witness a ruthless destruction of old churches and old associations. We have already tried to get some idea of the number of the inhabitants from other sources; we may try again by considering the number of the churches. Every man in the City belonged of course to his parish church; every man was compelled to obey the Church, to fast on fast days, and to attend mass regularly on Sundays and holy days. If we allow 800 souls only, men, women, and children, for each church, we have a total of 108,200. And this, subject to oscillations caused by losses from plague or from war, sometimes as much as320 100,000, and sometimes dropping to 50,000, I take to have been the average population of London for many centuries.


FitzStephen’s “Palatine” Tower is the White Tower, and the other two towers are Baynard’s Castle and Montfichet, both built near the junction of the Fleet with the Thames. FitzStephen speaks with pardonable exaggeration of the northern fields, which were still undrained and covered with bog and quagmire. The “tillage fields” were those belonging to the monks of Westminster south of Holborn and Oxford Street. The seven gates were those of Aldgate, Bishopsgate, Cripplegate, Aldersgate, Newgate, Ludgate, and Bridgegate. Note that the river-side wall by this time had disappeared; it had either fallen down or been taken down. The foundations have been partially uncovered in modern times. The river wall became practically useless after the erection of the Tower and the spread of warehouses along the bank. The bridge could be used to prevent the passage of ships under the arches, so that the upper part of the river was safe, while the Tower might be trusted to defend the small part of the town below the bridge, which, besides, could only be approached by the narrow stairs or the quays.

“The artisans of the several crafts, the vendors of the various commodities, and the labourers of every kind, have each their separate stations which they take every morning.” This shows that the people exposed their wares and carried on their industries in certain assigned spots. Here they had their selds, which were large sheds protected from the weather, in which the things were exposed for sale. A modern fruit-market is a seld; formerly there were selds for everything, and the seld might be a single shanty or it might be a great market like Leadenhall. The names of the modern streets preserve the memory of these selds. Honey Lane, Milk Street, Soper’s (Soaper’s) Lane, Wood Street, The Poultry, Friday Street (where food proper for Friday was sold) and so forth. FitzStephen affords a pleasant glimpse of a busy and prosperous city. Would that the writer had gone into a little more detail! As it is we are thankful for what we get: we could not spare one word of what is written.

And he tells us so much in a few words. What, for instance, can be more complete and more suggestive to the imagination than his description of the London matrons in one word, pithy and full of meaning? They are “Sabines!”—“Sabinae sunt!”

“Quod si pudica mulier in partem juvans,
Domum atque dulces liberos:
Sabina qualis.”—



The City at this time occupied the same area as the Roman Augusta. The conditions of marsh and moor on all sides remained very little changed from the prehistoric days when London had not yet come into existence save for beaten paths or roads leading to north-west and east, and a causeway leading south. Right through the middle of the town flowed the Walbrook, which rose in the moor and ran into the river by means of a culvert. In the Norman time the Walbrook was one of the chief supplies of water that the town possessed. London relied for her water on the Fleet river on the west, on the Walbrook in the midst, on wells scattered here and there about the City, and upon certain springs, of which we know little. At this day, for instance, there is a spring of water under the south-west corner of the Bank of England, which still flows, as it always has done, along the channel of the ancient Walbrook. But as yet there were no conduits of water brought into the town.

Within the town there were 126 parish churches, all of which belonged to Saxon London, a fact which is proved by the patron saints to whom they are dedicated. The Norman Conquest added nothing to the list of churches. Before the Conquest the only Religious House within the walls was that of St. Martin’s le Grand, which was a College of Canons (see p. 212). A legend describes the foundation of a small nunnery at the south end of the ferry over the river. There was also the Cathedral establishment. As yet there were no mendicant friars preaching in the street and begging in the houses, nor did any monastery rear its stately church or receive the offerings of the faithful. The parish church had no foundations or endowments of chantry, obit or day of memory. The Cathedral establishment was small and modest compared with that of the thirteenth century. The Bishop lived in his palace close to St. Paul’s. The Cathedral would be called a stately church even now; it was low with thick pillars and round arched windows, which were already filled with painted glass. The parish churches were quite small, and for the most part of wood: the name of All Hallows Staining, or All Hallows Stone, shows that it was an exceptional thing for a church to be built of stone.

Tib. MS., B. v. (11th cent.).

There were two fortresses in the City, as we have seen, both belonging to the322 King. The modern idea of a street with its opposite row of houses all in line must be altogether laid aside when we go back to the eleventh century. It is, in fact, quite impossible to lay down a street as it actually existed at that time. The most important street in the City, Thames Street, did certainly possess a tolerably even line on its south side; the old course of the river wall and the quays compelled a certain amount of alignment; but on the north side the street was sometimes narrow, sometimes broad, because there was no such reason for an even line; sometimes a great house pushed out a gabled front into the street; sometimes a garden interposed or a warehouse stood back, leaving a broad space in front. As for regularity of alignment, no one thought of such a thing; even down to the reign of Queen Elizabeth only the main streets, such as Cheapside, possessed any such regularity. In one of the exhibitions, a few years since, there was a show which323 they called a street of Old London. The houses were represented as being all in line, as they would be to-day, or as they were in Cheapside in the time of Elizabeth. Considered as a street of Plantagenet London, the thing was absurd, but no one took the trouble to say so, and it pleased many.

From Claud MS., B. iv. (11th cent.).

On the north part of the City the manors, which were the original wards of the City, were still in the eleventh century held by families who had been possessed of them for many generations; even since the resettlement of the City by Alfred. The names of some of the old City families survive. For instance, Bukerel, Orgar, Aylwyn, Ansgar, Luard, Farringdon, Haverhill, Basing, Horne, Algar, and others. On the south part, along the river, it is probable that they had long since been sold and cut up, just as would happen in modern times, for building purposes. The northern quarter, however, was not so thickly built upon, and the manors still preserved something of a rural appearance with broad gardens and orchards. Therefore, in this quarter, the industries of the City found room to establish themselves. It must be remembered that a mediæval city made everything that was wanted for the daily life. In modern times we have separated the industries: for instance, the thousand and one things that are wanted in iron are made in Birmingham; our knives and cutlery are made in Sheffield; but in the eleventh century London made its own iron-work, its own steel-work, its own goldsmiths’ and silversmiths’ work, its saddlery, its leather-work, its furniture, everything. The craftsmen gathered together according to their trades: first, because the craft was hereditary by unwritten law and custom, so that the men of the same trade married in their trade, and formed a tribe apart; they were all one family; next, because there was but one market or place of sale for each trade, the saddlers having their own sheds or shops, the goldsmiths theirs, and so on; a separate324 craftsman, if it had been possible for such a man to exist, would have found it impossible to sell his wares, except at the appointed place. Of shops there were none except in the markets. Next, the workmen had to live together because they had in their own place their workshops and the use of common tools and appliances; and lastly, because a trade working for little more than the needs of the City must be careful not to produce too much, not to receive too many apprentices, and to watch over the standard of work. Every craft, therefore, lived together, under laws and regulations of its own, with a warden and a governing body. The men understood, long before the modern creation of trades unions, what was meant by a trades union; they formed these unions, not only because they were created in the interests of all, but because they were absolutely necessary for mere existence.

They lived, I say, together and close to each other; each craft with its own group of houses or cottages—perhaps mere huts of wattle and daub with thatched roofs and a hole in the roof for the smoke to go out. And they lived in the north part of London, because it was thinly populated and removed from those to whom the noise of their work might give offence. One proof of the comparative thinness of population in the north quarter is furnished by the fact that south of Cheapside there were more than twice as many churches as in the north.

Now, when these people began to cluster together, which was long before the Norman Conquest, in fact, soon after Alfred’s settlement, they built their cottages each to please himself. Thus it was that one house faced the east, another the south, another the north-west. The winding ways were not required for carts or vehicles, which could not be used in these narrow lanes; only for a means of communication by which the things the craftsmen made might be carried to Cheapside or Eastcheap or wherever their productions were exposed for sale. On the north side of Cheapside, therefore, London presented the appearance of a cluster of villages with their parish churches. Each village contained the craftsmen of some trade or mystery. Perhaps the same parish church served for two or more such villages. This part of London was extremely picturesque, according to our ideas. The parish churches were small, and, as I have already said, mostly built of wood; around them were the houses and workshops of the craftsmen; the green churchyard lay about the church; on the north between the houses and the wall were orchards and gardens. The lane from the village to West or East Chepe lay between the houses, winding and turning, sometimes narrow, sometimes broad; the prentices carried the wares, as they were made, to the market, where they were exposed for sale all day; from every one of these villages, from six in the morning till eight in the evening, the sounds of labour were heard: the clang of the hammer on the anvil, the roar of the furnace, the grating of the saw, and the multitudinous tapping, beating, and banging of work and industry; it was a busy and industrious place, where everything was made in the City that was wanted by the City.


We shall have to consider the gilds or guilds in connection with the rise of the Companies separately. It must be remembered, however, that guilds were already in existence, and that there were many of them. (See Mediæval London, vol. ii. p. 108.)

We have been speaking of the northern quarter of London. Let us turn next to that part which lay south of Cheapside. The removal of the river wall followed, but gradually, the reclaiming of the foreshore along the north bank.


We have seen how the first ports of London—Walbrook and Billingsgate—were constructed. The former, a natural harbour but very small, was protected by towers or bastions on either side, and was provided with quays, resting on piles driven into the mud. The latter was simply cut out of the mud and shingle, kept in shape by piles driven close together and provided with quays laid upon the piles. As trade increased the quays increased, not only laterally, but by being advanced farther out into the foreshore. Consider that the process was going on continually, that not only did the quays extend, but that warehouses and houses of all kinds were built upon the sloping bank. The section shows what was going on. The quay (Q) resting on piles driven into the bed of the river (ab), in front of the sloping bank (bc); the warehouse erected behind it, resting against the wall: the level space (cd) cleared for the wall (W), where is now Thames Street: the low hill behind (de). The wall was in the way: without authority, without order, the people pierced it with posterns leading to quays and stairs; without authority they gradually pulled it down.

It is impossible to say when this demolition began; the river wall was standing in the time of Cnut: it appears no more. When Queen Hythe (Edred’s Hythe) was constructed, in size and shape like the port of Billingsgate, either a postern had to be made for it, or a postern already existed.

The reclaiming of the foreshore (see p. 125) was a very important addition to the area of London: it added a slip of ground 2200 yards in length by an average of 100 yards in breadth, i.e. about forty-five acres of ground, which was presently covered with narrow lanes between warehouses. The lanes, many of which remain and are curious places to visit, led to river stairs, and were the residences of the people employed in the service of the port.

As for the removal of the wall, exactly the same process was followed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when the people began gradually to take down the City wall; they built against it, before it, and behind it; and, no one interfered.


The lower part of the town was by far the more crowded: if we take a map of London and count the churches immediately north and south of Cheapside and Cornhill, this fact comes home to us very clearly. Thus, there are north of that boundary, thirty-one; south of the boundary there are sixty-eight, counting roughly. The lower part of the town contained the wharves and the warehouses, the lodgings of the people employed in the work of loading and unloading the ships, the taverns and the places of refreshment for the sailors and such persons; the narrow lanes and the absence of any historical houses in the part south of Thames Street show that the place, after the reclaiming of the foreshore, was always what it is now, either a place for warehouses or for the residence of the service. A great many of the merchants lived on the rising ground north of Thames Street. Hence we find here a great many Companies’ Halls: here Whittington, later on, had his lordly house in which he interviewed kings; here, in the time we are considering, such Norman nobles and knights as had houses in the City all lived. Thus in Elbow Lane lived Pont de l’Arche, second founder of St. Mary Overies. The Earls of Arundel had a house in Botolph Lane, Billingsgate; Lord Beaumont—but this was later—lived beside Paul’s Wharf; Henry FitzAylwin, first Mayor of London, lived close beside London Stone.

I do not suppose that any of the houses in Norman London could compare with the palaces erected by the merchants of the fourteenth century,—there was no such place as Crosby Hall among them; but still they were good and stately houses. There was a large hall in which the whole family lived: the fire was made in a fire-place with open bars; the smoke ascended to the roof, where it found a way out by the lantern; the windows were perhaps glazed; certainly glass merchants appeared in the country in the eleventh century; if they were not glazed they were covered with a white cloth which admitted light; the two meals of the day were served on tables consisting of boards laid on trestles; the servants all slept on the floor on the rushes, each with a log of wood for a pillow, and wrapped in his blanket; the master of the house had one or more bedrooms over the kitchen called the Solar, where he slept in beds, he and his wife and family. At the other end of the hall was a room called the Ladies’ Bower, where the ladies of the house sat in the daytime with the maids. If you want to see an admirable specimen of the mediæval house with the Hall, the Solar, and the Bower, all complete, you may see it at Stokesay Castle, near Ludlow.

In the craftsmen’s cottages the people seem to have all slept on straw. In the fourteenth century, however, we find the craftsmen amply provided with blankets, pillows, and feather-beds.

We can, in fact, at this period, divide the City into parallel belts, according to the character and calling of the residents. Everything to do with the export, import, and wholesale trade was conducted in Thames Street, and on its wharves:327 the porters, stevedores, servants, and sailors lived in the narrow lanes about Puddle Dock at one end of Thames Street, and Tower Hill at the other. That is the first belt—the belt of the port. The rising ground on the north was the residence of the merchants and the better sort. That is the second belt. Next comes the breadth of land bounded by Watling Street and Eastcheap on the south, and by an imaginary line a little north of Cheapside on the north, this was mainly given over to retail trade, and it is the third belt. My theory is illustrated by the names. Thus I find in this retail belt all the names of streets indicating markets, not factories.


The fourth belt is that quarter where the industries were carried on: namely, the large part of the City lying north of Cheapside and Cornhill. Let me repeat that London was a hive of industries: I have counted belonging to the fourteenth century as many as 284 crafts mentioned in the books; and of course there must have been many others not mentioned.

I have called attention to the fact that in the eleventh century there was but one Religious House in the City of London. Considering the great number which sprang up in the next hundred years, this seems remarkable. Let us, however, remind ourselves of an important feature in the history of religion and of Religious Houses in this country. I mean the successive waves of religious enthusiasm which from time to time have passed over our people. In the eighth century there fell upon Saxon England one of these waves—a most curious and unexampled wave—of religious excitement. There appeared, over the whole country, just the328 same spirit of emotional religion which happens at an American camp-meeting or a Salvation Army assembly,—men and women, including kings and queens, earls and princesses, noble thanes and ladies, were alike seized with the idea that the only way to escape from the wrath to come was by way of the monastic life; they therefore crowded into the Religious Houses, and filled them all. After the long struggle with the Danes, for two hundred years there was no more enthusiasm for the religious life, for all the men were wanted for the army, and all the women were wanted to become mothers of more fighting men.

The coldness with which the religious life was viewed by the Londoners was therefore caused by the absolute necessity of fighting for their existence. One Religious House, and that not a monastery but a college, was enough for them: they wanted no more. But London was never irreligious; there was as yet no hatred of Church or priest; there was as yet no suspicion or distrust as to the doctrines taught by Mother Church. For three hundred years the citizens felt no call to the monastic life. In the reign of Henry the First a second wave of religion, of which I have already spoken twice, fell upon the people, and especially the people of London. It was the same wave that drove the French to the Crusades. Under the influence of this new enthusiasm, founders of Religious Houses sprang up in all directions. Already in 1086, Aylwin, a merchant of London, had founded St. Saviour’s Abbey, in Bermondsey. In Bermondsey Abbey it was intended to create a foundation exactly resembling that of St. Peter’s, Westminster. Like the latter House, Bermondsey Abbey was established upon a low-lying islet among the reeds of a broad marsh near the river. The House was destined to have a long and an interesting history, but to be in no way the rival, or the sister, of Westminster. Another Religious House was that of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital and Priory, founded by Rahere, variously stated to have been a jester, a minstrel, a man of mean extraction, and a man of knightly parentage. His origin matters nothing; yet his Foundation exists still, and still confers every year the benefits of an hospital upon thousands of those who suffer and are sick. (See Mediæval London, vol. ii. p. 250.)

Every one knows the Church of St. Mary Overies, commonly called the Church of St. Saviour, across the river. That church belonged to the Religious House founded, or rebuilt and magnified, by two Norman knights. We have spoken of St. Giles in the Fields already. There was a Nunnery founded at Clerkenwell about the year 1100; there was also a House of St. John (see Mediæval London, vol. ii. p. 270). The last of the Houses due to this religious revival is the Priory of the Holy Trinity, Aldgate. This was founded by one Norman as a House of Augustinian Canons. The Queen, Henry the First’s Saxon Queen, Matilda, endowed it with land and with the revenues of Aldgate. It must be acknowledged that this religious revival was both of long continuance and of real depth, since so many were seized329 by it and moved either to found Houses of Religion, or to take upon them the vows of religion.

Nero MS., C. iv. (12th cent.).

There is one more illustration of this religious revival of the twelfth century. This is the Cnihten Gild or Guild. One writer would see in this guild the lost Merchant Guild of the City, of which I have already spoken (see Mediæval London, vol. ii. p. 113), and in the action of the leaders the destruction of the Merchant Guild. Others would see in it a Guild for the defence of the City. I confess that I cannot understand why the Merchant Guild of the whole City should be destroyed by the action of fifteen leaders, nor how a commercial association for the good of all could be broken up by a few of its more important members. It would be also very difficult to make out that this Cnihten Gild did in any sense correspond to the Merchant Guild; and I would ask what a Merchant Guild had to do with fighting? Yet Stow undoubtedly preserves a tradition of battle about the Cnihten Gild. The theory that there was a Company or Guild whose duty it was to organise the defence of the City, to be the officers of a Militia containing every able-bodied man within the walls, seems to account for330 everything. Now this body of citizen soldiers had already six times beaten off the Danes; they therefore possessed an honourable record. When William took possession he was careful to disturb nothing; therefore he did not disturb the Cnihten Gild. If the object of their existence, however, was the defence of the City, they had nothing more to do; for when William built the White Tower in the east and Montfichet in the west, he said to the citizen soldiers, practically, “I will take care of your defence; your work is done.”

This may be theory and imagination. To me it seems to account for the Cnihten Gild more naturally than the supposition of a Merchant Guild. For one does understand the coming of a time when it was no longer necessary to have such a Guild of defence; but one does not understand how any time, or any combination of circumstances, would make it necessary, or even permissible, for the leaders to surrender or to destroy the Merchant Guild, which regulated the whole trade of the City and was above and before all other Guilds.

The facts of the case are as follows: their meaning and importance have been misunderstood until they were explained by Mr. J. H. Round. In the year 1881, however, a paper on the subject was read before the London and Middlesex Archæological Society by Mr. H. C. Coote. They are, briefly, as follows:—

The land which now forms the Ward of Portsoken, i.e. the “Soc” or “Socn” of the City, was in the hands of a certain body known as the Cnihten Gild. There were fifteen of them whose names have been preserved. They were Raulf, son of Algod; Wulward le Doverisshe; Orgar le Prude; Edward Upcornhill; Blackstan, and Alwyn his cousin; Ailwin, and Robert his brother, sons of Leofstan; another Leofstan, the Goldsmith, and Wyzo his son; Hugh, son of Wulgar; Orgar, son of Dereman; Algar Fecusenne; Osbert Drinchewyn, and Adelard Hornewitesume. These men, all London citizens of position, held the lands on trust as members of the Gild.

It was called the Cnihten Gild: the Soldiers’ Guild. They possessed, among other things, a Charter of King Edward the Confessor. It ran as follows:—

“Eadward the King greeteth Ælfward the bishop and Wulfgar the portreeve and all the burgesses of London as a friend. And I make known to you that I will that my men in the English Gild of Knights retain their manorial rights within the city and without over their men; and I will that they retain the good laws (i.e. the privileges) which they had in King Eadgar’s day and in my father’s and Cnut’s day; and I will also (?)27 with God and also man and I will not permit that any man wrong them but they shall all be in peace and God preserve you all.”

There had been Charters, therefore, of Edgar, Ethelred, and Cnut. The Charter of Edward presupposes the existence of the Gild in the time of Edgar. Now, under the Saxon customs a Gild was legally constituted when the members331 created it; the consent of the King was an invention of Norman times. Yet it seems probable that the Gild was first founded in the reign of Edgar for reasons advanced by Coote.

“Immediately before that King’s accession to the throne there had arisen a very cogent necessity for the City to look out for increased protection—for some regular and settled means which should ensure her citizens against sudden and stealthy attacks during that chronic warfare to which the age had been for some time tending. There had been a civil war caused by the disgust of a part of the nation at King Eadwig’s unparallelled profligacy, and in that war, as it is expressly stated by historians, the outskirts of London had suffered much. During its pendency there had been fighting and devastation on both sides of the Thames in the immediate vicinity of the City.”

The Cnihten Gild, therefore, appears to have been an association founded for the purpose of providing for every occasion a permanent standing garrison of defence. The ruling body contained a certain number of leading London citizens: they were the officers of the Gild. They administered the funds and property belonging to the Gild, and were useful in repairing the wall and gates, and in providing arms. It was only by means of the Gild, in which the members were under oath of obedience, that such a garrison could be got together and maintained. How many members the Gild at first contained is not known. It is, however, probable that by the year 1125, when the fifteen named above are described as “of the ancient stock of noble English soldiers,” the Gild had become a small survival still owning property; though, as we have seem, they could have had no duties to perform.

William, however, recognised the existence of the Gild and granted them a Charter. This is lost, but the Charter of William Rufus, which remains, refers to it.

“William, King of England, to Bishop M. and G. de Magnaville and R. Delpare and his lieges of London, Greeting. Know ye that I have granted to the men of the cnihtene gild their gild and the land which belong to them, with all customs, as they were in the time of King Edward and my father. Witness, Henry de Both, at Rethyng.”

And Henry I. also granted them a Charter in which he refers to those of his father and his brother:—

“Henry, King of England, to Bishop M., to the gerefa of London, and to all his Barons and lieges of London, French and English, Greeting. Know ye that I have granted to all the men of the cnihtene gild their gild and land which belong to them, with all customs, as were better in the time of King Edward and my father, and as my brother granted to them by writ and his seal, and I forbid upon pain of forfeiture to me that any man dare do them an injury in respect of this. Witness, R. de Mountford and R. Bigot and H. de Booth, at Westminster.” (London and Middlesex, 1881, vol. v. p. 488.)


Sixty years after the Conquest, the Gild, realising that the original reason for their association no longer remained in existence, proposed to dissolve. What were they to do with the property for which they were trustees? It was the property of the City: it had to be used for the benefit of the City. What better, according to the light of the time, could they do with it than hand it over to the Church and to ask for the prayers of holy men? Accordingly they asked permission of the King to convey the property to the Priory of the Holy Trinity. His consent was obtained. The King appointed as Commissioners for the conveyance Aubrey de Vere (who was afterwards killed in a street riot) and Gervase of Cornhill, and the document was signed by the members of the Gild whose names have been already set forth.

The following document is quoted by Mr. Coote from the records of the Hustings Court at Guildhall:—


“Anno ab incarnacione domini Millesimo centissimo octauo et Anno regni gloriosi Regis Henrici octauo fundata est ecclesia Sancte Trinitatis infra Algate Londoñ per venerabilem Reginam Matildam uxorem Regis predicti, et Consilio sancti Archipresulis Anselmi data est dicta ecclesia Normanno Priori primo tocius regni Canonico. A quo tota Anglia Sancti Augustini Regula ornatur et habitu canonicali vestitur et congregatis ibidem fratribus augebatur in dicta ecclesia multitudo laudancium deum die ac nocte ita quod tota ciuitas delectabatur in aspectu eorum. In tantum quod anno ab incarnacione domini millesimo centesimo vicesimo quinto quidam burgenses Londonie ex illa antiqua nobilium militum Anglorum progenie, scilicet Radulfus filius Algodi Wulwardus le Doverisshe, Orgarus le Prude, Edwardus Upcornhill, Blackstanus et Alwynus cognatus eius, Ailwinus et Robertus fratur eius filii Leostani, Leostanus Aurifaber, et Wyzo filius eius, Hugo filius Wulgari, Algarus fecusenne (sic) Orgarus filius Deremanni, Osbertus Drinchewyn, Adelardus Hornewitesume (sic) conuenientes in capitulo ecclesie Christi que sita est infra muros eiusdem ciuitatis iuxta portam que nuncupatur Algata dederunt ipsi ecclesie et canonicis Deo seruientibus in ea totam terram et socam que dicebatur de Anglissh Cnithegilda urbis que muro adiacet foras eandem portam et protenditur usque in fluuium Thamesiam. Dederunt inquam suscipientes fraternitatem et participium beneficiorum loci illius per manum Normanni Prioris qui eos et predecessores suos in societatem super textum evangelii recepit. Et ut firma et inconutta (sic for inconcussa) staret hec eorum donacio cartam sancti Edwardi cum aliis cartis prescriptis quas inde habebant super altare optulerunt. Et deinde super ipsam terram seisiuerunt predictum priorem per ecclesiam sancti Botulphi que edificata est super eam et est ut aiunt capud ipsius terre. Hec omnia facta sunt coram hiis testibus Bernardo Priore de Dunstap’l, etc. etc. Miserunt ergo predicti donatores quendam exseipsis, Ordgarum scilicet le Prude, ad regem Henricum petentes ut ipse donacionem eorum concederet et confirmaret. Rex vero libenter concessit predictam socam et terram prefate ecclesie liberam et quietam ab omni servicio sicut elemosinam decet et cartam suam sequentem confirmauit.” (London and Middlesex, 1881, vol. v. pp. 477-478.)

The “soc” thus transferred was the right to administer justice, civil or criminal, to, and in respect of, the men or under-tenants of the Gild. The right, therefore, belonged henceforth to the Prior of the Convent who, when Portsoken became a Ward, was, ex officio, Alderman of that Ward.

It is very remarkable that writers on this conveyance have always, down to Mr. Round, assumed that the fifteen who constituted the Gild entered the Priory and assumed the vows of the Order.

The Latin words are, however, quite clear. I repeat them: “Dederunt, inquam, suscipientes fraternitatem et participium beneficiorum loci illius per manum Normanni Prioris qui eos et predecessores suos in societatem super textum evangelii recepit.”

That is:—

“Taking up the fraternity and share in the benefits of that place by the hand of Norman the Prior, who received them and their predecessors into the Society on the text of the Gospels.”

There was attached to every monastery a fraternity whose numbers were not limited: their duties were not defined: probably there were no duties except attendance once a year or so, and gifts to the House according to the power and means of the giver. At the hour of death the members put on the robe of the Order. The Gild, therefore, entered the Fraternity and obtained, by their gift of this land, all the benefits that the Fraternity would claim from its connection with the House for themselves and their predecessors.

Their predecessors could not enter the House; nor could they, since they were on exactly the same footing as their predecessors.

Round illustrates the point by a note:—


“Good instances in point are found in the Ramsey Cartulary where, in 1081, a benefactor to the abbey ‘suscepit e contra a domino abbate et ab omnibus fratribus plenam fraternitatem pro rēge Willelmo, et pro regina Matilda, et pro comite Roberto, et pro semetipso, et uxore sua, et filio qui ejus erit heres, et pro patre et matre ejus, ut sunt participes orationum, elemosinarum, et omnium beneficiorum ipsorum, sed et omnium fratrum sive monasteriorum a quibus societatem susceperunt in omnibus sicut ex ipsis.’ Better still is this parallel: ‘Reynaldus abbas, et totus fratrum conventus de Rameseya cunctis fratribus qui sunt apud Ferefeld in gilda, salutem in Christo. Volumus ut sciatis quod vobis nostram fraternitatem concessimus et communionem beneficii quam pro nobismet ipsis quotidie agimus, per Serlonem, qui vester fuit legatus ad nos, ut sitis participes in hoc et in futuro saeculo.’ The date of this transaction was about the same as that of the admission of the Cnihten Gild to a share in the ‘benefits’ of Holy Trinity; and the grant was similarly made in return for an endowment.” (The Commune of London.)

But he proves the point still more clearly when he traces the subsequent history of the fifteen for many years after the conveyance in act and deed outside the Priory.

The marriage of priests was a burning subject of the day. Practically, priests in England were as much married then as the Anglican clergy are now; they married, as will be shown presently, into families of good position, and occupied much the same position as they do at present. But it was resolved at Rome that celibacy should be enforced among the clergy. The evidence of the Chronicles is somewhat conflicting. There were two important Synods on ecclesiastical affairs—the first held in 1102, and the second in 1108. The celibacy of the clergy appears to the historian a smaller matter than the investiture of any ecclesiastical dignity by the hand of a layman.

Florence of Worcester (circa 1118) mentions the Synod of 1102, and says nothing about the question of celibacy, but refers the decrees on the subject to the year 1108. He also gives in full seventeen canons passed at the Synod of 1125 held at Westminster, by John de Cremona. He says nothing about the Cardinal’s confusion and shame. He also quotes the decrees of the Synod of 1127.

Henry of Huntingdon (circa 1154) says:—

“At the feast of St. Michael, the same year—1102—Anselm, the archbishop, held a synod at London, in which he prohibited the English priests from living with concubines, a thing not before forbidden. Some thought it would greatly promote purity; while others saw the danger in a strictness which, requiring a continence above their strength, might lead them to fall into horrible uncleanness, to the great disgrace of their Christian profession. In this synod several abbots, who had acquired their preferment by means contrary to the will of God, lost them by a sentence conformable to his will.”

And under the year 1125, he describes the visit of John de Cremona, with the discovery which brought his mission to a hurried conclusion.

“At Easter, John of Cremona, Cardinal of Rome, came into England, and visited all the bishoprics and abbeys, not without having many gifts made him.”

“This Cardinal, who in the council bitterly inveighed against the concubines of priests, saying that it was a great scandal that they should rise from the side of a harlot to make Christ’s body, was the same night surprised in company with a prostitute, though he had that very day consecrated the host. The fact was so notorious that it could not be denied, and it is not proper that it should be concealed. The high honour with which the cardinal had been everywhere received was now converted to disgrace, and, by the judgment of God, he turned his steps homewards in confusion and dishonour.”


Roger of Wendover (d. 1256) says that in 1102 Anselm excommunicated priests who had concubines. He says that the Council of 1108 was occupied with the question of investiture. As to the affair of 1125, he simply copies Henry of Huntingdon.

Matthew of Westminster (circa 1320) says that in 1102 Anselm, at a Synod held in St. Paul’s, excommunicated priests who kept concubines—or, in plain words, were married.

The Synod of 1108, he says, was occupied by the question of investiture. About the Cardinal, John of Cremona, he merely says:—

“The said John, who in the council had most especially condemned all priests who kept concubines, being detected himself in the same vice, excused the vice because he said that he was not himself a priest, but a reprover of priests.”

The three strenuous efforts made in 1102, 1108, and in 1125, show the importance attached to the question of priests’ marriages by the Church of Rome.

The deans of 1102, the canons of 1125, and the statutes of 1127 are a revelation of the abuses which were then prevalent in the Church. It would be interesting to compare these ordinances with the condition of the Church in the following centuries. The canons (see Appendix) declared the whole of the Church offices except marriage, viz., chrism, oil, baptism, penance, visitation of the sick, Holy Communion and burial, open to all without fee; they forbade the inheritance of Church patronage; they ordered clerks holding benefices to be ordained priests without delay; that the office of Dean or Prior should be held by a priest; and that of Archdeacon by a deacon at least; that the Bishop alone should have the power of ejecting any person from a benefice; that an excommunicated person should not receive communion from any; that pluralists should be made illegal; that priests should have no women in their houses except such as were free from suspicion; that marriage should be prohibited; that sorcerers should be excommunicated; that priests who kept their concubines should be deprived of their benefice; that the concubines should be expelled the parish; that priests should not hold farms; that tithes be paid honestly; that no abbess or nun was to wear garments more costly than lamb’s wool or cat’s skin.

These regulations were stringent in the highest degree. Nevertheless they appear to have been totally disregarded. A hundred years later, when the Interdict was laid upon England, we find that the priests’ concubines throughout the country had to pay ransom.

For the priests did not give up their wives: they continued to marry; they also continued to present their sons to benefices. In a word, the law became, like most of the mediæval laws, ineffectual, because there was no means of enforcing it and the opinion of the people was against it. On the one hand, there was the danger of the priesthood becoming an hereditary caste, and of benefices descending as by right336 from father to son—a danger which the subsequent history of the Anglican Church shows to have been imaginary or exaggerated; on the other hand, there were the great dangers resulting from the enforced suppression of the most powerful passion, the most overwhelming of all passions, in some men simply irresistible, by denying the natural custom of wedlock. And as history abundantly proves, these dangers were not imaginary.

As to the quarrel between Henry and Anselm, that belongs to the history of the country rather than to that of London.



Let us pass on to consider the daily life of the people. To begin with, they were a busy people; there were no idle men: everybody followed some pursuit; there were the wholesale merchants, the retailers, and the craftsmen. I have submitted a rough division of London streets into belts. In thinking of the aspect of the City, understand that there were no shops in the streets at all; nor was there any crying of things up and down the streets. All the retail trade was carried on in the markets, West Chepe and East Chepe, and the wholesale trade was conducted in Thames Street beside the quays and the warehouses.

The markets were, first, Billingsgate for fish, salt, onions, other fruits and roots, wheat and all kinds of grain; every great ship paid for “standage” twopence; every small ship one penny; a lesser ship one penny; a lesser boat a halfpenny; for every two quarters of corn the King was to have one farthing; on a comb of corn, one penny; on every tun of ale going out of England, fourpence; on every thousand herrings, a farthing, etc. Queenhithe, or Edred’s Hithe, was probably of later date than Billingsgate.

London had already among her inhabitants many merchants of foreign descent; they came from Caen and from Rouen, from Germany and from Flanders. The “Emperor’s Men” had already set up their steelyard and begun to trade within walls of their own, protected by strong gates, and possessed of extensive privileges. The men of Lubeck, Hamburg, and the Flemings, who did not belong to the “Gildhalla Teutonicorum,” also set up their fortified trading-houses. I do not suppose that the connection which was afterwards established between London and the country gentry had yet been established; indeed it is impossible, seeing that most of the manors of England had been granted to the Norman followers of King William, and as yet these new masters of the soil were in no sense English. But, as we have seen, many of the nobles already had their town houses in London.

In the “Dialogus Scaccario,” printed in full in Madox’sHistory of the Exchequer, and in Stubbs’sSelect Charters, there is a most valuable passage on the fusion of the Normans and the English. It is as follows:—


“In the early condition of the Kingdom after the Conquest, those who were left of the subject English used to lay snares secretly against the race of Normans suspected and hateful to them: here and there, wherever the chance offered, they murdered Normans in their forests and remote places, in punishment for which, when the Kings and their ministers for several years raged against the English with exquisite modes of torture, yet found that they would not wholly desist, it was at length resolved that the Hundred in which a Norman was found murdered, if the murderer was not discovered or took to flight, should be condemned to pay a large sum of money, sometimes as much as thirty-six or even forty-three pounds, according to the character of the place and the frequency of the crime....”

“Now, however, the English and the Normans living together and intermarrying with each other, the two nations are so mixed that it is difficult to distinguish, among free men, who is English and who is Norman by descent.”

Claud MS. B. IV. (11th Century).

The fusion of the races was more easy in London than in the country, partly because the Normans had already been settled in the place and were carrying on the very considerable trade which existed with Rouen, Caen, and other northern ports: partly, because there was no rankling sense of injury, such as that which filled the hearts of dispossessed Saxon Thanes. The Norman king kept his word with London; he oppressed no citizen; he deprived no citizen of his property. Moreover, the Normans appear to have taken the lead in many things. Their superior refinement has been somewhat exaggerated, especially when we read of the accomplishments and the learning of the Anglo-Saxon ladies. But there can be no doubt that they introduced habits of temperance in the matter of strong drink. The Norman merchant was held in honour by the Norman knight, and the Norman noble had his town house in the City. Young Thomas Becket was a friend of Richer de l’Aigle of Pevensey; ecclesiastical dignitaries were his father’s guests; and in the chapter which follows on a Norman family, we shall see how they intermarried—Saxon and Norman, noble and burgher.

FitzStephen’s account, though most interesting, leaves out a great many things which we should like to know. He brings before our eyes a city cheerful and busy: the young people delighting in games of all kinds, especially archery, wrestling, mock fights, skating; he shows us a place of great plenty and containing within its walls as much freedom and as much happiness as any mediæval city could expect; he shows us the craftsmen living each in his own quarters; he shows us the monastic houses and the schools of children; he shows us a town in which all went well so long, he says, with significance, as there was a good king. Now the Norman kings were not without their faults, but one thing must be allowed them,—they were strong kings, and at this time339 and for many centuries to come, London wanted above all things a strong king, and if you look back at history you will find that a strong king meant a just king. In fact, though we are as yet far off from an ideal London, FitzStephen makes us understand that the people already possessed in Norman London an amount of liberty which was greater than that enjoyed by any city of France or Spain, and equal probably to that enjoyed by the people of Ghent and Bruges.

Claud MS., B. 4. (11th cent.).

London has always been a City of great plenty. As yet the stretches of foreshore and marsh all down the river were uninhabited, as most of them remain to the present day. All these marshes abounded with birds innumerable: the river was full of fish—fish of all kinds; the supplies of cattle and of sheep and swine came from the meadows belonging to Westminster Abbey, and from the farms of Middlesex. The forest of Middlesex, which began at Islington, stretched north over an extensive tract; the forest of Essex was a continuation to the east, covering what were afterwards Epping and Hainault Forests; the villages of Essex and Middlesex were clearings in the forest. I suppose that the people bred horses, cattle, sheep, and pigs for the London markets.

If the north part of London, where the craftsmen worked, was picturesque with the cottages among the trees, the south part was also picturesque, for the houses of the merchants were there, each with its hall and its garden. Churches stood everywhere. Most of them were quite small, plain village churches; here and there a Saxon church, like that at Bradford on Avon, narrow and dark, no glass in the windows, no pavement on the floor; and down the narrow lanes we could watch the river with the ships going up and down, the Yeo heave Ho! of the outward-bound, and the hymn to the Virgin for safety340 on the voyage from those who worked their way up with the flood tide to deep anchor below the bridge.

As for the people of the City, I venture to quote my own words from another book (London, p. 68):—

“It is an evening in May. What means this procession? Here comes a sturdy rogue marching along valiantly, blowing pipe and beating tabor. After him, a rabble rout of lads and young men, wearing flowers in their caps, and bearing branches and singing lustily.

The workman jumps up and shouts as they go past; the priest and the friar laugh and shout; the girls, gathering together, as is the maidens’ way, laugh and clap their hands. The young men sing as they go and dance as they sing. Spring has come back again—sing cuckoo; the days of light and warmth—sing cuckoo; the time of feasting and of love—sing cuckoo. The proud abbot, with his following, draws rein to let them pass, and laughs to see them—he is, you see, a man first and a monk afterwards. In the gateway of his great house stands the Norman earl with his livery. He waits to let the London youth go by. The earl scorns the English youth no longer; he knows their lustihood. He can even understand their speech. He sends out largesse to the lads to be spent in the good wines of Gascony and of Spain; he joins in the singing; he waves his hand, a brotherly hand, as the floral greenery passes along; he sings with them at the top of his voice—

Sing cuccu—cuccu—nu sing cuccu;
Sing cuccu; sing cuccu nu!

Presently the evening falls. It is light till past eight; the days are long. At nightfall, in summer, the people go to bed. In the great houses they assemble in the hall; in winter they would listen to music and the telling of stories, even the legends of King Arthur. Walter Map or Mapes will collect them and arrange them; and the French romances, such as ‘Amis et Amils,’ ‘Aucassin et Nicolette,’ though these have not yet been written down. In summer they have music before they go to bed. We are in a city that has always been fond of music. The noise of crowd and pipe, tabor and cithern, is now silent in the streets. Rich men kept their own musicians. What said Bishop Grossetête?—

Next hys chamber, besyde hys study,
Hys harper’s chamber was fast ther by.
Many tymes, by nightes and dayes,
He hade solace of notes and layes.
One asked him the resun why
He hadde delyte in minstrelsy?
He answered hym on thys manere
Why he helde the harpe so dere:
The virtu of the harpe thurh skill and right
Wyll destrye the fendys myght,
And to the cros by gode skeyl
Ys the harpe lykened weyl.
Harl. MS., 4751 (13th cent.).

He who looks and listens for the voice of the people in these ancient times hears no more than a confused murmur: one sees a swarm working like ants; a bell rings, they knock off work; another bell, they run together, they shout, they wave their hats; the listener, however, hears no words. It is difficult in any age—even in the present day—to learn or understand what the bas peuple think and what they desire. They want few things indeed in every generation; only, as I said above, the three elements of freedom, health, and just pay. Give them these three, and they will grumble no longer. When a poet puts one of them on his stage and makes him act and makes him speak, we learn the multitude from the type. Later on, after Chaucer and Piers Plowman have spoken, we know the people better—as yet we guess at them, we do not even know them in part. Observe, however, one thing about London—a thing of great significance. When there is a Jacquerie—when the people, who have hitherto been as silent as the patient ox, rise with a wild roar of rage—it is not in London. Here, men have learned—however imperfectly—the lesson that only by combination of all for the general welfare is the common weal advanced. I think, also, that London men,342 even those on the lowest level, have always known very well that their humility of place is due to their own lack of purpose and self-restraint. The air of London had always been charged with the traditions and histories of those who have raised themselves: there never has been a city more generous to her children, more ready to hold out a helping hand: this we shall see illustrated later on: at present all is beginning. The elementary three conditions are felt, but not yet put into words.

We are at present in the boyhood of a city which after a thousand years is still in its strong and vigorous manhood, showing no sign, not the least sign, of senility or decay. Rather does it appear like a city in its first spring of eager youth. But the real work for Saxon and Norman London lies before. It is to come. It is a work which is to be the making of Great Britain and of America, Australia, and the Isles. It is the work of building up, defending, and consolidating the liberties of the Anglo-Saxon race.”

The question of slavery—whether it was common in London, and how long it lasted, is very difficult. When William told his new subjects that they were “law worthy,” he meant that the freemen were law worthy; none but freemen had any privileges at all. No one was allowed to have the freedom of the City unless he was known to be of free condition: and “even if, after he had received the freedom, it became known that he was a person of servile condition, through that same fact he lost the freedom of the City” (Liber Albus, p. 30). Witness the case of Thomas le Bedell, Robert le Bedell, Alan Underwoode, and Edmund May, who in the year 1301 lost their freedom because it was discovered that they held land in villeinage of the Bishop of London. The serfs or villeins held their land “in villeinage” or “in demesne.” They had no rights, and were the absolute property of their lords, who could dispossess them at any moment. Of the lower or dependent class, there were many subdivisions; all these were more or less serfs, holding their lands by the tenure of certain services; in the whole of England, according to Domesday Book, there were about 225,000 of these people, so that, if each of them had a wife and four children, there were a million and a quarter of cultivators of the soil who were also serfs. There is evidence, in plenty, that the condition of these people under the Normans rapidly improved; the Norman knight could not understand all the distinctions; he lumped the people all together and treated freemen and villani in much the same manner. Some of the villeins grew rich; some were emancipated formally; some passed through no form of emancipation; there remained, however, certain disabilities: they were not admitted to the freedom of the City of London, and we hear of complaints made about their admission to holy orders.

If we try to apply these facts to London we are baffled by a difficulty already indicated. Were there serfs in the City? If so, how many? What work did they undertake? Remember—a point already advanced—that in a city of many343 industries, if any industry or craft becomes regarded as especially the work of a slave, no freeman will ever after touch it; and if the slave is emancipated, he will never again do any of that work. But in London there has never been any prejudice against any kind of work. I cannot understand how London, at such a time, could have been composed entirely of freemen; but of the slaves, if there were slaves, I can find no trace, no memory, and no indication.


There is, however, the ancient Saxon custom that obtains in all free boroughs, if a villein fled from his master and found shelter within the walls for a year and a day unclaimed, he thereby became free. Now it is true that mere residence is not enough; a man must remain all that time unclaimed. May we not see in this law the determination that within the walls of London there should be no slave at all? In the Liber Albus all that I can find on the subject is that persons holding land in villeinage shall not be allowed the freedom of the City: this fact seems rather to point in the direction of allowing none but freemen in the City. In 1288 the attorney of the Earl of Cornwall preferred a claim in the Hustings against nine men, the bondmen of the Earl, runaways. The decision of the Court is not given, but it is clear that the men, who were villagers, hoped to remain unclaimed in London, and that they were disappointed. On the whole, therefore, I am of opinion that London would not allow any but freemen to live and work within her walls. And we may remember the clause (No. 24) in the Ordinances of the Council of 1103, to the effect that there shall be no more buying and selling of men, “which was hitherto accustomed.”

We have already seen what were the exports of London under the Saxons and Danes. Of course they remained the same under the Normans. Wool344 was the staple. England subsisted, so to speak, upon her wool. It went to Bruges, to Germany, and to Italy. The imports were, as before, wine from Germany and La Rochelle; spices, gums, cloth of gold, silk, and the finer weapons. New communications were opened up with the Continent, and England lost her ancient isolation, when her people could freely cross into Normandy, where their King was Duke. Trade was carried on by means of the tally. This was a piece of wood, generally willow wood, about nine inches long, cut into notches. Thus, a notch an inch and a half across at the widest or the outside part means £1000; an inch across £100; half an inch £20; and a long, narrow, sloping notch £10. Other convenient marks denoted single pounds, shillings, and pence.

The great fire of 1135 destroyed the whole of London from the Bridge to the Fleet river. It is sometimes said that this fire destroyed everything that was Saxon. Perhaps it did. But things moved very slowly in the eleventh century; we need not believe that there was any change at all in the buildings that succeeded Saxon London; the huts of the craftsmen, once burned down, were rebuilt on exactly the same plan, the frame houses of the merchant were rebuilt exactly as they had been before. What we may regret were the little Saxon churches—would that we had one or two of those left to us—and in addition, everything still remaining of Roman London. We shall never know what remains of Roman villas, temples, basilicas, baths, perished in this and other mediæval fires, of which there were so many.

It must have been mortifying to the English merchant that the whole of the foreign trade, the export and import trade, was carried on by strangers; the Port of London for a long time had no ships, or next to none, of her own. The Flemings and the German ships came and went in fleets too strong to be attacked; otherwise the narrow seas were swarming with pirates. There were English pirates, Norman pirates, and French pirates; none of them were anxious to respect a ship of their own nationality; it seemed as if by merely living in a seaport one became naturally a pirate. Our sailors were simply undisciplined pirates. When Henry the First raised a fleet, the men mutinied and half of them went over to the enemy. The only chance of the London merchants was to send out a fleet strong enough to fight and beat off these pirates. This, however, they could not do; therefore for many a year to come the foreign trade of London remained with the men of Hamburg, Cologne, and Bruges.

On the government of London at this period we have spoken fully in the second volume on Mediæval London, where will be found a chapter called “The Commune” (p. 11).



In Appendix K to Geoffrey de Mandeville, Mr. J. H. Round presents a little group, belonging to this period, of three families, together with a collection of facts and figures which, despite their scantiness, enable us to obtain more than a glimpse of the London Baron; the owner of manors and socs within and without the City; the merchant and the banker; the servant and the officer of the King; the Saxon who was also the companion and equal of the Norman nobles. “Few discoveries,” says Mr. Round, “in the course of these researches have afforded me more satisfaction and pleasure” than the investigation into the origin of Gervase de Cornhill, which led to the recovery of this group of the Norman period. It is difficult to imagine greater satisfaction for one who burrows among the documents of the past than thus to chance upon a chain of facts which bring to light a whole family, with its history, at the time when the Normans and the English were beginning to intermarry, shortly before the time when it was said—

“Jam cohabitantibus Anglicis et Normannis, et alterutrum uxores ducentibus vel nubentibus, sic permixtae sunt nationes, ut vix discerni possit hodie, de liberis loquor, quis Anglicus, quis Normannus sit genere.”

The most important of these families is that descended from one Herlwin, who, since his son was sheriff in 1130 when he was certainly not a very young man, was probably born before the Conquest. Since his name is simply stated without the Norman addition showing his parentage, we may gather that the Saxons after the Conquest retained the usage of giving the name without such qualification. Concerning Herlwin, Mr. Round tells us nothing except that he had at least three sons and one daughter. One of the sons, Ralph FitzHerlwin, was sheriff in 1130. The daughter, Ingenolda, married Roger, “nephew of Hubert.” Ralph FitzHerlwin’s son Robert married Mary, niece of Nicolas, priest of St. Michael Chepe. Nicolas himself was the son of Algar, priest of the same church. This priest Algar held the living on lease from St. Paul’s; his son succeeded him, and presented in his turn the living to his nephew by marriage, Robert FitzRalph, the grandson of Herlwin. We see, therefore, that priests married openly and blamelessly, and that they were able in some cases, as when they held a benefice, to bequeath, or to346 transfer it to their heirs. Probably Nicolas had no sons, or Robert FitzRalph would have had to look elsewhere for a living. It is also apparent that the parish priests were recruited from the governing class of the City, and that this class intermarried with the children of the clergy.

Roger, “nephew to Hubert,” was evidently a man of great consideration. He was chosen by the King in 1125 with Aubrey de Vere to invest the House of the Holy Trinity with the Portsoken when the Cnihten Gild handed it over to the monks. He was sheriff in the same year: he is mentioned in an earlier document as one of the “Barons of London,”—“Hugoni de Bocheland, Rogero, Leofstano, Ordgaro, et omnibus aliis baronibus Lundoniae.” Mr. Round has found two Royal Charters, one of which conveys to him the Manor of Chalk. Roger was one of the multitude who were affected by the great religious enthusiasm of the time: he must needs go on pilgrimage, and went to Jerusalem, dying on the way there or back, if he did not die in the Holy City itself. It will be remembered that another city magnate, Gilbert Becket, also went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem at the same time. The son Gervase was called De Cornhill, as the heir of his wife’s father, Edward de Cornhill or Hupcornhill. Mr. Round notes, on the form Hupcornhill, similar forms at Colchester, as “Opethewalle” and “Hoppeoverhumber,” i.e. the man who came “up from beyond the Humber.” He was sheriff in 1155, and is mentioned as Justiciar of London in the only Charter left of those granted by Stephen’s Queen, “Sciatis quod dedi Gervasio Justicianis de Londonia X marcetas terrae.”

This Gervase of Cornhill or Gervase FitzRoger was one of the most prominent of the London citizens during the reigns of Stephen and Henry II. He was born about the year 1110 and he died about the year 1183. He was a landowner in the City and in the country. The Manor of Chalk, which had been granted to his father, Roger, was afterwards granted to him. In the records of the Duchy of Lancaster (1123-1136) is a grant of land in “Eadintune” by William Archbishop of Canterbury to Gervase and Agnes his wife. Agnes is described as the daughter of Edward of Cornhill and Godeleve his wife. The name of Gervase occurs twice under Stephen and “innumerable times” (Round) under Henry II., both in a public and a private capacity. Gervase was not only a merchant: like all successful merchants of the time he advanced money on mortgage and obtained lands by foreclosing.

The strange history of the Cnihten Gild and its dissolution has already been told. The light of reality is thrown upon this event when we read that Edward of Cornhill was one of the Gild; that Edward of Southwark, the father of Godeleve, and William of Southwark her brother, were witnesses of the deed conveying Portsoken to the Holy Trinity Priory, as well as Roger, Gervase’s father.

Turn again to Gervase of Cornhill. His son Henry, Sheriff of London, Kent, and Surrey, married Alice, a daughter and heiress of the English branch of the De347 Courceys. She afterwards married Warin FitzGerald. The daughter of Henry and Alice, Joan de Cornhill, married Hugh de Neville, Forester of England. I think that nothing, so far discovered, better illustrates the position of the London merchants than this genealogy and these facts, rescued by a laborious antiquary from the scanty records of the time. We see the Barons of London on an equality with the Norman aristocracy, acting with them, and intermarrying with them; acquiring lands in the country; going on pilgrimage to the Holy Land; becoming the principal actors in that most remarkable event,—the Dissolution of the venerable Saxon Gild and the transfer of the property which they held in trust to a Religious House. We see a merchant of London holding the post of Justiciar. I wish it had been possible for Mr. Round to have carried his researches further into the annals of this family. One knows not where their descendants might be found at the present day.

One more episode in the history of Gervase has been unearthed by Mr. Round (Feudal England, p. 471).

The manor of Langham in Essex, near Colchester, was part of the property of the great Clare family. It was given by Richard de Clare, some time before the year 1086, to Walter Tirel, who married his daughter Adeliza. Sometime between 1138 and 1148, Hugh Tirel sold the manor, or raised money upon it, the purchaser, or the lender, being Gervase of Cornhill, who obtained possession of it either by foreclosing the mortgage or by purchase, Hugh Tirel himself taking a part in the Crusade, while the London merchant, staying at home, profited by the religious enthusiasm of the time. Fifty years later, Richard I. granted permission to Henry, son of Gervase of Cornhill, to enclose and impark his woods at Langham. “Thus,” says Round, “did the wealthy Londoner become a country squire some centuries ago.” (See Appendix V.)


Genealogical tree
Genealogical tree

A tabular representation of the tree is shown here.





Let us add to this account that of the discoveries made in the Parish of St. Michael Crooked Lane in connection with the approaches of the new London Bridge:—

“On cutting through the present embankment of the river, it appeared, as might be expected, to be of comparatively modern construction. The outward wall was upright, and of Kentish rag, in courses of about fourteen inches, and about one foot in the bed. It was backed by quantities of chalk and great lumps of madrepore; the latter supposed, from being of foreign produce, to have been brought hither by ships as ballast, and thrown against the wall as rubbish to fill up the vacant spaces.

Proceeding northwards, the ground was found to be a mass of marsh, extending from the river’s edge to about sixty feet beyond Thames Street, evidently from its having once formed part of the bed of the river. It shelved up towards Thames Street, and was dug into from ten to twenty-four feet deep at that part, to find a safe foundation for laying the south abutment of the land arch built across Thames Street; but the soil proved to be so loose that vast quantities of solid materials were obliged to be sunk for making a secure foundation. This was also the case in laying the foundations of the walls of all the brick arches which support the northern approach; though in no place was the soil found of so marshy a nature as here.

The site of the ancient ‘Oyster gate’ was identified by cart-loads of oyster shells being found on the spot. This place had been hid in the reign of Elizabeth, by building what Stowe calls the artificial forcier or engine for increasing the supply of Thames water to the metropolis, and which was succeeded by the later Waterworks. In digging at the greatest depth on this site, there was turned up part of a leathern sandal, singularly looped on the sides, which had been apparently lost in the mud; also some fragments of Roman pottery, and a few coins.

The principal discovery here, and beyond it northwards, however, was of two separate ancient lines of embankment, one being on the south side of Thames Street, and the other at some distance.

The first embankment, on the south side of Thames Street, was found about ten feet below the surface of the street, and was traced to the depth of more than twenty feet. It was formed of large solid trees of oak and chesnut, about two feet square, roughly hewn, having camp sheathings, and strong timber waltlings spiked to the piles, the whole of great strength and massiveness.” (St. Michael Crooked Lane, pp. 13-14.)

The original embankment lower down the river at Dagenham was352 “composed of large trunks of trees, similar to what were discovered on the above occasion in Thames Street, only that yew trees were used instead of oaks. On digging down about twenty-two feet, at a place called the Moor-logg (a marsh which must have aboriginally resembled Southwark), they met with a vein of divers sorts of rotten wood (yew timber only, which was found amongst it, being not decayed), which lay about three feet and a half or four feet underneath the surface of the marsh ground belonging to the levels, about ten feet in depth, and with very little mixture of earth that could be discerned amongst it. Underneath it there was about twelve or fifteen inches depth of blue clay, then gravel and sand. A great part of this Moor-logg seemed to be comprised of small brushwood; and many hazel-nuts had been taken up in digging, which the captain had in his hand, and looked to have been firm, but upon a very little pressure they broke to dust. Several of the yew trees found were fourteen or sixteen inches diameter, and perfectly sound excepting the sap. The willow or sallow trees were, many of them, found of two feet and upwards diameter, and retained a whitish colour, like touchwood. Above the vein mentioned they found, as in Thames Street, stags’ horns. The same sort of marsh ground was found at Woolwich and Deptford.” (St. Michael Crooked Lane, pp. 15-16, note.)

In 1826 an excavation in Tooley Street brought to light a curious embankment.

“The first few feet were made ground, merely rubbish; then came a thick, close, sedimentary deposit of alluvial clay and Thames-river mud, averaging about seven to ten feet thick, which evidently had its origin in the tidal and sedimentary matter from the adjacent river. Below this mud and clayey deposit was a close stratum of peat, tightly compressed, varying materially in thickness in different places along the street, but averaging from two to four and five feet in thickness. This peat was chiefly composed of vestiges of hazel trees, hazel-nuts in beautiful preservation, fragments of oak, beech, and other trees, and leaves and stems of various plants confusedly intermixed; the wood and hazel-nuts and the oak differing in no respect, in their character, from what might be grown at the present time in the same neighbourhood. This peat and wood had undergone no apparent chemical change. It was highly saturated with moisture, had rather an agreeable odour, and was of a light brown colour. Fragments of the hazel and oak wood, on being kept in a dry situation for two or three months, shrunk into about one-tenth of their original size by the evaporation of the combined water, but left the outside bark in its original shape, while the remaining inside, ligneous fibre of the hazel or oak became, on cutting it with a knife, nearly as black and as hard as ebony. Below this stratum of peat came the usual angular fragments, called by geologists diluvial gravel; consisting of fragments of flint, reposing on the great argillaceous deposit of the blue London clay.” (St. Michael Crooked Lane, pp. 16-17, note.)

Returning to St. Michael’s, “the 2nd embankment was discovered about sixty feet beyond the north side of Thames Street, towards Crooked Lane, and was of a completely different character from the one just described. It was composed of strong elm piles, from eight to ten feet long, closely driven together in the ground, with a waling-piece, or brace, at the top.” (Ibid. pp. 16-18.)



The following extracts from Archæologia, vol. iii., give fuller information on the results of excavation along the river-side.

“It is well known that, to arrive at the solid clay in Thames Street for the purpose of planting foundations, a considerable depth must be attained. It must be remembered that, apart from the accumulation of centuries since the Roman occupation, the levels of this neighbourhood were greatly altered at the time of the Great Fire. The slope of the various hills leading from Cannon Street to the river was entirely changed, and in Thames Street the roadway was in many places raised from 3 to 7 feet. In watching, therefore, the sinking of the shafts which were to receive the piers of the railway arches, it was possible to trace the successive mementoes of London’s history from the last century back to the Roman period. There were the traders’ tokens, bellarmines, and other late pottery, mediæval spurs, daggers, objects in leather, and lastly occurred the coins, styli, pins in bone and bronze, personal ornaments, etc., associated with quantities of the bright red Samian pottery. From 20 to 25 feet appeared to be the average depth of the Roman level, and here, driven into the clay along the whole extent of the excavations, were numerous piles and transverse beams extending right across the street, and forming a complete network of timber. Many of these beams measured as much as 18 inches square, and all were of great strength and durability. They doubtless formed the old water-line and Thames embankment fronting the southern portion of Roman London. Such beams were observed on both sides of the street, and many had probably been supports for the Roman buildings which so plentifully existed in the neighbourhood of Bush Lane and Scots Yard. Towards Cannon Street were large masses of Roman masonry, such as have been described by Mr. Roach Smith in the twenty-ninth volume of the Archæologia. Much of this had to be removed, and it was interesting to observe how completely the old walls defied the appliances of modern engineering, the necessary dislodgment being only effected by the aid of gunpowder; in some cases, I believe, the veritable Roman walls now form foundations for the support of the railway arches. In some places could be detected the junction of the clay and gravel with the soft black earth and refuse, betokening the old course of the Wallbrook, which at Dowgate dock flowed into the Thames. From the great quantity of antiquities, it has been suggested that this particular spot may have been an ancient rubbish-shoot, such as the celebrated pit at the Royal Exchange. The beautiful preservation of the coins and metal objects favours the idea that the whole had been formerly covered by the Thames.”

“From the Steelyard there is a very elegant bronze in low relief, respecting which various conjectures have been made. Mr. Smith pronounces it a figure of Hope; and he refers to the coins of Claudius, with a similar figure, inscribed ‘SPES AVGVSTA.’ It seems to have been affixed to a coffer or to some object as a decoration. It is now in the possession of Mr. Cecil Brent, to whom we owe so much for the interest he has so successfully taken in the antiquities of Roman London.

Of coins may be selected large and middle brass of Claudius, Nero, Vespasian, and Domitian; but their reverses are all well known.


Pottery is well represented, large quantities of Samian having been found, including some fine examples, bearing incuse patterns, which are extremely uncommon. There are also some good specimens of Upchurch pottery; one of the black vessels appears to have had a handle, and is of an unusual type.

In glass there are pieces known as pillar moulding, which are very rare in London, though in some parts of England perfect vessels of this kind have at times been found, and are duly recorded in Mr. Roach Smith’sCollectanea Antiqua, as well as in his Roman London. Pins, needles, knives, and spoons have been found in large numbers both in bone and bronze. Among the spoons is a perfect example of the long-stemmed spoon, with a narrow bowl at one end and an oblong termination at the other. Such are figured by Mr. Roach Smith, who considers them to have been employed in extracting unguents, etc., from the small long-necked bottles familiarly known as lachrymatories. Two of similar form were, he says, discovered in a metal case with a box of colours, and a variety of implements and glass bottles, in the grave of a female painter near Fontenay; and, as the whole of the minor objects clearly appertained to the profession of the defunct, these spoons were doubtless used for extracting liquids from the bottles for mixing and preparing colours, in which process the oblong ends were probably of service. We have also some good Roman keys, a few fibulæ, the beam of a pair of scales, and, among the minor relics, a little fish-hook; a plentiful supply too of Roman leather. Some of the sandals are beautifully preserved, and indicate the moisture of the soil in which they were embedded. Most of these (as is usual) are of small and medium size, having doubtless belonged to females and young people; but there are those that have evidently belonged to the other sex. The round-topped nails with which the soles are so densely studded are, with other appearances of strength, evidences that they once belonged to feet accustomed to a firm and heavy tread.”


“The numerous piles and transverse beams which extended across Thames Street were traced for a considerable distance along the river bank, and in an upward direction towards Cannon Street. So complete a network of timber did they form, and so massive and durable were the means employed for holding the entire fabric together, that it is evident it was intended to resist a heavy strain or pressure. The Wallbrook here flowed into the Thames, and the drainage of the old city being on a different scale to what it now is, it is probable that the soil of the locality would be damp and yielding, and that some protection for the foundations of the buildings reared along the water line would be necessary against the inroads of the river. Above this embankment buildings of great magnitude must have existed, if we may judge from the strength and solidity of these foundations. Mr. Thomas D. E. Gunston, who paid great attention to the excavations at the time, took copious notes, from which he has courteously permitted me to condense the more important particulars. Running nearly in a line with Bush Lane was an immense external wall, some 200 feet long, 10 feet high, and 12 feet in thickness, formed of ragstone, chalk, and a variety of materials bound together with mortar in the ordinary Roman fashion. At an angle were foundations 8 feet wide, of flint and rubble supporting smaller walls, some 3 feet wide, composed principally of bonding tiles 18 inches by 12. These were connected by a series of cross walls 2 feet 6 inches thick, and built of flat tiles 14 inches by 11, also set on rubble footings 4 feet in width. Still nearer Cannon Street were the remains of an apartment 50 feet by 40, floored with a coarse red concrete; this was connected with a second, which had access to a third but smaller room. A long series of smaller apartments were satisfactorily traced, with floors of coarse tesseræ of red and yellow brick in cubes about an inch square. Some little distance in front of the centre apartment in this series was a square piece of paving comprised of oblong bricks on edge, known as ‘herring-bone pavement.’ Adjoining a thick rubble wall was a large portion of a mosaic pavement, comprised of half-inch cubes of black, white, red, and grey tesseræ, worked into a simple pattern and surrounded by a double border of black and grey stones of a compact nature, and from 4 to 6 inches square, but varying in thickness. In close proximity to this human remains were found. There were evidences of strong timber drains, or waterways, one 5 feet beneath the foundations of the building, and having a steep incline to the river. This measured 4 feet across, and was 18 inches deep, the boards forming the sides being 4 inches and those at the bottom 6 inches in thickness. The other channels were of smaller dimensions.

Within several of the rooms wall paintings remained, the designs in various colours; some divided by lines and bands into panels, others ornamented by a trellis-pattern, or powdering of fancy-coloured spots: besides a quantity of roofing, hypocaust, and building tiles; fragments of pottery, glass, and articles of personal and domestic use. On many of the tiles were the letters PPBR, LON, such as have been observed before to be worthy of notice, as ‘recording the fact of their having been made by the first cohort of the Britons stationed at Londinium’; others were scored with geometrical figures, or small squares worked with a diamond pattern.”



In the Appendix to his edition of Stow, 1720, Strype devotes a short chapter to the antiquities found in London, which I have thought of sufficient importance to be transcribed in full.

“There are preserved, either in public Repositories, or in more private Custody, many Antique Curiosities: Found chiefly in digging Foundations for the Building of London after the great Fire, and occasionally at other Times.

In the Repository of the Royal Society in Gresham College, there is a large Glass Urn, that holds about a Gallon; and hath a few Shivers of Bones in it: It was taken up since the Fire in Spittlefields. The Glass is somewhat thick, bellying out, and contracting towards the Mouth with a Lip.

But the Collections made by Dr. John Woodward, Professor of Physic in Gresham College, is by much the most considerable of any. For, besides an ancient marble Bust of Jupiter, a Marble Head with a Phrygian Tiara, a Grecian Basso-Relievo, a Votive Shield, exhibiting the Sacking of Rome by the Gauls; the Embossment of which is allowed by the greatest Judges to be the finest and most exquisite that all Antiquity hath left us: Several Icunculi of the Deities, both Egyptian and Roman: A considerable Variety of Amulets, Periapta, Phalli, Bullæ, Scarabæi: Gems with historical Sculpture, Heads, etc. graven upon them. Camei and Intaglias of Egyptian, Grecian, and Roman Work: Many Roman, Greek, Syrian, and other Medals: Roman Weights: A Roman Semi-Congius: Urns, Lachrymatories, and other Things, procured from Alexandria, Constantinople, Rome, etc. And besides, an ancient Roman Altar from the Picts Wall in Northumberland, with a considerable Inscription upon it: Several ancient Weapons of Brass, Thuribula, Pateræ, Urns, etc., found in the remoter Parts of this Kingdom, Cumberland, the Isle of Man, Yorkshire, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire, Devonshire, etc. He hath a vast Variety of ancient Instruments, Utensils, Vasa, and the like, that have been discovered in several Places in and about this City: In particular, several Vessels of religious Use, and employed in the Sacrifices, as for Example, Præfericula, Simpula, Pateræ, Thuribula, Labra, digged up; together with Horns, Teeth, and other Parts of the Beasts that were offered in Sacrifice; above twenty Sepulchral Urns of various Forms and Sizes: Likewise, Lanxes, Amphoræ, Crateres, Scyphi, Gutti, Pocula, Ollæ nummariæ clausæ; Parts of the Plasmata fictilia, in which the embossed Vasa were molded; and Lamps of various Sorts. The precedent Vessels are of Pot or Earth; several of them extremely fine, well baked, some curiously glazed, and the Colours very beautiful.

As to their Forms, they are universally very elegant and handsome. And indeed the Doctor, the Possessor of them, well observeth, that the Remains of these Works of the Romans shew them to have been a People of an exact Genius, good Fancy, and curious Contrivance.

’Tis observable also in this Collection, that the Things are fair, well preserved, and intire; which, considering the great Number and Diversity of them; how brittle Pots and Glasses are, and how liable to be defaced, injured, and dashed in Pieces, is the more extraordinary.

He hath likewise in his cabinet of Antiquities a Glass Urn, with a Cover; also a Scyphus; divers Ampullæ, Phialæ, and Lachrymatories of Glass, that are very fair and perfect. Then, there are several Pieces of British Money, coined both before and after the Descent of the Romans upon this Island. As also Roman Numismata, coined here: (Besides Saxon, Danish, and Norman Coins, which, as well357 as others, are very fair, and happily preserved). Likewise, Styles of Ivory, Bone, and Steel: Several Fibulæ, Aciculi, Bullæ, Claves, Armillae, Annuli, Beads of various Sorts; Aleæ, Tessaræ, Pectines, Calcaria, Spicula, Jacula. Likewise Tiles, Pieces of Lithostrata, or tessellated Pavements of Earth, Glass, Paste, Enamel, and gilded.

So that Dr. Woodward’s Musæum is a Treasury of all Sorts of Commodities and Utensils, sacred and profane, of ancient Heathen Rome: As Vessels for Sacrifice, and for other subordinate Uses in Sacris. Vessels also for Uses Domestic, Sepulchral, Military, Personal, for wearing and dressing: Also divers Pieces of Art relating to Building, or Sculpture, explanatory of some Parts of Roman History.

Besides these Remains of Roman skill and Workmanship, here are also reposited several Gothic Historical Carvings, in Copper, Ivory, and Wood; the Work of some of them very good: Impresses on Lead, and leaden Seals, that have been affixed anciently to Popes’ Bulls; with various other Things, all well chosen, of real Importance, and serviceable to some useful Design.

One great Intention of this learned Gentleman (as he hath assured me) in amassing together so great a number of these Things, and that with so great Diligence, Trouble and Expence, was in order to clear and give Light to those ancient Writers who mention and treat of them, viz. the Greeks and Romans; which he hath read and studied with great Exactness. Another of his Ends herein was, to illustrate the History and Antiquities of this great and noble City; out of the Ruins of which these Things were retrieved, upon the Occasion of that great digging, (greater indeed than ever happened from the Foundation of it before) and the removal of Rubbish that was made in all Parts, after the late great Fire. And, indeed, the Medals and Coins, the various Figures, Historical Embossments, and Inscriptions upon the Vases, contribute very much to that End. And farther, from the various Places in which the Urns were found reposited, (which, according to the Laws of the twelve Tables, were to be buried without the Walls) he is able to ascertain the ancient Bounds of this City, whilst Roman: From several Things discovered in laying the Foundation of St. Paul’s Church, to shew, not only that there was anciently a Temple there; but also, by some Instances to prove that it was dedicated to Diana, according to the ancient Tradition, notwithstanding that a very learned Antiquary as well as Divine, has lately offered to the contrary.

Indeed, the far greater Part of these Things is so very considerable, that it would afford much Satisfaction to inquisitive People, to see Icons graved of them; and that the Possessor could have spared so much Time from his Business, and his other Studies, as to have writ his own Observations and Reflections upon them, that I might have entered them (as I requested of him) in this Work.

In Black Fryars, in clearing away the Rubbish, in order to building after the great Fire, they came to a thick Wall, very probably a Part of the Foundation Wall of the Old Fryery. In which Wall was placed somewhat like a Cupboard, shut. Which being opened, in it were found four dead Men’s Heads, reposited in fine Pewter Cases, made for them; round, only flat on one side; and a thick Cover of Pewter, having a Ring fastened on the Top, for the more convenient taking it off, or putting it on. Three of these Heads are now lost; likely enough conveighed beyond Sea, where they may serve for Relicks. That which remained is, or was lately, in the Possession of Mr. Prestbury; a Sopemaker in East Smithfield, who shewed it me Oct. 2, 1703. We took out the Head from the Case: It had been wrapt in black Silk, which was then grown rotten. The Skin was like a Piece of tanned Leather, or Bacon. The Hair of the Temples yellow, but upon the Head the Hair was red, short, and thick, and would not be pulled off. There was a Tonsure, or round bare place on the Crown of the Head, that bespake him to have been in Holy Orders: the Nose flat, as tho’ a piece of it had been cut off: The Mouth gaping: The Teeth in the Head found, ten in Number; the rest had been pulled out. The Feature still discoverable. There remained a great deal of Dust of a brownish Colour in the Case. On the Side of the Cover was scratched this Name in a bad Character, I. Cornelius. There was one Corpse found near it under Ground, without a Head. These seem to have been Fryars of this religious House, or some of their Benefactors, or their Saints or Martyrs. Whose Heads, perhaps, were taken out and shewn upon extraordinary Days and Occasions: And upon the Dissolution of the House (it may be) here concealed.


Near the Foundation of Charing Cross, at a great depth, were Stones found, which seemed to be a Sort of coarse Marble, of a blackish colour, and cut into several plain Sides, but irregular. From whence, saith Dr. Crew, they may be argued to be very ancient. These were given by Sir Joseph Williamson to the Museum in Gresham College.

In Mark Lane a strange Brick was found 40 Years before, or better, about 28 Foot deep in the Ground, by Mr. Stockley, while he was digging a Foundation and Cellars for an House which he built for Mr. Woolly. On this Brick was formed Sampson (as I had it from J. Bagford) with the Jaw Bone of an Ass in his right Hand, and his left Hand lifted up; with two Foxes before him, running together, with Firebrands at their Tails; scaring them into high standing Corn hard by. This, methinks, might have belonged to the House of some Jew dwelling thereabouts; signifying his malice to some neighbouring Christian Merchant that dealt in Corn. For ’tis remarkable, that near this Place where this Brick was found, was also digged up burnt Wheat, to the Quantity of many Quarters; very black, but yet sound: Probably it was some Granary consumed by Fire.

But take what the said Mr. Bagford hath since writ in his letter to Mr. Hearn of Oxford: That this brick was of a Roman Make, of a curious red Clay, and in Bass relief; and was a Key Brick to the Arch: And the burnt Wheat was conjectured to have lain buried ever since the burning of the City 800 Years before. And that it is preserved in the Museum belonging to the Royal Society in Fleet Street. And that Mr. Waller’s Conjecture of it was, that it had been made and set there by some Jew, settling here, in the Arch of his own Granary.

A Piece of Mosaic Work found deep under Ground in Holborn, near St. Andrew’s Church, inlaid with black, white, and Red Stones in squares and other regular Figures. In the abovesaid Museum.

In digging for the Foundations of St. Paul’s Cathedral at the West End since the Fire, was found variety of Roman sacrificing Vessels, whereof a great quantity of the Fragments were digged up. They were made of a curious red Earth; the Glazing of them still remains, which is curious. They are of divers Shapes and Sizes, as Occasion should require them to be made Use of in their Sacrifices. And in many, the Potter’s Name was stamped at the Bottom. Some of these Mr. Bagford, a Citizen of London, studious of Antiquities and especially of such as relate to the said city, took up with his own Hands. Farther, on the South Side of the said West End was found a Potter’s Kiln, the Shape of which was circular. In this the abovesaid sacrificing Vessels probably were made. It was near to the Temple where Diana was worshipped, for the more Convenience of the People that came thither to sacrifice; that they might be furnished with all Sorts of Vessels they had Occasion for, at the Time when they made their Sacrifices. And likewise thereabouts were found several Moulds of Earth, some exhibiting Figures of Men, of Lions, of Leaves of Trees, and other Things. These were used to make Impression of those Things upon the Vessels. These Moulds are also among the forementioned curious Collections of Dr. Woodward. The representation of the aforesaid Pottery, drawn with a Pen, is in the Possession of Sir Hans Sloan, Bart, M.D., of the Royal Society, with a Description of it added.

Also, at the South Side of St. Paul’s Church, at the Beginning to build it after the Fire, were found several Scalps of Oxen, and a large Quantity of Boars Tusks, with divers earthen Vessels, especially Pateræ of different Shapes.

In Canning Street, nigh Bush Lane, was found pretty deep in the Earth, a large Pavement of Roman Mosaic Work. Dr. Hook gave a Piece of it to the Repository in Gresham College.

In Goodman’s Fields, without Aldgate, was a Roman burying Place. For, since the Buildings there, about 1678, have been found there (in digging for Foundations) vast Quantities of Urns, and other Roman Utensils, as Knives, Combs, etc., which are likewise in the Possession of Dr. Woodward. Some of these Urns had Ashes of Bones of the Dean in them, and Brass and Silver Money: And an unusual Urn of Copper, curiously enamelled in Colours, Red, Blue, and Yellow.

In Kent Street, all along the Gardens on the right Hand side of the Road going out of Town, have been digged up several Roman Vessels, as Urns, Ampullæ, and other things; and among the rest, an Head of Janus, cut in Stone, that is still preserved, being placed over the Door at the entry of one of those Gardiners Houses. Money was offered for this Janus Head, but it would not be taken; being359 kept superstitiously, as tho’ it were found by Revelation in a Dream; a Woman, about the Time it was found, dreaming she was brought to Bed of a child with two Faces.

At Peckham was a very large Urn of Glass digged up in the Highway, which is now in Gresham College. For these last Accounts I am beholden to my Friend, the abovesaid Mr. Bagford, late deceased in the Charter House, having been a Brother there.

In April, in the Year 1707, divers Roman Antiquities were found in digging by the Wall near Bishopsgate Within. Mr. Joseph Miller, an Apothecary, living very near the Place, while the Labourers were digging for Foundations and Cellars, for some new Houses to be built in Camomile Street, did first discover several of these Antiquities; which he communicated to Dr. John Woodward of Gresham College aforesaid: Who, according to his wonted Exactness, gave this Narration of them in a Letter to Sir Christopher Wren, which he courteously let me peruse. ‘About four Foot under Ground was discovered a Pavement, consisting of Diced Bricks, the most red, but some black, and others yellow; each somewhat above an Inch in Thickness. The Extent of the Pavement in Length was uncertain, it running from Bishopsgate for sixty Foot, quite under the Foundation of some Houses not yet pulled down. Its Bredth was about ten Foot, terminating on that Side, at the Distance of three Foot and an Half from the Wall.

‘Sinking downwards under the Pavement, only Rubbish occurred for about two Foot, and then the Workmen came to a Stratum of Clay in its natural State. In which, at the Depth of three Foot more were found several Urns. Some of them were become so tender and rotten, that they easily crumbled and fell to Pieces. As for those that had the Fortune better to escape the Injuries of Time, and the Strokes of the Workmen, they were of different Forms; but all of very handsome Make and Contrivance, as, indeed, most of the Roman Vessels we find ever are. Which is but one of the many Instances that are at this Day extant of the Art of that People, of the great Exactness of their Genius, and Happiness of their Fancy. These Urns were of various Magnitudes; the largest capable of holding three full Gallons, the least somewhat above a Quart. All these had in them Ashes and Cinders of burnt Bones.

‘Along with the Urns were found various other earthen Vessels; as, a Simpulus, a Patera of a very fine red Earth, and a bluish Glass Viol of that Sort that is commonly called a Lachrymatory. On this there appeared something like Gilding, very fine.’

There were likewise found several Beads, one or two Copper Rings, a Fibula of the same Metal, but much impaired and decayed; as also a Coin of Antoninus Pius, exhibiting on one Side the Head of that Emperor, with a radiated Crown on, and this Inscription, ANTONINUS AUG....

At about the same Depth with the Things beforementioned, but nearer to the City Wall, and without the Verge of the Pavement, was digged up an human skull, with several bones that had not been burnt, as those in the Urns had. But for a larger and more satisfactory Account of these Antiquities, I refer the Reader to the said learned Doctor’s Letter, now printed at large by Mr. Hearne, with Leland’s Itinerary, in Octavo.

An Elephant’s Body was found in a Field near to Sir John Oldcastle’s, not far from Battle Bridge, by Mr. John Coniers, an Apothecary, and a great Searcher after Antiquities, as he was digging there.

Some years ago, on the South Side of Ludgate, was taken up out of the Rubbish a Roman Inscription, taken Notice of by learned Men.

Coming in at Ludgate, in the Residentiary’s Yard of St. Paul’s, was discovered some Years ago an Aqueduct, close adjoining to the Wall of the City. And such another was found after the Fire by Mr. Span in Holiday Yard in Creed Lane, in digging the Foundation for a new Building. And this was carried round a Bath, that was built in a Roman Form, with Nieches at an equal Distance for Seats.

Anno 1716, in digging for the Foundation of a new Church, to be erected where the Church of St. Mary Woolnoth in Lombard Street stood, at the Depth of about 15 foot, and so lower to 22 foot were found Roman Vessels, both for sacred and domestic Uses, of all Sorts, and in great Abundance, but all broken: And with all were taken up Tusks and Bones of Boars and Goats. As also many Medals, and360 Pieces of Metals; some tesselated Works, a Piece of an Aqueduct; and at the very bottom a Well filled up with Mire and Dirt; which being taken away, there arose a fine Spring of Water. Dr. Harwood, of the Commons, hath been very exact in taking Notice from Time to Time of these Antiquities; and hath sorted and preserved a great many of the most curious and remarkable of them; and supposeth, by probable Conjecture, that here was not only a Pottery, but also, that on this Place, or near it, stood the Temple of Concord; which our Roman Historians speak of to have been in this City, when called Trinobantum. These Sheards were in such vast Quantities, that many Cart Loads were carried away with the Rubbish, and the Roads about St. George’s Fields in Southwark mended with them.

Anno 1718, in the Month of May, the Workmen pulling down a Wall at Bridewel Hospital, found a Gold Ring an Inch and Quarter broad, enamelled: Having the Resemblance of Christ on the Cross engraved on it, with a mourning Heart, and a Pillar with a Cock on the Top. The Inscription was in Arabic; and some Antiquaries who saw it, reckoned it to be 1500 Years since it was made. This is related in the Weekly Journal, No. 1047.

This is what I could, by diligent Enquiry of my Friends, collect, concerning Antiquities found in London.” (Strype, Stow’s Survey, Vol. II. Appendix IX. pp. 21-24.)



Extract from a paper read before the Society of Antiquaries in 1867 (see L. and M. Archæological Society, vol. iii.).

“The site is levelled ground, recently meadow-land and market-gardens, situate at rear of the London Orphan Asylum, Clapton, on the brow of the hill, passing down to the marshes and river Lea, within a few feet of an old path just demolished which ran from Homerton to Lea Bridge, viâ Booksby’s Walk, in the direction from south to north, and another way, for many years past but a private road to a farm, running west to east, viz. from Clapton Square, viâ Clapton Alley or Passage, to the Lea river. These paths intersect each other near the spot; they are very ancient, and, in all probability, old Roman ways. The coffin was found on the natural gravel, 2 feet 6 inches from the surface, lying due east and west, the foot to the east; it is of white coarse-grained marble, and is cut from a solid block. It is about 6 feet 3 inches long, 1 foot 3 inches wide, and 1 foot 6 inches deep; the thickness being about 2½ inches. The inner surface is smooth, with a rise of half an inch at one end, to serve as a rest for the head. No vestige of a lid or covering has been found, but at each end are evidences of clamp fastenings. It is plain on all sides but the front, which is ornamented with a fluted pattern, the channels being filled to a third of their height with a bead, and is an excellent illustration of cabled fluting. The medallion in the centre is deeply cut, about 12 inches in diameter, and encircles a well-executed bust, possibly a portrait of the deceased. This is much damaged, with the exception of the hair and the folds of the toga about the shoulders. These are as sharp and clear as if just cut. The right hand is supported by the thumb (apparently hooked within the folds across the breast), the fore and middle fingers being stretched to their full length, and in an upward direction. The third and fourth fingers are doubled in. Beneath the medallion is an inscription in Roman letters, but, unfortunately, it has not yet been deciphered. This side of the coffin is finished off by two Corinthian pilasters, as shown in the illustration. I am informed that, on clearing away the superincumbent débris, the coffin was found to contain a skeleton, in the position of ordinary Christian burial, with black mould about it. The skull soon fell to pieces, and the bones were much decayed; those remaining comprised portions of the head of a femur (right), middle third of left femur, portions of left tibia and fibula, and two pieces of ribs. I should judge the deceased to have been a small-boned man, about 6 feet high, and rather knock-kneed; and take him to have been a civilian of rank, possibly a jurist, but not a military man. Not far from the sarcophagus a small brass coin of Gallienus was discovered.”

“The only sarcophagus that has been found in London which bears any resemblance to that under consideration is the one from Haydon Square, Minories, and that only in the fact of its being ornamented on its front and side; the lid too, which is sharply ridged, is decorated with a foliated pattern. It is formed of ragstone, and more roughly made than that from Clapton. In the centre is a bust in bas-relief, and on either side a striated pattern, such as may be frequently observed on examples from abroad. At York, sarcophagi have been discovered with inscriptions upon them on plain labels; others have had objects in relief. At Avisford in Sussex, a fine example was exhumed containing glass, pottery, etc., which has been described in the Journal of the Sussex Archæological Society and other antiquarian publications.


In Gaul and Italy, marble sarcophagi are, of course, the rule; the material was at hand, and easy of access; consequently the ruins of the Roman towns produce countless instances of ornamented marble tombs.”

“Fig. 1, Plate 6, is in the museum of Mr. Gunston, and was discovered in the vicinity of Old Ford, near Bow, associated with pottery. Another of the same character was found not long since in the same locality on some property belonging to Mr. Joseph Wilkinson. He has very kindly sent me all the particulars concerning it. He describes it as being excavated from some ground held by him for building purposes near the Saxon Road and Coborn Road, Bow, some 60 yards south of the Roman highway. The coffin lay upon the gravel beneath some 30 inches of superincumbent soil. Its length is about 6 feet 6 inches, width 2 feet 1, 2 inches less at the foot. The lid is slightly ridged. In it were contained the bones of a full-sized man in a good state of preservation. There was a fracture across the lid through which a quantity of gravel had fallen, covering as it were the skeleton, which appeared to have been buried, as the custom was, in lime. Its situation was east and west, and the arms of the skeleton were drawn down at the side, differing in this respect from that found some years since in the same locality, and described by Mr. B. H. Cowper in our Journal. In the latter case the arms of the skeleton were crossed upon the breast, and the form of the coffin similar to that in Fig. 1. At a distance of some 2 feet south of the coffin a large collection of pottery was discovered.”

“In May last I received a letter from my friend Mr. H. W. King, Hon. Sec. Essex Archæological Society, announcing that two more sarcophagi of a similar character had been found in the same locality, in the course of excavations for buildings on a site some 200 yards south of the former discoveries.”



“With one of these Norman burghers the life of St. Thomas brings us in contact, and, scanty as are the details of the story, they agree in a very striking way with the indications afforded us by the charter of the king. The story of the early years of Thomas Becket has very naturally been passed over with little attention by his modern biographers in their haste to fight the battle of his after-career. But long before he became St. Thomas, Archbishop Thomas, or Thomas of Canterbury, he was known as Thomas of London, son (to use his own boast) of ‘a citizen, living without blame among his fellow-citizens.’ So completely was the family adopted into the City, that the monks of Canterbury could beg loans from the burgesses on the plea that the great martyr was a Londoner born; and on the City seal of the fourteenth century, London addressed him as at once her patron and her son: ‘Me, quae te peperi, ne cesses, Thoma, tueri.’ The name of his father, Gilbert Becket, is one of the few that remain to us of the Portreeves, the predecessors of the Mayors, under Stephen; he held a large property in houses within the walls; and a proof of his civic importance was long preserved in the annual visit of each newly-elected chief magistrate to his tomb in the little chapel which he had founded in the churchyard of Paul’s. Yet Gilbert was one of the Norman strangers who followed in the wake of the Conqueror. He was by birth a burgher of Rouen, as his wife was of a burgher family of Caen; he claimed kinship with the Norman Theobald, and received the Norman Baron de l’Aigle as a guest.

But the story of the Beckets does more than illustrate the outer position of the Norman colony: it gives us a glimpse, the more precious because it is unique, of its inner life. Students of hagiology learn to be cautious about the stories of precocious holiness, the apocryphal gospels of the infancy, which meet them at the outset of most saints’ lives; but it is remarkable that in the life of St. Thomas there is no pretension of the kind. In the stead of juvenile miracles we are presented with the vivid little picture of a London home, which sets the Norman colony fairly before us. We see the very aspect of the house (the Mercers’ Chapel, in Cheapside, still preserves its site for us), the tiny bedroom, the larger hall opening directly on the bustle of the narrow Cheap. We gain a hint from the costly coverlet of purple, sumptuously wrought, which Mother Rohese flings over her child’s cradle, of the new luxury and taste which the Conquest had introduced into the home of the trader as into the castle of the noble. A glance at the guests and relatives of the family shows how the new colony served as medium between the city and the Court: the young Baron Richer of Aquila is often there, hunting and hawking with the boy, as he grows up; Archdeacon Baldwin and Clerk Eustace look in from Canterbury, to chat over young Thomas and his chances of promotion in the curia of Archbishop Theobald; there is a kinsman, too, of Gilbert’s, a citizen of his own stamp, Osbern Huitdeniers, ‘of great name and repute, not only among his fellow-burghers, but also with those of the Court.’ Without the home, the Norman influence makes itself felt in a new refinement of manners and breeding; the young citizen grows up free and genial enough, but with a Norman horror of coarseness in his geniality. London shares in the great impulse which the Conquest has given to education; the children of her citizens are sent to the new Priory of Merton; the burghers flock to the boys’ exercises at the schools attached to the three principal churches of the town. The chief care of Rohese was for her son’s education; in his case it is finished at Paris, before the young Londoner passes to the merchant’s desk.” (Historical Studies, J. R. Green.)



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