Saxon London

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After the Romans left, the city of London fell into a down side of decline. The population diminished considerably and a large area of the city was left in ruins.

London’s location on the Thames River where the London Bridge was made by the Romans was too good for this decline to continue, and the 7th century saw trade once more expand and the city grew once again.

By the 9th century, London was a very wealthy trading and business centre, and its wealth attracted the attention of Danish Vikings. The Danes periodically sailed up the Thames and attacked London. In 851 some 350 longboats full of Danes attacked and burned London to the ground.

The tale of the next century is a confused one, with first English, then Danish, then Norman kings controlling the city. The Danes were ousted from the city by Alfred the Great in 886, and Alfred made London a part of his kingdom of Wessex. In the years following the death of Alfred, however, the city fell once more into the hands of the Danes. Danes seriously didn’t want to give up the city of London knowing the wealth made by people by business and trade at that time.

The Danes did not have it all their own way. In 1014 when they were busy occupying the city a large force of Anglo-Saxons and Norwegian Vikings sailed up the Thames to attack London. The Danes lined London Bridge and bombarded the attackers with spears.

The attacks ceased when the Danish king Cnut (Canute) came to power in 1017. Cnut managed to unite the Danes with the Anglo-Saxons, and invited Danish merchants to settle in the city. London prospered under Cnut, but on his death the city reverted to Anglo-Saxon control under Edward the Confessor. Edward had been raised in Normandy, so his rule brought French influence and trade.

London was now the wealthiest and largest city in the island of Britain – but it was not the capital of the realm. The official seat of government was at Winchester, although the royal residence was generally at London.

Edward the Confessor was an extremely religious man, and he made it his dream to build an enormous monastery and church at an island on the Thames just upriver from the city. He founded again the abbey at Westminster, and moved his court there.

When Edward died in 1065, his successor, Harold, was crowned in the new abbey, strengthening London’s role as the most significant city in England.