In the year 994, Sweyn, King of Denmark, who was then besieging London, and had invested it closely both by land and water, was entirely repulsed by the citizens and by the army of Ethelred.
William of Malmesbury says that part of the enemy were slain in battle and part were drowned in the river, because in their hasty rage they took no heed of the bridge.
But a century previous to this, in the Codex Diplomaticus Levi Saxonici (Kemble's edition, Vol. I.), mention of a woman is made who, having been convicted of witchcraft in aiming at the life of a nobleman by the very harmless method of sticking pins into a waxen image, was put to death at London Bridge by drowning.
This notice carries us back to the ninth century. The feat of bridging a deep tidal river was no difficult task for the Romans, as in some places they had greater difficulties to contend with in their bridge-building than they would have found here.
But in 1016, Canute, with a great navy, came up the river to London, and finding that his ships could not pass higher in consequence of the bridge, performed, according to tradition, a more extraordinary feat of engineering-if, indeed, it is true that he caused a trench to be dug through which his ships were towed to the west side of the bridge.
Possibly he may have broken through the banks and dykes which kept the river from overflowing the marshes on the south side, and aided by a high tide have thus got his ships round, but the statement that he dug a canal from Rotherhithe to Battersea, as some writers would have us believe, and so diverted the course of the river, must be an exaggeration.Next page: Canute sails by