One can imagine the dismay of the Londoners "when Canute, the King, went sailing by". It should not, however, be forgotten that on the Southwark side, right away to Lambeth Marsh, there were still large pools of water, many of which existed even up to our own times.
Earl Godwin is mentioned as having sailed his little fleet through the bridge, finding that it was not defended, when he was about to overawe his weak son-in-law, Edward the Confessor, at Westminster, which had become a royal residence.
Let us imagine the view of the river and its banks in his time, after the changes which the preceding years had wrought. The old city had extended westward and included the brow of the hill on which stood St. Paul's Cathedral, and had advanced down the hill almost to the Fleet River.
Beyond this the ground rose and formed a crescent-shaped eminence, along the top of which ran a road, now Fleet Street and the Strand, following the course of the river to Westminster, beyond which again were marshes.
The Abbey had been in existence for some time previous to this, and tradition ascribed its foundation on Thorney Island to Sebert. Afterwards enlarged and rebuilt by Offa, King of Mercia, pillaged and burnt by the Danes, it had led a very precarious existence until Edward the Confessor resolved to rebuild it on a most magnificent scale.
Close to it, and almost connected with it, he erected his own palace. Thus came into existence that connection between the Abbey and our Sovereigns, which has been uninterrupted ever since, for the palace became the residence of each succeeding monarch, even to the reign of Elizabeth, when the Court finally removed to Whitehall.Next page: Descriptive View of London