Descriptive View of London

Previous page: Canute sails by

Just one more retrospective glance at the old river and its surroundings as it glides on seawards through this wide, open valley, between the distant northern heights of Highgate and Hampstead, and those on the southern side, Dulwich and Sydenham.

Facing the east we see on our right a wide, open extent of marshes, overgrown with rushes and reeds and frequent stagnant ponds and pools; a few roads, their courses marked by fringes of alders and willows, but of human habitations few or none; perhaps a few fishermen's cots, reed thatched, along the bank, until the view is closed in the dim distance by Shooters Hill.

On the left is the old city, safe behind its walls and gates, with the pre-Norman Cathedral of Erkenwald crowning the height, and the wooden bridge spanning the stream, behind which, moored in the pool, masts and galleys and ships from beyond seas can be discerned. Nearer, the higher ground, with but few houses or habitations, tree-covered slopes down the margin of the river.

A church tower can be seen on the brow, that of St. Clement Danes, betokening a small settlement of these once dreaded scourges of our shores and rivers, the descendants of the Vikings.

To this place they had been banished without the walls by Alfred, but the subsequent occupation of the throne by Sweyn and Canute, the latter ruling also over Norway and Denmark, ameliorated their condition. Two more Danish kings succeeded Harold and Hardicanute, before with Edward the Confessor the old Saxon line was restored.

Besides the lowly tower of St. Clement's, there are others hardly discernible, but the churches of St. Dunstan, St. Bride, and perhaps St. Martin, are already there, and inside the walls many more can be seen.

Turning round and facing west, we see beyond the long acclivity, which gradually dies down, the central Norman tower of the Abbey and other towers marking the royal residence of the last of the Saxon kings, while on the other side are still the interminable marshes and lowlands far beyond Lambeth, Vauxhall, and Battersea river now takes another turn and the distant view is closed by the low hills of Wandsworth and Wimbledon.

Next page: Harold Harefoot