The rise of the Saxons

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The mists which have been slowly rising now veil the old city for a time from our view. We hear little of its changes, except the one broad fact that under the Saxon invasion the semi-civilised citizens, both Britons and the Roman colonists, were either destroyed or dispersed, and sought shelter in more inaccessible portions of the country, until the Saxons in their turn became more civilised, and, under Ethelbert and Sebert, received the mission from Rome, and, becoming converts to Christianity, were baptized by St. Augustine and his monks.

But London, the old city with its walls and gates, could not have become the howling wilderness which some would have us suppose. Its trade must have revived and its houses must have been rebuilt, for at one time St. Augustine thought of fixing the primacy here instead of at Canterbury, though considerations of policy prevailed and Canterbury was finally chosen.

But soon another enemy was to appear on the scene, and the Viking ships, under the dreaded ensign of the Black Raven, sailed up the river, and, unless bought off, spread ruin and destruction wherever they came. Alfred for a time successfully fought them, and during his beneficent reign London once more comes to the front as capital of the kingdom, her gates are rebuilt and her walls repaired and extended.

Did the old bridge survive all these changes of race and government? The answer to this is unquestionably in the affirmative; its upper stages may have been burnt, or otherwise destroyed, but the solid piles of oak and elm remained.

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