Republication from

London is generally associated with the Romans, Saxons and Normans, but a lesser known part of London’s history is intertwined with that of the Vikings.

When the early Anglo-Saxons settled in the area, they established a settlement that later become known as Ludenwic. This settlement was sited 1.6 km’s from the ruins of Londinium, the Roman city (Named Lundenburh in Anglo-Saxon, to mean “London Fort”).

By around 600, Anglo Saxon England was divided into several small kingdoms known as the Heptarchy. Lundenwic came under control of the Mercian Kingdom in about 670, as the Kingdom of Essex became gradually reduced in size and status. After the death of Offa of Mercia in 796, it was later disputed between Mercia and Wessex.

By the 8th century, Lundwic was a prosperous trading centre, both by land and sea. The term “Wic” itself means “trading town” and was derived from the latin word Vicus. So Lundenwic can loosely be translated as “London Trading Town.”

Lundenwic was rediscovered by archaeologists in the 1980s, with more recent excavations unveiling a town that covered around 600,000 square meters, or 6,500,000 sq ft, stretching from the National Gallery today to Aldwych.

Such prosperity and wealth didn’t go unnoticed. London suffered numerous Viking attacks, which became increasingly common from 830 onwards. A raid in 842 was described (loosely translated) by the Anglo Saxon Chronicle “… there was great slaughter in London … ”

Lundenwic was attacked again in 851, where another raiding party, reputed to have 350 ships came to plunder the city.

“ … came three hundred and fifty ships came into the mouth of the Thames; the crew of which went upon land, and stormed … London … ”

Viking Invasion : Great Heathen Army

In 865, the Viking “Great Heathen Army” (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of 865) launched a large scale invasion of the Kingdom of East Anglia. They marched through England, conquering Mercia, Northumbria and controlled most of Anglo Saxon England.

By 871, the Vikings had turned their attentions south and reached London, having camped over winter within the old Roman walls of Londinium. The Anglo Saxon Chronicles are unclear as to what exactly happened during this period,  but it’s likely that such close proximity to Lundwic would have meant Viking occupation and control for the inhabitants.

A map of the routes taken by the Great Heathen Army from 865 to 878 : Hel-hama

The tide turned in 878, when forces led by Alfred the Great defeated the Vikings at the Battle of Ethandun (Scholarly consensus identified its location with the present-day Edington in Wiltshire) and forced a peace agreement. Various treaties that followed led to the dividing of England into territories called Danelaw (Under Viking rule) and the Anglo-Saxon lands.

Continue reading