Another in the occasional series on contemporary accounts of events in the history of London …
In 1014, according to the “Olaf Sagas”, the Norwegian Olaf Haraldsson, an ally of the English King Ethelred II, “The Unready” in his fight against the Danish Vikings, destroyed London Bridge and the Viking army assembled on it by pulling it down with ropes tied to his long-boats.
In 1225, Snorri Sturluson wrote an account of the event based on the “Olaf Sagas”, which reads (in translation) as follows:
Olaf, and the Northmen’s fleet with him, rowed … under the bridge, laid their cables around the piles which supported it, and then rowed off … as hard as they could down the stream. … Now … the piles being … broken, the bridge gave way; and a great part of the men upon it fell into the river, and all the others … surrendered … , and took Ethelred to be their king. So says Ottar Svarte:
‘London Bridge is broken down.
Gold is won, and bright renown.
Shields resounding, War-horns sounding,
Hild is shouting in the din!
Arrows singing, Mail-coats ringing –
Odin makes our Olaf win!’
Olaf went on to become King Olaf II of Norway in 1015, and Saint Olaf or Olav(e), to whom a number of London churches were to be dedicated, after he was martyred at the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030.