Category Archives: Saxon


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Another in the occasional series on “Far-Flung Lost London” …

Romford, which lies approximately halfway between London to Colchester, was first recorded in Saxo-Norman times as Romfort, from the Old English “run”, meaning wide, and “fort”, ford (across the river known presently as the Rom, but previously as the Beam).  The original settlement, now known as Oldchurch, was found to be prone to flooding, such that subsequent  development took place on higher, drier ground to the north.  In  the later Medieval period, Romford was a small market town surrounded by agricultural land, but  by the post-Medieval, it had become a   centre of industry, in the form of brewing, metal-working, charcoal-burning, cloth-making and weaving.  Further (sub)urbanisation and industrialisation took place in the eighteenth century, following the establishment of a  coaching link to London, and, especially, in the nineteenth and twentieth, following the arrival of the railway.

Historically part of the county of Essex, the town has been  part of the London Borough of Havering since   1965.

Romford Church


The church of St Edward the Confessor, or Romford Church, on Market Place, was originally built in 1410, and subsequently rebuilt in 1850.

Golden Lion


The “Golden Lion” on the High Street dates back to 1440, although the present building is chiefly of sixteenth- and seventeenth- century construction.  It is “a fine specimen of the old inns which [once] abounded in the town”; its stables “full of reminiscences of the days of the stage coach with its spanking team of horses”.









Another in the occasional series on “Far-Flung Lost London” …

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Havering-atte-Bower was first recorded as such, or more accurately as Hauering atte Bower,  in 1272, from the Old English personal name Haefer, and ingas, meaning settlement, and the Middle English bour, meaning bower, or royal residence (Havering was first recorded as Haueringas in the “Domesday Book” of 1086).  It essentially remains to this day an isolated small village on the top of a high hill on the north-eastern edge of London, commanding fine views over  the surrounding countryside and encroaching built-up areas.  Historically part of the county of Essex, the village has been  part of the London Borough of Havering since   1965.

The village is steeped in royal history.

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In the eleventh century, Edward the Confessor  built a hunting lodge here that over the years evolved into Havering Palace, a royal residence used by a succession of kings and queens in the later Medieval to early post-Medieval periods, before being demolished in the seventeenth century (some materials salvaged from it were used in the construction of Bower House in the early eighteenth).

There was also once another royal residence, called Pyrgo Palace, a little to the east, which had been  bought by  Henry VIII in the post-Medieval period,  as a replacement for the then-declining Havering Palace, and which was eventually demolished in the eighteenth century.

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Pyrgo Park occupies the site today.

Church of St John the Evangelist (Havering Church)


The present church of St John was built in the nineteenth century, on the site of a previous church that had itself once been one of the chapels in Havering Palace.

The Purbeck Marble font dates back to the early Medieval period.


Another in the occasional series on “Far-Flung Lost London” …

Beckenham  was first recorded in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 862 as Biohhahema mearcae, from the Old English personal name Beohha, ham, meaning homestead or village, and mearc, meaning mark or boundary.  It remained essentially rural for much of its later history, only really beginning to become  (sub)urbanised in the nineteenth century, after the arrival of the railway in 1857.  Historically part of the county of Kent, it is now part of the London Borough of Bromley, created in 1965.

Part of the thirteenth-century manor house has been incorporated into the Old Council Hall.  The seventeenth-century George Inn also still stands, on the High Street.

Church of St George

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The church of St George was originally built in the twelfth century, and subsequently substantially rebuilt at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth.  It was damaged by V-1 flying bombs in 1944.

The lych-gate dates to the thirteenth century, and is said to be the oldest in England.


Another in the occasional series on “Far-Flung Lost London” …

Hanworth was evidently first settled in Saxon times, and during the reign of Edward the Confessor in the early eleventh century the manor was held by one of the king’s “huscarls”, Ulf.

However, it was first recorded in  Norman Domesday Book of 1086, as Haneworth, from the Old English personal name Hana, and worth, meaning enclosed settlement.  At this time, the manor was owned by Roger de Montgomerie, one of William the Conqueror’s principal counsellors.  By the later Medieval period, it had come to be owned by  Sir Nicholas Brembre, sometime Lord Mayor of London, executed for treason in 1387.

By the post-Medieval period, the manor was Crown property, owned by King Henry VIII and various of his wives, and after the King’s death, by his daughter, the Princess and later Queen Elizabeth.

The Hanworth Farms Estate was built here at the turn of the  nineteenth and twentieth centuries, by William Whiteley, owner of the famous department store in Bayswater.  Hanworth Airport opened here in 1929, and closed in 1946, shortly after Heathrow was built nearby.

Historically part of Middlesex, Hanworth  is now part of the London Borough of Hounslow.

Church of St George





The church of St George was originally built in the late thirteenth  century, and subsequently rebuilt in 1812, and extended in 1865, when the chancel and spire were added by S.S. Teulon.  The rebuilt church  incorporates some stonework from the  original   (in the west wall).  The church’s first rector was Adam de Brome, who founded Oriel College, Oxford, in 1309.

Manor House


The post-Medieval and later manor house was substantially destroyed by a fire in 1797, with essentially only the stable block surviving, as a block of flats (“Tudor Court”).

Hanworth Park House


Hanworth Park House was built as a replacement in 1820, and is currently derelict.


Another in the occasional series on “Far-Flung Lost London” …

Erith was first recorded in Saxon times, in 677, as Earhyth, from the Old English ear, meaning muddy, and hyth, meaning landing-place (although it is thought to have been first settled in prehistory).

The Manor of Erith was held by the Norman Odo, Bishop of Bayeux and Earl of Kent at the time of the Domesday survey in 1086.  The Lord of the Manor during the reign of the first Plantagenet King, Henry II, was Richard de Luci, Justiciar of England, who, as an act of penance for his complicity in the murder of Thomas Becket, founded Lesnes Abbey nearby in 1178 (see also posting of August 10th, 2015).  The first leader of the Peasants’ Revolt, which took place during the reign of Richard II in 1381, was one Abel Ker, from Erith.

Erith grew further in size and significance in the post-Medieval period.  The  Tudor  King  Henry VIII founded  a naval dockyard here, where warships built at Woolwich, notably the Great Harry,  were fitted out (see also posting of November 26th, 2016).   And it was here that the Gunpowder Plotters gathered to plot the overthrow of the Stuart King James I in 1605.

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries witnessed still further expansion, with the  Wheatley family as Lords of the Manor.  The North  Kent Railway arrived in 1849, and with it urbanisation and industrialisation.

Historically part of Kent, since 1965 Erith has been part of the London Borough of Bexley.

Church of St John the Baptist


The church of St John the Baptist was originally built  in Saxo-Norman times.  It was subsequently rebuilt in the post-Medieval period, in part out of materials salvaged from Lesnes Abbey after it was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1525 (the abbey would have been but  a short cart-ride away to the north-west).  It was substantially rebuilt again in 1877.


Dagenham revisited

Another in the occasional series on “Far-Flung Lost London” …

Dagenham (see also posting of October 19th, 2016) was first recorded in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 677 as Daeccenham, from the old English personal name Daecca, and ham, meaning homestead or village.  Throughout much of its later history, it remained essentially rural, only beginning to become  (sub)urbanised and industrialised in the early  twentieth century.  It is now part of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, created in 1965.

Valence House

The Manor of Valence was first recorded as long ago as 1269.  There was evidently a manor house here at or around that time, which further records indicate was occupied by Agnes de Valence after the death of her third husband in 1291 (*).  The estate was sold to St Anthony’s Hospital in London in 1435, and then granted by Edward IV to the Dean and Chapter of Windsor in 1475.  It was rented out to a succession of tenants in the post-Medieval and later periods, including the Bonham family in the seventeenth century, the Mertons in the eighteenth, and the Mays in the nineteenth, before being acquired by Dagenham Urban District Council in 1926.

1 - Distant view of exterior, including moat.JPG

2 - Close-up view of exterior.JPG

3 - In situ fragment of Medieval wall.JPG

4 - Medieval wattle and daub.JPG

The surviving manor house, which is now  home to the Valence House Museum, shows evidence of building or rebuilding activity from every century from the fifteenth onwards.

5 - Model of Valence House.JPG

The museum features a number of fine displays on the history of the local area, including one on Valence House itself …

6 - Model of Barking Abbey.JPG

7 - Moulded stones from Barking Abbey.JPG

… and another on  Barking Abbey, which lay approximately three miles to the south-west  (see also posting of January 5th, 2015).

It also houses a famous collection of portraits of the Fanshawe family (Lords of the Manor of Barking for many generations).

(*) Agnes de Valence was of noble birth, being the grand-daughter of Isabella of Angouleme, wife of King John.


The church of All Hallows by the Tower

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On this day in 1650, seven barrels of gunpowder stored by the church of All Hallows by the Tower exploded, destroying fifteen houses, and killing sixty-seven people.

The church was originally built in the Saxon period, and considerably added to in the Medieval.  It was undamaged in the Great  Fire of 1666, thanks to the action of Admiral General Sir William Penn Senior, who ordered  the blowing-up of some surrounding buildings to create a  firebreak, although it nonetheless required to be rebuilt by Pearson in the late nineteenth century. It was then gutted by bombing in the Blitz of 1940-41, when “the tower of the church acted like a chimney, drawing the flames upwards and intensifying them” and “wood blazed, stones calcinated, lead poured down walls and the bells melted”, and rebuilt again by Lord Mottistone in a “happy blend” of Ancient and Neo-Perpendicular styles, and rededicated in 1957.

A fine Saxon arch of around 675, incorporating Roman tiles, survives in the nave; and two Saxon crosses, one of 900 and the other of 1000, in the crypt  (the former plain and simple, and bearing  a Runic inscription, and the latter  beautifully and intricately carved, and bearing  a symbolic depiction of Christ over beasts). Among the  many surviving Medieval to post-Medieval features are: substantial sections of tiled floor; an altar table of stone from the Crusaders’ castle at Atlit below Mount Carmel in the Holy Land; a fine Flemish painted panelled altar-piece, known as the Tate Panel, dating to at least the fifteenth century; numerous sculptures, including a carved wooden one of St James of Compostela, dating to the fifteenth century, and a carved ivory one of Christ salvaged from the flagship of the Spanish Armada in 1588; numerous monuments, including the Croke chest, dating to around 1477, and brasses; and the seventeenth-century tower, from which Samuel Pepys watched the Great Fire of 1666 (noting in his diary entry for Wednesday 5th September, “I up to the top of Barkinge steeple, and there saw the saddest sight of desolation I ever saw”). Also of note are the pulpit, originally from St Swithin London Stone, and dating to 1678; the exquisitely intricately carved lime-wood font-cover by Grinling Gibbons, dating  to 1682; a series of ornamental sword-rests, dating to the eighteenth century; and, among the Curiosa, numerous large model ships suspended in the south aisle.

On a macabre note, the headless bodies of Bishop John Fisher and Sir Thomas More, beheaded on nearby Tower Hill in 1535, and that of Archbishop William Laud, beheaded  in 1645, were once temporarily buried here before being moved to their  final resting places (Fisher’s and More’s in the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London, and Laud’s in the chapel of St John’s College, Oxford).  Admiral William Penn’s son, also named William, was baptised here in 1644.  Famously, he went on to found Pennsylvania in 1681.

The church is visited on our “London Wall” and “Tower to Temple” standard walks, and also on our “Dark Age [Anglo-Saxon] London”, “Medieval London” and “Medieval City Highlights”  themed specials.

Further details of all our walks are available in the Our Guided Walks section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, or by e-mail (