Category Archives: Saxon

Saint Olav(e)

On this day in 1030, the Norwegian King Olav II was killed fighting the Danish Vikings at the Battle of Stiklestad.  A year later, he was canonised by the  English Bishop of Selsey, Grimkell or Grimketel (the local canonisation was later confirmed by Pope Alexander III in 1164).

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In the later Middle Ages, Olav’s tomb, in the most northerly cathedral in Christendom, in Nidaros [Trondheim], became an important pilgrimage site, and the centre of a widespread “cult of Olav”.

5 - Relief of St Olav, church of St Olave Hart Street

Interestingly, a  number of churches in and around the City of London are  dedicated to St Olav(e),  including  St Olave Hart Street (pictured, above) …

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… St Nicholas Olave, St Olave Jewry and St Olave Silver Street (pictured, above) in the City …

4 - Mosaic of St Olave, site of former church of St Olave Southwark

… St Olave in Southwark …

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…  and St Olave in Rotherhithe.

This is because, in 1014, Olav Haraldsson, as he then was, was an ally of the Saxon English, under Ethelred “The Unready”, in their fight against the against the Viking Danish, under Cnut, and he helped relieve  Saxon London from Viking occupation  (albeit only temporarily).

According to the “Olaf Sagas”, he destroyed the Saxon incarnation of London Bridge, and the Viking army assembled on it poised to attack, by pulling it down with ropes tied to his long-boats.

The  court poet Ottar Svarte wrote, in the eleventh century, and Snorri Sturluson rewrote, in the thirteenth:

“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!”

Many believe this to be the origin of the much-loved nursery-rhyme “London Bridge is falling down”.

 

St Mellitus’s Day

1 - Iconic image of Mellitus, St Paul's Cathedral, London

Today is the feast day of St Mellitus, who died on this day in 624.

Mellitus was a member of the Gregorian mission sent to England to convert the then-pagan Anglo-Saxons to Christianity at the turn of the sixth and seventh centuries (he was the recipient of the letter from Pope Gregory I known as the epistola ad Mellitum).  He became  the first Bishop of London in 604, and, incidentally,   the third Archbishop of Canterbury in 619.  The first St Paul’s Cathedral was built  during his Bishopric of London  in 604, and destroyed by fire in 675 (*).  As the Venerable Bede put it, in his “Ecclesiastical History of the English People”:

“In the Year of our Lord 604, Augustine, Archbishop of Britain, ordained … Mellitus to preach to the province of the East Saxons … .  … [W]hen this province … received the word of truth, by the preaching of Mellitus, King Ethelbert built the church of St Paul the Apostle, in the city of London, where he and his successors should have their episcopal see … ”.

Interestingly, Mellitus was sent into exile from London shortly after the construction of the cathedral, in 616, when the then-Christian King Sebert died, and the City and kingdom temporarily reverted to paganism.  Again as Bede put it:

“In the year of our Lord 616 … the death of Sabert [Sebert], king of the East Saxons … left three sons, still pagans, to inherit his … crown.  They immediately began openly to give themselves up to idolatry, … and … granted free licence to their subjects to serve idols.  And when they saw the bishop [Mellitus] … celebrating Mass … , filled, as they were, with folly and ignorance, they said unto him … ‘We will not enter into that font, because we … do not stand in need of it, and yet we will be refreshed by that bread’.  And being … earnestly admonished by him, that this could by no means be done, nor would any one be admitted to partake of the sacred Oblation without the holy cleansing, …  they said, filled with rage, ‘If you will not comply with us in so small a matter as that which we require, you shall not stay in our province’.  And they drove him out … and his company … from their kingdom [Essex].  [And] King Eadbald  … was not able to restore the bishop to his church against the will and consent of the pagans”.

(*) The   second St Paul’s, “The Church of Paulesbyri”, was built during the  Bishopric of  Erkenwald, between 675-85,  and destroyed by the Vikings in 961.

The  third was built in 961, and destroyed by fire in 1087.

The murder  of  Elfeah, Saxon Archbishop of Canterbury (1012)

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On this day in 1012, Elfeah, the Saxon Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered by Vikings, who had held him hostage for some time and not received the ransom that they had demanded for his release. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, “they overwhelmed him with bones of horns of oxen; and one of them smote him with an axe-iron on the head; so that he sunk downwards with the blow; and his holy blood fell on the earth, whilst his sacred soul was sent to the realm of God”.  His last words were “the gold I give you is the Word of God”.  Elfeah’s body was laid to rest in St Paul’s Cathedral in London, and later, in 1023, moved by the then-Viking King, Cnut, to Canterbury Cathedral.  He was canonised in 1078

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A church dedicated to him – St Alfege – stands on the spot where he was killed in Greenwich.

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Another church dedicated to him – St Alphage – stands on London Wall.

 

Romford

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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

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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

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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”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Havering-atte-Bower

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)

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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.

Beckenham

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.

Hanworth

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

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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

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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

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