The development of London by King Alfred: a reassessment
By Jeremy Haslam
Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, Vol.61 (2010)
Abstract: A model is presented which characterises the physical, spatial and functional development of London as a new burh of King Alfred in or soon after late AD 879, when he assumed control of the whole of Mercia after Guthrum’s Vikings had retreated to an independent kingdom in East Anglia. The hypothesis of the creation of a burh within the Roman walls at this time, rather than the generally held paradigm that took place in AD 886, is supported by recent reinterpretations of the coinage of the period, and by a detailed re-examination of the archaeological record. It is argued that it is at this time that the basic pattern of the medieval and later street system was established within the new burghal space, though this probably had earlier antecedents. This process would have included the restoration of the London Bridge, which would have functioned as a strategic device against access up the Thames to Viking warships, and which Alfred had arguably inherited from earlier periods. This interpretation also puts into proper historical context the prior development of Southwark (as well as of other sites listed in the contemporary Burghal Hidage document) as a burh, and casts a new light on developments relating to London in the 880s, such as the involvement of ealdorman Aethelred in AD 886, and the creation of the soke of the Bishop of Worcester in AD 889.