London in the Not-So-Dark Ages
Lecture by Lyn Blackmore
Given at Gresham College on October 13, 2014
An overview of the results of over 40 years of archaeological research into the origins, development and decline of the Middle Saxon trading settlement of Lundenwic, London.
During the 1970s and early 1980s, archaeology in the City revealed plenty of evidence for both Roman and medieval London, but Saxon London, the ‘mart of many nations’ described by Bede, was strangely elusive. Today I want to show how our understanding of the development of Anglo-Saxon settlement outside the former Roman city of Londinium, ie up to the time of Alfred, has changed over the past 40 years or so, and especially since recent excavations at and near St Martin-in-the-Fields – where, significantly, the discovery of ‘treasure’ in the 13th century led to a riot – probably making it the earliest findspot of Anglo-Saxon artefacts in London.
The story starts in the Late Roman period. The riverside wall was strengthened c AD 388–402, but London was abandoned by the Romans c AD 410, and until recently evidence for late Roman activity was limited to a few late Roman/early 5th-century buildings, military-style accessories found in the extramural cemeteries and a few finds from near the Tower of London which suggest that there was some form of late occupation, perhaps military, in this area, and last week here my colleague Sadie Watson presented new evidence for a late military presence on the Bloomberg site by the Walbrook.