Medieval London

In the eighth century, the population of Lundenwic was small, probably around 8,000 people compared to around sixty thousand 500 years earlier in second-century Roman Londinium. But our first glimpse of living, breathing Anglo-Saxon Londoners come from this period. Tatberht scratched his name in runic letters on a sheep’s bone. Why he should want to claim ownership of the bone – whether it was important to him or whether the inscription was the work of a few idle moments, after a good mutton dinner – we shall never know. Whatever the reason, Tatberht’s name was uncovered in an excavation carried out beside the National Portrait Gallery. A similar runic-inscribed sheep’s bone was found near the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, this time bearing the name of Oethilward. This was the site of metalworking and woollen textile production. Perhaps Oethilward was a smith. He was less likely to have been a weaver because, in Anglo-Saxon society, women did the weaving. Although we know so little about these two Londoners, we do know they could write their names

The site of Westminster Abbey today was then known as Thorney Island, cut off by the River Tyburn where it split in two before flowing into the Thames. The area was mostly marshland, but because the Thames was shallow here, there had been a ford, crossing to equally boggy Lambeth on the other side, since prehistoric times. Watling Street may have crossed the Thames here, before the Romans got around to building London Bridge, and a raised wooden causeway through the marshes linked Thorney Island to Cow Ford where travellers could cross the Tyburn. The source of this river, which today flows unseen, underground, was in the Hampstead Hills. The Tyburn cut deeply through the forest until it reached the marshland at Cow Ford. Here, wild animals came to drink where the banks were lower and they could reach the water: deer, wild boars, martens, and even bears and wolves. It was probably a good place for Londoners to hunt game and net wild birds for the cooking pot. Beavers may well have built dams and otters fished in the Tyburn and both were trapped for their fine, waterproof fur. Long before the monks’ Gregorian chant echoed across Thorney Island, the call of marsh birds, the boom of the bittern in the reeds, were the music of Westminster.

the foundations for the first pier of a new stone bridge over the Thames were begun as early as 1176. Much of the money for this incredible feat of engineering came from England’s thriving wool trade and a proverb of the time declared ‘London Bridge was built upon wool-packs’. Peter of Colechurch, Chaplain of St Mary Cheapside, was to oversee the construction of the new bridge of twenty piers and nineteen stone arches with a span of 906 feet.

When Peter Colechurch died in 1205 he had spent twenty-nine years on the job and the bridge wasn’t yet completed; It took another four years and three men’s supervision to see London Bridge finally finished in 1209. It was no easy matter to build a bridge across a fast-flowing, tidal river and as many as 200 lives were lost. The foundations for the piers could only be worked on at low tide and the more piers that were built the more restricted the river, and the faster and more furious

the waters flowed.

Shops and houses crammed both sides of the bridge and even before it was finished, King John determined that the rents of the buildings would be used to repair and maintain it . They were so tightly packed their upper storeys jettying out, some even joining their opposite neighbour, closing in the road beneath and making it a gloomy tunnel. The buildings also extended behind to hang out over the river, ideal for the construction of latrines. Although the frontage for the individual shops was tiny – thirty-two shops on the upstream side and thirty-five on the downstream – there was keen competition to have a shop on the bridge where it seemed the whole world must pass by

Old St Paul's From Francis_Bond,

Early Christian Architecture 1913

Old St Paul's, had a 480 foot spire, one of the tallest building in the medieval world.

After the reformation, St Paul's became Protestant, but after her coronation Mary Tudor had returned it to Catholicism. The Bishop of London returned St Paul's to protestantism in 1559 but less than two years later the spire was struck by lightening - clearly a sign from God - the spire crashed through the roof. Although the roof was replaced the cathedral never returned to it's former glory until it was destroyed by the great fire of 1666 and rebuilt by Christopher Wren