London Bridge is Falling Down

1014 was a busy time for Londoners. The year before, Swegn Forkbeard, their unwelcome new king had died after only 5 months on the throne, and Aethelred wanted his crown back. But the Vikings were still in possession of the city, and they had other ideas. This time they were the ones defending London, and the attackers were Aethelred the Unready and his ally King Olaf of Norway.
Aethelred and Olaf were clever fellows and they protected their ships with thatched roofs pulled from buildings downstream. The bridge was packed with stout Vikings throwing everything they had onto the Saxon ships, who were busy tying ropes to the bridge piles. They rowed with all their might, taking advantage of the tide, and were able to pull out the supports, tearing the bridge down and everyone on it.  London threw open the gates and welcomed their old king back in, and the Northmen went away, only to return two years later with Canute and start all over again.
Many historians think this is where the nursery rhyme came from!

3 thoughts on “London Bridge is Falling Down

  • sandra hagberg says:

    Re: Pre Westminster Palace Royal Residences in London
    I have been interested in this subject for some time and research has led to dead ends. I have contacted both London and British Museums and recvd vague and surprisingly disinterested answers (as if they have never been curious about this!). I have heard of the possible connection to Baynards Castle and wonder where YOU got this info? I have just read bio of Edward the Confessor by Frank Barlow. It is considered quite a definitive and scholarly work. BUT he never mentions pre W.Palace residences or even discusses possible sites. Unfortunately he passed away few years ago or I would try to ask him. He does refer often to things that happened in London pre Cnut to Edward so they have to have had somewhat substantial base there but where! If you have further info or could point me to other resources I would really appreciate it.
    Thank You! Sandra Hagberg

    • Hi Sandra,
      Thanks so much for your note. Alas, I can’t precisely retrace my steps of two years ago, but I do know that there is a wealth of information on the site. As stated in my “Canute’s London Palace” post, I found some critical information in Gentleman’s magazine, Volume 139, but now I can’t locate the specific page (that’s the internet for you!).

      Also, it took a trip to London to scour the bookshelves for the two following books: THE PORT OF MEDIEVAL LONDON by Gustav Milne (Tempus Publishing Ltd, UK 2003) and LONDON BRIDGE, 2000 YEARS OF A RIVER CROSSING by Bruce Watson, Trevor Brigham and Tony Dyson (Museum of London Archaeology Service, 2006 ed.). As you can see, once I started investigating the Anglo-Saxon port I was able to discover more information about the post-Alfred settlement inside the old Roman walls. Since Canute’s palace was apparently a short walk from the active port, everything started to fall together for me. I believe this palace was abandoned by the next century, but it’ll take more digging for me to figure out where I ran into that. Sounds like a good excuse for another post!

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