Archive for the ‘Saxon History’ Category

St Mary Woolnooth

St Mary Woolnooth

It is thought that this has been a site of worship for over 2000 years as excavations have revealed the presence of a Roman temple and an Anglo-Saxon church.

The dedication is to St mary of the Nativity. The term Woolnooth is believed to have come from Wulnathe de Walesbrok, a 12th century benefactor.

The Anglo-Saxon church had been replaced by a Norman building, which was rebuilt in 1445. Badly damaged during the Great Fire of London in 1666, it was repaired by Sir Christopher Wren, but by 1711 it had been declared unsafe and was demolished.

High Altar

High Altar

Nicholas Hawksmoor was commissioned to build a replacement, it is the only church by this famous church builder in the city of London. He began in 1716 and it finally opened for worship in 1727. John Newton, hymn writer and anti-slavery campaigner was the priest here from 1780-1807 and William Wilberforce was also known to have worshipped here.

The Pulpit

The Pulpit

There were many changes over the following years, most notably the removal of the galleries in 1876. It has been threatened with demolition over the years as it occupies a prime site in the city. In 1897 plans were laid to demolish the church in conjunction with the building of Bank station on the underground railway, but public pressure ensured its survival. The railway company purchased the church crypt and worked to ensure that no damage was done to the church structure whilst building the station underneath it.

Today in addition to its English-speaking congregation it is also home to a German-speaking Swiss community in London as well as being the official church in London of the government of  the Canadian state of British Columbia.

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The history of All Hallows dates back to Saxon times when a small wooden church was built here by the Abbey of Barking. This was soon replaced with a stone church around 675AD and part of that church remains in the current building. Interestingly near this Saxon arch is a section of Roman Pavement, believed to be from a domestic dwelling of the late 2nd century. (The change in ground level is evident as this is now in the crypt of the church.).

Saxon arch from building of 675AD

Saxon arch from building of 675AD

2nd century Roman pavement

2nd century Roman pavement

In the crypt is an interesting little museum dealing with the history of the church.

Crypt museum

Crypt museum

Its location adjacent to the Tower of London has meant that it was often the resting place of bodies from the executions and these have included Thomas More, John Fisher and Archbishop Laud. Although it is close to the site of the start of the Great Fire of London in 1666, the church survived through the efforts of Admiral Penn (father of William Penn of Pennsylvania fame). William was baptised at All Hallows and first educated here.

Baptismal register recording the baptism of William Penn

Baptismal register recording the baptism of William Penn

Whilst he was here on diplomatic duties, John Quincy Adams, later to be President of the USA, was married in All Hallows in 1797.

"John Quincy Adams" by Charles Robert Leslie - [1]Another copy at [2] (b/w, higher resolution 2063x2700). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_Quincy_Adams.jpeg#/media/File:John_Quincy_Adams.jpeg

“John Quincy Adams” by Charles Robert Leslie – Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Having survived the Great Fire, the church was not so fortunate in 1940 when bombs fell on it and only the tower and walls were left standing. However rebuilding efforts were soon in place and the new foundation stone was laid in 1948 and the rebuilding was completed 9 years later.

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Aerial view of Tynemouth priory and Castle today

Aerial view of Tynemouth priory and Castle today

During my recent visit to Northumberland, I visited Tynemouth Priory, which is situated on a high rocky headland on the north shore of the mouth of the River Tyne. It was a horrible wet morning and I could not help but feel sorry for those for whom this had been their home. I mentioned this to the people in the information centre and they said that there were actually letters from medieval monks in the Priory describing how they hated the place because of its weather and because the waves crashing on the rocks below would keep them awake at night.

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There is evidence that the site was occupied during the Iron Age, but apart from a few small remains it doesnot appear to have been occupied during the Roman period.

Iron Age round-house

Iron Age round-house

It is believed that Tynemouth Priory was founded in the early seventh century. It is recorded that in 651 Oswin, King of Deira, was buried there after being murdered. He was subsequently canonised and the shrine of St Oswin became a site of pilgrimage. He was the first of three Kings to be buried in the Priory. The second was King Osred of Northumbria, also a victim of murder, in 792.
In the ninth century, the Priory was repeatedly attacked by the Danes and despite work to strengthen the defences was eventually destroyed in 875. There seems to have been no inclination to rebuild the Priory at this time and so the site lay unused for about 150 years.
In the reign of Edward the confessor, the land was owned by Tostig, Earl of Northumberland and brother of the future King Harold. He rebuilt Tynemouth as a fortress. During this time the tomb of St Oswin was rediscovered and Earl Tostig planned to found a new monastery on the site. However, in 1065 he had a falling out with his brother, who persuaded the King to exile Tostig from country. Tostig first sought sanctuary on the continent and then with King Malcolm III of Scotland. In 1066, together with the Scots and Norwegians he invaded north-east England. It was an invasion that was to change the course of English history as he chose to invade just a few weeks before William of Normandy would launch his invasion of the south of England. The newly crowned King Harold marched North to meet them and defeated them at the battle of Stamford Bridge, at which Tostig was killed. It was in the midst of the celebrations of this victory that King Harold received the news that William of Normandy has landed in Sussex.
With no progress on the re-founding of the monastery the remains of St Oswin were moved to the monastery at Jarrow.

7th century broach found on site

7th century broach found on site

Anglo-Saxon Eoforwic was a thriving commercial centre. Artistry, industry and learning flourished within the city. It is at this period that the first schools and churches were founded in York. It may have been this prosperity which first attracted the Viking raiders in the ninth century.

Many examples of Anglo-Saxon craftsmanship on display in the museum of Yorkshire.

Anglo-Saxon jewellery

Anglo-Saxon jewellery

Anglo-Saxon comb and hair grip

Anglo-Saxon comb and hair grip

This eighth century Anglo-Saxon helmet was found at Coppergate in York. It is only one of four found in the UK. It was made for member of the Anglo-Saxon royal family called Oshere and his name is inscribed above the nose guard.

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It is in very good condition and was found late in a wooden box, suggesting that it was deliberately placed there rather than discarded. Possibly Oshere had grown old and had no longer any use for it or maybe it was to hide such a valuable item people who might steal it.

The Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Eoforwic came to an end in the ninth century when the Vikings overran the kingdom and made York their capital, Jorvik.

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The Kingston Down brooch dates from between 600 to 625 A.D. This is one of the finest Anglo-Saxon brooches ever discovered and contains over 830 pieces of metal together with garnets, blue glass and Pearl inlay on a gold framework. It has been suggested that it may well have come from the same workshop as the finds discovered at Sutton Hoo in Essex. However despite it’s finery this was not just a display item and the wear pattern suggests it was quite regularly used and had been repaired a number of times. It was discovered at Kingston Down in Kent by Brian Fausett in 1771 and was offered the British Museum, following his death, in 1853. Amazingly, the British Museum declined the offer, apparently because at that time it had no interest in British history! A few years later it was purchased by Joseph Mayo and presented to Liverpool Museum where it can be seen today.

The Ashmolean Museum in the centre of Oxford has the distinction of being the worlds first University Museum dating back to 1678 when the first building was acquired to display the collection of Elias Ashmole, which he had acquired from other collectors and travelers.

The present building dates to 1845 although it has been redeveloped and refurbished on a number of occasions over the years to provide an airy interior with a modern layout. the most recent of these redevelopments was completed in 2009.

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The current Museum collection houses both the universities archaeological collection and its art collection.

It was also the site of a famous art theft. On the evening of 31st December 1999, as the country celebrated the coming of the millennium, thieves broke into the Museum and stole ‘view of Auvers-sur-Ouse’ by Cezanne, a painting valued at £3 million. The picture has never been offered for sale or been recovered, and since it was the only painting taken it is presummed that it was stolen to order.

The history of England is a weekly podcast by David Crowther. It plans to cover English history from the year 516 until the beginning of the 20th century. The series is still ongoing and has currently reached episode 92, but time-wise we have only reached 1322 so there are going to be plenty more episodes before we reach the end of the timeline.

I really enjoy David Crowther’s presentation style which is clear and detailed but in a very easily listenable manner and I look forward to the new episodes each week.

The history of England podcast is available via iTunes or directly from David Crowther’s website http://historyofengland.typepad.com/

Attended the London archaeology conference yesterday. The morning began with a series of reports on current or recent excavations in London

These looked at number of sites in the city (along the wall brook) and in what is now the southern suburbs of Lambeth, Depford and Bermondsey. One of the most interesting reports was a saxon building from the Grounds of Lambeth Palace (London home of the Archbishop of Canterbury). The finding of loom weights and needles is suggestive of weaving on this site.

The pictures below show similar articles from other London excavations

Loom Needles - Museum of London

Loom Needles – Museum of London

Loom weights - Museum of London

Loom weights – Museum of London

The site in Deptford was on the site of the Tudor Royal shipyard, a site that remined connected to shipbuilding until it finally closed in 1869. The Tudor storehouse from this stood on the site until 1952 (a notoriously bad era for the preservation of historic buildings) when it was demolished to make way for modern warehouses. The two excavations on wallbrook are adding futher evidence to our understanding of the Roman city away from the impressive public buildings. One of these is in the same area as the famous temple of Mithras discovered in 1954 during previous development of the site. Intrestingly the new development includes provision for the public display of the temple in its original position.

In the afternoon leading archaeologists traced the history of London from pre-historic to post- medievel periods in a series of review lectures. John Cotton emphasised that there was little evidence for London existing as a centre before the Roman period. Harvey Sheldon gave excellent evidence that the development of London as a capital city and a port took place early in the Roman period.

Statue of Roman soldier seconded to provincial administration - Museum of London

Statue of Roman soldier seconded to provincial administration – Museum of London

Martin Biddle told us that for a long period it was thought that there was little Saxon activity in the London area. This despite references from Bede that London was a thriving town and major port in Saxon times. The reason for this lack of evidence was that no one could believe that the Saxons would abandon the use of the Roman walled city. But it turned out that this was exactly what they did do and the Saxon city of London was situated around the Aldwych (or Old Port) and Strand areas to the west. The only Saxon activity in the old city may have been religous (around St Paul’s) or ceremonial / civil (around the old Cripplegate fort). Only in later years did the Saxons start to move back into the walled area.

Map of Saxon London (Lundenwic) and Roman walled city (Red outline)

Map of Saxon London (Lundenwic) and Roman walled city (Red outline)


Map from Museum of London

Intrestingly when I was in Canterbury Museum last year it was a similar story as the Saxons there decided not to live within the walled area and setlled outside.

An interesting and informative day.