History of London and its Environs, from the earliest period of authentic record, to the defeat of the Britons by Suetonius.
The remote history of this magnificent city, which in wealth or magnitude has never been surpassed, is involved in much obscurity. Some of the early chroniclers even go so far as to claim the Trojans as its founders. Geoffrey of Monmouth, a monkish historian, says, that Brute, a descendant of Aeneas, the son of Venus, came to this country, and built this town, in the year of the world (or about years before Christ), and named it , or New Troy. He states that, about a century before the Roman invasion, this town was
He states, likewise, that British Kings were buried in London; and that Malmutius Dunwallo, (whose son Belinus is said to have founded the gate and haven at Belingsgate,)
For all this we have only the word of Geoffrey; which, however, as it was of a nature to obtain implicit credence at the time when he flourished, (during the reign of Henry I.) was firmly believed, even to a later period. In a memorial presented by the Lord Mayor to Henry VI. in the
| year of his reign, this account is brought forward to prove the |
&c. This memorial is among the records kept in the Tower.
But dismissing this fable, it will appear that the Britons had formed towns, and that to them must be ascribed the foundation of London. Caesar, in his Commentaries, denominates it the chief city of the Trinobantes, which is easily converted to , describing the exact situation of the British ; the vale of London being certainly of the most extensive in the British dominions, taking it from Brentwood to Windsor way, and from Hampstead to the Surrey hills another. Others have translated the expression made use of by Caesar, , as the of the ; while some have argued, that these words are used rather in the sense of
of the ; and of this opinion are Bishop Stillingfleet, and a later historian, Maitland. Certainly their construction of this obscure point seems to be borne out by the sense in which Caesar afterwards applies the word ; but Ammianus Marcellinus, a Roman author, who lived in the reign of Valens, about of the Christian era, subsequently calls it ; and again he mentions it as
the latter being the name which the Romans, with the national spirit of all conquerors, endeavoured to attach to it after their settlement.
That industrious antiquary, Sir R. C. Hoare, Bart. has thrown much light on the state of ancient British towns. He says,
Speaking of some remains excavated near Warminster, he says:
Sometimes a British village is a square earth-work. village is an oblong square earth-work, humouring the hill. There are pits on side, so regular in their form and plan, that Sir Richard thinks they were designed for huts of habitation,
Another strong index of a British settlement, he states,
Where the situation was covered by woods or surrounded by marshes, it was generally chosen. It was in such situations that the prince or chieftain of a tribe of settlers erected his habitation. His followers erected theirs around, as well as stalls for the cattle; a ditch and mound of earth secured the whole. A station of this description, or a fortress of strength, surrounded by habitations, as most strong fortresses then were, was called a This word, modified by the various dialects into , , or , is in use to designate a place of strength in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland to this day. When the Romans conquered the Gaulish towns, and planted colonies in them, they either gave new names to them, or latinised the old ones.
Ptolemy, whose work, however valuable, is not free from geographical errors, has placed on the south side of the Thames. This opinion has been countenanced by the learned Dr. Gale. He mentions that many coins, tesselated works, sepulchral
| remains, &c. have been discovered in Fields and the Borough; his words are, |
The arguments of Dr. Gale have been opposed with some success by Mr. Maitland, Dr. Woodward, and several other eminent antiquaries. The former, who had been at great pains in investigating the ground on the south side of the Thames, observes, that the Romans would never have made choice of so damp a place for a station as Fields must have been, though afterwards, by embanking and draining, they certainly frequented the southern side of the river, as is evident from the numerous discoveries of remains of this people, especially within the last few years.
The site of London is such as the British settlers would select, according to their method of forming towns. The adventurers who explored the Thames, with a view of seeking a proper place of settlement, must have perceived, for a considerable distance on their entrance, nothing but dreary marshes; for the sea then rolled uncontrolled over large tracts of the Kent and Essex coasts, which are now preserved from inundation by extensive embankments. The higher grounds by Woolwich and Greenwich could offer few temptations to arrest the progress of the adventurers; but advancing beyond the , the site of the metropolis would be presented to their view, rising from the north bank in an amphitheatric form, with gentle undulations of hill and dale, until the horizon is bounded by a range of eminences, of which Hampstead, Highgate, and Muswell Hill are the principal. They would find it secured to the west by the , then a deep and rapid stream; to the east by a natural fosse, afterwards called Wall-brook, or beyond that, by the marsh; and protected towards the north by a thick forest, which, even so late as the time of Fitz Stephen, is stated to have been well stocked with beasts of the chace. At the base rolled a wide, deep, and as the old records term it,
Though some portion of the land was marshy, which circumstance, as a means of defence, would be considered by a rude people rather as an advantage than otherwise, yet on the whole it was fertile, and well adapted either for pasture or cultivation. The possession of this site gave the command of of the most extensive vales in the country; stretching in an unvaried level of fertile alluvial soil for miles, as far as Windsor; and of an extent of rich meadow land to the east, as far as the Lea River. The situation, at a convenient distance from the sea,
| was well adapted for any traffic that might be carried on with the Gaulish merchants. In short, the advantages of the site as a place of settlement, whether for defence or traffic, appear so considerable as to lead to the conclusion, that London was, at least, of the earliest towns formed in the island by the Britons.
Having established the fact incontrovertibly, that the Britons did form what may fairly be called towns, the British name of London is decisive as to the nature of the capital in its origin, and as to the date of its foundation being anterior to the conquest of Britain by the Romans. Various etymologies are given of the name by antiquaries. Tacitus calls it , and ; Bede, ; King Alfred, in his translation of the passage in Bede, ; other appellations given to it by the Saxons, were and ; Camden supposes it may be from or , the Gaulish term for a grove, and , a city, or |
W. Owen, Esq. F.S.A. the learned editor of the Welch Archaeology, considers it to be derived from , a lake, and , a town; being the term for a broad expanse of water. And when all the lands on the Surrey side of the river, as far as the Camberwell Hills, were overflown by the Thames, as they must have been before they were protected by embankments, the term of the
would certainly have been applicable. Some have supposed it might be derived from the British , a ship, and , a town, or
but this could only have been after the place became remarkable for the resort of shipping. The transition from to or is easy; and this is, perhaps, the most probable etymology of the part of the name, as serving to designate the particular situations. The name given it by Ammianus Marcellinus of , leads us to suppose that the Trinobantes were its founders. Antiquaries have been exceedingly anxious to ascertain the precise spot at which Caesar crossed the Thames. Camden, upon the authority of a tradition, which is, perhaps, as old as the reign of Alfred the Great, for it is mentioned by the venerable Bede, believes that it was at a place called the
at Shepperton, about a furlong beyond Walton Bridge, or nearly miles from London. Some have considered that the position of these stakes, which,
To this it may be answered, that there was probably more than row, and that the whole breadth of the ford was occupied by them. Geoffrey of Monmouth says, that the stakes were intended to prevent the passage of Caesar's ships. Some have conjectured that they were the remains of an ancient fishing wear. But Mr. Brewer admits, that
Bagford, an antiquary of great zeal and industry, in a letter to Hearne, published in , determines that Caesar must have crossed the Thames from in , to Dowgate, because
and also of
&c. After having assumed that these remains could not have been left by any of the Roman armies, which subsequently traversed, or were stationed in the country, he says,
when he goes on to narrate the passage, with as much minuteness as if he had been an eye-witness. He makes the Romans land at Dowgate, and fixes Caesar's camp in . Maitland denies that the ford was at Dowgate, at Coway Stakes, or at any of the other places which have been mentioned. He says, his attention having been drawn to the subject by the mention of the passage of the Britons over the Thames on a subsequent occasion, when pursued by the Roman army, he endeavoured, by an actual survey, to find the spot. He sounded the river at several neap tides; when, on the , he discovered a ford, at about feet west of the south-west angle of the College garden,
As this was the
in the river, he concludes, that the conqueror of the world must have marched by the place where our veterans now repose, after their toilsome services. But unfortunately for the disputants on this subject, there have been at least well known fords across the Thames. The was at , opposite to in , so called from a corn-mill which anciently stood there, and from its leading to a ford across the river. The other was against York-house, the palace of
| the Archbishop of York, which stood on the site of the streets adjoining to what still bears the name of York-stairs. Bagford, in the letter above quoted, says, this |
Added to which, it is well known that the level of the river is continually changing, and Mr. Brewer states--
No argument can, therefore, be founded on its present state, especially when the effects of embankments are considered; nor is implicit reliance to be placed upon the expressions of Caesar, as to the localities with which beyond his line of march, it is probable he was but imperfectly acquainted. All the territory to the east of the was most probably occupied by the Trinobantes, with whom Caesar was in treaty, and it must have been, therefore, above that spot where the hostile forces of Cassibellanus were drawn up in array to dispute the passage. It could not have been lower down than Mill-ford, and may have been as far up as Coway-stakes. Maitland objects to the distance, but though Caesar states that the confines of Cassibellanus' territory were miles from the sea, it does not follow that he effected his passage at the nearest boundary. The tradition has some evidence for its support. On St. George's-hill, at no great distance from the Thames on the Surrey side, is the remains of a camp, apparently Roman, which is known by the name of
and comprehends in its area more than acres. There are the remains of a larger encampment at Oatlands, with which it probably communicated.In the fields, on the opposite bank, to the north-east of the village of Shepperton, are some artificial inequalities of surface, which Dr. Stukely considered to be the remains of a Roman encampment; but they are now too indistinct to allow any satisfactory opinion to be formed respecting them. About quarters of a mile to the west of the village, Mr. Brewer states spear-heads and parts of sword-blades have been found in a state of extreme decay. He adds,
At Greenfield Common, there were, until the year , Roman camps, and there were the remains of an encampment on Hounslow-heath until before its enclosure. There are other indications of Roman remains in the line from Hill on the side
|of the river, to a considerable distance towards St. Albans, near which place, it is supposed, the strong hold of Cassibellanus was situated. There were, until recently, vestiges of a broad raised road, in a meadow, at no great distance from the banks of the river, and leading in a direction towards the stakes. So general was the opinion formerly that this was the spot at which the Roman army crossed, that, it is stated, a cutler made a small fortune by selling knives, the handles of which, he said, were manufactured from the Coway stakes.There is every reason to suppose that the Romans possessed themselves of London in the reign of Claudius, under whom Aulus Plautius took Camulodunum, the present Colchester, in Essex, and planted a colony, consisting of veterans of the legion, about years after the invasion of our island by Caesar. Londinium was made a Praefectura; the inhabitants, a mixture of Romans and Britons, being suffered to enjoy no more than the name of citizens of Rome, being governed by prefects sent annually from thence, without having either their own laws or magistrates.|
There is no mention of this important place, till the reign of Nero; when Tacitus speaks of it as famous for its great concourse of merchants, and its vast commerce. The exports from hence were cattle, hides, and corn; dogs made a small article, and slaves a considerable object. The imports were, at , salt, earthenware, and works in brass, polished bits of bones, horse collars, toys of amber, and glasses and other articles of the same material.
The mention of London was occasioned by a calamity, in the year , in the reign of Nero, which nearly occasioned the extinction of the Roman power in Britain. In the narration of this event, given by the Roman historians, the name of this great city occurs for the time in history. The whole possesses so much interest, that we shall give a translation of the entire passages:
This was the most terrible overthrow the Britons ever received; but though defeated, they were not entirely dispersed. Suetonius obtained a reinforcement, and the country round, whereever the people had declared open hostility, or even suspected of treachery, was laid waste, with fire and sword. Famine was the greatest calamity which the unfortunate Britons had to encounter; for, when employed in preparations for the revolt, they had neglected the cultivation of their lands, depending altogether on the success of their arms, and the booty which they expected to seize from the Romans. Suetonius, however, was recalled soon after, and as his successor did not press hostilities, a state of tranquillity ensued.
In contemplating a scene like that of this dreadful conflict, as described by Tacitus, we are naturally led to enquire on what spot it took place. The prevailing opinion has long been, that the battle was fought at , in the immediate vicinity of the metropolis. Mr. Nelson, the historian of , who appears to have given the most attention to the subject, states, that is supposed to have been so called, from its contiguity to the spot where the celebrated battle was fought between the Romans and the Britons, A. D. . The operations of the Roman General were, it is probable, confined to the north and north-western vicinity of London. It will be readily admitted, that no situation in the neighbourhood of the capital could afford a more advantageous position, than the high ground in the
|vicinity of , both in regard to security, and as a post of observation for an army apprehensive of an immediate attack from an immense superiority of force.|
The opinion that the scene of this dreadful conflict was not far distant from this spot, is further strengthened by some considerable remains of an encampment, which may yet be seen in the neighbourhood, and which exhibit sufficient evidence that the situation was an important military post, upon some occasion in the early part of our history.The name of the district, which in the Doomsday Book is spelt appears to have reference to a , or fortified enclosure, as most of the names with similar terminations have. In a field, called the Reed Moat Field, a little to the northward of the workhouse, are the remains of a camp, evidently Roman, and which is generally supposed to have been the position occupied by Suetonius, previous to his engagement with the Britons. These remains consist of a praetorium, which, in situation, form, and size, exactly corresponds with the description of the general's tent as given by Polybius in his account of the Roman method of castrametation. The site of the praetorium is a square of about feet; the area within the entrenchment being a quadrangle of about yards. The surrounding fosse varies in breadth from to feet, which irregularity has been occasioned by encroachments on the embankments. The fosse, which is about or feet deep, is for the most part filled with water, and overgrown with sedge.
In the encampment of a Roman army, the general's tent always occupied the most convenient place for prospect or command, so this praetorium is seated on an elevated spot, embracing an extensive view over the adjacent country on all sides. To make it more convenient in this respect, that wall from whence the view was least commanding has been raised by art, and presents a bolder embankment; and there is a visible ridge across the middle of the area where this elevated part begins. There is also a raised breast-work or rampart, extending for a considerable length on the western side of the praetorium, and another on the south. The positions occupied by this camp (supposing it to have been that of Paulinus), will be found strikingly advantageous, when it is considered that the enemy was expected to make the attack from the circle nearest the metropolis.
It is probable that this was the place of security to which Paulinus retired, to unite his scattered forces, and upon which occasion the camp was formed; for it was customary with the Romans to entrench themselves, though they remained but a single night in the place. The description Tacitus gives of the scene of his operations is very narrow and confined. But the great scene of carnage appears to have been a couple of eminences.
It is not unlikely that the Roman general abandoned the above encampment on finding the disparity of his forces compared with that of the Britons, with which he had to contend, and fixed upon the narrow spot of ground, as best calculated for his little army to act with advantage. The situation of the valley that lies between the acclivities of , and the high ground about , and where the river Fleet has its course, though now, for the most part, obscured by buildings, will not, on inspection, be found any thing at variance with the above description of Tacitus; and an opinion may be fairly hazarded, that the scene of this action was confined to this place, in the immediate vicinity of . noteBagford, in his letter to Hearne, speaking of a friend, Mr. John Conyers, an apothecary, who formerly lived in , says,
The vestiges of the encampment alluded to, have recently been much defaced by digging carried on to make bricks. In , a survey was made of the praetorium and fosse, an engraving of which is annexed.
It has been drained, and we have learned, that in the course of , a labourer, who was occupied in digging in it, turned up a number of arrow heads, which he sold. Shortly afterwards, a labourer, whilst digging a few yards to the south of the praetorium, for materials to mend a road, uncovered a pavement of red tiles. It was little more than a foot beneath the surface of the soil, and was about feet square. The tiles were about fingers thick, and about inches square. They were mostly figured, but as neither taste nor curiosity prompted the proprietor to preserve any of the fragments, they were all consigned, as rubbish, to the bottom of a deep road. This pavement was, in all probability, Roman. From this circumstance, and from fragments of stone ware which it is reported have been found here, little doubt need be entertained, on the whole, that this was a Roman station.
The passages we have quoted from Tacitus, claim our attention, not alone from their general interest, but from their conveying, with the recorded notice of the town which was to become the future metropolis, an outline of the advances made towards civilization by the Roman settlers in its neighbourhood, and from the additional evidence they give as to its probable origin and early condition.
 Antonini. Itin. p. 65.
 History of London, p. 13, 1825.
 Camden believes they were so called from the British Tre-nant, a town in a valley. The inhabitants of Galway, in Scotland, which is full of vallies, were formerly called in British Noantes; and in a valley on the Rhine, called Le Vault, anciently lived a nation called the Nantuates, who had their name from their situation.
 Brewer's London and Middlesex, v. iv. p. 199.
 Within the last few months, a considerable number have been raised from their situation.
 Strabo, lib. iv. p. 307.
 Adjoining the Small Pox Hospital, St. Pancras.
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|Chapter I: History of London and its environs, from the earliest period of authentic record to the defeat of the Britons by Suetonius|
|Chapter II: Historical account of Roman London, with notices of remains discovered.|
|Chapter III: History of London from the departure of the Romans till the time of the Conquest|
|Chapter IV: History of London from the Conquest to the reign of Henry the Third|
|Chapter V: History of London from the reign of Henry the Third to the reign of Edward the Second|
|Chapter VI: History of London from the reign of Edward the Second to the reign of Richard the Second|
|Chapter VII: History of London from the reign of Henry the Fourth to the reign of Edward the Fourth|
|Chapter VIII: History of London from the reign of Edward the Fourth to the reign of Henry the Eighth|
|Chapter IX: History of London during the reign of Henry the Eighth|
|Chapter X: History of London from the reign of Edward the Sixth to the accession of Elizabeth|
|Chapter XI: History of London, during the reign of Elizabeth.|
|Chapter XII: History of London during the reign of James the First|
|Chapter XIII: History of London during the Reign of Charles the First|
|Chapter XIV: History of London during the Commonwealth and the reign of Charles the Second|
|Chapter XV: History of London during the reign of James the Second|