The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 1

Allen, Thomas


History of London and its Environs, from the earliest period of authentic record, to the defeat of the Britons by Suetonius.

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

encircled with walls,


graced with fay're buildings and towres by King Lud, who also builded the strong gate on the west part of the citie, afterwards called Ludgate, and changed the name of Troy Novant into Caer Lud.

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,)

built a temple therein, and dedicated it to the God of Peace.

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

great antiquity, precedence and dignity of the city of London, before Rome,

&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


, an ancient town, which is now called



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,

Whenever we find the surfaces of our chalk hills altered by excavations and other irregularities, we may there look with a prospect of success for the habitations of the Britons, and especially if the herbage is of a more verdant hue, and the soil thrown up by the moles of a darker tint. The high lands throughout England were the


occupied by the earliest inhabitants, at a period when the vallies were either incumbered by wood, or inundated by water. In all of them were found earth-works and barrows, the sure vestiges of ancient population. On the bleakest hills were excavated the luxuries of the Romans introduced into the British settlements, flues, hypocausts, stuccoed and painted walls, but not a single inscription has been discovered in any


of these British villages, which could throw a light upon the era in which they flourished. The British are distinguished from the Roman-British settlements by articles of iron, pottery of a particular kind, flues, glass, and coins.

Speaking of some remains excavated near Warminster, he says:

In this, as well as in the generality of other British villages, the attentive eye may easily trace out the lines of houses, or rather, hollow ways connected with them. These are particularly visible in the upper villages

on these downs, as well as the entrance to them. Between Wadham coppice and the village of Imber, a British village is placed on an elevated and commanding situation. In the centre of this village,


banks running parallel from east to west are very visible, forming a street; the ground between them being intended to secure their cattle; banks and ditches were lines of communication from


village to another.

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,

as there is the appearance of


direct streets or lines of communication between the excavations, which are ranged in regular order along the declivity of the hill. The oblong earth-work was the fortress, but they were unacquainted with the laws of fortification; there being no uniformity in the description of the ditches, some being placed within the vallum, and others without.

The general tests of their sites are ditches, banks, and inequalities of ground; the surface of the soil abounding with very rude pottery and covered ways, communicating with a strong hold, where they could in times of danger convey their wives, families, and herds. Where the settlement is of more recent date, we find a sheltered situation is usually chosen.

Another strong index of a British settlement, he states,

is to be found in numerous slight banks intersecting the Downs, and dividing it into parcels of unequal sizes. These were marks of cultivation and the division of lands; and the portions of land divided by these banks are frequently very small. These, I may say, are the constant appendages to a British settlement. Some of these are more decided than others; and many of them are so perfect in their plan, that you may trace the entrances to streets, and the hutted places of residence, and also great cavities of earth, originally dug for the reception of water.

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,

In his campis quos Sancti Georgii plebs vocat, multa Romanorum numismata, opera tesselata, lateres, et rudera, subinde deprehensa sunt. Ipse urnam majusculam, ossibus refertam, nuper redemi a fossoribus, qui non procul ab hoc Burgo [


], ad austrum multos alios simul eruerunt.

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

the City in

the Grove


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

Lake Town,


the town by the Lake,

would certainly have been applicable. Some have supposed it might be derived from the British , a ship, and , a town, or

the ship-town;

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

Coway Stakes,

at Shepperton, about a furlong beyond Walton Bridge, or nearly miles from London. Some have considered that the position of these stakes, which,

instead of being so placed as to line the friendly shore with their points, inclined to the hostile bank, were ranged directly across the river, and therefore could not have obstructed the passage of troops intending to pass the


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

their massive and armed character would appear to be the result of too much labor and cost to allow of our supposing that they were no more than the remains of a wear for fishing.

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

A Roman Camp was found recently at Farnborough, which is a village within a few miles of


, in Kent,

and also of

a famous glass Roman urn dug up at Peckham; a Janus' head dug up at St. Thomas's Watering; many Roman antiquities found at Blackheath,

&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,

And now I shall relate to you the manner of the Roman approaches nearer to London;

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,

whose channel, in a right line from the north-east to the south-west, was no more than




inches deep, where the day before, (it blowing hard from the west) my waterman assured me, that the water then was a foot lower; and it is probable that at such tides, before the course of the river was obstructed either by banks or bridge, it must have been considerably shallower.

As this was the

only ford

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

is another fordable place, but has not been made use of for some years.

Added to which, it is well known that the level of the river is continually changing, and Mr. Brewer states--

At present, (


) no part of the channel between the

Chelsea water-works


Battersea bridge

is less in depth than from




feet at low water.

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

Caesar's camp,

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,

Mr. Bray,

Beauties of England-Surry, p.211.

a writer, who was not likely to be misled by careless and idle assertion, states, he was informed by a fisherman, who had lived at Walton, and known the river all his life, that at this place, he has weighed up several stakes of the size of his thigh, about


feet long, shod with iron, the wood very black, and so hard as to turn an axe.

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:

About this time, Tacitus Paulinus Suetonius governed the Britons. In military skill, as well as in the opinion of the public, which does not allow any man to be without a rival, he was the competitor of Corbulo, and was ambitious of equalling, by his own conquests, the fame of that general, arising from the subjugation of Armenia. He, in consequence, prepared to attack Mona (Anglesea) an island strong in population, and an asylum for fugitives. He had flat bottomed vessels constructed, as the shore was shallow and uncertain. The foot disembarked by wading through the shallower parts, followed by the cavalry, or where the water was deeper, they swam on horseback. The hostile army was drawn up on the beach; arms and men presented a close array, while women ran to and fro, looking like furies, in their funeral garments, and with their dishevelled hair. The Druids paraded the ranks with torches, and, raising their hands to heaven, invoked the most dreadful imprecations. The novelty of this spectacle so astonished our soldiers, that they allowed their motionless bodies to be pierced with wounds, as if their limbs had been suddenly paralysed. At length, the remonstrances of their general, and their own mutual reproaches, lest they should permit themselves to be terrified by a band of women and priests, roused them;--they rushed on--slaughtered all who opposed them--and overwhelmed them in their own fires. A garrison was afterwards imposed on the vanquished. The groves, sacred to the rites of a bloody superstition, were cut down, for their altars were replenished from the veins of captives, and the gods were consulted by human sacrifices! While Suetonius was engaged in those offices, the sudden revolt of a province was announced to him. Prasatugus, King of the Iceni,noteThe territory of the Iceni extended over Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridge, and Huntingdonshire. celebrated for great wealth, had appointed Caesar his heir, jointly with his two daughters; supposing that, by such an act of conciliation, his kingdom and his household would be protected against all injury. The event was otherwise; for his kingdom was plundered by the centurions, and his palace by servants, as if both were given up for spoil. His wife, Boadicea, was scourged with rods, and his daughters ravished. The principal men of the Iceni were stripped of their patrimony, as if the whole territory had been given away. The relations of the deceased king were made slaves. Exasperated by such acts of violence, and dreading worse sufferings, as they had been reduced to the form of a province, the Icenians flew to arms. The Trinobantes joined the revolt. The neighboring states, not as yet taught to crouch in bondage, pledged themselves in secret councils to stand forth in the cause of liberty.

What chiefly excited their indignation, was the conduct of the veterans lately planted as a colony of Camulodunum. These men treated the Britons with cruelty and oppression; they drove the natives from their habitations, and calling them by the opprobrious names of slaves and captives, added insult to their tyranny. In these acts of oppression, the insolence of veterans was supported by the common soldiers, who, in their turn, expected to enjoy the same kind of life and equal privileges. The temple built in honour of Claudius was another cause of discontent. In the eyes of the Britons it seemed the citadel of eternal slavery. The priests, appointed to officiate at the altars, with a pretended zeal for religion, devoured the whole substance of the country. To overrun a colony, which lay quite naked and exposed, without a single fortification to defend it, did not appear to the incensed and angry Britons an enterprise that threatened either danger or difficulty. The fact was, the Roman generals attended to the improvements of taste and elegance, but neglected those of use. They embellished the province, and took no care to defend it.

While the Britons were preparing to throw off the yoke, the statue of Victory, erected at Camulodunum, fell from its base, without any apparent cause, and lay extended on the ground with its face averted, as if the goddess yielded to the enemies of Rome. Women in wild ecstacy rushed among the people, and with frantic screams denounced impending ruin. In the council-chamber of the Romans, hideous clamours were heard from without, in a foreign accent; savage howlings filled the theatre; near the mouth of the Thames, the image of a colony in ruins was seen in the transparent water; the sea was purpled with blood, and at the ebb tide, the figures of human bodies were traced on the sand. By these omens, the Romans were sunk in despair, while the Britons anticipated a glorious victory. Suetonius, in the mean time, was detained in the isle of Mona. In this alarming crisis, the veterans sent to Catus Decianus, the procurator of the province, for a reinforcement. Two hundred men, and those not completely armed, were all that officer could spare. The colony had but a handful of soldiers. Their temple was strongly fortified, and there they hoped to make a stand. But even for the defence of that place no measures were concerted. Secret enemies mixed in all their deliberations. No fosse was made; no pallisade thrown up; nor were the women, and such as were disabled by age or infirmity, sent out of the garrison. Unguarded and unprepared, they were taken by surprise, and, in the moment of profound peace, overpowered by the barbarians in one general assault. The colony was laid waste with fire and sword.

The temple held out, but after a siege of two days, was taken by storm. Petilius Cerealis, who commanded the ninth legion, marched to the relief of the place. The Britons, flushed with success, advanced to give him battle. The legion was put to the rout, and the infantry cut to pieces. Cerealis escaped with the cavalry to his entrenchments. Catus Decianus, the procurator of the province, alarmed at the scene of carnage which he beheld on every side, and further dreading the indignation of a people, whom, by rapine and oppression, he had driven to despair, betook himself to flight, and crossed over into Gaul.

Suetonius, undismayed by this disaster, marched through the heart of the country as far as London, a place not dignified with the name of a colony, but famed for the number of its merchants, and the plenty of its provisions. At Suetonius, mira constantia, medios inter hostes Londinium perrexit, cognomento quidem colonia non insigne, sed copia negotiatorum et commeatuum maxime celebre. Ibi ambiguus an illam sedem bello deligeret, circumspecta in frequentia militias, ni lachrimis auxiliam ejus orantium, flexus est, quin daret profectionis signum, et commitantes in partem agminis satisque magnis documentis temeritatim. acciperet. Si quos imbellis sexus aut Petilii caecitam unius oppidi damno fessa aetas, vel loci dulcedo attinuerat, servare universa statuit. Neque fletu ab hoste oppressi sunt. At that place, he meant to fix the seat of war; but reflecting on the scanty numbers of his little army, and the fatal rashness of Cerealis, he resolved to quit this station, and, by giving up one post, secure the rest of the province. Neither supplications nor the tears of the inhabitants, could induce him to change his plan. The signal for the march was given. All who chose to follow his banners were taken under his protection. Of all who, on account of their advanced age, the weakness of their sex, or the attractions of the situation, thought proper to remain behind, not one escaped the fury of the barbarians. The inhabitants of Verulamium (St. Alban's) were, in like manner, put to the sword. The genius of a savage people leads them always in quest of plunder; and accordingly, the Britons left behind them all places of strength. Wherever they expected feeble resistance and considerable booty, they were sure to attack with the fiercest rage. Military skill was not the talent of barbarians. The number massacred in the places which have been mentioned, amounted to no less than seventy thousand, all citizens or allies of Rome. To make prisoners and reserve them for slavery, or to exchange them, was not the idea of a people, who despised all the laws of war. The halter and the gibbet, slaughter and desolation, fire and sword, were the marks of savage valour. Aware that vengeance would overtake them, they were resolved to make sure of their revenge, and glut themselves with the blood of their enemies.

The fourteenth legion, with the veterans of the twentieth, and the auxiliaries from the adjacent stations, having joined Suetonius, his army amounted to little less than ten thousand men. Thus reinforced, he resolved, without loss of time, to bring on a decisive action. For this purpose, he chose a spot encircled with woods, narrow at the entrance, and sheltered in the rear by a thick forest. In that situation he had no fear of an ambuscade. The enemy, he knew, had no approach but in front. An open plain lay before him. He drew up his men in the following order: the legions in close array formed the centre; the light armed troops were stationed at hand, to serve as occasion might require; the cavalry took post in the wings. The Britons brought into the field an incredible multitude. They formed no regular line of battle. Detached parties and loose battalions displayed their numbers in frantic transport, bounding with exultation; and so sure of victory, that they placed their wives in waggons at the extremity of the plain, where they might survey the scene of action, and behold the wonders of British valour. Boadicea, in a warlike car, with her two daughters before her, drove through the ranks; she harangued the different tribes in their turn: This, said she, is not the first time that the Britons have been led to battle by a woman. But now she did not come to boast the pride of a long line of ancestry, nor even to recover her kingdom, and the plundered wealth of her family. She took the field like the meanest among them, to assert the cause of public liberty, and to seek revenge for her body seamed with ignominious stripes, and her two daughters infamously ravished. From the pride and arrogance of the Romans, nothing is sacred; all are subject to violation; the old endure the scourge, and the virgins are deflowered. But the vindictive gods are now at hand. A Roman legion dared to face the warlike Britons; with their lives they paid for their rashness; those who survived the carnage of that day, lie poorly hid behind their entrenchments, meditating nothing but how to save themselves by an ignominious flight. From the din of preparation, and the shouts of the British army, the Romans, even now, shrink back with terror. What will be their case when the assault begins? Look round, and view your numbers. Behold the proud display of warlike spirits, and consider the motives for which we draw the avenging sword. On this spot we must either conquer or die with glory. There is no alternative. Though a woman, my resolution is fixed; the men, if they please, may survive with infamy, and live in bondage.

Suetonius, in a moment of such importance, did not remain silent. He expected every thing from the valour of his men, and yet urged every topic that could inspire and animate them to the attack. Despise, he said, the savage uproar, the yells and shouts of undisciplined barbarians. In that mixed multitude, the women outnumber the men. Void of spirit, unprovided with arms, they are not soldiers who come to offer battle; they are dastards, runaways, the refuse of your swords, who have often fled before you, and will again betake themselves to flight, when they see the conqueror flaming in the ranks of war. In all engagements, it is the valour of a few that turns the fortune of the day. It will be your immortal glory, that with a scanty number, you can equal the exploits of a great and powerful army. Keep your ranks; discharge your javelins; rush forward to a close attack; bear down all with your bucklers, and hew a passage with your swords. Pursue the vanquished, and never think of spoil and plunder. Conquer, and all is yours. This speech was received with warlike acclamations. The soldiers burned with impatience for the onset, the veterans brandished their javelins, and the ranks displayed such an intrepid countenance, that Suetonius, anticipating the victory, gave the signal for the charge.

The engagement began. The Roman legion presented a close embodied line. The narrow defile gave them the shelter of a rampart. The Britons advanced with ferocity, and discharged their darts at random. In that instant, the Romans rushed forward in the form of a wedge. The auxiliaries followed with equal ardour. The cavalry, at the same time, bore down upon the enemy, and, with their pikes, overpowered all who dared to make a stand. The Britons betook themselves to flight, but their waggons in their rear obstructed their passage. A dreadful slaughter followed. Neither sex nor age was spared. The cattle, falling in one promiscuous carnage, added to the heaps of slain. The glory of the day was equal to the most splendid victory of ancient times. According to some writers, not less than eighty thousand Britons were put to the sword. The Romans lost about four hundred men, and the wounded did not exceed that number. Boadicea, by a dose of poison, put a period to her life. Paenius Posthumus, praefect in the camp of the second legion, as soon as he heard of the brave exploits of the fourteenth and twentieth legions, felt the disgrace of having, in disobedience to the orders of his general, robbed the soldiers under his command of their share in so complete a victory. Stung with remorse, he fell upon his sword, and expired on the spot.

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,

It was this very gentleman that discovered the body of an elephant, as he was digging for gravel in a field, near to the sign of Sir John Oldcastle in the Fields, not far from

Battle Bridge

, and near to the river of Wells, Fleet Ditch, which, though now dried up, was a considerable river in the time of the Romans! How this elephant came there is the question. I know some will have it to have lain there ever since the Universal Deluge. For my own part, I take it to have been brought over, with many others, by the Romans, in the reign of Claudius the emperor, and conjecture, (for a liberty of guessing may be indulged to me, as well as to others that maintain different hypothesis) that it was killed in some fight by a Briton. For not far from the place where it was found, a British weapon, made of a flint lance, like unto the head of a spear, fastened into a shaft of a good length, which was a weapon very common amongst the ancient Britons, was also dug up; they having not, at that time, the use of iron or brass, as the Romans had.

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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 Title Page
 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