London has a history dating back over 2000 years. It has experienced plague, fire, civil war, aerial bombardment, terrorist attacks and Boris Johnson. The City of London is its historic core, which represents a very small part of the London metropolitan area.
Geoffrey of Monmouth affirms in his “Historia Regum Britanniae” that London was founded by Brutus of Troy about 1000-1100 BC after he defeated a giant called Gogmagog. At that time the settlement was known as “Caer Troia”, which later became “Trinovantum”. An Iron Age tribe inhabited the area prior to the Romans. An array of legendary kings followed, such as Lud, who probably renamed the town “Caer Ludein”, from which London was derived.
Since, Geoffrey’s claims have been refuted as archaeologists have found no evidence of a prehistoric settlement and it appears unlikely that a pre-Roman city existed. Time will tell because some of the Roman city remains unexcavated and some remnants of a settlement may still be found. However, there were certainly settlements of a kind nearby because settlements have been unearthed at Egham, Brentford and Vauxhall but nothing comparable to Roman London. It also seems that the Thames was an important tribal boundary.
The Roman civilian town of Londinium was established seven years after the invasion of AD43. It was relatively small, the size of Hyde Park. Queen Boudica routed the town a few years later but it was rebuilt and grew rapidly over the following decades.
During the 2nd century, Londinium replaced Colchester as the capital of Britannia. It had a population of 600,000 inhabitants, temples, bath houses, a large fort and a basilica. Sometime between 180 and 225 AD the London Wall was constructed encircling what is the present City. Six gates were built of Roman origin, Ludgate, Aldersgate, Newgate, Cripplegate, Bishopsgate and Aldgate.
It was thought that an Anglo-Saxon settlement avoided the area around Londinium but excavations in 2008 unearthed a cemetery at Covent Garden, which indicates that they had begun to settle in the 5th or 6th centuries. It was known as “Lundenwic” and probably grew to have a population of 10-12000. By the early 7th century, the London area had been incorporated into the kingdom of the East Saxons. Ethelbert was the king at this time and under his reign, St. Paul’s Cathedral was founded and was traditionally said to be the site of an old Roman temple. By the 730s, London seems to have come under control of Mercia. The Vikings attacked and took control of much of England until the city was recaptured and was governed under King Alfred’s sovereignty in 886. For defensive purposes, the settlement was moved within the old Roman walls and became known as “Hindenburg”.
From this point, the City of London began to develop its own local government and legal system. Danish attacks continued and in 1014 the city fell and King Ethelred fled. When he died in 1016, his son Edmund Ironside gathered forces. London was beseiged by the Danish king’s army and eventually most of England was controlled. In 1042 The Danish King Cnut’s dynasty died out and English rule was restored under Edward the Confessor. He founded Westminster Abbey and the City established itself as the seat of central government. Edward’s death in 1066 without an apparent heir led to a succession dispute and the Norman conquest of England. But that is another story…
Happy English learning!!