Blog > History of London: The Saxon and Norman Period

January 14, 2013

It would be during the second phase of the history of London that some of the most famous sites in London would be built and are easily accessible from the Safestay Hostel by use of the London Underground.  

During the 500's the city of London would gradually become a Saxon trading town.  

Christianity would be introduced a bishop would be appointed an a cathedral would be built.  The inhabitants would eventually resist the influence of the Catholic Church and drive the bishop out of the settlement.  In the 9th century the invading Danes would capture and then burn the city. 

Alfred the Great  King of Wessex and the dominant ruler of England by his death in 899 would drive the Vikings (Danes) out and reestablish Saxon control of the city in 883 C.E.  It was at this time that the city walls would be rebuilt and a citizen army established. The city grew steadily but since it was built largely of wood fires would frequently destroy parts of the city.

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The origins of Westminster Abby would begin during this period.  In legend it was founded as an Abbey in the 600's  In the proven origins a community of Benedictine monks were installed on the site in either the 960's or 970's.  

In 1042 King Edward the Confessor began rebuilding St. Peter's Abby as a royal church to be used for important religious events and burial of royal personages.

It would be the first church in England built in the Norman Romanesque style. Westminster would be consecrated in 1065 but not really completed until 1090.  Edward would of course be buried here in early 1066 and his successor Harold II was probably crowned here as well. Many later English monarchs would be crowned and buried here as a tour of the site will show.

Lunduntown as the city was now called would continue to play a major role in English history with the arrival of the invading Normans in 1066.  William the Conqueror would have himself crowned at Westminster Abby but due to his distrust of the Saxon populace he would have built a number of fortresses within the walls of the city. 

Among these would include the Tower of London.  The White Tower would be built in 1078 and would be seen as a symbol of oppression and later a prison although its primary purpose was that of a royal residence. The whole Tower Complex would go through several phases of expansion mainly under Edward I, Henry III and Richard the Lionheart in  the 12th and 13th centuries. 

By the end of this period its present configuration would be set.  In English history it will serve as an armory, treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public records office and the present location of the Crown Jewels.  With the death of the last Norman king in 1154 this period in English history comes to an end.