Though there were prehistoric settlements throughout the vast area that we now call London, no evidence has yet been found for any such community at the northern end where the present city grew up.
The origins of the city lie in Roman times.
By the early 2nd century, the city had spread west of the Walbrook and a military fort was erected near the amphitheatre which itself was rebuilt in stone. This may have been in anticipation of a visit from the Emperor Hadrian in AD 122. He would not have approved of soldiers being billeted with civilians. The garrison was probably modest with responsibilities restricted to ceremonial, escort and guard duties. The amphitheatre may have been used for their military exercises. By about AD 200, the administration of Britain was divided in two. York became the capital of Britannia Inferior & London of Britannia Superior. Around the same time the city also acquired its famous walls (probably about 20ft high). This protective measure may have been due to Civil War, initiated when Governor Clodius Albinus tried to claim the Imperial Crown in Rome.
A century later, the Emperor Diocletian again reorganised Britain to improve administrative efficiency. London became the capital of Maxima Caesariensis, one of the four newly created provinces. It remained the financial centre of Britain, home of the treasury, and the usurping British Emperor Carausius established a mint there in AD 288. Carausius was soon murdered by his finance minister, Allectus. The latter employed Frankish mercenaries who besieged London and then proceeded to plunder it. Just in time, the true Emperor's general, Constantius Chlous, arrived, with a fleet of ships, to save the city & reunite Britain with Rome.
Details of late Roman London, and Britain as a whole, are few. Christianity appears to have reached the province at an early date and, only a year after the religion became officially tolerated in the Empire, London had its own Bishop, Restitutus, who is known to have attended the Imperial Council of Arles. Less welcome newcomers may have led to the addition of catapult towers along the city defences around AD 350. Picts and Irishmen were certainly invading Southern Britain eighteen years later. The Emperor Julian sent his general Theodosius to expel them and he used London as his headquarters. Soon afterward, the city's prestige was increased by its renaming as Augusta.
Not surprisingly, little is known of London in the period widely called the Dark Ages. However, archaeologists have given us a small glimpse of life at this time. The city was largely ruinous; yet at least one large Roman house, with an underground heating system and private bath-suite, was still being lived in, probably well into the late 5th century. The occupants used (or at least hoarded) Roman coins from previous decades and imported large amphora jars from the Eastern Mediterranean. This trade with the distant Empire may indicate a brief revival of London as a commercial centre. It has even been suggested that, due to the troubled nature of the times, the return exports may have been slaves.
The city appears to have been known by the late Celtic name of 'Caer-Lundein' and, may possibly, have been at the centre of a small kingdom also encompassing St. Albans. When Anglo-Saxon settlers first moved into Britain in the 450s, they quickly began to divide Britain up into numerous petty kingdoms.
Though London fell within the Kingdom of the East Saxons, its importance was obviously recognised by these newcomers and the city was often taken under direct control of the Essex overlords: variously Kings of Kent, Mercia or Wessex. The area within the old Roman walls was left almost wholly deserted, though there may have been an Essex Royal Palace somewhere nearby. Soon after the arrival of Christianity in the Saxon parts of Britain in 597, however, King Aethelbert of Kent built the first St. Paul's Cathedral within the Ludgate, supposedly replacing a pagan Saxon temple.
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