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Burning of Southwark

The Burning of Southwark was a battle fought in Southwark during the Norman Conquest of England in October 1066.

Burning of Southwark
Part of the Norman Conquest of England
BayeuxTapestryScene47 (cropped).jpg
A scene from the Bayeux tapestry depicting the (earlier) burning of an Anglo-Saxon house
DateMid-October 1066
Location
Result Norman victory
Belligerents
Duchy of Normandy Kingdom of England
Commanders and leaders
Duke William of Normandy Ansgar
Strength
500 cavalry

The Norman soldiers of William, Duke of Normandy fought with Anglo-Saxon soldiers in Southwark for control of London Bridge, crossing the River Thames to the English capital London. The Normans defeated the Anglo-Saxons in the battle but withdrew from Southwark due to strong local resistance, setting fire to the town during their retreat to spread terror. Southwark was destroyed and William marched westwards and cut off Anglo-Saxon supply routes to London which led to the city submitting to his rule.

BackgroundEdit

 
Map of key events in the Norman Conquest

William, Duke of Normandy had launched his invasion of the Kingdom of England in late September 1066, declaring his claim to the English throne following the death of the childless Anglo-Saxon King Edward the Confessor, the son of his great-aunt Emma of Normandy. Edward's death in January 1066 saw his brother-in-law Harold Godwinson proclaimed king by the Anglo-Saxon Witenagemot, but still resulted in a violent succession crisis contested by his brother Tostig Godwinson, the King of Norway Harald Hardrada, and Ælfgar, Earl of Mercia's sons Morcar and Ēadwine. Harold had defeated his other opponents by 25 September, leaving William's invasion on 28 September his only remaining threat.

On 14 October, William defeated an English force at the Battle of Hastings and killed Harold, then moved to secure the English capital at London, where Edgar Ætheling had been proclaimed king by the Witenagemot.[1][2] Expecting little resistance, William sent a small force of cavalry to the strategic town of Southwark to secure the southern end of London Bridge, which provided a crossing of the River Thames and direct access to London.[3][4] At the time, Southwark was a partially-fortified suburb town of London and formed part of the personal estate of Godwinson's family.[5] [6]

BattleEdit

Some of London's population supported William but many resisted the Norman invaders, with the local Anglo-Saxon forces led by Ansgar (or Esegar) the "Staller" (Royal standard bearer) and sheriff of Middlesex.[7][8] Ansgar had been wounded whilst leading a contingent of Londoners for Harold at the Battle of Hastings, but had returned to the city with a number of other Anglo-Saxon leaders to organise a defence against William.[7][9] Although Ansgar's wounds were so severe that he was not capable of walking and had to be carried in a litter, he seems to have mustered a force by that season's third raising of the fyrd and his troops were described as "numerous and formidable".[9][10] William made an offer to Ansgar that he could retain his estates and position as sheriff and join William's council if he recognised him as king.[10] Ansgar refused to accept the terms and led a number of London citizenry against the Norman force at Southwark, with Edwin, Earl of Mercia, Morcar, Earl of Northumbria and Ealdred, Archbishop of York may possibly have been amongst the defenders.[10] The 500 Norman knights defeated the Anglo-Saxon force and reached London Bridge, however, they were unable to hold the structure and soon withdrew, shocked at the fierce defence put up by the defenders.[11] [10] The town of Southwark was set ablaze as the Normans withdrew to spread terror amongst the inhabitants of London across the river.[3][11] Almost the entire town was destroyed, including the Southwark mint, which did not recover its former levels of production until the late 1080s.[6][12]

AftermathEdit

William postponed his attempt to directly storm London as a result of the defence made at Southwark.[10] The Norman probing force reunited with the main army which began a circuitous march around the west of London.[4] This country was strongly anti-Norman and William found many of the Thames crossings defended, avoiding Reading and reached Wallingford where he crossed the river after securing the support of Saxon thegn Wigod.[10][13][10] William then split his forces into two divisions; leading one personally northwards via Wendover to Berkhamsted with the other marching via Sonning, Wargrave, Maidenhead and Chalfont St Peter.[14]

William's forces cut off the supply routes to London from the rest of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom and, together with the burning of Southwark and the Duke’s negotiation with the county of Kent, led to the submission of the city.[14][15] William had been in contact with leading clergymen in the English capital to persuade them to support his cause, and it seems that they were successful in influencing the Anglo-Saxon leaders of the city who travelled to Berkhamsted to pledge their loyalty to William and deliver him the keys to the city gates.[11][13][14][16] William entered the city peacefully and was crowned King of England there on Christmas Day.[11]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Golding, Brian (2013). Conquest and Colonisation: The Normans in Britain, 1066–1100. Macmillan International Higher Education. p. 28. ISBN 9781137328960. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  2. ^ Entick, John (1766). A new and accurate history and survey of London, Westminster, Southwark, and places adjacent. p. 76. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  3. ^ a b Mackay, Charles (1838). A History of London from its foundation by the Romans to the accession of Queen Victoria, with ... sketches of the manners and customs of the people in early and later times. p. 24. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  4. ^ a b Wido (Bishop of Amiens) (1972). The Carmen de Hastingae proelio of Guy, Bishop of Amiens. Clarendon Press. p. 53. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  5. ^ "The southern suburbs: Introduction". British History Online. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  6. ^ a b Harvey, Sally (2014). Domesday: Book of Judgement. Oxford University Press. p. 16 & 149. ISBN 9780199669783. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  7. ^ a b The Encyclopaedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information. Encyclopaedia Britannica Company. 1911. p. 958. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  8. ^ Sharpe, Reginald Robinson (1894). London and the Kingdom: A History Derived Mainly from the Archives at Guildhall in the Custody of the Corporation of the City of London. Longmans, Green & Company. p. 32. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  9. ^ a b Bowers, Robert Woodger (1905). Sketches of Southwark Old and New. W. Wesley and Son. p. 633. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Rex, Peter (2011). 1066: A New History of the Norman Conquest. Amberley Publishing Limited. p. 103. ISBN 9781445608839. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  11. ^ a b c d Entick, John (1766). A new and accurate history and survey of London, Westminster, Southwark, and places adjacent. p. 77. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  12. ^ Carlin, Martha (1996). Medieval Southwark. Hambledon Press. p. 15. ISBN 9781852851163. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  13. ^ a b Mackay, Charles (1838). A History of London from its foundation by the Romans to the accession of Queen Victoria, with ... sketches of the manners and customs of the people in early and later times. p. 25. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  14. ^ a b c Rex, Peter (2011). 1066: A New History of the Norman Conquest. Amberley Publishing Limited. p. 104. ISBN 9781445608839. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  15. ^ Russell, William (1800). The History of Modern Europe: With an Account of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and a View of the Progress of Society, from the Rise of the Modern Kingdoms to the Peace of Paris, in 1763, in a Series of Letters from a Nobleman [i.e. W. Russell] to His Son. H. Maxwell. p. 229. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  16. ^ Entick, John (1766). A new and accurate history and survey of London, Westminster, Southwark, and places adjacent. p. 78. Retrieved 4 February 2019.