Hand-Drawn Maps: Anglo-Saxon London

Click to see larger map.

UPDATE: An updated, prettier version of this map is now available here.

Look around any map of London and you’ll find the echoes of long-forgotten individuals. Cena, Padda, Fulla… ancient farmers who had no idea their names would live on down the centuries as Kennington, Paddington and Fulham.

Could the dairyman whose cheese farm (Ces wican) once graced the banks of the Thames have conceived that his humble business would live forever as Chiswick? People of Croydon: whatever happened to the valley of crocuses (Crogdene) after which your town is named. And who knew that the perennial football chant of ‘Wember-ley, Wember-ley, Wember-ley’ is actually pretty close to the area’s original name of Wemba Lea (Wemba’s forest clearing).

We’ve never seen these Anglo-Saxon hamlets and farms mapped out before, so we thought we’d give it a go. The period shown covers 500-1050 AD, between the retreat of the Romans and the coming of the Normans. Once the Romans had cleared off, the area around Londinium was settled by a hotch-potch of Germanic peoples usually termed Anglo-Saxon. Their main trading port of Lundenwic was probably centred on what is now the Covent Garden and Aldwych (meaning ‘old port’) areas, but we know little about the full extent and organisation of this early London.

View the whole map at higher resolution here.

As well as showing the Anglo-Saxon centre, the map also includes many of the villages that surrounded it, with their earliest recorded names. Roman roads, which were still used but probably in ill repair, are also marked, as are tributaries of the Thames.

The extent of woodland at the time is more conjectural. The Anglo-Saxons are known to have felled large portions of forest, and the London area would not have been as woody as you might expect. Still, large expanses of trees, such as the Great North Wood around Sydenham, Epping Forest and the large Middlesex Forest to the north-west were extant. We’ve also made a stab at showing areas of marsh and flood plain as well as hills around London, although these are imprecise.

Note also that the map covers a period of over 500 years. Not all the features shown on the map would have been present at the same time. And many additional settlements, and particularly Anglo-Saxon roads, are no doubt missing.

We’d welcome any feedback or suggestions for additions. We’re not scholars, merely curious Londoners, so we expect to be corrected by those who’ve studied the period in more depth. Many sources were used to piece the map together, but the most useful were ‘What’s in a name?‘ by Cyril Harris and the Times History of London by Hugh Clout, which includes a sizeable gazetteer of name origins.

The deadline has now passed for submitting hand-drawn maps for consideration in our upcoming Museum of London exhibition. However, we will keep the series running on Londonist indefinitely. So please send your own creations to hello@londonist.com.

Previously: Albertopolis, Angel to Bankside, Bloomsbury, Borough of Southwark, Brixton as a tree, Central London, District Line (Wimbledon Branch), Central London with no street names, Driver’s Mind Map, Fleet Valley, Hackney, Hampstead Heath, Hoxton Square, Isle of Dogs, London as a grid, King’s Cross and Islington, Ladbroke Grove, Mayfair, Mayfair Squares, New Cross, New Cross (the fields of), Notting Hill, Paris versus London, Patchwork London, Pimlico, River Fleet, Primrose Hill, Rivers, Stoke Newington, Stratford, Toilets, Tottenham to Aldwych on bike, Walthamstow by mother and daughter, West Hampstead, Westminster kettling.

Tags: , ,

Unknown

Article by Matt Brown | 4,686 Articles | View Profile | Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/DaveTidey David Tidey

    I find this fascinating. More of a similar topic please!

  • http://twitter.com/Etche_homo Heather Etchevers

    For a crass American like myself, I’d submit that the choice of “ASwhole” as the name for your jpeg is not felicitous, and a well-placed L would change much.

    No, really, it’s quite fabulous. Thank you for sharing it.

    • Anonymous

      Ha! I wondered if anyone else would spot that, and have a dirty enough mind to read it that way.

  • http://twitter.com/Etche_homo Heather Etchevers

    For a crass American like myself, I’d submit that the choice of “ASwhole” as the name for your jpeg is not felicitous, and a well-placed L would change much.

    No, really, it’s quite fabulous. Thank you for sharing it.

  • http://twitter.com/topdowntoedown Lewis Cooper

    Utterly wonderful. You should sell prints :)

  • http://twitter.com/JackDaRipperJr Jack’d Ripp’d

    Excellent effort. Happy to see Peckham making a mark.

  • Adam L

    I think the river should probably be a lot wider in parts?

    • Anonymous

      It’s true the river was a lot wider before its embankment. I chose to show it at ‘low tide’, with its full high-tide width depicted as marshland.

  • Tyler

    Great stuff! If you like maps then check these Oyster Card holders made out of london Maps they’re cool! http://www.sewsmitten.com/userimages/Oyster-Cardholders(1537844).htm

  • http://www.LondonRemembers.com LondonRemembers

    Great idea – I’ve also never seen it done before. The Chaucerian names are terrific – Brixges Stane indeed. Splendid work – bet you liked Geography at school.

  • Helen

    Love this!

  • http://twitter.com/Oli333 JSN

    Wow, wow, wow

  • http://www.apdinteriors-blog.com Andrew Dunning – apd interiors

    Wonderful – I am going to write all about maps and their current use in interiors on our blog http://apdinteriors-blog.com – think they are so interesting

  • Joelmeadows

    Fantastic map…

  • cod

    fascinating, much enjoyed by two of us here. Thank you.

  • http://prazdnik.dn.ua/ RusanovSasha

    Year! Thats great maP!

  • Liam

    brialliant work –

  • Liam

    Brilliant work on this! There is something almost Star Wars-esque about some of these names. One can imagine an ancienty, obese and corrupt casino landlord by the name of Jabba! Thankfully, though, there’s no Jabbington to evidence such a character…

    • Anonymous

      Thanks. My favourite is Bixle (Bexley), which sounds like a wheat-based cereal.

    • Jan

      I’m really sorry. I clicked the down arrow on the right thinking it would expand the text only to discover, too late, that it was “flag as inappropriate”! There is nothing inappropriate on ths site, except my mistake. The maps are wonderful.

  • Liam

    Brilliant work on this! There is something almost Star Wars-esque about some of these names. One can imagine an ancienty, obese and corrupt casino landlord by the name of Jabba! Thankfully, though, there’s no Jabbington to evidence such a character…

  • http://twitter.com/advafricanmango African Mango

    Germany is out of the question; the hoard was created in England by people living in England, so there it should stay.
    http://advancedafricanmangoblog.com/

  • Dan Hough

    I love maps, especially of places I’ve lived, so this is fascinating. The fact that

  • bennyboy

    I’m intrigued by Hacheham – wasn’t Hatcham a 19th century town planner? 

  • Ann Pittard

    Great stuff. Could spend hours immersed in this today.

  • Dodgement43

    I used to live Nr Heathrow West London in a place called Hanworth. I was told that this means small villiage in Anglo Saxon.

  • Will Ryles – Dovcor Bathrooms

    As someone new to London I find this fascinating. I used to spend hours walking the dog around Newcastle sussing out the original routes using just the tree lines (you actually can do that in Newcastle!) and having been brought up in a house full of old maps this is practically the perfect post for me! Would love to see more and how the areas grew in relation to one another. Maybe it’s the Pugin lover in me, or just my obsession with all things hand drawn (I still refuse to use a computer to draw! I even wrote about it in our blog http://www.dovcorbathrooms.co.uk/blog) but there is just something magical about the dedication it must have taken to create these maps.. it’s not like they could jump in a car and plot the course!