Hand-Drawn Maps: Anglo-Saxon London

By M@ Last edited 89 months ago
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.

Much of east London round the river was given over to marsh land.
Much of east London round the river was given over to marsh land.
Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.
Much of north-west London around the old Roman Watling Street would have been covered in forest.
Much of north-west London around the old Roman Watling Street would have been covered in forest.
South-west London, showing the important royal settlement of Kyningestun (Kingston).
South-west London, showing the important royal settlement of Kyningestun (Kingston).
The Great North Wood, covering the Sydenham hills.
The Great North Wood, covering the Sydenham hills.
Click to see larger map.
Click to see larger map.

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.

Last Updated 02 February 2011

David Tidey

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

H. 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.


Utterly wonderful. You should sell prints :)

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?


Great stuff! If you like maps then check these Oyster Card holders made out of london Maps they're cool! http://www.sewsmitten.com/user...


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.


Love this!


Wow, wow, wow

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


Fantastic map…


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


brialliant work -


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...


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


I'm intrigued by Hacheham - wasn't Hatcham a 19th century town planner? 

Ann Pittard

Great stuff. Could spend hours immersed in this today.


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

Sean F Gallagher

Thank you so much for this effort. I love this map. It's wonderful detail and the quality of craft in the art is just great. I am writing early 11th century historical fiction and this will help me quite a bit as general reference.