The Earliest Viking Attacks on London

The first attacks on British lands occurred on the eastern coast in the late 700s. Then, in the year 835, the Vikings sailed up the Thames in their warships, raiding as they went. That year was the first recorded time the city of London had trouble with Vikings. It was not to be the last! Another Viking raid occurred in 841-2. The town was ravaged. As a matter of fact, for the next three hundred years, London and the rest of southern England would know the Vikings very well.

Years later, in 850-1, a Viking chieftain named Rorik brought his raiders to Canterbury and London to plunder the cities. He had three-hundred and fifty ships full of warriors. That was a big army indeed! But Rorik and his men were defeated by King Aethelwulf of Wessex. So, after the second attack on London, the city remained a British town.

In 871, Aethelred was king of Wessex. (His son, Alfred the Great, was the first king to be called king of all England.) London lay outside of Wessex, but Wessex kings, including King Aethelred, often came to the city’s defense when the Vikings threatened to take over. However, Aethelred of Wessex died from wounds he got in a battle with a Viking army. When he died, Halfdan Lodbrok (brother to Ivar the Boneless, who had captured Jorvik) brought his “Great Army” to London. They stayed in the city during the winter of 871-2 and took control. Finally, it seemed, London had become a Viking town. And it stayed a Viking town for many years!

Vikings Capture and Hold London for a while

London was an important center for trading and was attacked many times by viking ships sailing up the Thames. During the years of 871-872, the Great Army, commanded by Halfdan Lodbroksson (brother of Ivar the Boneless, who captured Jorvik) spent the whole winter in London.

In the year 878, Aethelred’s son, King Alfred of Wessex, and the Viking commander of the Great Summer Army, Guthorm, made a treaty that set up Viking lands in the east and southeast of Britain. The treaty said that Guthorm would stay out of Wessex, but it also left London as a Viking town.

London remained a Viking town until the year 886. After suffering more raids from Viking ships on the coastline, Alfred needed to make another treaty with Guthorm. This treaty is known as the Treaty of Wedmore and it was under this agreement between Alfred and Guthorm that London again became a British town.