THE BLOG

London 1000 Years Ago - Five 'Attractions' That Are Still There Now

05/11/2014 11:39 GMT | Updated 04/01/2015 10:59 GMT

London's place as a tourist centre is undeniable, and it's rich history has much to do with that. I am lucky enough to walk or cycle through the big smoke on an almost daily basis, and I nearly always notice something different that will prick my curiosity. This sensation would be familiar to visitors going back decades or even centuries, but if you go rewind even further than that, what delights would have been on offer? And which of those remain? Here's a list of 'attractions' a visitor of 1014 would recognise 1000 years later.

The River Thames

Let's start with the obvious. It may surprise you, but the Thames was world famous even before it got the big PR boost of a regular slot on the opening credits of EastEnders. It has been referred to as 'Liquid History', and in 1014 that epithet was particularly apt. The likelihood of Viking hordes sweeping up the river would probably have been a major fear for Londoners at this time. In fact Sweyn Forkbeard, the King of Denmark, had recently invaded England, laid siege to London and forced Ethlered the Unready into exile. It was only when Sweyn popped his clogs in early 1014 that Ethelred made his way back - and within two years he was dead and buried at our next location....

St Paul's Cathedral

The present Cathedral was built famously designed by Sir Christopher Wren after its forerunner was burned down in the Great Fire of London. If you would have visited in 1014 though, you would be just a bit too early for one of the first big builds, which begun in 1087 during the reign of William the Conqueror. St Paul's, or at least a place of worship dedicated to St Paul, has been in and around the same location for over 1400 years, and its positioned at what is the highest point in the City of London, which brings us onto our next tourist spot...

The City of London's Walls

It was the Roman's who originally fortified the area that is now known as the 'City'. However, as the Western Roman Empire declined in the 5th century, this area of the city fell into ruin and it's thought to have been uninhabited for up to 200 years. The Vikings camped there for a bit from the 830s, but they were kicked out by Alfred the Great who rebuilt the walls. Before that, the Anglo Saxons had been living outside the walls in a place called Lundenwic, which became known as Ealdwic (old settlement) which eventually turned into Aldwych - which is still used now. The walls of the city can still be spotted in various places around the City, perhaps the best place to wall peep is just south of the Barbican Centre and west of Moorgate station, along the A1211, a road also known - rather aptly - as London Wall.

London Bridge

If you had strolled into London in 1014 and started singing 'London Bridge is Falling Down', you may have been heralded as an inspired chronicler of the times. It's believed that an ally of Ethelred destroyed the bridge that year as he tried to retake London from the Vikings. Some doubt whether this event actually happened, even more doubt whether it inspired the nursery rhyme, but what is in no doubt is that there was a bridge in 1014, and that there is still one there now. The current incarnation was opened in 1973 after its predecessor was sold to an American entrepreneur and moved to Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

Borough Market

So let's presume it's a lovely day in 1014, London Bridge is 100% intact and you can easily get from north of the river to Southwark. Let's also presume that it's been a long day striding through the tourist spots and you need a bite to eat. In which case the best bet would be to head to Borough Market, which started life just across the bridge 1000 years ago this year, selling fish, grain, vegetables and cattle. Quite a bit has changed since then; the market moved to its current 4.5 acre site in 1756, and these days you would probably find it difficult to buy a whole, live cow. But as well as lacking cows, Borough Market in 2014 is also mercifully free of marauding Vikings, making it infinitely safer than its 1014 predecessor.