In 1009, a Norwegian Viking, Olaf the Stout, found his progress up the Thames barred by London Bridge. So Olaf had great mats of willow and pliable wood made and placed them over his ships so that they reached down over the gunwales. Underneath, he had timbers set up so thick and high that there was room for the swinging of swords and the screen was strong enough to withstand stones.
"When the fleet was ready, they rowed up the river to the bridge. When they drew near, so many stones were hurled down upon them that nothing could protect them, neither helmets nor shields. And so the ships were damaged and many had to withdraw; but Olaf's ships rowed right up under the bridge and tied ropes around the piles which supported it. Then they rowed off downstream with all their might. The piles were shaken until they loosened. When the piles broke away the bridge burst asunder, many men fell into the river, and all the others fled from the bridge." (St. Olaf's Saga)
This is the old origin of the nursery rhyme, "London Bridge is Falling Down".
Michael Gibson The Vikings. Wayland, 1912.
Back to Early Period #6 |
Back to Early Period Index |
Back to PastTimes