A HISTORY OF SURREY road. Seeing how commonly the ancient or later county town of other counties appears as the site of a burh, sometimes first so appears, we should have expected a Surrey burh at Guildford, close to where the Pilgrims' Way crosses the river Wey and where the existing mound of the castle is suggestive of an Early English work. Both Eashing and Guildford are named in the document known as Alfred's will as royal possessions. Possibly Eastbury and Westbury may represent the original strongholds of Alfred's time, Guildford a new fortification of Edward's. 1 Wherever the central fortress of Surrey was, it was round the border fortress of the county, part of the central fortress of the kingdom, that the waves of Danish war broke in the latter part of the tenth century. The consolidated Danish kingdom, 2 encouraged by the con- fusion of western Europe and the weakness of Ethelred the Unready, seeing too Scandinavian dynasties established at Rouen, in Orkney and the Isles, and in Ireland, began to try to recover the Scandinavian con- quests in England, where Danes and Norsemen still were in some cases distinguishable from the English among whom they dwelt. But the Danes were not content to recover the Danelaw, they fell upon Wessex also. The great fortress of London with its citizens not merely traders but good fighting men too was the chief barrier against them, and the fortunes of Surrey and of Southwark its share of the fortress were as usual involved with the fortunes of London. In 994 Sweyn king of the Danes and Olaf Tryggvasson, not yet what later ages would have called king of Norway but king of the Norwegians, came together up the Thames against London with ninety- four ships, and were beaten back from the two fortresses and their connecting bridge. It was on September 8, the Nativity of the Virgin, and the saint was supposed to have specially shielded the Londoners. For they 'did more harm to the Norsemen than they thought any borough men could do.' 8 But the fortresses were not enough to shield the whole country under such a miserable rule as Ethelred's. Sweyn and Olaf passed ravaging through Surrey to the south-west, brought their ships round to Southampton and wintered there. Then Olaf made his peace with the English and swore never to come again as an enemy to England. The chronicler adds in evident surprise that he kept his vow. With his presence in the Thames that year is connected probably a legend of St. Olaf of a later date. St. Olaf, we are told in the Heimskringla, 4 came to the aid of the English against the Danes, when the latter were holding London, and cut the Danish force in two by carrying off London Bridge by hawsers fastened to his ships. The exploit is probably impossible, even with a wooden bridge, and the Danes never held London, for they could never take it. St. Olaf 1 The mound at Guildford must be fairly old. It is partly artificial, yet it had a square keep built partly upon it before 1202. The ground must have had some time in which to settle before even part of the weight of a keep could rest upon it. 2 Ancient Denmark was not only the modern kingdom. Besides including what Germany has taken in Sleswick, it included the southern part of modern Sweden. 3 A.-S. Chronicle. * Saga of King Olaf the Saint (vol. ii. p. 9, Laing's translation). 336
Page:VCH Surrey 1.djvu/400
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