Vikings

Viking raids on Southampton during the 8th and 9th centuries disrupted trade with the continent and partly led contributed to the re-organization of the wider Kingdom of Wessex. Important industries that were previously well established in Hamwic but were susceptible to sea-borne invaders were withdrawn further inland to Winchester, whilst a new walled settlement was constructed to the west, named Hamtun.

In 994 a united force of Vikings under Olaf and Danes under Sweyn arrived in Southampton.It is said that Olaf camped on the eastern bank of the Itchen in an area that became Olaf’s Town and later Woolston.

The Saxons paid the Vikings to leave which they did. However, Sweyn returned many times demanding monies and sacking the town.

There are many place names in Southampton associated with the Viking King Canute the Great (1016-1035), who was Sweyn’s son. He defeated the Anglo-Saxon King Ethelred the Unready in 1014. In 1016 Canute met the Witan (Parliament) of Saxon England in Southampton and was crowned King of England in Southampton. It was also at Southampton that his alleged command to halt the waves is said to have taken place – though this incident was simply Canute reproving his courtiers, showing them that even the King was answerable to God.

Look out in Southampton for Canute Road, the Old Canute Hotel and Canute Chambers – home in 1912 to the White Star Line, and where relatives of the Titanic’s crewmen gathered to hear news of their loved ones following its tragic sinking.