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Before 1000

Stonehenge, Roman rule and the Anglo-Saxons; Beowulf is written and Alfred the Great burns some cakes

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c.3000BC: First building on Stonehenge site

The first construction on the site was the building of a bank, digging of a ditch and the “Aubrey Holes” to support a timber structure.


c.2800BC: West Kennet Long Barrow constructed

This is one of largest and most impressive Neolithic graves in Britain - 46 people are buried inside!

c.2800BC: Start date of Avebury stone circle?

The largest stone circle in Britain encloses the whole village!


c.2500BC: Metalworking introduced to England

Immigrants from central Europe would have brought their technology with them. Tin and copper were combined to make a harder-wearing metal, bronze.

c.2300BC: Sarsen stones arrive at Stonehenge

The lintelled circle and large horseshoe are constructed out of sarsen stones. The remains of this pattern is what we recognise as Stonehenge today.


c.2300BC: Woodhenge built

This was only discovered in 1999 and would have consisted of rings of tall wooden posts that were aligned to the midsummer sunrise.

c.1600BC: End of construction at Stonehenge

Last date for any modification of the site. The Y and Z holes (two circles of small holes surrounding the central stones) could have been dug at this late date.


c.800BC: Invasion by the Celts

The Celts invade Kent and southern England before pushing down into Cornwall. They bring with them their own language and a refined artistic sensibility discernable in the decorative designs on remaining artefacts.

c.800BC: White Horse carved

The White Horse of Uffington may have been carved into the hillside at around this time. There are many white horses on the hillsides of England; most of them date from much later. Rosemary Sutcliffe's book Sun Horse, Moon Horse imagines the story of the carving of the horse and is well worth a read.

May 54BC: Julius Caesar lands in Kent

After an unsuccessful attempt to land in the previous year (the weather was too bad – didn't that tell him something?) Caesar lands with five legions and 2,000 supporting cavalry and marches unopposed towards London. He doesn't find much reason to stay, however, and England remains out of Roman hands for nearly another 100 years.

May 43: Romans arrive in Britain

Again the Romans land in Kent, this time under the command of Aulus Plautius. He brings four legions and about 20,000 auxiliary troops and defeats the Britons in a series of skirmishes.

50: First London Bridge

The Romans are the first to build a permanent wooden bridge across the River Thames, just east of the present-day position of London Bridge.

60: Boadicea's Revolt

Iceni tribe revolt against the Romans, led by Queen Boadicea.

61: Roman campaign to stamp out Druids

This is a fierce and bloodthirsty time. In AD 54 the Emperor Claudius had ordered the total abolition of "the barbarous and inhuman religion of the Druids".

c.60-70: Aquae Sulis built

Now known as Bath, the Aquae Sulis spa complex introduced a level of Roman luxury and pampering to austere Britain that had never been dreamed of.

122: Emperor Hadrian commissions a wall

The wall was designed as a sort of Roman immigration point, checking who was coming in and out of Roman-controlled Britain. The wall represented the northernmost extent of the Roman Empire.

c.180: Giant carved at Cerne Abbott

It may have been around this time that the giant was carved into the hillside, his (some would say) explicit outline appearing in white chalk.

208: Albanus put to death

The man who became St Alban is executed for giving protection and shelter to a Christian in Roman Britain before its conversion to Christianity. He'd have been better off in Scotland, where Christianity arrived in 205.

216: Britain divided in two

For administrative purposes, Britain is divided into two halves by the Romans. Britannia Superior is the south and west section; Britannia Inferior is to the north.

313: Christianity allowed in the Empire

After converting to Christianity himself the previous year, Emperor Constantine decreed that Christianity is to be allowed, in fact encouraged, throughout the Roman Empire. And that went for pagan Britain, too.

410: Romans abandon Britain

Their departure is formally marked by an instruction from the Emperor Honorius that the people would have to defend themselves against Saxon invasions. However, many aspects of the Roman way of life continue well into the fifth century.

449: Hengest and Horsa land

Jutish warriors Hengest and Horsa land in Kent. They are mercenaries invited by the (possibly mythical) Briton king Vortigern to help defend Kent against invaders. They later rebelled against him. The story of Vortigern was told in the "lost" play by Shakespeare "discovered" by William Henry Ireland, which did, of course, turn out to be a forgery.

c.500: Seven Kingdoms of England evolve

They are: Kent, Sussex, Wessex, Essex, East Anglia, Mercia and Northumbria

c.520: Reign of King Arthur?

This would be an approximate date for his reign if Arthur was a real person, possibly a Romano-British leader fighting pagan Saxon invaders and beating the "English" army at the Battle of Mount Badon

597: St Augustine lands at Thanet

St Augustine lands with 40 monks and is welcomed by King Ethelbert of Kent. He founds an abbey in Canterbury and begins to re-introduce Christianity to Britain.

616: Shrine on Thorney Island

A fisherman sees a vision of St Peter and founds a shrine on this site. This later becomes the site of Westminster Abbey.

620: Sutton Hoo ship burial

Sutton Hoo is a group of burial mounds near the River Deben in Suffolk where an extraordinary ship burial of Anglo-Saxon King Raedwald of East Anglia was discovered in 1939. A treasure trove of Anglo-Saxon artefacts, it's well worth a visit.

627: First church built in York

The wooden structure was built in order to baptise Edwin, King of Northumbria.

634: St Aidan preaches in Northumbria

St Aidan, from the Isle of Iona in Scotland, continues the Christian message in the Kingdom of Northumbria. One of his disciples, St Chad, carries on through Mercia. Aidan built the monastery at Lindisfarne.

664: Synod of Whitby

This decides the date of Easter, favouring the Roman rather than the Celtic Christian appointment. This important meeting was held at the monastery of St Hilda at Whitby.

680: Cadmon dies

Cadmon was the first Christian poet of England whose name we know. The gift of poetry and song was given to him in a dream, so the story goes, whereupon he left secular life and joined St Hilda's monastery.

c.698: Production of Lindisfarne Gospels

The most celebrated illuminated manuscripts in the world, this book contains the text of the Four Gospels in Latin, plus introductory material. In the late-10th century, a line by line translation into Anglo-Saxon was added, making this the earliest surviving version of the gospels in any form of the English language. The Gospels celebrate the flourishing of Celtic Christianity in Britain.

c. 725: Beowulf possibly written

Beowulf is an Old English poem which survives in a 10th century manuscript but is thought to have been written much earlier. It tells the story of the great warrior Beowulf, particularly his overcoming of the monster Grendel and Grendel's mother, and his slaying of a dragon. It is the longest and most important poem in Old English.

731: History Of The Church of England

The Venerable Bede completes his History of the Church of England

757: Offa's Dyke built

Offa, King of Mercia, builds a 70-mile lrampart to keep out the Welsh. Mercia was one of the most powerful kingdoms at this time and Offa's gold coin, the dinar, was the first coin to be commonly used throughout southern Britain since Roman times.

787: Danes (Vikings) invade England

This first raid occurs at Portland in Dorset; from now on the raids are fast and furious.

828: The beginning of "England"?

Egbert, King of Wessex, is recognised as overlord of the other English kings. Was this the first step towards the unified country that we now know as England? Lists of English kings often begin with Egbert.

871: Alfred becomes King of Wessex

Alfred became known as Alfred "the Great" for his victories over the Viking invaders.

872: Viking HQ in London

Over the previous 50 years, the Viking invaders have defeated the Picts, raided Rochester and Southampton, captured York and Reading and proceeded into Wessex.

878: Treaty of Wedmore

This treaty divides England between Wessex in the South and Danes in the North and East (Danelaw).

886: Alfred captures London

Alfred frees London from the Danes, restoring it to Mercia.

891: Anglo Saxon Chronicle begun

Alfred the Great seems to have commissioned this early compilation history book. What we call the Anglo Saxon Chronicle actually comprises seven major manuscripts, plus assorted other documents.

899: Alfred the Great dies

He is succeeded by Edward the Elder as King of Wessex. Over the next one hundred years the English kings have charming nicknames such as Edmund the Magnificent

901: "King of Angles and Saxons"

Edward the Elder takes a new title for himself.

937: "King of all Britain"

Son of Edward the Elder, current King of Wessex, Aethelstan, has annexed Northumbria and defeats an alliance of Scots, Celts, Danes and Vikings and announces himself as "King of All Britain".

954: Last Vikings expelled from England

But that isn't the end of the story… Viking raids continued for many years on various parts of England. Rather than settle down again, when victorious they could be bought off for enormous amounts of money.

978: Edward the Martyr murdered

Edward the Martyr is murdered at Corfe Castle in Dorset and succeeded by his younger brother, Ethelred the Redeless.

991: Battle of Maldon

The Vikings defeat Byrhtnoth of Essex in this battle commemorated by a famous Anglo-Saxon poem. Ethelred II buys them off with 10,000 pounds of silver.

997: First cream tea?

A manuscript from Tavistock in Devon shows that monks of the local Benedictine abbey would reward workers repairing the damage from Viking raiders with bread, cream and strawberry preserve.

A Cup of Tea