The Roman-built towns and roads decayed after the Romans withdrew from Britain.
When the Goths sacked Rome in AD 410, it was the beginning of the end of a once great Roman Empire. More
New settlers invaded and became the dominant force in England.
The new settlers, from northern Germany and southern Denmark, were Angles, Saxons and Jutes. They eventually pushed the Britons back far into the west and north of the country. More
They were warriors and farmers, with little liking for town life.
In their original homeland, the Anglo-Saxons had lived almost untouched by Roman civilization. On coming to this country, they brought with them their way of life. More
Many small warring kingdoms developed.
From 451 onwards, Eastern England gradually became divided into a lot of different chiefdoms, each ruling a small area. These chiefdoms were often at war with one another, and with the Britons. More
Scotland and Wales began to develop.
The Gaels came from Ireland in about the 5th century, spreading the Gaelic language and customs across Scotland. In the west of Britain, some areas remained under the control of the Britons; this was the beginning of what we know as Wales. More
Gradually, in England, larger more poweful kingdoms developed.
By the early 7th century, East Anglia had become a leading kingdom in England and, in 625, King Raedwald, a ‘Bretwalda’ (overlord of several kingdoms) died. It is believed that it was Raedwald's splendid burial, complete with full sized warship, that was discovered at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. However, after the death of Raedwald other kingdoms gradually became more powerful. More
In England, the landscape was changing fast.
The Anglo-Saxons brought with them a heavy wheeled plough that was able to cut through the thick clay soils of the fertile lowland valleys. This made arable farming easier in areas that had once been woodland and pasture. More
Farmers started to work the land in co-operation with each other and settlements grew.
The heavy plough was drawn by a team of oxen. These were too expensive for a Saxon farmer to buy on his own. So, groups of farmers would buy a team together and work the land in co-operation. This saw the development of communal settlements. More
Village buildings were made with timber, wattle and thatch.
The lord, or ruler of the village, lived in a large hall; others in small one-room houses. Villages had kitchen gardens and barns and pens for livestock. More
At the centre of larger villages was the mead hall, which was very important.
In return for fighting for the lord or king, the free men would be invited to feast in the mead hall. The hall also acted as a meeting place and communal living space. Courts and hearing would be held in the hall and it was the centre of a lord's power. More
The main division in Anglo-Saxon society was between slaves and the freemen.
The ranks of freemen within society included the king, the nobleman or thegn, and the ordinary freeman or ceorl. Beneath these was a hierarchical ranking of many types of slaves. More
Women could hold property and inherit lands.
There was a clear difference in work between Anglo-Saxon men and women, but women could own property, hold land, swear oaths and take part in legal transactions. Crimes against women were heavily punished. More
The spread of Christianity saw the developments of customs we still have today.
In 597, Pope Gregory sent St Augustine to England to spread Christianity. He was told to treat pagan customs with respect and to build churches on the sites of old pagan temples so people would naturally go to these places. This saw the merging of customs from both old and new religions. Our modern word for Easter, one of the main festivals of the Chistian church, comes from the Anglo Saxon Eastre, the goddess of dawn and fertility. More
The spread of Christianity also saw the spread of education amongst an elite.
The Christian church became central to the life of an Anglo-Saxon village. Monasteries (where monks lived) were centres of learning. The first surviving great writer in English, a monk called Bede, worked in a Northumbrian monastery. Learning and education soon became valued across England. More
The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms gradually became more and more orderly.
By the 8th century, trade was flourishing and small towns like Ipswich had started to develop. This could only happen because society was getting more orderly. Trade across the North Sea saw increasing amounts of imports and exports to Britain. The kings governed with the help of a ‘witan’ – a council of leading men. More
Those accused of a crime were tried by 'Ordeal'.
Bonds of kinship were important and an offender's sentence depended on the relations of the murdered or wronged person. Every person had their 'wergild' (death price) depending on their social standing. More
For over 150 years, from 793, Viking raids terrorized Britain.
In 793, some ships sailed up to the Lindesfarne monastery on the coast of northern England and sacked it. This act marked the beginning of hundreds of Viking raids. The Vikings were pirates, warriors, traders and colonists. Their fast and flexible warships were a formidable sight. More
The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms eventually united to defeat the Vikings.
The Anglo-Saxons eventually joined together under one King, Alfred of Wessex, who led them against the Vikings. Over many years, he and his descendants gradually created a united England. Some areas of Britain remained under Viking control ('Danelaw') for nearly 200 years. More
The Danish raids saw the development of larger villages and a navy to defend the lands.
The devastation caused by huge Danish armies saw many changes. This included the coming together of smaller villages in larger settlements, the better to defend themselves. More
The Anglo-Saxon kings created the 'shires' to make administering laws and collecting taxes easier.
The Anglo-Saxons then started to sort out how they could rule the whole kingdom. They created shires, to raise taxes and administer the laws, which were controlled by a royal officer called a 'shire reeve', or sheriff. More
The reign of King Alfred saw the start of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.
This was the one of the first written histories of England. They seem to have been started towards the end of Alfred's reign, while the most recent was written long after the Normans came, at Peterborough Abbey, after a fire there in 1116. More
The Vikings returned and the whole country fell to them.
After a period of stability, the Vikings returned towards the end of the 10th century, with huge armies. Eventually, the whole country fell to them. In fact, this turned out to be quite fortunate – their next king, Cnut the Great (1015–35), was an able and just king, bringing peace and stability. More
The Saxon period ended with the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
The throne returned to the Saxons with Edward the Confessor, but they did not rule for long. The next Saxon king, Harold Godwinson, was killed by the Normans at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. This brought about Norman rule and great changes to the lives of the English. More