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North Mill field is reputed to be the ‘probable’ site of a fierce battle that took place in 527 between Octa (grandson of Hengist, King of Kent) and Erchenwin (founder of the kingdom of Essex). A surprise attack on London was planned, either via the west bank of the Ligan (Lea) near the ford (at Temple Mills), or at the upper ford (formerly near Lea Bridge). He is stated to have inclined to the latter proposal.

Boats anchored in the waters of Lochtuna (the lake formed by the Lea overlooked by Leyton). The deputy King’s forces marched to North Mill field to meet the force and, after defeating an advance force Erchenwin’s main force, were defeated ‘in sight of the Ligan’ (Lea) in the ‘Battle of Hackney’.[1]


The Danelaw boundary

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Following Alfred the Great’s re-conquest of London in 886AD, a treaty defined a political boundary running up the Lea and dividing Guthrum’s Kingdom in East Anglia from that of King Alfred (the Great): the ‘Danelaw’ boundary.


The Danes of Mersea rowed their ships up the Thames and the Lea and, in the following year, built a fortress twenty miles above London. The English attacked, but were put to flight with loss of life. In the Autumn, Alfred camped nearby in order to safeguard the corn harvest, at the same time denying it to the Danes. It was then he conceived the idea of obstructing the Lea, so preventing the Danes from retreating with their boats.[2]


[1] The Municipal Parks, Gardens and Open Spaces of London. Lieut.-Col. J. J. Sexby, V. Delliot Stock. 1905. Abridged from The History of Hackney (manuscript), John Thomas. 1832

[2] The Navigation of the River Lee (1190 – 1790). Occasional Paper New Series No. 36. J.G.L.Burnby and M.Parker. Edmonton Hundred Historical Society. 1978

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leabridge.org.uk December 2012