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Saxons and Vikings
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In Victorian times it was strongly believed that Wareham was a Roman Town. Despite plenty of Roman pottery, however, very few military items have been discovered. After thorough archaeological explorations of the West Wall in the 1950s, it was concluded that Wareham was not Roman but Saxon. The remains of a Saxon sword, possibly in royal ownership, were found by the South Bridge in the Frome in 1927. The sword points to Wareham’s past as a major Saxon settlement. In 2012 a modern re-creation of a Saxon sword was placed in Purbeck stone at the new ‘Saxon Roundabout’ on the northern approach to the town as a Wareham in Bloom project.

Following the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, waves of Germanic tribes began to invade Britain. Almost all of southern England became Saxon. During this time the kingdom of the West Saxons, or Wessex as we know it today, was under constant attack from Viking sea pirates. By the 9th century AD the Vikings had arrived in eastern England with a full-scale army. It wasn’t long before the Vikings had successfully taken most of England, with the exception of Wessex which, thanks to the shrewdness of King Alfred, put up a credible defence against the invaders.

Alfred organised a militia army and set up a series of fortified towns (or burghs) throughout his kingdom. These burghs provided a safe haven for the local population who could repair to them in times of crisis. Wareham became one of Alfred's fortress towns with defensive earth walls topped by a wooded stockade thrown up on three sides of the town, excluding the south side which had no wall and presumably at that time was protected by the river Frome and the boggy marshland.

In 875 AD a Viking army marched from East Anglia into Wessex, making their way to Wareham where they sacked the town, turning it into a winter camp. They then waited for a Viking navy of some 120 ships, which sailed along the south coast to Poole bay. Alfred summoned his Saxon soldiers and marched on Wareham, laying siege to the town. The Viking army was completely outnumbered and Alfred offered them a deal that they would swear an oath to leave Wessex for all time or they would be slaughtered. The oath was agreed, but as soon as they left the town the Vikings broke free and headed west towards Exeter. Their navy suffered a great loss since there was a great storm, all ships being wrecked along the Dorset coast.
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West Walls
West Walls (Bloody Bank)
Saxon Sword
The Saxon sword was found deep in the bed of the River Frome during the construction of South Bridge in 1927. It was conserved at the British Museum and then deposited at the Dorset County Museum.
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