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
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.
Walls (Bloody Bank)
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.