PRE-CHRISTIAN NATURE RELIGION AND PAGANISM
Ancient faith was influenced by the natural world and the threat posed by the elements. The inhabitants of Britain originally worshipped their ancestors, burying them in long barrows and performing rituals to influence the weather and the harvest. But when Britain's climate changed, the ancestor cult came to an end and Britons looked to nature itself to influence their fortune.
This has its original manifestation of faith in nature religion with attitudes to sun, moon, stars, seasons, etc. Even today we use names associated with these: Sun(day), Moon(day), Tiu the god of war and sky (Tuesday); Woden the chief god of Anglo-Saxon paganism (Wednesday); Thor, god of thunder, rain and farming (Thursday); Freya, goddess of love and fecundity (Friday); Saturn-day after the Roman god of agriculture and harvest.
Modern Newham was probably inhabited from the Early Stone Age, but only on nomadic basis. Bronze Age site has been identified in Plaistow. Although there is little physical evidence of faith, deductions can be made from London and Essex histories.
TOOLS. Stone tools from people living near the Thames in the Paleolithic time around 4000 BC.
CAMPS. A Mesolithic/Stone Age camp was excavated near the Royal Docks Community School in the late 1990s dating from c8000/4000BC. Both these indicate human settlement.
BURIALS. There is limited evidence due to ground conditions. Some skeletons were found during works to the Olympic site in Stratford. (Also, some 600 skeletons mainly of Cistercians monks from the old Abbey site were found during preparations for the Jubilee Line.)
WOODEN TRACKWAYS. Neolithic/New Stone Age of c3000BC - a timber track-way down to Thames were found at Fort Street, Silvertown.
The coming of the Romans left local legacies in the north of the Borough as the Roman road 'Ermine Street' London to Colchester crossed the Lea at Stratford, carrying food, pottery, travellers, and soldiers. In the south the Thames, or its banks, were used as highway. In East Ham, 'Roman remains, sufficiently numerous to prove a littoral settlement, have been found near St. Mary's church and at North Woolwich'. Roman coffins at St. Mary's and the nearby Roman Road E6 echo this era. There is evidence of Roman settlement in the Aldersbrook area. Julius Caesar's brief invasion of 55BC was followed by the main invasion of 45AD when Claudius's victorious fleet sailed up the Thames to found Londinium as a centre of administration and government. There is no known local evidence of Roman gods like Mithra.
In East Ham 'there were a number of ponds and springs, of which the most notable was Miller's Well, a medicinal spring situated at the point where the present Cheltenham Gardens joins Central Park Road'. Its waters were famous for miles around, as it was said to possess peculiar properties which were supposed to help forward the cure of many ailments ....in particular..... complaints [of] the eye.
Excavations organised by the Olympic Delivery Authority and Museum of London has found flint axes more than 4,000 years old, four pre-historic skeletons buried in graves around an area of Iron Age settlements, a Roman coin, Roman river walls, and medieval and Neolithic pottery.