As the Romans withdrew their troops to face threats closer to home, the Roman influence in Essex began to wane, and from the 4th century onwards archaeology shows us the increasing influence of Germanic peoples on aspects of life in certain areas. The East of England seems to have been settled by groups of people from this area, and historical accounts tell us of waves of Angles, Saxons and Jutes settling the island, although this is not necessarily confirmed by archaeology. Why this happened, and what happened to the Britons living in the areas settled by these newcomers, is still uncertain, though it seems clear that some came to Britain as mercenaries working for the British tribal leaders.
With them these settlers brought a different culture, with artistic styles, religion, burial practices, and even their own style of house building, and this would come to dominate the archaeology of the East of England, including Essex, for this period.
The Late Saxon period was marked by Viking raids and invasions. In 894 Alfred’s army destroyed the Viking camp and ships at Benfleet. Later Edward the Elder reclaimed Essex from the Danelaw, at the same time founding the burhs (fortified towns) at Colchester, Maldon and Witham. However, Viking attacks resumed towards the end of the 10th century, and in 991 the Battle of Maldon took place, when a defending army of Saxons was defeated and their leader, Earl Byrhtnoth, was killed. His death, and those of his loyal followers, was commemorated by a famous contemporary poem.