A Virtual Tour of Roman London

Map

A virtual tour of Roman London …

1 – Blackfriars

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The site of the discovery of the remains of a frame-first carvel-built barge known as the “Blackfriars I” ship, dendrochronologically dated to the late second century.  The ship contained an intact  cargo of  Kentish Ragstone, possibly intended for use in the construction of the Roman city wall at the turn of the second and third centuries.  The wall ran from Blackfriars in the west by way of Ludgate, Newgate, Aldersgate, Cripplegate, Moorgate, Bishopsgate and Aldgate to Tower Hill in the east.

2 – Ludgate

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The site of one of the gates in the Roman city wall.  Part of the wall is preserved in the church of St Martin within Ludgate.  The wall was originally built at the turn of the second and third centuries, that is, around the time of the rival emperorships of and power-struggle between Clodius Albinus and Septimius Severus.    It was subsequently extended and reinforced  in the late  third, when a river wall was added, and again in the mid fourth, when bastions were added, as defences against Saxon raids. It  was twenty feet high, six to eight feet thick, and two miles long. There being no local source of stone, the wall was  built out of Kentish Rag – an estimated 85000 tons of it – quarried near Maidstone and transported down the Medway and up the Thames to London on barges (see above).

3 – Old Bailey

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Another part of the Roman city wall is preserved in the Central Criminal Court.

4 – Giltspur Street

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Yet another part of the Roman city wall is preserved in the Bank of America-Merrill Lynch Building.  The bastion is Medieval.

5 – Newgate Street

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Newgate Street follows part of  the line of the Roman Watling Street, running from the east to the west of Britain.   A section of the Roman road is preserved in earthwork form in Greenwich Park.

6 – Newgate

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The site of another one of the gates in the Roman city wall (image, Museum of London).  Outside the gate was a large cemetery.

7 – Foster Lane

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A fragment of Roman tessellated pavement found 18’ beneath the church of St Matthew Friday Street in the nineteenth century  is now on display in the churchyard of St Vedast-alias-Foster.  Street level has risen by an average of about 1’ every 100 years since Roman times.

8 – Noble Street (near Cripplegate)

8a

Part of a  Roman fort dating to the early second century is preserved in Noble Street.

8bFurther parts of the fort, in the underground car park at the northern end, may be viewed by arrangement with the Museum of London.

The fort was incorporated into the Roman city wall at the turn of the second and third centuries.

9 – London Wall

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Part of the Roman city wall is preserved in St Alphage Gardens/Salters’ Hall Gardens.  The middle part  of the wall  is thirteenth-century, the upper – brick – part fifteenth-century.

10 – Guildhall Yard

10a

10b

10c

The site of the discovery of the remains of the Roman amphitheatre, surviving parts of which may be viewed in the basement of the Guildhall Art Gallery.  The Amphitheatre was originally built in timber in c. 75, rebuilt in stone in the second century, and renovated in the late second to early fourth, before falling into disuse, and eventually being substantially demolished, in the late fourth, possibly around 365,  the remains coming to light again during   excavations on the site of the Medieval Guildhall in 1987.

11 – Gresham Street

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The site of the discovery of a number of Romano-British “round houses” (image, Museum of London).

12 – Moorgate

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The point at which the Walbrook stream entered the Roman city of London.

13 – Poultry and Walbrook (“The Pompeii of the North”)

The location of a section of the Walbrook stream, now underground.

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Here also have been uncovered an entire  Roman waterfront development, entire streets of houses of various status, and    many, many thousands of artefacts – including, importantly, many made  of organic materials that would normally have perished but that were preserved in the abnormal anaerobic conditions of the waterlogged deposits of the river Walbrook, such as  wooden writing tablets (image, Museum of London).

Note also that large numbers of  skulls have been found over the years in the deposits of the river Walbrook.  It is likely that some of the skulls originated in the Roman burial ground north of the City wall in Moorfields, and that they were subsequently naturally transported and deposited to the south by the waters of the Walbrook, in the process becoming hydrodynamically sorted from their skeletons.  Some others, though,  appear to have been deliberately placed in pits, and, moreover, exhibit evidence  of blunt- or sharp- force trauma, and these could be those of victims of gladiatorial combat, or of judicial execution, or perhaps of ritual decapitation, that is, head-hunting.

14 – Bloomberg Building, Walbrook

14a

The site of the restored Roman Temple of Mithras, which may be viewed in the basement. The  Temple was originally built in the early third century, c. 220-40, and abandoned in the fourth, when Christianity came to replace paganism throughout the Roman Empire, the remains being revealed  during the bombing of  the Blitz of the Second World War.  It  was reconstructed on Queen Victoria Street in 1962, and reconstructed again in the Bloomberg Building on Walbrook in 2017.  Some of the finds from the recent archaeological dig on and around the temple site may also be viewed in the Bloomberg Space.

14b

Other finds, from the original post-war dig, including a marble bust  of Mithras in his distinctive Phrygian cap, may be viewed in the Roman gallery in the Museum of London.

15 – Cannon Street Station

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The site of the discovery of the remains of the so-called “Governor’s Palace” (image, Museum of London).  The palace was built during the Flavian period of the late first century, c. 69-96, on the then-waterfront, which was much further north in Roman times than it is today, and it remained in use throughout the  second and third, before being substantially demolished at the turn of the third  and fourth, the remains being discovered during   the nineteenth.

The so-called “London Stone”, which presently  stands outside No. 111 Cannon Street, opposite the station,  is believed by some to have been formerly associated in some way with  the “Governor’s Palace”, possibly as a milliarium, or centre-stone, from which Roman roads radiated and distances were measured (it  is carved out of Clipsham Stone from Rutland, which is known to have been used for construction in Roman times).

16 – London Bridge and Port of London

16a

The Roman London Bridge was   originally built in c. 50, and rebuilt in stone and timber in c. 90 (and in stone many, many times in the succeeding nearly two millennia).

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The embryonic Port of London was located around  the bridge, and was to become an important trading centre (image, Museum of London).

17 – Thames Street

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A section of timber from the Roman waterfront  is  on display in the churchyard of St Magnus the Martyr.  It has been dendrochronologically dated to 62AD, to the period of the reconstruction that followed the destruction of Roman London  in the Boudiccan revolt of the previous year.

18 – Gracechurch Street and Bishopsgate

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Gracechurch Street and Bishopsgate  follow part of  the line of the Roman Ermine Street, running from the south to the north  of Britain.

19 – No. 90 Gracechurch Street

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The site of the discovery of the remains of the first undoubted Roman Basilica and Forum, a surviving pier base from  which may be viewed in the basement of No. 90 Gracechurch Street.

19b

The Basilica and Forum were built in c. 70, and rebuilt and considerably extended in c. 100-30, before being substantially demolished in c. 300 (image, Museum of London).

20 – Rear of “The Gherkin”, Bury Street

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The site of the discovery of the buried remains of a young Roman girl.  Most burials took place  outside the Roman  city walls.

21 – Plantation Place, Fenchurch Street

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The site of the discovery of the remains of a post-Boudiccan fort (image, Museum of London).

22 – 101 Thames Street

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The site of the discovery of the remains of the so-called “Billingsgate Roman House”, complete with baths, surviving parts of which may be viewed in the basement by  arrangement with the Museum of London.

23 – All Hallows Barking, Byward Street

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The site of an in situ  section of Roman tessellated pavement (in the crypt).

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Also of a fine diorama of Roman London (lacking the amphitheatre, which was still yet to be  discovered at the time of manufacture).

24 – Novotel Building, Pepys Street

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24c

The site of the discovery of the remains of a Roman building variously interpreted as a late   Roman Basilica or – on the basis of similarity to the Basilica di Santa Tecla in Milan – a “palaeo-Christian” church or cathedral.

25 – Cooper’s Row and Tower Hill

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Parts of the Roman city wall are preserved in Cooper’s Row and on Tower Hill.

25c

A section of the river wall may be viewed inside the Tower of London (admission charge payable).

 

 

2 thoughts on “A Virtual Tour of Roman London

  1. Ashley

    Great post Bob! I think it will be a while before we are able to return to London. When we do return we will be sure to look you up for another walk. Hope you are well and staying safe.

    Reply

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