Today I went on a one of the Museum of London’s periodic tours of the most substantial surviving part of Cripplegate Roman Fort, preserved in the modern underground car park on London Wall. The fort was originally built in around 120AD, and housed a garrison of perhaps as many as 1000 or more troops, including cavalry, on a 12-acre site to the north-west of the Roman city of Londinium. Its west and north walls were subsequently incorporated into the City Wall in around 200. Part of the west wall, gate, and gate-house complete with guard-rooms and turrets, can still be seen in the modern car park, together with a fine reconstruction making sense of things.
I’ve just got back from a guided tour of Billingsgate Roman Bath-House at 101 Lower Thames Street, which isn’t generally open to the public, but was today (Saturday 21st July 2013) as part of the “Festival of Archaeology” (and will be again on September 22nd as part of “London Open House” day).
The bath-house appears to have been built in the third century, possibly as an inn (mansio) on the then-waterfront, and to have remained in use until the end of the Roman occupation (a coin of 402 has been found there, and the legions left in 410). It then appears to have become derelict and overgrown by the Dark Ages, although at least one Saxon woman is known to have visited the site – she lost her brooch there in 530. It was eventually buried by, and preserved beneath, hill-wash in the Middle Ages, and debris from the Great Fire of London in 1666, and only came to light again during work on the Coal Exchange in 1848.
The bath-house is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument, and extremely impressive, despite its unprepossessing location in the basement of a 1960s office block, with the frigidarium, tepidarium and caldarium (cold, warm and hot baths, respectively) all near-perfectly preserved.
I’m afraid I can’t share my photographs with you, as this was one of the conditions of entry.
However, I can refer you to the following link, which provides its own gallery of images of the bath-house as well as some further information about the site:
- Ancient Roman Bath Houses and Bathing Rituals (history.answers.com)