A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum

Apologies if this entry rambles (like, even more than usual), I’m afraid I had one of Those nights, the kind where you wake up the next day and people shake their heads sadly at you. But I did say that I’d talk about stuff I saw last weekend.

No. 1 Poultry, at the heart of what was Roman London

No. 1 Poultry, at the heart of what was Roman London

As I mentioned, part of my trip involved walking from Bank Station to the Museum of London. Bank and its environs have always been London’s financial district, for as long as London has been here. Now, there has been a certain amount of argument over the centuries as to exactly when London was founded. When London first rose to prominence as a major world city, the intelligentsia felt that it should have an ancient and noble pedigree, and so London became the subject of a massive retcon in which it was founded by Brutus and a number of refugees from ancient Troy. Brutus fought and defeated the giants Gog and Magog, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, and… yeah. It takes history being written by the winners to a whole new level.

 Putting legends aside, there have been settlements in the area now occupied by London dating back to the Bronze Age. However, historians generally take the view that the city was founded by the Romans circa 50AD as a trading port (sadly rendering Asterix in Britain inaccurate as a work of historical fiction). Colchester was the major administrative centre at this time, but by the third century it had been eclipsed by the Thames Valley upstart.

Given London’s trading history, it makes sense that the Bank of England should be located in what was the heart of the Roman city. The Museum of London is located on the road called London Wall which, despite the ancient pedigree of its name, is actually a post-Second World War development. The road runs approximately along the Northern boundary of the old city, and a

Ruins just off London Wall
Ruins just off London Wall

number of ruins of the old city are visible, despite the demands of modern-day developers. Actually, a lot of the ruins visible around here are not “pure” Roman, as they were repaired and augmented over the centuries.

Fortification in the grounds of the Museum of London
Fortification in the grounds of the Museum of London

The building you see above, for instance, is a largely medieval construction. For the purposes of comparison, here’s a surviving fragment of the Roman wall, located near Fenchurch Street Station.London_Wall_fragment It’s constructed from Kentish ragstone (believed to come from quarries near Maidstone). Also just visible are a few courses of brick, which is one of those techniques at which archaeologists roll their eyes and say, “That’s so Roman!”

As well as the physical remnants of the old wall, there are what you might call the psychogeographical remnants – the place names. Most notably, aside from London Wall itself, there are the seven Gates. They are Aldgate, Aldersgate, Newgate, Cripplegate, Ludgate, Bishopsgate and Moorgate. But that’s a whole other entry…
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1 Comment

Filed under Buildings and architecture, Geography, History, London, Medieval London, Psychogeography, Roman London, The City, The Gates

One response to “A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum

  1. Pingback: The Gates – Ludgate | London Particulars

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