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London Wall

Few of the teeming crowds that run for the bus or taxi, from office to home, could ever realise that London was once a walled city and that only a couple of centuries ago these massive walls and gateways disappeared. How many of them stop to think what Ludgate and Houndsditch really meant?

Yet it is still possible to trace out the whole length of the old Roman wall and at various points still touch the very stones, bricks and tiles that our Roman ancestors touched two-thousand years before. The Roman's found three hills on the north bank of the Thames, Ludgate Hill, Cornhill and Tower Hill. This constituted the Roman London.

Roman Tower Cripplegate
Round Tower at Cripplegate.

Fortifications were erected by the Romans on all four sides of the oblong space. Sufficient remains of the Roman structure have been unearthed to also show the Norman and Medieval walls not only followed the old wall but were built on top of the older foundations. According to ancient records, the wall was three miles long, 18 feet tall, and had fifteen lofty towers. The riverfront side was two and a half miles long. Starting at Trinity Place on Tower Hill, there is a large section, which is ten ft wide and over twenty ft high. Follow along Coopers Row, where a section can be seen in a courtyard of a new office building. It goes near the rear of Fenchurch Street station and then along America Square, then inside another modern building. It passes up Vine Street, into Jewry Street, where it is visible in the basement of the Institute on the right. It then crosses Aldgate, one of the Roman gates, into Duke Street Place and onto Bevis Marks. It then crosses Bishopsgate, onto the modern London wall roadway.

First bomb in the city of London 1940
Roman Wall House, World War II inscription.

At the side of the Roman Wall in Wood Street - by the modern building Roman Wall House - the site where the first city of London Bomb fell in 1940. A bastion round tower can be seen in the car park of Bastion House, next to the Museum of London.

Roman London Wall
Noble Street section.

Crossing the roadway into Noble Street, large sections of wall are still standing. A fifteen-century map shows a bastion, forming the north-west corner of the wall, the position of which you may see by going down to Newgate Street, turning right and then another right at Guiltspur Street, where a few yards up the Myrill Lynch yard way is on the right. The Post Office HQ stood here before Myrill's took over the site. During the Post office building works two bastions were destroyed. Bits of the wall can be seen by request, although with high-security alerts nowadays this might not always be possible. It then ran across Newgate Street - another Roman gateway - and alongside the central criminal courts, better known as the Old Bailey. Roman London, remember, is ten or twelve feet below our present street level. The wall then went down Pilgrim Street, through the new Thameslink station at Ludgate, and into the Thameslink at Blackfriars. It came to a sudden stop at the Thames, where the Mermaid theatre now stands. The embankment was widened, as the Mermaid theatre was built on the edge of the Thames. As the builders worked under Blackfriars bridge on the new underpass, a sunken Roman vessel was discovered.

London Roman Wall Map
Map of the Roman London Wall

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