The Roman Wall of London encircled the city for around 1600 years. Covering the square mile area from Tower Hill to Blackfriars. The wall was built by the Romans and added to throughout it’s history. This was prior to it being pretty much dismantled in the 1700’s.
Now all that is left of the wall are a few reminders dotted along the former route. It’s purpose is likely to have changed throughout it’s history. Starting out as a defensive feature. The Romans decided to encircle Londinium despite already having a large fort in the city. The wall would encompass the existing fort.
The Roman Wall of London
The wall would also have controlled access in and out making curfews easier to control. A number of gates were set within the wall. These helped to restrict travel and control access. They would also have been used to collect taxes and to intimidate.
Roman Wall at Tower Hill
Any exploration of the route of the wall should begin at Tower Hill. As soon as you leave the station, the first piece is right there. An imposing structure with the Tower of London in the background. It remains one of the most impressive pieces of the old Roman Wall of London left standing
Just under the underpass. Cross the road from tower hill station towards the tower of London. There the remains of a postern gate can be seen. This would have controlled pedestrian access towards the east end. It is thought to have been added in the 12th century.
Roman Wall at Coopers Row
The next piece of the wall can be seen in a hotel courtyard on Coopers Row. This is close to the station but heading up towards Aldgate. It’s another quite substantial piece which even contains windows and a doorway. You can even wander through to see the wall from the other side.
Roman Wall on Vine Street
The next piece is close by but hard to find. On Vine Street it’s actually in the basement of the offices of Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP. A tiny bit can just be glimpsed through a gate to the side of the office. However it’s not much so a better plan is to ask on reception whether you can see it. If there is someone available you might be lucky but if not they will book you in to see it at a later date.
This section is slightly surreal. Flanked as it is now with a very normal looking office corridor. It’s not the sort of place one expects to see a 2000 year section of the old Roman wall of London.
Following the line of the wall up Bevis Marks. Eventually to Bishopsgate home of one of the seven gates of London. However sadly this is an area never really excavated in any great depth. A bishops hat marks the spot of the former gate. The houses on Camomile Street which back onto the churchyard follow the line of the wall.
All Hallows Church
Nearby the church of All Hallows on the wall contains the next visible section built into the churchyard. All Hallows is a delightful little church and totally unexpected when you stumble onto it. The wall lines the churchyard and is supported with various flower beds.
Roman Wall at the Barbican
Further along the street actually known as ‘London Wall’ the remaining pieces can all be seen around the area of the Barbican and the Museum of London.
St Alphege Gardens
The site of the old Cripplegate was on the junction of Wood Street and St Alphege Gardens. A decent section can be seen which was also formerly part of the old Roman fort. This was eventually incorporated into the wall.
St Giles Cripplegate
Further along Wood Street pedestrian access to the left leads to the church of St Giles Cripplegate. Now in the heart of the Barbican estate but old enough to be remembered in the oranges and lemons nursery rhyme. The next section of the old roman wall of london is beyond the church and overlooks an ornimental pond which in itself is interesting as part of the old defensive ditch which surrounded the outside of the wall.
Further along to the right from this section the remains of a medieval tower can be seen still. Its shape still retained. It was rediscovered only as part of the construction of the Barbican estate. This took place as part of the mass redevelopment of the area which took place after the war.
The Museum of London
Some more sections of the Roman wall of London can be glimpsed beyond the tower. However if you are not a resident of the Barbican they are not accessible. Instead you need to make your way back to London Wall (the road) and head towards the Museum. After a few moments a turn off leading to an underground car park can be seen. This has a section of wall at the entrance. A break in the wall allows you to go into an area of parkland. This is between the museum and the barbican estate. There are sections of wall visible by the museum and the barber surgeons hall. The latter also has a quaint little herb garden growing next to it.
The end of this little area of parkland backs onto the now ornamental formerly defensive ditch which we saw earlier. From here the Barbican estate and St Giles church can be seen. This is in addition to the other side of the medieval round tower.
London Wall Car Park
Back towards the underground car park and the last visible section of the old roman wall of london can actually be seen inside. Go through the entrance and walk left towards the very end of the car park. It’s a bit of a trek as the car park runs along the length of London Wall (the road). Towards the end however a good section of the wall can be seen.
Roman Wall on Noble Street
Finally the last visible above ground sections of the wall can be seen on Noble Street. This is just opposite the entrance to the car park and the pieces of wall you will have just seen. This length of wall also formed part of the old fort. and runs the length of the street towards St Annes Lutheran Church which incidentally also features in the oranges and lemons nursery rhyme.
More sections of the wall and the Roman fort exist underground through the car park but are only accessible as part of a tour with the museum of London. The tours are scheduled around once a month and it’s just a case is checking the museum of London website to find out when.