The Old Roman City Wall of London

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

Part of Londons Roman Wall at Tower Hill
Roman wall at Tower Hill
Large section of London's Roman Wall at Tower Hill
Roman Wall at Tower Hill

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.

Remains of  a postern gate at Tower Hill
Remains of a postern gate at Tower Hill

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 at Coopers Row in London
Roman wall on Coopers Row
section of the roman wall of london at Coopers row
Roman Wall section on Coopers Row
The view looking from the hotel into the grounds on the soon to be built hotel
The view looking from the hotel into the grounds on the soon to be built hotel

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.

Section of the roman wall of london on Vine Street
Roman wall in the basement of the offices of Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP
section of the roman wall of london in a basement on vine street
Roman wall in the basement of the offices of Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP

Bishopsgate

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.

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Bishopsgate in the City of London
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The line of the houses on Camomile Street follows 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.

All Hallows Church on London Wall
All Hallows Church on London Wall
The Roman Wall of London at All Hallows Church
The Roman wall at All Hallows Church

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.

The Roman Wall of London in St Alphege Gardens
Roman wall in St Alphege Gardens
The roman Wall of London at St Alphege
Wall at St Alphege

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.

Roman wall of London at the Barbican
Medieval Tower in the Barbican

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.

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Medieval Tower in the Barbican

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.

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Roman Wall outside the Museum of London
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More wall outside the Museum of London
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Herb garden by the Barber Surgeons Hall
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Wall in the gardens near the Barber Surgeons hall

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.

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The round tower near the Museum of London

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.

It's a peculiar location for a section of Roman Wall
It’s a peculiar location for a section of Roman Wall
This section is well preserved and well worth the walk along the underground car park
This section is well preserved and well worth the walk along the underground car park

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.

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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.

20 Comments

  1. There have been several “excavations” of the gate at Bishopsgate, but they have all been piecemeal small holes. I recorded the gate in a telecom heading (tunnel) for instance. From which work we do know that it was larger than some of the other gates

  2. I have just read your Lost Abbeys post and it led me here. I have been working on a London wall project, similar to this, over the past month. I thought I had captured all the bits of wall, only to discover I had missed some – and now I have discovered I have missed some more !! Thanks – I think 🙂

    Nice work Stuart!

    1. And I don’t even think I got them all Phil, apparantely there are some more sections underneath the Old Bailey too not sure I’ll be able to get in there anytime soon though 😛

  3. I’ve just found your website and what can I say – It’s amazing! Keep up the great work, much appreciated from a German Londoner at heart.

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