As I was born a Londoner,, my thoughts have been turning in the pandemic, to how Londoners coped with Spanish Flu in 1918. My grandfather returned from WW1, having been gassed in the trenches. He resumed running his grocery business in Hampstead High Street. My grandmother, who was asthmatic, gave birth to her youngest son in 1918.
Whatever their personal circumstances, no word of Spanish Flu causing any problems or deaths, has been passed down through the generations in my family. The Imperial War Museum has a collection of documents bequeathed to the museum by historian and journalist Richard Collier. The collection was made in the 1970s and comprises approximately 1,700 accounts of first hand witnesses of the pandemic. In 1918 half of the population of London was infected with the disease and 2.5% of the population died of it.
There is a real Roman temple in Windsor Park
About 8 km south of Windsor Castle, still within the large park is Virginia Water, a very beautiful place famous for its lake and waterfall. However, not everyone knows that there is a Roman temple here. The lake is surrounded by a path leading east to Blacknest Gate, which extends along the water’s edge on the south side of the lake where there are several woods. About a mile east of the gate, the avenue leads into a grassy clearing overlooking the water, leading to the ruins of the Temple of Augustus brought from Leptis Magna to what would now be Libya in 1818, restored and erected by Sir Jeffry Wyatville 1824-6.
The temple was seen by a guy called Warrington who heard that the Earl of Elgin had brought half the Parthenon to Britain, and thought of doing the same with this temple hoping to become a hero in his home country. He had problems with the locals, who wanted to keep the temple, not for artistic or historical interest, but to reuse the marble. So poor Warrington couldn’t get the whole temple. The temple is not only found here, In 1600 600 columns of Leptis were taken by Louis XIV for his palaces in Versailles and Paris.
In ancient times, the city of Leptis reached its greatest importance under the emperor Septimius Severus about 200 years after Christ. At that time it was the third most important city in Africa, after Carthage and Alexandria. The emperor had a new and magnificent forum built and enlarged the quays, as well as giving the city a huge basilica full of ornate carved columns. Thereafter, a dramatic decline began. A large tsunami in 365 devastated Leptis along with much of the Mediterranean coast. This was followed by the invasion of the Vandals in the fifth century and the arrival of Muslim armies in the seventh century which eventually left the city in ruins. Since its abandonment, Leptis had been used as a quarry by the local population and a place looted by the Europeans.
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The Roman walls of London, a great architectural feat
The walls were built relatively late for a Roman city, around the year 200.
How were the Roman walls of London built?
London did not offer the right stone for this construction and therefore had to come from the Maidstone area by navigating the Thames, where there was a a type of clay mixed with limestone that was strong enough for the walls.
Furthermore for the Romans it was a great architectural and logistical feat. One of the boats that was used to transport the material sank and was found in 1962 near Blackfriars Bridge. London’s Roman walls incorporated all gates and a fort, Moorgate being the only gate added in the Middle Ages. The walls were almost 3 km long and 5 and a half metres high, the width varied. On average it was around 2.5 meters. There was also a 2.5 meter moat around it.
In 400 AD the walls were reinforced and about 20 bastions were added, just before the Romans withdrew. For a long time the walls were abandoned, but they were still able to defend the city as for example against the Saxons in 457.
They were later repaired and maintained and only after 1500 did the city become too big for the walls. In the second half of the 1700s the Roman walls of London became a problem with increasing traffic and were slowly demolished along with the medieval gates.
The walls can still be seen in several places in London, mainly the City. You can still see pieces from the Barbican, near the Tower of London, Cooper’s Row, Noble Street and in the Museum of London garden.
The surprising thing when you think of the city walls and gates is how small London was then compared to London now. Areas that are very central to us now, were very far from the walls and considered countryside even a few centuries ago.
Close to the walls of London is the Barbican district. The name Barbican comes from the Latin Barbecana, here there was in fact a Roman fortress that was used for centuries until its destruction in 1500.
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