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.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese – a pub with a literary history
Spanish Flu in London 1918-1919
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.
Vanished London: the Pantheon
And no, the Pantheon wasn’t just in Rome, London had one! Not exactly the same, but an interesting and curious story nonetheless. Opened in January 1772 on Oxford Street, the Pantheon was a place built for Londoners to meet that could rival the Leisure Gardens in Vauxhall. His garden had a pond with small fish, flowers and fruit trees.
The main hall was a vast rotunda modeled after the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople and the Pantheon in Rome. As was fashionable in those years, the point of reference was however the ancient world. Considered at the time by many to be the most elegant recent structure in Europe, by recent we mean in 1772.
It was very successful especially among women who at that time could not venture far alone, but being a local they could walk in its gardens undisturbed. But its success did not last long and after a few years it became a theater. Even as a theater it did not have luck on its side, in fact it was almost immediately destroyed by a fire in 1792. It later became a state office, and then a covered market.
For a short time it was the home of the UK’s National Institute for Improvement of Artifacts which despite its pompous name did not have much success. For thirty years in the mid 19th century, it was a bazaar. In 1937 the building was bought by Marks and Spencer who had it demolished and built their main shop which you can still see today.
Concerts coming up!
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