London's Roman City Wall
This afternoon I am reprising a recent visit to London's City Wall Vine Street Museum which is actually located in Jewry Street. This is a small museum on two floors with free entry.The facility is dedicated to a rare, restored, surviving section of the stone wall which originally protected the Roman city of Londinium from the third century onwards.
Most of the narrative below was sourced from information boards inside the museum.
Interior Facing Section of Wall
The above image shows the interior facing section of London's city wall. This was originally a Roman construction completed between AD190 and 230.These remains have stood for centuries and preserved through on-going repairs and repurposing.
The original Roman wall was between two and three metres (< 9.5 feet) thick, faced with limestone and filled with rubble and concrete. Red ceramic tiles strengthened and levelled it. In the late medieval period the city expanded beyond the wall and the remains were incorporated into various buildings.
Londinium was founded around AD 47 and for many years it's boundaries were marked by a timber pallisade and a ditch.Between AD 190 and 230 the pallisade was replaced by a wall being 32 km (20 miles) long and standing 4-6 metres (<19.5 feet) high.The purpose of the wall was threefold:
- A defensive barrier separating Londinium from inland Britain.
- A physical symbol of pride in the city.
- To provide opportunities for tolls or taxes on persons entering through the city gates.
Artist's Impression of Bastion and Wall Exterior
Wall exterior with foundations of Bastion
Projecting from the wall are the chalk foundations of a Roman bastion or tower. The bastion was one of several built between AD 351 AND 375 in response to fears of attack by Saxon raiders.Whilst other bastions survived into the later medieval period this one did not. It may have been pulled down, robbed for its stone or simply collapsed, Today, only the stepped foundations remain.
Coinage found on site
The above well-worn coins from the site comprise one of the first century (Vespasian) with the rest from the third and fourth centuries.
Another section of the Roman wall
The image below shows another extant and rare section of the Roman wall. This is located about 0.2 of a mile to the south of the City Wall remains discussed above. Actual location is close to the Tower Hill Underground Station.
It is speculated that the Romanised name Londinium derives from the Brittonic/Welsh name lon dun meaning 'marsh fort'. There is a similar name-Lundin- in the east of Scotland which may be derived from the same source.
Following the Roman withdrawal from Britain in AD 410 Londinium may have degenerated into a 'ghost town' for about 400 years. It appears to have been re-occupied by the Saxons in the late 9th century under King Alfred to benefit from the protection afforded by the still extant walls in context of the Viking raids.
More information on Roman London can be found here.