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Londinium

When not reacquainting myself with rollerblades in Hyde Park with sushidog or shopping for fridges, I was touring Roman London this weekend.

swisstone has spent years working on this country's Roman heritage, and it shows in his copiously detailed knowledge. He's made a point of paying attention to mentions in articles and guides of the visitable artifacts on the streets of London. This meant the tour included incidental material such as pieces of the medieval London Bridge, unlabeled in the church yard of St. Magnus the Martyr.



Our informal wander with a_d_medievalist started at the Museum of London, where we consulted with maps, models, and display cases. I admired a large surviving Roman ladder, realized how little I know about the Roman postal service, and was confused by case labels. ("I wonder what led to there being an Upper Thames St. in Whitby?" ) After a break for drinks, we headed out to explore the streets.

London has a number of medium-long stretches of surviving Roman wall, much of it the foundation for subsquent wall-building in the Middle Ages, and, after that, incorporated into houses. Much of the wall which is relatively intact, therefore, comes from houses damaged by bombing, or uncovered in excavations. A stretch in a hotel courtyard near the Tower of London was almost perfect, stone quarried in what is now Kent interspersed with tile coursing for lining up the horizontals.




The stretch of Roman wall by Tower Hill station.



Back to the beginning of the tour: the first stretch we visited bordered what was the Roman fort at the edge of the town, a structure which eats into the rough symmetry of the Roman walls.



A pass along Bassishaw Highwalk and more walls - now gardens and gaps along London Wall-the-street - and we looped around to the Guildhall, and the relatively-recently-discovered (1988) amphitheater underneath its courtyard.

This is a good wall for showing how the older walls were integrated into later buildings.






Eventually, we made it to part of the basilica, walking through Leadenhall Market, past neglected excavations of the structure.



After lunch, we part-closed the circle of the walls by walking the earthed-in waterfront, now a street in from the Thames, past a preserved structural timber of a Roman wharf, and the London Stone at what used to be St. Swithin's, and is now Cannon Street Station. We finished at the misplaced Mithraeum, moved and disoriented from its original excavation; the building it was moved to built will be torn down soon, and the Mithraeum may be replaced in its original location. (We thought of you, whatifoundthere!)



What remains of Roman London is more in absence than in presence: the roads which trace the course of where walls once were. Exvacations that have been filled back in with sand and tall buildings built over them. Few modern roads trace the routes of the Roman ones known to have been there. Yet the bones of Londinium still structure parts of The City, some of which are there for all who pay attention to see.

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Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
swisstone
Aug. 6th, 2008 11:14 am (UTC)
Hope you don't mind, but I've nicked the photo of me for my Facebook profile.
owlfish
Aug. 6th, 2008 11:20 am (UTC)
Not at all! Glad you like it enough to do so.
strange_complex
Aug. 6th, 2008 11:28 am (UTC)
What a lovely way to spend the day, and I'm not surprised you enjoyed it so much, with swisstone as your guide. Thanks for sharing your photos.
swisstone
Aug. 6th, 2008 12:05 pm (UTC)
Next time you're in London, I shall have to give you The Tour.
pennski
Aug. 7th, 2008 08:22 pm (UTC)
Can other pens take you up on this offer too?

It looks fascinating - and I loved the tour you did of Chester.
swisstone
Aug. 8th, 2008 06:48 am (UTC)
I may well do a big tour of London next summer.
a_d_medievalist
Aug. 6th, 2008 11:48 am (UTC)
It really was a wonderful time! I wish I'd been more on my toes, because this was such a nice way to have things I already knew reinforced by Real!Life!Stuff! and a bunch of stuff I didn't know. Plus, with such company, how could the day have been anything other than good?
owlfish
Aug. 6th, 2008 04:29 pm (UTC)
You were ill! Under the circumstances, you did very well. (I'm only vaguely disappointed that I didn't end up ill after a day in both of your companies, as swisstone promised me I would. Perhaps it's just incubating slowly?)
del_c
Aug. 6th, 2008 01:42 pm (UTC)
stone quarried in what is now Kent interspersed with tile coursing for lining up the horizontals.

It was Kent before the Romans were there, as a 4th century BC Greek explorer from what is now Marseille (was the Greek colony of Massilia) described it as Kantion. So it shares with Orkney (was Orkades) the distinction of being Britain's oldest place with continuously the (roughly) same name.
owlfish
Aug. 6th, 2008 04:29 pm (UTC)
That's really neat! I'm glad to know that.
gleodream
Aug. 6th, 2008 02:13 pm (UTC)
Neat! Thanks for sharing. This is now on my when-next-in-London list.
justinsomnia
Aug. 6th, 2008 03:02 pm (UTC)
What a great post! I saw the portion of the wall near the Museum of London ... next time I'm there, I should definitely hunt down the rest.

(You're faster than me. I still need to go through my pictures from my London trip!)
owlfish
Aug. 6th, 2008 04:27 pm (UTC)
Ah, but I haven't posted photos from our boat ride, or the trip to France - any of it - or the Taste of London photos from June....
justinsomnia
Aug. 10th, 2008 02:36 pm (UTC)
Ok, so I'm not *that* behind. I'm moving to my friend's house for a bit before we move to DC ... I should have time then to play with pictures (since I'll be all packed already).
moochmooch
Aug. 6th, 2008 03:51 pm (UTC)
That's pretty cool. And much more informative than my trip there (oh, 13 years ago), when I wondered around the area lost for about three hours.
celandineb
Aug. 6th, 2008 04:18 pm (UTC)
Cool - I've seen bits of the walls etc., more or less in passing, but never made a concerted effort to see most/all of what survives from the Roman era.
gillo
Aug. 6th, 2008 05:24 pm (UTC)
Interesting - and a rather awesomely-qualified tour party too! I've seen some of those bits, but never put them together, so to speak. Thanks for sharing.
naxos
Aug. 6th, 2008 07:06 pm (UTC)
very nice entry - interesting! and cool photos too!
noncalorsedumor
Aug. 6th, 2008 08:17 pm (UTC)
What a wonderful way to spend the weekend. I LOVE THIS POST SO MUCH.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )