Ancient History: The Amazing Story of London Wall

London Wall

Look around you anywhere in London and you will see buildings and constructions that could date back hundreds, if not thousands of years. London is a patchwork of architecture and artworks that have been influenced by thousands of different people and cultures since it was founded.

There’s one structure however, hidden in plain sight, nestled amongst the bars, restaurants and 5 star hotels in London, that reveals a key to London’s far distant past: the London Wall.

What is the London Wall?

Just 15 minutes from Montcalm Hotel Shoreditch is the site of an old Roman fort at Cripplegate. This fort is the Northern-most corner of a great wall, built just under 2000 years ago by our Roman ancestors somewhere between 150 - 250 AD.

At the time, the Wall ran as far east as Aldgate and as far west as Ludgate. It surrounded the city of Londinium, founded by the Romans all those years ago. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Wall was home to ancient Roman baths, temples, palaces, forts and an amphitheatre. The 350 acres within the Wall’s confounds were the seat of the Roman Empire in Britain, and the birthplace of the London that we know today.

Construction of the Wall

The Wall was one of the biggest, most extensive projects undertaken by the Romans in Britain. The materials used to create it came from far and wide; Kentish ragstone was brought by barge from quarries near modern-day Maidstone for the main wall, which stretched two miles in total. The Wall was an extraordinary feat of Roman engineering; it reached as wide as three metres and as high as six metres in some places and ditches were dug as far down as two metres in front of the outer wall.

A far cry from the 21st century 5 star hotels in London presently, the wall had at least 22 towers spaced evenly apart, implying that it was possible some residents made their homes along its perimeter.

The enemies at the gates

Historians aren’t exactly sure as to why the London Wall was built, and speculation on this matter has been rife since the Romans left Britain roughly 200 years after its construction in 410 AD.

We do know however that Londinium was raided several times by Saxon pirates, and that the Wall may also have been used to keep the Picts, a group of Northern invaders who managed to overrun Hadrian’s Wall in the late second century, at bay.

After the Romans left Britain the city of Londinium lay quiet and empty, until Anglo-Saxons took up residence within the wall’s confines once more in a settlement they named ‘Lundenwic’.

The Wall today

The London Wall was carefully maintained until the 18th century, when almost all of the medieval city inside its boundaries was destroyed in the Great Fire of London. Fragments of the original wall can be seen today, however, and continue to tell the story of London’s ancient history.