London's Story

Roman London – “Londinium”

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Map showing Roman London - reproduced with acknowledgements to Victius Maximum and by whose kind permission it is reproduced here

All this was brought to an abrupt halt in AD 61, when Queen Boudicca of the Iceni Tribe in East Anglia rebelled against the Romans and led her forces down to Londinium, where they massacred the inhabitants and burned the new settlement to the ground. This was in retribution for the terrible deeds which the Romans had inflicted on her people: according to contemporary accounts the Romans had seized all the Iceni territories, crops and animals, flogged Boudicca herself and raped both her daughters, so her actions against her aggressors can be seen in context, and defended to an extent. 

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 Boadicea's statue on the Embankment - photo by SW

It was more than a century later in AD 200 that the Romans again re-established their settlement at Londinium. They proceeded to re-build the city around the hill known as “Corn Hill”, which was the highest point north of their new bridge. Aware of the burning and pillaging of the earlier settlement, the Romans were careful to build a high defensive wall nearly 3 metres thick and over 6 metres high around their new city. Into this wall they built towers, gates and barbicans. Quite large sections of this Roman wall survive today – most notably, the well-preserved section by Tower Hill station, opposite the Tower of London.

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Section of Roman Wall at Tower Hill - photo courtesy J Briggs

Into the wall the Romans built gates – “Aldgate”, “Ludgate”, “Newgate”, and “Bishopsgate” are all names which remind us of their Roman origins, as does “London Wall”, which follows part of the course of the original Roman wall. 

Over the next 150 years Londinium developed into a centre for trade and business, and also the administrative centre for the Roman-occupied areas in the rest of England. The new city included buildings like a basilica, an ampitheatre, temples to gods such as Mithas (a Persian deity), a forum and the Governor’s Palace. The remains of the great ampitheatre have been discovered in front of the present day Guildhall, and are marked by an oval of granite set into the paving stones. Parts of the Roman ampitheatre were excavated during the construction of the Guildhall Art Gallery and are carefully preserved for visitors to see today.

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The Guildhall which is built on the site of the Roman Basilica and Ampitheatre. 

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Site of the Roman Ampitheatre in front of Guildhall - the marble oval indicates 
the position of the outer ring of the Ampitheatre.



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