Knox Box of Miscellany

Dawn Knox – A rearranger of words into something hopefully meaningful…

Secret Roman London

Map of Londinium Peter Froste Museum of London
Map of Londinium Peter Froste Museum of London

Secret Roman London.
During my last jaunt to London with Cousin, Dave, we visited Stationers’ Hall (click here to read about that jaunt) and the Mithraeum, (click here to read about that jaunt) which can be found in the Bloomberg European Headquarters. While we were waiting to see the temple, we looked a the artist’s impression of the map of Londinium (see above, Peter Froste Museum of London) and we tried to locate the parts of Roman London which we’ve already visited, such as the amphitheatre which is beneath the Guildhall (click here to read about that jaunt), the Mithraeum and parts of the city walls.

However, there was an imposing, rectangular building at the end of the road leading from the sole bridge over the Thames and Dave and I decided we’d drop into All Hallows by the Tower Church and check the model of Londinium which we’d seen on a previous jaunt (yep, click here to read about that!), to identify it.

Model of Londinium in All Hallows by the Tower Church
Model of Londinium in All Hallows by the Tower Church

On the way to All Hallows, we decided to try to find the Roman baths at Billingsgate. I’d read that it was necessary to book first but we thought we’d ask and see if they were too busy for us to visit. However, we discovered that they are only open to the public on Saturdays and we were there on a Thursday. Ever the optimists, we rang the bell anyway but there was no reply.

Arriving at All Hallows, we met a lovely lady called Susan, who is a guide from Cityguides (click here for more information about Cityguides) and she told us that the rectangular building was the Roman Basilica and Forum. The Basilica was the civic and administrative building, including law courts, treasury etc and the Forum was a meeting place and shopping centre. When Susan realised we were interested in Roman remains, she told us about two sites which were rather off the beaten track. One is in the basement of a barbers and another in a well-known bank – both in London, although neither place is advertised and you have to specially request a viewing.

Recently, I’ve been listening to Jenni Murray’s audiobook ‘A History of Britain in 21 Women’ and she says that in the George pub in Colchester, Roman pavements and also red soot – evidence of the burning of the Roman town by Boudicaa and the Iceni, can be seen behind a glass panel, in the medieval cellar. And that made me wonder how many more remnants of the Romans’ occupation of Britain are there which aren’t well known and are hidden in private premises?

Do you know of any?

Well, guess where Dave and I will be off to in the near future? A clue – they all begin with B – we’ll be checking out baths, a barbershop and a bank!