Wall of London


Wall of London
   Considerable difference of opinion exists as to the date when the walls that encircled the ancient City of London were first erected, and no evidence is obtainable from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle or other early records.
   There is no doubt from the remains which have been brought to light from time to time that some portion at least of the walls were originally erected in Roman times. Many of the fragments unearthed are of undoubted Roman construction and bear unmistakable evidences of Roman workmanship.
   Henry of Huntingdon ascribes their erection to the Empress Helen, who died in 328 (ed. R.S. p.30). But he is the only authority for this statement, and it seems probable from discoveries made of coins, etc., that they may have been erected towards the end of the 2nd century.
   Roach Smith places the centre of the earlier Londinium at the top of Fish Street Hill and thinks that to the north the wall ran along Cornhill and Leadenhall Street, to the east along Billiter Street and Mark Lane, to the south along Thames Street, and to the west along the east side of Walbrook, and that it was extended in later times in all directions.
   He is of opinion that the four original gates of the enlarged City were Aldgate, Alders-gate, Ludgate, and Bridgegate, and that the others were probably Roman postern gates, but the remains found under Newgate and at the junction of Bishopsgate and Wormwood Street suggest that these two gates were of greater importance in Roman times (See Gates of the City).
   Remains of the Roman wall and bastions have been found within the precincts of the Tower; in George Street, Tower Hill; Trinity Place, Tower Hill; Cooper's Row; America Square; near John Street; in Crutched Friars and Jewry Street; in Hounds-ditch; London Wall (Street) ; Camomile Street; in the churchyard of St. Giles, Cripplegate; in Bull and Mouth Street, Aldersgate; on the site of Christ's Hospital (now General Post Office); near Newgate in Old Bailey, etc., in the line of the later medieval wall.
   The later Roman wall seems to have enclosed an area of about 380 acres, and it is probable that further additions were made to the fortifications of the City, temp. Alfred, 872-901, and that much of the wall was erected or rebuilt at this time. This later wall included an extent of nearly 450 acres.
   Its course can be clearly traced from the Tower of London, east of White Tower, running due north to Aldgate along the line of Vine Street, then north-west, south of Houndsditch on the north-east side of the present Duke Street, Bevis Marks, and Camomile Street to Bishopsgate, and west along the northern sides of the streets called Wormwood Street and London Wall, to the churchyard of St. Giles Cripplegate, where the upper portion of a bastion may be seen above ground. The wall here formed an angle and turned south to a point a little north-east of the church of St. Anne and St. Agnes, thence west across the street at Aldersgate along the south side of St. Botolph Aldersgate Churchyard, a portion of the inner face being visible in the basement of the General Post Office. Thence it ran west to the angle bastion in Giltspur Street, thence south to Newgate and Ludgate to the River.
   This original line of the wall was encroached on and destroyed in the east by the erection of the Tower of London, temp. William the Conqueror. Later in the 13th century, in the west by Ludgate, it was removed for the enlargement of the Blackfriars monastery and rebuilt further west so as to enclose that house within its circuit. It is more difficult to reconstruct the southern line of the wall along the river bank, alluded to by Fitzstephen, as this had completely disappeared by the 12th century, but it probably existed as part of the original circuit of the City, and it is interesting to note that in a charter of Alfred of 898, making grants of two "jugera" at Etheredeshyd (Queenhithe), the boundaries are given as follows: "Est autem via publica a fiumine Tamisie dividens hec duo jugera tendens in aquilonem Ambo autem jugera in murum protelantur et extra murum navium staciones tante latitudinis quante et jugera sunt infra murum " (Birch, II. 221).
   The passage suggests a wall on the river bank at Queenhithe, which may perhaps have formed a portion of the original City Wall on that side. This southern wall was probably not part of the original Roman defences, but of later erection.
   The wall was supported throughout its entire length by projecting towers and bastions, as shown in the older maps, and many of these bastions were originally of Roman. construction.
   Portions of the wall on the northern side were in a ruinous condition in 1135-53, and. the canons of St. Martin's were allowed to make use of some of the stones in their buildings.
   No alteration appears to have been made in the circuit of the wall since the 13th century.
   A tax called murage was levied for the maintenance of the walls as occasion required, and substantial repairs were carried out in 1257, 1382, 1386, 1477.
   "Londonwal " mentioned 1375 (Cal. L. Bk. H. p. 2). Circuit 2 miles 605 ft.
   The walls were in existence as late as the 18th century, and are plainly shown in Rocque's map, 1746. After that time they rapidly disappeared and no trace of them is visible in Horwood's map, 1799. But extensive remains have been found from time to time, especially in the course of excavations made during the 19th century, and careful notes have been taken as to the size, thickness, and general construction of the portions. examined.
   There are several portions easily accessible, viz.: In London Wall (Street) on the north. side enclosed in St. Alphage Churchyard. No.55 London Wall, being pulled down, was found to rest on the Old Wall, 43 ft. long, 12 ft. high, excavated 17 ft. 6 in. below the modern level. Houses on the north side stand on the lower courses of the Roman wall A bastion in St. Giles' Churchyard Cripplegate. In George Street, Trinity Square, Tower Hill at No.6, which was built on the site of the wall. In Trinity Place, Trinity Square.. At Barber's Bonded Warehouses in Cooper's Row. At Roman Wall House," No. I Crutched Friars, in one of the basement rooms. In St. Martin's Court, Ludgate Hill, opposite the Old Bailey. In King Edward VII. Street, in excavating for the new Post Office Buildings. There is an interesting account of this discovery with drawings, Arch LXIII., and in Trans. L. and M. Arch. Soc. N.S. II. (3), 271.
   Other fragments of interest have been found in America Square, near the Minories,. and at Fenchurch Street Railway Station, 9 ft. below the surface. Commencing at the Tower, the wall ran in a northerly direction in line 700 ft. from the old postern gate. The foundations were taken 3 ft. into a solid bed of natural gravel.
   A wall has also been found on the south side of Ludgate Hill running almost east and west joining the tower that formed the south side of Ludgate.
   Remains of the bastions have also been found: The bastion in Camomile Street in 1884, 8 ft. below the surface, was of Roman construction as to the first 10 ft. in height, the remaining portion 8 or 9 ft. in height being of later work.
   Remains of bastions have also been discovered at the end of Chain Alley (Gould Square) in the Minories, two before Aldgate, one as before mentioned at Cripplegate, two in Monkwell Street, one at Christ's Hospital, one near the corner of Giltspur Street, 100 ft. from Newgate. One on Ludgate Hill, belonging to the later wall, projecting 14 ft. north into the City Ditch.
   The angle bastion near Giltspur Street, in the new General Post Office, is the first instance in London of the rounded angle bastion.
   Most of these remains, in the foundations and lower portions of the work, show traces of Roman construction and workmanship.
   The original height of the wall seems to have been from 20 to 25 ft., the base in America Square being buried to a depth of about 20 ft. Interesting details as to these discoveries and the construction of the wall are to be found in Archaeologia, Vols. LX., LXIII., etc., and in Lond. Topog. Rec. IV. 1.

A Dictionary of London. . 1918.

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