London or “Londinium” was a Roman city for 400 years. The Romans built a Medieval Wall around the city in AD200 in which parts can still be seen today on a 2 mile walk from Tower Hill to Blackfriars.
In AD 43, the Roman Emperor Claudius invaded Britain, and by 50 AD the town of Londinium was established. A Roman Fort was built in about 110 AD that housed about a thousand soldiers and would eventually form the boundary of the Medieval Wall. The city wall was built approximately AD190-200 and encircled Roman London on its northern side. It stretched 3.4km from the modern day Tower of London in the east to Blackfriars in the west. Made of ragstone from Kent, the Medieval Wall was 9 feet thick and 20 feet high. The main gates of the wall were at Newgate, Aldgate, Bishopsgate and Ludgate.
By the end of the 4th century AD, Roman Britain was in decline and its buildings were starting to crumble. In 410 AD, the Roman occupation of Britain came to an end, but the Roman Wall would continue to influence the shape of London for the next 1600 years. Throughout medieval times, the wall was maintained and even had additions added to it as it retained its defensive function. In 1666 it was the wall that stopped the Great Fire of London spreading further than it did. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, sections of the wall were demolished, replaced with brick, became incorporated into new buildings…just simply disappeared. It wasn’t until WW2 and the bombing raids that destroyed this area of London, actually ended up revealing the Roman Wall once again. As the area lay undeveloped for the next 20 years, archaeologists were able to uncover remains of the Wall and to identify the foundations of the Roman Fort. In 1956, as East London started to make a come back, London Wall Road was constructed and all new buildings were to be designed to preserve London’s history.
Sections of the City Wall still survive today but medieval repairs and additions often disguise the Roman sections of wall. On Noble Street across the road from the Museum of London, you can see the remains of the Roman Fort. One of the best remaining sections can be seen near Tower Hill underground station in the hotel courtyard at the Grange City Hotel at 8-10 Coopers Row. I happened to be staying there and got a VIP view from my window, but you can go through the courtyard to see the Medieval Wall behind the hotel. Apparently it’s a combination of both Roman and Medieval construction. This section is a good example of how recent buildings have been built around the wall. Another good spot is St Alphege Gardens off Wood Street whereas other sections are hidden in underground car parks.
If you want to see as much of the Wall as possible, follow The London Wall Walk which was designed to start at the Tower of London and lead you to the Museum of London. But for a bit more history about the Wall, visit the Museum of London and then explore the remains of the wall around the museum and heading towards the Tower of London. The Walk is about 3km long and should take you about 1-2 hours. So go out and get some culture.