Friday, 3 May 2013

London's Roman City Wall - The Obscured - Part 2

Following on from my previous post about the Roman London city wall situated under One America Square, I endeavoured to find another hidden section, this time in Vine Street, as mentioned in the Museum of London's Roman Wall Wall guide as Panel 4, Emperor House.

Part of London wall walk guide, copyright Museum of London.

Other blogs has mentioned that panel number 4 should be visible in the small square on Vine Street, but on first inspection nothing was found in this area.  I enquired in the Emperor Bar, if they knew of a section of Roman wall, and they readily informed me that is was basically under my feet in the basement of Emperor House, the building that houses the bar and the offices of Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP at the time of writing.  So I asked at the main security desk in the glazed foyer about the wall and if access was permitted.  A very helpful security guard handed me a leaflet on the Roman Wall and provided me with a name and phone number to call to arrange a visit.

The next day, appointment arranged, I returned to finally see this elusive section of wall.
My contact appeared and guided me along a maze of steps, twisting corridors and fire-doors until we arrived in a rather gloomy and seemingly forgotten part of the buildings basement.

Here what can only be described as a whopping section of wall is located, along with, to my surprise the missing panel number 4 from the original London Wall Walk, propped us against a wall.

The illusive Panel Number 4

According to the guide, this section of was revealed in 1979-80 as a 10m (32ft) long and 3m (10ft) high section of city wall, along with a defensive ditch and the foundation a Roman bastion.  These bastions were a late addition to the city wall added in the troubled years of the 4th century AD.  There were at least twenty-two bastion located along the east section of the wall, spaced evenly approximately 70 yards (64m) apart.  This spacing being governed by the range that arrows could be fired to cover each section from bastion to bastion.

The wall taken facing SW. 

The bastion base protrudes by a about 4m-5m (12-15ft) from the wall and is clearly visible in the picture above and below.  It is interesting to note how the main section of the wall has been underpinned on modern concrete blocks set on a brick base.  The original Roman ground-level sandstone plinth is clearly visible sitting on the underpinning, as well as the red tile courses.  Some of the original rag-stone facing has been disturbed, which can be seen as more modern brick abutments and smaller less ordered in-filling.  On the information panel theses sections are drawn as empty.

Roman Wall, Emperor House, taken facing NW.
The basement did look like it had once staged the wall as a show piece as there was up-lighting and even a viewing platform on a slightly higher section of basement, where the last two photos were taken from.  However we could not easily locate the light switches.
The basement was otherwise like any other basement, a dumping ground for old desks and chairs, and the majesty of the this unique piece of history sadly not given the showcase it once had enjoyed.

Roman Wall, Emperor House, taken facing N.

Interestingly as I am posting this I notice that the wall is bathed in decent natural light and in fact no artificial lighting was on in that part of the basement.  This must mean there is partial visibility from above this section, which I guess is from the rear loading bay of the Emperor House, which is accessed from Jewry Street.

And finally, for now, at meeting point of Jewry St and Crutched Friars there is another clue to the history of the area.  Can you tell what it is yet?  I have a plan to visit this building at a later date... Update: Read Part 3

For more general background information on the city wall and Roman London please refer to the Museum of London's web site on this topic.  Better still, go make a personal visit to this often overlooked but truly excellent (and free) museum.


Museum of London - Site Record for Emperor House
nosilleg's blog with Google Map of the Wall Walk

1 comment :

  1. Hi Simon, I know it's been some time since this post was posted but I was wondering if you still have the name and phone number that you called to arrange a visit? I'm currently an art student researching about the London Wall and trying to map the whole thing.