Fragments of Old London Still Visible in Modern London
July 14, 2015 4:15 AM   Subscribe

Fragments of Roman Londinium are still visible around London. Bits of old London Bridge have been worked into St. Magnus the Martyr Church. What other leftover bits of old London are still hanging around the modern-day city?

I should note that I am not looking for entire historic buildings that still survive-- I'm looking for pieces (large and small). Also, I'm specifically looking for things that have survived outside of museums.
posted by yankeefog to Society & Culture (17 answers total) 88 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Have to mention the completely mysterious London Stone.
posted by Segundus at 4:26 AM on July 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Ruins count? There's Winchester Palace on the South Bank.
posted by corvine at 5:28 AM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm sorry but I don't know the right way to search for this, but London apparently has (physical) layers upon layers and you can go underground and see entire Georgian or Victorian streets and medieaval wells and such. I saw a programme about this on telly (therefore it must be true) unfortunately don't remember even a keyword that would help research it. 'Underground London' of course brings up something else entirely. 'Subterranean London' does bring up some stuff, mostly more modern than what your question mentions.

Guardian article about urban explorers, mostly old war rooms, resevoirs and sewers.

Excavating underground River Walbrook, leading to discovery of Roman skulls.

Wiki on subterranean London, leading to Subterranean Rivers of London and to Catacombs of London (a bit of a stub really, and nothing particularly ancient).

Stephen Walter's Map of Subterranean London.
posted by glasseyes at 5:30 AM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You might also be interested in the stuff that the Crossrail digs are turning up.
posted by corvine at 6:07 AM on July 14, 2015

Best answer: There's lots of pieces of the London Wall (Roman) still standing in the Barbican estate.
posted by goo at 6:16 AM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh by the way linking from Stephen Water's map here is a review for Peter Ackroyd's London Under: This is a short but punchy book. You can easily read it in two sittings... For those looking for a highly readable introduction, plumb any depth to get hold of a copy.
posted by glasseyes at 6:18 AM on July 14, 2015

Best answer: Strip the tarmac off many central London streets and you'll find cobbles. You can sometimes see the edges of them along the gutters.

Some abandoned tube stations exist in only fragmentary form.

Vanished City: London’s Lost Neighborhoods by Tom Bolton (I haven't read it).

Ghost road sign

All Hallows-by-the-Tower has some Roman tiles.

The City Wall has surviving sections.
posted by Leon at 6:57 AM on July 14, 2015

Best answer: London has a lot of fascinating archaeological/historical bits and pieces! Some of my favorite parts of Roman London, also in the map you linked, are the London Mithraeum (moved after excavation), and the Guildhall Roman amphitheatre remains-- this summer it's even hosting gladiators. Now a museum, but only discovered in the 1980's. All Hallows by the Tower, because Saxon remnants in the same building with Roman pavements is great.

I can recommend Londinium: a new map and guide to Roman London. The layout is pretty similar to the one you linked but I think it covers some smaller excavations and sites as well, though that won't always be visible. There's also the Londinium app amongst the other material produced through the Museum of London. I don't know about the overall thesis within Unearthing London: The Ancient World Beneath the Metropolis, but it gathers together some really great and overlooked sites: the Temple Bar gateway, Roman pavements within churches, Bronze Age barrows.

There are fish traps that turn up on the banks of the Thames, from the Bronze Age onward, and you might be interested in the other projects of the Thames Discovery Programme. There are a lot of talks, walks, and blogs centered around the archaeological material of the Thames. If you're interested in something later, you can visit the submerged remnants of the Rose Playhouse, Bankside's first Tudor theatre, and even see a performance.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:44 AM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: There are a few fragments of Edward III's old manor house in Rotherhithe, along the Thames Walk. Bits of HMS Temeraire, made famous by J. M. W. Turner's painting "The Fighting Temeraire," were recycled into ecclesiastical furniture for St Mary's Church in Rotherhithe, a few hundred yards from where she was broken up, where they can still be seen today. You can tell roughly where the kitchens for Greenwich's old Placentia Palace used to be located by walking along the foreshore adjacent to the Naval College and looking for the old cow-bone deposits eroding out of the riverbed. Cross Trafalgar Road, head into Greenwich Park, and walk up the hill and you can visit the site of an old Roman temple complex, though there's very little visible above ground to tell you what's there.
posted by Sonny Jim at 8:08 AM on July 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: For museums the Museum of London and museum of London docklands are the obvious sources. But most specially - if you go down to the banks of the Thames at the lowest low spring tide, look at the water line especially around the bridge arches, and you should be able to pick up lots of very old clay pipes, which were thrown like cigarette butts in the water at the end of their lives.
posted by hannahlambda at 2:36 PM on July 15, 2015

Best answer: The earliest easily accessible structure in London is possibly the earthwork in Highgate Wood, which could be pre-Roman (or it could be medieval; nobody's dug it to find out). Highgate Wood is also the site of Roman kilns, which were excavated in the 1970s and moved to a local museum but are due to be returned to the site. (Highgate Wood is worth a visit anyway, it's ancient woodland and very diverse.)

You can also see parts of the Roman Forum/Basilica complex in the City, but you do have to go into the basement of a barbers. The nearby Temple of Mithras (mentioned above) is due to be returned to its original site next year. .

There are also wooden stakes in the Thames foreshore which were part of a Bronze Age platform; these are only exposed at very low tides, however.

London is constantly reinventing itself and has been growing since Anglo-Saxon times. If something falls into disuse, it's quickly absorbed and something new put in its place.

posted by Devonian at 10:14 AM on July 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Parts of the old London Bridge (the same alcoves as found at St Magnus the Martyr) are in Victoria Park, near the north east corner by the path that leads to the footbridge over the A12.
posted by tapeguy at 8:30 AM on July 18, 2015

Best answer: Cleopatra's needle - came laboriously from Luxor to the Embankment and dates back to the reign of Thutmose III in about 1450BC. In fact, at the time of Cleopatra, it was already about a thousand years old.

Pretty ancient- but not, according to poet Cicely Fox Smith, The Oldest Thing in London.
posted by rongorongo at 5:59 AM on July 22, 2015

Best answer: Two things I love showing people:

1) Not sure if it's part of the first thing you linked (not coming up for me), but there's a section of Roman Wall in London Wall car park. Just happily sitting in the middle of the car park, huge section of ancient wall. No guard rails or anything.

2) If you cross Charing Cross Road in the right place, you can find Little Compton Street buried underneath. It's visible through a grate on a traffic island, and you can still see the signs.
posted by MattWPBS at 10:44 AM on July 23, 2015

Best answer: Oh, and if you go to Sloane Square tube station, you can see the River Westbourne crossing the line in a metal pipe.
posted by MattWPBS at 10:46 AM on July 23, 2015

Best answer: Keep thinking of other things, sorry. Leinster Gardens to the North of Hyde Park is a good example of recent history. There's two buildings which are just false facades, the space behind them opens onto the tube tracks. It's where steam trains could vent when they were used on the Underground.
posted by MattWPBS at 10:48 AM on July 23, 2015

Response by poster: Thank you, everybody. That's a wonderful collection of fragments. You've got my walks-around-the-city sorted for some time to come.
posted by yankeefog at 1:44 AM on August 14, 2015

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