EC3 London

Roman EC3

The Romans founded Londinium in the middle of the first century and in this map the blue line shows the course of the wall that the Romans built around their city at the end of the second century.

The historic City of London occupies the site today and by the 14th century the City had extended its boundaries beyond the Roman city to Fleet Street in the west and to Finsbury Square in the north.

On the map, EC3 is the area in the southeast corner; the Tower of London is marked in red.

EC3 has some very impressive Roman remains which include:

There is also a plaque marking the site of Aldgate which was one of the gates through which people entered and exited the city.


Aldgate

Aldgate 1600

Aldgate was one of seven historic gates through the defensive Roman wall that surrounded London and was the easternmost gateway through wall.

The name Aldgate is derived from Ale‐gate, which means open to all. In the Saxon period it was called Eastgate.

The current form of the word Aldgate did not occur until about 1486.

It is believed that a gate at Aldgate was already spanning the road to Colchester in the Roman period, when the London City Wall itself was constructed. Unlike other city entrances, no tolls were ever demanded at this gate.

During later reconstruction, it’s likely that it had twin arches flanked by towers. It was finally demolished about 1759 and briefly re‐erected in Bethnal Green.

Jews began to settle to the north of the gate in 1181 until their expulsion in 1290 by King Edward I. The area from this time became known as Old Jewry. The Jews were later welcomed back by Oliver Cromwell, and again settled in the Aldgate area.

Around 1420 Whitechapel Bell Foundry was founded in Aldgate but was later moved to nearby Whitechapel. The Aldgate Pump was at the junction of Aldgate, Leadenhall Street and Fenchurch Street.

In 1374, when Geoffrey Chaucer was the Controller of Customs for Hides, Skins and Wools, he was granted a lease on a dwelling above Aldgate. Queen Mary made her first entry to London through this gate in 1555.


The Roman Wall

Surviving parts of the Roman wall can be seen at Wakefield Gardens (beside the entrance to Tower Hill underground station) and behind the Leonardo Royal Hotel in Cooper’s Row (shown below).

Roman Wall Wakefield Gardens

Built of Kentish ragstone, every five to six courses have a layer of red tiles to bond them together. It has been estimated by Museum of London that it took about 1300 barges of stone to build the wall. 

Earth from the foundation ditch would have been banked against the inner face to act as a rampart. In medieval times (1066 to 1485) the wall was raised by about six metres.

More information about the impressive remains of Roman London and sections of the Roman wall near the entrance to Tower Hill Underground Station can be found at London Walking Tours.

On a site bordered by Vine Steet, Jewry Street and Crosswall the former Roman Wall House and Emperor House have been replaced with a building for Urbanest at 35 Vine Street providing student accommodation for over six hundred students.

The fourteen-storey building has a two-level basement where there are remains of the Roman Wall, and it is planned that this space will be open to the public.


Roman Tessellated Floor

Roman Tessellated Floor

This tiled floor, which was uncovered during building work in the 1920s, is visible in the under croft at the church of All Hallows by the Tower.

It is remarkable that this tiling has been here for almost 2,000 years and still in the position in which it was first laid. There is another section of tessellated floor in the under croft but not on its original site.

Dated to the late second century, it is identified as the floor of a Roman house that was on the site now occupied by the church.


Billingsgate Roman Bath House

Billingsgate Roman Bath House

Situated beneath an office building at 101 Lower Thames Street, Roman remains of a private house and baths were discovered in 1848 during the building of the Coal Exchange.

Between 1967 and 1970, this was replaced by another building and Lower Thames Street was enlarged. The previously discovered remains had been preserved in the cellar of the earlier building.

During the redevelopment of the area, further excavations were made at the site and all the remains found were incorporated into the cellar of the new building.

The bathhouse had belonged to a Roman house erected in the late 2nd century. In the 3rd century a bath was added in an open courtyard which included a cold room (frigidarium), a warm room (tepidarium) and a hot room (caldarium).

Bathhouses were a Roman institution. Some grand houses had a private bathhouse but this was as rare as having a swimming pool today. There were no individual baths; bathing was something you did in the company of others. So even in private houses there was no expectation that you would bathe alone.

The whole complex was used until the beginning of the 5th century. See Spitalfields Life for more information.


Roman Basilica and Forum

Roman Basilica

Leadenhall Market stands on the site of what was once the Roman basilica and forum. In the basement of a hairdressers on the corner of Gracechurch Street and Leadenhall Market there are the remains of a stone pier that was a base for the basilica and forum. 

See Spitalfields Life for more information about this site.

This was an important and large site in the Roman city of Londinium. The forum was the marketplace for the city and the basilica was a public building housing the court.

In 1408 the former Lord Mayor Richard ‘Dick’ Whittington acquired the lease of the building and acquired the site in 1411. It quickly became one of the best places in London to buy meat, game, poultry, and fish. He later passed it to the City of London who have been responsible for the market ever since.

Leadenhall Market

Today, Leadenhall Market continues to provide a wide range of shopping and dining options for visitors.

There are Roman remains all across the City of London. You can discover the beginnings of the City by undertaking a Self-Guided Walk.