London is known for its Roman past, but actually seeing evidence of this is not as easy as in other cities. There are no holes in the pavement, allowing passersby to peer at the ruins - as in Athens, with its even older Greek archaeological record. There are no lengthy sections of Roman wall.
For the enthusiast, there are nonetheless some things to see.
(Image courtesy of Ian Visits)
With the Museum of London, it is possible to see some remains of a Roman fort, now underground, on a 30-minute tour. Tickets are on the door, and the tours are infrequent - the next dates are here.
Read about the experience here.
I am really want to get on one of those tours. There’s also a tour of a Roman amphitheatre. I just wish they weren’t on weekdays!
The Museum of London is near Barbican, St Paul’s and Moorgate tube stops - for people staying somewhere more in the west end, like a Hyde Park hotel, London’s Roman history definitely requires a tube journey to reach. Ditto anyone outside zone 1.
The London Underground is over 100 years and full of history and secrets. With old stations permanently and partly closed, and with layers of renovations palimpsested on top of each other, what’s hidden away from the bright tunnels that we all use is actually an under-explored facet of London’s history. Renovations at Notting Hill Gate in 2010 revealed vintage posters dating to the 1950s. Unfortunately these posters remain inaccessible to the public (and no pestering station staff for a look), but this article contains a selection of absolutely gorgeous photos.
(Photos taken by Mikey Ashworth, copyrighted London Underground)
It’s a shame we can’t visit them, but this is probably for the best - ensuring the posters will last longer. And in the meantime we can enjoy these photos. And as visitors to the city walk through Notting Hill Gate station, near many a Hyde Park hotel, London’s history lies nearby.
Underneath all our feet, as we walk along the streets from Covent Garden shops to the British Museum or a Hyde Park hotel, London’s old Mail Rail network lies abandoned. Getting in there is impossible - or so most people thought.
A group of urban explorers proved otherwise, with a lot of ingenuity and planning. This is all illegal, of course - and absolutely amazing. These are 2 of the pictures they took.
You can find more here.
Now this is an exploration of London’s history/
Perusing the internet at lunchtime, I found this:
(John Bill map of Surrey, 1626.)
An image of a gorgeous old map of Surrey, which is just the sort of thing I love to admire. There’s Putney, where I now live, and further south there’s the village in which I grew up! There’s the village in which I went to primary school! There’s Guildford, where I’ve gone shopping many a time. There’s Cranley, now spelled Cranleigh. There’s Reygate, now Reigate. There’s Richmond, where a friend of mine runs a Richmond wedding dress shop. There’s London, apparently a separate entity to areas now its vast sprawling suburbs.
I could probably enjoy old maps all day.
London’s history is long; and, as with all aspects of history, the further back you try to look, the more difficult it becomes to ascertain the truth. Legends of London’s foundation ascribe it to Brutus of Troy, who defeated Gog and Magog and founded a city called Caer Troia. A later king apparently renamed it to Caer Ludein, from which the modern name of London derives.
The truth is, unfortunately, liable to be a little less fanciful, as archaeological evidence does not indicate a city prior to Roman settlement of the region. While it remains possible that lurking un-excavated under the square mile is the missing evidence, it is most widely agreed that prehistoric London was a rural area with scattered habitation. The above find, a flint tranchet adze found in the Thames at Twickenham and dating to around 8500 BCE - 6500 BCE, is the kind of evidence that supports this argument.
Later Iron Age coins indicate a certain level of civilisation, but complex architecture in the region seems not to have developed.
To see some of these finds, visit the Museum of London in the City - their prehistoric collection contains a great number of artifacts. Easy to find, whether you’re travelling from a zone 3 flat or a Hyde Park hotel, London’s museum is well worth a visit.
Near some of the city’s most famous museums and many a Kensington and Hyde Park hotel, London’s South Kensington station is a familiar stop for many visitors to the city. It’s an old stop on the London Underground and has been through many changes, as exemplified in these old photos:
(South Kensington c.1890)
(The Piccadilly Line station building, 1910)
(Booking hall, 1928)
(A view of the now-disused Eastbound near-surface platform, 1949)
Beautiful photos from the catacombs of West Norwood Cemetery, via derelictplaces.co.uk
Quite creepy, in some cases, where the coffins are rotting away.
The dead are everywhere in this city. Though these are far from Oxford Street shops or a fine Hyde Park hotel, London’s dead are closer than many might think.
Speaking of museums, my very own British Museum is in the midst of its current exhibition about medieval European relics.
I’m going to visit it this weekend - so excited!
There was a very interesting post on the BM Blog about the St Baudime reliquary arriving at the museum.
Relics! I find them so hilarious. Like the church that once realised it had 3 heads of the same saint; or the other church, which claimed to have the head of St John the Baptist, aged 8.
Head out from your city centre or Hyde Park hotel; London’s best museum has a truly excellent-looking exhibition on.
I found a whole blog dedicated to ghost ads - those old painted ads still visible on walls across London and other cities. I see them all over the place and, wherever possible, stop to photograph them.
I love this one:
Taken in Leicestershire by Dennis Duggan.
And this one:
Photo by Caroline Bunford, in Birmingham.
They’re rife here in the capital too. No matter where you are, deep in the City or walking past a Hyde Park hotel, London’s old ads are waiting to be found.