Tag Archives: St Lawrence Jewry

a Roman Amphitheatre in London

Did you know that there is a Roman Amphitheatre in London? The courtyard in front of Guildhall has its own tale to tell and to the east of the hall is the Guildhall Art Gallery.

guildhall city of london
Guildhall in the heart of the City f London

The Guildhall Art Gallery (the original art gallery burned down during an air-raid in May 1941), is a ‘must visit’…… housing a fabulous collection of paintings one of which is one of Britain’s largest paintings: Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar, September 1782 By John Singleton Copley Oil on canvas 1783-1791 214 inches by 297 inches

guildhall art gallery
Guildhall Art Gallery

Book yourself on one of the frequent tours given by a very knowledgeable guide who provides a fascinating insight into the paintings on display.  Some of them are so beautifully executed they look like photographs. The piece de resistance of course is the little known about Roman Amphitheatre below ground.

Roman Amphitheatre at the Guildhall Art Gallery
Roman Amphitheatre at the Guildhall Art Gallery

Remains of a long-lost Roman amphitheatre discovered in 1987 underneath what is now Guildhall Yard indicate that the site of Guildhall was significant as far back as Roman times. An important building in Roman times, London’s amphitheatre in its heyday, would’ve accommodated approximately 6,000 people at a time when the population of Londinium was only 20,000-30,000.

roman london
what the Roman Amphitheatre may have looked like – Guildhall

Recently excavated and now open for general viewing the area has been set up to incorporate the ruins of the amphitheatre as well as a recreation of what the amphitheatre would have looked like 2,000 years ago.  During the excavations they discovered an original drainage ditch that contained a ladies leather thong, a gold triangular shaped earring with a pearl designed – for a pierced ear, as well as bones and tufts of fur.

roman amphitheatre guildhall london
relics of Roman London

A reminder of the Gladiatorial fights that took place in these amphitheatres where men and women were pitted not only against each other, but also against animals eg lions.  The ruins show areas demarcated for fighters waiting to enter the arena, original walls and original sand and gravel used at the time to build the arena.  This area, well below ground….20 feet below ground level offers an absolutely fascinating glimpse into Roman London.

roman amphitheatre in london
what lies beneath…..

An oval slate in the courtyard marks the spot where if you went straight down you would find the amphitheatre.

Guildhall and the Roman Amphitheatre are included in the recently Released: ‘While You Are There…53 Places to go in London’ – Buy your copy here

Also on the perimeter of the courtyard can be found St Lawrence Jewry,

st lawrence jewry city of london
St Lawrence Jewry, City of London church

so called because the original 12th century church stood on the eastern side of the city, then occupied by the Jewish community.  That church, built in 1136 was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666. The building that replaced it was designed by Christopher Wren in 1680.

bust of christopher wren at guildhall art gallery
a bust of Sir Christopher Wren at Guildhall Art Gallery

That church was almost completely destroyed by fire during 1940. It was restored in 1957 in the tradition of Wren’s building and is now the church of the Corporation of London. The interior of the church is just beautiful and well worth a visit to see the fabulous stained glass windows.




Nearest tube station: Bank – Plan your journey: http://www.tfl.gov.uk

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