Archive for the ‘Roman History’ Category

London Stone (on display in the Museum of London) May 2017

The London Stone is a city landmark which traditionally stood in a grilled alcove in a wall at 111  Cannon Street. It is the remains of ageing much larger limestone object, which seems to have stood on the site, or nearby, for many centuries.

A map of 1550  shows the stone located opposite St Swithern’s church in Candlewick Street (now known as Cannon Street). The first documented reference is in 1598, when the London historian John Stow, records ” a great stone called London Stone”. He claims it was listed in a bible from the reign of King Aethelstan (924-39) in a list of properties of Christchurch Canterbury ( a.k.a. Canterbury Cathedral) ”  being near to London Stone”. A further reference is found in documents of 1098 and 1108 of a man called “Eadwaker aet lundene stane” (Eadwacker at London Stone), who gives a property, or properties, to the Cathedral. It seems this use in names became fairly common as there are a number of mediaeval references, where people add the term ” of London’s stone”  to their names. Most notable of these is Ailwen of London Stone,  father of Henry Fitz-Alwen, Mayor of London from 1193 to 1212. It is known that the Fitz-Alwen house was located in Candlewick Street.

In 1540, the rebel Jack Cade made his way to the city stopping at the stone.  He struck the stone with his sword claiming to be the Lord of the city. It is unclear whether this is something he had made up or whether there was some ritual regarding city Lordship which he was imitating.

Jade Cade at London Stone. By editor: Howard Staunton; artist Sir John Gilbert (1817-1897) – Works of William Shakespeare (London: Routledge, 1881) vol 8, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25663723

By Elizabethan times, the stone had become associated with King Lud, the legendary founder of the city of London. It is listed in Samuel Rowland’s ‘Sights of London‘ published in 1608. In 1671, members of the spectacle makers company confiscated a batch of spectacles from a shop in Cannon Street. These were taken to the Guildhall, where they were condemned as being of inferior quality and ordered to be smashed on the remains of the London Stone.

By 1742 the stone had become an obstruction to the passage of traffic and the remains were moved to the wall of  St Swithern’s church opposite.

St Swithern’s Church 1831.By artist: T. H. Shepherd; engraver: J. Tingle – original engraving, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25706799

 

The London Stone (1887). By Image extracted from page 559 of volume 1 of Old and New London, Illustrated, by Walter Thornbury. Original held and digitised by the British Library. , Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32463347

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The church was destroyed by bombing in 1940, but the section of wall containing the stone remained standing. The remains of the church were actually not demolished until 1962 and were then replaced by an office building.

London Stone niche in the remaining walls of St Swithern’s Church Cannon St (1962). By David Wright, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13733522

The stone was relocated in a grilled niche in the wall of this building, the ground floor of which was used as a stationer and newsagents. This was not a very satisfying relocation as being at ground level it rather looked like a ventilation grill. I wonder how many people walked past it each day and didn’t even know it was there?

The rather unassuming location of the London Stone in the wall of WH Smiths in Cannon St. By John O’London – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25664002

This building, in turn, was scheduled for the demolition in 2016 and the stone was moved to the Museum of London,  where it is currently on display until it can be relocated when the new office building on the site is completed. It is hoped that the new location will show the stone off so it can once again become a tourist attraction – the heart of the City.

So what was this stone?

Over the years there have been many suggestions: a Roman milestone; a sacred city stone (as with the golden milestone in the forum at Rome); a talismanic stone (as in the Palladium in Troy); a prehistoric or a druidic sacred stone; a stone from the remains of the Roman praetorium or governors Palace,which is believed to lie under Cannon Street station; a mark stone of ley-lines or in a recent book, the stone from which King Arthur pulled Excalibur. No one knows, but it has clearly played a part in the history and conscience of the city of London for many centuries.

Have you ever imagined what Rome looked like? How did all those ruins link together?

Here is a tour of Rome in the year 320AD looking at the major sites as they looked then.

https://www.vox.com/2016/2/28/11129238/rome-reborn-video.

If you enjoy this tour you can go off and explore for yourself using an interactive map.

For details see: http://rome320ad.com/

Happy sightseeing!

 

 

The worship of the God Mithras, although originating in Persia, had come to the Roman Empire through the Greeks. It was popular amongst the Military and a number of Mithraic temples (Mithraeum) have been discovered on Miltary sites connected with Hadrian’s Wall.

 

Relief of Mithras killing the Bull from Mithraeum at Housesteads Fort

Relief of Mithras killing the Bull from Mithraeum at Housesteads Fort

Statue of Birth of Mithras from Mithraeum at Housesteads Fort

Statue of Birth of Mithras from Mithraeum at Housesteads Fort

Altar dedicated Mithras the Invincible by the Prefect of 1st cohort of Batavians (from near the mouth of the river Rhine) from Mithraeum at Carrawburgh

Altar dedicated to Mithras the Invincible by the Prefect of 1st cohort of Batavians (from near the mouth of the river Rhine) from Mithraeum at Carrawburgh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Altar dedicated to Mithras from Mithraeum at Carrawburgh. It was probably painted as some green paint was still present on it when found

Altar dedicated to Mithras from Mithraeum at Carrawburgh. It was probably painted as some green paint was still present on it when found

Altar dedicated Mithras by Aulus Cluentius Habitus, an Italian from Lanneum in the Apenines - from Mithraeum at Carrawburgh

Altar dedicated to Mithras by Aulus Cluentius Habitus, an Italian from Lanneum in the Apennines – from Mithraeum at Carrawburgh

For many centuries during the Roman occupation the area around Newcastle was the frontier between the Roman Empire and the wild lands that lay beyond. The collection of Roman artefacts at The Hancock Museum in Newcastle is drawn from local excavations and reflects the life and the variety of people who found their way to this the most northern part of the Empire.

Altar to the 'Genius of the Emperor' set up by 1st cohort of Vardulli (scouts) who came from Northern Spain

Altar to the ‘Genius of the Emperor’ set up by 1st cohort of Vardulli (scouts) who came from Northern Spain

Relief of a Syrian Archer

Relief of a Syrian Archer

Tombstone of Aurelia Aia, a Christian from Salonae in Croatia - the wife of a soldier

Tombstone of Aurelia Aia, a Christian from Salonae in Croatia – the wife of a soldier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tombstone of the baby son of Aurelius Julianus, Tribune 1st Aelian Cohort (from Roumania) and 1st Thracian Cohort (from Bulgaria /Turekey)

Tombstone of the baby son of Aurelius Julianus, Tribune 1st Aelian Cohort (from Roumania) and 1st Thracian Cohort (from Bulgaria /Turkey)

Tombstone of Aureilia Aureliana. Late 3rd century AD

Tombstone of Aureilia Aureliana. Late 3rd century AD

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A pair of altars found near the bridge at Newcastle. They probably come from a harbour shrine as one is dedicated to the river god Neptune (Trident) and the other to the Sea god Oceanus (Anchor). They were set up by the 6th Legion, who played a major part in the building of Hadrian’s wall

For many centuries during the Roman occupation the area around Newcastle was the frontier between the Roman Empire and the wild lands that lay beyond. The collection of Roman artefacts at The Hancock Museum in Newcastle is drawn from local excavations and reflects the life and the variety of people who found their way to this the most northern part of the Empire.

Quern-stone for grinding corn into flour

Quern-stone for grinding corn into flour

Amphora originating in Southern Spain

Amphora originating from Southern Spain

Italian Red slip ware

Italian Red slip ware

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Altar dedicated to the godess Minerva

Altar dedicated to the goddess Minerva

Statue head from Temple at Benwell Fort

Statue head from Temple at Benwell Fort

Roman coffin found in Newcastle

Roman coffin found in Newcastle

Roman coffin found in Newcastle

Roman coffin found in Newcastle

 

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In 1926 when workmen were building a new roadway for the local council offices adjacent to Orpington railway station in Kent, they came across some the remains of a building. This was quickly identified as a Roman villa and some preliminary work was carried out before it was covered over. It was not until 1988 that the villa was actually excavated and investigated. Part of the remains was then preserved within a building and opened to the public.

Plan of Villa remains

Plan of Villa remains

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The villa is thought to have to have been occupied between 140-400 AD and to have been the centre of a family farming estate. At its largest, the villa had around 20 rooms and parts of 10 of these can be seen in its current preserved state.

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Roman Floor

Roman Floor

Finds from the site

Finds from the site

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Evidence of the rest of the villa can be seen in the surrounding grounds

Evidence of the rest of the villa can be seen in the surrounding grounds

St Mary Woolnooth

St Mary Woolnooth

It is thought that this has been a site of worship for over 2000 years as excavations have revealed the presence of a Roman temple and an Anglo-Saxon church.

The dedication is to St mary of the Nativity. The term Woolnooth is believed to have come from Wulnathe de Walesbrok, a 12th century benefactor.

The Anglo-Saxon church had been replaced by a Norman building, which was rebuilt in 1445. Badly damaged during the Great Fire of London in 1666, it was repaired by Sir Christopher Wren, but by 1711 it had been declared unsafe and was demolished.

High Altar

High Altar

Nicholas Hawksmoor was commissioned to build a replacement, it is the only church by this famous church builder in the city of London. He began in 1716 and it finally opened for worship in 1727. John Newton, hymn writer and anti-slavery campaigner was the priest here from 1780-1807 and William Wilberforce was also known to have worshipped here.

The Pulpit

The Pulpit

There were many changes over the following years, most notably the removal of the galleries in 1876. It has been threatened with demolition over the years as it occupies a prime site in the city. In 1897 plans were laid to demolish the church in conjunction with the building of Bank station on the underground railway, but public pressure ensured its survival. The railway company purchased the church crypt and worked to ensure that no damage was done to the church structure whilst building the station underneath it.

Today in addition to its English-speaking congregation it is also home to a German-speaking Swiss community in London as well as being the official church in London of the government of  the Canadian state of British Columbia.

The collection of altars found at Corbridge speaks to the diversity of the people who lived there and of their religion.

A remarkable triple devotion to Jupiter Dolichenus (a Syrian Sky Deity); Caelestis Brigantia (a diety of the local Brigantian tribe) and to Sulis (Goddess of health)

A remarkable triple devotion to Jupiter Dolichenus (a Syrian Sky Deity); Caelestis Brigantia (a diety of the local Brigantian tribe) and to Sulis (Goddess of health)

 

Juno (3rd century)

Juno (3rd century)

 

Hercules and the Hydra. Hercules was revered by many soldiers

Hercules and the Hydra. Hercules was revered by many soldiers

 

Jupiter

Jupiter

 

Minerva

Minerva

Decorated Samian Bowl (from South Gaul)

Decorated Samian Bowl (from South Gaul)

It is unclear when it started to develop but by 200 AD a substantial civilian settlement had developed around the legionary base. By the fourth century the military function of Corbridge had declined and many forts and bases were abandoned, but places such as Carlisle and Corbridge continued as civilian settlements. After the Romans left at the beginning of the fifth century the use of urban settlements began to decline as in the cultural vacuum that followed people returned to an agricultural rural based economy.

The Corbridge Lanx, Roman decorative metal work. Replica (original in British Museum)

The Corbridge Lanx, Roman decorative metal work. Replica (original in British Museum)

 

Corbridge Lion

Corbridge Lion

 

Decorated Samian Bowl (from South Gaul)

Decorated Samian Bowl (from South Gaul)

 

Decorated 4th century beaker

Decorated 4th century beaker

The later Saxon and subsequent medieval settlement was founded a mile east of the Roman town. There are records which show that the Roman site was known. Stone was used in later buildings including Hexham Abbey  and a record shows that King John came to the site in 1201 on a ‘treasure hunting’ trip although it also reports that he found nothing but stone. More scientific records were made in the 16th and 18th centuries. The first proper excavations took place in 1906-14 initially  under the be famous archaeologist, Leonard Wooley. Major excavations took place from 1947-74 and revealed much of what is visible today. A further excavation took place in 1980 before the building of the new Museum on the site and in recent years further excavations have continued to reveal new parts of the site.

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Corbridge is a small town, 25 miles inland from the North Sea along the valley of the River Tyne. To the west of the modern town is the site of Roman Corbridge, 2 miles south of Hadrian’s Wall. The impressive remains that are on display are only the central area of the settlement consisting of the military sector, but aerial photography has shown a much more extensive settlement surrounding the base. It’s location was at the junction of Stanegate (the Roman road running from Newcastle to Carlisle which had formed the definition of the northern border of Roman occupation prior to the completion of Hadrian’s Wall) and Dere Street (running north from York).

 

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The Roman army arrived in Northumberland around 70AD following the Brigantian rebellion in AD69. The first activity at Corbridge seems to date from the first excursion into Scotland by Julius Agricola and the site of the original fort lies a mile to the west of the later settlement. The victory of Agricola at the battle of Mons Graupius (? Near modern day Aberdeen) in 83 AD seemed to mark the successful end of the campaign but following barbarian invasions in the Danube region troops were withdrawn from Britain and the strategic decision was made to withdraw from Scotland to the original border and thus Corbridge changed from a supply base to an frontier post. At this time a new fort was constructed on the current site. There is an interesting interlude around 105AD when the Corbridge fort was burnt down and a number of other local forts were abandoned, suggesting perhaps that the Romans temporarily lost control of the area. However, the fort was soon rebuilt and at this time Stanegate was constructed.

Granaries

Granaries

The change in street level during Roman occupation. The coloumn bases were st original street level but later steps had to be provided to descend from street level.

The change in street level during Roman occupation. The column bases were st original street level but later steps had to be provided to descend from street level.

In 122AD the visiting Emperor Hadrian decided to erect a more visible frontier and work on Hadrian’s Wall commenced and Corbridge served as one of the major bases for the construction. This new function also resulted in a number of changes at Corbridge with new granaries and modifications to the principa building. Further expansions and modifications accompanied the campaigns into Scotland by the Emperor Antoninus Puis with the addition of many stone buildings including barracks replacing the previous timber walled buildings. However by 161 AD the campaigns had been suspended and the border once again became Hadrian’s Wall.  At this time evidence suggests that Corbridge had become a base for detachments from the 6th and 20th Legions (the majority of troops stationed along the wall were auxiliaries).At some point in the third century these were also joined at Corbridge by a detachment from the 2nd Legion.

Location for water tank feeding street fountains

Location for water tank feeding street fountains

 

Roman walls

Roman walls