Roman wall below London streets recognised as national monument

Image: MOLA archaeologists clean the monumental masonry of the Roman riverside wall at Sugar Quay © MOLA

DCMS, on advice from Historic England, has added three sections of excavated wall to the National Heritage List for England

Three sections of a Roman city wall, currently buried beneath the City of London, have been added to the National Heritage List for England as scheduled monuments.

Over the last 1,700 years much of the wall has been destroyed as the capital has grown, but recent archaeological investigation has unearthed the surviving sections, which are now protected by law.

The designation has been confirmed by DCMS following Historic England’s advice.

Excavations by MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) between 2006–2016, building on archaeological work during the 1970s and ‘80s, uncovered sections of the wall over three sites.

The remains of the Roman riverside wall have been left in-situ underground, below modern buildings along Upper and Lower Thames Street, which once formed the north foreshore of the River Thames.

A wooden wharf and quay structures from both the Roman and medieval period uncovered alongside the wall are included in the new protection.

These sites now enjoy the same level of protection and recognition as the only other known section of Roman riverside wall, at the Tower of London.

Historic England said that the wall’s history began in the 3rd century, as a stone riverside wall built to enclose Roman London. Connected to the London Wall, which still survives in large sections above ground, this riverside wall severed the city’s connection to the quayside.

Excavation of the Roman riverside wall at Riverbank House © MOLA

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England said: “The riverside wall remains an intriguing element of Roman London which raises almost as many questions as it answers.

“The construction of the riverside wall effectively cut off the once bustling port, but why? It seems to suggest a major move towards defence at a time of uncertainty for the Roman provinces.”

Dr Sadie Watson of MOLA added: “We’re extremely excited that the Roman riverside wall is getting the recognition and protection that it deserves. This is particularly fitting as it marks almost 50 years since MOLA’s predecessor, Department of Urban Archaeology, first identified the Roman riverside wall on one of the first professional excavations in London.”

The three sites of excavated wall are located at Riverbank House, Upper Thames Street; Three Quays, Lower Thames Street, and Sugar Quay, Lower Thames Street in which 45 metres of the riverside wall – the largest of the sites – was recorded.