The Site of London

Our sprawling capital city houses millions of people and covers a huge area. It has obviously grown massively since it was founded, as Londinium, by the Romans soon after they invaded Britain in AD43. But where exactly did the Romans put those first buildings?

Various Roman roads converged here, as it was the most downstream point where the River Thames could be crossed, in those days by a wooden bridge, close to the site of the present day London Bridge.

The settlement of Londinium was on the relatively high, dry ground at the northern end of the bridge.

The Romans constructed a defensive wall, around the city, from Blackfriars in the west to where we now find the Tower of London, in the east. The River Thames was the boundary on the south side.

Remnants of this wall can still be seen, in among the modern buildings.

Other clues are in the road names.

Incidentally, the first stone bridge was begun in 1176. That was the one with houses built on the bridge. The building plots were an attempt to recoup some of the costs. An oil painting by Claude de Jongh, “View of London Bridge”, painted in 1632, shows detail of the bridge and its buildings.

It lasted for 600 years and until 1729 was the only bridge in the area.
It was replaced in the 19th century by the stone bridge, which was subsequently sold, carefully dismantled and rebuilt in Arizona, USA in 1968. The current bridge was opened to traffic in 1973.

If you’ve signed up to receive my worksheets, then check your inbox for a map activity; taking a look at the old city through the clues in today’s road network.