Laying The Foundations

London's roots lie in the walled Roman settlement of Londinium, established in AD 43 on the northern banks of the River Thames, roughly on the site of today's City. Few traces of it survive outside museums, but stretches of the Roman wall remain as foundations to a medieval wall outside Tower Hill tube station and in a few sections below Bastion Highwalk, next to the Museum of London.

The Saxons, who moved into the area after the decline of the Roman Empire, found Londinium too small and built their communities further up the Thames. Excavations carried out by archaeologists from the Museum of London during renovations at the Royal Opera House in the late 1990s uncovered extensive traces of the Saxon settlement of Lundenwic, including some wattle-and-daub housing. But the best place to see what the Saxons left behind in situ is the church of All Hallows-by-the-Tower (pi23), northwest of the Tower of London, which boasts an important archway and the walls of a 7th-century Saxon church.

With the arrival of William the Conqueror in 1066, the country got its first example of Norman architecture in the shape of the White Tower (pi21), the sturdy keep at the heart of the Tower of London. The church of St Bartholomew-the-Great (p114) at Smithfield also has Norman arches and columns marching down its nave. The west door and elaborately moulded porch at the Temple Church (pi 13) in Inner Temple are other outstanding details of Norman architecture.

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