Depending on how much you’ve explored this site, you may have noticed a couple of things. Firstly, I studied Classical Civilisation (i.e. Ancient Greek and Roman history), which I’ve mentioned on multiple occasions, and, secondly, I’m off to Athens in a few weeks, as the countdown timer at the bottom of the page indicates. Basically, I really love ancient history but it’s been a while since I’ve done anything ancient-y. That was until I booked my Athens trip and I figured it was time to delve back in. Now London might not be full of Ancient Greek things (unless you’re going to the British Museum, which I have many times), but it does several Roman things to explore.
On Sunday, I set out to find some of those things. My first stop was the old Roman wall which encapsulated the City of London. Some ruins of that wall can still be found, including on London Wall (helpfully named), next to the Museum of London – my second stop – so that’s where I went. Sitting next to the old Roman London Wall was one of the things on Tom Jones’ list of 365 things to do in London, which I am vaguely trying to tick off. He recommends going to see a bit by St Alphage Gardens, near the Barbican Centre, which was not a million miles away from where I was but I don’t think I saw the same bit. Still, I saw a pretty decent bit close up so I’m counting it.
Anyway, I wandered down from St. Paul’s tube station and up onto the highwalk. From there I could see the wall from above (handy for photos) but since I get rather excited at the sight of old rock I decided to descend down to see it up close. As I wandered down it, and round a corner, I found the image of an old ghost painted onto a piece of the wall. That was quite creepy but my love of old rock was satisfied. I may have even skipped along it in joy a little bit.
From the wall, I went on into the Museum of London, which depicts the history of the area from the settlement of early humans in the Thames Valley, to the Roman’s foundation of Londinium and onto the modern day, including many struggles and disasters the city has experienced over the years. I must admit, I was mainly interested in the Roman stuff.
I only really read up about life in Roman London, whilst examining old tomb stones and figurines, amongst other things, but I still wandered through all the other eras as well and I’m glad I did. A golden stagecoach, an ornate lift from Selfridge’s in the 1920s and a reconstruction of a Victorian street, which kind of resembled Diagon Alley, were particular highlights.
Once I was done, instead of hopping on a tube from the nearby St. Paul’s station, I walked about 15 minutes down the road to Cannon Street instead, where the London Stone is hidden away opposite the station – another item on Tom Jones’ to do list.
Before I moved to London, my commute used to take me into Cannon Street. I knew the London Stone was around there somewhere but I didn’t know exactly where. Turns out it is at number 111, behind a grate at the bottom of the WH Smiths.
If you don’t know what the London Stone is then don’t worry, I’m not entirely sure either. In fact, I don’t think anyone is. It’s kind of legendary. It is thought that the rock was used in Roman times as a milestone to measure distances. However, there’s also a chance it was the rock from which King Arthur pulled Excalibur – so it’s exact use/importance is a little bit up in the air.
During the week, the London Stone is walked past constantly by thousands of busy commuters who probably don’t know it’s there but, at the weekend, the City is mercifully empty. I could therefore stop in pavement without being banged into or huffed at as there were only a few people around and plenty of space for them to navigate around me. There was just one little issue.
When I was studying in Germany, I met an Italian who thought it was ridiculous how easily embarrassed the English get. He set me challenges, such as asking a random stranger to take a photo of us (which I awkwardly did) and moon walking across the road at the traffic lights (which I flat out refused to do), in order to combat said embarrassment. It didn’t work and annoyingly squatting down in the middle of a pavement and peering into a random grate whilst taking pictures of said grate, for some reason, falls into the category of things I feel awkwardly embarrassed about for absolutely no real reason.
Despite said bizarre embarrassed feeling, I peered into the relevant grate but I couldn’t really see much. I thought I caught a glance of a lit up brown stone but I can’t guarantee it. The glass looked dirty. When I looked again, I saw nothing much at all. Either the glass was covered in something or all I was seeing was a white wall and the stone had been moved. Still, I’m counting that flash of brown that I may or may not have seen as enough to tick it off my list.