The Roman Cities in Britain


Figure 142
142.—Ancient Arch on Road leading into Rome.

We have described, rapidly and imperfectly, some ancient places now buried in deep solitude, which were once filled with many people who pursued the ordinary occupations of human industry, and who were surrounded with the securities, comforts, and elegancies of social life. Great changes have necessarily been produced in the revolution of two thousand years. Hume, in his ‘Essay of the Populousness of Ancient Nations,’ says, “The barbarous condition of Britain in former times is well known, and the thinness of its inhabitants may easily be conjectured, both from their barbarity, and from a circumstance mentioned by Herodian, that all Britain was marshy, even in Severus’s time, after the Romans had been fully settled in it above a century.” In process of time the marshes were drained; the population of the hills, as in the case of Old Sarum, descended into the plains. The advantages of communication located towns upon the banks of rivers, which were restrained within deep channels by artificial bounds. London thus grew when the Thames was walled out of the low lands. So probably York, when the Ouse became tributary to man, instead of being a pestilent enemy. When the civilizers taught the original inhabitants to subdue the powers of nature to their use, the sites of great towns were fixed, and have remained fixed even to our own day, in consequence of those natural advantages which have continued unimpaired during the changes of centuries. The Romans were the noblest of colonizers. They did not make their own country rich by the exhaustive process which has been the curse of modern colonization. They taught the people their own useful arts, and they shared the riches which they had been the instruments of producing. They distributed amongst subdued nations their own refinements; and in the cultivation of the higher tastes they found that security which could never have resulted from the coercion of brutal ignorance. Tacitus says of Agricola, the great colonizer of England, “That the Britons, who led a roaming and unsettled life, and] were easily instigated to war, might contract a love of peace and tranquillity by being accustomed to a more pleasant way of living, he exhorted and assisted them to build houses, temples, courts, and market-places. By praising the diligent, and reproaching the indolent, he excited so great an emulation amongst the Britons, that after they had erected all those necessary edifices in their towns, they proceeded to build others merely for ornament and pleasure, such as porticoes, galleries, baths, banqueting-houses, &c.” Many of the still prosperous places of England, even at the present day, show us what the Romans generally, if not especially Agricola, did for the advancement of the arts of life amongst our remote forefathers. Lincoln is one of these cities of far-off antiquity—a British, a Roman, a Saxon city. Leland says, “I heard say that the lower part of Lincoln town was all marsh, and won by policy, and inhabited for the commodity of the water.... It is easy to be perceived that the town of Lincoln hath been notably builded at three times. The first building was on the very top of the hill, the oldest part whereof inhabited in the Britons’ time was the northest part of the hill, directly without Newport Gate, the ditches whereof yet remain, and great tokens of the old town-walls taken out of a ditch by it, for all the top of Lincoln Hill is quarry-ground. This is now a suburb to Newport Gate.” And there at Lincoln still stands Newport Gate—the Roman gate,—formed by a plain square pier and a semicircular arch (Figs. 139, 140). The Roman walls and the Roman arches of Lincoln are monuments of the same great people that we find at Rome itself (Figs. 142, 143). At Lincoln too are the remains of such baths as Agricola taught the Britons to build (Fig. 141). The Newport Gate of Lincoln, though half filled up by the elevation of the soil, exhibits a central arch sixteen feet wide, with two lateral arches. Within the area of the Roman walls now stand the Cathedral and the Castle, monuments equally interesting of other times and circumstances. At Lincoln, as at all other ancient places, we can trace the abodes of the living in the receptacles for the dead. The sarcophagi, the stone coffins, and the funereal urns here found, tell of the people of different ages and creeds mingled now in their common dust.

A fragment of Roman wall still proclaims the site of the ancient Verulam (Fig. 149). Camden says, “The situation of this place is well known to have been close by the town of St. Albans .... Nor hath it yet lost its ancient name, for it is still commonly called Verulam; although nothing of that remains besides ruins of walls, chequered pavements, and Roman coins, which they now and then dig up.” The fame of the Roman Verulam was merged in the honours of the Christian St. Albans; and the bricks of the old city were worked up into the church of the proto-martyr of England. Bede tells the story of the death of St. Alban, the first victim in Britain of the persecution of Diocletian, in the third century, with a graphic power which brings the natural features of this locality full before our view: “The most reverend confessor of God ascended the hill with the throng, the which decently pleasant agreeable place is almost five hundred paces from the river, embellished with several sorts of flowers, or rather quite covered with them; wherein there is no part upright, or steep, nor anything craggy, but the sides stretching out far about, is levelled by nature like the sea, which of old it had rendered worthy to be enriched with the martyr’s blood for its beautiful appearance.

“Thus was Alban tried,

England’s first martyr, whom no threats could shake:

Self-offer’d victim, for his friend he died,

And for the faith—nor shall his name forsake

That Hill, whose flowery platform seems to rise

By Nature decked for holiest sacrifice.”


In the time of Aubrey, some half-century later than that of Camden, there were “to be seen in some few places some remains of the walls of this city.” Speaking of Lord Bacon, Aubrey says, “Within the bounds of the walls of this old city of Verulam (his lordship’s barony) was Verulam House, about half a mile from St. Albans, which his lordship built, the most ingeniously contrived little pile that ever I saw.” It was here that Bacon, freed, however dishonourably, from the miserable intrigues of Whitehall, and the debasing quirks and quibbles of the Courts, laid the foundations of his ever-during fame. Aubrey tells us a story which is characteristic of Bacon’s enthusiastic temperament:—“This magnanimous Lord Chancellor had a great mind to have made it [Verulam] a city again; and he had designed it to be built with great uniformity; but fortune denied it to him, though she proved kinder to the great Cardinal Richelieu, who lived both to design and finish that specious town of Richelieu, where he was born, before an obscure and small village.” Fortune not only denied Bacon to found this city, but even the “ingeniously contrived little pile,” his gardens, and his banqueting-houses, which he had built at an enormous cost, were swept away within thirty years after his death: “One would have thought,” says Aubrey, “the most barbarous nation had made a conquest here.” To use the words of the philosopher of Verulam himself, “It is not good to look too long upon these turning wheels of Vicissitude, lest we become giddy.

York, the Eboracum of the Romans, was one of the most important of these British cities. Its Roman remains have very recently been described by a learned resident of this city:—“One of the angle-towers and a portion of the wall of Eboracum attached to it, are to this day remaining in an extraordinary state of preservation. In a recent removal of a considerable part of the more modern wall and rampart, a much larger portion of the Roman wall, connected with the same angle-tower, but in another direction, with remains of two wall-towers, and the foundations of one of the gates of the station, were found buried within the ramparts; and excavations at various times and in different parts of the present city have discovered so many indubitable remains of the fortifications of Eboracum, on three of its sides, that the conclusion appears to be fully warranted that this important station was of a rectangular form, corresponding very nearly with the plan of a Polybian camp, occupying a space of about six hundred and fifty yards, by about five hundred and fifty, inclosed by a wall and a rampant mound on the inner side of the wall, and a fosse without, with four angle towers, and a series of minor towers or turrets, and having four gates or principal entrances, from which proceeded military roads to the neighbouring stations mentioned in the ‘Itinerary’ of Antonine. Indications of extensive suburbs, especially on the south-west and north-west, exist in the numerous and interesting remains of primeval monuments, coffins, urns, tombs, baths, temples, and villas which from time to time, and especially in late ’years, have been brought to light. Numberless tiles, bearing the impress of the sixth and ninth legions, fragments of Samian ware, inscriptions, and coins from the age of Julius Cæsar to that of Constantine and his family, concur, with the notice of ancient geographers and historians, to identify the situation of modern York with that of ancient Eboracum.” (‘Penny Cyclopædia,’ vol. xxvii.)

And well might York have been a mighty fortress, and a city of palaces and temples; for here the Roman emperors had their chief seat when they visited Britain; here Severus and Constantius Chlorus died; here, though the evidence is somewhat doubtful, Constantine the Great was born.

Bath, a Roman city, connected by great roads with London and with the south coast, famous for its baths, a city of luxury amongst the luxurious colonizers, has presented to antiquarian curiosity more Roman remains than any other station in England. The city is supposed to be now twenty feet above its ancient level; and here, whenever the earth is moved, are turned up altars, tessellated pavements, urns, vases, lachrymatories, coins. Portions of a large temple consisting of a portico with fluted columns and Corinthian capitals, were discovered in 1790. The remains of the ancient baths have been distinctly traced. The old walls of the city are held to have been built upon the original Roman foundations. These walls have been swept away, and with them the curious relics of the elder period, which Leland has thus minutely described:—“There be divers notable antiquities engraved in stone that yet be seen in the walls of Bath betwixt the south gate and the west gate, and again betwixt the west gate and the north gate.” He then notices with more than ordinary detail a number of images, antique heads, tombs with inscriptions, and adds, “I much doubt whether these antique works were set in the time of the Romans’ dominion in Britain in the walls of Bath as they stand now, or whether they were gathered of old ruins there, and since set up in the walls, re-edified in testimony of the antiquity of the town.” Camden appears to have seen precisely the same relics as Leland saw, “fastened on the inner side of the wall between the north and west gates.” These things were in existence, then, a little more than two hundred years ago. There have been no irruptions of barbarous people into the country, to destroy these and other things of value which they could not understand. We had a high literature when these things were preserved; there were learned men amongst us; and the writers of imagination had that reverence for antiquity which is one of the best fruits of a diffused learning. From that period we have been wont to call ourselves a polite people. We are told that since that period we have had an Augustan age of letters and of arts. Yet somehow it has happened that during these last two centuries there has been a greater destruction of ancient things, and a more wanton desecration of sacred things, perpetrated by people in authority, sleek self-satisfied functionaries, practical men as they termed themselves, who despised all poetical associations, and thought the beautiful incompatible with the useful,—there has been more wanton outrage committed upon the memorials of the past, than all the invaders and pillagers of our land had committed for ten centuries before. The destruction has been stopped, simply because the standard of taste and of feeling has been raised amongst a few.

It is inconsistent with our plan to attempt any complete detail of the antiquities of any one period, as they are found in various parts of the kingdom. To accomplish this, each period would require a volume, or many volumes. Our purpose is to excite a general spirit of inquiry, and to gratify that curiosity as far as we are able, by a few details of what is most remarkable. Let us finish our account of the Roman cities by a brief notice of Roman London.

A writer whose ability is concurrent with his careful investigation of every subject which he touches, has well described the circumstances which led to the choice of London as a Roman city, upon a site which the Britons had peopled, in all likelihood, before the Roman colonization:—

“The spot on which London is built, or at least that on which the first buildings were most probably erected, was pointed out by nature for the site of a city. It was the suspicion of the sagacious Wren, as we are informed in the ‘Parentalia,’ that the whole valley between Camberwell Hill and the hills of Essex must have been anciently filled by a great frith or arm of the sea, which increased in width towards the east; and that this estuary was only in the course of ages reduced to a river by the vast sand-hills which were gradually raised on both sides of it by the wind and tide, the effect being assisted by embankments, which on the Essex side are still perfectly distinguishable as of artificial origin, and are evidently works that could only have been constructed by a people of advanced mechanical skill. Wren himself ascribed these embankments to the Romans; and it is stated that a single breach made in them in his time cost 17,000l. to repair it—from which we may conceive both how stupendous must have been the labour bestowed on their original construction, and of what indispensable utility they are still found to be. In fact, were it not for this ancient barrier, the broad and fertile meadows stretching along that border of the river would still be a mere marsh, or a bed of sand overflowed by the water, though left perhaps dry in many places on the retirement of the tide........The elevation on which London is built offered a site at once raised above the water, and at the same time close upon the navigable portion of it—conditions which did not meet in any other locality on either side of the river, or estuary, from the sea upwards. It was the first spot on which a town could be set down, so as to take advantage of the facilities of communication between the coast and the interior presented by this great natural highway.” (‘London,’ vol. i. No. IX.)

The walls of London were partly destroyed in the time of Fitz-Stephen, who lived in the reign of Henry II. He says, “The wall of the city is high and great, continued with seven gates, which are made double, and on the north distinguished with turrets by spaces. Likewise on the south London hath been enclosed with walls and towers; but the large river of Thames, well stored with fish, and in which the tide ebbs and flows, by continuance of time hath washed, worn away, and cast down those walls.” Camden writes: “Our historians tell us that Constantine the Great, at the request of Helena, his mother, first walled it [London] about with hewn stone and British bricks, containing in compass about three miles; whereby the city was made a square, but not equilateral, being longer from west to east, and from south to north narrower. That part of these walls which runs along by the Thames is quite washed away by the continual beating of the river; though Fitz-Stephen (who lived in Henry the Second’s time) tells us there were some pieces of it still to be seen. The rest remains to this day, and that part toward the north very firm; for having not many years since [1474] been repaired by one Jocelyn, who was Mayor, it put on, as it were, a new face and freshness. But that toward the east and the west, though the Barons repaired it in their wars out of the demolished houses of the Jews, is all ruinous, and going to decay.” The new face and freshness that were put on the north wall by one Jocelyn the Mayor, have long since perished. A few fragments above the ground, built-in, plastered over, proclaim to the curious observer that he walks in a city which has some claim to antiquity. It was formerly a doubt with some of those antiquarian writers who say no interest in any inquiry except as a question of dispute, whether the walls of London were of Roman construction. A careful observer, Dr. Woodward, in the beginning of the last century, had an opportunity of going below the surface, and the matter was by him put beyond a doubt. He writes: “The city wall being upon this occasion, to make way for these new buildings, broke up and beat to pieces, from Bishopgate, onwards, S. E. so far as they extend, an opportunity was given of observing the fabric and composition of it. From the foundation, which lay eight feet below the present surface, quite up to the top, which was in all near ten foot, ’twas compiled alternately of layers of broad flat bricks and of rag-stone. The bricks lay in double ranges; and each brick being about one inch and three-tenths in thickness, the whole layer, with the mortar interposed, exceeded not three inches. The layers of stone were not quite two foot thick of our measure. ’Tis probable they were intended for two of the Roman, their rule being somewhat shorter than ours. To this height the workmanship was after the Roman manner; and these were the remains of the ancient wall supposed to be built by Constantine the Great. In this ’twas very observable that the mortar was, as usually in the Roman works, so very firm and hard, that the stone itself as easily broke and gave way as that. ’Twas thus far from the foundation upwards nine foot in thickness.” The removal of old houses in London is still going on as in Woodward’s time; and more important excavations have been made in our own day, and at the very hour in which we are writing. Close by St. Paul’s, in the formation of a deep sewer, the original peat-earth, over which probably the Thames once flowed before man rested his foot here, has been dug down to. In such excavations the relics of age after age have turned up. The Saxon town lies above the Roman; and the Norman above the Saxon; but when the spade and the pickaxe have broken against some mass solid as the granite rock, then the labourer knows that he has come to a building such as men build not now, foundations that seem intended to have lasted for ever, the Roman work. Woodward described the Wall as he saw it in Camomile Street in 1707. Mr. Craik, the writer whom we have recently quoted, has recorded the appearance of the Wall as he saw it in 1841, laid bare for the works of the Blackwall Railway.

Figure spread at pages 48 and 49:

“Beneath a range of houses which have been in part demolished, in a court entering from the east side of Cooper’s Row, nearly opposite to Milbourne’s Almshouses, and behind the south-west corner of America Square, the workmen, having penetrated to the natural earth—a hard, dry, sandy gravel—came upon a wall seven feet and a half thick, running a very little to the west of north, or parallel to the line of the Minories; which, by the resistance it offered, was at once conjectured to be of Roman masonry. When we saw it, it had been laid bare on both sides, to the height of about six or seven feet, and there was an opportunity of examining its construction, both on the surface and in the interior. The principal part of it consisted of five courses of squared stones, regularly laid, with two layers of flat bricks below them, and two similar layers above—the latter at least carried all the way through the wall—as represented in the drawing (Fig. 150). The mortar, which appeared to be extremely hard, had a few pebbles mixed up with it; and here and there were interstices, or air-cells, as if it had not been spread, but poured in among the stones. The stones were a granulated limestone, such as might have been obtained from the chalk-quarries at Greenhithe or Northfleet. The bricks, which were evidently Roman, and, as far as the eye could judge, corresponded in size as well as in shape with those described by Woodward, had as fine a grain as common pottery, and varied in colour from a bright red to a palish yellow. A slight circular or oval mark—in some cases forming a double ring—appeared on one side of each of them, which had been impressed when the clay was in a soft state.” (‘London,’ Vol. I. No. ix.)

A peculiarity in the construction of a portion of the ancient wall of London was discovered during some large excavations for sewerage, between Lambeth Hill and Queenhithe, in 1841. The wall in this part measured in breadth from eight to ten feet. Its foundation was upon piles, upon which was laid a stratum of chalk and stones; then a course of ponderous hewn sandstones, held together by the well-known cement; and upon this solid structure the wall itself, composed of layers of rag and flint, between the layers of Roman tiles. The peculiarity to which we allude was described to the Antiquarian Society by Mr. Charles Roach Smith:—“One of the most remarkable features of this wall is the evidence it affords of the existence of an anterior building, which from some cause or other must have been destroyed. Many of the large stones above mentioned are sculptured and ornamented with mouldings, which denote their prior use in a frieze or entablature of an edifice, the magnitude of which may be conceived from the fact of these stones weighing in many instances upwards of half a ton. Whatever might have been the nature of this structure, its site, or cause of its overthrow, we have no means of determining.” The undoubted work of fourteen or fifteen centuries ago is something not to be looked upon without associations of deep and abiding interest; but when we find connected with such ancient labours more ancient labours, which have themselves been overthrown by the changes of time or the vicissitudes of fortune, the mind must fall back upon the repose of its own ignorance, and be content to know how little it knows.

In the year 1785 a sewer, sixteen feet deep, was made in Lombard Street. Sewers were not then common in London, and Sir John Henniker, speaking of this work, says, “A large trench has been excavated in Lombard Street for the first time since the memory of man.” In making this excavation vast quantities of Roman antiquities were discovered, which are minutely described and represented in the eighth volume of the ‘Archæologia.’ Amongst other curiosities was found a beautiful gold coin of the emperor Galba. The coin come into the possession of Sir John Henniker, who thus relates the circumstances under which it was found:—“The soil is almost uniformly divided into four strata: the uppermost, thirteen feet six inches thick, of factitious earth; the second, two feet thick, of brick, apparently the ruins of buildings; the third, three inches thick, of wood-ashes, apparently the remains of a town built of wood, and destroyed by fire; the fourth, of Roman pavement, common and tessellated. On this pavement the coin in question was discovered, together with several other coins, and many articles of pottery. Below the pavement the workmen find virgin earth.” (‘Archæologia,’ vol. viii.) In 1831 various Roman remains were found in the construction of a sewer in Crooked Lane, and in Eastcheap. There, at a depth of about seventeen feet, were found the walls of former houses covered with wood-ashes, and about them were also found many portions of green molten glass, and of red ware discoloured by the action of fire. Mr. A. J. Kempe, who communicates these discoveries to the Society of Antiquaries, adverts to the wood-ashes found in Lombard Street in 1785; and he adds, “Couple this with the circumstances I have related, and what stronger evidence can be produced of the catastrophe in which the dwellings of the Roman settlers at London were involved in the reign of Nero? The Roman buildings at the north-east corner of Eastcheap afforded a curious testimony that such a conflagration had taken place, and that London had been afterwards rebuilt by the Romans. Worked into the mortar of the walls were numerous pieces of the fine red ware, blackened by the action of an intense fire.

The circumstances recorded certainly furnish strong evidence of a conflagration, and a rebuilding of the city; but the fact recorded in 1785, that under the wood-ashes was a coin of Galba, is evidence against the conflagration having taken place in the time of Nero, whom Galba succeeded. Mr. Kempe has fallen into the general belief that when Londinium was abandoned to the vengeance of Boadicea, its buildings were destroyed by a general conflagration. This was in the year a. d. 61. The coin of Galba under the wood-ashes would seem to infer that the conflagration was at a later date, in connection with circumstances of which we have no tradition. The short reign of Galba commenced a. d. 68. But be this as it may, here, seventeen feet under the present pavement of London, are the traces of Roman life covered by the ashes of a ruined city, and other walls built with the fragments of those ruins, and over these the aggregated rubbish of eighteen centuries of inhabitancy. The extent of Roman London, of the London founded or civilized, burnt, rebuilt, extended by the busiest of people, may be traced by the old walls, by the cemeteries beyond the walls, and by the remains of ancient relics of utility and ornament constantly turned up wherever the soil is dug into to a sufficient depth. Look upon the plan of this Roman London (Fig. 158). The figures marked upon the plan show the places where the Romans have been traced. 1. Shows the spot in Fleet Ditch where vases, coins, and implements were found after the Great Fire of 1666. In many other parts were similar remains found on that occasion (Fig. 163). On the plan, 2 shows the point where a sepulchral stone was found at Ludgate, which is now amongst the Arundel Marbles at Oxford (Fig. 160). In the plan, 3 marks the site of St. Paul’s, where many remains were found by Sir Christopher Wren, in digging the foundations of the present Cathedral—the burial-place of “the colony when Romans and Britons lived and died together” (Fig. 164). At the causeway at Bow Church, marked 4, Roman remains were found after the Great Fire. At Guildhall, marked 5, tiles and pottery were found in 1822. In Lothbury, in 1805, digging for the foundations of an extended portion of the Bank of England, marked 6, a tessellated pavement was found, which is now in the British Museum. Other tessellated pavements have been found in various parts of London, the finest specimen having been discovered in 1803, in Leadenhall Street, near the portico of the India House (Fig. 161). The spot in Lombard Street and Birchin Lane, where, previous to the discoveries in 1785 already mentioned, remains had been found in 1730 and 1774, is marked 7 on the plan. Some of these remains are represented in Fig. 166. In 1787 Roman coins and tiles were found at St. Mary at Hill, close by the line of the Thames, marked 8. In 1824, near St. Dunstan’s in the East, on the same line, marked 9, were pavements and urns found. In Long Lane, marked 10, a pavement has been found; also a tessellated pavement in Crosby Square, marked 11; a pavement in Old Broad Street, marked 12; a tessellated pavement in Crutched Friars, marked 16; a pavement in Northumberland Alley, marked 17. Sepulchral monuments have been found within the City wall, as in Bishopsgate, in 1707, marked 14; and in the Tower, in 1777, marked 15. But the great burial-places, especially of the Christianized Romans, were outside the wall; as at the cemetery beyond Bishopsgate, discovered in 1725, marked 13; that in Goodman’s Fields, marked 19, found in 1787; and that at Spitalfields, marked 18, discovered as early as 1576. The old London antiquary Stow thus speaks of this discovery: “On the east side of this churchyard lieth a large field, of old time called Lolesworth, now Spitalfield, which about the year 1576 was broken up for clay to make brick: in the digging whereof many earthern pots called Urnæ were found full of ashes, and burnt bones of men, to wit of the Romans who inhabited here. For it was the custom of the Romans to burn their dead, to put their ashes in an urn, and then to bury the same with certain ceremonies, in some field appointed for that purpose near unto their city. . . . . . There hath also been found (in the same field) divers coffins of stone, containing the bones of men; these I suppose to be the burials of some special persons, in time of the Britons or Saxons, after that the Romans had left to govern here. Moreover there were also found the skulls and bones of men without coffins, or rather whose coffins (being of great timber) were consumed. Divers great nails of iron were there found, such as are used in the wheels of shod carts, being each of them as big as a man’s finger, and a quarter of a yard long, the heads two inches over.”

The plan thus detailed indicates the general extent of Roman London. Within these limits every year adds something to the mass of antiquities that have been turned up, and partially examined and described, since the days when Stow saw the earthen pots in Spitalfields. Traces of the old worship have at various times been found. A very curious altar was discovered fifteen feet below the level of the street in Foster Lane, Cheapside, in 1830. Attention has recently been directed to a supposed Roman bath in Strand Lane, represented in Fig. 159 (See ‘London,’ Vol. II.). But the bed of the Thames has been as prolific as the highways that are trampled upon, in disclosing to its excavators traces of the great colonizers of England. Works of high art in silver and in bronze were found in 1825 and 1837, embedded in the soil over which the river has been rolling for ages. In the southern bank of the Thames evidences have recently been discovered that parts of Southwark contiguous to the river were occupied by the Romans, as well as the great city on the opposite bank. Mr. Charles Roach Smith, in a paper read to the Society of Antiquaries in 1841, says, “The occurrence of vestiges of permanent occupancy of this locality by the Romans, is almost uninterrupted from the river to St. George’s Church in the line of the present High Street.” Mr. Smith is decidedly of opinion that a considerable portion of Southwark formed an integral part of Londinium, and that the two shores were connected by a bridge. Mr. Smith holds, “First, that with such a people as the Romans, and in such a city as Londinium, a bridge would be indispensable; and, secondly, that it would naturally be erected somewhere in the direct line of road into Kent, which I cannot but think pointed toward the site of Old London Bridge, both from its central situation, from the general absence of the foundations of buildings in the approaches on the northern side, and from discoveries recently made in the Thames on the line of the old bridge.” The bronzes, medallions, and coins found in the line of the old bridge, which have been dredged up by the ballast-heavers from their position, and the order in which they occur, strongly support the opinion of Mr. Smith. The coins comprise many thousands of a series extending from Julius Cæsar to Honorius; and Mr. Smith infers “that the bulk of these coins might have been intentionally deposited, at various periods, at the erection of a bridge across the river, whether it were built in the time of Vespasian, Hadrian, or Pius, or at some subsequent period, and that they also might have been deposited at such times as the bridge might require repairs or entire renovation.

The Roman bridge across the river Thames linked Watling Street and Stane street was in fact the old London Bridge, or rather, the piles of the old London Bridge were Roman.


The shrewd observer and sensible writer whom we have quoted has a valuable remark upon the peculiar character of the Roman antiquities of London:—“Though our Londinium cannot rival, in remains of public buildings, costly statues, and sculptured sarcophagi and altars, the towns of the mother-country, yet the reflective antiquary can still find materials to work on,—can point to the localities of the less obtrusive and imposing, but not less useful, structures—the habitations of the mercantile and trading population of this ever-mercantile town. The numerous works of ancient art which have been yet preserved, afford us copious materials for studying the habits, manners, and customs of the Roman colonists; the introduction and state of many of the arts during their long sojourn in Britain, and their positive or probable influence on the British inhabitants. This is, in fact, the high aim and scope of the science of antiquities—to study mankind through their works.” It is in this spirit that we would desire to look at the scattered antiquities of ‘Old England,’ to whatever period they may belong. Whenever man delves into the soil, and turns up a tile or an earthen pot, a coin or a weapon, an inscription which speaks of love for the dead, or an altar which proclaims the reverence for the spiritual, in some form, however mistaken, we have evidences of antique modes of life, in whose investigation we may enlarge the narrow bounds of our own every-day life. Those who have descended into the excavated streets of the buried Pompeii, and have walked in subterranean ways which were once radiant with the sunshine, and have entered houses whose paintings and sculptures are proofs that here were the abodes of comfort and elegance, where taste displayed itself in forms which cannot perish,—such have beheld with deep emotion the consequences of a sudden ruin which in a few hours made the populous city a city of the dead. But when we pierce through the shell of successive generations abiding in a great city like London, to bring to light the fragments of a high state of civilization, crushed and overthrown by change and spoliation, and forgotten amidst the trample of successive generations of mankind in the same busy spot, the eye may not so readily awaken the mind to solemn reflection; but still every fragment has its own lesson, which cannot be read unprofitably. It is not the exquisite art by which common materials for common purposes were moulded by a tasteful people, that can alone command our admiration. A group of such is exhibited in Fig. 169. That these are Roman is at once proclaimed by their graceful forms. But mingled with these are sometimes found articles of inferior workmanship and less tasteful patterns, which show how the natives of the Roman colony had gradually emulated their arts, and were passing out of that state when the wants of life were supplied without regard to the elegancies which belong to an advanced civilization (See Fig. 168). The Romans put the mark of their cultivated taste as effectually upon the drinking-cups and the urns of the colonized Britons, compared with the earlier works of the natives, as the emperor Hadrian put his stamp upon the pigs of lead which were cast in the British mines, and which may still be seen in our national Museum (Figs. 165, 166, 167). The bronze patera, or drinking-bowl, found in Wiltshire, marked with the names of five Roman towns on its margin, was a high work of Roman-British art (Figs. 152, 153, 154). The metal coating of an ancient Roman-British shield, found in the bed of the river Witham, belongs to a lower stage of the same art (Fig. 171). The British coin of Carausius (Fig. 173), of which a unique example in gold is in the British Museum, and the coin of Constantine the Great in the same collection (Fig. 172), each probably came out of the Roman coin-mould (Fig. 170). After years of contest and bloodshed, the Roman arts became the arts of Britain; and when our Shakspere [Shakespeare] made Iachimo describe the painting and the statuary of Imogen’s chamber, though the description might be an anachronism with regard to Cymbeline, it was a just representation of the influence of Roman taste on the home-life of Britain, when the intercourse of the countries had become established, and the peaceful colonization of those whose arts always followed in the wake of their arms, had introduced those essentially Roman habits, of which we invariably find the relics when in our ancient cities we come to the subsoil on which the old Britons trod.