A Walled City

Welcome to our Walls and Gates history section. You can skip to subsequent pages using the links below or simply continue reading to start at the beginning.

A Walled City

Until the Great Fire of 1666, London was essentially a walled city. Except for the gradual upgrowth of a straggling suburb along the line of the old palaces between Ludgate and Westminster, she had remained much as the Middle Ages had left her an enclosed place of narrow streets which, somewhat vaguely and deviously, took their direction from the seven landward gates and from the long stretch of open river frontage.

The river front had itself been armed with walls and towers at an earlier date, but, before the time of the twelfth century writer Fitzstephen, "the fishfull river of Thames, with his ebbing and flowing," had "long since subverted them."

On the landward side, the hand of the builder since the Fire has been scarcely less destructive, and today only in some eight or nine places-mostly in basements or back-yards can the instructed searcher find a torn relic of London's defences.

The town wall known to Fitzstephen was still substantially that of the Roman settlement. Fragments of the Roman wall are still visible at the Wardrobe and Bowyer Towers in the Tower of London, in a bonded warehouse at Trinity Square, in a building in Crutched Friars, at St. Botolph's churchyard in Aldersgate, and in the courtyard of the General Post Office. On the river side no wall of this construction has hitherto been recorded.

Next page: The Roman Wall