London Wall: section of Roman wall at the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018884

Date first listed: 09-May-1974

Date of most recent amendment: 28-Nov-2006


Ordnance survey map of London Wall: section of Roman wall at the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Greater London Authority

District: City and County of the City of London (London Borough)

National Grid Reference: TQ 31816 81314

Reasons for Designation

London Wall was constructed as part of an extensive programme of public works between approximately AD 190 and AD 225. It served to form the basis of the protection of the town far into the medieval period, and was also a key factor in determining the shape and development of both Roman and medieval London. The uniformity of design and construction of the 2nd century wall suggests that it was planned and built as a single project. It enclosed the whole of the landward side of the town from Tower Hill to Blackfriars, incorporating an existing military fort at Cripplegate. It was laid out in straight sections, linking the major routeways into London, and gateways were constructed at the points of entry at Aldgate, Bishopsgate, Newgate and Ludgate. The defensive nature of much of the Wall's circuit was strengthened by an external ditch, with the exception of those areas where the marshland around the Walbrook acted as a natural defensive feature. Internally, it was strengthened by a bank of earth. The Roman Wall was built on a trench foundation of puddled clay, and included a rubble core interspersed with bonding tile courses. It is known to have stood to a height of approximately 4.4m above a sandstone plinth, and is believed to have been surmounted by a parapet walkway. Excavation has indicated that defensive bastions were added to the Wall in the 3rd Century AD, and a number were also added during the medieval period when the Wall was repaired and refortified. By the mid-16th Century, however, with the continued expansion of London, its function as a town boundary and defence had ceased. London Wall survives in various states of preservation. Some parts of the Wall, especially along the eastern section, still stand to almost full height and the bastions are also clearly visible. Other parts are no longer visible above the present ground surface, but in these areas sections of the Wall survive as buried features, and sufficient evidence exists for their positions to be accurately identified for much of its length. The wall's role in the origins and history of England's capital city, its contribution towards an understanding of Romano-British and medieval urban development, and the light the remains throw on Roman and medieval civil engineering techniques, justify considering all sections of London Wall that exhibit significant archaeological remains as being worthy of protection.

Archaeological excavation in 1966 has indicated that the standing remains of the Roman Wall within the Central Criminal Court survive well. Detailed archaeological recording during the excavation provides a valuable insight into the construction techniques employed during the Roman period. Part of the medieval rampart bank, a Roman internal turret and two external medieval defensive ditches were also found during the excavations. However, these features were destroyed during the subsequent redevelopment of the site. This section of Wall is particularly significant being the only known fragment of Roman walling currently visible on the western side of the London Wall circuit.


The monument is situated within the basement of the Central Criminal Court to the east of the Old Bailey and includes the standing and buried remains of part of London Wall, the Roman and medieval defences of London. London Wall was constructed towards the end of the 2nd century AD enclosing a semi-circular area of approximately 133ha on the north side of the Thames, from the site of Tower Hill in the east, to Blackfriars in the west. For much of its length the defences were strengthened by a berm and ditch, and gateways were built at principal points of entry. The Wall was reinforced and repaired throughout the Roman and medieval periods, and bastions were added. Excavation has indicated that during the later Roman period a riverside wall was constructed parallel to the north bank of the Thames in order to protect the southern part of London. The expansion of the city towards the end of the medieval period led to the decline of London Wall as a defensive feature. This section represents part of the western side of the Wall's circuit and includes a fragment of Roman walling, some 7m in length and 1.5m high visible within a basement. Excavation has shown that the Wall was constructed on a foundation trench of puddled clay and flint with a capping of ragstone which forms a raft supporting the main body of the Wall. The Wall itself rises from an external sandstone plinth and has a rubble and mortar core faced with Kentish ragstone, banded at intervals by tile courses. The Roman Wall within the Central Criminal Court survives to include the first triple tile course, above foundation level. Part of the foundations are visible above the basement floor and the ragstone courses and the triple tile course can also be seen on the east face. Part of the rubble core is also visible, accessed through a hatch into a service corridor which is located to the west of the Wall. A bastion (number 20) originally projected from the external (west) face of the Wall and excavation between 1966-68 recovered evidence for a turret on the internal (east) face of the Wall. Two medieval defensive ditches were also found; the earlier probably dating to the 12th or 13th century. The later extended approximately 20m from the Wall base. An internal medieval rampart was also recorded. However, all of these features are considered to have been so modified by later development at the site that they are not included in the scheduling. Approximately 64m to the north and 50m to the south further sections of London Wall are known to survive as buried features and are the subject of separate schedulings. The basement floor of the Central Criminal Court, post-medieval and modern walls, and modern service fittings are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 26334

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Merrifield, R, London: City of the Romans, (1983)
Merrifield, R, The Roman City of London, (1965)
Schofield, J, Maloney, C (Eds), Archaeology in the City of London, 1907-1991: a guide...
'TLAMAS' in Archaeological Finds in the City of London [Transactions..1969], , Vol. 22, (1970)
Maloney, J, 'Roman Urban Defences in the West' in Recent Work on London's Defences, , Vol. 51, (1983)

End of official listing