This is part of a series of articles where I, James McPhail, look at some of the old buildings around the World. I start with my home town, London. Enjoy!
With Roman roots dating back to more than 2,000 years ago, London is undeniably among some of the few modern cities filled with historical treasures. From centuries-old churches to grand government buildings to military fortresses, London’s many medieval and ancient sites, all serve as a window into the foundations and traditions of the city. Whether you are fascinated by the city’s architectural history or you have been on a trip to the Big Smoke on the city’s horizon, the London historical sites and buildings discussed below, are undeniably some of the oldest in the city’s and nation’s history.
The White Tower
Located at the heart of the Tower of London, The White Tower is a medieval building, which dates back to the 11th Century. With the hopes of subduing and awing his subjects, the White Tower was built by the first Norman King, William the Conqueror. Though the exact construction date of the White Tower remains somewhat unclear, the building was undoubtedly underway in the year 1070, with the construction of the building coming to an end more than thirty years later.
A great example of Norman architecture, the White Tower was undoubtedly the first of its kind in England. King William was a great fanatic of Norman architecture, and thus during the construction of the White Tower, he had stones imported all the way from Normandy. Standing at 27.5m tall, the tower was visible from so many miles away.
Undoubtedly one of the oldest buildings on the parliamentary estate, the Westminster Hall has been a crucial building to the English government ever since its construction. Built by King William II, son to William the Conqueror, the Westminster Hall was used as a symbol of the majesty of the Norman family. Covering a distance of 1,547 sq. meters, the Westminster Hall was the biggest hall in England during the 1100’s.
Westminster Hall was extremely huge, such that a few days after its construction, one of Rufus’s attendants remarked that the Westminster Hall was much bigger than it needed to be. However, Rufus (the designer) on the other hand was not impressed at all, stating that the hall was not as half as big as he had intended it to be. It was a mere bedchamber, compared to its intended size.
St. Pauls Cathedral
Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, St. Paul’s Cathedral is undoubtedly London’s most iconic building. Located at the top of Ludgate Hill, which is the highest point of London City, the building’s dome is one of the biggest in the world, measuring more than 112m long.
Work on the current English Baroque Church officially commenced during the 17th Century as part of a major rebuilding program, which was initiated after the Great London Fire. Wren officially began working on the building in the year 1666, with the designs taking more than 6 years. The actual construction of the building took approximately 35 years.
Ever since the medieval period, the Westminster Abbey has held a noteworthy place in England’s royal history. Ever since the year 1066, the Westminster has been used for every single coronation that took place. Moreover, it has also seen more than 16 weddings and is the final resting place for more than seventeen monarchs.
The extremely stunning gothic structure that still stands to date was built by Henry II, between the year 1245 and the year, 1272. King Henry II’s motivation, for undertaking such a colossal construction is quite intriguing. According to research, King Henry II, built the Westminster Abbey, with the hopes of winning the favour of the dead King Edward, the Confessor, who had also built a church at the site more than 200 years earlier.
St Pancras Church
At one point in history, the Pancras Church covered a vast mass of land, which stretched from Oxford Street, all the way to the Highgate. However, during the Victorian era, the local population had declined tremendously leading to the deterioration of the original church.
As time went by, the population of the people living in southern part of the parish continued to rise, and therefore, a new church was required to serve the emerging population within the Euston Square. A competition was conducted to find the best possible design for the Pancras Church, and a team of father and son, Inwood and William Inwood, emerged the winners.
St. Bride’s Church
Commonly referred to as the Phoenix of Fleet Street, St. Brides Church was built in the Victorian era, between the year 1819 and the year 1822, as a dedication to St. Bride. Throughout its history, the structure has been expanded rebuilt on several occasions. As one of the few surviving medieval buildings in London, St Brides Church features an architectural design, which has continued to fascinate archaeologists and architectures alike.
The new St. Bride’s Church sports a newer design, considering a bigger portion of the original fire was destroyed during the Great London Fire. After the Great London fire, the church was once again rebuilt by Christopher Wren. The church’s spire serves as an inspiration for the contemporary tiered cake design.
The London Wall
The construction of the London Wall is believed to have begun during the 2nd or 3rd centuries. The London Wall was specifically built to protect people living in Londinium from a Pict invasion. Construction of the wall continued until the 4th century, thereby making it one of the biggest projects to be undertaken by Romans, before their departure in the year 410.
1,000 years later, after its construction, the London Wall was still used for defensive purposes. During the Great London Fire, the London Wall played a key role in protecting a bigger part of the city from the fire.
Temple of Mithras
The Temple of Mithras became the most famous 20th Century discovery, after construction workers the found the temple within Walbrook Street, London in the year 1954. After being found by the construction workers, the site was formally excavated by F. Grimes, who at the time served as the London Museum director.
The temple was dedicated to the ancient Roman God Mithras. However, in the 4th Century, the Church was once again rededicated to Bacchus. During the excavation process, finely detailed marbles were discovered, with some being in the likeness of Mercury and Minerva, while others being in the likeness of syncretic gods, Serapis and Mithras.
Previously dedicated to St. Mary, All Hallows-by-the-Tower is an antediluvian Anglican church, overlooking the famous London Tower. Founded in the year 675, All Hallows-by-the-Tower is undeniable of the oldest churches in the city of London. The church was constructed on the site of a Roman building.
Between the 11th Century and 15 Century, the church has been rebuilt and expanded on numerous occasions. The proximity of the church to the Tower of London meant that the church had to acquire royal connections at some point in time, with King Edward IV, transforming one of the chapels of the church, a royal chantry. �
Undeniably one of the oldest structures in the city of London, the Thames Timbers were discovered by archaeologists in the year 2010. Radiocarbon dating revealed that the structure is more than 7,000 years old.
Initially, the oldest timber structure in the city of London was a timber trackway, which dated back to 3340 B.C, making it more than 700 years younger than the Thames Timbers. Up to this date, it is yet to be established what the Thames Timbers were used for.
Did you enjoy this? I certainly hope so and please keep an eye out for the next instalments.