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A Free Roman Heritage Walking Tour in London (Part 2)

A Free Heritage Walking Adventure in Roman London (Part 2)

Despite my recent adventures into writing a kindle eBook in a week I am reminded that I hadn’t quite finished posting up about an adventure from last Summer. In July last year I spent a Summery research day in that London geeking out over free Roman things to see and do. The intial stops in my walk were covered in Part one of this idle heritage wandering.

To pick up where I had left off…

I had seen the Amphitheatre, the walls and some bridge foundations but these were the easy things to find. Intrepid and, map now firmly crumpled in hand, I meandered towards the Tower of London in search of Romanitas. And I found it, but not where I was looking for it.

The rather delightful church ‘All Hallows by the Tower’ is on the main thoroughfare towards the castle and amid the miasma of tourists and tradesfolk. Never one to bypass a poke around in a random church I’d never seen before I wandered inside and was glad of the effort. The church contains an undercroft and miniature museum of Roman things – it is, infact built over some substantial Roman remains as an insitu tessellated pavement in an underground chapel niche shall attest.

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Mosaic a la basement

The humidity was clearly off the charts and the desalination of the walls surrounding and of the mortar would have most professional conservators frothing at the mouth, but it was not a thing I had expected and fit beautifully into my little adventure. The remainder of the undercroft housed some generic ‘Roman things’ (samian, pins etc.) wiht the addition of lovely casts of various inscriptions from the local area. One particular heritage claim to fame caught my attention:

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A claim to fame.

This was indeed THE church that rang “the true and complete peal of Oxford Treble Bob Major consisting of 8448 changes, being the extent in that method with the tenors together. This performance, the greatest Achievement on those bells was completed in 5 Hours 24 Minutes in the most Masterly fashion”.

FIVE HOUSE OF BELLRINGING?! Those willing gentlemen must have had forearms of steel coupled with temporary deafness to accomplish such a mad venture. It sounds very ‘Guiness Book of Records’.

A short step away from the Church and, skirting around the Tower towards Tower Hill finds a whole new section of Wall I hadn’t seen yet. But a section of the wall with a modern bronze statue of Trajan doing his most marvelously louche Imperial wave. Cos Empire.

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“Hello my imperial plebs”

It wouldn’t be the most linear route to walk it, but heading from Tower Hill to the entertainingly posh Leadenmarket will find you in the most beautifully bizarre piece of heritage presentation that one can conceivably come across. The hairdressers on the corner, ‘Nicholson and Griffin’ is a two story affair.

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The holy grail of Free Roman entertainment

Go inside and inquire, bold as brass, about the Roman remains. The gentleman shaving trendy heads upstairs will direct you downstairs to “see the girls” like in a 1920s speakeasy. The girls will be excited to see you, all smiles and hairspray before you again inquire about the Roman remains. Smiles drop, annoyance ensues and a perfunctory “Over there, in the corner” before backs are turned and they continue whatever hairdressing they left beforehand.

In the corner, ladies and gentlefolks, is a preserved fragment of London’s Roman Basilica. It has been protected by Museum of London and is hidden behind security glass with a huge interpretation panel next to it. A light switch next to it didn’t work when I was there so all my flash photos merely bounced off, but the image of 1700 years of Roman remains – a fragment of the epicentre of one of Roman Britains biggest and most vibrant settlements, the cosmopolitan precedent to cosmopolitan modern London is kept behind a pile of hairdressing junk. This image should speak entirely for itself:

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A Basilica in a Hairdressers. Why not.

Nothing could top this experience for me. I left London beaming and bemused by a Basilica in a hairdressers. Why not indeed? In these modern times of financial pressures, we heritage fanatics are called upon to find new and interesting ways of displaying material to the general public. It was free. The five minutes I spent entertaining myself taking photos of the set-up will stay with me for a long, long time.

Thus concluded the six short stops on my free Roman heritage walking tour of London. Go ye forth and find them.

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Secrets of Roman London Part 1

A Free Heritage Walking Adventure

My Roman blogging has been pitiful of late. Let me rectify this a little. Here be part one of a (possibly very) short series on the Mystery parts of Roman London that can be seen by the willing tourists.

This post stems from an adventurous day I spent in London in July 2014, on a research trip to the Museum of London’s archaeological archive. Having several hours to fill before I could crash on my friends bedroom floor, I set off on an unplanned mission to see as much of Roman London as it was possible to see for Free! First stop was to the very useful tourist information post next to St. Paul’s Cathedral. The wonderful guide was clearly used to off-beat historians asking him questions as was quite happy to help. Map in hand, I set off.

First stop was technically before I had left the tourist info, but I think artistic license will allow me to gloss over that. The Walls, The WALLS! Roman London has lovely walls. Fact. Many sections are quite visible and actually helped me orientate myself around a city I was only used to see via tube. Don’t use the tube, its hot and expensive and, most importantly, you don’t get to see all the heritage. Immediately adjacent to the Museum of London, next to a stonkingly dangerous dual carriageway, is a huge section of wall complete with interval towers and interpretion panels. It’s planted up and publicly accessible.

The wall next to Museum of London

The wall next to Museum of London

Second secret stop was the Amphitheatre. I had only discovered a week previously that the amphitheatre of Roman London is actually visible, as that it is free to do so. Fragments of a gateway and the arena are open to walk around beneath the Guildhall in the banking district. Everyone outside WILL be wearing a suit. Perhaps more impressive than the remains themselves is the huge black line drawn on the ground in the courtyard of the Guildhall, representing the arc of the wall of the amphitheatre. Get this on Google maps to appreciate it fully, its very, very cool.

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The amphitheatre beneath the Guildhall

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Glorious, glorious interpretation

After a Pret lunch (when in Rome, right?) I opted for the long walk to my next stop, east along the north Bank of the Thames to find a scrap of wooden post from the first century Bridge. This thing was, let me tell you, a nightmare to find! The post remains on open display, exposed to elements, but strapped onto a recess of the exterior of the Church of St. Magnus the Martyr Church. By all accounts it is not a beautiful thing, but a very rare thing displayed in a quirky manner. Any conservator who saw this stake would probably faint. This was a big tick off my Roman-orienteering experience.
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Bridging the gap between science and religion

The cliffhanger I leave here, for Part 2 contains a curious church, a hairdressers and a surprise visitor.

Hadrianic Society Conference 2015

March 2015 promises to be a good time for a conference this year for all interested in the Roman world in Britain. The Roman Finds Group is holding a 2-day annular conference in Newcastle, looking at the North of the Country. The Theoretrical Roman Archaeology Conference will be based in Leicester for 3 days at the end of the month (the content is theoretical, not the conference!), and we – the advocates of Roman Army and Frontier studies – will be holding an annual conference in Durha on the 28th-31st March 2015.

The Topic this year is ‘The Role of Towers and Fortlets in the Operation of the Frontiers of the North-Western Provinces of the Roman Empire’.

Arbeia Roman Fort

Speakers will include Erik Graafstal from Utrecht, Andreas Thiel from Germany, Lindsay Allason-Jones, Matthew Symonds, Adrian Goldsworthy and David Breeze.

For more details click here.

Hadrianic Society Conference 2014

Details of the forthcoming Hadrianic Society conference 2014 can be found here.

——————–>Click Here for the Printable pdf Flyer<——————–

We run a dual meeting over 6 days; the first half is a ‘Reunion Weekend’ for members old and new, the Second half a conference proper titled THE ROMAN ARMY SCHOOL. The RAS has been running annually for over 30 years and the list of speakers includes top end academics like David Breeze and Val Maxfield, professional archaeologists such as Andrew Birley, non-professional (but by no means with anything less important to say) society members and invited recent post-graduates. We have it all!

The conference is a mix of Roman Army and Roman Frontier studies with additional content from the various Roman subjects of Art, Architecture, Economics and Epigraphy to name but a few. We are a heady blend of current archaeological discoveries and research, reinterpretation of past conceptions, new academic approaches to objects, applied archaeological sciences and holiday photos. Its a sociable place with copies amounts of coffee and wine-fueled chat about all things Roman. And sometimes just All Things.

Come join us.

31st October AD475

Happy Halloween folks, but lest we not forget that it was on this day in AD475 that ROMULUS AUGUSTUS, the last Roman Emperor of the West took his seat of power. Whilst dear Romulus led a turbulent life and may have been a somewhat reluctant Emperor, his life has been commemorated in a 1950 play ‘Romulus the Great’. by Friedrich Durrenmatt. Got to love Wikipedia. 

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Hadrian’s Wall Archaeology Forum 2013

Hadrian’s Wall Archaeology Forum

Saturday October 19th 2013 9.45am – 4.30pm

At The Queen’s Hall, Beaumont Street, Hexham

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The Hadrian’s Wall Archaeology Forum is an annual day-conference featuring talks for the general public about new discoveries and research in the Hadrian’s Wall frontier zone including the Cumbrian coast. This year’s programme features talks on excavation projects at Binchester, Maryport, and Vindolanda, research on the Clayton Archaeology Collection at Chesters and geophysical surveys at forts on part of the German frontier.
There will also be a range of publications on sale at reduced prices.
Price = £18.00 (includes tea/coffee mid-morning and mid-afternoon)

Enquiries and bookings:
The Queen’s Hall, Beaumont Street, Hexham, NE46 3LS, Tel: 01434 652477
Email: boxoffice@queenshall.co.ukFor further information contact:
Dr David Mason, The Archaeology Section, Durham County Council, County Hall, Durham City DH1 5UQ.
Tel: 03000 267012 Email. david.mason@durham.gov.uk

Repost: CALL FOR PAPERS!

We are running out of time to accept papers for the following. Get on it people!

An opportunity for 2 post-graduate students to present research at the Hadrianic Society’s Roman Army School, held in Durham city in Spring 2014 (dates tbc). For all students of Roman studies; see the following pdf for further details.

HadrianicSocietyCallForPapers2014

Application deadline for the Small finds session Call for Papers – TRAC 2014 (Which can be read in full here) is now set to 25th September. Share the love.

For TRAC – If you are interested in participating or have any questions please contact Stefanie Hoss at Stefanie.Hoss@uni-koeln.de 

York Minster Undercroft – The New Gallery

On the 25th May 2013 York’s eponymous visitor attraction, the Minster, has reopened its undercroft – the archaeological museum displaying many of the in situ remains to be found beneath the building proper. Dangerous levels of weathering and structural stress nearly led to disaster 50 years ago, but a continued series of repairs and investment has ensured the preservation of this historic landmark. As part of a £20million redevelopment. titled the ‘York Minster Revealed’ project, most of the gallery space is redeveloped and the visitor experience generally is expanded.

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The Minster itself sits directly atop the Principia of the legionary fortress. Whilst the physical remains of the Basilica SW wall are minimal in their survival, they constitute one of the very few remains visible at all from Roman York. The Legionary Bathhouse (now under a pub) and the Multangular Tower (the SW wall tower used continually from AD70 onwards and part of the City Wall).

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The Basilica Wall

The Undercroft revealed is a beautiful little visitor attraction now (its predecessor was looking a little dated). The small finds are well displayed, nicely interpreted and have some intriguing touches. Using a moulded hand to hold the stylus on top of a tile graffito was a particular highlight. The displays are all representative of the time and money spent on this gallery – its worth it. To my mind, the rest of the Roman experience of York is really well developed; there is a slight obsession with the Basilica.The display obviously follows on into the Anglian, Norman and Medieval periods. A cinema at the end runs three short films – one of which is a very well produced piece lasting 3 minutes identifying the Rise of Constantine in York in terms of its Christian significance.

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The Undercroft is free as part of an Adult entry ticket (£10, valid for a year) or entirely free if you are a York resident. Enjoy

TRAC Call for Papers

The following Call for Contributions for a session on Roman Small Finds and Ancient Social Practices at TRAC 2014 has been brought to our attention. HadSoc thinks this is right up our street… or should I say vallum?

 Session organizers: Alissa Whitmore & Stefanie Hoss

 While artifacts have always been a part of archaeology, over the past 20 years studies focusing on contextualized artifacts from a variety of classical spaces have allowed scholars to rewrite our understanding of the past. From the soldiers manning the turrets on Hadrian’s Wall caught unexpectedly sewing (Allason-Jones 1988) to women spinning and weaving in Roman forts (Allison 2006), Roman military archaeology has been taught a very interesting lesson on the integration of what we would deem civilian life into the Roman military. But this is just one example of many; other studies in material spatiality were able to throw light on different elements of the use of human space, be it domestic, productive, commercial, political, social, or religious space. Such studies reinforce the social importance of small finds, which can provide detailed evidence of ancient social practices, activities, and use of space, in addition to dates for a site.

 

This session will focus upon analyses and interpretations of small finds that shed new light on ancient behaviors and spaces. We are especially interested in papers and artifacts which offer novel evidence for previously unknown activities and social groups in a given space, or those which contradict existing ancient sources and scholarly beliefs, forcing us to confront opposing sets of evidence and rethink our understanding of a given space or practice. Papers dealing with all types of small finds, activities, and spaces (public, private, and those in-between) are welcome and encouraged.

 If you are interested in participating or have any questions please contact Stefanie Hoss at Stefanie.Hoss@uni-koeln.de 

Schoolroom Archaeologists

I was having a chat today with the resident Numismatist at work about a fellow colleague’s research interests. Archaeology and heritage is a strange world where one can entirely judge a book by its cover… or a person by their research interests. If we turn this analogy into a school room scenario:

The theoretical archaeologists are the slightly spacey kids who love politics and arguing simple for the sake of proving someone wrong (they are also, without exception sticklers for good grammar). The Practical archaeologists are the jocks of the operation; sporty kids who want to be outside and get antsy having to remain inside looking at a powerpoint presentation when they know that you cant actually use any of the information in the REAL world. Site managers are like the PE teachers of the above – really just want to be outside playing but struck down with too many meetings and too much paperwork. The numismatist is the foreign exchange student who is clearly very intelligent but seems to play up to the communication barrier just to see what will happen and is always dressed in sweatervests, even in summer. Small Finds specialists are the indie kids who have a new fascinating band/piercing/pair of shoes every other day and seem to be drawn primarily to shiny things like a magpie – they frequently spend time walking down corridors and singing loudly. Zooarchs want to be vets when they grow up and cover their work books in pictures of pugs. Ceramicists are usually seen as a bit too pale and strange to be in any of the other inclusive groups and have meaningful friendships via the internet instead. Geologists are in the wrong class and spend all day either trying to lick or blow up whatever is in front of them. The anthropologists are always going away on holiday during term time. Landscape archaeologists spend all day doodling on everything in site, including themselves because sometimes the biros really can paint a pretty picture. Historical Archaeologists sit at the front and genuinely seem to be paying attention. The kids at the back in the dark clothes obsessed with Vikings are all in a band together. 

I only mention this as having a personal research interest in magic – curses, charms and a lot of phallic symbols makes me the archaeological equivalent of an emo teenager trying to be non-conformist. This doesn’t seem so bad having successfully pidgeon-holed everyone else =)

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