London’s Roman City Wall – The Obscured – Part 1


After stumbling across some great articles in a number of blogs (See references) and a very useful article appropriately entitled The London Wall Walk on the Museum of London’s website, I thought I would take it upon myself to trace the parts mentioned in the PDF booklet you can download.   They do state that the documented and signed walk was originally planned in 1984, and the other bloggers had mentioned some signs were no longer visible or indeed sections of the wall no longer accessible.

This seemed like a worthy challenge to complete this walk, and to try and locate and perhaps visit the sections that other bloggers did not reach:  The obscured sections. These are documented sections of wall, but those which are situated in private buildings, and so not generally accessible to the public.

London Wall Walk

Official London Wall Walk map
Map of the London Wall Walk
Copyright Museum of London

I knew I had previously visted the locations numbered 1 to 3 of the Roman Wall Walk map, which are the sections visible close by Tower Hill tube station, including Cooper’s Row which is a huge section of Roman and Medieval wall in the courtyard of “The Grange City Hotel” (well documented and photographed in other blogs). However locations 3a and 4 on the map, in America Square and Vine Street had me baffled.  The booklet text refers to a blue tiled information panel visible on the left in a small square on Vine Street just north of a street called Crosswall (There’s a clue in the name).

Before putting foot to pavement I tried Google’s StreetView and could not see where this sign was situated.  Some of the blogs I referred to alluded to this point too, and also referred to section “visible through a glass panel” in America Square on the south-side of Crosswall.

My secret plan was to use my advantage over the other bloggers!  That was to go there during my weekday lunch-hour when the offices hosting these hidden treasures would be open, rather than at a weekend when nearly the whole of the square mile is closed for business. 

One America Square

This building sits on a sizable chunk of the Roman City Wall mentioned in the London Museum leafet in section 3a.  From street level you can just see the top of the smaller northern section of wall in the basement though sky-light windows in the recess next to where the mini-van is parked on Crosswall in this photo.

One America Square
One America Square (looking south west)

In 1987-88 excavations revealed a 32m (105 ft) section of Roman City Wall with a surviving height of 2m above the original ground level.  The wall was typically 2.44m wide with a sandstone base and regular tiled courses which can clearly seen in my photos below.

One America Square
East side of Southern Section – Taken facing SW.

These sections are now a feature of a conference centre in the basement of the America Square development and of a very impressive size and well cared for.

One America Square
West side of South Section of wall – Taken facing South

The original excavation also found a gravelled road of 7m wide, possibly used as a service road during it’s construction.

One America Square
A general information panel at the northern end of the southern section.

The smaller northern section shows the sandstone plinths at the base, marking the original Roman ground level of the wall. This is the section that is just visible from street-level on Crosswall through the sky-light windows you can see at the end of the room.

One America Square
Northern section of wall – Taken facing NW.

I was able to get access to this wall by first asking at the security desk who pointed me to the reception of the conference centre.  The very kind receptionist was able to take me immediately to view the wall, as the centre was not too busy at the time and most sessions were on a break for lunch also.  You may want to arrange your visit in advance if you have specific times or a number of members in your party.

References and inspiration:

For more general background information on the city wall and Roman London please refer to the Museum of London’s web site on this topic.  Better still, go make a personal visit to this often overlooked but truly excellent (and free) museum.

Update of post for late 2019

I have migrated this article from Blogger to WordPress. In the process I have fixed some typos, enhanced and re-hosted photos, but otherwise have left the post “as was”.

Little has changed regarding this site since I wrote this article back in 2013. I’ve noticed that many of the original external links are now dead mainly due to the reorganisation of the Museum of London, and the separation of their Archaeological Services (MoLAS) to the separate commercial entity of MOLA.

I have provided a list of alternative references below which are working as of late 2019.

Historic England: London Wall: section of Roman wall and bastion beneath Crosswall, No. 1 America Square and Fenchurch Street railway station
Detailed record of this Scheduled Monument.

Museum of London Collection search
Artefacts in the collections of the Museum of London from this site.

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