Londinium and the Roman Empire
The Romans invasion of Britain started in 43AD. The Roman Occupation of the UK was to last for nearly 500 years. The Romans built a fort, called Londinium, on the site of present day London on the North Bank of the River Thames at the lowest firm bridging point in 43AD. Londinium was not the capital of England - this was Colchester or, given its Roman name, Camulodunium.


  • Facts and Information about Londinium
  • Social and cultural change?
  • Changing needs of the population
  • The Skills available? The Workforce?
  • What materials were readily available?
  • The Design, Layout of Londinium
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Facts about Londinium

  • Londinium was situated on the north bank of the river Thames (Thamesis)
  • The River Thames is tidal and Londinium was situated 64 km (40 miles) from its estuary on the North Sea
  • The original fort of Londinium was built between two hills (Cornhill and Ludgate)
  • Original Size of Londinium - 30 acres
  • Second building of Londinium the size increased to 62 acres - Londinium gradually increased in size and became one of the biggest Roman cities covering over 300 acres containing a population of over 15,000
  • A procuratorís palace was built in Londinium (Cripplegate). A Procurator was a high ranking Roman officer responsible for the finances of an imperial province, including tax collection and the payment of troops
  • Londinium was as an important port and trading post from which goods were imported from all over the Roman world
  • The town hall, government offices and courtrooms were in the basilica at Cornhill
  • The market place (forum) was situated next to the basilica
  • Rich Romans lived in Londinium town houses
  • Poor people lived in small houses
  • Many slaves served their wealthy owners in Londinium undertaking household and administrative tasks
  • The Londinium Amphitheatre was located at the site of the Guildhall Art Galley
  • The Londinium Amphitheatre was a massive structure which could hold up to 8000 spectators of the bloody gladiatorial games
  • Latin was the language inflicted on the native people of Londinium

The Roman Fort of Londinium
Roman Architecture was often rigid - the design of their forts were tried and tested and always followed the same architectural design. The Roman Architecture of the fort at Londinium would have been built as follows:

  • A fort could hold up to 800 men - this would probably have been many more in Londinium
  • The fort was a rectangular shape and surrounded by a wall
  • Each fort had four stone gateways affording entrances on each side
  • Watchtowers were also a feature reaching a height of 30 feet (9 metres)
  • Roman Architecture dictated that two main streets crossed the fort
  • Wooden structures were built serving as the Commanders headquarters, houses, hospital, workshops, barracks (sometimes tents) granaries, stables and a prison
  • Many of the original wooden Roman structures of Londinium would have been re-built in stone and marble
  • There was even a Londinium Roman Fire Brigade who were stationed around the walls and gates!

The first Roman Fort at Londinium falls to Boudicca
The original Roman fort at Londinium was destroyed by the Iceni tribe in their rebellion against the Romans, led by Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni in 60AD. Caius Suetonius Paullinus was the Roman governor of Britain at this time. Boudicca first attacked the capital of Roman England Camulodunum (now Colchester). It was not well-defended and the Romans were easily defeated against the Iceni force of over 100,000. Queen Boudicca's army then marched on Londinium (London).  Suetonius strategically abandoned Londinium. The army of Queen Boudicca army burned Londinium to the ground and massacred the 25,000 inhabitants who had not fled. The Romans gained controlled of the Iceni rebels and a new Roman fort at Londinium was quickly erected following the defeat of Boudicca.

The London Wall - built by the Romans
The Romans had learnt the lesson taught to them by the terrible Queen Boudiccea of the Iceni and looked to defending the town of Londinium. By the 200BC all except the river side of Londinium was totally enclosed by a massive defensive wall. Remains of the Roman wall can be seen from Noble Street and St Alphage's churchyard but the most famous Roman remains are at Tower Hill and a section of the Roman Wall has been preserved in the Tower of London. The town of Londinium had several exits from the enclosure wall. A Western exit was situated on the site of Newgate. Roman Roads led to the Londinium gates.  The 'Newgate' had a gate house and was flanked by square towers - the 'Newgate' gatehouse was about 100 feet wide. Londinium boasted a large courthouse (basilica) and market place (forum) which was located on the site of present day Cornhill.

Roman Temples at Londinium
Londinium housed many Roman Temples. Londinium was not the capital - this was Colchester or, given its Roman name, Camulodunium. St Pauls Cathedral was built on the site which once housed a Roman Temple dedicated to the goddess Diana. Another Roman Temple dedicated to the God Appollo once stood at Westminster.

Roman Temple of Mithras discovered in London (Londinium)
Traces of our Roman ancestors are still being discovered. In 1954 excavations North of Cannon Street led to the discovery of the Roman Temple of Mithras. This Roman Temple was built on the East bank of the Wallbrook stream which is an estuary of the River Thames - the remains can be viewed at Bucklesbury House in Victoria Street. The re-constructed temple is now on an elevated platform some six feet above street level. The remains of two square Romano-Celtic temples have also been found at a Roman temple complex in Southwark in South London.

The Romans built the large city of Londinium. In 410AD the Roman homeland were attacked by barbarian tribes and the Romans left Britain in an attempt to halt the Decline of the Roman Empire. No new innovations were made to British architecture until the advent of the Romanesque Architecture style of the Normans and their massive stone castles. Londinium was re-named London and the famous Tower of London was built by William the Conqueror.



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Ancient Roman Architecture in England & Wales

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