A guest post by David Adams of Exploring London.
One of the things I love about London is the city’s many layers of history and how it’s possible, through looking at the remnants of buildings now long gone, to get a sense the city during some of these different historical eras.
Let’s start with the Romans. Putting aside the Temple of Mithras which is currently being moved, among the most evocative Roman remains are that of the massive Roman amphitheatre now under Guildhall Yard (enter through the Guildhall Art Gallery) and those of the Billingsgate bathhouse in Lower Thames Street (keep on eye out for Open House days to get a glimpse inside).
The city also contains a significant number of medieval remains – among the more spectacular are what’s left of the 14th century crypt of a priory which once belonged to the Carmelite order of White Friars. Encased by glass in the basement of an office building now occupied by law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, this can be reached by heading down Bouverie Street (off Fleet Street) and then to the end of Magpie Alley, after which there are a few steps.
And while many of the royal palaces in London are well known (and quite a few still standing), the remains of a lesser known building, believed to be a manor house of King Edward III, can be found on the south bank of the Thames near the junction of Bermondsey Wall East and Cathay Street.
Other medieval remains include the Clerk’s Well that gave its name to Clerkenwell – located in Farringdon Lane, it can be seen through the window or you can gain entry by arrangement with Islington Council’s local history centre – as well as the rather more substantial ruins of churches like St Dunstan’s-in-the-East in Idol Lane.
Among the more impressive 17th century building remnants is that of York House Watergate, tucked away in Embankment Gardens. It was once the Thames-side entrance to York House which bought by George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham and favorite of King James I, about the time the baroque gateway was built in the 1620s and provides a terrific insight into the opulence of the Stuart court.