The City walls

“Of other architectural traces of the City’s long past, enemy action has served to expose one monument to an extent to which it cannot have been seen for many hundreds of years, namely, the London wall, in the north-west of the City. There stands today, mainly above ground level, a stretch of the Town Wall, including three bastions, from Falcon Square to St Giles’ Cripplegate churchyard and then turning eastwards as far as Aldermanbury postern. Except for a small stretch next to the churchyard of St Giles and on the north side of the churchyard of St Alphage, the whole of this wall was incorporated in buildings on either side.”

“Proposals for Post War Reconstruction in the City of London”

(A report by the Improvements and Town Planning Committee to the Common Council of the Corporation of London, 1944)

Although it sounds suitably ancient, “London Wall” – the road which separates the Barbican from the City further south – was only created in the 1950s when it was known as “Route 11”. It does very approximately shadow the line of the mediaeval City walls.

The walls split the Ward of Cripplegate in two. Cripplegate Within was inside the City walls. Cripplegate Without – roughly the Barbican – was outside the walls.

During the Georgian period houses were built against both sides of the wall, and gradually hid it from view. Bombing blew away the less solid later accretions and exposed the remains of the old wall to view again.

The Corporation of London bought the land back from the private landowners who owned it. As part of the overall construction of the Barbican estate and the London Wall highwalks, the picturesque bits of Roman and mediaeval wall have been preserved.

Some bits are in the Barbican estate itself, commemorated by the buildings called Postern and Wallside. The most dramatic piece is the Bastion, the circular tower, between Mountjoy House and Wallside.

The remains of the old city walls can be seen below Wallside and in the gardens between London Wall and Mountjoy House. There are bits along London Wall and near St Alphage House. There are even household fireplaces in the walls behind Barber Surgeon’s Hall.