One other inheritance from prehistoric worship may also be considered. In this Celtic period, which lurks like some chimera in the shadows of the known world, the great legends of London find their origin. The historical record knows only of warring tribes within a highly organised culture of some sophistication.
They were not necessarily savage, in other words, and the Greek geographer Strabo describes one Briton, an ambassador, as well dressed, intelligent and agreeable. Locrinus kept his lover, Estrildis, in a secret chamber beneath the ground. Bladud, who practised sorcery, constructed a pair of wings with which to fly through the air of London; yet he fell against the roof of the Temple of Apollo situated in the very heart of the city, perhaps on Ludgate Hill itself.
Another king, Dunvallo, who formulated the ancient laws of sanctuary, was buried beside a London temple. From this period, too, came the narratives of Lear and of Cymbeline. More powerful still is the legend of the giant Gremagot who by some strange alchemy was transformed into the twins Gog and Magog, who became tutelary spirits of London.
It has often been suggested that each of this characteristically ferocious pair, whose statues have stood for many centuries within the Guildhall, guards one of the twin hills of London. Such stories are recorded by John Milton in The History of Britain , published a little more than three hundred years ago.
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Pope, born in Plough Court beside Lombard Street, was of course invoking a visionary urban civilisation; yet it is one highly appropriate for a city first vouchsafed to Brutus in a dream. In contemporary historiographical terms this marks the period of the Late Bronze Age when new bands or tribes of settlers occupied the area around London; they constructed large defensive enclosures and maintained an heroic life of mead-halls, ring-giving and furious fighting which found expression in later legends.
Segmented glass beads, like those of Troy, have been discovered in England. In the waters of the Thames was found a black two-handled cup; its provenance lies in Asia Minor, with an approximate date of BC. So there is some indication of trade between western Europe and the eastern Mediterranean, and there is every reason to suppose that Phrygian or later Phoenician merchants reached the shores of Albion and sailed into the market of London.
Material evidence of an association with Troy itself, and with the region of Asia Minor in which that ancient doomed city resided, can be found elsewhere. Diogenes Laertius identified the Celts with the Chaldees of Assyria; indeed the famous British motif comprising the lion and the unicorn may be of Chaldean origin. Caesar noted, with some surprise, that the Druids made use of Greek letters. In the Welsh Triads there is a description of an invading tribe who have travelled to the shores of Albion, or England, from the region of Constantinople. It is suggestive, perhaps, that the Franks and Gauls also claimed Trojan ancestry.
Although it is not altogether out of the question that a tribe from the region of fallen Troy migrated to western Europe, it is more likely, perhaps, that the Celtic people themselves had their origins in the eastern Mediterranean. The legend of London, as a new Troy, is therefore still able to claim some adherents. At the beginning of any civilisation there are fables and legends; only at the end are they proved to be accurate. One token of Brutus and his Trojan fleet may still remain.
If you walk east down Cannon Street, on the other side from the railway station, you will find an iron grille set within the Bank of China. It protects a niche upon which has been placed a stone roughly two feet in height, bearing a faint groove mark upon its top. This is London Stone. For many centuries it was popularly believed to be the stone of Brutus, brought by him as a deity.
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There it remained until the Second World War; although a German bomb entirely destroyed the church in , London Stone remained intact. It is constructed of oolite which, as a perishable stone, cannot be assumed to have survived since prehistoric times. Yet it has been granted a charmed life. Some antiquaries have considered it to be a token of civic assembly, connected with the repayment of debts, while others believe it to be a Roman milliarium or milestone.
Christopher Wren argued, however, that it possessed too large a foundation for the latter purpose. A judicial role is more likely. It seems likely, therefore, that this ancient object came somehow to represent the power and authority of the city. It sits now, blackened and disregarded, by the side of a busy thoroughfare; over and around it have flowed wooden carts, carriages, sedan chairs, hansom cabs, cabriolets, hackney cabs, omnibuses, bicycles, trams and cars.
It is at least a material remnant from all the ancient legends of London and of its foundation. From here the spectral wall, the wall as once it was, can be traversed in the imagination. It goes through the concrete and marble of the building, then on through the brick and iron of the Fenchurch Street Station viaduct until an extant section rises again in America Square. It is concealed within the basement of a modern building which itself has parapets, turrets and square towers; a strip of glazed red tiling bears more than a passing resemblance to the courses of flat red tiles placed in the ancient Roman structure.
For a moment it is known as Crosswall and passes through the headquarters of a company named Equitas. It moves through Vine Street in the car park at No.
We find Centurion House and Boots, the chemist. On a sixteenth-century map Bevis Marks was aligned to the course of the wall, and it is so still; the pattern of the streets here has been unchanged for many hundreds of years. Even the lanes, such as Heneage Lane, remain.
At the corner of Bevis Marks and St. Mary Axe rises a building of white marble with massive vertical windows; a great golden eagle can be seen above its entrance, as if it were part of some imperial standard. Security cameras once more trace the line of the wall, as it leads down Camomile Street towards Bishopsgate and Wormwood Street. It drops beneath the churchyard of St.
The modern thoroughfare here becomes known, at last, as London Wall.
A tower like a postern of brown stone rises above 85 London Wall, very close to the spot where a fourth-century bastion was only recently found, but the line of the wall from Blomfield Street to Moorgate largely comprises late nineteenth-century office accommodation. Bethlehem Hospital, or Bedlam, was once built against the north side of the wall; but that, too, has disappeared. Yet it is impossible not to feel the presence or force of the wall as you walk down this straightened thoroughfare which can be dated to the later period of the Roman occupation.
The bombs themselves effectively uncovered long-buried remnants of the ancient wall, and stretches both of Roman and medieval origin can still be seen covered with grass and moss. But these old stones are flanked by the glittering marble and polished stone of the new buildings that dominate the city.
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Around the site of the great Roman fort, at the north-west angle of the wall, there now arise these new fortresses and towers: Roman House, Britannic Tower, City Tower, Alban Gate which by the slightest substitution might be renamed Albion Gate and the concrete and granite towers of the Barbican which have once more brought a sublime bareness and brutality to that area where the Roman legions were sequestered. Even the walkways of this great expanse are approximately the same height as the parapets of the old city wall.
The wall then turns south, and long sections of it can still be seen on the western side sloping down towards Aldersgate. For most of its course from Aldersgate to Newgate and then to Ludgate, it remains invisible, but there are suggestive tokens of its progress. From the rear of St.
The wall enclosed an area of some acres.
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To walk its perimeter would have taken approximately one hour, and the modern pedestrian will be able to cover the route in the same time. The streets beside it are still navigable and, in fact, the larger part of the wall itself was not demolished until Those with more secular preoccupations built houses, or wooden huts, against it so that everywhere you could see and perhaps smell the peculiar combination of rotten wood and mildewed stone. A contemporary equivalent may be seen in the old brick arches of nineteenth-century railways being used as shops and garages.
Even after its demolition the wall still lived; its stone sides were incorporated into churches or other public buildings.
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The late eighteenth-century Crescent by America Square, designed by George Dance the Younger in the s, for example, is established upon the ancient line of the wall. So later houses dance upon the ruins of the old city. Fragments and remnants of the wall were continually being rediscovered in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when the succeeding phases of its existence were first seen steadily and as a whole.
On the eastern side of the wall were found in , for example, eight skeletons of late Roman date turned in different directions; there were also unearthed the skeletons of several dogs.