EXPLORING LONDON’S PAST: THE CAPITAL’S OLDEST LANDMARKS
The history of England’s capital city goes back more than two millennia, when the Romans established the town as a port and gateway to Europe. Archaeological evidence even points to settlements in this area going back many centuries before that, but the city as we know it started out when Londinium was founded in 47 CE.
London has seen landmarks come and go, destroyed by various disasters like war and fire. Despite this, many ancient buildings survive to this day and are still in use by the city’s inhabitants and visitors.
The history of London is reflected in its buildings and architecture, from churches to pubs and everything in between. Join us for a walk through the oldest landmarks in this fascinating city.
The London Mithraeum houses what is left of the Temple of Mithras, built by the Romans in the third century CE. The mythology surrounding this deity is lost in the mists of time, but we know that his story inspired a mysterious cult that spanned several centuries before vanishing completely. The temple was built as a place of worship to the god, and followers of Mithraism used it for their secret rituals, which possibly included animal sacrifice. When the cult died out in the fourth century, the location was re-dedicated to the god of fertility, agriculture and wine, known as Bacchus by the Romans.
The temple remained forgotten and hidden until it was rediscovered in 1954. After it had been fully excavated, the Mithraeum was built to protect the ruins. When the site was uncovered, the excavation team found a number of rare and valuable artefacts and statues. Perhaps most significantly, the ruins also contained a large number of writing tablets, including what is believed to be the oldest example of the word Londinium on a written document.
The Tower of London
The White Tower, the central keep and main building at the fortified castle known as the Tower of London, is the oldest building in London that remains standing. It was built in the eleventh century by William the Conqueror, after he claimed his crown as King of England. The tower has a long and often gruesome history, serving as it did as a prison and execution site. Aside from the famous ‘princes in the tower’, some other famous captives include Anne Boleyn, Guy Fawkes, and even the Kray twins.
Although it is probably most famous as a prison, the tower has been a royal residence, a fortified defence, and a records storage. One enduring legend is that the kingdom will fall if the resident ravens ever leave the tower, and successive generations of the birds have been carefully guarded at the tower for centuries. There are nine of them today, living under the protection of the Ravenmaster. Today, the tower is one of the most popular and visited tourist attractions in London.
High-end gentlemen’s club, vice-filled gambling den, haunt of aristocracy, bawdy drinking establishment – there is plenty to the colourful history of London’s oldest casino. The club was established in 1823 by William Crockford, a man of humble origins who made so much money from gambling that he was able to set up his own casino. The building at 50 St James’s Street was built to an opulent design by eminent architects of the time, and Crockford himself made so much money from the club that he reportedly died a millionaire.
Somewhat confusingly, the modern Crockford’s is still one of London’s real money casinos, but it is now housed in a different building nearby. It retains its glamorous reputation as an exclusive members-only club, complete with strict dress code. Non-members can still get a taste of the action with real money slots and other casino games at the parent company’s online casino which, together with their sister casinos, is one of the most reputable real money casino sites available for UK players.
The iconic Palace of Westminster is one of the most recognisable landmarks in the entire city. It is home to the Parliament of Britain and features the famous Elizabeth Tower that houses Big Ben. Westminster Hall is the oldest part of the palace, completed in 1099 CE. The structure to this day has the largest unsupported mediaeval roof in the country.
At the time of its construction, the hall was England’s largest residence and was where the monarch principally resided. Smaller adjacent buildings were used day to day by the royal family and their staff. In 1834 the hall was one of the only parts of the Houses of Parliament to survive a devastating fire. Today it is still used as a parliamentary building, and world leaders have addressed the houses in the hall over the years. This rare honour has been bestowed on just a few, including Charles de Gaulle, Nelson Mandela, and Barack Obama.