The Tower of London is symbolic to many tourists and Londoners alike as a landmark of London’s historic past, but the Tower isn’t the only castle built to defend central London from attack.
Londinium Roman Fort
The roman fort of Londinium (City of London, England) was built around AD120, just north-west of the main population settlement.
It covered 12 acres and was almost square in size, 200m along each length. As Londinium grew, the fort was later absorbed into the defensive wall that surrounded the city
The fort could house up to 1000 men and provided suitable barracks and gated entry.
However, a century later the site was decommissioned and buildings dismantled as the military situation in the southern edge of Britannia had become more secure.
Today, the forts northern and western edges still remain visible, along with bastion towers and a gatehouse as part of the Barbican and Museum of London complex.
Albeit not a castle, the London Wall was incorporated into elements of the Roman Fort, Tower of London and was part of the defensive line for Baynard’s Castle and Montfichet’s Tower.
The wall was built between 190 and 225 AD, it continued to be developed until at least the end of the 4th century, making it among the last major building projects undertaken by the Romans before Britannia looked to its own defences in AD 410.
Along with Hadrian’s Wall and the road network, the London Wall was one of the largest construction projects carried out in Roman Britain. Once built, the wall was 2 miles long and about 6 m high, encircling the entire Roman city.
The wall remained in active use as a fortification for more than 1,000 years afterwards. It was used to defend London against raiding Saxons in 457, and was redeveloped in the medieval period with the addition of crenellations, more gates and further bastion towers.
It was not until as late as the 18th and 19th centuries that the wall underwent substantial demolition, although even then large portions of it survived by being incorporated into other structures. Amid the devastation of the Blitz in WW2, some of the tallest ruins in the bomb-damaged city centre were actually remnants of the Roman wall.
Baynard’s Castle refers to two buildings that existed on the same site between St Pauls Cathedral, where the old Roman walls and River Fleet met the River Thames, just east of what is now Blackfriars station.
The first was a Norman castle, constructed by Ralph Baynard (Sheriff of Essex) that incorporated an earlier Saxon fortification.
The castle was inherited by Ralph’s son Geoffrey and his grandson William Baynard, but the latter forfeited his lands early in the reign of Henry I (1100–1135) for supporting Henry’s brother Robert Curthose in his claim to the throne. John Stow gives 1111 as the date of forfeiture. Later in Henry’s reign, the lordship of Dunmow and honour or soke of Baynard’s Castle were granted to the king’s steward, Robert Fitz Richard.
The Norman castle stood for over a century before being demolished by King John in 1213. It appears to have been rebuilt after the barons’ revolt, but the site was sold in 1276 to form the precinct of the great priory of Blackfriars.
About a century later, a new fortified mansion was constructed on land that had been reclaimed from the Thames, southeast of the first castle.
The castle was rebuilt after 1428, and became the London headquarters of the House of York during the Wars of the Roses. Both King Edward IV and Queen Mary I of England were recorded being crowned at the castle.
By the end of the 15th century, the castle was reconstructed as a royal palace by Henry VII, which Henry VIII gave Catherine of Aragon as a gift on the eve of their wedding.
Baynard’s Castle was left in ruins after the Great Fire of London in 1666, although fragments survived into the 19th century.
The site is now occupied by a BT office called Baynard House, but the castle is commemorated in Castle Baynard Street and the Castle Baynard ward of the City of London.
Montfichet’s Tower was a Norman fortress on Ludgate Hill in London, between where St Paul’s Cathedral and City Thameslink railway station now stand.
Little is known about the construction of Montfichet’s Tower. The first documentary evidence is a reference to the lord of Montfichet’s Tower in a charter of c1136 in relation to river rights.
The tower was probably built in the late 11th century; the name appears to derive from the Montfichet family from Stansted Mountfitchet in Essex, who occupied the tower in the 12th century. A William Mountfichet lived during the reign (1100–1135) of Henry I and witnessed a charter for the sheriffs of London.
The last mention of the tower as a place of military significance comes in Jordan Fantosme’s chronicle of the revolt of 1173–1174 against Henry II.
The tower was eventually in ruin by 1278, according to a deed drawn up between the Bishop of London, where Montfichet’s Tower was included in the land sale with Baynard’s Castle to form the precinct of the great priory of Blackfriars.
Modern redevelopment gave the Department of Urban Archaeology of the Museum of London the opportunity to excavate the site, between 1986 and 1990. They found ditches marking the outer defences, pits and a well that was interpreted as the bailey of the castle, but no sign of a keep or other masonry. There is now an office building at 29 Ludgate Hill called Montfichet House.
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