The Guildhall Art Gallery displays art from the collection of the City of London Corporation. When renovations were occuring to the gallery in 1988, remains of a Roman Amphitheatre were discovered well below ground level. The site is now a protected monument and another example of London’s Roman history.
Accessed through the art gallery, you descend to the basement level where you can view portions of the ruins of London’s Roman Amphitheatre. Archaeologists believe that London’s first Roman amphitheatre was wooden and built in 70 AD. In the early 2nd Century, they believe the amphitheatre was renovated and tiled entrances and ragstone walls improved the structure.
In the first few centuries Romans (mainly soldiers) would have come here to watch animal fights, public executions, religious activities and gladiatorial combats. When the Roman’s abandoned Londinium in the 4th century the amphitheatre would have lain derelict for hundreds of years. Records indicate that the old Roman city started to be reoccupied in the 11th century. In the 12th century the first Guildhall was built next to it and it is highly likely that either relics of the site were still visible or the ground bore the shape of the arena.
Today not only can the visitor view sections of the wall and drainage ditches, but visual aids are provided to help fully visualize the size and scope of the arena. Outside the Guildhall in the yard, the outline of the amphitheatre is laid into the ground so that the full scale can be comprehended. It should be noted that much of the amphitheatre experience is about imagination as the physical relics are fairly minimal. That said it is a fascinating experience that reminds the viewer how London has been built layer upon layer over thousands of years. Since the exhibit is fairly small, it can be visited quite quickly or by combining it with a visit to the art gallery above more time can be spent here.
The Guildhall Art Gallery and Roman Amphitheatre are open Monday to Saturday: 10am - 5pm (last admission: 4.30pm) and Sunday: 12 noon - 4pm (last admission: 3.45pm). Admission is free. Free guided tours are available on Friday afternoons at quarter past each hour. Periodic lunchtime talks focusing on the amphitheatre are also scheduled. For more details go to their website at: http://goo.gl/2X7Yg
Located at: Guildhall Yard, London, EC2V 5AE
Closest Tube: Bank