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The Roman occupation in the area of Paternoster Square, City of London

John D Shepherd

This paper examines the region of Londinium to the immediate east of the river Fleet and to the north-west of St Paul’s cathedral. Two sites – Paternoster Square (examined 1961-9) and Warwick Square (1880 and 1966) – are described in some detail, elaborating the previously published interims. A gazetteer lists all excavations, observations and chance finds within the study area, ranging from Wren’s observations during the building of St Paul’s in 1672 through to work by the Museum of London in the 1970s.

The area is located on the top of a low hill, and a stream ran through it from north to south. The main east-west road – later to pass out through Newgate – was one of the earliest planned features, dating from the AD 50s. Until the early 2nd century, if not later, most of the sites seem to have been outside an early city boundary which ran on a line roughly perpendicular to the east end of present-day St Paul’s cathedral. Pottery kilns, and leather- and metal-working debris, reveal an emphasis on industry, and several groups of burials have been recorded. One group – at Warwick Square – consisted of cremations more richly furnished than any others known from Londinium, and may represent a cemetery plot reserved for dignitaries or for an individual family.

In the early 3rd century the city wall was built along the western fringe of the study area. The burial grounds were relocated to the north and north-west, outside Newgate, and on some sites intensive occupation ceased, to be replaced by ‘dark earth’. Elsewhere, however, faint traces have been recorded of large, well-built masonry houses with mosaic floors.

[Transactions 39 (1988), pp 1 – 30; abstract by Francis Grew, 14-Oct-1997]

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