Walking the Walbrook
To coincide with the Museum of London’s current free exhibition of archaeological finds from the river Walbrook, Tina Baxter will be running her Walbrook where art thou? walk on Saturday 25th March. As the walk starts at the museum, you can take in this last chance to see the exhibition (it closes on the 26th March) before joining her to trace the route of the Walbrook to the Thames and hear the fascinating stories of its pivotal role in London’s history. Booking details here.
As a little taster, Tina shares her enduring interest in this most evocative of London’s lost rivers.
My fascination with the lost river Walbrook never wanes, the extraordinary finds during the excavation of the Bloomberg Headquarters site became known as the ‘Pompeii of the North’, wonderfully preserved in the wet conditions of the ancient riverbed.
The term “river”, however, has always been something of a misnomer as from what has been discovered it would have been more likely to be termed a stream – albeit a deep one.
The water it supplied from the Roman establishment of Londinium provided a means for industry to develop on its banks. It also became the dumping ground for many artefacts until its disappearance, covered over, as early as the 1500’s, mainly due the stink and the need for land reclamation and removal of ‘smelly’ industries, to the East of London. The depth of the exploration has confirmed its course, depth and width.
The banks of the Walbrook were weak and the Romans strengthened them by using overlapping planks called revetments. The planks themselves are interesting as they were often remains of ships and ‘clinker’ type boats, this has led to the mistaken impression that larger vessels could reach almost up to where Queen Victoria is today, when in fact it was only recycling of timbers
The small exhibition at the Museum of London is dedicated the tools and implements of manufacture found during various archaeological digs. The labels mention the Walbrook, ‘middle’ and ‘lower’ numerous times, they also give an indication of the many industries in the ancient city. Also, many of the items may have come from further afield, lost, dumped in, or swept down the Walbrook.
There is much more to come over the next few years as the finds are sifted through, preserved and then presented to us by the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA). We already know the wax tablets, of which there are many. Endless pairs of shoes, the leather preserved in the waterlogged layers. Gold coins, amulets, pagan tokens and much more, as well as the site of the Temple of Mithras which will be presented to us once again in the purpose-built museum on the site.
The walk introduces you to the ‘middle’ and ‘lower’ course of the Walbrook, but also enlightens you to its source, the course and its demise.