When the Commission decided that the importance of the subject made it
necessary to devote a special volume to Roman London, it became evident
that only by the appointment of an ad hoc Committee to collate and sift the
enormous mass of available but scattered material, could an adequate and authoritative
report be obtained.
Of the structural remains above ground of the Roman City and its walls only
thirteen portions are now visible. But a vast amount of information can be gathered
from records of past and present excavations, covered up almost as soon as made,
and valuable deductions have been, and can still be made, from the burial and other
urns that from time to time have been disclosed, as well as from carvings, tomb-stones
and coins, together with inscriptions or accounts existing in museums or buried in
printed documents of very varying value.
The Commission therefore owe a deep debt of gratitude to Mr. R. G. Collingwood,
Dr. P. Norman, Mr. F. Reader, Mr. T. Davies Pryce, Mr. J. P. Bushe-Fox, Mr. Quintin
Waddington, Dr. Mortimer Wheeler and Miss Taylor for accepting the invitation
to join this Committee. The Commission were directly represented on the Committee
by the Technical Editor of the Commission, Mr. A. W. Clapham, and by Mr. W. Page,
the General Editor of the Victoria County Histories, where, in the London Volume,
the chapters by his contributors form in fact the basis of our Committee's enquiry.
I can only shortly summarize the qualifications of the scholars for the task
allotted to them. Thus, Mr. Collingwood, the Chairman of the Committee, is
a well known contributor of articles on the study of Roman Britain and a Fellow
of Pembroke College, Oxford, and in this volume deals with the section on Roman
inscriptions. Mr. Bushe-Fox has an exceptional knowledge of Romano-British
pottery, and has excavated Roman sites at Wroxeter, Richborough and elsewhere.
Mr. Clapham is primarily responsible for collecting of the details in the Inventory
incorporated in the present report. Dr. Norman has throughout his long life made
a special study of all matters relating to ancient London, and, for a great many years,
has taken personal note of all sites in the city as they were excavated for the erection
of new offices. Mr. Davies Pryce is part author of the standard English work on
"Terra sigillata," while for many years Mr. Francis Reader, like Dr. Norman, has
observed and recorded the discovery of Roman remains in the city. Miss M. V.
Taylor at one time assisted our late Commissioner, Professor Haverfield, and is
Secretary to the Society for the Promotion of Roman studies. Mr. Quintin Waddington is Museum Clerk at the Guildhall Library in London, and has special knowledge
of the documentary records housed in that library. Lastly, Dr. Mortimer Wheeler
has been Director of the National Museum of Wales, and is now the Keeper of the
London Museum, and is actively interested in investigating Roman sites and problems
in various parts of the country. Further assistance was given to this Committee by
experts to whom they referred, as is mentioned in their report, the most notable
among whom were Dr. G. F. Hill, the Keeper of Coins and Medals at the British
Museum, and Mr. Guy Parsloe.
Whilst we may admit at once that many of the fragments of evidence recorded
in this volume may never acquire any special significance, others—and it is at present
impossible to say which—will almost certainly achieve unsuspected value in some
future context. It is for this reason that the somewhat lengthy catalogue of existing
evidence has been recorded by the Committee as the essence of their Report. It will
be noted, however, that Dr. Wheeler, in the interesting introductory section for
which he is responsible, thought it desirable to embark upon certain tentative
generalizations from the evidence in question. Thus, the examination of the early
red-glazed pottery of Italic or Gaulish origin, has re-opened the question as to whether
London began as a semi-Roman trading settlement in the time of Cunobelin, or
whether it sprang up only as a consequence of the Claudian conquest. Similar
researches have thrown new light upon the extent of the city destroyed in the year
60 by Boudicca. Again, the much discussed question of the date of the town-walls
is subjected to detailed and critical investigation both of the direct archæological
evidence and of continental analogies. A considerable advance has also been made in
our knowledge of the extent of the great Basilica which stood on and adjoining the
site of Leadenhall Market, and is now known to have been the largest Roman
building yet discovered in Britain, and probably one of the largest in the Roman
provinces. With help from this building and other data, a reasoned attempt has
been made to reconstruct a nucleus of the street plan of the Roman city. Lastly,
two sub-sections are devoted to a consideration of the political status of Roman
London, and to the vexed problem of the history of the city in the 5th century.
Such then are the main problems, and the evidence that will be found in respect
of them in this volume, while the choice of the actual site of London as a Roman
city of importance has been graphically illustrated by the map prepared for the
Committee by Mr. Duncan Montgomerie, a member of the Commission, in the
coloured contour map, facing page 12, and the additional map of the London district
based on the geological survey, showing the open or wooded spaces that were probably
available for the first settlers on which to found the mighty capital of which
Londinium was destined to become the focus.
CRAWFORD & BALCARRES.
19th April, 1928.