I wasn’t really sure where to wander to this week, so took to scrolling through my photographs in an effort to be inspired. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit many places, though there are still many more I’d like to see – however, this week I couldn’t seem to settle on any one destination.
But as I scrolled through, these images of Guildhall seemed to stand out. They were taken close to home, in that I don’t live too far from London, and are of a place which seems to encapsulate the layers of history that abound in this country. The modern building at Guildhall is now home to the City of London Corporation, while the original building is now used for official functions and events. I’m not normally a fan of modern additions to older buildings, but somehow in this instance it seems to work, the colours of the stone and organic shapes complementing, rather than clashing with, the original medieval Listed building.
Built in the 1400’s, Guildhall replaced an earlier building on the same site, and has been the site of some of the most famous trials in British history, including that of Lady Jane Grey. But the site’s history goes back even further than that – the black circle laid out in tiles across the square traces the footprint of the Roman amphitheater of London, and legend places the palace of Brutus of Troy in the same area.
While archaeologists knew that there had to be an amphitheater in London, or Londinium, as the Romans called it, it was not discovered until 1988, when construction began on the new Gallery building. You can go down underneath the Gallery and see the remains of the original amphitheater walls, drainage system and sandy floor, as well as stand in the entrance where gladiators used to enter the arena. Admission is free, as it is to the rest of the Gallery, and it is well worth a visit.
The Gallery is also home to the art collection of the City of London, including a marble statue of Margaret Thatcher that was famously decapitated in 2002 by a man named Paul Kelleher. He was sent to trial, where he stated that he had damaged the statue as part of his ‘artistic expression and my right to interact with this broken world.’ He also told the police who attended the scene that he ‘thought it looked better like that.’ The statue was repaired and is now back on display, though behind glass.
Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!