Preface

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English Heritage

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1928

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9-10

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'Preface', An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in London, Volume 3: Roman London (1928), pp. IX-X. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=120144 Date accessed: 22 October 2014.


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CHAIRMAN'S PREFACE.

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.