Lovers of history and archaeology have been flocking to London for many years in order to experience the huge number of ancient relics on show throughout the capital. However, while others have been tempted further afield in search of world wonders like the Taj Mahal or Machu Picchu, what these people may not realise is that London contains several buildings that predate both of these structures.
That’s because the city first rose to prominence during Roman times, with other buildings added by subsequent civilisations before London’s expansion began in earnest during the Middle Ages. As a result, most modern-day Londoners walk past monuments that are centuries or even millennia old on a daily basis and don’t even know it.
Unsurprisingly, many of the oldest buildings in the city are religious sites, although there is some controversy as to which place of worship can claim to be the most ancient. Some give this accolade to St Paul’s Cathedral, because even though the current structure was built in the 17th century by architect Sir Christopher Wren, a church has in fact existed on the site since AD604.
However, for those who say this doesn’t count, All Hallows-by-the-Tower is often considered to be London’s oldest church, having been founded by Saxon Abbey in Barking in AD675. Although damaged during the Blitz and restored in the 1950s, the church still contains a 7th century Saxon arc made from recycled Roman tiles, and is a wonderful place to explore if you’re interested in history.
Another popular church among fans of all things old is the Priory Church of t Bartholomew the Great, which can be found in Smithfield and has been in continuous use since 1143. Aside from its age, this building is also noteworthy for its beautiful design, and has appeared in several Hollywood films including Shakespeare in Love, Four Weddings and Funeral and others.