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Coins from the Bed of the Walbrook, and their Significance

  • Ralph Merrifield

During the builders' excavation for Bucklersbury House, Walbrook, in the City of London, carried out in 1955, an immense clearance was made to a great depth in the natural soils underlying the man-made levels of London. Before this took place, scientific excavation in a limited area by Professor W. F. Grimes, on behalf of the Roman and Mediaeval London Excavation Council, had attracted a great deal of attention to the site, both from archaeologists and from the general public. His most spectacular discovery was the Temple of Mithras, which lay on the eastern edge of the site, adjoining the modern street of Walbrook. Almost of equal interest, however, to the student of Roman London, was his location of the Roman streambed of the Walbrook, which flowed in a southerly direction immediately to the west of the Temple of Mithras, about 30 yds. west of the street of Walbrook. The stream was subject to silting and its bed steadily rose, forming a thick deposit of black mud, which had an extraordinarily preservative effect on objects of metal which had been dropped in it from the banks. Iron was completely unrusted, while copper and bronze remained shining and bright.

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page 46 note 1 References are to Collingwood, R. G., The Archaeology of Roman Britain, 1930, chap. xv.

page 46 note 2 Erich Gose, Gefässtypen der römischen Keramik im Rheinland, 1950, p. 38, and pl. 42.

page 47 note 1 Puleston, J. H. and Price, J. E., Roman Antiquities recently discovered on the site of the National Safe Deposit Company's Premises, Mansion House, London, 1873, p. 72.

page 47 note 2 Numismatic Chronicle, 1882, pp. 57–60; 1883, pp. 278–81; and 1956, pp. 247–54.

page 47 note 3 Smith, C. Roach, Numismatic Chronicle, iv, 1841–2, pp. 147–68, 186–94.

page 48 note 1 This does not apply to the mouth of the Walbrook. Four coins found on the site of the Public Cleansing Depot in Upper Thames Street, in river deposits where the tributary enters the Thames, were all of the ‘missing period’. They were a sestertius of Faustina II struck in the reign of M. Aurelius (R.I.C., M. Aurelius 1674) of a.d. 161–75, a sestertius of M. Aurelius (R.I.C. 1249) of a.d. 179–80, an as of Caracalla (R.I.C. 576) of c. a.d. 214–17, and a denarius of Maximinus I (R.I.C. 7a) of a.d. 235–6.

page 49 note 1 Archaeologia, lx, pt. 1, p. 183.

page 49 note 2 Journal of Roman Studies, xlvii (1957), p. 220. The coin was found in an accumulated deposit into which had been inserted the thickening added to the fort wall to bring it up to the standard thickness of the new city wall.

page 49 note 3 Philip Corder, Archaeological Journal, cxii, 22–23.

page 50 note 1 Royal Commission on Historical Monuments: an Inventory of the Historical Monuments in London, iii (Roman London), 13; Wheeler, R. E. M., Antiquity, iii (1929), 2829.

page 50 note 2 Kenyon, K. M., Excavations in Southwark, 1959, p, 14.

page 51 note 1 Late third and fourth-century coins are not in-frequently found in builders' excavations—e.g. on the site of St. Swithin's House to the east of Walbrook, where they amounted to 7 out of 22 of the casual coin finds. Minimi, however, are rarely noticed by workmen, so 7 minimi found in Professor Grimes's excavation have not been included in the figures given above.

page 51 note 2 The inclosure of some parts of the Walbrook banks for private building may well have commenced before they were swamped about a.d. 155–6, but probably not before a.d. 100. The tessellated floor found on the site of the Bank of England in 1933 overlay pottery of the early second century (Journal of Roman Studies, xxiv, 211). There is no dating evidence for the mosaic pavement found in 1869 near the Walbrook crossing at Bucklersbury.

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The Antiquaries Journal
  • ISSN: 0003-5815
  • EISSN: 1758-5309
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