Saxon Lundenwic Expands West: New Dig

Saxon Lundenwic

Reconstruction drawing of Londinium, c. 120 AD

Reconstruction drawing of Londinium, c. 120 AD

 

The National Gallery’s 200th Anniversary Leads to an Archaeological Find

As the National Gallery in London embarks on an ambitious renovation to celebrate its bicentennial, construction efforts have unexpectedly brought to light a significant piece of the city’s ancient history. This development has unearthed evidence suggesting that the Saxon settlement known as Lundenwic once covered a more extensive area than historians previously believed.

A Glimpse into Saxon Lundenwic

During preparatory work for a new tunnel beneath the National Gallery’s Jubilee Walk, archaeologists stumbled upon artifacts dating back to the 7th or 8th century, including a hearth, indicating the historical extent of Lundenwic. This area now includes the land on which the National Gallery stands. The discovery was made by Archaeology South-East (UCL) and included various findings such as postholes, stakeholes, pits, ditches, and leveling deposits.

The Extended Reach of Lundenwic

Stephen White from Archaeology South-East, who supervised the Jubilee Walk excavations, expressed excitement over the findings. He highlighted that the artifacts reveal Lundenwic’s urban center stretched further westward than previously established. This revelation not only sheds light on London’s Saxon era but also provides an educational opportunity for the city’s youth to learn about their heritage.

Tracing Layers of Urban Development

Further excavations revealed post-medieval constructions atop the Saxon remains, dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. These discoveries showcase London’s continuous urban development and the adaptability of its settlers over centuries, marked by periods of reconstruction and varying building materials.

London’s Rich Tapestry of History

The excavation at the National Gallery is a testament to London’s layered history, built upon foundations that date back to the Roman city of Londinium and were succeeded by the Saxon outpost of Lundenwic. This site is a crucial piece of evidence confirming the westward expansion of Lundenwic’s urban center.

Celebrating Two Centuries of Art and History at the National Gallery

Founded in 1824, the National Gallery serves as a custodian of Western European paintings spanning from the late 13th to the early 20th centuries. Its collection features masterpieces from renowned artists, marking it as a pivotal institution in London’s cultural landscape. The creation of Jubilee Walk in 1991, alongside the construction of the Sainsbury Wing, underscored the Gallery’s ongoing role in the city’s historical and cultural narrative.

A Connection to Centuries of London’s History

The recent archaeological findings underscore the National Gallery’s integral connection to London’s extensive past. Sarah Younger, Director of the NG200 Welcome Project, reflected on the significance of these discoveries, noting how the Gallery’s current developments are woven into the broader historical and cultural fabric of London. This insight affirms that the gallery’s significance extends beyond its renowned art collection, embedding it further into the city’s rich historical tapestry.

Sources

  • Nalewicki, J. (2024, March). Remains of 7th-century Saxon town discovered under central London. Livescience.com; Live Science. https://www.livescience.com/archaeology/remains-of-7th-century-saxon-town-discovered-under-central-london

  • Lonsdale, J. (2024, March). Archaeologists find “exciting” Northumberland Anglo-Saxon oven. BBC News; BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/articles/cydlvzz8lrdo

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