Salters’ Garden | The City Sunken Garden Packed With History
Alongside London Wall in the City of London there’s a wonderful sunken garden that’s packed full of history; Salters’ Garden
Who are the Salters’?
The Salters’ are one of the City of London’s Livery Companies; guilds formed in Medieval times to regulate their trades.
Although they were probably going for centuries before, the Salters’ received their first license in 1394 from King Richard II.
Within the companies of the City, the Salters’ were one of the most important. They ranked 9th when the Order of Precedence was established in 1516. The Salters’ dealt – you guessed it – in salt. Salt was a hugely important commodity, not only for seasoning and preserving food, but also used in medical treatments.
At the north east end of the garden are some 19th century gates, part of Salters’ previous hall on St Swithin’s Lane, near Cannon Street
You can read more about the Salters’ Company here.
The Salters’ Garden is connected to their hall (the white building on the left of the image above), so it’s worth pausing to consider it before heading into the garden.
The current hall – built 1976 by Basil Spence – stands out amongst other livery halls with its brutalist style of architecture. Their previous hall on St Swithin’s Lane (near Cannon Street) was destroyed by bomb damage in the Second World War.
They are right beside the Barbican Estate – probably the most famous Brutalist building in London and face onto Fore Street.
It was on Fore Street that at 12.15am on 25 August 1940 the first bomb of WWII fell on the City of London.
The Salters’ Garden
The original garden opened in 1981 but the one you can see today was designed by David Hicks and opened in 1995, to mark the 600th anniversary of the Company’s first license.
When I visited it wasn’t as colourful, but apparently in Summer it’s full of roses – I assume a nod to a key moment in history we’ll see shortly.
One particular reason to visit the garden, is its impressive section of London’s Roman Wall.
Originally built in the late 2nd Century, encircling the City, today most of the authentic Roman structure is below current day street level – hence the sunken garden.
But it’s worth looking a bit closer at the later additions too.
A unique feature of the wall in the Salters’ Garden are the red brick crenellations.
These were added to the City wall during the 15th century, specifically under King Edward IV (1442-1471) during the War of the Roses!
Although the majority of battles during the War of the Roses were fought outside the City, the City was a stronghold and whoever held it had a huge advantage. The most notable London battle was held at Barnet in 1471.
A nearby information plaque from the City of London gives passersby an illustrative breakdown
Today the garden is hired for private events but otherwise is open to the public daily.