The Roman Grave Under The Gherkin
The Gherkin is one of the most iconic shapes along London’s skyline. But very few people know there is a Roman Girl buried underneath the skyscraper.
Firstly, a bit of background.
At 9.20pm on Friday 10 April 1992 there was a huge explosion outside the Baltic Exchange. The one-ton bomb, left in place by the IRA, caused injuries to 91 people and killed three people.
The victims were Paul Butt, aged 29 who was walking through the street when the bomb went off. Tom Casey, aged 29 who worked at the Baltic Exchange and the 15 year old Danielle Carter who was waiting in a car alongside St Mary Axe.
The bomb left St Mary Axe in a state unseen in the City since the Second World War and caused £800 million worth of damage according to the insurance claims. You can see an image here.
However, like much of the damage caused in the City in The Blitz, historic layers were revealed.
As the site was cleared for reconstructed in 1995, an archeological investigate from MOLA made the discovery of the remains of young Roman girl.
Dying between the ages of 13 and 17, The Museum of London concluded that she died over 1,600 years ago, between 350 – 400AD. The Romans left London in 410 AD so this was towards the end of their occupation.
A plaque on the floor by the base of the Gherkin decorated with a Roman laurel wreath
Sadly the excavation revealed no more clues as to who she was; a Roman citizen? A slave? Perhaps a visitor? The burial is unusual because Romans tended to bury their dead outside their City walls, but this was well within the boundaries of Londinium.
But this wasn’t the end of the story…
The Roman Girl (re)Buried Under the Gherkin
In April 2007 – after the Museum of London were happy with their tests and findings – a service was held in St Botolph’s Church, Aldgate followed by a procession to the burial site in Bury Street EC3.
Picture from Fosters + Partners at the unveiling of the plaques
The unknown girl was buried at the base of the Gherkin, given – to the best or our knowledge – the same funeral rites she would’ve received in Roman London.
“To the spirits of the dead the unknown young girl from Roman London lies buried here”
Hundreds of Londoners walk past this spot every day. But few glance at the plaque commemorating a slice of Roman history.
It’s also touching to pause for a moment and think that she’s just a stone’s throw from another teenage girl – Danielle Carter – who tragically died here around 1,600 years later.
Interested in more of Roman London? Watch my YouTube video tracing the route of the Roman Wall!
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