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.

Roman Girl Buried Under Gherkin

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.

Roman Girl Buried Under Gherkin

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.

Roman Girl Buried Under Gherkin

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.

Roman Girl Buried Under Gherkin

“To the spirits of the dead the unknown young girl from Roman London lies buried here”

Roman Girl Buried Under Gherkin

Hundreds of Londoners walk past this spot every day. But few glance at the plaque commemorating a slice of Roman history.

Roman Girl Buried Under Gherkin

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.

Roman Girl Buried Under Gherkin
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6 Comments

  • Tony Buglione

    Reply

    Thanks again Katie all plenty of useful information,which we find so helpful.

    February 26, 2020 at 1:36 pm
  • David Farrell

    Reply

    Hi Katie, for me this is one of the most poignant places in the City. Whenever I am in the area I always pop round to see this Roman lady’s grave. She must be one of the earliest Londoners we know of (though sadly not her name).

    February 26, 2020 at 6:25 pm
  • Mr Adrian Butters

    Reply

    Katie
    Thanks for the always welcome and interesting newsletter about London Town. Quite poignant this time, but, why was this girl found buried on her own ? Surely, not a grave yard ? With only one person ? I do find this factor interesting in a sad but historical way as no other artifacts / people found nearby. Answer perhaps lost in time, but I wonder if anyone else could shed some light on this

    February 28, 2020 at 12:42 am
  • Margot Williams

    Reply

    Do you think Bury Street is named because at one time it was known to be a burial site?

    February 28, 2020 at 1:35 pm

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