To paraphrase Dorothy: 'There is no place like London.' I hope I can convince you of that here. Also check out my blog at damselwithadulcimer.wordpress.com and my theatre reviews at www.playstosee.com
Published November 17th 2011
London's Guildhall is both the seat of government for the City of London, and the home of the City of London Corporation. Construction started 700 years ago in 1411 and it is the only medieval building still standing within the City of London. However if you thought this was an old structure, the older remains of a Roman Amphitheatre were discovered underneath its foundations in 1988. You can combine a visit to the amphitheatre with one to the Guildhall Art Gallery, (which sits next to The Guildhall) and view a treasure trove of paintings of London spanning the last 400 years.
Much of the Roman arena remains unexcavated as it stretches out beneath the Guildhall itself. However some of the stones are preserved, as are many of the wooden beams used to construct the drains below the Roman building. During excavation archaeologists found many artefacts and remains that were left behind nearly two millennia ago and these have been transferred to the Museum of London in nearby London Wall. When you walk across the glass that covers and protects the remains of the old floor, you are greeted by the sounds that may have reached the ears of the gladiators when they emerged into the amphitheatre.
The Roman Amphitheatre
The upper floors are dedicated to the gallery's collections of paintings. Here you will see pictures of London life, including several of the Lords Mayors Processions, both on land and by water.
The Lord Mayor's Procession 1890
The floor above this one is currently devoted to an exhibition of paintings by Atkinson Grimshaw, the Victorian artist who is most famously remembered for his atmospheric paintings of scenes lit by moonlight, gaslight and electric light.
On the top levels you will find various works of Victorian art, including several by painters of the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood, such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Holman Hunt and Lawrence Alma-Tadema.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti: La Ghirlandata
There is also the full size sculpture of Margaret Thatcher that was 'beheaded' as a protest some years ago. This has now been restored and is kept safely in a glass cabinet.
Before leaving you can also view an exhibition of photographs by Liza Dracup: 'Chasing the Gloaming', which is her response to Grimshaw's paintings about moonlight.
A visit to the Guildhall Art Gallery will turn you into a time traveller as you journey back to Roman London and then arrive home in the twenty-first century. Next spring the featured exhibition will be Age of Elegance: 1890-1930.