Although my all to brief trip to Rome was definitely one of the more memorable experiences of my archaeology travels in 2012, it was visiting the Guildhall Art Gallery to see London’s Roman amphitheatre that was a truly unexpected highlight. It just so happens that one week I was in the Colosseum in Rome and the next I was in the basement of one of London’s art galleries amongst the more modest remains of the amphitheatre of Roman Londinium.

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Now anyone who has been to the Colosseum in Rome and its counterpart in London, or rather the meagre remains of it, will know there really is no comparison. To say that the Colosseum is much better preserved than the amphitheatre in London is something of an understatement of mega proportions. All that remains in London are the foundations of what was the east gate, and the wooden drain that ran in the ground from the arena out through the gate. And, the Colosseum was significantly bigger.

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The London Guildhall yard with outline of the Roman Amphitheatre

London’s Guildhall Yard from above, showing the black outline of the Roman amphitheatre in the paving © Google Maps

What made the presentation of the London amphitheatre so memorable for me is the way in which the designers used the basement in which the remains were found to conjure up the entire Roman stadium. Using careful lighting and luminescent paint in a dark basement room, visitors are easily able to imagine what the amphitheatre was like during its use in Roman times. The presentation of London’s Roan amphitheatre is by far one of the more innovative displays I have seen in a long time.

And it is not just the display in the basement of the Guildhall Art Gallery that is clever. Outside, in the forecourt of both the Guidhall and the art gallery the outline of the arena is shown with black inlaid stone in the paving. A very simple but in my opinion highly effective touch.

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The Guildhall Art Gallery, note the black outline of the amphitheatre in the paving.

Where is the Roman Ampthitheatre in London?

The amphitheatre is in the basement of the Guildhall Art Gallery, in the heart of the financial district of the city of London. It is within easy walking distance from the Museum of London, around which are the remains of London’s Roman and Medieval Wall. The entrance to the art gallery is in the Guildhall Yard, off Gresham Street. Find the art gallery on Google maps.

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