Museums are full of amazing objects exhibited in the galleries, but unbeknown to many, they also house a number of archive collections — much of which are stored behind the scenes. These collections largely consist of records and documentary material which help us uncover hidden but fascinating stories buried deep in paperwork! Here we put the spotlight on some such documents that showcase interesting aspects of London’s docklands and its inner workings, ranging from clandestine wine tastings to a special female police force.
From Roman Londinium and 18th-century coffee houses to modern-day Tube stations, London has been home to a vibrant and varied ceramic tile industry for centuries. Here’s a reminder, as we walk the streets of London, to look up and around ourselves, and enjoy this city of tiles.
Long before Joseph Bazalgette delivered London City from the Great Stink, Londoners had to live through the stench of dung hills, cesspits and, eventually, the disposal of the contents of fancy-to-everyday chamber pots. So serious was the issue that matters were sometimes even taken to court! Through the museum’s collection, we explore the smelly aspects of early-modern London’s sewage issues.
Is your upper lip looking less than fan-tache-tic? Are your whiskers whispy? Your sideburns a burden? Your goatee gone wild? Seeking ideas for your Movember look? Well look no further. Here are nine remarkable beards and moustaches from the London Collection to inspire your facial hairstyles this November.
450,000 BC – AD 50
Discover how Londinium came to life and what daily life was like for Romans in the city 2,000 years ago
The Romans built the city where London now stands, bridging the Thames and creating Londinium. From around AD 50 to 410, this was the largest city in Britannia and a vital international port.
At 19, Claudia Martina is Roman Britain’s youngest recorded wife. Her husband spared no expense on her tomb – even though he was a slave working for the local government.
Working in a local brickyard, Austalis left his name scratched in to one of the bricks. Read what one of his co-workers added afterwards to see what they thought of him!
This carved gemstone shows a Roman warship, being rowed by four marines. Somehow, this precious object ended up in the river Thames, and was found buried in the foreshore.
This hoard of golden coins was buried sometime in the 3rd century, probably to keep it safe from thieves. The owner never retrieved the hoard, and it was discovered in 2000.
From the gallery you can view what remains of London’s city wall, a mix of Roman, medieval and Victorian building. 2000 years ago, this was a fort guarding the edge of the city.
This mosaic caused a sensation when it was discovered in Queen Victoria Street in 1869. Over the three days before it was removed from the ground 50,000 visitors came to see it.
This model shows how the Romans built the first bridge across the River Thames, where London Bridge now stands.
The discovery of a Temple to Mithras in 1954 was a London sensation. This men-only mystery cult worshipped in a building on the banks of the Walbrook River for 100 years.
This statue represents one of the Roman legionary soldiers who occupied Britain from AD 43. After the Romans departed, it was re-used as building material for a Saxon house.
This inscription is the first written record to use the word ‘Londoners’.
The gallery is open during the museum's normal hours:
The gallery is on the entrance floor and can be accessed by lift.
What can we learn from these important finds?
Find out more
Walk the streets of old Londinium from the lost fort to the hidden amphitheatre.
We offer a range of interactive sessions for schools to help students learn about the Romans.
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