Fortifications of London

Fortifications of London

The fortifications of London are extensive and mostly well maintained, though many of Inner London's fortifications and defences were dismantled in the 17th and 18th century. Many of those that remain are tourist attractions, most notably the Tower of London.


London's first defensive wall was built by the Romans around 200 AD, 150 years after the city was founded as Londinium. There were seven main entrances through the wall into the City, five built by the Romans at different times in their occupation of London. They were the City Gates.

These 'gates' that once guarded the entrances to the City of London through the City Wall were multi-storey buildings that had one or two archways through the middle for traffic, protected by gates and portcullises. They were often used as prisons, or used to display executed criminals to passers-by. Beheaded traitors often had their head stuck on a spike on London Bridge, then their body quartered and spread among the gates.

After the curfew, rung by the bells of St Mary le Bow and other churches at nine o'clock, or dusk, (whichever came earlier) the gates were shut. They reopened at sunrise, or six o'clock the next morning, whichever came later. Entry was forbidden during these times, and citizens inside the gates were required to remain in their homes. The gates were also used as checkpoints, to check people entering the City, and to collect any tolls that were being charged for the upkeep of the wall, or any other purpose that might require money. It is possible that the wall was built for the sole purpose of collecting taxes, and not for defence at all.

The gates were repaired and rebuilt many times. After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 all of the City gates were unhinged and had their portcullises wedged open, rendering them defenceless, but they were retained a visible sign of the prestige of the City. Most of the gates were demolished around 1760 due to traffic congestion.


The positions of all the gates are now marked by a main road with the same name, except for Cripplegate, which is a tiny street somewhat north of the position of the gate. The gates were:


List of fortifications

*London Wall
*Tower of London
*Montfichet's Castle
*Baynard's Castle

19th century

*London Defence Positions

World War II and later

*Outer London Defence Ring
*GHQ Line
*Cabinet War Rooms
*Military citadels under London
*Kingsway telephone exchange
*London deep-level shelters


* [ BBC - h2g2]
* [ English Museum of London Group]

ee also

*History of London
*List of fortifications
*British hardened field defences of World War II

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