Over the past ten years and more, over 30,000 London children have visited All Hallows by the Tower and made their own discoveries about the 2,000 year old past that waits less than three metres under the present-day church floor.
We know that the space where All Hallows now stands was once a grand house for an influential Roman family. Seven centuries later some of the fabric of that house was being reused to create the first church to occupy the site. The Roman city was in ruins, its people and culture and infrastructure all scattered.
But how did that vast set of changes come about? The accepted version used to be that the Romans left all at once, in 410AD, with a centuries-long Dark Ages following them. In London, it was assumed that Roman Londinium was totally abandoned, with a Saxon city coming into being long after. Christianity, too, was supposed to have arrived along with St Augustine in 595.
It is only in recent years that more of the story has emerged: that the Saxons built a London of their own in what is now Covent Garden; that there were people clinging to their homes and their Roman way of life in the old city for centuries after the legions left; that there had been Christians in Britain since before Christianity was legal, let alone official. And for at least two hundred years, there were two Londons, Lundenwic and Londinium, with different languages and cultures, living three miles apart. As with so much else, the reality turns out to be more complicated that the official versions.
In 2021 the restrictions of Covid-19 mean that our invitation to schools is for a visit online. Those of you who have taken part in the project in previous years know that groups encounter a series of characters and dilemmas of the time when the people of the Saxon and Roman cultures had very different agendas.
Both sides regard the other’s way of life as very strange. Everything from poetry to keeping warm in winter to religion to travel seems different. In “Lundenwic” the participants hear some of the stories and help to arrive at solutions to some of the challenges – and to keep safe themselves. These are dangerous times.
Please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to reserve a slot. The online production will be available from mid March
We are grateful for funding from The National Lottery Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage, the Derek Shuttleworth Educational Trust and the Worshipful Company of World Traders. We are also most grateful once again to St Saviour’s Church, Walthamstow for allowing us to film there.