Hidden London: No.1 Poultry
There’s a very nice roof garden on top of No1 Poultry with colonnades, and lawns built disconcertingly on arms that stick out over the street (a city trader recently threw himself off one). There’s also a very expensive, hideously vulgar restaurant on the roof filled with drunk WAGs and shouty city boys which you should avoid at all costs. But it’s worth going up and outside for a glass of wine on a summer night.
However, the really hidden part is the history, because this site of No.1 Poultry (named after the former poulterers’ street beside it) was preserved and its archaeology studied for the best part of 2000 years. In the heart of the city, it was once part of a Roman village, then a centrepiece of the provincial capital, surviving plague and fire, only to finally suffer demolition in 1994 by philistine developers who erased sixteen exuberant Victorian buildings from the spot in order to put up the clown-ugly building that now occupies the space. Mosaics, timber and stone buildings, Roman statues, ornaments, pens and thousands of perfectly preserved coins and pots have been recovered from the site. In 1954, a celebrated Temple of Mithras was uncovered to its South.
Because of the area’s odd shape (partly this way because of the River Walbrook that ran through it, now underground), many designs for redevelopment through the ages were rather fanciful, including an elevated iron bridge and spiral staircase. Any would have been better than what’s there now. English Heritage produced a nice book on its secret history called ‘Heart Of The City’.