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’.

Actually this view's not so bad.

5 comments on “Hidden London: No.1 Poultry”

  1. I.A.M. says:

    I keep thinking “next time there, I’ll get out to Piccadilly Circus and beyond, as there’s so much there to be seen” and then you post something like this & I realize there’s oodles in the areas I’ve already been to that were missed completely.

  2. Helen Martin says:

    “not so bad”. All things are relative. That striped effect looks fine in Italy (Siena, say) but not in London and not used so that it accentuates the silly architecture. Even Prince Charles isn’t *always* wrong. This end looks like a rocket that’s just landed on a Turkish building.

  3. Keith Page says:

    The last comment has this exactly right; it’s straight out of Dan Dare’s Spacefleet HQ

  4. Anne Fernie says:

    More like Noddy-Toytown. The acid test for these conceits is what will they look like in 100 years time although I suspect none of them are designed to last that long. Like everything else it is probably 20-30years max then trash it and build new in the latest flavour-of-the-month style (astonishing how many perfectly sound 70s and even 80s buildings that are being razed here in Manchester…..)

  5. Mikhail says:

    Well, everyone knows the name of the scoundrel who destroyed national heritage in order to build this edifice and so vandalized the City of London in 1990s worse than any bomb of the Second World War. So what? He was made a lord (let’s praise the Conservatives for such attitude to conservation). He is still a member of some committees, which decide what to build. His dirty money are accepted by universities and charities who are proud to cover his name with honours. He is a warder of the church next door, which, by the irony of history, has just got nailed to the boring Rothschild’s glass shed dominating the Bank area since now. Should public be aware of that? By the way, I would have praised a decision to replace something like Lewisham Shopping Centre with the modern 1 Poultry. Can we swap, actually? 🙂

Comments are closed.

Posted In