Does London Have A Hidden Map?
My friend Jan sends me texts about sacred London, pointing out that London’s ceremonial sites, of which there are a great number, may have formed a vast geometric design covering over 400 square miles.
It’s said that all Roman roads aligned to this pattern, but that they were already here anyway. The oldest example of a temple laid out to this design is Stonehenge (whose megaliths were raised 3,500 years ago). But London has its own vast version of that circle, built with the stones of our ancient parish churches. This is meant to be a circuit diagram of the forces of creation at work within the land, representing the soul of the city and its spiritual dimensions.
It’s the same idea that drove Peter Ackroyd to speculate about the odd positioning of the Wren churches. And it gets weirder. Camlet Moat in North London’s Trent County Park is supposed to be the real Camelot, and there is apparently some evidence suggesting that the real Camelot once existed at the centre of Enfield Chase, the Royal Hunting Ground of the Plantagenet Kings.
Archaeological digs were supposedly conducted in the 1880s and in 1923, and unearthed signs of a substantial structure with stone walls over five and a half feet thick, a 38ft long drawbridge and a subterranean dungeon. The connection – or rather jump – is then made to a Grail Castle built on a confluence of ley lines.
At this point my brain checks out in a fizzle of quasi-mystical misinformation. I spent a morning reading up on those so-called digs and couldn’t find much scientific evidence at all for their supposed findings. As much as I’d like to believe in some grand mystical plan for London, I find instead that misreadings are common and entirely understandable. The problem is that we really know nothing more about such sites – until, that is, we look at the elevation and geography of the city.
Like Rome, London is ringed by hills which have rivers that feed the Thames. The sun touches the hills first. These become sites of worship. Buildings face certain directions because of sun and water, soil and wind, and remain in place for centuries.
Recently our outgoing mayor signed off on a massive building project at such a site, Mount Pleasant above Farringdon, going with a plan that would deny centuries of shaping buildings to the land and placing great housing blocks laterally over sight lines that had always been followed. History shows us that our streets, which still follow ancient hedgerows and riverbeds, were placed there to fit logically in with land masses and the line of the sun; that’s not mysticism but common sense.
If you’ve ever walked along a street and felt its buildings were the wrong way around somehow, it’s often because they are. After WWII many developers succumbed to the temptation to create grand landscapes breaking with tradition, and many have since reverted to older patterns. Building over old gathering sites does weird things to them; there are rebuilt parts of central London that remain permanently deserted.
Do we conform to a grand-scale map of sacred sites? Most probably. But does this mean anything more than London being built around the need for farms with water and sunlight? I find that a little more doubtful…