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The amphitheatre

The reconstructed remains of the amphitheatre as it is seen today
The remains of the stone walls of the amphitheatre are sited in an atmospheric setting

The amphitheatre remains are sited in the Guildhall Art Gallery.

What you can see now:
The eastern entranceway led into the arena. These stone walls once supported the timber framework for the tiers of seating above.
The wooden drainage system - a central drain ran beneath the main axis of the arena and under the length of the entranceway. It included a timber-lined silt trap, a tank where silt and rubbish would collect.  They are a rare survival as wood can only survive burial in wet conditions.
Two antechambers, small rooms built on either side of the entranceway with doorways both from the passage and from the arena. They may have served as waiting rooms for those about to take part in events in the arena. Slots cut into the stone arena threshold of one of the rooms may indicate that it had a timber sliding trap-door which could be raised to release wild animals into the arena.
The arena was made of a bed of rammed gravel mixed with hard pink mortar, overspread by a thinner layer of soft sand.

The remains can be seen at the usual opening times for the Guildhall Art Gallery. There is an entry charge. For guided tours of the amphitheatre remains, please see the Events section of the Museum’s website

Plan of the amphitheatre
Plan of the amphitheatre

The site in Guildhall Yard was excavated in 1987, prior to the construction of the Guildhall Art Gallery. The remains of the eastern end of the Roman amphitheatre were uncovered, comprising two curved stretches of stone wall enclosing part of the arena and the ceremonial eastern entrance into the arena.
 
The external size of the London amphitheatre was approximately 100 metres long and 85 metres wide. The area of the arena (60 x 40 metres) is marked out in the paving of Guildhall Yard. It is estimated that London’s amphitheatre would have held about 6,000 – 7,000 spectators at a time when the population of London may have been about 20,000-30,000. See a larger plan of the amphitheatre.

Reconstruction drawing of the amphitheatre by Judith Dobie
Reconstruction drawing of the amphitheatre

The first amphitheatre was built entirely of timber in about AD70. It was upgraded in about AD120 when ragstone walls replaced timber for the arena wall and main ceremonial entrances in the west and east. The seating remained in timber. The amphitheatre was also the largest venue suitable for important religious activities. Performances would have been held on public holidays. Professional gladiators would have made only rare appearances as shows were expensive to promote. Most shows would have consisted of animals fighting and the public execution of criminals. The amphitheatre was abandoned in the 4th century. Some of the stone from the walls was removed and the arena became damp and derelict and may have become the town’s rubbish dump in the late Roman period.

See the Guildhall Art Gallery website for additional information.

For further information, see about the Amphitheatre in Public life.

 

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