Jacob Mendez
Jacob Mendez

A unique discovery in London. Archaeologists find this hard to believe

On the occasion of its 200th anniversary, the National Gallery in London is undergoing a thorough metamorphosis that will ensure the building’s next years of splendor.

But as maintenance workers prepared to dig a new tunnel under the National Gallery’s Jubilee Walk – the walkway connecting Trafalgar Square and Orange Street – in early February 2024, they also made a stunning archaeological discovery.

The excavation site, which includes a hearth from the 7th or 8th century, suggests that a Saxon settlement, Ludenwic, once existed on the site of today’s National Gallery.

“The evidence we have uncovered suggests that Lundenwic’s urban center extends further west than initially thought,” Stephen White, who led the Jubilee Walk excavations, told Archeology South-East.

“It was even more exciting as we had the chance to share this information and its connection with archeology across London with young people in the city.”

Lundenwic, a Germanic settlement, may be 1,400 years old. In the early 8th century, the Venerable Bede described Lundenwic as “a trading center for many nations who visit it by land and sea.” The Old English term wic or “merchant town” ultimately derived from the Latin word vicus, so Lundenwic meant “market town in London”.

Archaeologists from Archeology South-East (UCL) uncovered a hearth, postholes, fire pits, pits, ditches and leveling deposits from the site. Medieval walls were also discovered above the Saxon layers, with the earliest wall probably built in the 17th or 18th century.

Archaeologists also found evidence that settlers went through several stages of rebuilding these walls, using different building materials, until the 19th century.