Our final entry in our short series on Roman London concerns the Roman remains found under St Bride’s Church in Fleet Street.

Following heavy bombing during World War II, much of the church was destroyed. But the bombing did reveal hitherto unknown secrets below the church.

As well as the remains of what were thought to be numerous plague and cholera victims (dating from 1665 and 1854 respectively), these included remains dating back to the 2nd century AD which featured the foundations of a somewhat mysterious Roman building and pavement, both of which were built outside the later Roman wall. There are also the remains of a ditch which is believed by some to be part of what was a quarry.

The remains can now be viewed in the church’s crypt along with those of the earlier churches. For more on St Brides, see our previous entry here.

WHERE: Fleet Street (nearest tube St Paul’s); WHEN: 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday, 11am to 3pm Saturday, 10am to 1pm and 5pm to 7.30pm Sunday; COST: Entry is free but guided tours are available on Tuesday afternoons at 3pm for £5 a person; WEBSITE: www.stbrides.com.

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A navy administrator and an MP who lived in London for much for the 17th century, it is for his remarkable diary – filled with reflections on great events and the intimate goings on of daily life – that Samuel Pepys is renowned around the world.

Born the son of a tailor in Salisbury Court, Fleet Street (the site is now marked with a plaque), on 23rd February, 1633, Pepys (pronounced ‘peeps’) attended St Paul’s School before moving on to Cambridge University. After graduation, he entered the household of one of his father’s cousins, Sir Edward Montagu, as a secretary around 1655 – the same year he married Elisabeth de St Michel.

Under the patronage of Sir Edward – after he became the Earl of Sandwich – Pepys was appointed Clerk of the Acts to the Navy Board – a task which saw him playing a key role in shaping the English fleet which fought (unsuccessfully) in the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665-1667).

In 1673, he became Secretary to the Admiralty and the same year was elected an MP for Castle Rising in Norfolk (he later became an MP for Harwich). Pepys also served as president of the Royal Society from 1684-1686, and even visited Tangier where he was involved in the evacuation of the short-lived English colony there. He was imprisoned twice in later years – at least once on suspicion of supporting the Jacobites – but the charges were dropped and he retired at the age of 57 in 1690.

In 1701 he moved out to a house in Clapham and lived there until his death on 26th May, 1703 (his wife Elisabeth had died many years earlier in 1669 and they’d had no children). His extensive library – including his six volume diary – were bequeathed to Magdalene College at Cambridge.

Despite an illustrious public career, it is his diary for which Pepys is most celebrated. Covering the years from 1660 to 1669 (he only stopped writing for fear he would go blind), it records his reactions to such monumental events as Charles II’s coronation (he was present as a youth at the beheading of Charles I), the Great Plague of London in 1665 and the Great Fire of London the following year as well as intimate details from his personal life including how he spent his leisure time, his various illnesses and his sexual liaisons. Written originally in a form of shorthand, it was first published in 1825 – and only fully published in 1976 – and has since gone on to enthral and entertain millions around the world.

Among places in London which still hold a Pepys connection are St Bride’s Church (he was baptised there), All Hallows by the Tower (it was in the tower from which Pepys watched the Great Fire), St Olave’s on Seething Lane (pictured above) where Pepys and his wife are buried (he was living in Seething Lane when he started the diary and St Olave’s served as his parish church between 1660 and 1674). Further down Seething Lane, there is a bust of Pepys in the gardens which now cover the Navy Office where Pepys once lived and worked.

There is also an exhibition on Pepy’s in Prince Henry’s Room at 17 Fleet Street (the building dates from around 1610 and was a pub when Pepys was alive), although it is currently closed.  An online version of Pepys’ diary can be found at the website Pepys’ Diary. For more on Pepys’ life, we do recommend Claire Tomalin’s best-selling biography Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self.

While St Paul’s Cathedral is certainly his best-known work, Sir Christopher Wren designed 50 other churches in London in the wake of the Great Fire of 1666. Rather than look at each individually, we’ll just highlight a couple with the first being the “wedding cake” church, St Bride’s.

The site of St Bride’s has been home to at least eight churches, the first of which is believed to have been founded in the Dark Ages. Dedicated to the sixth century Irish nun St Bride – or St Bridget, the church – thanks to its location on Fleet Street – has had a long association with printers and later newspapers and journalists and, despite the fact most news organisations have long since departed the area, is still regarded as “the journalist’s church”.

The medieval St Bride’s was completely consumed in the Great Fire but a new church was opened in 1675 after works were carried out to Wren’s design (among his assistants on the job was Nicholas Hawksmoor who became a celebrated architect in his own right).

Despite the return of worshippers, however, the building remained unfinished and Wren was approached in the early 1680s about constructing the steeple. This was completed in 1703 and has become a London landmark with many believing its tiered design was the basis for the modern “wedding cake” design.

The steeple – at 226 feet or almost 70 metres, the tallest in London – was one of few things which survived after a firebomb destroyed much of the building during the Blitz in 1940. The church was subsequently restored according to Wren’s original designs (albeit with a shorter steeple than Wren’s original – eight feet or 2.4 metres were knocked off when it was struck by lightning in 1764.)

As well as its association with the printing industry and the press, these days St Bride’s is also notable for its US connections – the first American child of English descent, Virginia Dare, was the daughter of two former St Bride’s parishioners (there is a bust of Virgina above the font). The parents of Edward Winslow, three-time Governor of Plymouth in Massachusetts, were also married in St Bride’s.

The crypt contains remains dating back to Roman times.

WHERE: Fleet Street (nearest tube St Paul’s); WHEN: 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday, 11am to 3pm Saturday, 10am to 1pm and 5pm to 7.30pm Sunday; COST: Entry is free but guided tours are available on Tuesday afternoons at 3pm for £5 a person; WEBSITE: www.stbrides.com.