What is the oldest building in London? This British city is one of the oldest in the world and as such, there are many very old buildings worth discussing in the city. We are going to look at ten of the oldest buildings in London, such as the oldest house in London and the oldest church. Keep reading to learn more about the oldest buildings in London.
- 1 A Look at the Oldest Buildings in London
- 1.1 All Hallows-by-the-Tower (Possibly 675) on Byward Street
- 1.2 White Tower (Early 1080s) on St Katharine’s Way
- 1.3 St Bartholomew-the-Great (1123 – 1143) on Cloth Fair
- 1.4 Guildhall (1411 – 1440) in Guildhall Yard
- 1.5 Spaniards Inn (16th Century) on Spaniards Road
- 1.6 41-42 Cloth Fair (1597 – 1614) on Cloth Fair
- 1.7 James Lock & Co. (17th Century) on St James’s Street
- 1.8 Hoop and Grapes (17th Century) on Aldgate High Street
- 1.9 St Bride’s Church (1675 – 1703) on Fleet Street
- 1.10 Berry Bros. & Rudd (1698 – 1699) on St James’s Street
- 2 Frequently Asked Questions
A Look at the Oldest Buildings in London
London is one of the oldest and biggest cities in Europe, and as such, it also has some of the oldest buildings in the UK. The history of the development of the city dates back to the Ancient Roman era, but most of the structures from that period no longer exist.
So, let’s look at ten of the oldest buildings in the city to ultimately answer the question: what is the oldest building in London?
All Hallows-by-the-Tower (Possibly 675) on Byward Street
|Date Constructed||Possibly 675|
|Location||Byward Street, London|
All Hallows-by-the-Tower is an ancient church and the oldest building in London. Or at least, it’s the oldest standing building in London, and it has retained its use as a church to this day. In fact, this church is currently used as an Anglican church and has been for several centuries. Furthermore, this church has seen many major events and hosted a great many people over the course of its existence, such as Thomas More and William Penn. It even managed to survive both the Great Fire of London in 1666 and the Blitz during the Second World War (although it was significantly damaged in the latter).
The building has been extensively rebuilt and renovated over the years, and there are Norman, Gothic, and Baroque architectural elements found within the present structure.
White Tower (Early 1080s) on St Katharine’s Way
|Architect||Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester (1024 – 1108)|
|Date Constructed||Early 1080s|
|Location||St Katharine’s Way, London|
White Tower (c. 1066); Dietmar Rabich / Wikimedia Commons / /
The White Tower is only part of the Tower of London. This original keep of the structure was actually constructed under the orders of William the Conqueror after he took over the country. This location is considered to be the best-defended of all the locations within the Tower of London and it was used for centuries as a central accommodation location for the monarchy. Over the centuries, the White Tower has served a number of roles. It may have started its existence as a palace, but it has subsequently performed a number of functions, such as being a mint, prison, armory, and even a zoo at one point.
This ancient structure within the Tower of London also contains various Romanesque elements in its architectural design.
St Bartholomew-the-Great (1123 – 1143) on Cloth Fair
|Date Constructed||1123 – 1143|
|Location||Cloth Fair, London|
St Bartholomew-the-Great is another of the oldest churches in London. In this particular case, this church was constructed during the medieval period, and it was founded as an Augustinian priory. We do not know who the original architect was, but the building has been renovated and expanded on several occasions to add Gothic, Tudor, and Georgian elements to the original Romanesque construction. Other than serving as a church, the structure has also been used as a burial site for figures such as Sir Walter Mildmay and James Gibbs.
Additionally, the church contains various artworks, is open to the public for tours and the occasional concert, and it also still persists as a functioning church that delivers services every week.
Guildhall (1411 – 1440) in Guildhall Yard
|Date Constructed||1411 – 1440|
|Location||Guildhall Yard, London|
Guildhall is one of the oldest municipal buildings in London. In this case, the structure was developed using a Gothic style when it was first constructed. However, it was significantly damaged in both the Fire of London and later the Blitz. This means that it needed to be significantly restored and renovated after the significant damage that it has received. For this reason, there are now elements of both Classical and Modern architectural traditions within its walls. The building is no longer used for traditional municipal purposes, but it is still used for a variety of functions, such as royal receptions, exhibitions, and award ceremonies.
Additionally, the building is home to a large library and art collection.
Spaniards Inn (16th Century) on Spaniards Road
|Date Constructed||16th century|
|Location||Spaniards Road, London|
Spaniards Inn (c. 16th century) on the right; Philip Halling / The Spaniards Inn
The Spaniards Inn was constructed as a pub, and it still serves that purpose to this day. This is common with many of the oldest buildings in London. This old pub was constructed in the 16th century, and the original design made use of a Tudor architectural style. It has since been renovated and extended. However, many of the original features of the old pub have been intentionally retained, such as the low ceilings, open fireplaces, and the wooden beams used as support structures. Today, the Spaniards Inn can be visited year-round, and one can buy a variety of higher-end alcohols and artisanal drinks.
Additionally, the pub is thought to be a spot that the famous criminal Dick Turpin frequented, and so it has become a famous site because of this fact.
41-42 Cloth Fair (1597 – 1614) on Cloth Fair
|Date Constructed||1597 – 1614|
John Betjeman’s house on Cloth Fair (1597); Bashereyre at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
41-42 Cloth Fair is the oldest house in London. This old structure has not been used as a house for many years, but when it was first constructed, it is believed to have been by Henry Rich, a carpenter who owned a number of other properties in the same area (although they have not survived as this one has). This old house was originally part of a larger complex of houses, and in subsequent decades, it has become an event location that has hosted figures like the monarch and Winston Churchill. The building is no longer open to the public, but over the centuries it has served many roles, such as being a museum, shop, residence, and pub.
One of the most interesting features of the building is that there are a set of windows that have a number of signatures engraved into them from famous figures over the years.
James Lock & Co. (17th Century) on St James’s Street
|Date Constructed||17th century|
|Location||St James’s Street, London|
James Lock & Co. is an ancient shop in London, and it has served in this role for several centuries. It was originally designed by an unknown architect as a townhouse. However, it would later be converted into a hat shop, and it has persisted in this use ever since. It is also technically the oldest of its kind in the entire world and the 34th oldest family-owned business in the world too. The building has been reworked and extended over the years, but it has still retained some of its initial features.
One of the most interesting things about the shop is that it has served many famous figures over the years, such as Oscar Wilde, Admiral Lord Nelson, Charlie Chaplin, and many more.
Hoop and Grapes (17th Century) on Aldgate High Street
|Date Constructed||17th century|
|Location||Aldgate High Street, London|
The Hoop and Grapes is another of the oldest pubs in London. It was also one of the few structures to survive the Great Fire of London in 1666. We do not know who designed the original structure, but we do know that it was first designed as a townhouse with a timber frame design.
It has been extensively altered over the years, but it does still persist as a pub, event venue, and restaurant to this day and it can be visited all year round.
St Bride’s Church (1675 – 1703) on Fleet Street
|Architect||Christopher Wren (1632 – 1723)|
|Date Constructed||1675 – 1703|
|Location||Fleet Street, London|
St Bride’s Church is a church on Fleet Street, and while there used to be another structure on the same site, it was entirely reworked after the Great Fire of London in 1666. Christopher Wren, who is known as the architect of many of the most famous churches after the Great Fire, designed this structure around an English Baroque style. One of the most notable features of the church is the tiered spire that rises 69 m (or 226 ft) into the sky. However, this is another of the many London buildings that were extensively damaged during the Blitz, but it was reworked and renovated shortly after the conclusion of the war.
The church continues to function as a place of worship, but it is also used as a memorial location for journalists who perished in the line of duty.
Berry Bros. & Rudd (1698 – 1699) on St James’s Street
|Date Constructed||1698 – 1699|
|Location||St James’s Street, London|
Berry Bros. & Rudd is another of the oldest shops in the world, and it is the oldest wine and spirit merchant on the planet. The original building, much like James Lock & Co., was a townhouse. It then attained a number of alterations over the years, but it does still retain some of the elements of the original design.
It is still maintained to this day, and it sells wines and spirits from across the globe, and in addition to this, it has its own house brand of beverages.
Some immensely famous figures have been noted clientele over the centuries, such as Lord Byron and Beau Brummell. In addition to being a wine merchant, it also offers events, wine tastings, and a number of educational courses in the development of wine from around the world.
We have come to the end of our discussion about the oldest buildings in London. Hopefully, we have answered the question: what is the oldest building in London? There are many ancient structures in this famous British city, and they have often served as some of the most important historical sites in the entirety of England. However, there are doubtless many more that we missed in this article. So, see what else you can out in the wide world!
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Oldest Building in London?
The oldest building that is still fully intact in London is part of the Tower of London, the White Tower. This structure was originally built during the reign of William the Conqueror in the late 11th century. However, there are debates about what constitutes the oldest structure. For instance, the London Wall, which is mostly in ruins, was built by the Romans in the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE. Whether a wall can be classified as a building is something up for debate though.
What Is the Oldest House in London?
The oldest house in London is often considered to be 41-42 Cloth Fair. This was the only house to have survived the Fire of London in 1666, and it was built in the late 16th century. The house itself is still intact, and it has been extensively restored over the years, but the primary structure does still exist. This makes it the oldest house in London and one of the oldest buildings in the city in general.
What Is the Oldest Church in London?
The oldest church in London is generally considered to be All Hallows-by-the-Tower, which was originally constructed around 675 CE. Much like 41-42 Cloth Fair, this church managed to survive the Great Fire of London. The church is still in operation to this day, and has served as an important location for various events throughout London’s long history.
What Is the Oldest Castle in London?
The Tower of London as a whole is considered to be the oldest castle in London. This ancient castle was established by William the Conqueror, and the oldest part of the tower structure is the White Tower. This building has served many purposes over the centuries, such as being a palace and prison. It still remains as one of the most famous buildings in the UK.
What Is the Oldest Building in the UK?
The oldest building in the UK is one that is up for debate, but the oldest structure is generally considered to be the Knap of Howar. This is an archaeological site comprised of two houses and a passageway, which was a residence. This is a Neolithic site from 3700 BCE. This makes it far older than London itself and everything in it. However, it has not been occupied as a residence for several thousand years.
Justin van Huyssteen is a writer, academic, and educator from Cape Town, South Africa. He holds two degrees in Theory of Literature and is currently completing a third. His primary focus in this field is the analysis of artistic objects through a number of theoretical lenses. His predominant theoretical areas of interest include narratology and critical theory in general, with a particular focus on animal studies. Other than academia, he is a novelist, game reviewer, and freelance writer.
Justin’s preferred architectural movements include the more modern and postmodern types of architecture, such as Bauhaus, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Brutalist, and Futurist varieties like sustainable architecture. He is also particularly interested in the many vernacular styles of architecture that have often gone unnoticed in favor of the more famous universalized styles. He likes the more inventive and unusual forms that tend to go against the descendants of Classical architecture.