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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Guildhall Art Gallery, London

Guildhall Art Gallery

Guildhall Art Gallery, London

The Guildhall Art Gallery houses the art collection of the City of London, England. The gallery was initially built in 1885 to house art collections from the City of London Corporation. Today it occupies a building that was completed in 1999 to replace an earlier structure that was destroyed in The Blitz in 1941. It is a stone building in a semi-gothic style intended to be sympathetic to the historic Guildhall, which is adjacent.

The Guildhall Art Gallery collection consists of about 4,000 works, of which around 250 are on display at any one time. Many of the paintings are of London themes. There is also a significant collection of Victorian-era art, including Pre-Raphaelites, which features paintings by artists such as John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Abraham Solomon, Edward John Poynter, and Edwin Landseer.

Roman Amphitheatre, London

The Guildhall complex was built on the site of London’s first Roman amphitheater. Some of the remains of this are displayed in its actual place in the basement of the art gallery. The Roman Amphitheatre ruins were discovered in 1985.

London’s first Roman amphitheater was built in 70 AD from wood but was renovated in the early 2nd century with tiled entrances and stone walls. The amphitheater was used for various events such as gladiator games, entertainment with animal fighting, the public execution of criminals, and religious activities. When the ancient Romans left in the 4th century, the amphitheater lay derelict for hundreds of years. In the 11th century, the area was reoccupied, and by the 12th century, the first Guildhall was built next to it.

Highlights of the Guildhall Art Gallery, London

Guildhall Art Gallery, London

  • Museum:       Guildhall Art Gallery, London
  • City:              London
  • Country:        United Kingdom
  • Built:             1676
  • Type:              Historic House Museum
  • Location:        Greenwich, London, United Kingdom

Visiting the Guildhall Art Gallery, London

  • Entry to the gallery is free; special exhibitions have a charged fee.
  • Public transport, use the Tube: Bank, Moorgate, and then follow street signs for Guildhall or Guildhall Art Gallery.

Guildhall Art Gallery Facts

  • The Gallery shows a changing display of about 250 artworks from its collection of paintings, drawings, and sculptures.
  • Check the website for its program of temporary exhibitions.
  • The first Guildhall Art Gallery was built in 1885 to display the City of London’s growing art collection. It aimed to cater to the increasing taste for Art in Victorian society.
  • The Victorian gallery was destroyed by fire during an air raid of the Second World War in 1941. Large parts of the collection had been removed to underground storage as had the collections from other London museums and galleries, but 164 paintings, drawings, watercolors and prints, and 20 sculptures were destroyed.
  • A temporary structure was built on the cleared site in 1946 for use as a ceremonial venue and exhibition space.
  • In 1985 the City redeveloped the site and added a new Gallery, and in 1987 the remains of the original Gallery were demolished. Shortly afterward Archaeologists discovered the remains of London’s Roman Amphitheatre.
  • The new Guildhall Art Gallery building was re-designed to incorporate the Roman Amphitheatre.
  • The new Guildhall Art Gallery opened in 1999 and the Amphitheatre in 2002.
  • Make sure to glance down on the Guildhall Yard in front of the Art Gallery. There is an 80m-wide curved line of dark stone that follows the edge of the Ancient Roman Amphitheatre.
  • The actual remains of the amphitheater are located around eight meters below the ground, buried beneath layers of ancient rubbish and rubble. The entrance to the amphitheater is via the Guildhall Art Gallery.
  • After the Romans abandoned Britain in the 4th century, the amphitheater was dismantled. Much of its building material was used for building materials.
  • The amphitheater was found within the old Roman city walls, whereas the majority of ancient amphitheaters were located on the outside of city walls.

Explore London’s Museums and Heritage Sites

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“There is nothing more enticing, disenchanting, and enslaving than the life at sea.” 
– Joseph Conrad

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Photo Credit: JOM

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