The gallery of the City of London provides a fascinating look at the politics of the Square Mile over the past few centuries, with a great collection of paintings of London in the 18th and 19th centuries. Below the gallery is a Roman amphitheatre dating back to the early 2nd century AD.
Among paintings by Thomas Lawrence, George Frederick Watts and Lawrence Alma-Tadema is The Defeat of the Floating Batteries (1791) by the American John Singleton Copley, which depicts the British victory at Gibraltar in 1782. This huge oil painting was removed to safety just a month before the gallery was hit by a German bomb in 1941 – it spent 50 years rolled up before a spectacular restoration in 1999.
The archaeological remains of Roman London’s amphitheatre (or coliseum) were only discovered in 1988 when work finally began on a new gallery after the original’s destruction in the Blitz. They were immediately declared an ancient monument, and the new gallery was built around them. While only a few remnants of the stone walls lining the eastern entrance still stand, they’re imaginatively fleshed out with a black-and-fluorescent-green trompe l’oeil of the missing seating, and computer-meshed outlines of spectators and gladiators. Markings on the square outside the Guildhall indicate the original extent and scale of the amphitheatre, which could seat up to 6000 spectators.