In memory of Victoria Carter
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Eighty percent of the City of London was destroyed in the blaze of 1666. Almost three centuries later during the blitz of World War II the same amount of devastation occurred. Twice, almost the whole of the City’s buildings obliterated.
There are still remnants of the City’s 2,000 year history left, the main one being the complicated street layout, but even that has been changed over the years.
In the years that followed the war many building and developments were initiated at speed to get the City back on its feet. The sixties and seventies saw the bulk of these take shape and many were considered to be state of the art projects.
Today, in the 21st. century many are considered to be outdated, unsightly and no longer fit for purpose. In the first decade of the new millennium I saw more tower cranes appear all over the Square Mile than ever before. New building projects were taking place everywhere.
Most of these new buildings take into account the surrounding environment and although constructed of modern material try their best to fit in with the few remaining parts of the old City. Some even take into account any existing trees or plants and have to be built around them. At the moment there is also a clause in any new development plans, that a public space or garden has to be included in the project at the developer’s expense. Once completed, the City of London Parks and Open Spaces Department maintains it. A fair idea to me.
I would prefer to see the old buildings back again but you can’t stand in the way of progress, and something had to take the place of the ones that were destroyed!
Nothing to do with chivalry or men laying their cloaks over puddles. Far less romantic, the name comes from the Latin word “Cloaca” meaning sewer! The open drain running down the lane took the waste into the Walbrook stream. The remains of a bridge that spanned the Walbrook were found here during excavations, as well as some tessellated Roman paving.
The church of St. John the Baptist upon Walbrook stood here from the 12th. century until destroyed in the fire of 1666. When work was being carried out for the railway in 1879 the bodies from the church graveyard were moved to the North side of Cloak Lane and re interred under a monument erected there.
In the mid seventeenth century a man from Smyrna, named Pasqua Rosee, worked for a certain Mr. Edwards who owned a tavern on the site of the Jamaica Inn. They started offering coffee here in St. Michael’s Alley, and sold the first ever cup of coffee in London in 1652. The drink soon became the fashion of the day (for the wealthy), and in a short time there were coffee shops opening up all over the City. It became the custom to deposit gratuities in a large oak box standing on the counter inscribed with the letters T.I.P, meaning ‘To Increase Promptitude’, giving us the term “Tip” used today.
The Mansion House is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of the London. You can find it completing an imaginary triangle with the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange. It is used for many of the City's official functions. Designed by George Dance the elder, it took thirteen years to complete the building, from 1739 to 1752. Parts of it’s upper levels were demolished in 1794 and 1843 apparently due to being too large structures in comparison with the rest of the building. At the annual Lord Mayor’s Show scaffolding is erected where the incoming Lord Mayor and other officials watch the parade pass by before going to Saint Paul’s.
This 17th. century building stands in Queen Victoria Street. The royal heralds moved here when their previous home burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666. Luckily all their rolls and records were saved. Their original charter dates back to Richard III in 1484.
The present building was designed by the Master Builder to the Office of Works, Maurice Emmet. The gates and railings were given by an American benefactor in 1956.
The College of Arms is still in use today recording pedigrees and examining armorial bearings.
The title of Earl Marshall is always held by the Duke of Norfolk, and he is responsible for arranging all state occasions and proclamations.
Tivoli Corner is at the rear of the Bank of England on the corner of Princes Street and Lothbury. It is much later than the rest of the building although the same style of architecture has been adopted. I can only assume it was added to the bank (in 1936) because of the high volume of traffic within the Square Mile, and the narrow pavement making it difficult for pedestrians to navigate. There is a circular hole in the ceiling bearing the inscription: “The Bank of England made this way through Tivoli corner for the citizens of London 1936”. It is a grand structure with pillars and two great arches, simply (I presume) to cut off the corner when walking.
The Exchange was founded in 1565 by Sir Thomas Gresham and built at his own expense. It was used as a centre for commerce in the City of London. It was known as The Exchange until 1571 when Elizabeth I officially opened it as The Royal Exchange. The great fire of 1666 destroyed the original, and a new building opened three years later. This suffered the same fate, burning down in 1838.
The present building was opened by Queen Victoria in 1844 and remained the centre of commerce until 1939. The 21st century saw it become an up market shopping arcade for designer goods, and a plush bar while preserving the original outside architecture.
Although still known as the Lloyd's building, I believe it was sold to another company around 2004. It is located on the corner of Leadenhall Street and Lime Street, and due to it's stainless steel structure is unmistakable. It was designed by Richard Rogers and built over eight years from 1978 to 1986. The stairs, elevators, electric’s, and water pipes are all located on the outside of the building, and the 12 glass lifts were the first of their kind in the UK. The original 1928 building was demolished to make way for the present one. Only the original entrance in Leadenhall Street remains. It was left standing and now forms an uncomfortable looking addition.
When the ruin of the Temple of Mithras was found during excavation work in 1954 it caused quite a stir. It dated from the second century of the Roman occupation. It was carefully moved and stored stone by stone until the completion of Temple Court, the Legal and General Insurance office block. It was then replaced exactly as it had been found. It is no longer there, as the building has been demolished (2012). It was to be moved to a new covered site apparently be closer to it’s original position on the bank of the now lost Walbrook river. As soon as I find it I will update. The temple, dating from 240 AD, has been dismantled and is currently in storage with the Museum of London. (Updated March 2013)
Originally built as the Swiss Re Building, it retains it’s nickname of ‘the Gherkin. I once thought of it as the ugliest building in the City but my mind was changed when attending a class on modern architecture. As most of the old buildings were destroyed during the second World War, why not replace them with some memorable architecture. Sir Norman Foster, the designer, is only doing what Sir Christopher Wren did, designing structures that stand out from the rest! It stands at 30 Saint Mary Axe, but can be seen on the skyline for miles around. It was built to replace the old Baltic Exchange building destroyed by terrorists in the nineties. It is constructed almost entirely from glass and metal and incredibly, does not contain a single curved piece of glass.
Formerly known as the Nat West Tower, it was built between 1971 and 1979, opening in 1980. It now belongs to another company, a law firm I believe. The 600 foot high Tower 42 remained the tallest building in London for ten years until it was beaten by the Canary Wharf development in the Docklands development. It was also the highest cantilever structure in the world. When you stand at it’s base at 25 Old Broad Street you can see there is nothing supporting it on either side. Considering it’s age, it still looks very modern and doesn’t seem to have deteriorated like some.
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