The City of London and Central London
Bank of England
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Moorfields Eye Hospital
Old Broad Street
St Bartholomew’s Hospital
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Tower of London
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The London City is a city and county within London. It constituted most of London from its settlement by the Romans in the 1st century AD to the Middle Ages, but the agglomeration has since grown far beyond the City’s borders. The City is now only a tiny part of the metropolis of London, though it remains a notable part of central London. Administratively, it forms one of the 33 local authority districts of Greater London; however, the City of London is not a London borough, a status reserved for the other 32 districts (including London’s only other city, the City of Westminster).
The City of London is widely referred to simply as the City (differentiated from the phrase “the city of London” by capitalising City) and is also colloquially known as the Square Mile, as it is 1.12 sq mi (2.90 km2) in area. Both of these terms are also often used as metonyms for the United Kingdom’s trading and financial services industries, which continue a notable history of being largely based in the City. The name London is now ordinarily used for a far wider area than just the City. London City most often denotes the sprawling London metropolis, or the 32 London boroughs, in addition to the City of London itself. This wider usage of London is documented as far back as 1888, when the County of London was created.
The local authority for the City, namely the City of London Corporation, is unique in the UK and has some unusual responsibilities for a local council, such as being the police authority. It is also unusual in having responsibilities and ownerships beyond its boundaries. The Corporation is headed by the Lord Mayor of the City of London, an office separate from (and much older than) the Mayor of London. The current Lord Mayor, as of November 2016, is Andrew Parmley.
The London City is a major business and financial centre. Throughout the 19th century, the City was the world’s primary business centre, and it continues to be a major meeting point for businesses. London came top in the Worldwide Centres of Commerce Index, published in 2008. The insurance industry is focused around the eastern side of the City, around Lloyd’s building. A secondary financial district exists outside of the City, at Canary Wharf, 2.5 miles (4 km) to the east.
The London City has a resident population of about 7,000 (2011) but over 300,000 people commute to and work there, mainly in the financial services sector. The legal profession forms a major component of the northern and western sides of the City, especially in the Temple and Chancery Lane areas where the Inns of Court are located, of which two—Inner Temple and Middle Temple—fall within the City of London boundary.
It used to be widely held that Londinium was first established by merchants as a trading port on the tidal Thames in around 47 AD, during the early years of the Roman occupation of Britain. However, this date is only supposition. The Romans have left no record of when or how the city was founded and the very first time they mention the city is in the annals of Tacitus (in 61 AD) when he relates how Londinium was among a group of important cities sacked by the Iceni, led by their queen, Boudica.
Many historians now believe London was founded some time before the Roman conquest of Britain in 43 AD. They base this notion on evidence provided by both archaeology and Welsh literary legend. Archaeologists have claimed that as much as half of the best British Iron Age art and metalwork discovered in Britain has been found in the London area. One of the most prominent examples is the famously horned “Waterloo Helmet” dredged from the Thames in the early 1860s and now exhibited at the British Museum.
Also, according to an ancient Welsh legend, a king named Lud son of Heli substantially enlarged and improved a pre-existing settlement at London which afterwards came to be renamed after him. The same tradition relates how this Lud son of Heli was later buried at Ludgate (Welsh: Porthlud).
Llydd was the eldest son. And after his father (Beli Mawr) was dead he took the government of the island. And he strengthened the walls of Llvndain, surrounded the city with many farmsteads, and lived in it the greater part of the year. And he had built within the city walls splendid buildings the like of which were not seen in all countries. And he called it Kaer Lvdd; and in the end it was called Kaer Lvndain. And, after the coming of the alien nation into it, it was called Kaer Lwndwn.
—Ystorya Brenhined y Brytanyeit, Jesus MS. LXI.
Nevertheless, after the conquest the Romans certainly developed the settlement and port, with its centre roughly where the shallow stream the Walbrook met the Thames. After the city had been destroyed by Boudica in 60 AD it was entirely rebuilt as a planned settlement (a civitas), and the new walled town was prosperous and grew to become the largest settlement in Roman Britain by the end of the 1st century. By the beginning of the 2nd century, Londinium had replaced Camulodunum (Colchester) as the capital of Roman Britain (“Britannia”).
At its height, the Roman city had a population of approximately 45,000–60,000 inhabitants. The Romans built the London Wall sometime between 190 and 225 AD. The boundaries of the Roman city were similar to those of the City of London today, though Londinium did not extend further west than Ludgate or the Fleet, and the mid-estuary Thames was undredged and wider than it is today thus, the City’s shoreline was north of its present position. The Romans built a bridge across the river, as early as 50 AD, near to today’s London Bridge.
Many Roman sites and artefacts can be seen in the City, including the Temple of Mithras, sections of the London Wall (at the Barbican and near Tower Hill), the London Stone and remains of the amphitheatre beneath the Guildhall. The Museum of London holds many of the Roman finds, has permanent Roman exhibitions and holds research collections.
By the time the London Wall was constructed, the City’s fortunes were in decline, and it faced problems of plague and fire. The Roman Empire entered a long period of instability and decline, including the Carausian Revolt in Britain. In the 3rd and 4th centuries, the city was under attack from Picts, Scots, and Saxon raiders. The decline continued, both for Londinium and the Empire, and in 410 AD the Romans withdrew entirely from Britain. Many of the Roman public buildings in Londinium by this time had fallen into decay and disuse, and gradually after the formal withdrawal, the city became almost (if not, at times, entirely) uninhabited. The centre of trade and population moved away from the walled Londinium to Lundenwic (“London market”), a settlement to the west, roughly in the modern day Strand/Aldwych/Covent Garden area.
During the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy, the London area came in turn under the Kingdoms of Essex, Mercia, and later Wessex, though from the mid 8th century it was frequently under the control or threat of the Vikings.
Bede records that in 604 AD St Augustine consecrated Mellitus as the first bishop to the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the East Saxons and their king, Sæberht. Sæberht’s uncle and overlord, Æthelberht, king of Kent, built a church dedicated to St Paul in London, as the seat of the new bishop. It is assumed, although unproven, that this first Anglo-Saxon cathedral stood on the same site as the later medieval and the present cathedrals.
Alfred the Great, King of Wessex and arguably the first king of the “English”, occupied and began the resettlement of the old Roman walled area, in 886, and appointed his son-in-law Earl Æthelred of Mercia over it as part of their reconquest of the Viking occupied parts of England. The refortified Anglo-Saxon settlement was known as Lundenburh (“London Fort”, a borough). The historian Asser said that “Alfred, king of the Anglo-Saxons, restored the city of London splendidly … and made it habitable once more.” Alfred’s “restoration” entailed reoccupying and refurbishing the nearly deserted Roman walled city, building quays along the Thames, and laying a new city street plan.
Alfred’s taking of London and the rebuilding of the old Roman city was a turning point in history, not only as the permanent establishment of the City of London, but also as part of a unifying moment in early England, with Wessex becoming the dominant English kingdom and the repelling (to some degree) of the Viking occupation and raids. While London, and indeed England, were afterwards subjected to further periods of Viking and Danish raids and occupation, the establishment of the City of London and the Kingdom of England prevailed.
In the 10th century, Athelstan permitted eight mints to be established, compared with six in his capital, Winchester, indicating the wealth of the city. London Bridge, which had fallen into ruin following the Roman evacuation and abandonment of Londinium, was rebuilt by the Saxons, but was periodically destroyed by Viking raids and storms.
As the focus of trade and population was moved back to within the old Roman walls, the older Saxon settlement of Lundenwic was largely abandoned and gained the name of Ealdwic (the “old settlement”). The name survives today as Aldwych (the “old market-place”), a name of a street and an area of the City of Westminster between Westminster and the City of London.
A pivotal event during the Peasants’ Revolt, 1381: their leader Wat Tyler is stabbed by William Walworth, Lord Mayor
Following the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror marched on London (reaching as far as Southwark), but failed to get across London Bridge or to defeat the Londoners. He eventually crossed the River Thames at Wallingford, pillaging the land as he went. Rather than continuing the war, Edgar the Ætheling, Edwin of Mercia and Morcar of Northumbria surrendered at Berkhamsted. William granted the citizens of London a charter in 1075; the City was one of a few examples of the English retaining some authority. The City was not covered by the Domesday Book.
William built three castles nearby, to keep Londoners subdued:
Tower of London
About 1130, Henry I granted a sheriff to the people of London, along with control of the county of Middlesex: this meant that the two entities were regarded as one administratively (not that the county was a dependency of the City) until the Local Government Act 1888. By 1141 the whole body of the citizenry was considered to constitute a single community. This ‘commune’ was the origin of the City of London Corporation and the citizens gained the right to appoint, with the king’s consent, a Mayor in 1189—and to directly elect the Mayor from 1215.
From medieval times, the City has been composed of 25 ancient wards, each headed by an Alderman, who chairs Wardmotes, which still take place at least annually. A Folkmoot, for the whole of the City held at the outdoor cross of St Paul’s Cathedral, was formerly also held. Many of the medieval offices and traditions continue to the present day, demonstrating the unique nature of the City and its Corporation.
In 1381, the Peasants’ Revolt affected London. The rebels took the City and the Tower of London, but the rebellion ended after its leader, Wat Tyler, was killed during a confrontation that included Lord Mayor William Walworth.
The City was burned severely on a number of occasions, the worst being in 1123 and (more famously) in the Great Fire of London in 1666. Both of these fires were referred to as the Great Fire. After the fire of 1666, a number of plans were drawn up to remodel the City and its street pattern into a renaissance-style city with planned urban blocks, squares and boulevards. These plans were almost entirely not taken up, and the medieval street pattern re-emerged almost intact.
Early modern period
By the late 16th century, London increasingly became a major centre for banking, international trade and commerce. The Royal Exchange was founded in 1565 by Sir Thomas Gresham as a centre of commerce for London’s merchants, and gained Royal patronage in 1571. Although no longer used for its original purpose, its location at the corner of Cornhill and Threadneedle Street continues to be the geographical centre of the City’s core of banking and financial services, with the Bank of England moving to its present site in 1734, opposite the Royal Exchange on Threadneedle Street. Immediately to the south of Cornhill, Lombard Street was the location from 1691 of Lloyd’s Coffee House, which became the world-leading insurance market. London’s insurance sector continues to be based in the area, particularly in Lime Street.
In 1708, Christopher Wren’s masterpiece, St Paul’s Cathedral, was completed on his birthday. The first service had been held on 2 December 1697, more than 10 years earlier. It replaced the original St Paul’s, which had been destroyed in the Great Fire of London, and is considered to be one of the finest cathedrals in Britain and a fine example of Baroque architecture.
Growth of London
The 18th century was a period of rapid growth for London, reflecting an increasing national population, the early stirrings of the Industrial Revolution, and London’s role at the centre of the evolving British Empire. The urban area expanded beyond the borders of the City of London, most notably during this period towards the West End and Westminster.
Expansion continued and became more rapid by the beginning of the 19th century, with London growing in all directions. To the East the Port of London grew rapidly during the century, with the construction of many docks, needed as the Thames at the City could not cope with the volume of trade. The arrival of the railways and the Tube meant that London could expand over a much greater area. By the mid-19th century, with London still rapidly expanding in population and area, the City had already become only a small part of the wider metropolis.
19th and 20th centuries
An attempt was made in 1894 with the Royal Commission on the Amalgamation of the City and County of London to end the distinction between the City and the surrounding County of London, but a change of government at Westminster meant the option was not taken up. The City as a distinct polity survived despite its position within the London conurbation and numerous local government reforms. Supporting this status, the City was a special parliamentary borough that elected four members to the unreformed House of Commons, who were retained after the Reform Act 1832; reduced to two under the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885; and ceased to be a separate constituency under the Representation of the People Act 1948. Since then the City is a minority (in terms of population and area) of the Cities of London and Westminster.
The City’s population fell rapidly in the 19th century and through most of the 20th century, as people moved outwards in all directions to London’s vast suburbs, and many residential buildings were demolished to make way for office blocks. Like many areas of London and other British cities, the City fell victim to large scale and highly destructive aerial bombing during World War II, especially in the Blitz. Whilst St Paul’s Cathedral survived the onslaught, large swathes of the area did not and the particularly heavy raids of late December 1940 led to a firestorm called the Second Great Fire of London.
There was a major rebuilding programme in the decades following the war, in some parts (such as at the Barbican) dramatically altering the urban landscape. But the destruction of the older historic fabric allowed the construction of modern and larger-scale developments, whereas in those parts not so badly affected by bomb damage the City retains its older character of smaller buildings. The street pattern, which is still largely medieval, was altered slightly in places, although there is a more recent trend of reversing some of the post-war modernist changes made, such as at Paternoster Square.
The City suffered terrorist attacks including the 1993 Bishopsgate bombing and the 7 July 2005 London bombings. In response to the 1993 bombing, a system of road barriers, checkpoints and surveillance cameras referred to as the “ring of steel” has been maintained to control entry points to the City.
The 1970s saw the construction of tall office buildings including the 600-foot (183 m), 47-storey Natwest Tower, the first skyscraper in the UK. Office space development has intensified especially in the central, northern and eastern parts, with skyscrapers including 30 St. Mary Axe (“the Gherkin”‘), Leadenhall Building (“the Cheesegrater”), 20 Fenchurch Street (“the Walkie-Talkie”), the Broadgate Tower and the Heron Tower, the tallest in the City. Another skyscraper, 22 Bishopsgate, is under construction.
The main residential section of the City today is the Barbican Estate, constructed between 1965 and 1976. The Museum of London is based there, as are some other services provided by the Corporation.
Guildhall is the ceremonial and administrative centre of the City.
Mansion House is the official residence of the Lord Mayor.
Former Lord Mayor of the City of London John Stuttard during the Lord Mayor’s Show of 2006.
The City has a unique political status, a legacy of its uninterrupted integrity as a corporate city since the Anglo-Saxon period and its singular relationship with the Crown. Historically its system of government was not unusual, but it was not reformed by the Municipal Reform Act 1835 and little changed by later reforms.
It is administered by the City of London Corporation, headed by the Lord Mayor of London (not the same as the more recent Mayor of London), which is responsible for some of functions and has interests in land beyond the City’s boundaries. Unlike other English local authorities, the Corporation has two council bodies: the (now largely ceremonial) Court of Aldermen and the Court of Common Council. The Court of Aldermen represents the wards, with each ward (irrespective of size) returning one Alderman. The chief executive of the Corporation holds the ancient office of Town Clerk of London.
The City is a ceremonial county which has a Commission of Lieutenancy headed by the Lord Mayor instead of a Lord-Lieutenant and has two Sheriffs instead of a High Sheriff (see list of Sheriffs of London), quasi-judicial offices appointed by the Livery Companies, an ancient political system based on the representation and protection of trades (Guilds). Senior members of the Livery Companies are known as Liverymen and form the Common Hall, which chooses the Lord Mayor, the Sheriffs and certain other officers.
The City is made up of 25 wards. They are survivors of the medieval government system that allowed a very local area to exist as a self-governing unit within the wider city. They can be described as electoral/political divisions; ceremonial, geographic and administrative entities; sub-divisions of the City. Each ward has an Alderman, who until the mid-1960s held office for life but since put themselves up for re-election at least every 6 years. Wards continue to have a Beadle, an ancient position which is now largely ceremonial whose main remaining function is the running of an annual Wardmote of electors, representatives and officials. At the Wardmote the ward’s Alderman appoints at least one Deputy for the year ahead. Each ward also has a Ward Club, which is similar to a residents’ association.
The wards are ancient and their number has changed three times since time immemorial
1394 Farringdon was divided into Farringdon Within and Farringdon Without
1550 the ward of Bridge Without, south of the river, was created, the ward of Bridge becoming Bridge Within.
1978 these Bridge wards were merged as Bridge ward.
Following boundary changes in 1994, and later reform of the business vote in the City, there was a major boundary and electoral representation revision of the wards in 2003, and they were reviewed again in 2010 for change in 2013, though not to such a dramatic extent. The review was conducted by senior officers of the Corporation and senior judges of the Old Bailey; the wards are reviewed by this process to avoid malapportionment. The procedure of review is unique in the United Kingdom as it is not conducted by the Electoral Commission or a local government boundary commission every 8 to 12 years, which is the case for all other wards in Great Britain.
Selected churches, livery company halls and other historic buildings and structures are associated with a ward, such as St Paul’s Cathedral with Castle Baynard, and London Bridge with Bridge; boundary changes in 2003 removed some of these historic connections.
Each ward elects an Alderman to the Court of Aldermen, and Commoners (the City equivalent of a Councillor) to the Court of Common Council of the Corporation. Only electors who are Freemen of the City of London are eligible to stand. The number of Commoners a ward sends to the Common Council varies from two to ten, depending on the number of electors in each ward. Since the 2003 review it has been agreed that the four more residential wards: Portsoken, Queenhithe, Aldersgate and Cripplegate together elect 20 of the 100 Commoners, whereas the business-dominated remainder elect the remaining 80 Commoners. 2003 and 2013 boundary changes have increased the residential emphasis of the mentioned four wards.
Census data provides eight nominal rather than 25 real wards, all of varying size and population. Being subject to renaming and definition at any time, these census ‘wards’ are notable in that four of the eight wards accounted for 67% of the ‘square mile’ and held 86% of the population, and these were in fact similar to and named after four City of London wards: