The Royal Exchange - London, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 51° 30.812 W 000° 05.277
30U E 702053 N 5710954
Quick Description: The Royal Exchange sits between Threadneedle Street and Cornhill at the heart of the City of London. The western end of the building overlooks Bank junction where six roads meet. It is now a high class shopping centre.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 2/18/2014 11:02:17 AM
Waymark Code: WMK60J
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member coisos
Views: 0

Long Description:

The Scottish Architects wbsite tells us:

William Tite was born in London on 7 February 1798, the son of Arthur Tite, a wealthy merchant. He was articled to David Laing in 1812, admitted to the Royal Academy Schools in 1818 and was largely responsible for Laing's St Dunstan-in-the-East Church as early as 1817-20. His independent career took off with the commission to design Mill Hill School in 1825, and in 1832 he married an heiress, Emily Curtis. He was President of the Architectural Society in 1838 until it merged with the RIBA in 1842. For some years he was in partnership with Edward Norton Clifton, post-1839 but the dates have not been clearly established.

Tite's Scottish practice arose mainly from his pioneering work as a railway architect. In July 1846 he offered his services to the Caledonian Railway, and his offer was accepted. He visited Glasgow on 14 October and produced a detailed report on what was required on 27 May 1847. Work proceeded on a number of stations, but of the two main termini, Dunlop Street, Glasgow was never built and at Lothian Road, Edinburgh only the train-shed was built in shortened form. As Tite's health failed, much of the work was carried out by his chief assistant Ebeneezer Trotman. Relations between the Caledonian Railway and Tite began to break down from January 1850 when Tite's fees amounted to £6,181 8s 3d of which £2,024 18s 6d had been paid and the Company was unable to meet the balance. Tite succeeded in obtaining his fees as a result of a Court of Session decision on 5 February 1851, but his Scottish practice was at an end.

Tite visited Italy in 1851-52 to recover his health. He gradually withdrew from practice and entered politics as Liberal MP for Bath from 1855. He was RIBA Gold Medallist in 1856 and President of the RIBA 1861-63 and again in 1867-69, his presidency ending with a knighthood. He died at Torquay 20 April 1873 leaving moveable estate of just under £400,000 ('I inherited a fortune, I married a fortune and I have made a fortune').

The History website tells us:

Financial trading in Tudor times was very different from today’s electronic world. In the middle of the 16th century, deals were still being done in the muddy streets of the City of London. That might have continued had one Sir Thomas Gresham not suggested copying the European way of doing things, by moving the trading into a purpose-built building. As luck would have it, this move pre-empted the Spanish sacking of Antwerp in 1576, destroying its position as the financial capital of Europe and allowing London merchants to fill the vacuum.

Gresham’s inspiration was the Bourse in Antwerp, where he had been Royal Agent for both King Edward VI and Queen Mary. Gresham was a very wealthy man, thanks to a sizeable inheritance and his own financial wheeler-dealing whilst in Antwerp. He invested a huge chunk of this fortune in a new London Bourse, which was built between 1566 and 1570 on land provided by the City Corporation between Cornhill and Threadneedle Street in the City of London.

The trading floor in the Flemish-style (and, in parts, Italianate) building was open to the elements, with piazzas for wet weather. Its bell-tower, crowned by a huge grasshopper, stood on one side of the main entrance, from which the bell summoned merchants at 12 noon and 6pm.

Although Gresham’s aim was to build somewhere to house a trading floor, his really smart move was realising that this wouldn’t be very profitable on its own. So he added two more floors on top and moved into the retail business, opening Britain’s very first shopping mall. This had about a hundred kiosks or shops, with each shopkeeper paying annual rent, giving Gresham, in theory, a nice steady income.

After a slow start, Gresham’s retail idea finally took off following the promise of a visit by Queen Elizabeth I in 1570. She ordered its change of name from the Bourse to the Royal Exchange. Thereafter it was known as much for the wonderful range of goods on sale as for the trading. Predictably perhaps, the new Exchange also attracted ‘idlers’ as well as traders and shoppers, to the distraction of the merchants going to the Exchange to do business.

Although its shopping was a pleasant diversion, Gresham’s Royal Exchange was key to the new wealth of the City. Queen Elizabeth I was quick to get in on the act: she licensed legal landing quays for goods on the banks of the Thames, ensuring the Crown got its share of the wealth, while underpinning London’s status as the new centre for trading.

In the late twentieth century, the Royal Exchange briefly reverted to its use as a centre for financial trading when, for nine years, it was home to the London International Financial Futures Exchange (LIFFE). However, the financial institutions have now moved away to purpose-built premises and the Royal Exchange is now purely an upmarket retail centre.

The Royal Exchange is a Grade I listed building with the entry at the English Heritage website telling us:

1841 to 44, by Sir William Tite. Building of 2 main storeys round arcaded courtyard, formerly open. Rich, heavy classical style in Portland stone. 8 columned portico to west with figure sculpture in tympanum of pediment and 3 arched openings behind with barrel vaults above. Side elevations pilastered, with arcades incorporating shops below a mezzanine and upper windows with shaped heads. 3 central bays have richer carving and single, recessed entrance. 2 statues to north elevation. Attic storey behind modelled parapet and balustrade. Pairs of chimney stacks connected by arches. Curved corners at rear and central portico of 4 engaged columns. Pilastered tower above with large statue of Sir Thomas Evesham, pair of consoles and 2 flanking turrets, topped by urns and lantern with pairs of columns set diagonally and crowning cupola. Interior approached through decorative iron gates. 2 storeys, treated with arcading and orders of engaged Doric and Ionic columns. Arched and pedimented 1st floor windows and large bracketed cornice now supporting heavy roof of cast iron and glass with coving, central dome and much enrichment. Central area has patterned paving. Cloister walls plain with series of C19 and C20 historical paintings of varied quality. Statues of Queen Elizabeth 1844, by M L Watson, Charles II by Gibbons (?), Queen Victoria by Hamo Thorneycroft, 1895, Prince Albert by J G Lough, 1841/2, Bust of Abraham Lincoln by Andrew O'Connor, 1930. The design of the building perpetuates the general form of its predecessors of 1566 and 1667-9. Listed grade I as the symbolic centre of the commercial life of the City as much as for its architectural quality.

Architect: Sir William Tite

Prize received: RIBA Royal Gold Medal

In what year: 1856

Website about the Architect: [Web Link]

Website about the building: [Web Link]

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