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.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 2/18/2014 10:30:25 AM
Waymark Code: WMK60D
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Bear and Ragged
Views: 1

Long Description:

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 4, 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.

Name: Royal Exchange

Bank Junction London United Kimgdom

Country: United Kingdom

URL: [Web Link]

Is this exchange still active at this location: no

Activity Period: 1570-2001

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