Monday, April 16, 2012

The City of London.

Because my historical romances are set in London or other parts of England, I am fascinated by the enormous growth of the City of London and its importance throughout history. 
I hope you enjoy learning a little more about the Square Mile which is now only a tiny part of 'Greater London' yet is so famous.

Suzi Love.


The City of London is an area in central London, England, which made up most of London in Medieval times but is now only a small part of ‘Greater London’. It is just over one square mile (1.12 sq mi/2.90 km2) in area, so is referred to as the ‘City’, or the ‘Square Mile’.
Add Borders of the City of London, showing surrounding London boroughs and the pre-1994 boundary (where changed) in red. The area covered by the Inner and Middle Temple is marked.

 It is one of London’s 32 boroughs, alongside the City of Westminster and only has a little over 11,000 residents, although around 316,700 people work there, mainly in financial services. It is England's smallest ceremonial county by area and population and the fourth most densely populated.

City and financial district

In the 19th century, the City was the world's primary business centre and today it still ranks above New York City as the leading centre of global finance. The legal profession takes up most of the Western area, especially with the Inns of Court in the Temple and Chancery Lane areas, having the Inner Temple and Middle Temple both within the City of London.
Many Roman sites and artefacts can be seen in the City of London today, including the Temple of Mithras, sections of the London Wall (at the Barbican and near the Tower of London), the London Stone and remains of the amphitheatre beneath the Guildhall. The Museum of London, located in the City, holds many of the Roman finds and has permanent Roman exhibitions, as well as being a source of information on Roman London generally.


Borders of the City of London, showing surrounding London boroughs and the pre-1994 boundary (where changed) in red. The area covered by the Inner and Middle Temple is marked.
The City borders Westminster, crosses the Victoria Embankment, passes to the west of Middle Temple, along Strand and north up Chancery Lane, where it borders Camden. It turns east to Holborn Circus, with Baltic Street West as the most northerly boundary and in the south in includes Bishopsgate and Petticoat Lane. The City controls the full span of London Bridge but only half of the river underneath it.
Boundaries are marked by black bollards bearing the City's emblem, and by dragon boundary marks at major entrances e.g. Holborn, with a similar monument at Temple Bar on Fleet Street.

 Dragon statue atop the Temple Bar monument, which marks the boundary between the City and Westminster.

Roman London was established as a trading port by merchants on the tidal Thames around 47 AD but by the time of the construction of the London Wall, the city's fortunes were in decline, with problems of plague and fire. Alfred the Great, King of Wessex and arguably the first king of the 'English', began 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 1666 Great Fire destroyed nearly 80% of the City.

Map showing the extent of the Great Fire 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.
By the beginning of the 19th century, London was expanding rapidly in every direction and railways and the Tube allowed it to spread over a greater area. To the East, the Port of London grew when new docks were needed because the Thames at the City could not cope with the volume of trade. In 1894, an attempt was made to amalgamate the City and the surrounding County of London, but it did not succeed so the City elected four members to the unreformed House of Commons, which it retained after the Reform Act 1832 and into the 20th century.
St Paul's Cathedral, 1896.
During World War II, The City was aerial bombed in ‘The Blitz’ and although St Paul's Cathedral survived, large swathes of the City did not and the particularly heavy raids of late December 1940 led to a firestorm called the Second Great Fire of London.
In the decades following the war, there was a major rebuilding programme with modern and larger-scale developments.

They altered the City's urban landscape, although the parts which survived the bombings retained smaller buildings and old character.

The street pattern, which is still largely medieval, was altered slightly in certain places, although there is a more recent trend of reversing some of the post-war modernist changes made, such as at Paternoster Square.

Political and Legal   

The City is a ceremonial county, although it has a Commission of Lieutenancy, headed by the Lord Mayor, instead of a Lord-Lieutenant. Instead of a High Sheriff, two Sheriffs hold quasi-judicial offices and are appointed by the Livery Companies, another ancient political system based on the representation and protection of trades. Senior members of the Livery Companies are known as Liverymen and form a special electorate called the Common Hall and this body chooses the Lord Mayor of the City, the Sheriffs and certain other officers.
The local authority for the City, the City of London Corporation, has unusual responsibilities, eg. the police authority for the City, and holds ownerships beyond the City's 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 Guildhall - the ceremonial and administrative centre of the City

Numerous Functions of the City 

The City has an independent police force, the City of London Police, and the Common Council is the police authority, while the rest of Greater London is policed by the Metropolitan Police Service from New Scotland Yard.

The Corporation owns and runs both the Smithfield and Leadenhall Markets  and a number of locations beyond the boundaries of the City, which include parks, forests and commons eg most of Epping Forest, Hampstead Heath and many public spaces in Northern Ireland through The Honourable The Irish Society.

It also owns Old Spitalfields Market and Billingsgate Fish Market, both of which are within the neighbouring London Borough of Tower Hamlets, owns and helps fund the Old Bailey, the Central Criminal Court for England and Wales, as a gift to the nation, it having begun as the City and Middlesex Sessions.
In 1123, the only hospital, St Bartholomews at Smithfield, was founded. Known as 'Barts', the hospital is undergoing a long-awaited regeneration.

The City is the third largest UK funding-patron of the arts. It oversees the Barbican Centre and subsidises several important performing arts companies.

The Corporation is The Port of London's health authority, includes the handling of imported cargo at London Heathrow airport, oversees the running of the Bridge House Trust which maintains five key bridges in central London, London Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge, Southwark Bridge, Tower Bridge and the Millennium Bridge. The City's flag flies over Tower Bridge, although neither footing is in the City.
Mansion House - the official residence of the Lord Mayor

Former Lord Mayor of London John Stuttard during the Lord Mayor's parade of 2006


Allison Butler said...

Hi Suzi,

Thanks so much for the fascinating post. What a turbulent history the City of London has? I love the Dragon statue used as a boundary marker:) and I think it's wonderful that St Bartholomews is finally getting a long-awaited regeneration. Fabulous!

Maggi Andersen said...

Fabulous old city and interesting post, thanks, Suzi.

Cheryl Leigh said...

Wonderful post, Suzi! London is my favorite city. :) Amazing what you can fit in a square mile, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Great post, Sue.

I've touched part of the Roman wall that still stands around parts of London. Just a fascinating, wonderful city full of history.

Can't wait to go back there.
Tam :D

Elle Fynllay said...

So much history; you would just want to stand there in the center and absorb it through your pores. Great post Suzi

Anonymous said...

Great post Suzi,
I know I could spend a lifetime with the fascinating history there and still I'd want more :)

You said it all Elle!
We only got to spend 1 full day at the British Museum and IT wasn't near enough. The English people have so much ... I do hope they appreciate it. :)