Royal Exchange, London

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Royal Exchange
Royal Exchange, Threadneedle Street EC2 - geograph.org.uk - 1272444.jpg
Royal Exchange in 2006
Location London, United Kingdom
Opening date 23 January 1571; 443 years ago (1571-01-23) (original structure)
28 October 1844; 170 years ago (1844-10-28) (current structure)
Owner Oxford Properties Group Inc (since 2013)
No. of stores and services 33 stores; 5 restaurants and cafes
Parking None
Public transit access Bank and Monument stations
Website theroyalexchange.co.uk

The Royal Exchange in London was founded in the 16th century by the merchant Thomas Gresham to act as a centre of commerce for the City of London. The site was provided by the City of London Corporation and the Worshipful Company of Mercers, who still jointly own the freehold. It is trapezoidal in shape and is flanked by Cornhill and Threadneedle Street which converge at Bank junction in the heart of the City. The design was inspired by a bourse Gresham had seen in Antwerp, Belgium, and was Britain's first specialist commercial building.

It has twice been destroyed by fire and rebuilt. The present building was designed by William Tite in the 1840s and is currently up for sale. The site was notably occupied by the Lloyd's insurance market for nearly 150 years. Today the Royal Exchange contains offices, luxury shops and a restaurant.

History[edit]

The Royal Exchange was officially opened on 23 January 1571 by Queen Elizabeth I who awarded the building its royal title and licence to sell alcohol.[1] During the 17th century, stockbrokers were not allowed in the Royal Exchange because of their rude manners, hence they had to operate from other establishments in the vicinity, such as Jonathan's Coffee-House. Gresham's original building was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. A second complex was built on the site, designed by Edward Jarman, and opened in 1669, but was also destroyed by fire on 10 January 1838.[2] It had been used by the Lloyd's of London insurance market, which was forced to move temporarily to South Sea House following the 1838 fire.

A statue of the Duke of Wellington inaugurated in 1844 outside the Royal Exchange.

The third Royal Exchange building, which still stands today, was designed by William Tite and adheres to the original layout – consisting of a four-sided structure surrounding a central courtyard where merchants and tradesmen could do business. The internal works, designed by Edward I'Anson in 1837, made use of concrete — an early example of this modern construction method.[3] It features pediment sculptures by Richard Westmacott (the younger), and ornamental cast ironwork by Henry Grissell's Regent's Canal Ironworks. It was opened by Queen Victoria on 28 October 1844, though trading did not commence until 1 January 1845.

In June 1844, just before the reopening of the Royal Exchange, a statue of Arthur Wellesley, the first duke of Wellington, was unveiled outside the building. The bronze used to cast this had come from enemy cannon captured during Wellington's continental campaigns.

Paul Julius Reuter established the Reuters news agency at No. 1, Royal Exchange Buildings (opposite and to the east of the Royal Exchange) in 1851. It later moved to Fleet Street.

In 1892, scenes from London's history were painted on the first-floor walls by artists including Sir Frederick Leighton and Sir Frank Brangwyn.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, trading at the Royal Exchange virtually ended. At the War's end, the building had survived the Blitz, albeit with some near misses.

Modern use[edit]

Aerial view of the Royal Exchange

In 2001 the Royal Exchange was once again extensively remodelled by architects Aukett Fitzroy Robinson. Reconstruction of the courtyard created new boutiques and restaurants to add to the existing retailers on the perimeter. The Royal Exchange is now a retail centre with shops, cafes and restaurants. Shops include Boodles, Hermès, and Tiffany & Co. In 2003 the Grand Café and Bar was launched and completed the building.

In Royal Exchange Buildings, a lane by the eastern entrance to the Royal Exchange, stands two statues: one of Paul Julius Reuter who founded his news agency there, and one of George Peabody who founded the Peabody Trust.

In 2013 the Royal Exchange was sold by the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation and Alanis Capital, the property vehicle of the McCormack family of Ireland, to a Canadian property company. It had been announced that the site would be sold with a 104-year lease.[4] Oxford Properties Group, a division of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, bought the retail centre for a reported £86.5 million.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mason, 1920, p. 11 ff.
  2. ^ Mason, 1920, p. 33 ff. & 43 ff.
  3. ^ Collins, Peter (April 2004). Concrete: the vision of a new architecture. McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP. p. 48. ISBN 978-0-7735-2564-1. Retrieved 12 October 2010. 
  4. ^ Shah, Oliver (10 November 2013). "Square Mile landmark to fetch £80m". The Sunday Times. 
  5. ^ Waldie, Paul (20 December 2013). "Oxford Properties buys landmark London shopping centre". The Globe and Mail. 

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°30′49″N 0°05′14″W / 51.51361°N 0.08722°W / 51.51361; -0.08722