Monthly Meeting – April 2017

  The City of London - History 

Guest Speaker

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Sally Botwright, a qualified London Blue Badge guide, entertained our members with an excellent talk for around an hour on the History of the City of London. Sally also has the freedom of the City of London and can now walk her sheep across London Bridge!


This short video, put together by an American tourist, has attracted more than 3.9 million views! We thought we'd use it here to show our members an outsider's view of the famous square mile!

(Note: we've linked this video from youtube, so be aware you may have an advert pop up at some point. Just click on the little x in the corner of the ad to make it go away!)


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Sally is in the centre of this photograph, with some of our members. David Burbidge is to Sally's left as you look at the picture.

We expected a good attendance for Sally's talk on the City of London and the numbers of members in the audience filled the room!

The photographs were taken of our members prior to the meeting getting started.

Further down the page we've added photographs in a Gallery. Most of the pictures were used in Sally's talk. If you click on one of them you can enlarge and see them more clearly.

The links open up in a separate tab or window and give more information about the mission.


The City of London

The City of London is often referred to as the Square Mile as that is roughly what it measures.   It is the oldest part of London and is the financial district for London and the country today. London is divided into 33 areas referred to as 32 boroughs plus the City of London.

There are only about 8000 people living in the city, the vast majority living in the North West of the city in The Barbican. However, it is the 400,000+ people who commute into the City of London for work that make it tick plus an increasing tourist population visiting this historic area.

The Romans are generally seen to be the founders of the City of London. They arrived in this country in AD43 and settled in Londinium by AD50. The River Thames made an easy transport route for them to trade with the rest of Europe, exporting lead, silver, tin, wool, wheat, hunting dogs and importing, wine, olive oil, pottery salt, making Londinium one of the most successful trading outposts of the Roman Empire.

There is still plenty of evidence of the Roman occupation of London with parts of the Roman Wall, Fort and Amphitheatre to see.

After the Roman departure, the city went into decline as the Angles and Saxons were country folk, not interested in the city.

By 9th Century, London was receiving the unwelcome attentions of the Vikings, with frequent and savage raids. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle tells us of Viking Ships pouring up the River Thames as many at 350 in 851AD. The River Thames providing an easy highway for invaders.

King Alfred the Great is seen as the re-founder of the City of London when he resettles the city in 886AD and soon re-establishes London as a great trading centre with the River Thames and Roman City of London playing vital parts.

By the time we were successfully invaded and conquered for the final time at the Battle of Hastings, London was doing well, successfully trading and the citizens were able to negotiate to their best advantage with the newly crowned King William I, who is never referred to as The Conqueror in the City as London as they didn’t regard themselves as conquered.

William set about building castles, 3 were in the City of London, one still survives today which is The Tower of London, or to give it its full name Her Majesty’s Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London.

In 1189, the city was given permission to elect its own officials and they still have their own Mayor today – The Lord Mayor of the City of London and the Lord Mayors show is a great event in the City’s calendar every November.

By 13th Century, various religious establishments were settling in and around the City. The majority of the population of London lived in the city, royalty and courtiers would be to the west in the West End and poorer people with no trades lived to the east in the east end. Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites and more were all in the City and we can still find plenty of reminders of them today.

1665 saw one of the worst years of plague. Plague visited London most years but this took away a large number of the population. The following year in 1666, The Great Fire of London destroyed 4/5ths of the city, it lay in ruins and was going to take time to get back on its feet. At this point, London started to expand, if you had the money and ability, you moved out of the City, heading west if you could where Covent Garden was starting to be developed.

Samuel Pepys tells us a great deal about the Great Fire of London saying it was the saddest sight of desolation he had ever seen. Sir Christopher Wren wanted, like many others to completely rebuild the City but this wasn’t to happen, however, Wren was invited to rebuilt 51 churches within the square mile plus his masterpiece St. Paul’s Cathedral and 23 of those churches still survive today plus St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Trade became more important and by 17th century, coffee houses were springing up throughout the city and they were the place to go for news and gossip. Different coffee houses started to attract different occupations and interests and merchants would almost use them as we would use an office today. Some of these coffee houses were the starting point for our great financial institutions of today, Jonathans Coffee shop grew into the London Stock Exchange and Lloyds of London, became the biggest insurance company starting in Edward Lloyd’s coffee shop. Walk around the alleyways just off Cornhill and you will get the feeling of where these coffee shops were and how busy they were. Add to this the Bank of England, which opened in 1694 and the city was becoming the financial hub it is today.

With public transport, London started to grow and people could live away from where they worked – they started to commute on the busses and trains and London started to grow into the 1500 km2 it is today

25th August 1940 saw the first of many devastating World War 2 bombs fall on the City and it is only in recent years that the last of the bomb sites have been built on.

With Brexit looming, it will be interesting to see how the City changes as a result.

Clicking on the photos will enlarge them. You can navigate using the arrows either side of the pictures, in any direction.