History

Nicknamed the ‘square mile’ or ‘the city’, the City of London is at the historic heart of England’s capital city. Around AD50, some seven years after the Romans invaded Britain, the City of London was born. The land was earmarked by the Romans for development due to its location on the North Bank of the River Thames, and it will come as no surprise, that early business activity centred round the port that was formed.

Trade thrived during this time, and even led to the formation of livery companies or guilds, which early forms of regulation among industries. As people working in the same trades lived and worked in the same areas, this regulation was easy to follow. It also led to some of the city’s street names, such as Mason’s Avenue, Cloth Street, and Ironmonger Lane. During the years that followed, the guilds were afforded power and influence, and so the City of London had a reputation as a centre of commerce. As the rest of the world became ever more accessible, new markets were found, and merchant companies established, such as the infamous East India Company.

Although much of the rich history of this district is associated with trade, communication also played its part. Coffee houses arrived in the 17th century, and were the place to be if you wanted to keep up with news, gossip, and business matters. Some coffee houses became known for attracting certain trades, who even set up temporary offices at tables there. In fact, world famous financial companies, such as the London Stock Exchange, and Lloyds of London, had humble beginnings in coffee houses.  1694 was another important date in the history of the ‘square mile’, with the Royal Charter Of The Bank Of England, in 1694, cementing its position as a business and financial centre.

The City of London is also known for being the oldest local authority in England, in fact the London Parliament in Westminster, has a striking similarity to the City of London Court of Common Council. There are ancient traditions associated with this local authority, still alive and well today, such as the Freedom Of The City, a ceremony which gives people the right to own land and trade in the city. The Lord Mayor still plays an active role in the city too, representing the financial and business activities that run within the ‘square mile’.

Tourists will enjoy finding out more about the history of this part of London. They will be able to view the remainder of the London Wall, and view the many ‘blue plaques’ that have been posted throughout the city, commemorating things like the former site of the Fleet Prison, and a house where Geoffrey Chaucer once lived. Large crowds also flock to the annual Lord Mayor’s Show, an ancient event and procession that in 2010 was held for the 795th time.

London Metropolitan Official Archives, and the Guildhall Library, both have further information and manuscripts about the City Of London, the sites that have been built within it, and the notable events and people that have made it was it is. As the historic core of London, the ‘square mile’ certainly lives up to its name!