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Royal Exchange (London)

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Title: Royal Exchange (London)  
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Subject: January 23, 1830s, 1571, 1838, Elizabethan era, Thomas Gresham, Commercial Revolution, Lloyd's of London, Izaak Walton, Tower 42
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Royal Exchange (London)

The Royal Exchange in London was founded in 1568 by 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, and is trapezoidal, flanked by Cornhill and Threadneedle Street which converge at Bank junction. The design was inspired by a bourse Gresham had seen in Antwerp.


The Royal Exchange was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth I who awarded the building its royal title and licence to sell alcohol, on 23 January 1571.[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 exchange was built on the site, designed by Edward Jarman, and opened in 1669, but was also destroyed by fire on 10 January 1838.[2]

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.

Also in 1844, a statue of Arthur Wellesley, the first duke of Wellington, was inaugurated outside the Royal Exchange. It was sculpted from enemy cannon captured during Wellington's victorious battles.

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 bombing, albeit with some near misses.

In 2001 the Royal Exchange was once again extensively and sympathetically remodelled by architects Aukett Fitzroy Robinson with the result that today it is an appropriate home for many of the world's finest merchants. Reconstruction of the courtyard has created new boutiques and restaurants to compliment the existing retailers on the perimeter. The Royal Exchange is now a luxurious retail centre with shops and restaurants. Shops include Boodles, Hermès, Haines & Bonner and Tiffany & Co.

In 2003 the launch of the Grand Café and Bar was finally finished and completed the building as a destination with both luxury retail outlets and sophisticated dining options in the heart of the city.

See also



  • Walter Thornbury. Old and new London: a narrative of its history, its people, and its places, volume 1 (London : Cassell, Petter, & Galpin, 1873) p. 494 ff.
  • W. H. Pyne. Microcosm of London; or, London in miniature, volume 3 (London Methuen, 1904) p. 17 ff.
  • The Royal Exchange: a note on the occasion of the bicentenary of the Royal Exchange Assurance (London: Royal Exchange, 1920).

External links

  • The Royal Exchange London website
  • The Royal Exchange (Victorian Web)

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

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