History of Area
Cheapside is a remarkably unique area in the heart of the City of London’s Square Mile. Once a medieval trading market, it boasts some of the world’s most iconic and historic sites on its doorstep – St Paul’s Cathedral, Museum of London, Bank of England, Guildhall, The Barbican Centre, The Royal Exchange and not forgetting its more modern side in terms of One New Change. Here are a few of the historic milestones in its incredible history.
Guildhall Art Gallery reopens
The original Guildhall Art Gallery was established in 1885 to house and display works of art acquired by the City of London Corporation. Burnt down during an air raid in 1941, the gallery occupied temporary accommodation until the City Corporation decided to redevelop the site. The new gallery was designed by Richard Gilbert Scott and opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1999.
Clean Air Act
Fog was a feature of London life well into the 20th century. In the Great London Smog of 1952 a lethal combination of fog and smoke generated by domestic coal fires killed 12,000 Londoners. The 1956 Clean Air Act attempted to control domestic smoke pollution by introducing smokeless zones in which only smokeless fuels were to be burnt.
Although London was still suffering the after effects of war, London hosted the 14th Olympic Games at Wembley Stadium. The prestige of staging the Olympics provided a welcome boost to morale.
The City suffered badly as bombing raids began during the Second World War. Churches, livery company halls and other historic buildings were destroyed. Despite initial resistance, London Underground agreed that 79 of its stations could be used as bomb shelters during air raids and spending the night in a tube station became routine for many Londoners.
Zeppelins over London
While the First World War was being fought in the trenches of France and Flanders, a new and terrifying threat to Londoners was unleashed upon innocent civilians. The German airships (or Zeppelins) succeeded in instilling panic by raiding London. The first bomb fell on Fenchurch Street.
Tower Bridge completed
After eight years of construction, the Prince of Wales opened Tower Bridge, designed by City Architect Horace Jones. The river had remained navigable during the whole construction. The bascule bridge allowed an opening of 200 feet and headroom of 135 feet, enough to allow access for almost all vessels to the Pool of London.
Jack the Ripper strikes
The notorious Jack the Ripper murdered several young women working in Whitechapel district as prostitutes during the summer and autumn of 1888. The body of one of his victims, Catherine Eddowes, was found in Mitre Square, inside the eastern boundary of the City. No one was ever convicted of these murders and the Ripper remains unidentified to this day.
Guildhall Library re-opened
The first Guildhall Library existed between 1425 and 1549. A new Library opened in 1828 for the benefit of Members of the City Corporation and accredited students. The library developed into an important reference library for City of London history.
London Stock Exchange
A group of Brokers established a dealing room on the ground floor of a coffee house in Sweeting’s Alley; it became the first London Stock Exchange.
St Paul’s Cathedral completed
Sir Christopher Wren’s son placed the final stone of St Paul’s Cathedral in 1711. The new Cathedral had taken 36 years to build at a cost of £850,000. Most of the money had been raised by a tax on coal imports into the City.
Bank of England founded
First proposed by William Paterson in 1691, the Bank of England was founded in 1694 and granted the duties on the tonnage of ships and upon beer, ale and other liquors. First housed in Mercers’ Hall and then in the Grocers’ Hall, The Bank moved to its present site in 1734. The first Governor of the Bank was a Huguenot, Sir John Doubloon.
Work starts, St Paul’s Cathedral
Between 1670 and 1675 Christopher Wren worked on several designs for the new St Paul’s Cathedral. The first of these was accepted, but by 1672 rejected as too modest. Parliament had agreed to allow the remains of the old medieval building to be demolished. Following several variations each in turn accepted and then rejected Wren’s new design of 1675 started to take shape. Completed in 1711, 36 years later the new Cathedral proved a worthy successor to its predecessor.
The Great Fire of London
The fire, which broke out early in the morning of 2 September at the bakery of Thomas Farynor in Pudding Lane, raged for five days. In the end it was estimated to have consumed 13,200 houses, St Paul’s Cathedral, 87 churches, 6 chapels, the Guildhall, the Royal Exchange, the Custom House, 52 livery company halls, 3 gates, and 4 stone bridges.
The Great Plague
Bubonic plague struck London with full force in the summer. It quickly decimated the population, killing rich and poor. At its peak more than 7,000 died in a single week and by the end of the year it had claimed the lives of around 100,000 Londoners.