I have always had a fascination with the City of London. The history of The City is everywhere for people to see. The City has endured many changes, usually inspired by humans, and sometimes not for the better. Occasions including The Plague, the Great Fire of London and the Blitz have all left their mark upon The City. It has always been the centre of wealth and commerce for traders throughout the world, when once Britain ruled over vast swathes of the globe, prompting the observation that the sun never sets on Empire. Those days of Empire are very much gone, however The City continues to survive and flourish.
You may note that I always call it “The City”. This is because it has a unique history which goes back almost 2,000 years. The Romans arrived and set up on the North bank of the Thames. There were already settlements there, however it was the coming of the legions that sparked the location and construction of what is today The City. It is not a borough and has a separate administration. It is the place from which present day London grew. The Romans set up a port and trade thrived. The area was fortified and surrounded by a wall which enclosed an area of approximately 1.12 miles. It seems wider than it is taller. The boundaries of The City are marked with black bollards showing Griffins or dragons upon them. Over time the area surrounding The City grew and London thus became larger and spread out from the boundaries of The City. Hence London is a city but The City is a distinct, and somewhat separate, part of London. In any case the majority of the history is contained within The City.
Locations such as the Bank of England (set up by Royal Charter on 27th July 1694), Lloyd’s of London, The Monument to the Fire of London, the northern section of London Bridge, St Pauls Cathedral and The Royal Exchange all have a place within the boundaries of The City. Tower Bridge and the Tower of London do not fall within The City boundaries.
It remains the premier location for investment, finance and insurance provision in the UK. Ancient history resides next to modern architecture, albeit sometimes with great unease. The City is continually regenerating and the old is becoming covered in glass and metal edifices which stand tall and dominate the skyline, giving the impression of a global power.
It is fairly easy to lose yourself, both literally and metaphorically, in The City. The past often returns from the alleys, paths, courtyards and churchyards our ancestors frequented over the previous hundreds of years. On chilly, foggy nights, the ghosts of the past seem to come back and loom large.
The old City isn’t finished yet, she still has the power to remind us of those who have been here before. Go and visit when you are able, walk down a side street, through the alleys and into the churchyards and feel the old City surround you with her atmospheric tentacles.