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The centre of commerce at the heart of the City of London's financial district

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Front Facade
Grasshopper Arms
Interior and Shops
The Royal Exchange was built as a centre of commerce for the city of London and stands at the heart of London’s financial hub.  Founded in 1565 by the merchant Sir Thomas Gresham, it was modelled on the Stock Exchange in Antwerp, with a trading floor, offices and shops set around an open courtyard, where merchants and tradesmen could meet and do business. During the 16th century stockbrokers were not allowed in the Royal Exchange due to their rude manners. They had to conduct their business in the nearby coffee houses of Exchange Alley.

The figure above the door

Did You Know?

The Gresham family coat of arms features as a grasshopper and one was placed on the weathervane of the Royal Exchange. It was copied at Faneuil Hall in Boston, Massachusetts, associating the New World with the great centre of finance of the Old World.

The grasshopper weathervane
The original building was destroyed in the great fire of 1666 and its replacement was destroyed by a fire in 1838. The present building was designed by Sir William Tite and opened by Queen Victoria in 1844. The design, with its grand Corinthian style front facade of eight pillars, follows the original layout, consisting of a four-sided structure surrounding a central courtyard.

The Royal Exchange Illustrated in London News, 1844
Source WikiMedia (PD)

Motif on the Entrance

Did You Know?

In 1892 scenes showing history of the City of London were painted on the walls of the Ambulatory by leading artists of the day. You can still see them by climbing up to the first floor gallery.

Inside the Royal Exchange
Business virtually ceased during WW2, but the building survived the blitz, although it did experience some very near misses. In 1953 a theatre company was established in the Courtyard and this theatre company was to go on to become the celebrated Mermaid Theatre. The trading areas were occupied by various financial companies before the whole site was remodelled in 2001 as a luxury shopping centre. It hence returned to its original role as a place for city workers to meet and discuss business over coffee.

Interior Architecture

Did You Know?

The first UK public lavatories were built in the forecourt of the Royal Exchange in 1855 and were exclusively for male use.

One of the Royal Exchange Clocks

War Memorial outside the Royal Exchange
Visitor Information
The Royal Exchange is open Monday to Friday, closed at weekends. Entry is FREE. Nearest Tube Station: Bank.

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