Royal Exchange, London
The Royal Exchange in 2014
|Location||London, United Kingdom|
|Opening date||23 January 1571
28 October 1844 (current structure)
|Owner||Oxford Properties Group Inc (since 2013)|
|No. of stores and services||33 stores; 5 restaurants and cafes|
|Public transit access||Bank and Monument stations|
The Royal Exchange in London was founded in the 16th century by the merchant 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, who still jointly own the freehold. It is trapezoidal in shape and is flanked by Cornhill and Threadneedle Street, which converge at Bank junction in the heart of the City. The design was inspired by a bourse Gresham had seen in Antwerp, and was Britain's first specialist commercial building.
It has twice been destroyed by fire and subsequently rebuilt. The present building was designed by William Tite in the 1840s. The site was notably occupied by the Lloyd's insurance market for nearly 150 years. Today the Royal Exchange contains offices, luxury shops and restaurants.
The Royal Exchange was officially opened on 23 January 1571 by Queen Elizabeth I who awarded the building its royal title and a licence to sell alcohol. Only the exchange of goods took place until the 17th century. Stockbrokers were not allowed into 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 complex was built on the site, designed by Edward Jarman and opened in 1669, but that also burned down, on 10 January 1838. It had been used by the Lloyd's insurance market, which was forced to move temporarily to South Sea House following the 1838 fire.
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. 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.
In June 1844, just before the reopening of the Royal Exchange, a statue of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, was unveiled outside the building. The bronze used to cast it was sourced from enemy cannons captured during Wellington's continental campaigns.
In 1982 the Royal Exchange was in disrepair - particularly the glass roof was in danger of collapse. The newly formed London International Financial Futures Exchange (LIFFE) was the main tenant, using the courtyard for the trading floor, all done without touching the framework of the original building. Other tenants moved in later and as a result of LIFFE's presence, not only did the City experience growth in trading, greater efficiency in pricing, but also a boost to the area around the Royal Exchange that was sleepy at best. In 2001 the Royal Exchange was once again extensively remodelled, this time by architects Aukett Fitzroy Robinson. Reconstruction of the courtyard created new boutiques and restaurants to add to the existing retailers on the perimeter. The Royal Exchange is now a retail centre with shops, cafes and restaurants. Shops include Boodles, Hermès, Georg Jensen and Tiffany & Co. In 2003 the Grand Café and Bar was launched and completed the building.
In Royal Exchange Buildings, a lane by the eastern entrance to the Royal Exchange, stand two statues: one of Paul Julius Reuter who founded his news agency there, and one of George Peabody who founded the Peabody Trust.
In 2013 the Royal Exchange was sold by the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation and Alanis Capital, the property vehicle of the McCormack family of Ireland, to a Canadian property company. It had been announced that the site would be sold with a 104-year lease. Oxford Properties Group, a division of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, bought the retail centre for a reported £86.5 million.
- Mason, 1920, p. 11 ff.
- Mason, 1920, p. 33 ff. & 43 ff.
- Collins, Peter (April 2004). Concrete: the vision of a new architecture. McGill-Queen's Press – MQUP. p. 48. ISBN 978-0-7735-2564-1. Retrieved 12 October 2010.
- Shah, Oliver (10 November 2013). "Square Mile landmark to fetch £80m". The Sunday Times.
- Waldie, Paul (20 December 2013). "Oxford Properties buys landmark London shopping centre". The Globe and Mail.
- 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.
- Mason, A. E. W. The Royal Exchange: a note on the occasion of the bicentenary of the Royal Exchange Assurance (London: Royal Exchange, 1920).
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