The Royal Exchange – London’s Best historic places
The Royal Exchange in London, UK, was started by Sir Thomas Gresham in 1566 but was destroyed by the great fire a century later. The second of the three buildings on the same site in Cornhill, across the street from the Bank of England, was destroyed by fire in 1838.
The third and present building was opened by Queen Victoria in 1844.
1848 London: Published for the Proprietor by J. Mead, 10, Gough Square, Fleet Street
The Royal Exchange has two fronts, north and south, which open into a piazza and in the centre are the grand entrances under a high arch. The south front in Cornhill is surrounded by Corinthian demi-collumns and in the front next to the street are statues of kings Charles I. and II in Roman habits. On the top is a fane of gilt brass in the shape of a grasshopper, the crest of Sir Thomas Gresham’s arms. The north front, in Threadneedle street, is adorned with pilasters but doesn’t have columns or statues.
On the west side is a Cupid resting his right hand on a shield with the arms of France and England quartered and holding a rose in his left hand. On the north side is another Cupid with the arms of Ireland and on the east are the arms of Scotland with a Cupid holding a thistle. This was all done in relievo by the statuary maker, Mr. Gibbon.
Under the pediments, arms were added. the north for the king’s arms, the south the city’s arms, the east Sir Thomas Gresham’s arms, and the west the mercers’ arms. In the turret, a clock with four dials marks the time for all the mercantile parts of the City by chiming at three, six, nine, and twelve o’clock.
The inside of the area is also surrounded with piazzas where merchants would shelter from the weather when conducting business meetings. Merchants would meet here every day and to help defray costs for such a magnificent building, a gallery on four sides of the Royal Exchange was divided into 200 shops which were let out to haberdashers and milliners. These galleries were later occupied by the Royal Exchange Assurance Office, Lloyd’s.
1799 Horwood’s Map of London