Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Central: Bank

Bank underground station, the 25th I've visited on the Central line, is in the City of London. There is so much to see within a couple of minutes walk of the station. There are over 40 churches alone within the square mile that is the City.  It would seem that the majority of  buildings in this area all have a story to tell  so I have chosen a few of the ones that I found interesting.

The name of this station tells you exactly where I am as I exit from one of the 12 exits/entrances to this large subterranean station












The station connects with 5 other lines although if you want the District and Circle lines you have a long walk through the subways to Monument station. Bank station is one of the busiest on the network with 57,500,000 entrants and exits last year.





Another exit showing the winged dragons of the City of London.



Another entrance/exit is within this development at No1 Poultry built 1994-8. It took 25 years and two public enquiries before permission was granted to develop this triangular site. It faces an important junction known as Bank junction looking towards the Bank of England as you can see from the map below.



There are nine streets meeting at Bank junction.


This view shows Threadneedle Street to the left, Cornhill to the right of the Royal Exchange and then Lombard Street on the right.

I began my walk along Threadneedle street which has the Bank of England on one side and the Royal Exchange on the other. The Bank was established in 1694 and is the second oldest central bank in the world after the Swedish National Bank.



A closer look reveals the lack of windows on the ground floor. The Bank holds the official gold reserves of the UK and many other countries. Over 5000 tonnes of gold bars are held in a system of 8 vaults beneath the bank.











Around the corner on Bartholomew Lane is the Museum of the Bank of England. A small but very interesting museum. Amongst the many exhibits is a gold bar that you can try and lift. It is kept in a secure container so even if I could lift it, I wouldn't be able to take it anywhere.





On the other side of Threadneedle Street is the Royal Exchange. The idea of merchants all gathering in the same place to trade came from Sir Thomas Gresham who built the first Royal Exchange between 1566-1570. It had a bell tower calling the merchants together at 12 noon and 6pm. On top of the tower was a huge grasshopper, the emblem of the Gresham family. The original building was burnt down during the Great Fire of 1666 and another fire in 1838 burnt down the subsequent building. The current building is a Grade 1 listed Victorian building which  still features the Grasshopper(which survived the fires) on the weather vane .



You can also see the grasshopper emblem hanging outside Gresham's former offices in Lombard Street.

The Royal Exchange  is no longer a financial institution as companies moved to individual purpose built premises during the late 20th cent and the building is now used as an upmarket retail centre.



I continued my walk passed the Bank of England Museum and onto Throgmorton Avenue which has some very interesting buildings with a rich past. It is named after Sir Nicholas Throgmorton, an ambassador to France during the reign of  Queen Elizabeth I 



The Throgmorton Restaurant was opened in October 1900.  J. Lyons had secured an 80yr lease from the Worshipful Company of Drapers. Being in the heart of the financial district it became very popular with the bankers and stockbrokers of the City of London. With its marble staircases and gold mosaics it must have attracted many wealthy clients. I read of one room referred to as Millionaires' Room  where the silk hatted brokers came. Here there was a long pole with an iron loop to lift the glossy hats of the customers to and from the highest pegs of a hat rack. I wish I could have witnessed that event. The restaurant has been refurbished a number of times over the years and is now owned by Mitchells and Butler. I would like to eat there one lunch time. I wonder what the dress code is nowadays.

Henry VIII's minister Thomas Cromwell also had a house on this street but he was apparently very unpopular with his neighbours because of his habit of moving the boundaries of his property and stealing their land. After Cromwell's execution in 1540 the Drapers Company took over his house for their Hall.   Destroyed in the Great fire of 1666, rebuilt and destroyed in another fire in 1772. Since then the Drapers Hall has been altered and redesigned when necessary but still stands on the site of Cromwell's house.
Drapers Hall is home to the Drapers' livery Company. Livery Companies were founded as guilds to promote and protect their members' trade and economic interests. As the name suggests the Drapers' company was involved in the buying and selling of woollen cloth within the City of London (nowadays it administers charitable trusts). 


During Open House weekend last year I visited the Hall. Walking through the bronze doors of the Throgmorton Avenue entrance you walk down an oak panelled corridor with a stained glass window.






Another window looks out onto the courtyard. The surprise for me was just how big this building is once you enter those doors.








The Livery Hall where the banquets are held.







A little way beyond Drapers Hall is Austin Friars Passage which leads to the Dutch Church of Austin Friars.


The church is named after an Augustinian monastery founded here in 1253 and dissolved during the reign of Henry VIII. The nave of the former monastery was given to Dutch refugees in 1550. The church was rebuilt but was destroyed during  WW2. Rebuilt once again in the 1950s it has retained its Dutch connection making it the oldest Dutch language Protestant church in the world.  There is a sketch of the church by Van Gogh which is held in the Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam.



At the end of Throgmorton Avenue you can see Tower 42 formerly known as the Nat West Tower. Completed in 1980 it was the tallest building in London for the next 30 years.


When the Swiss Re building was being built the city planners insisted it be lower than Tower 42. Designed by Sir Norman Foster it is  3m shorter than Tower 42. The building soon became known as the 'Gherkin' and forms part of an ever expanding London skyline.


Another skyscraper seen from Cornhill  is the Leadenhall Building but more commonly known as the Cheesegrater. The name arose from the building's sloping south-facing wall. It was designed that shape so as not to interfere with one of the protected views of St Paul's Cathedral.



This is a photo of a model of the city (in theVisitors Centre at the Guildhall) which shows the wall of the Cheesegrator clearly allowing the view of St Paul's.



The last of the skyscrapers in this area is the 'Walkie-Talkie' probably best known for its curve. It was this building that created an upset in the Summer of 2013 as the sun's rays reflected from the curved windows to the street below and set fire to a carpet in a shop doorway and damaged cars as the intense heat mangled the metal. I assume a non reflective covering remedied that school boy error!




Walking back towards Bank station along Bishopsgate I passed Gibson's Hall. Surrounded by skyscrapers it is worth a second look at the numerous carved panels and statues which adorn the top of the building.  It used to be the head office of the National Provincial Bank of England and the statues symbolise the industries and crafts for which the Bank supplied finance. Today it is used as a venue for conferences, wedding receptions and private parties.



Moving away from the skyscrapers down Bishopsgate I came across the entrance to Leadenhall Market, originally founded in 1445 as a market for meat and fish, followed by poultry and grain. This continued into the 20th cent and then gradually a variety of retail shops began to trade in the Market. If you visit during the week, especially at lunch time, it is full of city workers enjoying their lunch at one of the many restaurants, cafes or pubs.


Although the market survived the Great Fire it was rebuilt in 1881.



From Leadenhall Market I made my way back to Cornhill where I noticed this pub with the name 'Counting House'. Built in 1893 as Prescotts Bank, it changed hands many times with Nat West bank being the last. The building was bought by Fullers Brewery in 1997 and opened as 'The Counting House' pub.


 Lots of the original features still remain.

 There is even a gallery to peer over and enjoy some people watching.







Continuing walking down Cornhill you pass this old water pump which marks the spot of a medieval well and a House of Correction built here in 1282

The well was rediscovered in 1799 and this pump erected.


A little further down Cornhill is an alley way called Ball Court.which leads you to Simpson's Tavern, founded in 1757, a restaurant that serves very traditional British food.

























There is a warren of back alleys here which have hardly changed over the last couple of hundred years.  On St Michael's Alley is the Jamaica Wine house originally the Jamaica coffee house when it was founded in the 1670s. It was on this site that the first coffee house opened in 1652. By 1739 there were over 550 coffee houses in London.















Walking back across Bank Junction I had a better view of Mansion House which is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London.


 I walked on down Poultry and onto Old Jewry, a reference to the number of Jews that lived in this area from Medieval times. Just off Old Jewry is Frederick's Place where you find a number of Georgian houses in complete contrast to the number of financial institutions in the surrounding area.






I walked to the end of Old Jewry on to Lothbury and into the Guilhall Yard. This is the Guildhall, the centre of the City of London and has been the powerhouse of the City since the twelfth century.This is where the Lord Mayor of London and the ruling merchant class held court and ensured that the law and trading regulations were upheld. Today the Guildhall is still home to the City of London Corporation and is used for banquets in honour of visiting Heads of State and Royal occasions.






The Guildhall Art Gallery next to the Guildhall was established in 1886 to house the art collection of the City of London.The present building was completed in 1999 to replace an earlier one destroyed during the war. In the basement are the ruins of London's Roman Amphitheatre where the crowds would have gathered to watch the fighting of wild animals and of course the gladiators.  The original circular walls were only discovered in 1988 when archaeologists were working on the site of the new Guildhall Art Gallery.






.Just across the yard from the Guildhall is St Lawrence Jewry church. It is thought that it was built in 1136 and then destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666. Rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren it was one of Wren.s most expensive city churches. The church was damaged during WW2 and restored in 1957. It is the official church of the Corporation of London.


The rain has started again so time to return to the Underground

11 comments:

  1. Computer broken, so a brief comment on the tablet. We found Bank to be a nightmare. Up and down, around and around we went, obediently following the signs. Good to just feature your favourites.

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  2. That was awesome reading all about the city of London, I knew we were going there when I saw the name Bank

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  3. It's great to have such history close at hand and an excellent tour. We recently went to a quiz night in the bar in the Gherkin building having eaten in Leadenhall market first. Just for your info I was a bit confused initially as you have a typo on the Nat West Tower ; )

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  4. Quite an interesting mixture of buildings. I recognized some of them from our stay in London 2 years ago.

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  5. Wow what a lot of interesting and upmarket buildings in this area. Your research is very interesting.

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  6. Excellent post ! Now I see places I know, but I never paid attention to the grasshopper ! It seems to me that I have seen the "First London coffee house" once I got lost again !

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  7. lol I can see why it's called the cheesegrater, threadneedle street - is that cos it's quite thin?

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  8. Wow! Such an interesting neighborhood at this station stop! I loved the contrast between old and new. The glass office buildings look so very modern and stylish but the damage caused byt eh curved glass of one must have been a surprise. I would love to try to lift that gold bar!

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  9. This was a very full and busy stop! So much to see. We saw a little teeny bit of it, but certainly didn't have time to learn all that i just did by reading your fascinating post. I had to laugh about the fire from the skyscraper.

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  10. Thank you for this interesting tour. I think the City of London should put you on the payroll.

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