Royal Exchange, London
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, Belgium, and was Britain's first specialist commercial building.
It has twice been destroyed by fire and rebuilt. The present building was designed by William Tite in the 1840s and is currently up for sale. The site was notably occupied by the Lloyd's insurance market for nearly 150 years. Today the Royal Exchange contains offices, luxury shops and a restaurant.
The Royal Exchange was officially opened on 23 January 1571 by Queen Elizabeth I who awarded the building its royal title and licence to sell alcohol. During the 17th century, stockbrokers were not allowed in 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 was also destroyed by fire on 10 January 1838. It had been used by the Lloyd's of London 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.<ref name="Collins2004">Template:Cite book</ref> 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, the first duke of Wellington, was inaugurated outside the building. It was sculpted from enemy cannon captured during Wellington's victorious battles.
Paul Julius Reuter established the Reuters news agency at No. 1, Royal Exchange Buildings (opposite and to the east of the Royal Exchange) in 1851. It later moved to Fleet Street.
In 1892, scenes from London's history were painted on the first-floor walls by artists including Sir Frederick Leighton and Sir Frank Brangwyn.
With the outbreak of the Second World War, trading at the Royal Exchange virtually ended. At the War's end, the building had survived the Blitz, albeit with some near misses.
In 2001 the Royal Exchange was once again extensively and sympathetically remodelled by architects Aukett Fitzroy Robinson with the result that today it is an appropriate home for many of the world's finest merchants. Reconstruction of the courtyard created new boutiques and restaurants to compliment the existing retailers on the perimeter. The Royal Exchange is now a luxurious retail centre with shops, cafes and restaurants. Shops include Boodles, Hermès, Haines & Bonner and Tiffany & Co. In 2003 the Grand Café and Bar was launched and completed the building as a destination with both luxury retail outlets and sophisticated dining options in the heart of the City.
In Royal Exchange Buildings, a lane by the eastern entrance to the Royal Exchange, stands 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.
- St Bartholomew-by-the-Exchange
- 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).