Royal Exchange

Royal Exchange 1890's

The Royal Exchange is located at the Bank junction between Cornhill and Threadneedle Street. On the other side of Threadneedle Street is the Bank of England, Mansion House is across the junction on Walbrook Street and No 1 Poultry opposite on the west side of the junction.

Thomas Gresham

The current building is the third on the site and today houses luxury shops including Tiffany and Fortnum and Mason.

The idea for an Exchange came from Thomas Gresham, a City banker, and his father. They were familiar with the bourse in Antwerp and used this as a model for the Royal Exchange in order to improve conditions for merchants in and around Lombard Street. It gave merchants a place to meet and conduct business. Formerly business had been conducted on the street or in the merchant's own houses.

Today's Royal Exchange adheres to the original layout - consisting of a four-sided structure surrounding a central courtyard where merchants and tradesmen could do business.

The symbol of the Gresham family was a grasshopper so there is a grasshopper weathervane at the top of the Royal Exchange Building and you can see grasshoppers on the exterior of the building.

Gresham Grasshopper

The first exchange was built in the 1560's and opened by Queen Elizabeth 1st in 1570. Destroyed in the Great Fire it was rebuilt and burnt down again in 1838.

The current building was designed by Sir William Tite and opened by Queen Victoria in 1844.

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The triangular shaped pediment you see at the front, above the columns, has figures illustrating commercial activity - British, Greek, Hindu, Muslim, Armenian, Turkish and Chinese merchants, an African and a Levantine sailor.

Underneath the engraved script tells you that Queen Elizabeth opened the original Exchange in the thirteenth year of her reign and that Queen Victoria opened the current building in the eighth year of hers. Queen Elizabeth 1 awarded the building its Royal title, on 23 January 1571.

Lloyd's of London were once located here but by the 1920's had decided it was time to build their own premises. During the 17th century, stockbrokers were not allowed in the Royal Exchange due to their rude manners and they had to operate from other establishments in the vicinity, one of which was Jonathan's Coffee-House.

The Royal Exchange ceased to act as a centre of commerce in 1939, although it was for a few years in the 1980s, home to the London International Financial Futures Exchange, LIFFE.

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Additional information can be found on Symbols & Secrets.