Story Of London

The City Wards in 1731: III

Our next instalment from the Gonzales guide to London in the early part of the 18th century looks Cornhill Ward only. This is the smallest Ward in the City but it boasts the glory of the Royal Exchange. Our eighteenth century guide takes around the exchange in detail. In the course of our tour we are introduced to the 21 statues of the monarchs of England from Edward III to George II. We also learn the locations of the 23 individual “walks” in which traders from various parts of the kingdom and the world could be found.

7. Cornhill Ward comprehends little more than the street of the same name, and some little lanes and alleys that fall into it, as Castle Alley, Sweeting’s or Swithin’s Alley, Freeman’s Yard, part of Finch Lane, Weigh House Yard, Star Court, the north end of Birching Lane, St. Michael’s Alley, Pope’s Head Alley, and Exchange Alley.Cornhill
Street may, in many respects, be looked upon as the principal street of the City of London; for here almost all affairs relating to navigation and commerce are transacted; and here all the business relating to the great companies and the Bank are negotiated. This street also is situated near the centre of the City, and some say, upon the highest ground in it. It is spacious, and well built with lofty houses, four or five storeys high, inhabited by linendrapers and other considerable tradesmen, who deal by wholesale as well as retail, and adorned with the principal gate and front of the Royal Exchange. Here also it is said the metropolitan church was situated, when London was an archbishopric.Exchange Alley, so denominated from its being situated on the south side of this street, over against the Royal Exchange, has long been famous for the great concourse of merchants and commanders of ships, and the bargains and contracts made there and in the two celebrated coffee-houses in it, which go under the respective names of “Jonathan’s” and “Garraway’s,” where land, stocks, debentures, and merchandise, and everything that has an existence in Nature, is bought, sold, and transferred from one to another; and many things contracted for, that subsists only in the imagination of the parties.The public buildings in this ward are, the Royal Exchange, and the churches of St. Peter and St. Michael.St Michael CornhillThe Royal Exchange is situated on the north side of Cornhill, about the middle of the street, forming an oblong open square, the inside whereof is a hundred and forty-four feet in length from east to west, and a hundred and seventeen in breadth from north to south; the area sixty-one square poles, on every side whereof is a noble piazza or cloister, consisting of twenty-eight columns and arches that support the galleries above.The length of the building on the outside is two hundred and three feet, the breadth a hundred and seventy-one, and the height fifty- six. On the front towards Cornhill also is a noble piazza, consisting of ten pillars; and another on the opposite side next Threadneedle Street, of as many; and in the middle of each a magnificent gate. Over the Cornhill gate is a beautiful tower, a hundred and seventy-eight feet high, furnished with twelve small bells for chimes; and underneath the piazzas are capacious cellars, which serve for warehouses.The whole building is of Portland stone, rustic work; above the arches the inward piazza is an entablament, with fine enrichments; and on the cornice a range of pilasters, within entablature, and a spacious compass pediment in the middle of the corners of each of the four sides. Under the pediment on the north side are the king’s arms; on the south those of the City; and on the east the arms of Sir Thomas Gresham. And under the pediment on the west side the arms of the Company of Mercers, with their respective enrichments. The intercolumns of the upper range are twenty-four niches, nineteen of which are filled with the statues of the kings and queens regent of England, standing erect with their robes and regalia, except that of King James II. and King George II., which are habited like the Caesars.On the south side are seven niches, of which four are filled, viz.:-
The most easterly figure, which has this inscription in gold letters, Edvardus Primus Rex, Anno Dom. 1272.Westward, Edvardus III. Rex, Anno Dom. 1329.Henricus V. Rex, Anno Domini 1412.Henricus VI. Rex, Anno Domini 1422.On the west side five niches, four of which are filled, viz.:-
Under the most southerly figures is subscribed in gold letters, Edvardus IV. Rex, Anno Domini 1460.Northward (the crown pendent over his head) Edvardus V. Rex, Anno Domini 1483.Henricus VII. Rex, Anno Domini 1487.Henricus VIII. Rex, Anno Domini 1508.On the north side seven niches are filled, viz.:-
The most westerly, subscribed in golden characters, Edvardus VI. Rex, Anno Domini 1547.Maria Regina, Anno Domini 1553.Elizabetha Regina, Anno Domini 1558.Is subscribed Serenissim & Potentissim’ Princip’ Jacobo Primo, Mag. Brit’ Fran’ & Hibern’ Reg. Fid. Defensori, Societas Pannitonsorum posuit, A.D. 1684.EICHON BASILICA [in Greek characters ] Serenissimi & Religiosissimi Principis Caroli Primi, Angliae, Scotiae, Franciae Hiberniae Regis, Fidei Defensoris; Bis Martyris (in Corpore Effigie) Impiis Rebellium Manibus, ex hoc loco deturbata confracta, Anno Dom. 1647. Restituta hic demum collocata, Anno Dom. 1683. Gloria Martyrii qui te fregere Rebelles non potuere ipsum quem voluere Deum.Carolus Secundus Rex, Anno Domini 1648.Jacobus II. Rex, Anno Domini 1685.On the east side five niches, one of which is vacant, the other filled, viz.:-
The most northerly contains two statues, viz., of King William and Queen Mary, subscribed Gulielmus III. Rex, & Maria II. Regina, A.D. 1688. S. P. Q. Londin’ Optim Principibus, P. C. 1695.Anna Regina Dei Gratia Mag. Britan’ Franciae & Hiberniae, 1701.George I. inscribed Georgius D. G. Magnae Britan’ Franciae & Hiberniae Rex, Anno Dom. 1714. S.P.Q.L.Southerly the statue of King George II. in the habiliment of a Caesar, wreathed on the head, and a battoon or truncheon in his hand, little differing from that of Charles II. in the centre of the area, only in looking northward; inscribed Georgius II. D. G. Mag. Brit. Fra. & Hib. Rex, Anno Dom. 1727. S.P.Q.L.On the four sides of the piazza within the Exchange are twenty-eight niches, which are all vacant yet, except one near the north-west angle, where is the figure of Sir Thomas Gresham. The piazza itself is paved with black and white marble, and the court, or area, pitched with pebbles; in the middle whereof is the statue of King Charles II. in a Roman habit, with a battoon in his hand, erected on a marble pedestal, about eight feet high and looking southward; on which side of the pedestal, under an imperial crown, wings, trumpet of fame, sceptre and sword, palm branches, &c., are these words inscribed, viz.:-
Carolo II. Caesari Britannico, Patriae Patri, Regum Optimo Clementissimo Augustissimo, Generis Humani Deliciis, Utriusq; Fortunae Victori, Pacis Europae Arbitro, Marium Domino, ac Vindici Societatis Mercatorum Adventur’ Angliae, quae per CCCC jam prope Annos Regia benignitate floret, Fidei Intemeratae & Gratitudinis aeternae hoc Testimonium venerabunda posuit, Anno Salutis Humanae 1684.On the west side of the pedestal is neatly cut in relievo the figure of a Cupid reposing his right hand on a shield containing the arms of England and France quartered, and in his left hand a rose.On the north side are the arms of Ireland on a shield, supported by a Cupid.On the east side the arms of Scotland, with a Cupid holding a thistle all in relievo.Find the Royal Exchange on the MapThe inner piazza and court are divided into several stations, or walks, where the merchants of the respective nations, and those who have business with them, assemble distinctly; so that any merchant or commander of a vessel is readily found, if it be known to what country he trades. The several walks are described in the following ground-plot of the Exchange:-In the North Cloister at Threadneedle Street are four walks viz.-
The most westerly is East Country WalkIrish WalkScotch WalkDutch and Jewellers walkIn the East Cloister at Swithin’s alley are two walks viz.-
The most northerly is American WalkPortugal WalkIn the South Cloister at Cornhill are four walks viz.-
The most easterly is Jews WalkSpanish WalkJamaica WalkVirginia WalkIn the West Cloister at Castle alley are two walks viz.-
The most southerly is East India WalkNorway WalkThe Inner Court contains eleven walks in four ranges.In the most northerly range at Threadneedle Street are four walks viz.-
The most westerly is Silkmen’s WalkClothiers WalkHamburgh WalkSalters walkIn the central range at either side of the Statue of Charles I are four walks viz.-
The most westerly is Turkey WalkGrocers and Druggists WalkBrokers etc. of Stocks WalkItalian walkAgainst the south side of the statue of Charles I there is but one walk viz.-
Canary walkIn the most southerly range at Cornhill are two walks viz.-
The most westerly is Barbadoes WalkFrench WalkNear the south gate is a spacious staircase, and near the north gate another, that lead up to the galleries, on each side whereof are shops for milliners and other trades, to the number of near two hundred, which brought in a good revenue at first, nothing being thought fashionable that was not purchased there; but the milliners are now dispersed all over the town, and the shops in the Exchange almost deserted.