Best of the Old with the Best of the New – The Guildhall Complex and its Relationship with Organisational Change

by Sir Michael Snyder

When commenting on the necessity of rebuilding the bombed-out Commons Chamber in 1943, Churchill said: “we shape our buildings and afterwards, our buildings shape us.” I was reminded of those words when I was invited to read a paper today, and what came to mind was the theme of ‘change’; not only the structural changes made to the Guildhall Complex, but the changing culture within the City of London Corporation itself.

The City Corporation is unique: it brings together the functions of a local authority, a property and financial investor, a police authority, a port health authority, an education provider, and a public open space provider, to name but a few. Many of these are the result of the Corporation’s long history; with the various roles having emerged and evolved over time. It is this theme of change therefore, that I would like to consider today.

I will use the Guildhall Complex itself to illustrate this change. With Mansion House, it is an enduring symbol of the City of London. Even a brief consideration of its history and development can help provide an insight into how the City has changed, even since the Second World War.

My consideration of organisational change is informed throughout by the theory of “cultural ecology”, the idea that cultural change can be the result of adapting to the physical environment. Put another way — the extent to which the fabric of the Guildhall Complex has reflected and, on the other hand, encouraged the development of the organisation of which it is the home.

The Guildhall Complex 1884 – 2015

When looking at the Guildhall Complex from 1884 to the present day, John James Baddeley’s ‘The Guildhall of the City of London’, is an excellent source for both the built environment and the organisational structure of the City of London Corporation. Reprinted seven times between 1905 and 1939, it demonstrates both what we have lost, and the scale of change that the Guildhall Complex has undergone since Churchill spoke those words. What stands out in particular is the ‘new’ Common Council Chamber, used by the Court from 1884, until its destruction during the Blitz.

What now remains of it, lies buried beneath the current North Wing of Guildhall. Members would have accessed the chamber from the centre north doorway of the Great Hall, up a short flight of steps (where the North Ambulatory is now), leading to a lavishly decorated Lobby of the Council Chamber, and from there into the Council Chamber itself.

Constructed in just over a year, under the supervision of the then City Surveyor, Horace Jones, the interior of the Chamber was made particularly striking by its duo-decagonal design and twelve canopied carved screens that divided the body of the chamber from an ambulatory corridor. Above this corridor was set a surrounding balcony, which allowed the press and public to observe Court of Common Council proceedings. In layout, this would have been reminiscent of the chamber of the modern Scottish Parliament.

In the Great Hall of Guildhall itself, you would have seen overhead, a flat beamed roof installed as a temporary measure after the Great Fire of London. This remained in place two centuries later until the late 1860s, when Horace Jones recommended that the flat roof was replaced by today’s open, vaulted roof and the sixteen windows along the north and south facades of the Great Hall. These changes were both in keeping with Guildhall’s original fifteenth century character, but also, the then-contemporary tastes for Gothic revival; evident in Barry and Pugin’s Houses of Parliament at Westminster.

Lost however, is the former Art Gallery on the eastern edge of the Yard: its modern replacement constructed in the late 1980s revealed the Roman heritage of the Guildhall, when the remains of Londinium’s amphitheatre were uncovered. Lost too, are the Justice Rooms along the western edge of the Yard that incorporated the site of the current Court of Aldermen. As late as the 1970s, Guildhall Yard would have been unrecognisable to the modern observer: enclosed on all sides to create a space barely large enough for the Lord Mayor’s Rolls Royce to turn.

As historians, these changes will of course be of interest to us all, but I would like to use them to make some suggestions about the type of City government they represented. Arguably the grand and expensive opulence of the Council Chamber and its Lobby, suggests an organisation that was conscious of its own status and comfortable in the Imperial urban heart of Britain and its Empire.

The circular banks of seating within the Chamber itself would have promoted a collegiate identity amongst its members, at variance perhaps with the more adversarial seating arrangements in Parliament or indeed, the modern Court of Common Council. The enclosed nature of Guildhall Yard served to present an organisation crammed into a small, cluttered space.

In addition, the renovation of the flat roof of the Great Hall from the early modern era of Wren to the arched neo-Gothic Victorian roof, illustrates a transition to a City authority that was in step with wider Victorian municipal ideas of town planning and development — a Great Hall of an organisation that built the likes of Smithfield Market and Tower Bridge, rather than so much focused on the representative role that the City holds today.

Guildhall Improvement Project

Following the damage to the Guildhall Complex and the destruction of the Council Chamber during the Second World War, the Guildhall began to change. A block of brick offices, dubbed the North Block, was constructed during the 1950s to a pre-war design to the north of Guildhall. Twenty years later, the West Wing, a more architecturally striking wing of offices, a product of 1960s and 1970s architecture, which is arguably not as appealing, was constructed along Aldermanbury.

More recently, and as part of the Guildhall Yard East project, the Guildhall Art Gallery was built. This has allowed the City to display, coherently, major elements of its art collection for the first time — opening the collection up to a wider audience, as well as having a digital ‘Collage’ system, which allows one to view and buy images from both Guildhall Art Gallery and the London Metropolitan Archives.

Originally estimated to cost under £10 million, the final bill for construction was over £80 million. This was largely due to the fact that when site excavation began, we found the remains of London’s formerly lost Roman amphitheatre — to say nothing of the pre-Roman settlement that remained underneath. Unfortunately, this settlement, arguably even more interesting, was completely ruined upon its contact with air. This discovery required the Roman remains to be recorded and then incorporated into the gallery’s basement to create the Amphitheatre exhibition, thus providing an eastern frame to reinforce the Yard as a central feature of a newly ‘open’ and welcoming Guildhall. Other factors included finding a Black Redstart, a protected bird, nesting in the construction area which contributed to increased delays and costs; as well as the fact that the Guildhall Yard East project expanded in scope during its life.

An office block behind the gallery that fronted Basinghall Street was amalgamated into the site and the former City Management Suite, now called the City Centre, was constructed. This space allowed the City to provide corporate hospitality and meeting rooms, as well as housing a three dimensional scale model of the Square Mile that is of great benefit to property developers and City professionals — serving our wider audience.

In keeping with the move to ‘open up’ the complex, it is now possible to progress through the City Centre into the Roman amphitheatre, and from there into the Art Gallery and thus Guildhall. Further detail on the Guildhall Yard East project can be found in the paper that was delivered to this association in 2004.

By the turn of the century it was clear that the post-war developments of the North and West Wings were in dire need of improvement. The Guildhall Improvement Committee was therefore formed (in typical City Corporation fashion). As the then Chairman of Policy, I also chaired that Committee, given the scale and cost of the work to be done. It was a challenging yet enjoyable task, and from the start we were clear that it was of vital importance to ensure that the best of Guildhall’s legacy was maintained throughout improvement works. This required a delicate balance of maintaining the key features and characteristics of most parts of the Guildhall complex, whilst ensuring a modern, fit for purpose working environment.

Nineteenth century buildings such as the Old Library and the Old Museum were comprehensively renovated and equipped with modern facilities such as Audio Visual equipment and “mood lighting”. The old Livery Hall was converted into an accessible Chamberlain’s Court, a reception and offices. It also means that areas such as the new Livery Hall were flexible enough to host both our Planning Committee and corporate hospitality clients. More hospitality kitchens were provided in areas such as outside the Chief Commoner’s Parlour and the Livery Hall, in addition to the finishing kitchens in the North Ambulatory and the extensive main kitchens below. These allow the City to host more functions at the same time as one another: meaning more clients, more events to promote the City, and more flexibility of space.

The project also sought to integrate space more effectively across each of the areas of the complex. For example, the entrance on Basinghall Street, as well as the grand staircase, were reopened on the eastern edge of the complex. The Basinghall Entrance had previously housed the Road Safety Centre, which featured a Ford Anglia driving simulator. This was removed, and a superb corridor created that allows access to the South Ambulatory, past the Great Hall and thus into the West Wing.

The internal fabric of both the North and West Wings was altered entirely. Walled offices that discouraged staff interaction and communication and created a claustrophobic sense of space were removed, and replaced with modern open plan offices and furniture; as well as a new restaurant and facilities for staff. More ambitiously, the piazza in front of the North Wing was demolished, lowered and rebuilt. Revolving glass doors were inserted into the building façade, to provide a readily-accessible central entrance. The rear of the North Wing was removed and replaced with a glass wall, allowing users of the new glass lifts to look down into a newly landscaped courtyard as they travel between floors.

Overall, the effect is such that a visitor entering the North Wing has an uninterrupted view of the north side of the Great Hall. To achieve this view, unsightly plant was removed from the space that is now a quiet central courtyard, and the former Lady Mayoress’ Corridor was largely removed in order to restore the view of the Great Hall’s northern frontage. It is still possible for the Lady Mayoress to access her Gallery undercover: the press however, must access their gallery externally.

At the conclusion of the improvement project, the complex was radically different to what it was before. The progress made during the Guildhall Yard East project and the Guildhall Improvement Project has opened up and modernised the complex, moving away from the previously cluttered, enclosed Yard that had existed up until the early 1970s, enabling much greater circulation throughout the entirety of the complex. New corridors made it possible to travel from one wing to another, breathing new life into the physical environment in which City Corporation Members and Officers work. Physical change therefore set the stage for organisational change.

Organisational Culture of the City of London Corporation

The question remains as to how this physical change has actually been reflected in the cultural ecology of the City of London Corporation; in fact the name of the Corporation changed during the course of the improvement project. In 2006 we decided to ‘put the City first,’ and refer to ourselves as the City of London, rather than the Corporation of London. This is clearly still work in progress.

Whilst the physical appearance and the internal layout has been modernised, even today, an external observer could be forgiven for looking at some of the practices and ceremonies of the City Corporation and consider them indicative of old fashioned and dated attitudes. An example perhaps being that the Lord Mayor, Alderman and Chief Officers use nosegays and scatter lavender oil during Common Hall to mask, however unfairly, the odour of the assembled Livery. Nevertheless, changes to the built environment of Guildhall, and the West Wing in particular, have gone hand in hand with changes in organisational behaviour. One example is committee meetings.

Until the early 2000s it was customary for committee tables to be laid out in an E shape: three tables emanating out at right angles from a long table with the Chairman at its centre. This E pattern meant many members were sat with their backs to one another and officers, simply serving to segregate members from each other. This pattern also served to stifle discussion and
debate, although officers who were seated at one side of the room in those days were more accustomed to indicating strongly what Members should decide.

The décor also was very much of its time. Walls were covered with 1970s era padded orange leather, and the furniture typified by heavy oak tables and chairs. It was common for alcohol to be served during non-public business: during summer months pot pourri was used to hide the smell of port. In all, it is not difficult to make the case that committee business in such an environment was somewhat stilted, rigid and oppressive.

The first phase of the Guildhall Improvement Project swept this away through renovating committee rooms. Committee tables are now modern and moveable: the Chairman remains at the centre; but it is the centre of a collegiate group of seating that ensures members can engage in discussion and debate, and in which officers are an integral, but advisory, part of proceedings. Décor is now modern, simple and light. A nod is given to past practice: the Clerk remains on the Chairman’s left, the Aldermen to his or her right. Officers remain at the table to the Chairman’s left, but it is not unusual in some sub-committee meetings for members and officers to be intermingled. The striped trousers and black jacket of committee clerks has given way to modern lounge suits. We are, however, still awaiting a more collegiate setting for Court meetings in the future, as requested by the Members over three years ago.

Last year, the Guildhall Historical Association heard of the development of the City’s role as a representative body of the City ‘financial’ and the emergence of the Policy and Resources Committee as the premier decisionmaking body, after the Court of Common Council, since its establishment in 1979. It has meant that it is commonly accepted that the Policy Chairman is — dare I say it — in all but name the Leader of the City of London Corporation. However it was not until the 1990s when the City Corporation was expanding into its representative role that this came to be apparent. The development of the role of Policy Chairman, and the City’s wider representative role, were reflected in the physical development of Guildhall.

When I started as Chairman of Policy in 2003, I was convinced of the need for facilities and support to be made available to the Policy Chairman that are commonly available to leaders in other local authorities, indeed any organisation. Initially, I was obliged to share a secretary with two or more other Chairmen, compared to the current arrangement whereby the Policy Chairman has an executive officer and an executive assistant, an office and meeting facilities — to say nothing of a very small flat.

In the early days, as I sought to establish the role in its current capacity, I occupied some space in the current City Centre, which meant that the City Corporation officers with whom I had to work were always running about between my temporary office and theirs. After negotiations, some insistence and little patience, the West Wing provided the current meeting and office facilities adjacent to the Town Clerk’s Department.

Along with the changing role of the Policy Chairman came a wider organisational change; led by the then Town Clerk and me, from what was arguably for many years a federation; with authority over each chief officer and most decision-making residing with each service committee. It is now, more or less (!) a single integrated organisation, with Chief Officers reporting to the Town Clerk and coordination between committees led by Policy and Resources. The roles of Policy Chairman and Town Clerk took on more characteristics of their modern peers, that of Leader of a Council, and Chief Executive, whose remit now reaches every corner of the organisation.

We can perhaps illustrate this best by referring back to the early years of the twentieth century. Many of the premier committees in Baddeley’s time have gone. Powerful as they once were, the functions of the City Lands Committee, Coal Corn and Rates Committee, and Bridge House Estates Committee and have been taken over by their modern counterparts: the Policy and Resources Committee; Finance Committee; and Investment Board.

This change in committee structure has brought with it changes in the roles and responsibilities of committee chairmen. Whereas the primary Common Councilman in Baddeley’s time was the Chairman of the City Lands Committee, whose role included that of Chief Commoner, that role in the modern era now falls to the Chairman of Policy and Resources who acts as the political ‘leader’ of the City Corporation. The role of Chief Commoner is now a separate annual post, the holder of which is responsible of matters of discipline and propriety among members of the Court, and a civic representative of the City Corporation.


Arguably much of the change that is apparent to us today is the direct result of the scale of destruction inflicted on the complex during the Blitz. The opulence and wealth of buildings such as the Common Council Chamber has disappeared: there is therefore little to hold back any conservative attachment to the ways of working and practices they embodied. Instead, organisational behaviour is framed by the sparse grandeur of the Great Hall set amidst the open, unencumbered Guildhall Yard, and the airy simplicity of the modern committee rooms.

Moreover, it is perhaps no accident that the formation of the modern Policy and Resources Committee is roughly concurrent with the opening of the modern offices and committee rooms located in the West Wing in the 1970s, and its emerging remit, free to develop and adapt to changes in society, business and government.

This paper has attempted to canter through what has been a complex development of both Guildhall and the City of London Corporation. Whilst change is clearly also driven by wider societal and generational attitudes, external factors such as the global economy and the politics of central government; I hope you will agree that physical change has made it easy for members and officers to meet our Corporate Plan, and ensure as stated, that all we do here combines ‘the best of the old with the best of the new.’



Baddeley, John James, 1939, ‘The Guildhall of the City of London,’ (London: Eden and Fisher, 1905 [Revised Seventh Edition 1939])

Boleat, Mark, 2014, ‘The Development of the City of London as a Representative Body.’ 20th January [Delivered to the Guildhall Historical Association]

Bowsher, David et. al., 2007. ‘The London Guildhall: an archaeological history of a neighbourhood from early medieval to modern times Part I and Part II,’ (London: Lavenham Press)

Churchill, Winston. 1943. ‘House of Commons Rebuilding,’ [Speech] HC Deb 28 October 1943 vol 393 cc403 – 73. Accessed from: <http://hansard.>

Jeffery, Sally., 2013 ‘The Guildhall Improvement Project 2002 – 2012,’ (City of London Corporation Booklet)

Scott., Richard Gilbert, 2004, ‘The Rebuilding of the Guildhall Art Gallery,’(Guildhall Historical Association Paper: 29 November)

Steward, Julian, 1955/1972, ‘Theory of Culture Change: The Methodology of Multilinear Evolution, (USA: University of Illinois)

Magna Carta, The City of London, and the ‘Special Relationship’

by Sir Robert Worcester, KBE DL

I am delighted to be here in the City of London and honoured by its Guildhall Historical Association to share with you my thoughts as we start the 800th Anniversary Year of Magna Carta. I would speak about three things: Why me and why now? Second, Why are you here? And third, why commemorate the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Charter of the Barons as some call it, others Magna Carta, Great Charter?

But first, much thanks to the City Corporation for its support of the Magna Carta Trust over many years, and especially for the help and advice of Tony Halmos who sits on the 800th Committee, the Anniversary Day Senior Project Board, and the Chancellor’s Grant Allocation Committee and who also chairs the Communications Sub-Committee.

Why me, why now?

Growing up in America I had a pretty thorough schooling in English history, English literature and not least English cinema (that was before television), which began with the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, then 1066 and all that, in 1215, the Great Charter, later Magna Carta.

From an early age it was “Good” King Richard the Lionheart, “Bad” King John “Lackland” (and Robin Hood and his merry men, Little John, Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet and all), Henry VIII and Elizabeth the Virgin Queen, Shakespeare, 18th century Georgian elegance in costume, in architecture and music. And as a teenager, the Ealing comedies, Lavender Hill Mob, Kind Hearts and Coronets, Whisky Galore, and the rest. Must have seen them all, and some four or five times.

I grew up with the belief that ‘the sun never sets on the British Empire’. And did I collect stamps from all over the British Empire!

All Americans knew then and now that George Washington, John Adams, John Jay, Benjamin Franklin and nearly all the Founding Fathers were at the time Englishmen (Alexander Hamilton was a Scot).

I first saw Magna Carta at the New York World’s Fair at the British Exhibition where Lincoln’s 1215 copy was displayed. I was 7 years old. On my first visit to Britain, in 1957, I was a serving officer in the US Army Corps of Engineers, returning to America to be discharged after serving in Korea, my tour of duty completed.

On my first day in London I went first to the British Museum to see two things, the Magna Carta and the Rosetta Stone, which to me represented the two icons of civilised society: the rule of law and communication outside the village.

I became a Trustee of the Magna Carta Trust 21 years ago (when I became Chairman of the Pilgrims Society). The Chairman of the Trust, by Charter was the Master of the Rolls, first the late great Tom Bingham, Lord Bingham, then Lords (Harry) Woolf, (Nicholas) Phillips, (Anthony) Clarke, (David) Neuberger and now (John) Dyson, all distinguished jurists. First under Lord Neuberger and now Lord Dyson, I now serve as Deputy Chairman of the Trust. It was Tony Clarke and David Neuberger who ganged up on me and gave me responsibility for organising the 800th Anniversary Commemorations.

How could I refuse?

Magna Carta and the City of London

We sit but a shout away from the City of London’s 1297 exemplar of Magna Carta in its position of pride in the new Guildhall Heritage Gallery. You are Historians, some perhaps even educated in medieval history, others interested in other aspects of the City of London heritage and history of different periods, yet others, like me, educated in other, if allied, social sciences. But all of us here today pleased to have the advantage unavailable a century ago when the 700th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta wasn’t commemorated in 1915 due to the War, other than in the excellent, but long out of print, Royal Historical Society produced book of Magna Carta Commemoration essays, edited by Henry Malden, Hon. Fellow, Trinity Hall, Cambridge and Hon. Secretary, Royal Historical Society.

My predecessor, the then Chairman of the Magna Carta Celebration 1915 Committee 100 years ago, was The Rt. Hon. Viscount Bryce, OM, DCL, LLD, FRS, FBA. Today I stand on the shoulder of a giant. While the war on terrorism goes on today, it is a far cry from the depths of 1915, and reminds us that the link between the military and other security forces and Magna Carta is the defence of liberty and the rule of law.

The City of London has for over 1,000 years made those links. Certainly 800 years ago this coming June. Professor McKechnie, whose Magna Carta address (1215 – 1915) is in the Malden book, put it this way. (Malden, pp. 4 – 5)

“On 5 May (1215) the barons, having chosen as their leader, Robert Fitzwalter, acclaimed by them as “Marshal of the Army of God and Holy Church,” performed the solemn feudal ceremony of diffidatio, or renunciation of their fealty and homage, a formality indispensable before vassals could, without infamy, wage war upon their feudal overlord. Absolved from their allegiance at Wallingford by a Canon of Durham, they marched on London, on the attitude of which all eyes now turned with solicitude.

“When the great city opened her gates to the insurgents, setting an example to be immediately followed by other towns, she practically made the attainment of the Great Charter secure. The Mayor of London thus takes an honoured place beside the Archbishop of Canterbury among the band of patriots to whose initiative England owes her Charter of liberties.”

Arlidge and Judge (2014) develop the scenario and add colourful detail.

“London did not institute the rebellion, but effectively joined it on 17 May 1215 when the rebel barons were admitted within its walls. It already had … an eye for the main chance. … When Richard I came to the throne in 1189, he almost immediately departed on crusade, leaving his Chancellor, William Longchamps, at the head of the government. When John and a party of barons opposed his rule, the citizens of London supported John and recognised him as supreme governor of the realm; they swore that if Richard died without issue they would support John’s claim to the throne. In return he recognised their commune. When Richard returned from the Holy Land, the citizens politically offered 1,500 marks towards his ransom. In 1215 they again turned turtle and supported the baronial rebels against John.”

Hindley (1991) developed the story in his earlier, most detailed especially about London, book.

“From the moment they occupied the city, the opposition barons found firm friends and allies among London’s leading men. The Articles of the Barons contained important clauses aimed to protect London interests, and most of these are to be found in the Great Charter, if in modified form. There were omissions, the most serious concerning the Londoners’ liability to tallage. This was the purest form of protection money, levied at will and without appeal by king or lord from townsman or serf, village or city. It was particularly loathed because it was arbitrary, could be extortionate, and was a badge of inferior status.”

You believe in freedom. When I mention Magna Carta to people who believe in freedom, anywhere in the world, their eyes light up. I’d like to start by testing your knowledge of Magna Carta. Who can tell me where it was signed? How many agree?

[Wrong, it wasn’t, it was ‘sealed’!]

There are many myths which surround the Magna Carta. That it was only a fight between the Barons and the King. It certainly was, but not only that.

It was the beginning of the spread of modern democracy. Magna Carta was the overturning for the first time of ‘divine rule’ (King John, and somewhat later, King George III’s power over the American colonialists), the beginning of representative democracy, and as Lord Judge, the former Lord Chief Justice of the United Kingdom, recently quoted:

“Nullum scutagium vel auxilium ponatur in regno nostro nisi per commune consilium regni nostri”, which very roughly translated into American means ‘No taxation without representation’. Now which historian, which lawyer, which American, hasn’t heard that phrase before?

Did you know that Americans abroad were the last to be franchised? And when? On 7 January 1977 President Ford signed (not sealed) the Overseas Citizens Voting Rights Act after we lobbied Tip O’Neill, then Speaker of the House, when we got five minutes with him in 1974, and pleaded ‘no taxation without representation’. Before 1977, Americans abroad still had to pay taxes, but had lost the right to vote by moving overseas.

And it was the foundation of human rights, under threat now at home and abroad, as we consider how to cope with the threats which face us in the 21st Century. And civil liberties, as protected in the American Constitution.

Magna Carta enshrined the Rule of Law. It limited the power of authoritarian rule. It paved the way for trial by jury, modified through the ages as the franchise was extended.

Magna Carta proclaimed certain religious liberties,The English Church shall be free”.

Magna Carta is England’s greatest export.

Now affecting the lives of nearly two billion people in over 100 countries throughout the world. For centuries it has influenced constitutional thinking worldwide including in many Commonwealth countries, even in France, Germany, and Japan, and throughout Asia, Latin America and Africa.

Over the past 800 years, denials of Magna Carta’s basic principles have led to a loss of liberties, of human rights and even genocide, taking place yesterday, this morning, today and tomorrow.

It is an exceptional document on which all democratic society has been constructed, described by the former German Ambassador when he said to me that everybody in Germany knows about the Magna Carta, it is “The Foundation of Democracy”.

Thirty-eight years ago, in all their splendour, the House of Commons Speaker and House of Lords Speaker, MPs and Peers, Law Lords, Ambassadors and High Commissioners, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, met with the senior members of the American Congress and Senate assembled in the 1,000 year old Palace of Westminster’s Westminster Hall to deliver a gold-embossed reproduction of the Magna Carta. Then, in June 1976, representatives from England travelled to the Capitol to present Congress with an additional gift: a one-year loan of an original 1215 Magna Carta to be displayed in the Rotunda of the Congress of the United States. I was there.

This time the plan is to have the Supreme Court organise a ‘mock trial’ with judges, jury and advocates, mainly from Commonwealth countries, judging barons and bishops in the dock on the charge of treason to be telecast and broadcast on BBC World. This will be on 31 July, the night before the Supreme Court Magna Carta Exhibition opens for August and September. Prior to this, starting in March, the British Library will have the biggest exhibition it’s ever held.

There will be exhibitions and demonstrations, pageants and concerts, sound and light shows, seminars and symposiums, open lectures and plays in the Magna Carta Towns, in cathedrals and castles, town halls and town squares throughout the land here. There will be many exhibitions and events in Canada and the USA, France and Germany, Poland and Trinidad and throughout the Eastern Caribbean, in southern Asia, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and everywhere that values the principles that the Barons wrenched from the King at Runnymede. They had to fight for it, and we are the beneficiaries of their fight. The ever expanding list of events is kept up to date at

You can follow the commemoration of the 800th by signing up to the Magna Carta Newsletter at our website and tell us if you’d like to get involved, at www. And I hope some of you will be with us at Runnymede and some as well in Westminster Hall for the mock trial at the end of July, or at least watching it on BBC World and I hope PBS in the USA, ABC in Australia, and in Canada on CBC as well as well as in many countries’ TV stations, on the Internet, and elsewhere throughout the world.

Finally, I did want to share with the Historians, who represent literarily hundreds of years of service to the City and to this country, my belief as a true Anglo-American that the values enshrined in the Magna Carta and its legacy are largely the reason for the existence of the ‘Special Relationship’ that bonds my two countries, Britain and America, two countries which have fought two World Wars and many other, smaller, conflicts shoulder to shoulder in defence of liberty. The City of London over centuries has fostered the Special Relationship.

President Obama observed in 2011 in a speech to the British Parliament:

“our system of justice, customs, and values stemmed from our British forefathers. Our relationship is special because of the values and beliefs that have united our people throughout the ages. Centuries ago, when kings, emperors, and warlords reigned over much of the world, it was the English who first spelled out the rights and liberties of man in Magna Carta.”

Thank you.

Sir Robert Worcester, KBE DL

The Campaign to save Wanstead Flats from Development

by Wendy Mead

The late 19th century battles to prevent the enclosure of our much prized open spaces at Epping Forest and Burnham Beeches are well documented and fairly well known. However, a more recent campaign was mounted in the mid 1940s when the pressure to find homes for bombed-out victims of the Second World War became intense and Wanstead Flats was, once again, targeted for development.

The Flats are the most southerly area of Epping Forest and provide much needed recreation for the densely populated parts of London to the west and south of the Forest, in Forest Gate and in West and East Ham.

Victorian expansion had always looked greedily at the Flats. Landowners in the 1850s and again in the early 1870s made attempts at development, despite vociferous local opposition including, in July 1871, a huge demonstration on the Flats which required police intervention and ended with the demolition of illegally erected fencing. This initiated the legal action against enclosing landlords by The City of London Corporation, leading to the Epping Forest Act of 1878.

Up to the start of the Second World War the Flats became popular with large numbers of East Enders for a wide variety of leisure activities including many sports pitches, a model yacht pond, a bandstand and holiday fun fairs, providing the open space lacking near their homes. By the 1930s over 100 football clubs were regularly using the Flats.

During the Second World War the Flats were requisitioned for military purposes with anti-aircraft batteries throughout, causing the Flats and surrounding areas to become prime targets for enemy action. The North-West side where the guns were concentrated became known as ‘Hell Fire Corner’. In the summer of 1944 the Flats were used as an important transit point for the D-Day invasion and then, for a short time at the end of the war, as a prisoner of war camp.

By 1945 the Flats were in a poor state with remains of gun emplacements and buildings, rusting barbed wire, bomb and rocket craters. Much of the ground had been dug for trenches and allotments or churned up by military boots and vehicles. In addition, the local boroughs of East and West Ham had claimed sections of the eastern and southern Flats for temporary housing for a ten year period.

Enemy action throughout the War had destroyed 14,000 houses in West Ham alone and those untouched required urgent repair, compounding the difficulties of overcrowding, poverty and the slums of the inter-war years. The British population had increased by over a million during the War followed by a baby boom and the need for housing was so immense that a West Ham County Borough Housing Committee meeting on 4th March 1946 declared the ‘present housing situation…is such as to warrant drastic action’.

In the run up to the 1945 General Election housing was seen by many as the key issue and the Labour Party made extravagant claims for their building plans, Ernest Bevin promising 5 million homes in the shortest possible time but queues for housing grew longer still after their landslide victory.

In 1946, to ease their own very pressing housing shortage, West Ham Council proposed to acquire a large tract of the Flats by Compulsory Purchase Order. On the face of it they had a strong case given the destruction across the Borough but as those opposing the building plans pointed out, West Ham’s housing problem was not entirely clear. From a pre-war peak in 1929 their population had been steadily falling. Younger generations moved further out of London as major employers such as the docks and railway works at Stratford began to decline and many residents had been evacuated during the war.

During the war the Corporation of London had allowed temporary housing as an emergency for bombed-out families and three respite camps were set up in Epping Forest to receive 7,000 evacuees but were never used. The Corporation offered no objections to the Flats being used for temporary homes on a strict two year time limit. However, the post-war plans of the two Councils were giving cause for increasing concern and a letter from three Verderers published in the Walthamstow Guardian in February 1946 stated “their growing conviction that once temporary houses are erected in the 23 acres requisitioned by East Ham Corporation… the land so occupied will be lost to the public forever.” The letter goes on that once one authority was allowed to raid the Forest in this way others would follow. Their concerns were well founded: the Walthamstow Guardian had earlier reported that in view of East Ham’s success, Walthamstow Council was considering reapplying for other Forest land. East Ham’s claim was followed shortly after by a demand from West Ham Corporation for a compulsory purchase of 163 acres to house 7,400 people. Of the land claimed, only 17 acres lay in the boundaries of West Ham but their new plans would mean that much of the central area of the Flats would be covered in housing and shops.

As expected, West Ham Corporation received strong support from the new Labour Government, itself determined not to repeat the failure of successive Governments to provide decent housing after the First World War and was even considering nationalisation of land to prevent the obstruction of development by private landlords. Aneurin Bevan, now in charge of the housing programme, declared that landlords’ interests must be secondary to the needs of the nation and, referring particularly to the Flats, he said he regretted very much the need to do it but “…the Commoners of Epping Forest must surrender to the overwhelming needs of the people of East Ham”.

In a typical political ploy responsibility for housing was handed over to local authorities who would become the driving force in the housing market claiming “if Councillors wanted votes, they would have to supply the housing”.

Alarm grew rapidly as the plans became known through the local press and it became clear that the argument was far from over. Typical letters of the time express the view that the Flats were not being taken from a wealthy landowner but from the working man and his children, and many references were made to the dedication of Wanstead Flats to the people forever as part of Epping Forest and enshrined in the 1878 Act. Letters to local MPs made clear the incalculable recreational value to the people, particularly the youth, of the thickly populated areas of East London.

At a council meeting, the Mayor of Wanstead and Woodford produced the axe presented to his ancestor George Burney for his part in demolishing enclosures in 1882 and promised to lead another axe squad with it, should one be required.

A vociferous group of home-owning residents of Park Ward, made up of estates north of Wanstead Flats, became the focal point of the opposition. They had formed in 1945 as the War Damage Organisation, helping local people whose homes were bomb damaged. In its newsletter, attention had already been drawn to the danger to the Flats and led by a committed secretary, local school teacher Stanley Reed, a Defence Committee was formed.

The Committee played a key role in co-ordinating scattered local opposition particularly from East and West Ham, Reed fearing that the West Ham politicos who initiated the development plans would represent objections from Wanstead as the “snobbish fears among the Wanstead well-to-do of working class penetration of their preserves”. The Committee mounted a petition, held public meetings and declared itself to be “prepared to do all that lies in its power to harness the indignation that will undoubtedly be widespread when the implication of these schemes is fully realised”. Naturally, as anger grew the debate became increasingly bitter with a public meeting in Leyton attracting 250, where Leah Manning the first Labour MP to be elected for Epping told the meeting she had received letters from servicemen in the desert and the jungle begging her to preserve the land where they had spent their childhood. She went on to propose that, if all legal means failed, she was prepared to spend as many nights needed out on the Flats organising pickets to prevent the first step to build.

Her involvement in the protest campaign was significant for, not only as a Labour MP she may have favoured house building over open spaces, but later she worked equally hard for the development of Harlow New Town despite vociferous local opposition. In her autobiography she writes that the need for housing “was desperate and urgent”, and building in the New Town “should override the need to preserve the natural beauty of village country life”.

Councillor Burgess of Wanstead and Woodford raised an issue that became central to the protestors’ case when he said, at a public meeting, that powers were being claimed which infringed public rights, and if councils were allowed to build on one part of Epping Forest it would let loose development over the whole Forest. He went on to declare that the councils were approaching Hitler’s methods of using the law to carry out schemes and when the laws didn’t fit, changed the laws. In 1945, this accusation carried force but West Ham Council’s response, in a letter to the Stratford Express, urged the ‘Hands off the Flats party’ to look at the problems facing the thousands of homeless or face appearing indifferent to their needs. East Ham Council weighed in to accuse The City of London Corporation of badly neglecting the Flats which ‘had been a disgrace for years before the war’. The general feeling locally was strongly opposed to the proposals and other local boroughs, even those with acute housing needs of their own, were highly critical. Suggestions such as building in the bombed docks were put forward and Leyton Town Clerk suggested that if West Ham need houses they should use a park of their own. By the summer of 1946 published plans revealed West Ham Council’s true motives and the real reason for development, according to protestors, was to increase local population which would in turn decrease the cost per head of local services. On top of this the published minutes of the Housing Committee included a report of officers meeting to discuss a proposal to extend the existing boundary, so that the whole of the development would be in West Ham, otherwise West Ham would be the landlord but the local authority would be Wanstead and Woodford and decrease in service costs could not be achieved. This situation could only be resolved by a public inquiry to hear West Ham Council’s application for a compulsory purchase order but by December 1946
when the inquiry opened, the Council probably knew their proposals would fail. 379 formal objections had been received by the Council and a petition of 60,000 signatures was presented to Parliament by Leah Manning. Forceful groups opposing the proposals included The City of London Corporation, Wanstead and Woodford Borough Council, the Commons, Open Spaces and Footpaths Preservation Society, the National Playing Fields Association and Ilford Trades Council. Each was represented by Counsel. Such was the interest in the case as a test for other development proposals for protected land, the inquiry, which received national press coverage, heard vehement opposition and, amid catcalls and shouts, West Ham’s Town Clerk declared it to be a battle of the haves and have-nots and accused protestors of prejudices against people from West Ham coming to live amongst them, just as Stanley Reed predicted. Citing the 16,000 people in urgent need of housing, the Town Clerk went on to declare that the Flats were only technically part of Epping Forest and described them as “flattish, bleakish and unattractive open space, where only a lunatic would travel from surrounding areas to play football.” This view was endorsed by West Ham’s Borough Engineer, who declared that most of the Flats consisted of “a gravel which did not retain moisture or manure and was incapable of supporting healthy vegetation and would not sustain grass strong enough for football pitches”. Since these views were in direct contrast to the experience of pre-war users of the Flats they were met with derision and a reply from Sir Edward North Buxton, one of the Forest Verderers, and possibly with a little exaggeration, claimed that during the 1930s it was not unusual to see up to 5,000 playing and a further 2,000 watching football. Objectors pointed out that the proposals were at odds with Government’s own Greater London Plan which emphasised keeping as much open space as possible and even if building were allowed on the Flats it would not solve local housing problems. In support of all this evidence the tireless Stanley Reed presented the petition of 60,000. He had been granted unpaid leave by his employer, none other than West Ham Corporation, to attend the inquiry, a pretty fair minded gesture. The opposition took differing but complementary approaches. The City of London Corporation concentrated on the legal aspect, leaving local campaigners to focus on the public protest. Despite the formidable legal arguments from both sides, the most effective testimony, according to Stanley, came from a bus driver who described his dismal progress through Hackney, Homerton and Leyton to the point where the houses ended and he and his bus emerged into the light and air of Wanstead Flats, with their trees, grass and grazing cattle.
The Minister for Town and Country Planning gave his verdict rejecting the Application to West Ham’s Town Clerk in a letter dated April 1947, but made it clear that the Ministry did not accept the argument that the Flats, as part of Epping Forest under the Act of 1878, was necessarily protected from compulsory purchase for building land. The rationale for rejection was, that due to shortage of labour and materials, West Ham would be limited to building on land it already had. He went on to add “it is most undesirable to permit building on Wanstead Flats … it is not necessary to contemplate sacrifice of some of this open space for housing”. He described the Flats as “part of a well-established wedge of public open space extending into the densely built up area of London”. West Ham Council declared itself without means to appeal and would “loyally accept the decision” and immediately began lobbying the Minister to help them find alternative land and to encourage the City of London Corporation to fulfil its undertaking to develop the Flats as a public open space on modern lines. The phase “on modern lines” veiled another potential threat to the Flats as a relatively undeveloped space. West Ham’s Town Clerk wrote to Wanstead and Woodford and Leyton Councils proposing a committee be formed to meet with Epping Forest Conservators and draw up plans for the development of the Flats as a leisure amenity. Elaborate plans were drawn up, including a swimming pool, 9 hole golf course and an open air theatre. These plans came to nothing but the City Corporation perhaps stung by criticism at the public inquiry, embarked on a major restoration programme to which the Park Residents Association, successor to the Defence Committee, contributed to the planting of a grove of trees on the Aldersbrook side of the Flats. Today, the Flats provide 47 football pitches suitable for different ages, plus designated areas suitable for sport. Walkers, with or without dogs, funfairs and circuses, joggers and picnickers all enjoy this well-loved green space on the edge of London. Incidentally, local hero Stanley Reed did not lose his week’s salary. He notes in his memoirs that an envelope with his exact wages dropped through his letter box one evening and other anonymous packages, containing minutes of various West Ham Council Committees dealing with the compulsory purchase application, had been similarly delivered during the campaign. I am indebted to Mark Gorman and the Leyton and Leytonstone Historical Society for all their work and research into this remarkable story

The Development of the City of London as a representative body

by Mark Boleat

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The City of London Corporation has the functions of a local authority in the Square Mile, but it is heavily involved in many other areas including arts and culture, open spaces, private education, food markets, the judiciary, policing and State events. The City Corporation also has a representative role for “the City”, a shorthand expression for the UK’s financial services industry. This role involves setting out the City position and seeking to influence public policy in the UK, Europe and globally.

Why the City Corporation is involved in non-local authority functions is bound up in history, and partly reflects the financial resources at its disposal. This paper seeks to explain why and how the City has come to exercise its representative role.

The representative role today

It is helpful briefly to set out the nature of the City Corporation’s current representative role, before beginning to analyse how that role developed. The work today includes:

  • The Lord Mayor’s overseas programme, which is largely promotional although there is some representative work on policy issues. This also applies to the Lord Mayor’s role in receiving foreign visitors.
  • The Policy Chairman is involved in frequent meetings with politicians, think tanks and other opinion formers in the UK, and also on the international stage – in the EU, China, India and the US. The objective of this work is to influence policy, lobbying as some would call it.
  • The City Corporation conducts and sponsors research and events and makes policy representations on a limited number of issues, generally cross-sectoral.
  • The City Corporation is the largest individual funder of the TheCityUK and is heavily involved in its work. TheCityUK is a relatively new body but has rapidly established itself as the cross-sectoral representative body for the UK’s financial services industry

Why does the City have a representative role?

Having briefly explained the “what”, the more important question is the “why”. There is no law that says that the City Corporation has a representative role and no one has appointed it to have this role. Here it is necessary to understand how the policy making process works and the role of representation in that process. It would be nice to think that policy making is a logical process – policy makers doing the necessary analysis and consultation and then producing proposals that are in the national interest. But the process is not like this in reality. The policy makers are primarily concerned with winning the next election, so short term considerations have an unduly important influence. Some groups of people have far more political clout than others, and the media have a disproportionate influence. And, finally, the government is not the only source of knowledge and expertise. So a wide range of organisations seek to influence the political process, from trade associations representing particular sectors, to pressure groups (e.g. Greenpeace), think tanks (e.g. Policy Exchange and Institute for Public Policy Research) and individuals.

The influence any group has depends on a combination of factors:

  • Its “representativeness” – does it in practice represent a significant and relevant interest group and is it recognised as such?
  • The quality of its representations, which depend partly on the quality of its evidence and partly on its understanding of and ability to be involved in the policy making process.
  • Its influencing skills, which depend partly on the characteristics of the people running the group.
  • Political “clout”, which may well represent personal factors – such as connections with policy makers or ability to use the media.

The City Corporation scores highly on the final three points. This is partly because it has been able to put resources into this work – good quality representations in particular do not come cheap. It is the first point that is the key one. At first sight a body which provides local authority services, even one as eminent as the City of London Corporation, has no remit to represent a sector as wide as the UK financial services industry, any more than Grimsby Council could represent the fishing industry, or Aberdeen City Council could represent the offshore oil industry. But, in practice, the City Corporation now has an accepted representative role. So when and how did this come about? The early development of the representative role My research began with perhaps the definitive publication – the “Statement on the Origins, Constitution and Functions of the Corporation of London”, published in 1974. This did not mention representation or for that matter even the financial services industry. There was mention of a Parliamentary and Policy Committee, although this was clearly of little significance, and I suspect dealt purely with internal City Corporation matters.

The Policy and Resources Committee, which now is responsible for the representative work, was established in 1979. But its initial terms of reference were entirely concerned with the City Corporation, and made no reference to representing the financial city.

The significant development of the representative role occurred in the early 1990s and can be attributed to a number of inter-related factors.

The first was changes in local government in London. In 1986 the Greater London Council was abolished, leaving London without a strategic authority and an elected body able to speak for the whole of the wider city. There was also seen to be a challenge to the existence of the City Corporation itself, culminating with a threat by the Labour Party to abolish the City of London Corporation. The then City fathers recognised that the City had to play a wider role in promoting the interests of London as a whole, both in representative terms and also through initiatives such as establishing the City Bridge Trust, supporting the establishment of London First in 1992 and generally working with neighbouring boroughs.

The second point related to a change in the role of the Bank of England. Previously, it had had a de facto role of representing the interests of the wider City, but for various reasons the Bank was less and less able to fulfil that role. The City Corporation duly moved into this space, although whether this was encouraged or merely grudgingly accepted by the Bank is open for debate.

There was therefore a clear market need for a body to have a representative role in representing London generally and the financial city specifically. The City of London Corporation was an obvious candidate to undertake this role, aided by its non-party political approach. It also had, through City’s Cash, access to funding to develop that role. But it needed much more than a market and some money to adopt a representative role. It required strong and farsighted leadership, bearing in mind that many in the City Corporation are strongly wedded to traditions and to the past. That leadership was provided by a number of people, notably Sir Brian Jenkins, Lord Mayor in 1991/92, and Michael Cassidy, Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee from 1991 to 1996.

On financial services representation, the new Policy and Resources Committee quickly performed a de facto widening of its remit, recognising the need to take a London-wide view, particularly in respect of financial services.

Even before Michael Cassidy became Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee, in October 1990 the Court of Common Council agreed a Report of the Committee recommending the creation of an ‘Institute for Financial Markets’ and the establishment of a Formation Committee. A Governing Board was set up under the Chairmanship of Stanislas Yassukovich, and a number of prominent persons in the business City, together with Peter Rigby and Michael Cassidy, agreed to serve. This became known as the City Research Project (CRP) and began one of the most substantial programmes of coordinated research ever undertaken into the City’s international competitive position. The London Business School was appointed to manage the CRP and brought in sector experts from many of London’s other leading centres of business study and research. Over the three year life of the project, 22 separate subject papers were produced, covering almost all of the key areas of City activity. The final report was published in 1995 with great fanfare with consecutive events in the world’s three leading international financial centres at that time – London, New York and Tokyo.

The City Research Project firmly put the City Corporation on the map as a voice of UK’s financial services industry, and what has happened since then has been a steady expansion of this role. An Economic Development Office was set up in 1994 and it expanded to handle the growing work in London and the increasing representative role. Similarly, the Public Relations Office, originally established in 1987, was strengthened, to work closely with the Economic Development Office in getting the City’s message over. The City Corporation has been effective because its approach has always been measured and evidence-based – with no party-political angles. Its ability to convene events has also played a part, helped by the ability to fund events. In short, the City Corporation saw a need for a representative role and skilfully positioned itself to exercise that role effectively, because if it had not done so its voice would not be heard, its events would not be attended and its status generally would be diminished.

Brussels, China and India

The next major move was the establishment of a Brussels office in 2003, aimed at helping organisations to present their views more consistently and effectively about cross-border sectoral issues.

A major issue was how to avoid the Office making representations on specific issues that could cut across or duplicate existing representations being made by individual trade associations and practitioners or through European representative organisations, to which they were affiliated. The answer was to use an Advisory Group in London to steer the work of the office in Brussels. Again, a key leadership role was important, in this case provided by Sir Nigel Wicks, who chaired the Advisory Group.

Some trade associations were sceptical about the initiative. The Committee report commented: “The most vocal resistance to the proposal has come from the Association of British Insurers which is particularly concerned about giving the office only a City of London identity when a significant part of the UK financial services sector does most of its business elsewhere in the UK. They also point to the wide range of financial services institutions already represented in some way or other in Brussels and suggest that the office will simply add yet another layer of representation and increase the already huge volume of paperwork. They also suggest that improvements in the recent past mean that existing co-ordination mechanisms here in London should provide an appropriate degree of consistency without having an actual office in Brussels.” I quote that in full because I was Director General of the ABI at the time and I wrote those words. Now I see the error of my ways!

After Brussels came the world. In June 2005, the City decided to fund representation in China, initially through two representatives based in Beijing and Shanghai, hired through the China Britain Business Council’s Launchpad scheme and backed by two part-time Senior Advisors based in China. Formal offices were established in 2010. These are supported by a high level China Advisory Council. In March 2006, the City established a representative office in Mumbai and an Advisory Council for India to steer the work of the Office. The aim, as in China, was to promote the interests of the UK-based financial services sector in India and to strengthen trading and investment links in both directions between India and the UK through the provision of world class financial services and products.


The financial crisis, which began in 2008, threatened the City Corporation’s role in several ways. Firstly, the reputation of financial services generally and banking in particular was severely damaged, such that even strong evidence was ignored in the face of a strong political imperative “to deal with the banks”. The downturn in banking markets reduced physical activity in the City. And the poor reputation of financial services reduced the influence that the City was able to exert.

In 2008 the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Mayor of London separately set up joint industry working groups to examine the issues and make recommendations for action to ensure that London and the wider UK maintained their international positions. The Mayor of London commissioned Bob Wigley, then Chairman of Merrill Lynch, to examine the position of London. His report, London: Winning in a Changing World, was published in December 2008. One of his key conclusions was that London’s financial services industry was poorly promoted. There were too many overlapping bodies in the field, presenting a confusing message to an international audience. He recommended that the City Corporation take the lead in the creation of a single, overarching body to bring coordination and strategy to the process. The City Corporation had been actively involved in the Wigley Review and had responded to the publication of the Wigley report by saying that it would rise to the challenge and take the lead in setting up the new body.

In the period immediately following the Wigley Report, work on a new body took second place to the Professional Services and Financial Services Global Competitiveness Groups (PSGC and FSGC). Both these groups were jointly chaired by Treasury Ministers, in the case of the PSGC with the then Deputy Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee, Sir Michael Snyder. The FSGC Group report, published in May 2009, called for the creation of a more efficient structure to consider promotional issues. It went on, “The Government and industry should support work under way to establish an independent body that is permanent, practitioner-led, politically neutral, strategic and cross-sectorial”. Crucially, the report acknowledged that the new body should have both an EU agenda and play a role in demonstrating the importance of the financial services industry to a broader domestic audience.

The City Corporation convened a steering group that led to the creation of “TheCityUK”, which formally began operation in 2010. This also embraced International Financial Services London, the former British Invisibles. The City Corporation’s own EU Advisory Group, established to support the Brussels office, morphed into a new International Regulatory Strategy Group, serviced by its staff and a resource for both the City Corporation and TheCityUK. The City Corporation and TheCityUK are inextricably linked. The City Corporation effectively established TheCityUK, the Lord Mayor is president of its Advisory Council and the Policy Chairman is Deputy Chairman and also Deputy Chairman of the International Regulatory Strategy Group. In addition the City Corporation provides total financial support of around £600,000 a year, a reduction from £750,000 a year provided in the first three years. TheCityUK now has a high profile and is generally recognised as doing an excellent job. Had it not got off the ground, which for a time looked possible, this would have reflected badly on the City. But there was also a real risk to the City Corporation of the organisation being successful, as at first sight it was establishing a well-resourced and supported body to do work which it itself had been doing, albeit at lower intensity. The reality is that the City Corporation had little choice but to do what it did. Even without it a body would have been created, but in which the City Corporation would have had no influence at all.

The two organisations are operating in the same space, but they are different and there is the risk of conflict and turf battles. The fundamental difference between TheCityUK and the City Corporation is that the former is a membership organisation, which gives it both credibility and a huge resource on which to draw. The City Corporation is less well-resourced but on some issues can speak more freely. In practice however TheCityUK and the City Corporation work closely together, and in so doing are more effective, complementing each other’s work. This has happened because the key people have been determined to make it happen.

This final point needs developing. If the City Corporation was setting out views that were significantly different from those of TheCityUK then the impact of both organisations would be diminished. In general, there should be no reason why the City Corporation should have a view different from that of the UK financial services industry. The City Corporation’s views, like those of TheCityUK, are not developed by a few people pursuing their own agendas, but rather reflect the research it undertakes and the extensive contact with City businesses both at meetings with members and officers and at the many informal occasions that occur in the City.

Formalising reality

It was only in 2011, in a comprehensive review of governance, that the City Corporation’s role as a representative body was formally recognised in the terms of reference of the Policy and Resources Committee: “the support and promotion of the City of London as the world leader in international financial and business services and to oversee, generally, the city of London Corporation’s economic development activities, communications strategy and public relations activities.”


The City Corporation may have been around for 800 or more years, but its role in helping to represent the UK’s financial services industry is just 20 years old. But it is entirely in accordance with the traditions of the City – both the Corporation and the industry. London is one of the great cities of the world, a centre for business, culture, tourism and sport. Its problems are those of a rising population, a place where people want to live and work. It is multicultural where people from all countries and backgrounds can become Londoners within days. The financial City exemplifies this – a Canadian governor of the central bank, a French chief executive of the Stock Exchange, an Australian and two Maltese chairing our major insurance companies, a New Zealander and a Portuguese running our two state owned banks. The financial City has been open and well run, in relative terms at least, attracting business and people. Much of this would have happened without the City of London Corporation, but the City Corporation, like the financial institutions, saw a gap in the market, recognised the need to provide representation for the financial city and London as a whole and notwithstanding the absence
of a legal remit provided that service. This has facilitated the growth of the financial city and is widely recognised as a valuable role by government and the finance industry alike.

This has not always been without controversy but generally the role is well accepted. Sir Brian Jenkins and Michael Cassidy saw the need and built the foundations, which their successors have developed to make the City of London Corporation what it is a today – a multifunctional body with representation for the financial city being a key function.

The Hanseatic Steelyard in Dowgate

by Alderman Alison Gowman

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My Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress, Fellow Historians and guests.

I am honoured to be able to speak to you today on the subject of the Hanseatic Steelyard in Dowgate—the Ward that I represent in the City as its Alderman for those of you not versed in the City’s electoral boundaries. I resist the chance to say the best Ward in the City and I leave you to conclude that for yourselves at the end of my talk.

The Hanseatic League is the stuff of schooldays history. Everyone has heard of them but cannot then say much more. I can tell you that the Hanseatic Steelyard, the home of the Hanseatic League in the City of London, is a tale of foreigners and Royalty, enclaves and secret passwords, riots and skulduggery.

There is inevitably a bit of further explanation to unfold. Some hinges on the vagaries of language and the poorest of translations; whilst much arises from the loss or absence of documentation. The Hanseatic League is the English nomenclature for a phenomenon that is termed in its original tongue the Hanse. Literally The Association—no further description was needed, as the merchants and cities it encompassed knew what it meant and all other traders, towns, Kings and parliaments trembled at the power it represented. There is very little documentation in English about the Hanse—a merciful release when seeking to do some research—but most historians agree that the first association between the cities of Lübeck, Hamburg, Rostock, Cologne and Kiel dates from around 1259. Unlike its modern counterpart, the EU, there was no overarching formality or administrative burden of regulation in the links between the cities. Towns joined and left from time to time. An occasional assembly was called of all towns but there seemed to be no compunction to attend or vote.

The next clerical error is in the word Steelyard. The Steelyard relates to the area of the trading post, warehouses and homes of the Hanse merchants which is in Dowgate Ward. It is shown on the early maps of the City very close to Three Cranes Wharf as “stilyard.” The derivation of this term is obscure. The early records refer to this in early Middle Low German as the Stalhof. ‘Hof’ we all know means yard, and so that is quite straightforward but ‘stal’ is not so clear. Does it mean a sample or pattern, or is it synonymous with staple meaning emporium? Does it refer to the labels or seals affixed to items to attest to their quality and price? Or is it akin to the Bristol nail where the deal is sealed with a firm assurance between the parties? Or finally does it refer to the steelbeam used to weigh goods? In short, no one can be definitive on this matter.

The next leap is to the Anglicisation from Stalhof to Stilyard which has come to be known as the Steelyard because of its homophonous quality. Thus we celebrate their presence in the City of London with an alleyway that passes under Cannon Street rail bridge called Steelyard Passage and a section of the riverside walk that I compelled the City a few years ago into renaming as Hanseatic Walk.

Dowgate had been a location for foreign merchants since the late 10th century. Germans or Easterlings or Osterlings were mentioned during the reign of Ethelred II. A regulation of 967 stated:

“the Easterlings coming with their ships…were to pay toll at Christmas two grey cloths and one brown one, with ten pounds of pepper five pairs of gloves two vessels of vinegar…”

(I had to quote this simply for the gloving reference, as I am the Master Elect of the Glovers.)

In 1125, William of Malmesbury states that the wharves of London were “packed with the goods of merchants coming from all countries and especially from Germany”. Special privileges were granted by Henry II in 1157 and 1175 and these were confirmed in 1194 when the merchants in Cologne paid part of the ransom for Richard I. He promptly granted them a charter in England with special rights which were confirmed in 1213 by King John, who stated that the Easterlings did not need to pay rent for their Guildhall nor on any trade throughout the kingdom. The pre-dominance of these Cologne merchants waned as others (mainly all from other German cities) arrived and the Hanse, being an association of merchants of several cities, took over.

So far as we can tell the site extended from Cosin Lane in the west, now Cousin Lane, and the river to the south and Windgoose Lane or Wingoose Alley (no longer in existence but approximately at All Hallows Lane) in the east with Upper Thames Street to the north. Between the 12th and 14th centuries over 40 metres of land was reclaimed from the River and so made usable for wharves and premises. The Stalhof area was a complex of rooms and buildings including two Guildhalls where the goods were protected from all weathers. There was a dye house (with Dyers’ Hall close by); a wine cellar and gardens planted with vines and fruit trees stretching down to the river.

The regime in the Steelyard was strict. It was enclosed and secure—no women, loose or otherwise, could enter. The merchants were not allowed to marry. Barbers and goldsmiths’ apprentices were banned; no straw “mess or other foulness” must be left about with no fighting, playing ball or breaking windows with stones. Above all, no English were allowed inside for fear that they would

find out the secrets of the Hanse trade. The merchants lived communally. There was a curfew by which time they must be back inside each night and a shibboleth of “cheese and bread” was said to the gatekeepers to let them in—it was said in English and not German—another crossover of our cultures. The Hanse had a council of 12 who ruled the Stalhof being a Master, 2 assessors and 9 others.

If they were simply merchants trading on the river they might not have had much impact on the life of the City—but they were the Hanse a strong trading alliance centred in the cities of Lübeck, Hamburg and Cologne but stretching out to the four great pivots of their reach in Novgorod, Bergen, Brugges and London with four Kontors (trading posts). These were the backbone of the trade and encompassing up to 165 other cities throughout north western Europe. Its strength was in the treaties that it made to gain preferential rights to trade and be exempt from customs and an occasional foray into international affairs and the infrequent and unfortunate, attempt at war or aggression. The merchants traded fish and timber, hides, fur, linen, wheat, rye, grain (in 1258 it is said that German grain saved the City from famine), tar, pitch, wax and ashes (but no steel!) No wonder the Skinners and Tallow Chandlers also thrived in Dowgate Hill (and what serendipity that the Skinners held an evening lecture on the Steelyard, the Hanseatic League and the Skinners earlier this week!) Notes have been compared.

English wool, the staple was traded in exchange. By the 16th century it is thought that the Hanse held 90% of the wool exports from London.

The Hanse merchants in London had gained their rights by many diverse treaties, loans and diplomatic moves. I have already mentioned the ransom for Richard I in return for which he gave the merchants certain privileges. When Henry III faced Simon de Montfort (1264) the Hanse merchants financed the King and further benefits were bestowed. In particular in 1266 the first royal charter was granted to the merchants from Hamburg to set up a protective organisation (hanse) and to hold assemblies and to regulate their own affairs. This charter is still honoured in Hamburg today to which I will refer later.

Succeeding decades saw the ups and downs of life in the City. In 1282 a dispute arose between the Hanse and the City about the upkeep of Bishopsgate which the Hanse merchants lost. The outcome was that the merchants agreed to fund the upkeep of, and secure against the enemy, the city gate at Bishopsgate. Later, the Hanse sided with the King against the French (always a good move) and the Carta Mercatoria of 1303 was granted by Edward I that exempted the Hanse from all customs duties and also excluded English merchants from trading in the Baltic and Scandinavia. The Hanse paid less duty than even the London traders. The early part of the Hundred Years War was likewise financed for Edward III who pawned his crown jewels in Cologne between 1339 and 1344. As a result, amongst other privileges, the King granted the Hanse concessions in many of the Cornish tin mines.

One of the further and unique privileges granted to the Hanse was to elect their own alderman in the City governance. Again the books and vellum fail to clarify the full background to this. It certainly was extant in the mid13th century. The best known Alderman was Arnald Fitzthedmar who lived from 1201 – 1274. He was termed the “aldermanus mercatorum Alemaniae in Angliam venientum.” He was not a mere sidekick but took a leading part in politics during the reign of Henry III. In 1270 the chest of the City’s archives were entrusted to him “Scunium civium” and he wrote an important and major chronicle about the mayors and sheriffs from 1188 – 1274, the Liber de Antiquis Legibus. In reality it seems that for the most part the Hanse had two aldermen— one was a German and the other a Londoner. An alderman had to be a freeman and citizen of London and it was incompatible for a German to swear such oaths if they wanted to maintain their position in the Hanse. A situation that pertains today, as I believe you cannot be a joint citizen with another country if you want to retain your German citizenship. Therefore in 1381 for example, the Hanse elected William Walworth to be their Alderman. There may have been other reasons for this but as the Peasants’ Revolt of that year had threatened the position of the Hanse in the Steelyard as much as the other citizens of London, this was perhaps a way of honouring Walworth both as Mayor and as the killer of Wat Tyler.

Needless to say, the English merchants did not like the preferential treatment given to the Hanse. The customs rolls from this period list the items reaching port and the dues paid. They are listed under the headings: denizens, Hansards and aliens. At most periods the Hansards were importing and exporting the most but paying the least. In general the Hansards did not pay wharfage, pontage or pannage and only paid much lower general taxes and duties. They had various privileges, such as freedom from arrest and speedy justice. The end of the 14th century saw repeated attempts by the London merchants to minimise the differentials and gain the upper hand. The Hanse was facing competition and problems on all fronts and was under threat in the Baltic and by the Dutch. In England the young King Richard II came to power in 1377. The City merchants petitioned the King to protect English merchants and to restrict the foreigners (sounds familiar?) They argued that the Hanse should only be allowed to stay for a limited time and must not prevent the English merchants from trading goods both retail and wholesale. The King granted the petition, since he disliked foreigners, and he rescinded some of the Hanseatic rights. Parliament met subsequently and was more concerned about the benefit from the foreign traders to the whole of the country and was not minded to kowtow to the powerful City merchants whose interest might not benefit the rest of English trade. A final uneasy truce was found in that the Hanse kept their rights, but the London merchants were granted wider rights and were to be treated with fairness in trading with the Hanse towns abroad.

This lasted another 100 years until further dissent meant that the Bishopsgate care was taken away as “being too important at the time of war to trust to foreigners”. Wars at sea broke out, with the Hanse seizing English ships on their way to Danzig and Edward IV closed the Steelyard, but when a few years later he needed help to return to England during the Wars of the Roses he entered into the Treaty of Utrecht in 1473 to renew “oold friendly-hode”. The Steelyard was restored as well as Bishopsgate and rights in Boston and King’s Lynn. This did not stop the Mercers attacking the Steelyard in 1480 with 80 arrests being made, nor the Drapers (who benefitted from the Hanse) turning out to patrol and keep safe the Steelyard over a period of 17 days in 1493 when tempers were raised over the trade for Flemish cloth. It suited the Drapers to be able to trade with the Hanse.

The Tudors, whose period saw the greatest rise in English trade and merchants, really pursued the Hanse with more vigour. Edward VI seized the Steelyard which was briefly restored by Mary at the behest of her Spanish husband, Philip, but then closed entirely by Elizabeth in 1597 under the guidance of Thomas Gresham, with the Merchant Venturers clearly the winners. The buildings remained and certainly one Samuel Pepys supped at the winehouse on his 28th birthday in 1661. A few years later, the Great Fire saw the then Hanse agent seeking to put out the fire but ended up running down the street with his clothes ablaze—if only Dowgate Fire Station had been there then. The ultimate and final act of destruction was the sale of the site in 1853 for £70,000 for the building of Cannon Street Station.

But the name lives on in the pathways with a plaque and in the minds of the Cities of London and Hamburg.

What has the Steelyard left us? We have the amazing portraits of the Hanse merchants painted by Hans Holbein, a regular visitor to the Steelyard in the 1520s and 1530s. They are the best depiction of what it would have been like in the offices of these wealthy merchants—in particular that of Georg Gisze —described in correspondence as the alderman’s deputy. His portrait shows letters and merchant symbols pinned on the wall behind him and a vase in front holds carnations, rosemary, basil and wallflowers—symbolising betrothal and warding off the plague that was raging at the time and indeed carried off Holbein only a few years later. We can also perhaps remember the Osterlings who have left us with the word sterlingthe sign of a solid currency as established by these canny and wealthy merchants. It is said that the trade in wax mainly with Poland via the Hanse gave us polishing from Polish, and the word Dutch has derived from the fact that incomprehensive speakers from Holland were thought to be deutsch and this corrupted to Dutch.

The City of Hamburg has always treasured the links with the City of London. There is a saying that when it rains in London they put their umbrellas up in Hamburg. This historic friendship culminated via the good offices of my guest here today, Kenneth Stern, with a visit to Hamburg in 2005 by the then Lord Mayor Alderman Sir Michael Savory and the civic team. They attended the first Morgensprache of the modern era. The event—roughly translated morning talks or “morn speech”—is a ceremonial re-enactment of the events in the Steelyard when the council of the alderman and members met to consider business. Each year a new alderman is elected in Hamburg and the installation ceremony, based loosely on our Silent Ceremony, is performed at this event followed by dinner and speeches. It is a revived tradition at which a representative of the Lord Mayor attends. The Morgensprache is held in the Handelskammer and this signifies the close liaison between the event and the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce. The evening focuses on the City of Hamburg’s links with Europe and the USA, with a guest speaker receiving a prestigious international award. It is a reminder of the importance of Cities in our globalised trading world—a hallmark of the Hanse. Hamburg the second largest port in Europe with the majority of European trade with China arriving at its huge port facility. The City of London, the World’s leading global financial centre. Did the Hanse have it so wrong in facilitating a liaison between cities? Over 50% of the world’s population live in cities today and by 2050 that will have grown to 70%. Who says that Cities are not the better bell weather of global trends and connections than a nation state? Does the City of London need to embrace a City view in addressing the issues of today?

It only leaves me to remind you that if you want to travel back again to the Stalhof you will need to remember the password nowadays used at the Morgensprache as a toast “cheese and bread”.

The London Stone: from myth and mystery to contemporary planning

by Alderman David Graves

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The London Stone is a truly remarkable object. This is all the more surprising because, to look at, it is utterly unremarkable. It is, quite literally, a lump of seemingly unworked rock, a piece of oolitic limestone, to be precise, spanning hardly more than 50 centimetres in any dimension. It could sit inside a standard bankers’ box. Unusually for a lump of rock, it has an address: 111 Cannon Street, where it sits in a Portland stone cabinet at pavement level behind glass and a protective metal grille along the frontage of what is now a branch of
WH Smith, with unremarkable office space above. For such an unassuming object in a similarly unassuming location, what makes the London Stone remarkable is its history. Much of its history is speculation, and could fairly be dismissed as legend, but what we know from reliable historic sources is sufficient to make this lump of rock worthy of note. The mythology goes back many thousands of years, its recorded history goes back several hundred years. As recently as 2011, the London Stone was the subject of a planning application—to move it into Minerva’s adjacent Walbrook building. As the London Stone is a Grade II* Listed object, this was no straightforward matter, and the application currently lies dormant on the file at the City of London’s Planning Department, although its status is recorded as “current”. The official text for the Listing reads:

“Uncertain origin, possibly Roman milestone. Formerly set into the base of St Swithun’s Church (on this site) which was damaged in World War II and afterwards demolished. Surround of Portland stone and iron grille, probably 19th Century.”

A bronze plaque attached to the cabinet enclosing the London Stone reads as follows:

LONDON STONE This is a fragment of the original piece of limestone once securely fixed in the ground now fronting Cannon Street Station. Removed in 1742 to the north side of the street, in 1798 it was built into the south wall of the Church of St. Swithun London Stone which stood here until it was demolished in 1962. Its origin and purpose are unknown but in 1188 there was a reference to Henry, son of Eylwin de Lundenstane, subsequently Lord Mayor of London.

By 1869 it was recorded that:

“…what was left of the London Stone measured but about a cubic foot, and that instead of a hard siliceous stone it was really an oolite, such as the Romans used extensively in their buildings, and sometimes for sepulchral monuments or for coffins. It is full of organic remains, and is of the same kind as that obtained from the quarries of Rutland and Northampton.”

Myth and Mystery

The mythological antecedents of the London Stone are diverse, and so extraordinary in the imaginative leaps involved that they can almost certainly be dismissed. This is not least because much of the myth-making is not genuinely ancient but derives from the writings of Victorian romanticists with a talent and substantial appetite for inventing history. And so it came about that the Revd Richard Williams Morgan, wrote in a book The British Kymry or Britons of Cambria, in 1857, (‘Kymry’ being a reference to ancient Celtic peoples) that the legendary Brutus was a historical figure and that the London Stone had been the plinth on which the original Trojan Palladium had stood, and was brought to Britain by Brutus and set up as the altar stone of the Temple of Diana in his new capital city of Trinovantum or “New Troy”. The inventiveness of writers does not end there—it has been speculated that the Stone may represent, for example, the stone from which King Arthur withdrew Excalibur.

The legend given by Hardyng writing in about 1430 is that:

“Lud, Kyng of Brytain, buylded from London Stone to Ludgate, and called that parte Lud’s towne, and after by processe was called London, by turnyng of tongues.”

Harding also suggests that the London Stone was the palladium of the city, linking that idea with claims that it has been regarded as the sacred and immovable foundation stone for the City of London.

Grant Allen thought it was an early Celtic monument preserved by the Romans. William Blake portrayed the London Stone as an altar used by druids to sacrifice their victims. The literary references to the London Stone include Shakespeare’s King Henry VI Part 2. Shakespeare described the incident in Act IV, Scene VI as follows:

“Now is Mortimer lord of this city. And here, sitting upon London Stone, I charge and command that, of the City’s cost, the pissing conduit run nothing but claret wine this first year of our reign. And now henceforward it shall be treason for any that calls me other than Lord Mortimer.”

Holinshed described the armed rebellion of 1450 under Jack Cade, also known as Lord Mortimer, and his armed incursion into the City as follows:

“He entered into London, cut the ropes of the drawbridge, and strooke his sword on London Stone, saying ‘Now is Mortimer Lord of the City.”

The top of the stone retains three grooved ridges, said to date back to this incident, and it has been suggested that the striking of the Stone was a traditional symbol of sovereignty. Quite simply, beyond romantic speculation, there is nothing in the historical record to support such ideas. All we can be sure of is that there is no definitive explanation for the existence of the London Stone. Who created it, when it was created and why it was created are all unknown, and we may never discover the truth. We do however have some archaeological evidence to suggest its original location, and to explain this we begin with the Roman settlement known as Londinium and latterly Augusta.

The Roman Connection

In 1586 Camden wrote of the London Stone:

“It is not far from the Walbrook called London Stone, which, from its situation in the centre of the longest diameter of the City, I take to have been a milliary, like that in the Forum at Rome, from whence all the distances were measured.”

There is evidence that the London Stone was damaged and reduced in size by the Great Fire of London, but this event did provide the opportunity for Sir Christopher Wren to excavate in the vicinity of the Stone, and to develop his own theory of its origin. A book called Parentalia or Memoirs of the Family of the Wrens was published in 1750 by Sir Christopher’s grandson. It was based upon a manuscript of Sir Christopher’s son, and includes a report from Sir Christopher’s notes of the remains he discovered during the rebuilding of the City after the Great Fire:

“London Stone, as is generally supposed, was a pillar, in the manner of the Milliarium Aureum at Rome, from whence the account of their miles began; but the surveyor was of opinion, by reason of the large foundation, it was rather some more considerable monument in the Forum, for in the adjoining ground on the south side (upon digging for cellars after the fire) were discovered some tessellated pavements and other extensive remains of Roman workmanship and buildings.”

The suggestion is that the London Stone, although now a small fragment of a far larger monument, may itself have formed a part of an even larger and far grander structure.

Peter Marsden, in his book Roman London has a clear and tantalising suggestion, that the London Stone formed a part of a substantial palace, the remains of which were discovered in the course of his excavations in the 1960’s. The size and grandeur of the palace were such that in Marsden’s view the only official who could possibly have resided there was the representative of the Emperor— no less than the Governor of the Province. The palace was estimated to have measured 130m by 100m and to have extended down the hill from the major Roman street which ran under Cannon Street, to the waterfront just south of Upper Thames Street. The palace appears to have been terraced on three levels as it ran down to the river, with the landward entrance at the upper terrace level, on the south side of modern Cannon Street. Unfortunately, deep modern basements have destroyed almost all trace of the palace. However, the possible remains of an entrance courtyard were found leading off the main Roman street beneath Cannon Street, and it is Marsden’s view that, as he says:

“…the enigmatic monolith that has been called London Stone for at least the last 800 years belonged to the palace entrance. Being part of such an important building could explain why the Stone was venerated so long ago, despite the fact that it stood as an inconvenient stump in Cannon Street roadway until 1742.”

Marsden adds the comment that when the original site of the stone was plotted on to a map of the Roman Palace, it lay not only on the main axis of the garden and state rooms, but also beside the main Roman road under Cannon Street, where the entrance to the Palace may have been situated. This double coincidence makes it even more likely in his view that the Stone was part of the palace. It must be stressed that the suggested Roman origin for the Stone, never mind that it may have a connection to the entrance to the Roman Governor’s Palace, is no more than conjecture, but at least there is some tangible archaeology to refer to, albeit that its implications for the origins of the London Stone are at best ambiguous. The site for the new Bloomberg Building slightly to the north west of the present location of the London Stone has yielded some spectacularly well-preserved Roman artefacts. The ground conditions there are exceptionally favourable for the preservation of natural materials. Perhaps the area to the east of Cannon Street station will be opened up in the future.

Unsurprisingly, the historical record has nothing to say about the London Stone for a few hundred years after the Romans withdrew to continental Europe, leaving the indigenous population, and London itself, to its fate. There is nevertheless a tantalising reference to the London Stone dating its existence back in time by more than 1,000 years. The evidence for this comes from John Stowe, who when writing in 1598 had this to say about the London Stone:

“On the south side of this high street (Candlewick Street), [which was renamed Cannon Street after the Great Fire] neare unto the channell, is pitched upright a great stone called London Stone, fixed in the ground very deep, fastened with bars of iron, and otherwise so strongly set, that, if cartes do runne against it through negligence, the wheeles be broken, and the stone is left unshaken. The cause why the stone was there set, the very time when, or other memory hereof, is there none; but that the same hath long continued there is manifest, namely since (or rather before) the time of the Conquest, for in the ende of a fayre written Gospell booke given to Christes Church in Canterbury by Ethelstane, King of the West Saxons, I find noted landes or rentes in London belonging to the said church, whereof one parcell is described to ly neare Unto London Stone.”

Ethelstan, a grandson of King Alfred the Great, died in 939, but was King of the West Saxons between 924 and 927.

The Survey of London, first published in 1603 noted several comments which had been made about the Stone and may have formed part of the traditions around it. For example, the Survey recorded that some had said that the Stone was set as a marker in the middle of the City within the walls, but it was pointed out that the Stone stood far closer to the river Thames than to the City wall to the north. It was also said that the Stone had been a traditional place for the tendering and payment of debts as between creditors and debtors, a precursor perhaps to the latter day trading of collateralised debt obligations. The survey implies that this tradition had already lapsed, remarking that payments in later times were usually made at the font in Poules Church and most commonly by 1603 by payment at the Royal Exchange. Reference was also made to a suggestion that the Stone may have been set up by a John or Thomas of Londonstone, but as to that the survey remarks:

“…more likely it is, that such men have taken name of the stone, than the stone of them, as did John at Noke, Thomas at Stile, William at Wall or at Well, &c.”

WR Lethaby in his book London Before the Conquest published in 1902, wrote of a tradition that the London Stone had a role in municipal procedure, as when the defendant in the Lord Mayor’s Court had to be summoned from the Stone, and that proclamations and other important business of like nature were transacted there. Referring to Jack Cade’s striking of the Stone, it was suggested that the Stone was the centre for the assembly of the citizens from Saxon times. The proximity of the Lord Mayor’s house, in which courts might have been held, is said to support the Stone’s use as a place of proclamation. We are familiar with the present home of the Lord Mayors at Mansion House—the Stone is presently located 175 yards due South from the salon inside the House, but Lord Mayors have obviously only been resident at Mansion House in comparatively recent times. It may be sheer coincidence that the first Lord Mayor lived very close to the London Stone in what is now Oxford Court, also opposite Cannon Street station, so named after Oxford House, after the Earl of Oxford who bought the house before it was bought in turn by the Salters’ Company in 1641 only to be destroyed on the second day of the Great Fire.

The London Stone has clearly enjoyed a dramatic but essentially charmed existence, throughout its long history. However illustrious its past, and despite having survived no doubt many insults, not least the great fire, the London Stone was perhaps at greater risk of extinction in the 18th Century than at any time before. The reason for this comes down to persistent complaints made to the City Authorities that the Stone had become an inconvenience. For example, at a meeting of the Court of Aldermen 1679/80 the minutes record that:

“Complaint now made by the inquest of the Ward of Walbrook of the inconvenience of the street and damage to the passengers, of London Stone as the same now stands in Cannon Street within this Ward and praying that the same may be sett higher or a new one set in the place thereof or the same removed to the other side of the street where it may stand with less inconvenience. It is by this Court wholly referred to the Alderman, Deputy and Common Councellmen of the said Ward to give such Order therein as they shall think convenient.”

No immediate action appears to have been taken, but the problem referred to clearly did not go away, as is recorded in a meeting of the Court of Aldermen in 1686/87:

“It is by this Court referred to Peter Daniel to cause London Stone in Cannon Street the gretest part whereof was broken away at the great fire to be levelled even with the ground for prevention of the frequent mischiefs occasioned thereby to passengers complained of by the Wardmote inquest of Walbrooke Ward, causing an inscription to be made upon some publick place near thereunto for preserving the memory thereof.”

Despite this clear instruction, the Stone survived. The matter was taken up over 50 years later with the City’s Commissioners of Sewers and Pavements
(a forerunner to our Streets and Walkways Committee, perhaps). The minutes of a meeting of that Committee, which met on 13 March 1740, record that: “Upon a complaint this day made to this Court of the great obstruction to the publick passage in Cannon Street by the stone set up there commonly called London Stone and of much mischief occasioned thereby this Court doth therefore recommend it to the Committee of this Cities Lands to cause the said stone and the case wherein it lies to be taken away and disposed of in such manner as the said Committee shall deem most convenient.”

The meeting of the City Lands Committee on 18 March 1740 duly addressed the issue and went on to Order that: “Mr Comptroller do acquaint the said Commissioners that it is the opinion of this Committee they are not impowered to do any Act in regard to the complaint mentioned in the said recommendation.”

Despite the refusal to become involved, action was taken and the Stone was moved on 13 December 1742 to the north side of Cannon Street.

Lambert’s History of London records that:

“It is very singular so much care should have been taken to preserve the stone, and so little to preserve the history of its origin…That it is now in existence at all, is in a great measure due to the interposition of Mr Thomes Maiden, of Sherbourn Lane, who, at the beginning of the year 1798, when St Swithin’s Church was about to undergo a complete repair, and this venerable relic had been nearly doomed to destruction as a nuisance by some of the parishioners, prevailed on one of the parish officers to give his consent that London Stone should be removed to the situation which it now occupies against the church wall.”

Miraculously the Stone and its case survived the bombing of the church of St Swithin, London Stone in 1941. The church was so badly damaged that it was left as a ruin until its remains were demolished in 1961 and installed into the frontage of the replacement building at 111 Cannon Street. This brings my research full circle, with one footnote to add.

The reference to contemporary planning ought to be properly explained. The Daily Mail ran a piece dated 25 January 2012 with the heading “Fury as Developers Plan to Move Legendary 900 year old London Stone from its Historic Site (and why it could spell doom for the Capital).” This was of course a reference to Minerva’s Planning Application (Ref 11/00664/LBC) to move the Stone a few yards to the west, so it could be displayed in a less obscure location and inside a more fitting case. The planning application included a report on the planning issues associated with the proposed relocation. English Heritage, The London Society, the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and the Victorian Society all objected to the proposed move, suggesting instead that when 111 Cannon Street (also owned by Minerva) falls for redevelopment that would be the moment to consider a new display arrangement in the present location. I feel the London Stone is safe, for now.

I must offer my gratitude to the staff at the Guildhall Library and at the LMA for their help with my research for this paper, and especially to Elizabeth Scudder for facilitating my research.