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The Royal Exchange.

This building which was founded by Sir Thomas Gresham, in 1566, was totally destroyed by the great fire, precisely a century after its erection. The present magnificent structure, which is the finest and strongest fabric of the kind in Europe, was erected at the expense of 80,000l. It stands upon a plot of ground 203 feet in length, and 171 in breadth, containing an area in the middle, of 61 square perches, surrounded with a substantial and regular stone building, wrought in rustic. It has two fronts, north and south, each of which is a piazza; and in the centre are the grand entrances into the area, under a very lofty and noble arch. The south front in Cornhill is the principal; on each side of which are Corinthian demi-collumns, supporting a compass pediment; and in the intercolumniation on each side, in the front next the street, is a niche, with the statues of kings Charles I. and II, in Roman habits, and well executed. Over the aperture, on the cornice between the two pediments, are the king's arms in relievo. On each side of this entrance is a range of windows placed between demi-columns, and pilasters of the composite order, above which runs a balustrade. This building is 56 feet high: and from the centre, in this front, rises a lantern and turret 178 feet high; on the top of which is a fane of gilt brass, made in the shape of a grasshopper, the crest of Sir Thomas Gresham's arms. The north front, in Threadneedle street, is adorned with pilasters of the composite order, but it has neither columns nor statues on the outside; it has triangular, instead of compass pediments. The inside of the area is also surrounded with piazzas, forming ambulatories for merchants to shelter themselves from the weather, when met there upon business. Above the arches of this piazza is an entablature with curious ornaments: and on the cornice a range of pilasters, with an entablature extending round, and a compass pediment in the middle of the cornice of each of the four sides. Under the pediment, on the north side, are the king's arms; and on the south, the city's arms; on the east, Sir Thomas Gresham's arms; and on the west, the mercers' arms, with their respective enrichments. In these intercolumns are twenty-four niches, twenty of which are filled with the statues of the kings and queens of England. Under these piazzas, within the area, are twenty-eight niches, all vacant, except that in which Sir Thomas Gresham's statue is placed, in the north-west angle; and that in the south-west, where the statue of Sir John Barnard was placed, in his life-time, by his fellow-citizens, to express their sense of his merit. The centre of this area is ornamented with a good statue of king Charles II. in a Roman habit, standing upon a pedestal, about eight feet high, and encompassed with iron rails ; which pedestal is enriched, on the south side, with an imperial crown, a sceptre, sword, palms branches, and other decorations, with a very flattering inscription to the king. On the west side is a Cupid, cut in relievo, resting his right hand on a shield, with the arms of France and England quartered, and holding a rose in his left hand. On the north side is another Cupid, supporting a shield with the arms of Ireland; and on the east side are the arms of Scotland, with a Cupid holding a thistle; all done in relievo; the whole executed by that able statuary, Mr. Gibbon.

In this area merchants, and those who have business with them, meet every day at change hours ; and, for the more regular and readier despatch of business, they dispose of themselves in separate walks, each of which has its appropriate name.

In building this expensive structure, regard was paid not only to magnificence, and to accommodate the merchants, but also to reimburse the expense. For this reason a gallery was built over the four sides of the Royal Exchange. This was divided into 200 shops, which were let out to haberdashers, milliners, and others, and which for several years were well occupied: but they have been long relinquished, and the galleries are now occupied by the Royal Exchange Assurance Office, Lloyd's, and other purposes, as well as the dry vaults, which run under the whole area.

In the turret there is a good clock, with four dials, which is well regulated, and is a standard of time to all the mercantile part of the town: it goes with chimes at three, six, nine, and twelve o'clock .The outside of this grand fabric suffers much in regard to the elegance of its appearance in consequence of the shops which surround it, and which are formed within its walls.

Other London Buildings:

St. James's Palace

Buckingham House Palace

Carlton House

Kensington Palace

Lambeth Palace

St. James's Park

The Green Park

Hyde Park

The Regent's Park

Westminster Hall

The House of Lords

House of Commons

Courts of Justice

Tower of London

The New Mint

The Monument

Mansion House

The Bank of England

The Auction Mart

Trinity House

New Custom House

Excise Office

General Post Office


Temple Bar

The Adelphi

Somerset House

Charing Cross

Horse Guards

The Treasury

Admiralty Office


King's Mews

New Court House, or Westminster Guildhall

Northumberland House

General List of other Noblemen's Residences

Source: Leigh's New Picture of London. Printed for Samuel Leigh, 18, Strand;
by W. Clowes, Northumberland Court. 1819