The Royal Exchange in the City of London was founded in 1565 by Sir Thomas Gresham to act as a centre of commerce for the city. The site was provided by the City of London Corporation and the Worshipful Company of Mercers, and is trapezoidal, flanked by the streets of Cornhill and Threadneedle which converge at Bank junction.
The Royal Exchange was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth I who awarded the building its Royal title and license to sell alcohol, on 23 January 1571.1 During the 17th century, stockbrokers were not allowed in the Royal Exchange due to their rude manners, hence they had to operate from other establishments in the vicinity, like Jonathan’s Coffee-House. Gresham’s original building was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. A second exchange was built on the site, designed by Edward Jarman, which opened in 1669, and was also destroyed by fire on 10 January 1838.2
The third Royal Exchange building, which still stands today, was designed by Sir William Tite and adheres to the original layout – consisting of a four-sided structure surrounding a central courtyard where merchants and tradesmen could do business. The internal works, designed by Edward I’Anson in 1837, made use of concrete – an early example of this modern construction method.3 It features pediment sculptures by Richard Westmacott (the younger), and ornamental cast ironwork by Grissell’s Regent’s Canal Ironworks. It was opened by Queen Victoria on 28 October 1844, though trading did not commence until 1 January 1845.
The Royal Exchange ceased to act as a centre of commerce in 1939, although it was, for a few years in the 1980s, home to the London International Financial Futures Exchange (LIFFE). It is now a luxurious shopping centre.
Shops in the Royal Exchange include Harrys of London, Boodles, Hermès, Molton Brown, Paul Smith, Haines & Bonner, Tiffany and Jo Malone.