City of London

The City of London is the oldest local authority in England, and London's smallest. The Romans originally determined the shape and size of the City when they built a defensive perimeter wall around their settlement. Only a small part of this wall (London Wall) remains, but the boundary is still used. The City is often referred to as the 'Square Mile' because this is its approximate size. The City is on the north bank of the Thames and borders the boroughs of Westminster, Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets.

Population change

1900:26,923 people
1966: 4,600 people
1998: 5,200 people

The 'day time population' of workers was estimated as 364,000 in 1911, and 250,000 in 1995.

The City of London has been administered separately from the rest of London since the Middle Ages. The right of the City to run its own affairs was gradually won as concessions were gained from the Crown. The authority came to be known as the Corporation of London and, in the 12th century, the office of Lord Mayor was created. The Lord Mayor of the City of London represents all those who live and work in the Square Mile, and has a separate role from the Mayor of London.

The City has been burned to the ground twice, once in the 13th century and more famously in 1666 when the Great Fire destroyed over 13,000 houses, 80 churches and St Paul's Cathedral; and made over 100,000 people homeless. During the Blitz in the Second World War, the City came close to being totally destroyed by a firestorm created by incendiary bombs.

The City's economy and look has changed considerably during the 20th century. In the first half of the century the City was the financial capital of the Empire, but also an area of commercial offices, warehousing and wholesale food markets such as Smithfield Meat Market and Billingsgate Fish Market. In the second half of the century, the Square Mile came to be dominated by the financial industry. Billingsgate Market moved from the City to East London, but Smithfield remained in the City.

The financial industry brought distinctive 20th-century buildings to the City, among them the Lloyd's Building, the NatWest Tower and No 1 Poultry. The financial industry also brought a multinational workforce as London developed into the world's largest foreign exchange market and largest international banking centre. Other 20th-century landmarks include the Barbican estate and the Museum of London, both of which were built on districts that sustained heavy bomb damage during the war.

The Corporation of London owns and manages land elsewhere in London, notably Hampstead Heath and Epping Forest.

Bookmark with:

  • What are these?