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Ten Things You Didn't Know About the City of London

   
London at Ten Trinity Square

The City of London, locally known as the Square Mile (after its approximate size) is widely recognised as one of the world’s most powerful financial hubs. Home to institutions such as the Bank of England and the London Stock Exchange as well as Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square, it is the only London borough where workers outnumber local residents. With Dickensian alleyways, hidden courtyards and beautiful historic churches sitting alongside the soaring steel and glass structures, there is so much more to this part of London than meets the eye:

1. The London Stock Exchange – one of the Square Mile’s most important financial markets – has its origins in a coffee shop, namely Jonathan’s Coffee House. It was here where 17th century market traders met after being kicked out of the Royal Exchange for being a little bit too rowdy.

2. The City of London pays its annual rent for several plots of land to the Crown in a rather unusual way: one sharp knife and one blunt knife. In addition they also pay six horseshoes and 62 nails, all presented during a ceremony called the "Rendering of the Quiet Rents," which takes place at the Royal Courts of Justice.

3. Until recently, the City of London had no roads. While it has plenty of streets and alleys, it was only in 1994 when the boundaries were changed that the City gained its first road with Goswell Road. Only half of this road is in the City. The other half is part of the London Borough of Islington.

4. There are pineapples on top of the two western towers of St. Paul’s Cathedral.  Considered as a symbol of peace, prosperity and hospitality by Sir Christopher Wren - its architect – he originally wanted to put a stone pineapple on top of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.

5. While Greater London is policed by the Metropolitan Police Service, based at Scotland Yard, the City of London has its own independent police force, the City of London Police. Formed in 1832 and originally named the London City Police, few people know that this force actually struck gold for Great Britain in the 1908 Olympic Games held in London. These were the first Olympics to see the now traditional gold, silver and bronze medals and the City of London police picked up golds in the tug-of-war competition and heavyweight boxing and took home a bronze medal in the heavyweight wrestling.

6. Formally opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1981, Tower 42, more commonly known as the Natwest Tower, was London’s first skyscraper. At 183 metres (600 feet) high, it was the United Kingdom’s tallest building until the topping out of One Canada Square in Canary Wharf in 1990. It held on to its status of tallest building in the Square Mile for 30 years, until it was surpassed by the Heron Tower in 2009.

7. The Monument wasn’t just built to commemorate the Great Fire of London; it was also intended to be used as a fixed telescope to study the motion of a single star by Robert Hooke, who designed the structure with Sir Christopher Wren, the architect of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

8. Located just a short walk from St. Paul’s Cathedral is Postman’s Park, so named due its popularity as a lunchtime garden with workers from the (former) nearby General Post Office. One of the City’s most contemplative spots, the small park is home to the Memorial of Heroic Self-Sacrifice, comprising of 62 ceramic plaques remembering ordinary people who died committing heroic acts.

9. The boundaries of the City of London are marked by black bollards bearing the City’s emblem while major entrances such as Holborn have dragon boundary marks. Cast iron statues on plinths, the dragons are painted silver, with details of their wings and tongue painted red.

10. While she may be the head of state, the Queen still needs permission from the Lord Mayor to enter the City of London.  During the procession celebrating the defeat of the Spanish Armada, Queen Elizabeth I was met by the Lord Mayor at Temple Bar where he presented her with the keys to the City, and in return she gave him a bejewelled sword. To this day, it is tradition for the Queen to stop at Temple Bar – the gateway into the City of London – requesting permission to enter.