City Stories and Places


The Civic Toast

The Lord Mayor and the City of London Corporation
– if the event is being hosted by the City of London – no reference to the Sheriffs

The Lord Mayor and the City of London Corporation
– if the event is being hosted by another party and the LM and Sheriffs are not in attendance
– The Lord Mayor and the City of London Corporation and the Sheriffs
IF another party is the host and either or both Sheriffs are in attendance, irrespective of whether the LM is in attendance

Gin at the end of Dinner ?

Traditionally, I believe, that at the end of formal Dinners with The ClothWorkers Company – guests have a choice of Brandy or Gin – with the question “Do you dine with The Alderman (Brandy) or Lady Cooper (Gin) ?
Why ?
Tradition says that Alderman Cooper in 1664 collapsed and was given brandy to help resuscitate him – he died. His wife complained that if he had been given his normal “tipple” – Gin – He would have recovered.

Lighting Up Ceremony and Dinner

A few days before the Lord Mayor’s Banquet (1st Monday after being installed) there is a full rehearsal, which it is believed stems from the need to check the lighting arrangements at Guildhall after the introduction of Gas Lighting in 1815. This was seen as a very exciting innovation and was continued, with the public being invited to watch the rehearsals. In 1827 there was a startling accident when a board of candles in the shape of an anchor came crashing down from the Great East Window onto the heads of the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, with the Lord Mayor and some of the guests being injured.
Today the tradition of checking the lighting of the Guildhall, the playing of the fanfares and even of the meal itself, continues.

Livery and Titles

The 24 Ward Clubs have different names for their annual or biennially elected “Senior Person”, Master, President… but how about Livery Companies?
The majority have a Master, The Weavers’ have an Upper Bailiff and the Basket Makers’, Blacksmiths’, Dyers’, Fishmongers’, Goldsmiths’, Sadlers’ and Shipwrights’ use the title of Prime Warden.

Dragons or Griffins (or even Lions!)?

Some people say that the Legendary beasts that guard the City’s Boundaries are more amiable Griffins. However, according to experts Griffins have the claws and wings of an Eagle and the Hind legs of a Lion. The City of London’s it seems are therefore definitely Dragons.
More basically than that – the City’s coat of arms combines the emblems of the Patron Saint of England and London: the cross of St George (who slew the dragon) with the symbol of martyrdom of St Paul – who is the patron saint of the City of London.

The original dragons that support the City of London Corporations Armorial Bearings first made their appearance in 1609 (see item below) along with the City Motto Domine Dirige Nos (Lord Direct/Guide Us). It was  definitely on the front of Stowe’s Survey of London, 4th edition. In 1333.

The recent additions guarding the various entrances to the City, are quite modern. The first was cast in bronze to surmount the Temple Bar Memorial at the top of Fleet Street in 1963. By the end of 1964 it had been joined by Dragons at other entrances to the City in Holborn, Farringdon Street, Moorgate, Bishopsgate, Aldgate High Street, Blackfriars Bridge and London Bridge.

The City of London Coat of Arms

There were discussions, some years after its creation, re the background to one of the two designs on our first tie.

This led to an enquiry of the City of London Corporation, sometime in 1987. who in replying included extracts from a book on, I am guessing, Coats of Arms, including the City of London.  It was published by Charles Skipper and East in ????. As printers they specialised in Stamps and Banknotes. It seems that the book was in the process of being updated in manuscript for a New Edition possibly by the Heralds. The very interesting pictures below are taken from the pages we have.
There had never been an official grant of armorial bearings to the City so numerous versions have existed. In 1957 the City obtained from the Garter King of Arms and Clarenceaux King of Arms a Grant of crest and supporter and confirmation of the arms. “anciently recorded as of right appertaining to them”  

What is the item on our Original Tie
The Dragons wing with the Cross of St George running through it. (See particularly the bottom 2 illustrations on page 24)

N.B In some designs you will also see a Fur Cap, (Sword Bearer’s) this was brought into designs from 1690  and often replaced the Dragons wing.



Some more will be added in due course, in the meantime taken from a “toast to the guests” at a Ward Club Civic Lunch.
“The East Crypt in which you are now sitting has been open to the public since 1961 – with the windows donated by the Worshipful Company of Clothworkers and various Common Councilmen, as you can see from the various plaques”
“The West Crypt was rendered inaccessible from this side by a brick wall since the Great Fire in 1666, until it was restored in 1973”.

Tower Bridge

For anyone interested in Tower Bridge, Amazing old photographs of its construction.  Follow this link and be surprised.

Lloyd’s and its four paintings

Terence Cuneo – (1907 – 1996).

Painted four paintings of the interior of Lloyd’s, two of the 1928 building and two of the 1986 building. all of which are on display in Lloyd’s. The artist was the official artist for Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation in 1953 and whilst painting the major painting which hangs in Buckingham Palace, there is a story.
The story goes that a small field mouse was brought into the studio by his cat. The mouse was dead, Cuneo thought that the mouse should not die in vain. A small mouse is in the picture, waving our flag walking in front of the Duke of Norfolk. Every painting since 1953 has a mouse in it. Two in Lloyd’s do have a mouse (painted in the late 1950’s and mid 1960’s) ‘and two do not,  these were painted in 1948 and 1952.

Billingsgate Fish Market

Why is it called Billingsgate ?
“Lost in the mists of antiquity” – even Stowe had no idea – thus it must be very old indeed. It was first referred to in 870A.D. when Ethelred made custom regulations for ships on Blynesgate. By the 1370’s the name had settled down to Billingsgate.
Its History
Its first Charter was granted in 1297 (Edward I). Under Edward III The City was granted Market rights, with it being prohibited to set up markets within a 6.66 mile radius of The City. In 1699 the Market became exclusively identified with the fish trade. An Act of Parliament was passed making it “a free and open market for all sorts fish whatsover. (Excluding the sale of eels which remained the prerogative of Dutch fishermen. (They had helped provide food to Londoners during the Great Fire – 1666)
Its Buildings
There were no buildings until the Mid 1800’s, when the advent of the railways and huge volumes of fish arriving every day, necessitated the building of same. The first Building (1850) was totally replaced by the Old Market in Lower Thames Street (1876). Designed by Sir Horace Jones and built by John Molem. The foundations are underpinned to a depth of 50 feet to counter tidal movement. The Market moved to Docklands in 1982.
Bringing of goods into Billingsgate.  This work, called “barrowing” and was done by Porters who were paid fixed rates of pay (bobbin money).
With thanks to the City of London Corporation.

Leadenhall Market

Its current claim to fame is being used for various scenes in Harry Potter films (area around The Leaky Cauldron and Dragon Alley).
It was the sight of the Forum in Roman Britain – the largest of its size at the time in Northern Europe. It became the meeting place for Poulters from the 14thC, shortly followed by Cheesemongers. In 1411 it was bought by the then Lord Mayor of London, “Dick Whittington”. The current version was designed by Horace Jones in 1881 – he also designed, Spitalfields and Billingsgate markets.

Leadenhall Market – some more information
Leadenhall Market dates back to the 14th century and is situated in what was the centre of Roman London. Originally a meat, poultry and game market, it now features a variety of vendors as well as commercial shops, restaurants, cafés and pubs.

In the early 1300s the Manor of Leadenhall is listed as belonging to Sir Hugh Neville. Within a few years the area around the manor became a popular meeting place first for poulterers, and -then cheese-mongers. In 1411 Lord Mayor Richard ‘Dick’ Whittington gifted Leadenhall to the City and in 1440 Lord Mayor Simon Eyre replaced the Manor Hall with a public granary, school and chapel and donated it to the Citizens of London.

The market was enlarged to provide a site for selling poultry, grain, eggs, butter, cheese, herbs and other foodstuffs. Over the next 200 years Leadenhall Market became a centre of commerce and further markets were added for wool, leather and cutlery. In 1666 Leadenhall Market suffered only a small amount of damage in the Great Fire. Rebuilding after the Fire, the market became a covered structure and was divided into the Beef Market, the Green Yard and the Herb Market.

In 1881 the City’s architect Sir Horace Jones, who was also the architect of Billingsgate and Smithfield Markets, redesigned Leadenhall. His designs replaced the earlier stone structure with wrought iron and glass and was relatively unscathed during the Second World War.

The Poultry Market remained at Leadenhall until well after WW2, when most of the shop units were let for the sale of meat, fish or provisions. In the succeeding years the shops were also being used for general retailing and leisure.

In 1972 the Market was given Grade II heritage listed status.

It is hard to imagine the noise and smells of a 19th century market when you look at the beautifully clean and vibrant Victorian building of today. Even into the early 1970’s it was still mainly a Fish and Meat Market, plus such things as a Pet Shop selling fresh food for dogs and cats, Newsagents, Tobacconists, and a small Mini Mart!

As of 2020, the three Public Houses, The Lamb, The New Moon and the Grapes have survived although the Ship on the opposite side of Lime Street has been converted into a fast food restaurant. Today there are many new cafés, specialist shops (e.g. Cheese , wine bars and restaurants including the one constructed from a former underground gentlemen’s toilet!  .

As well as the connection to Dick Whittington, Leadenhall Market has played host to a few other famous names. During the 18th century ‘Old Tom’ was a celebrated character in Leadenhall. He was a gander who managed to escape his fate of being slaughtered, 34,000 other geese were less lucky. He became a great favourite in the Market, even being fed at the local inns. After his death in 1835 at the age of 38, he lay in state in the Market and was buried on site.

Part of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (the first film in the blockbuster series) was filmed in Leadenhall in 2000/2001. The Market was used to represent the area of London leading to the popular wizarding pub The Leaky Cauldron and the magical shopping street Diagon Alley. Leadenhall Market is a popular choice as a filming location and can be seen in many other movies including: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus; Hearafter; and Love Aaj Kal. The pop group Erasure also filmed their music video for Love to Hate You in the market in 1991.

The Old Bailey – Central Criminal Court

Managed by The City of London Corporation
Home to the Sheriffs in their year.

Stands on the site of Newgate Gaol which was first documented in 1190 (Richard I)
This itself was built on the site of the West Gate of the old Roman City. If you were sent to Newgate a notorious prison you had  “Gone West”

It was rebuilt by Dick Whittington in 1423
A session house (Court) was added on in 1539

Destroyed in the Great Fire (1666) and rebuilt 1670
1750 rebuilt by Dick Whittington in 1423
A session house (court)  was added on in 1539
It was destroyed in the Great Fire 1(666) and rebuilt by 1670

1750 there was a virulent epidemic that killed the Lord Mayor,  two judges, an Alderman and 50 others who had attended the April sessions

Rebuilt in 1774 1and again in by 1907
Two sides of the building are from 1907 and 2 from the 1970’s

The River fleet runs below the Old Bailey I

The Lower ground floor has a Ceremonial entrance but is rarely used.

Today it houses 18 courts has 16 permanent judges plus visiting judges and deals mainly with
Homicide, terrorism, major  fraud and often gang related drugs and shooting cases
All cases involving an unlawful death in Greater London are sent here first

The Great Hall has Lunettes painted by Professor Moira originally representing Truth, Wisdom Knowledge and Labour  – in the Dome if you look at the old lady sitting with a tankard that is Professor Moira’s face

Following bomb damage in World War Two and brilliant restoration the Lunettes were repainted buy him/under his instruction,  as Truth, Learning, Art and Labour.  He is standing with the paint board and brush behind the central figure.

and things

Bells of City Churches

Almost all of the City of London Church Bells were rung as the Queen passed various parts of the City during her Jubilee Pageant – June 3rd 2012. Leading the procession was a specially designed boat carrying one set of new bells – a peal of 12, cast by Whitechapel Bell Foundry (we visited them in 2011) for St Dunstan in the West. (Fleet Street)

“Oranges and Lemons, say the Bells of St Clement’s, You owe me five farthings say the Bells of St Martin’s, When will you pay me says the Bells of Old Bailey” When I grow rich says the Bells of Shoreditch, when will that be says the Bells at Stepney, I do not know says the great Bell of Bow (Cheapside).”

Did you know that it was the Bells of St Mary-le-Bow (as above) that Richard Whittington is meant to have heard when travelling up Highgate Hill in 1397 – calling out “turn again Whittington – Lord Mayor of London”. He was Lord Mayor four times. The peel of 12 bells each has an inscription from the Psalms on them, the first letter of each Psalm spells out D Whittington

The Company of Pikemen and Musketeers

The Company of Pikemen and Musketeers is a ceremonial unit of the Honorable Artillery Company (HAC) which traces its origins back to 1537 when the Overseers of the Guild of Saint George in London received a Charter of Incorporation from Henry VIII.

The Pikemen and Musketeers are dressed and equipped as members of the Company would have been in the 1640s. Their task is to provide a Bodyguard for the Lord Mayor when on Official Business.

In 1955 HM The Queen granted the Company a Royal Warrant authorizing it to parade and tasked it to provide a bodyguard for the Lord Mayor.

Apart from undertaking duties in the City of London the Company is increasingly in demand for state, military, charity and other events to add colour and pageantry to the occasion and to give displays of 17th century drill and music.

In recent years the Pikemen and Musketeers have paraded in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and the United States.

Facts about the Pikemen and Musketeers
The company comprises 63 all ranks, that being the size of the Company in the 17th century. Only veteran members of the HAC’s Territorial Army regiment are eligible for membership.

A Pikeman’s armour weighs 15 pounds (7 kg).
Pikes would originally have been 18 feet (5.5m) long. For reasons of practicality 12 feet (3.7m) pikes are used today.

A musket weighs 10 pounds (4.5 kg) and the rest 2 pounds  (0.9 kg

A new uniform costs about £1,400 (2020)
A suit of armour about£5,500 (2020) and muskets £3,500 (2020)

The seniority of officers and non-commissioned officers is signified by the amount of lace on collars and cuffs.  The more lace the more senior the rank.

Drill is taken from a manual entitled Militaire Discipline published in 1638 by Colonel William Bariffe  a member of the HAC

With thanks to the Honorable Artillery Company

An excellent collection of City based articles, collated by Alderman Alison Gowman , many interesting facts and stories

The College of Arms

Based on a note prepared by Conrad Swann, Esq, C.V.O., PhD., F.S.A. – York Herald of Arms

The College of Arms or Heralds College

13 members of the Royal Household are appointed by the Sovereign to be her Officers of Arms in Ordinary with a special responsibility for armorial, genealogical, ceremonial and other similar matters Although referred to as the College of Arms the correct title is “The Corporation of the King, Heralds and Pursuivants of Arms

The modern charter under which the College functions is that issued in 1555 by Philip and Mary, the first was that Richard the third in 1484

The 13 members of the college are divided into three categories Kings, Heralds and Pursuivants.
Their titles have been around for a very long time

Kings of Arms
Garter Principle King of Arms  – 1415
Clarenceaux King of Arms – 1334
Norroy and Ulster King of Arms 1276 , 1943

Heralds of Arms
Windsor  – 1338
Lancaster – 1347
Chester – 1393
Richmond  – 1421
Somerset  – 1448
York – 1484

Pursuivants of Arms
Rouge Crois – 1418
Bluemantle – 1448
Portcullis – 1490
Rouge Dragon – 1485

In addition to their formal duties each officer is entitled to conduct a private heraldic and genealogical practice

The artwork and engrossing of documents is done by the Herald Painters and Scriveners of the College who number in their ranks the finest heraldic artists and letterers in the Country

The Heralds are professors of official ceremonial. Under the Earl Marshall they plan and conduct such state ceremonials as the Coronation, State openings of Parliament, Investiture of the Prince of Wales State Funerals and Ceremonies in connection with the Order of the Garter

Financially the College of arms is self financing and is not part of the Civil Service

The College of Arms continues to have its premises in the City of London between Saint Paul’s Cathedral and the River Thames on the site granted to it by Philip and Mary in 1555. The present building dates from the period following the great fire in 1666, erected in the 1670’s.  The Southern ends of the building were knocked down in 1867 to make way for the new Queen Victoria Street.

Published in 1986

City Dragon

Dragons and Griffins?

City Buildings

Billingsgate Fish Market