- This article is about a small section of central London. For the main article about London as a whole, click here.
The City of London is a small area in Greater London. The modern conurbation of London developed from the City of London and the nearby City of Westminster, which was the centre of the royal government. The City of London is now London's main financial district. It is often referred to as just the City or as the Square Mile (is is approximately one square mile (2.6 square kilometres) in area). In the Medieval period the City was synonymous with London, but the latter term is now reserved for the large conurbation surrounding it. The City of London is still part of London's city centre, but apart from financial services, most of London's metropolitan functions are centred on the West End. The City of London has a resident population of about 7,000 but a daily working population of around 300,000.
The City itself has two independent enclaves within it - Inner Temple and Middle Temple. It also has a number of exclaves well outside its own boundaries: these comprise eight open spaces (parks, forests and commons) in and around London.
Its Latin motto is "Domine dirige nos" which means "Lord, direct us".
The size of the City was originally constrained by a defensive perimeter wall, known as 'London Wall', that was built by the Romans to protect their strategic port city. However, the boundaries of the City of London are no longer the old City Wall as the city expanded its jurisdiction to the so-called City Bars - such as Temple Bar. However, the boundary froze in the medieval period and so the City did not and does not control the whole of London.
The walls have long since disappeared although several sections remain visible above ground. A section near the Museum of London was revealed after the devastation of an air-raid on December 29th 1940 at the height of the Blitz. Other visible sections are at St Alphage, London Wall, and there are two sections near the Tower of London.
The City of London borders the City of Westminster to the west - the border cutting through Victoria Embankment, passing to the west of Middle Temple, going east along The Strand/Fleet Street, north up Chancery Lane, where it becomes instead the border with the London Borough of Camden. It continues north to Holborn, turns east, continues, then goes northeast to Charterhouse Lane . As it crosses Farringdon Road it becomes the border with the London Borough of Islington. It continues to Aldersgate, goes north, and turns into some back streets soon after it becomes Goswell Road . It ends up on Ropemakers Lane, which as it continues east past Moorgate becomes South Place. It goes north, becomes the border with the London Borough of Hackney, then east, north, east on backstreets, meeting Norton Folgate at the border with the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It continues south into Bishopsgate, and takes some backstreets to Middlesex Street where it continues south-east then south. It makes a divergence to the west at the end of Middlesex Street to allow the Tower of London to be in Tower Hamlets, and then reaches the river.
Map clearly showing the extent of the City today
The City of London is England's smallest ceremonial county by both population and area covered and is the second smallest British city in both population and size, after St David's in Wales.
At its maximum extent the City included areas now not part of it, including Southwark (as the 'ward of bridge without'). The City today controls the full spans of London Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge, but only half of the river underneath them.
The City of London also controls a number of open spaces well outside its own boundaries. These are: Ashtead Common, Burnham Beeches, Epping Forest, Hampstead Heath (including Parliament Hill), Highgate Wood, Queen's Park, West Ham Park, and West Wickham and Coulsdon Common.
See History of London for details of the origins of the City of London.
It has been administered separately since 886 when Alfred the Great appointed his son-in-law Earl Ętheldred of Mercia Governor of London. Alfred made sure there was suitable accommodation for merchants from north west Europe, which were then extended to traders from the Baltic and Italy.
The City developed its own code of law for the mercantile classes, developing such an autonomy that Sir Laurence Gomme regarded the City as a separate Kingdom making its own laws. In the tenth century Athelstan permitted eight mints to be established as against six in his capital, Winchester, indicating the wealth of the city. The City was composed of wards governed by Aldermen, who chaired the Wardmotes. There was a folkmoot for the whole of the city held in the shadows of St Paul's Cathedral.
Following the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror marched on London, to Southwark and failed to get across London Bridge or to defeat the Londoners. He eventually crossed the River Thames at Wallingford, pillaging the land as he went. Rather than continuing the war Edgar Ętheling, Edwin of Mercia and Morcar of Northumbria surrendered at Berkhamstead. London was rewarded by 1075 William granted the citizens a charter. The City of London was one of the few Institutions where the English retained some authority.
However, William insured against attack by building 3 Castles to keep the Londoners subdued:
In 1132 Henry I recognised full County status for the city and by 1141 the whole body of the citizenry was considered to constitute a single community. This was the origin of the Corporation of London.
The city was burned nearly to the ground first in 1212 and then again (and more famously) in the Great Fire of London in 1666. Both of these fires were referred to as the Great Fire.
The City's population fell rapidly in the 19th century and through most of 20th century as many houses were demolished to make way for office blocks. This trend has now been reversed as the Corporation is encouraging residential use, although the resident population is not expected to go much above ten thousand people. Some of the extra accommodation is in small pre World War II commercial buildings which are not suitable for occupation by the large companies which now provide much of the City's employment.
1801 - 128,129
1841 - 123,563
1881 - 50,569
1901 - 26,923
1991 - 5,385
2001 - 7,185
Since the 1990s the City has diversified away from near exclusive office use in some other ways as well, for example several hotels have opened and also the City's first department store, but large sections of it remain quiet at weekends.
- see also Corporation of London
The City of London has a unique political status, a legacy of its uninterrupted integrity as a corporate city since the Anglo Saxon period and its singular relationship with the crown. It is administered by the Corporation of London, headed by the Lord Mayor of London (not the same post as the more recent London Mayor, who presides over Greater London). The City is a ceremonial county too, although instead of having its own Lord-Lieutenant, the City of London has a Commission, headed by the Lord Mayor, exercising this function.
The City has a unique electoral system, which does not follow the usual rules of democracy, allowing businessmen a vote and arranging voters in wards with very unequal number of voters. This is sometimes a cause of controversy.
The City of London (Ward Elections) Bill, which will reform the current voting system for electing Members to the Corporation of London, jumped its final hurdle by getting approval from the House of Lords at the end of October 2002.
Under the new system, the business vote will be increased by 16,000 to 32,000. Previously disenfranchised firms will be entitled to nominate voters, in addition to those already included in the business vote, and will be required to choose these voters in a representative fashion. The Bill will also remove other anomalies that have developed over time within the current system, which has been unchanged since the 1850s.
This system is usually seen as undemocratic, but adopting a more conventional system would place the 7,000 residents of the City in charge of local planning for a major financial capital. Proposals to annex the City to one of the neighbouring London boroughs, possibly the City of Westminster, have never been taken seriously.
The City has its own independent police force, the City of London Police. The rest of Greater London is policed by the London Metropolitan Police, based at New Scotland Yard.
The City of London controls three independent schools - City of London School (all male), City of London School for Girls (all female) and City of London Freemen's School (co-educational).
The City is a major patron of the arts. It oversees the Barbican Centre and subsidisies several important performing arts companies.
The City is surrounded on its borders by statues of the gryffons and shield from its Coat of Arms. Its position as the United Kingdom's financial centre and a critical part of the country's economy, contributing about one sixth of the UK's gross national product, has resulted in it becoming a terrorist target. The provisional IRA exploded bombs in the City in the early 1990s.
The area is also spoken of as a possible target of al-Qaida. For instance, when in May 2004 the BBC's Panorama programme examined the preparedness of Britain's emergency services for a terrorist attack on the scale of September 11th or March 11th, they simulated a chemical explosion on Bishopsgate in the east of the City, figuring that this was a realistic target.
See also City of London's ring of steel for measures that have been taken in the City against these threats.
Roads, streets and squares
The City of London transport is integrated with that of the rest of Greater London under Transport for London.
Underground lines and stations
Other underground transportation