Next to the London Eye on the Lambeth side of Westminster Bridge is the former County Hall, which in my view, is the best-looking building along the South Bank section of the Queen’s Walk.
Work started on the colonnaded building in 1910 to house the offices of the London County Council (LCC) which was formed in 1888. Unfortunately, WWI held things up and it wasn’t finished until 1922. The adjacent north and south blocks were added in the 1930s and the whole complex is now a Grade II listed building.
1965 saw the LCC give way to the newly formed Greater London Council (GLC) which during the 1980s came into conflict with Margaret Thatcher, the incumbent conservative Prime Minister.
During this period the GLC was a Labour controlled council led by the controversial Ken Livingstone. ‘Red Ken’ as he was dubbed by the press, took the opportunity of the location of County Hall to get under the government’s skin. Situated just across the river from Parliament, the GLC raised large banners highlighting the unemployment figures for all to see.
Margaret Thatcher’s response was to add to the unemployment figures by abolishing the GLC, and Red Ken found himself looking for another job.
Following on from my article about the City of London Corporation, it’s not difficult to see how London became an important trading and financial centre.
As British explorers opened up new trade routes, then most of the important trading and commerce ended up on the streets of London, the hub of which was centred around what is now called Bank Junction.
The junction is where nine streets converge and includes three of The City of London’s most influential buildings – the Lord Mayor’s Mansion House, the Royal Exchange, and the Bank of England.
The Bank of England was founded in 1694 and ‘The Old Lady ofThreadneedle Street’ was opened in 1735, but the story goes back much further than that.
London’s Guildhall is the administrative and ceremonial centre for the City of London, and amongst other things, is where the Corporation and Liverymen elect and swear in the City of London’s new Lord Mayor.
Guildhall (and not The Guildhall by the way), comprises a number of buildings, but for the purposes of this review I shall just be talking about the Great Hall which can be regarded as the City of London’s town hall and is the third largest civic hall in England.
This Grade I listed building is the only medieval secular building in the Square Mile and is built over the top of the Roman Amphitheatre, the location of which is marked by a circle of block paving in Guildhall Yard, and the remains of which can be seen under Guildhall Art Gallery (see Londinium).
Guild derives from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘gild’ meaning payment, and a Gild Hall would have been where people had to pay their taxes, and there is evidence to suggest that there has been a tax office or Guildhall on this site since at least the 13th century.
The City of London is run totally differently from any other part of London and I never really understood why, so to try and make some sense of it I’ve decided to unravel some of its history and workings and find out more.
It’s not my intentions for this article to appeal mainly to those who suffer from insomnia, and so I’ll gloss over much of it and just concentrate on the main reasons why the City has become what it has today.
There’s no official date as to when the City of London came under municipal control, but there’s proof that it was before the Norman Conquest, and that probably makes it the world’s oldest continuously elected local government authority.
In Saxon and medieval times, the authority was principally administered by Aldermen (Elder men), and they still hold important positions today. One Alderman is elected from each one of the 25 wards that make up the City of London.
If someone was to ask me what Belgium is famous for, I would have to include Moules et Frites, beer, and maybe chocolate, but I would also have to add town squares to the list. It may sound a bit odd to lump a town square with food and drink, but they go together like Laurel and Hardy or Starsky and Hutch. In fact, I can’t think of anything better than to sit in a Grand Square with a plate of Moules et Frites and a Belgian beer.
The Grand Place in Brussels is probably the best-known square, but Antwerp has a pretty good one too, but as we’re in Flanders we’d better call it the Grote Markt.
The square is triangular in shape, if that makes any sense, and is dominated by its wonderful 16thc City Hall. In front of it is the Brabo Fountain, a famous Antwerp symbol, which requires further explanation.