London, United Kingdom
July 12, 2001
The City is the original London town – and until the Middle Ages, the walls around it contained the whole city. Westminster was a separate city, and the ground between, such as Holborn, and Bloomsbury, was not built up. St. Martin-in-the-Fields church by Trafalgar Square is so called because when it was built, it was indeed in fields!
The city was two-thirds destroyed in the Great Fire of London of 1666, which wiped out the old, densely built, timber structures of the time. Fires were common in such a flammable city, and the Mayor is reported to have said, when woken to be told of this fire, that "a woman could piss it out". Three days later, when the fire was finally out, he may have changed his mind.
After the fire the city was rebuilt, not, as Christopher Wren had wanted, on a grand new street plan, but along original lines. St. Paul’s Cathedral, with its great dome and wonderful serenity, dates from the reconstruction. The rebuilding method chosen means that the streets in the city are still often the same shape and name as they were 900 years ago – Cheapside, meaning marketplace, Poultry, Old Jewry, or Paternoster Row, for example, are all named after trades and markets.
The old walls of the city are still visible in places, such as the aptly named London Wall. These date from Roman times, and the modern names of Aldgate, Cripplegate, Ludgate, and Moorgate show where the entrances into London through these walls were.
To rule the country, it was always necessary to rule London. William the Conqueror built the Tower of London next to it, and Kings have placated and given into the city over the last 9 centuries. London supported Parliament in the Civil War – and Charles I lost his head.
From journal The greatest city in the world - London