The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: The City, East End and North-East

The City, East End and North-East

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II. THE CITY, EAST END, AND NORTH-EAST. THE CITY of London, the great focus of business life and the most important commercial square mile in the world, extending from Temple Bar to Aldgate and from Southwark to City Road, has definite limits but no natural boundaries. Wherever one sees a policeman with a red-and-white wristlet one is in �the City.� St. Paul's, the Tower, the Guildhall, and the Bank rank among its principal attractions, but there are innumerable other points of interest. The City Churches and the Halls of the Livery Companies repay exploration; but many of the former are open only for an hour or two about midday, and admission to many of the latter is obtained only after previous application. A commission which sat in 1920 proposed the demolition of some nineteen of the City churches, but their ultimate fate has not yet been determined. The City is �deserted� on Sunday; and the cessation of traffic affords an opportunity for the leisurely identification of historic and literary sites. The regions of the Temple, Smithfield, and the Charterhouse, in the west part of the City, are full of interest, but the extensive industrial quarters to the north and north-east have few attractions for the average tourist. The East End presents a variegated and characteristic aspect, and those who desire to explore its more intimate haunts should secure the escort of an habitue. But no guide is required for a visit to the main streets with their motley crowds or to the busy Docks. LORD MAYOR'S SHOW. On November 9th the new Lord Mayor (elected on Michaelmas Day) proceeds in full state from the City to the Royal Courts of Justice in order to make his statutory declaration before His Majesty's Judges. He is accompanied by a more or less gorgeous procession, which attracts crowds of spectators. The visitor should secure a position at a window overlooking the route. GUILDS or LIVERY COMPANIES. The origin and early growth of the London Guilds is wrapped in obscurity. Although connected by name with a trade or �mistery,� their membership included, in large proportion, citizens outside the particular industry of the Fraternity. The chief object of their foundation was to afford religious and temporal aid, social fellowship, and trade supervision and help to the members of their Fraternity or Mistery. This latter function grew, and they gradually became more or less the governing bodies of the various trades and acquired the control of Important monopolies. In the 13th century, they began also to exercise considerable influence in municipal politics, in opposition to the wealthy ruling families and even at times to the Crown. Many of the guilds amassed great wealth, largely owing to increased land values, and some 15 or 16 enjoy incomes of �10,000 or more (much, however, of such incomes being trust property). The control by most of the companies of their trade or industry is now merely nominal, though a few (such as the Goldsmiths, the Vintners, the Stationers, the fishmongers, the Gunmakers, and the Apothecaries) still exercise some of their old functions. Many of the companies, however, spend very large sums in support of their special industry, by the endowment of scientific research, and the establishment and support of technical colleges, classes, etc., not only in London but also in other parts of England where such industries have their home. The City and Guilds of London Institute is entirely supported by the City and the Companies. Closely connected with the City Corporation the guilds retain considerable influence in municipal politics. The richer companies spend large sums for charitable and general educational purposes, and are also known for the sumptuousness of their dinners and other entertainments. The more important members of most of the companies are known as the men of the �Livery� from the furred gowns and hoods they used to wear; but the hood has long since disappeared, and the gown is now worn (us a rule) by the Masters and Wardens only. The guilds were once 100 in number, and about 80 still survive. Half of these have halls in which they transact their business and hold their festivals. These buildings are among the most interesting in the City, and are duly described in the text of this volume. The twelve �Great Companies,� taking precedence of all the rest, are the Mercers, Grocers, Drapers, Fishmongers, Goldsmiths, Skinners, Merchant Taylors, Haberdashers, Salters, Ironmongers, Vintners, and Clothworkers. Among companies the crafts of which are now extinct may be named the Bowyers (bowmakers), Fletchers (arrow-makers), Patten Makers, Loriners (makers of bridles and bits), and Horners (workers in horn). The Upholders were furnishers or undertakers, the Cordwainers shoemakers. Comp. �The Gilds and Companies of London,� by George Unwin (1908), and �The City Companies of London,� by P. H. Ditchfield (1904).