Cornhill and Candlewick Overview

Above: Outline map of the City of London. Today’s land is indicated in PINK. The old pre-2003 ward boundaries for the area of study are shown with a RED outline on the modern Google street map (Click on image to enlarge to 1024×640).

The area of study called ‘Cornhill and Candlewick’ consists of two complete wards and half of another. The Ward of Cornhill is in the shape of a slim triangle and is the most northerly of the three areas. To the south is the western half of the Ward of Langbourn. To the south of that is another quite small ward called Candlewick. These three areas form a sort of rectangle and represent a relatively small piece of land. If your life depended on it, you could probably walk quickly from the southern edge to the northern edge in about 10 minutes, maybe even less.

Just because the area of study is small it should not be dismissed as unimportant. Within the relatively small area of study is plenty of history and a large number of historic places of interest. Much of the story of banking in England started in London and in this area of study in particular. The birth of trading as we know it today started at the Royal Exchange and this led to the world of ‘stocks and shares’. It also led to the world of insurance. The ‘small area’ has an impressive array of ‘big history’ to be understood.

Ward of Cornhill

This ward is so-named because the principal street is called Cornhill. Notice that it is just called ‘Cornhill’, without the word ‘Street’ on the end. Cornhill may have been named after a cornfield in the area in very early times. John Stow says a corn market had been held there from ‘time out of mind’ – meaning that it had been there for centuries and he did not know when it had started. The street has always been one of the more important streets in the City of London. As an illustration of this, the Royal Exchange stands on the north side at the western end. From Tudor times to the 19th century, the Royal Exchange was one of the most important buildings for trading in the City of London.

Ward of Langbourn

This ward is in two halves, joined by the width of a single street. Its shape resembles that of a butterfly with outstretched wings. This area of study only includes the western half. The principal street is Lombard Street – named after the Lombards who came over to England from Italy in medieval times and carried on their trade as bankers. It is interesting to note that until a few years ago, the headquarters of Lloyd’s Bank and Barclay’s Bank both stood in this street.

Ward of Candlewick

This ward derived its name from candle-makers whose centre for their craft was Cannon Street which is the principal street of the ward. In medieval times, Cannon Street was known as ‘Candlewick Street’ – due to the candle-makers – which is how the ward derived its name. For reasons that are not clear, around the year 1600 the street began to be called ‘Canning Street’ and finally ‘Cannon Street’. The present name of the street has no connection either with cannons (that go ‘bang’) or with canons (who hold that title in the Church).


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