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The City of London is a ancient borough in Greater London, England. It is the historic core of London around which, along with Westminster, the modern conurbation grew. The City's boundaries have remained almost constant since the Middle Ages, and hence it is now only a tiny part of the much larger London metropolis. It is often referred to as the City or the Square Mile and rarely Londinium, as it is almost exactly one square mile (2.6 km²) in area.

These terms are also often used as metonyms for the United Kingdom's financial services industry, which is principally based there. The City is not one of the 32 London boroughs.

In the mediaeval period the City was the full extent of London, and distinct from the nearby but separate settlement of Westminster, which became the City of Westminster. The term London now refers to a much larger conurbation containing both cities. The City of London is still part of London's city centre, but most of London's metropolitan functions apart from financial services are centred on the West End. The City is today a major business and financial centre, ranking on a par with New York City as the leading centre of global finance. The City has a resident population of under 10,000, whilst it employs 340,000 professional workers, mainly in the financial sector, making the area's transport system extremely busy during peak times. It is known as the richest square mile in the world.

The City is governed by the City of London Corporation, which has some unusual responsibilities for a local authority, such as being the police authority for the City. It also has responsibilities and ownerships beyond the City's boundaries.

The Latin motto of the City of London is "Domine dirige nos", which translates as "Lord, guide us".


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.

Changes over time[]

The size of the City was constrained by a defensive perimeter wall, known as London Wall, which was built by the Romans in the late 2nd century to protect their strategic port city. However, the boundaries of the City of London are no longer the old city wall as the City has expanded its jurisdiction slightly over time. During the medieval era, the City's jurisdiction expanded westwards along Fleet Street to Temple Bar and also took in the other "City bars" such as at Holborn, Aldersgate, Bishopsgate and Aldgate. These were the important entrances to the City and their control was vital in maintaining the City's special privileges over certain trades.

The walls have disappeared, although several sections remain visible. A section near the Museum of London was revealed after the devastation of an air-raid on 29 December 1940 at the height of the Blitz. Other visible sections are at St Alphage, and there are two sections near the Tower of London.

The boundary of the City remained fixed until boundary changes in 1993, when it expanded slightly to the west, north and east, taking small parcels of land from the London Boroughs of Westminster, Camden, Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets. The 1993 boundary changes were done primarily to tidy up the boundary in places where the urban landscape had changed so dramatically that the old boundary was meaningless. In the process the City lost small parcels of land, though there was an overall net gain of land. Most notably, the changes placed the (then recently developed) Broadgate estate entirely in the City.

Southwark, to the south of the City on the other side of the Thames, came within the City between 1550 and 1899 as the Ward of Bridge Without. Today it forms part of the London Borough of Southwark. The Tower of London has always been outside the City and today comes under Tower Hamlets.

Today's boundary[]

Borders of the City of London, showing surrounding London boroughs and the pre-1993 boundary (where changed). The area covered by the Inner and Middle Temples is marked.

Beginning in the west, where the City borders Westminster, the border cuts across the Victoria Embankment from the Thames, passing to the west of Middle Temple, then going east along Strand and Fleet Street, north up Chancery Lane, where it becomes instead the border with Camden. It continues north to Holborn, turns east, continues to Holborn Circus, and then goes northeast to Charterhouse Street. As it crosses Farringdon Road it becomes the border with Islington. It continues to Aldersgate, goes north, and turns east into some back streets soon after Aldersgate becomes Goswell Road. Here, at Baltic Street West, is the most northerly extent of the City. The border includes all of the Barbican Estate and ends up on Ropemaker Street which, as it continues east past Moorgate, becomes South Place. It goes north, becomes the border with Hackney, then east, north, east on back streets, with Worship Street as the most northerly extent before the border turns south at Norton Folgate and becomes the border with 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.

The City's boundary runs down the centre of the Thames, though the City controls the full spans of London Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge but only half of the river underneath them, a feature which is highly unusual in British local administration. The boundaries of the City are marked by black bollards bearing the City's emblem, and at major entrances, such as at Temple Bar on Fleet Street, a grander monument, with a dragon facing outwards, marks the boundary.

In some places the financial district extends slightly beyond the political boundaries of the City, notably to the north and east, into the London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Islington, and informally these locations are seen as part of the "Square Mile". Since the 1990s the eastern fringe of the City, extending into Hackney and Tower Hamlets, has increasingly been a focus for large office developments due to the availability of large sites there compared to within the City.


Main article: History of London

The City of London has been administered separately since 886, when Alfred the Great appointed his son-in-law Earl Æthelred of Mercia as Governor of London. Alfred made sure that there was suitable accommodation for merchants from northwest Europe, which was then extended to traders from the Baltic and Italy.

The City developed its own code of law for the mercantile classes, developing such autonomy that Sir Laurence Gomme regarded the City as a separate Kingdom making its own laws. 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. In the tenth century, Athelstan permitted eight mints to be established, compared with six in his capital, Winchester, indicating the wealth of the city.

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 Ætheling, Edwin of Mercia and Morcar of Northumbria surrendered at Berkhamsted. William rewarded London in granting the citizens a charter in 1075; the City of London was one of the few institutions where the English retained some authority.

William ensured against attack by building three castles nearby, 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 City of London Corporation.

The City burned nearly to the ground twice, 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 elected four members to the unreformed House of Commons, which it retained after the Reform Act 1832 and into the 20th century. Today it is included wholly in the Cities of London and Westminster constituency, and statute requires that it not be divided between two neighbouring areas. An attempt was made in 1894 to amalgamate the City and the surrounding County of London, but it did not succeed.

The City's population fell rapidly in the 19th century and through most of the 20th century as people moved outwards to London's vast suburbs and many houses were demolished to make way for modern office blocks. The largest residential section of the City today is the Barbican Estate, constructed between 1965 and 1976. Here a major proportion of the City's population now live. The Museum of London is located here, as are a number of other services provided by the Corporation.

The 1970s saw the construction of tall office buildings including the 600ft, 42-storey Natwest Tower, which became the first skyscraper in the UK. Office space development has intensified especially in the central, northern and eastern parts of the City, with a second (30 St Mary Axe) and most recently a third skyscraper (Broadgate Tower) being built.

Present Day Developments[]

The trend for purely office development is beginning to reverse as the Corporation encourages residential use, although the resident population is not expected to exceed 10,000 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.

Since the 1990s, the City has diversified away from near exclusive office use in other ways. For example, several hotels have opened and the City's first department store. A shopping mall has recently been built at New Change, near St Paul's Cathedral. However, large sections of the City remain very quiet at weekends, especially those areas in the eastern section of the City, and it is quite common to find pubs and cafes closed on these days.

Large developments in the City.

Bishopsgate Tower - 63 floors, 288 m
Heron Tower - 47 floors, 246 m
Leadenhall Building - 48 floors, 225 m
100 Bishopsgate - 165 m (Construction Start 2011)
The Walkie Talkie Tower - 36 floors, 160 m
Many more developments are under construction or approved, many of them mid-rise buildings, including 'The Heron' at 112 m.


Year Population Notes
1700 208,000 (of which 139,000 within the walls) estimate
1750 144,000 (of which 87,000 within the walls) estimate
1801 128,129 census figure
1841 123,563 census figure
1881 50,569 census figure
1901 26,846 census figure
1911 19,657 census figure
1921 13,709 census figure
1931 10,999 census figure
1951 5,324 census figure
1961 4,767 census figure
1971 4,234 census figure
1981 6,700 mid-year estimate1
1991 5,400 mid-year estimate
2001 7,400 mid-year estimate
2004 8,600 mid-year estimate
2006 7,800 mid-year estimate)
1. not strictly comparable with the 1971 figure

Financial industry[]

The City houses the London Stock Exchange (shares and bonds), Lloyd's of London (insurance) and the Bank of England. The Docklands began development in the 1980s as an alternative financial centre for London and is now home to the Financial Services Authority, as well as important financial institutions such as Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Barclays Bank, Bank of America, Citigroup and HSBC. There are over 500 banks with offices in the City and Docklands, with established leads in areas such as Eurobonds, foreign exchange markets, energy futures and global insurance. The Alternative Investments Market has been a growth market over the past decade, allowing London to also expand as an international equity centre for smaller firms.

Since 1991 Canary Wharf a few miles east of the City in Tower Hamlets, has become a second centre for London's financial services industry and now houses banks and other institutions formerly located in the Square Mile. However, fears that the City would be damaged by this development appear to have been unfounded with growth occurring in both locations. Canary Wharf may have been of great service to the Square Mile by providing large floorplate office buildings at a time when this was difficult within the City boundary, and therefore preventing companies such as HSBC from relocating abroad.

Local government[]

(See also City of London Corporation) The City of London has a unique political status (sui generis), a legacy of its uninterrupted integrity as a corporate city since the Anglo Saxon period and its singular relationship with the Crown. Historically its system of government was not unusual, but it was not reformed by the Municipal Reform Act 1835 and little changed by later reforms.

It is administered by the City of London Corporation, headed by the Lord Mayor of London (not the same as the more recently created position of Mayor of London). The City is a ceremonial county, although it has a Commission, headed by the Lord Mayor, instead of a Lord-Lieutenant.

The City contains two independent enclaves, Inner Temple and Middle Temple. These form part of the City and ceremonial county, but are not governed by the City of London Corporation. The Corporation governs the rest of the City and is responsible for a number of functions and owns a number of locations beyond the City's boundaries.

The City is made up of 25 Wards which have recently had their boundaries changed, though the number of wards and their names have not changed.


The City has a unique electoral system. Most of its voters are representatives of businesses and other bodies that occupy premises in the City. Its ancient wards have very unequal numbers of voters.

The principal justification for the non-resident vote is that about 450,000 non-residents constitute the city's day-time population and use most of its services, far outnumbering the City's residents, who are fewer than 10,000. Nevertheless, the system has long been the cause of controversy. The business vote was abolished in all other UK local authority elections in 1969.

A private act of Parliament in 2002 reformed the voting system for electing Members to the Corporation of London and received the Royal Assent on 7 November 2002. Under the new system, the number of non-resident voters has doubled from 16,000 to 32,000. Previously disfranchised firms (and other organizations) are entitled to nominate voters, in addition to those already represented, and all such bodies are now required to choose their voters in a representative fashion.

Bodies employing fewer than ten people may appoint one voter; those employing ten to 50 people may appoint one voter for every five employees; those employing more than 50 people may appoint ten voters and one additional voter for each 50 employees beyond the first 50.

The Act also removed other anomalies that had developed within the City's system, which had been unchanged since the 1850s.

Proposals for further change[]

The present system is widely seen as undemocratic, but adopting a more conventional system would place the 7,800 residents of the City in control of the local planning and other functions of a major financial capital that provides most of its services to hundreds of thousands of non-residents.

Proposals to annex the City to one of the neighbouring London boroughs, possibly the City of Westminster, have not widely been taken seriously. One proposal floated as a possible reform is to allow those who work in the City to each have a direct individual vote, rather than businesses being represented by appointed voters.

In May 2006 the Lord Chancellor stated to Parliament that the government was minded to examine the issue of City elections at a later date, probably after 2009, in order to assess how the new system has bedded down.

Other functions[]

The Corporation owns and is responsible for a number of locations beyond the boundaries of the City. These include various open spaces (parks, forests and commons) in and around London, including most of Epping Forest and Hampstead Heath. Within the City, the Corporation owns and runs the Smithfield Market, but it also owns Old Spitalfields Market and Billingsgate Fish Market, both of which are within the neighbouring London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The Corporation also owns and helps fund the Old Bailey criminal court, despite its use as a central criminal court for England and Wales.

The City has its own independent police force, the City of London Police - the Corporation is the police authority. The rest of Greater London is policed by the Metropolitan Police Service, based at New Scotland Yard.

The City of London has one hospital, St Bartholomew's Hospital. Founded in 1123 and fondly known as 'Barts', the hospital is at Smithfield, and is about to undergo a much-publicised and controversial but long-awaited regeneration.

The City is a major patron of the arts. It oversees the Barbican Centre and subsidises several important performing arts companies.

The Port of London's health authority is also the responsibility of the Corporation, which includes the handling of imported cargo at Heathrow Airport. The Corporation oversees the running of the Bridge House Trust, which maintains five key bridges in central London, including London Bridge and Tower Bridge. The City's flag flies over Tower Bridge.


The City has only one directly maintained primary school, Sir John Cass's Foundation Primary School at Aldgate (ages 4 to 11). It is a voluntary-aided Church of England school, maintained by the Education Service of the City of London.

City residents may send their children to schools in neighbouring Local Education Authorities (LEAs).

Secondary school children enrol in neighbouring LEAs, such as Islington, Tower Hamlets, Westminster and Southwark. Children who have permanent residence in the City are eligible for transfer to the City of London Academy, an independent secondary school in Southwark sponsored by the City.

The City controls three other independent schools. The City of London School (boys) and City of London School for Girls (girls) are in the City, and the City of London Freemen's School (co-educational) is in Ashtead, Surrey. The City of London School for Girls has its own preparatory department for entrance at age seven.

The City is also home to the renowned Cass Business School, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and parts of three of the universities in London: The Maughan Library, which serves King's College London's Strand Campus, and the business school of London Metropolitan University. A third business school in the City is a campus of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. The London School of Economics is just outside the City, in Westminister adjacent to Temple Bar.


Gardens are maintained by the Corporation within the City. These range from formal gardens such as the one in Finsbury Circus, containing a bowling green and bandstand, to churchyards such as one belonging to the church of St Olave Hart Street, entered from Seething Lane.

Gardens include:


The City's position as the United Kingdom's financial centre and a critical part of the country's economy, contributing about 2.5% of the UK's gross national product, has resulted in it becoming a target for political violence. The Provisional IRA exploded several bombs in the City in the early 1990s, including the 1993 Bishopsgate bombing.

The area is also spoken of as a possible target for al-Qaeda. 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 11, 2001 attacks, they simulated a chemical explosion on Bishopsgate in the east of the City.

London Fire Brigade[]

The City has many fire risks, including St Paul’s Cathedral, The Old Bailey, Mansion House, Smithfields Market, the Bank of England, the Guildhall, Tower 42 (formerly the NatWest Tower) and the Swiss Re Tower. There is one fire station within the City, at Dowgate, with one pumping appliance. The City relies upon stations in the surrounding London boroughs to support it at some incidents. Within the City the first fire engine is in attendance in roughly five minutes on average, the second when required in a little over five and a half minutes.

Tallest buildings[]

The tallest buildings in the City:

Rank Name Built Use Height Floors Location
metres feet
1 Tower 42 1980 Office 183 600 42 City of London
2 30 St Mary Axe 2003 Office 180 590 40 City of London
3 Broadgate Tower 2008 Office 164 538 35 City of London
4 CityPoint 1967 Office 127 417 36 City of London
5 [Willis Building (London) 2007 Office 125 410 26 City of London
6 Aviva Tower 1969 Office 118 387 28 City of London
7 99 Bishopsgate 1976 Office 104 340 26 City of London
8 Stock Exchange Tower 1970 Office 103 339 27 City of London

Buildings over 150 metres either under construction or proposed:

Name Height Floors Location Status
metres feet
Shard London Bridge 310 1017 87 City of London Site Clear demolition
Bishopsgate Tower/The Pinnacle ("Helter Skelter") 288 945 63 City of London Under Construction
Heron Tower 246 806 47 City of London Under Construction
122 Leadenhall Street/The Leadenhall Building ("Cheesegrater") 225 737 48 City of London Under Construction
100 Bishopsgate 165 542 39 City of London Approved
20 Fenchurch Street ("Walkie Talkie") 160 525 39 City of London Site Clearing Demolition
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