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Royal Exchange, London f. 7

Royal Exchange, London f. 7

Draughtsman: Unknown

Medium: Pen and ink on paper

Date: 1574

Shelfmark: Add MS 6239

Item number: f. 7

Length: 12.5

Width: 18.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Plan

This is an image of the old Royal Exchange and adjoining buildings in London. It is copied from the 1574 print by Braun and Hogenberg, of which the original version of 1570 was a very close copy of the so-called Copperplate Map of 1555-8. We do not have a date for the execution of this copy of the small section showing the old Royal Exchange. The Royal Exchange was the meeting point for merchants who conducted business here. The first Royal Exchange building was opened by Elizabeth I in 1570, up to this point there had been no exchange building and merchants conducted their business in the street.. In early years of the 16th century the idea of an exchange building began to be discussed. After Sir Richard Gresham, a successful merchant, visited the bourse at Antwerp he sent plans for a similar building for London to Thomas Cromwell. Progress was so slow that it was Sir Richard’s son, Thomas Gresham, ‘King’s Merchant’ at Antwerp, who eventually laid the first brick on 7th June 1566 at the site in Cornhill. The resulting structure was a long four storey building, similar to the bourses at Antwerp and Venice. The bell tower was topped by a huge grasshopper, an emblem of the Gresham crest. Gresham’s huge financial input and personal involvement was also recognised by the erection of his statue there in 1622. Hollar’s 1644 engraving of the Royal Exchange shows the bell tower and the arched galleries, both features which are recorded in this small copy of the Agas plan. The exchange was destroyed in the Great Fire.

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