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City of London
July 26, 2012 11:28 PM   Subscribe

As you turn eyes to London to watch this year's Olympics, you might be surprised to find out that the City of London has a population of about 11,000 and is only one square mile.

The City of London lives inside the city named London. It is older than the United Kingdom by several hundred years.
posted by eye of newt (65 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
This post needs a Smithsonian tag.
posted by hippybear at 11:35 PM on July 26, 2012


Added. And I now wish I had titled it City within a City within a Country within a Country.
posted by eye of newt at 11:40 PM on July 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


And according to Wikipedia over 300,000 people work there! That's a heck of a rush hour.
posted by Earthtopus at 11:43 PM on July 26, 2012


Previously
posted by dongolier at 11:44 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised!
posted by mazola at 11:48 PM on July 26, 2012


And since you are here, old chap, you'll be wanting an explanation of some of our British Quirks.
posted by rongorongo at 11:50 PM on July 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


I am a freeman, except on MetaFilter, where I'm just a number.
posted by tigrefacile at 12:06 AM on July 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


I love how that article is titled "the secret city...". It's really not a secret, people! They have signs everywhere, for one thing.

So but anyway, there are two cities within London - the City of London and the City of Westminster (Soho, Trafalger Square Parliament, all that jazz). Then the rest of London is made up of boroughs. The term "City" has to be granted to an area, and this traditionally happened because the area had a cathedral (so Westminster and St Paul's, respectively). And then as London grew it incorporated all the nearby boroughs into one entity.
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:11 AM on July 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


Yeah, there is London which is the 11,000 people and outside that is Lodnon where the games are being held.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:16 AM on July 27, 2012 [12 favorites]


It is older than the United Kingdom by several hundred years.

As the Act of Union uniting the kingdoms of England and Scotland (which is a politic way of saying "subjugating Scotland to the English crown") was in 1707, then we're talking more than a few hundred years, depending on when you consider what we're terming the City to have been founded. 886 seems reasonable, so easily 800 years.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:20 AM on July 27, 2012


As an American, I'm so jealous of being able to live somewhere with this much tangible history.
posted by Roman Graves at 12:41 AM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Olympics were also in London in 1908, and the City of London police won gold medals in the Tug of War competition.
posted by eye of newt at 12:42 AM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Right now, the bells are ringing out across the City of London - I assume to announce the start of the Olympics, although the bell ringers will take any excuse they can.
posted by Major Tom at 12:44 AM on July 27, 2012


The City is a cancer at the heart of London and England and this charming history is part of the reason why.
posted by srboisvert at 1:15 AM on July 27, 2012 [14 favorites]


rongorongo: And since you are here, old chap, you'll be wanting an explanation of some of our British Quirks.

It's amazing how even the BBC can so wildly conflate "British Isles" and "UK", and then people wonder why the term British Isles sticks in our collective Irish craw…
posted by nfg at 1:28 AM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Infamous pub quiz question:

Q: How many roads are there in the City of London?
A: None

(There are no roads within the Square Mile, just streets, lanes, etc)

If you like strange London quirks like this, then you'll also likely be fascinated by the (now defunct) Liberties of which there were a number in London. These were areas where the King (or Queen) had effectively forfeited all their legal and financial rights, normally in return for that area (or its new ruler - be it a Lord or the Clergy) providing a particular service in perpetuity.

The Liberties of the Tower for example (if I remember correctly), had certain duties with regards to providing support and labour to the Tower of London and the Royal mint. One of the slightly strange privileges they received in return was the right to kill swans.

Other Liberties included - possibly my favourite name for an area ever - The Liberty of Norton Folgate, just to the north of the City of London and for many years, thanks to its seperation from many of the regular laws of London, an area with a serious reputation for both scum and villainy.

The Liberties were all abolished within London back in 1900, but as is often the case in British law that hasn't stopped their quirks occasionally popping up since. Indeed back in 2008, when the Light Bar on Norton Folgate was threatened with demolition by a property developer, those looking to defend it claimed that the Liberty of Norton Folgate had never properly been abolished during their defence. Ultimately the developer backed down and this claim never got as far as being tested.

It was also the titular track of Madness' largely ignored (but utterly brilliant) Liberty of Norton Folgate Album and live show (titular track on YouTube) celebrating the history and quirkiness of London.

Finally, another quirk related to the City, if you've ever been wandering down City Road towards Old Street roundabout and suddenly wondered why in the name of Good Queen Bess there's a frikkin castle tucked in between the office blocks it's because you're looking at the Headquarters of The Honourable Artillery Company.

The HAC is the oldest serving regiment in the British Army, these days being a Territorial Unit specialising in comms and logistics. Founded in 1537, it was charged by Henry VIII with:
"The better increase of the Defence of this our Realm and maintenance of the Science and Feat of shooting Long Bows, Cross Bows and Hand Guns"
During its long history it managed to fight on both sides of the English Civil War between 1642 and 1649, and in pretty much every major conflict since. It's always had a close associate with, and drawn the bulk of its men and financial support from, the City and is one of the few regiments with the right to bear arms within the City itself. These days it runs one of the few Special Constable branches attached directly to the City of London police rather than the Met.

Now for the kicker: once a year the HAC actually hold an open day, where absolutely anyone can turn up and see that wonderfully British institution, the military display.

What this means is not only are there various big guns, tanks and helicopters there for you to climb over, and various military charities and regiments there to talk about what they do, but you also get to wander round the aforementioned castle, drink in the regimental bar, and eat food cooked by army kitchens (for free) out on the parade ground.

Weather allowing, you normally get to watch parachutists jumping out of a Chinook (one parachustist went off course and landed on Old Street roundabout last year in front of a rather surprised bus driver). Then you get to watch a parade of pikemen, and a display by the soldiers themselves featuring artillery fire, explosions, and small arms fire. All of which is apparently rendered perfectly safe to be within two feet of, thanks to the presence of some small plastic barriers. A very strange experience. This year I managed to get smoke-grenaded thanks to the slightly wayward aim of one squaddie during a WW2 re-enactment. There's nothing quite like having to come home to the wife and explain why you smell of cordite.

I've got some footage online from last year here (big explodey-ness starts at about 2:16).

As you can see, its rather bizarre, jingoistic and somehow indescribably British - and each year it somehow manages to make me both utterly embarrassed and stupidly proud in equal measure. I took a bunch of Polish mates along this year and they loved it to bits.
posted by garius at 1:51 AM on July 27, 2012 [130 favorites]


That's a heck of a rush hour.

During my first visit to London I managed to keep pace with traffic down Ludgate Hill while on foot, pulling a largish piece of luggage and stopping to take a picture of anything that seemed vaguely interesting to me as if I had ADHD (which, in fact, I do). I was surprised by the London congestion charge because, even if I'd lived in England all my life and was totally down with that driving on the left thing, you'd have to pay me 10£ to convince me to drive. in central London.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:22 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


The City is a cancer at the heart of London and England and this charming history is part of the reason why.

Yeah, although the interesting thing* here is that the City that I guess you're referring to isn't fully based in the City of London anymore. I'm assuming you're using City to refer to the financial sector, but most of the big banks aren't based in the City - they're in Canary Wharf or elsewhere (e.g. RBS in Edinburgh). So maybe one day the City of London will just be a quaint part of Greater London, with a charming history, as you say.

*may not actually be interesting.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:26 AM on July 27, 2012


Yeah, although the interesting thing* here is that the City that I guess you're referring to isn't fully based in the City of London anymore. I'm assuming you're using City to refer to the financial sector, but most of the big banks aren't based in the City - they're in Canary Wharf or elsewhere

Indeed there's actually a certain amount of rivalry between the City and Canary Wharf when it comes to finance and, as of this month, Canary Wharf arguably has more "bankers".
posted by garius at 2:37 AM on July 27, 2012


Really? You might be surprised? Also: New York is on an island, or something.
posted by pompomtom at 2:59 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think srboisvert is, at least partly, speaking of the City of London as a local authority. Being mostly undemocratic yet lobbying for business interests that are not in the public interest, it isn't the greatest bit of England.
posted by Jehan at 3:20 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love that the City is guarded by dragons.
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:38 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Those dragons actually highlight quite nicely my only real quibble with that video actually - they seem to suggest that the Mason's Temple is in the City when it isn't, because it's the other side of Holborn/Kingsway.

Which makes it what, Camden technically?
posted by garius at 3:52 AM on July 27, 2012


The medieval, unaccountable Corporation of London
posted by brilliantmistake at 4:42 AM on July 27, 2012


I'm watching Dr Who right now, so I know London is just one tower block on a huge spaceship on the back of a space whale.

It makes not a lick of sense, but Amy Pond gets wet.
posted by Mezentian at 5:09 AM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I didn't realize Douglas Hofstatder was also an urban planner.
posted by graphnerd at 5:29 AM on July 27, 2012


Yo dawg, I heard you like London.
posted by sveskemus at 5:39 AM on July 27, 2012 [17 favorites]


*Yawn* Wake me when we get to Besźel.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:06 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've always fancied becoming a freeman, there is an guild for ye olde information technologists
posted by Damienmce at 6:07 AM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's also responsible for the troublesome addition of London to Londonderry / Derry
posted by Damienmce at 6:15 AM on July 27, 2012


During its long history it managed to fight on both sides of the English Civil War between 1642 and 1649, and in pretty much every major conflict since.

How well did they fight for the Germans in WWII?
posted by Ironmouth at 6:28 AM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


How well did they fight for the Germans in WWII?

Well, if Edward VIII hadn't abdicated...
posted by Sys Rq at 6:38 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


How well did they fight for the Germans in WWII?

They were badly mauled by the Grammar Nazis
posted by garius at 6:59 AM on July 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


And according to Wikipedia over 300,000 people work there! That's a heck of a rush hour.

The rush hour takes place here on public transport - it is insanely busy on the Central Line which goes through the City proper before hitting my way-home stop (close to where the Inns of Court, barristers chambers, are situated). You know you're a Londoner when you see a tube that not only has no seats available but is literally too full to get on pass by, see a tiny patch of space in the middle, and feel grumpy that people didn't move down enough to let you get on. It is a game of human Tetris, or that one where they shout 'Bring on the Wall!' and contestants have to contort themselves inside polyester shapes.

The Olympics is mostly taking place just after the City on the line as well. Either everyone will try and work from home and it will be deathy quiet, or the predictions of human traffic chaos will come to pass.

The City of London's police force has cool, old-fashioned looking hats. Is it still the case that there are no public litter bins in the City?> They were taken out during the height of the IRA bombing the mainland in the 1980s.
posted by mippy at 8:03 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you like strange London quirks like this, then you'll also likely be fascinated by the (now defunct) Liberties of which there were a number in London.

Everything I know about the Liberties I learned from Jack Aubrey.
posted by elizardbits at 8:12 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


London's Lost Rivers
The easiest pub quiz question in the world: name a river that flows through London. Answer: the Thames. A somewhat more difficult question: name another river that flows through London. A few might know of the river Lee (or Lea) that springs near Leagrave in Bedfordshire and joins the Thames at Leamouth in the London borough of Tower Hamlets. But how about: name a third river that flows through London? And a fourth, a fifth, a sixth? - Strange Maps, 'London's Lost Rivers'

This Week In London podcast - How many Rivers?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:29 AM on July 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Indeed - even most Londoners these days don't realise there's a fair few rivers beneath the streets. Most people could probably name the Fleet, if pushed, but that's about it.

If you've ever wondered what that ugly metal tube is above the platforms of Sloane Square Underground, for example, That's the River Westbourne.
posted by garius at 8:41 AM on July 27, 2012


TNI: London, Underground
A lot of London’s secrets spill out underground. The guts of the transport system run from the glittering new Olympic fortress to the beleageaured financial district, which has only recently evicted its own anti-capitalist tent city, right out to Ealing and Croydon and Brixton – the boroughs that burned during a week of riots last summer when the Metropolitan police shot a young Tottenham man, Mark Duggan, in the face.

Forget the official face – forget the Olympic Park, the London Eye, or Buckingham Palace – if you’re a stranger in this city, there’s no better way to see it than to spend a day traveling the London Underground. It’s more expensive now that Mayor Boris raisedthe Tube fares, pricing many of the capital’s neediest people away from public transport altogether. But it’s still here, down in this strange otherworld, with its own rules, its own weather system, the warm winds blowing out of its tunnels, the garish avalanche of rotating ads, it’s here that the lifeblood of the city beats closest to the skin. Where better to take the pulse of a place than through its intestinal walls?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:05 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


those of us with a lot of wealth also know this about The City of London

The City of London is the center of an empire of tax havens which rose as the old British Empire faded, according to author Nicholas Shaxson.

The square mile of London’s financial district is the center of a “spider’s web” of about half the world’s offshore tax shelters, Shaxson, author of “Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World,” said this week at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The City is at the heart of many of the world’s “secrecy jurisdictions,” where people transact money unencumbered by regulations that apply in their home countries, Shaxson said. British officials over the years have ignored or even subtly encouraged the growth of this system, because it is so lucrative, he said.

One of the most important parts of this system “emerged in the 1950s, exactly the same time as the collapse of the British Empire, around the time of the Suez crisis,” Shaxson said.
posted by Postroad at 10:37 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Was a bit excited to think that the Liberty of London I know of best (oh, their delightfully bankrupting scarves and homegoods!) had some actual historial connection but, alas, just named after a dude.
posted by marylynn at 11:12 AM on July 27, 2012


The HAC is a fascinating military unit. According to their website About page, they are a registered charity!
posted by Bwithh at 11:29 AM on July 27, 2012


OK, now that we've sorted that out, can someone explain to me how Wisconsin has the City of Superior, the Town of Superior, and the Villiage of Superior all in the same county?
posted by ckape at 11:39 AM on July 27, 2012


a man of twists and turns links to an article that I rushed into Metafilter to add. Another link because it truly deserves it, I'd urge anyone who interacts with London to read the linkI was going to put a single link as its one of the most profound I've read in quite some time about this amazing, complex, ever-re-inventing city.

today as I made my usual Friday route through London Bridge station things were much quieter than a normal Friday as many stayed to work from home or simply went on holidays. This contrasted bitterly with the planned Olympic transport rehearsal a few weeks ago when we were herded through London Bridge like so many cattle, dangerously so for the woman I saw with a buggy and an excited toddler. While I love London, this article is closer than anything else I've read about the fundamental feel of the city.
posted by Wilder at 12:10 PM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


"OK, now that we've sorted that out, can someone explain to me how Wisconsin has the City of Superior, the Town of Superior, and the Villiage of Superior all in the same county?
posted by ckape

Its Wisconsin, do you really need to ask?
posted by marienbad at 4:54 PM on July 27, 2012


I don't know if there's an official Opening Ceremony thread, but ... golly. I feel a bit silly now for my snarkiness.
posted by Grangousier at 5:07 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, London proper is smaller than the metropolitan area - just like every other city in the world.
posted by koeselitz at 9:24 PM on July 27, 2012


CLEAN CONQUER ALL THE THINGS!

Allie Brosh should have trademarked that saying.
posted by deborah at 12:29 AM on July 28, 2012


Wow, London proper is smaller than the metropolitan area - just like every other city in the world.

It's not really comparable to Greater Manchester, here. The City does not include the West End where the tourists flock, Soho, Notting Hill, Buckingham Palace, or all the places where eight million people live.
posted by mippy at 1:16 AM on July 28, 2012


As an American, I'm so jealous of being able to live somewhere with this much tangible history.

You're from Louisville, yes? There were people in that area dating back to 1,000 BCE. Prior to the advent of the white man, it was a hunting ground for the Shawnee.

We live on the ruins of a civilization that, in Kentucky, dates back to pretty much the exact same moment as the founding of London.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:40 AM on July 28, 2012 [2 favorites]



This is perhaps only tangentially related to the FPP (if at all), but watching the opening ceremony, I noticed the solid representation of black Britons during the different acts, particularly the bit about young Britons in the Internet era where the main characters were a mixed race girl (half black and half white) and a black boy.

Now I lived in England for five years from 1978-1983 and when I attended boarding school in Surrey, we only had three black kids in the entire school. So I was under the impression that the black UK (and particularly London) population had risen by leaps and bounds (again judging by the opening ceremony). I checked the UK census (for 2001) and was surprised to learn that blacks (of Caribbean, African and "other" descent) only make up 2% of the British population. There are also 1.2% people of mixed race, some of whom obviously have some black lineage. Therefore it seems blacks only comprise 3% of the UK population at best, which one would have never guessed by watching the opening ceremony. I just found that interesting and wondered if an extraterrestrial would have guessed that, watching the ceremony.

I hope this isn't taken as racist because it most certainly isn't, and being a minority myself, I'm all for minority representation.
posted by Devils Slide at 9:21 AM on July 28, 2012


As an American, I'm so jealous of being able to live somewhere with this much tangible history.
posted by Roman Graves at 8:41 AM on July 27


Eponysterical.
posted by Decani at 11:00 AM on July 28, 2012


Devils Slide, I think it's because the London Olympics and London is a very culturally diverse city.
posted by fullerine at 11:12 AM on July 28, 2012


Well, that makes sense fullertine and I appreciate the Olympic/British organizers' intentions, but I still found it inaccurate and misleading. If they wanted to acknowledge Britain's (and particularly London's) minorities, it would have made much more sense to give a nod to South Asians who are a much larger minority than blacks within the UK. And imo there would have been no shame in including a lily-white British boy or girl as the other half of the romantic multicultural duo, whichever minority they chose as the other half.
posted by Devils Slide at 2:06 AM on July 29, 2012


They were volunteers. I'm sure it largely depended on who volunteered and what their talents are. Should they have gone round the country with a press-gang and a breakdown of the most recent census?
posted by Grangousier at 2:25 AM on July 29, 2012


No, but I found it misleading. During the opening ceremony they described the extreme lengths they went to to find the right boy and girl for that presentation, and given how exacting they made it sound, the intended depictions of British/London culture and its inhabitants weighed heavily on their minds and imo they weren't exactly honest in their portrayal of the true state of British/London youth culture. Yes, there are obviously many young minorities in London who date within their own race, but given that the population is 85% "white British" and 5% "non-British white", it was sort of a sham of how they'd like to be portrayed.

I would have understood that segment had the US being hosting the Olympics, with a 63% white/European (descent), 13% black, 16% Hispanic and 5% Asian population, but the British depiction of their population seemed made up for world acceptance.
posted by Devils Slide at 3:23 AM on July 29, 2012


"the US been hosting..."
posted by Devils Slide at 3:24 AM on July 29, 2012


One last thing before I shut up: the UK is a Northwestern European country mostly made up of Caucasians of Anglo-Saxon descent. There's no shame in that. Yes, there are a VERY small number of minorities present (per capita), and that's just the truth and nothing to be ashamed of or twisted to portray a false reality. I appreciate that the gov't is proud/accepting of its minority population and wants to make them feel welcome, but don't mislead the Olympic audience into thinking you're a melting pot hodge podge of different cultures and minorities, because you're really not, and no one expects you to be 50% brown/black/yellow either (as I said I'm a minority myself and don't use those terms disparagingly). .
posted by Devils Slide at 3:35 AM on July 29, 2012


Given that the couple did solo dancing in the filmed segments, I would imagine they probably chose the best dancers?

and when I attended boarding school in Surrey

The key things here are 'boarding school' and 'Surrey'. Neither places are known for having a lot of non-white kids. I had a housemate from Surrey and he was surprised that my Catholic school was about 20% Muslim as I grew up in East Lancashire. I admit I did a bit of a lol at the idea that a Surrey boarding school is a good yardstick by which to judge the country as a whole.

A mixed-race friend of mine on Twitter said 'Danny Boyle got multiculturalism right'. And London, East London in particular, has a large black population. (Though I did wonder why there weren't so many Asian kids in there.) So why not?
posted by mippy at 4:11 AM on July 29, 2012


Devils Slide, as Mippy said your experiences in the 70's and 80's in a boarding school in Surrey are in no way representative of the UK, and especially, London today.

My friend is a primary school teacher in Newham (the London borough which Stratford is part of) and children from her school were the ones bouncing on the beds in the NHS segment. Her comment on Facebook about the teenage lovers segment - this is the London I know.

It's the London I know too.

The census from 2001 is very, very out of date. But here are some figures from back then that you may have missed: of the whole population, 7.9% of people were from a non-White ethnic group, however, around 15% of under 18s were from a non-White ethnic group. In Newham, 61% of people were from Mixed, Asian or Asian British, Black or Black British, Chinese or other ethnic group.

There are more recent figures that suggest that close to 1 in 6 people in the UK are non-white.

Which is all to say, the Opening Ceremony wasn't some attempt at being PC, tokenism or aspirational. It was Britain today (and London particularly).
posted by Helga-woo at 5:19 AM on July 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh and I forgot the mixed race figures, why don't you start here?
posted by Helga-woo at 5:32 AM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Helga-woo, that is indeed a dramatic increase in the UK non-white population. When I looked up the UK census data, the 2001 figures showed up and I went by that. Seems there's been a dramatic increase in the UK (and London in particular) minority population in the past 10-11 years.

And mippy, I fully realize that the racial make up of a somewhat posh boarding school in Surrey during the early 80's is no indication of the racial make up of Greater Londoners in 2012. As I said, watching the opening ceremony, I thought the minority population had risen dramatically (and it has, but not to the extent portrayed during the opening ceremony).

Before attending boarding school in Surrey from 1980-1983, I attended Hereward House elemantary/middle school in Swiss Cottage, London, and the school photos from those years show a diverse minority student body, particularly among the younger kids who are well represented by Far Eastern Asians in particular, as well as blacks and South Asians.
posted by Devils Slide at 12:47 AM on July 30, 2012


Grrr, elementary.
posted by Devils Slide at 12:50 AM on July 30, 2012


6 years ago (the 2011 census figures aren't really available yet) London was 10.7% black, 13.1% south Asian, 11.4% white but not British. This according to ONS interim estimates.

London is hosting the games. Londoners don't really give a flying fuck what Surrey's like. It doesn't even have an airport to recommend it.

None of us is enormously amazed that a public school in rich Toryland with boarding houses didn't have a whole lot of black folks around thirty-five fucking years ago.
posted by genghis at 8:04 PM on July 30, 2012


I imagine that 11.4% will have grown a lot due to eastern European immigration over the past few years.
posted by mippy at 4:12 AM on July 31, 2012


genghis, calm down. We're just having a conversation and there's no need to get so worked up about this.

My boarding school, Reed's, was not half as posh as you'd imagine:

The institution was founded in 1813 by Andrew Reed as the "London Orphan Asylum", a charitable boarding school to "maintain, clothe, and educate respectable fatherless children of either sex, who are without means adequate to their support, wherever resident". The orphanage was sponsored by a host of notables including the Duke of Wellington.

Reed's School boys moved to its present site in Cobham, Surrey, in 1946. It began to take fee-paying pupils in 1958, but retains its charitable element, with Foundation Scholarships for boys who have lost one or both parents.

posted by Devils Slide at 2:17 PM on August 3, 2012


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