London is the mother of all the world's metro systems. Already in 1863 the first tunnel was opened in the city centre for a rail line between Paddington (originally called Bishops Rd) and Farringdon although trains of the Metropolitan Railway were operated initially by steam engines. In the following decades the line was extended east and west, and reached Hammersmith in 1864, South Kensington in 1868, Aldgate in 1876, and Tower of London in 1882. A northwestern branch was opened from Baker Street to Swiss Cottage in 1868 which was later extended in stages as far as Chesham by 1889.
In the meantime, between 1868 and 1871, the Metropolitan District Railway built a line between South Kensington and Mansion House. The entire circle was finished in 1884 with the Mansion House - Tower section. The District was also extended at both ends during the following decades and served Hammersmith in 1874, Richmond in 1877, Ealing Broadway in 1879 and Wimbledon in 1889.
The Metropolitan Line persists on the London Underground map (although part of the original line now is the Hammersmith & City Line) and has become a synonym all over the world for many different kinds of urban rail transport systems. This first line was so successful that very quickly a large network of underground and surface lines was built. In 1900, when Paris opened its first line, London already was proud of a very extensive metro system.
The first "real" metro line, however, was the City & South London Railway, between Stockwell and King William Street (later replaced by Bank) in the City of London, which opened 4 Nov 1890 and which is part of today's Northern Line. This was the first underground line using electric traction in the world. In 1898, 2 years after Glasgow's cable drawn subway and Budapest's first electric underground line had opened, another short electric tube line started operating in London, this is today's Waterloo & City Line. From 1900 onwards, the Metropolitan and the District Railways began electrifying all their lines.
The Royal Exchange
The Royal Exchange in the City of London was founded in 1565 by Sir Thomas Gresham to act as a centre of commerce for the city. The site was provided by the City of London Corporation and the Worshipful Company of Mercers, and is roughly triangular, formed by the converging streets of Cornhill and Threadneedle Street. The design was inspired by a bourse Gresham had seen in Antwerp.
The Royal Exchange was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth I who awarded the building its Royal title, on 23 January 1571.
Gresham's original building was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. A second exchange was built on the site, designed by Edward Jerman, which opened in 1669, and which was also destroyed by fire in January 1838.
Interior of Royal Exchange, during 2002 Cow Parade
During the 17th century, stockbrokers were not allowed in the Royal Exchange due to their rude manners, hence they had to operate from other establishments in the vicinity, like Jonathan's Coffee-House.
The third Royal Exchange building still stands on the site and adheres to the original layout - consisting of a four-sided structure surrounding a central courtyard where merchants and tradesmen could do business. This building was designed by Sir William Tite, features pediment sculptures by Richard Westmacott (the younger), and was opened by Queen Victoria on 28 October 1844, though trading did not commence until 1 January 1845.
The Royal Exchange ceased to act as a centre of commerce in 1939, although it was for a few years in the 1980s, home to the London International Financial Futures Exchange, LIFFE. It is now a luxurious shopping centre.
Shops in the Royal Exchange include Hermès, Molton Brown, Paul Smith, Haines & Bonner, Tiffany and Jo Malone.
The big Gresham Grasshopper can be seen on the Royal Exchange's weathervane. This commemorates the founder, Sir Thomas Gresham, whose crest it was. The device was later borrowed by Shem Drowne atop the famous Faneuil Hall in Boston, Massachusetts, in imitation of the Royal Exchange.