|Royal Exchange Buildings||City of London|
The church of St Benet Fink was originally situated on Threadneedle Street, later rebuilt by Wren after an earlier church was destroyed in the Great Fire. Together with St Bartholomew by the Exchange and St Anthony's Hospital Chapel, St Benet's was demolished in 1842-44 to make way for the third, enlarged Royal Exchange and widening of Royal Exchange Avenue. The churchyard was acquired by Act of Parliament but had a long history, a C10th wheel-headed cross discovered here. To the west of the Royal Exchange is a paved area with a number of statues and a War Memorial, re-landscaped in 1985. To the east, adjacent to Royal Exchange Buildings, is a paved pedestrian piazza, Royal Exchange Square, aid out with a number of sculptures and a drinking fountain commemorating the jubilee of the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association.
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The church of St Benet Fink was originally situated on Threadneedle Street, later rebuilt in 1670-75 by Wren after an earlier church was destroyed in the Great Fire. John Henry Newton was baptised here in 1801. Wren's church of St Benet together with that of St Bartholomew by the Exchange and St Anthony's Hospital Chapel, a synagogue of 1231 which became a chapel of the French hospital in 1243, destroyed and rebuilt in 1666, were demolished in 1842-44 to make way for the new, much expanded Royal Exchange built by Sir William Tite in 1841-1844 and widening of Royal Exchange Avenue at which time the churchyard was acquired by Act of Parliament. Demolition to make way for commercial expansion was the fate of many City churches in the economic boom of the Victorian era. The former churchyard of St Benet Fink was built over but had a long history, a C10th wheel-headed cross having been discovered here.
Tite's Royal Exchange was the third on the site; London's first Exchange was founded by Sir Thomas Gresham in 1566/70, the original Renaissance-style building replaced after the Great Fire by a building on 1667-71 which was 'the grandest monument of artisan classicism in the City' (Bradley); it burnt down in 1838 and Tite won the competition for the new Exchange. General trading in the building carried on until 1939 and was then replaced by specialist exchanges. The building has a central courtyard area, which was designed by Tite as an open space but covered in 1883.
To the western end of the Royal Exchange is a paved area with a number of statues: an equestrian statue of Wellington of 1844 designed by Chantrey on a plinth, which was later raised when a ventilation shaft was required; a 1919-20 War Memorial by Sir Aston Webb with sculpture by Alfred Drury; adjacent in Cornhill is another statue on a ventilation shaft/plinth of J H Greathead by James Butler, 1993. This area at the junction of Threadneedle Street and Cornhill was re-landscaped in 1985 with low walls, some planting and seating, cast-iron lamps.
To the east of the Royal Exchange is a paved pedestrian piazza, Royal Exchange Square, adjacent to Royal Exchange Buildings, built in 1906-10 designed by Sir Ernest George & Yeates. Within this are a number of sculptures, including a fountain at the north end with a bronze figure by Dalou of a nursing mother set on a granite plinth surrounded by planting, which was erected in 1878 by the Drapers' Company and Merchant Taylors' Company; portrait herm of Paul Julius Reuter by Michael Black (1976); seated figure of philapthropist George Peabody set on a granite plinth, by W W Story (1868), which was unveiled on 23 July 1869. A drinking fountain commemorating the Jubilee of the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association is at the south end, a copy of one that was stolen and placed here in 1911 but which had originally been where the War Memorial now stands to the west of the Royal Exchange. This paved area with seating set around flower beds marks the site of the church.
Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); Simon Bradley & Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England, London 1: The City of London', 1997 (1999 ed.); London Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches data; Mrs Basil Holmes, 'The London Burial Grounds', (London) 1896