The Ribanomic London Walk

Posted: October 1, 2019 in Uncategorized
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An alternative and highly informative walking tour. Either go by yourself or gather a few friends and enjoy your outing…you may learn a few things you might not have previously known about this fascinating City

Stop 1: Goldsmith’s Hall

Begin here on Gresham Street

Gresham Street/Foster Lane EC2V 6BN

Where more appropriate a place to start? The place of the people from whom our paper money, fractional reserve hegemony, was initiated – The Goldsmiths.

Every civilisation and nation had their own kind, but here we focus on those glodsmilths that form part of British and particulary London history

One of the many City Livery Companies, you could think of them as old fashioned trade unions and regulators of specialist trade and crafts, formed in a medieval era when the foundations of British society were taking root. The Goldsmiths were one of the first, known as the Twelve Great Livery Companies, specialising in the craft of making all manner of wares from the valuable metals of Gold and Silver. However, this craft later gave way to the regulation of coinage itself, ensuring everything in circulation which was fiat, met the required weight and composition of metals according to the government of the day. Today this tradition of regulating the weights and measures of precious metals continues in The Trial of the Phyinx, a once a year ceremony or event where these metrics are agreed.

The Goldsmiths involvement in paper money is an oft-repeated tale and one heard in a number of regions across the world; those with physical gold would deposit their assets with Goldsmiths for safe keeping. A receipt for this would be issued. Since the amount of customers wanting to retrieve their gold was far less frequent than those depositing the metals, the Goldsmiths saw an opportunity to make extra revenues in lending out, for a fee, a certain amount of the gold stored with them in the absence of immediate demand from depositors to withdraw their holdings. This lending upon which interest was charged and it became the basis of modern fractional reserve banking itself. As long as all depositors did not require their holdings back at once, the Goldsmith could effectively create receipts/money from nothing…this is how banking works to this day

On a visit to an exhibition at this venue, I took the opportunity to capture the following display item proving that this function was indeed performed by this guild in this country; (will be inserted here in due course)

Stop 2: Guildhall

Continue eastwards along Gresham Street, en route towards the Bank of England, not far along this route, you will pass by our next stop on your left, the Guildhall

Gresham Street, EC2V 7HH

Principally home to the London local authority of these parts, The City of London Corporation, this city within a city is administered from these buildings, however it is much more then just that. An authority associated with running the affairs of the City has been housed in this place for more than 800 years. Considered to be one of the oldest ‘elected’ offices in the world, this authority is considered as a state within a state due to the fact that some of the ancient laws it established continue to govern this locality over and above the laws of the land that apply to all other parts of the U.K. and indeed London.

An authoriy with its own Police force (The City of London Police have jurisdictional power here as opposed to the Metropolitan Police that patrol the rest of London) and it’s own Courts of Law, and a visible border (Note the checkpoints and distinctive bollards that appear at all the boundary points of the City, although one must reference the checkpoints were apparantly brought in as a result of a large IRA bomb which struck on Bishopsgate near Tower 42)

The history of the Lord Mayor, the head of this city state, is also worth covering.

Economic commentator Richard Weiner goes further to state that the Queen does not have direct authority over this borough and it is true that whenever she wishes to visit this area it is a custom, or rather the law, that she must be met at St Paul’s by the Lord Mayor of London, being the ‘head’ of this state. Further still, these parts are not a democracy by the people, very few people actually reside in the City, however the voting power is given to anyone who works in the City for a business that operates in this area. Werner follows this by saying that the City, being an independent state therefore is not actually a direct part of the U.K, is not even a democracy and also not part of the EU by extension.

One aspect of this institution that somewhat fascinates me is the association with the mythical characters of Gog and Magog. There is a loaded meaning behind this which I will only slightly unpack here.

The folklore behind Gog and Magog in Britain relates to two giants who came to these shores and settled in the City of London as the guardians and protectors of this district.

Contrast this to the mentioning of Gog and Magog in the Quran, not to two giants but of two tribes or peoples, known for their mischief. A wall of melted iron was built by Dhul-Qarnain to keep these tribes away from other peoples but it was said that one day this wall would be breached and these tribes would be unleashed, realising an end of times senario. A similar theme is presenting in Jewish and Christian traditions however differeneces in the narrative can be observed, although generally these characters are discussed in a negative sense. Its a remarkable association, and I wonder what the underlying connections actually point to….

Stop 3: Bank of England

Continue along Gresham Street, eastwards towards the Bank of England, as you approach walk up Princes Street on your right, stop at the main Bank junction. There is a pedestrianised island at the centre with the Royal Exchange facing you in front

Threadneedle St, EC2R 8AH

Britiain’s central bank, one of the oldest in the world at over 300 years old, formed in 1694. Like many central banks, this began as a private corporation, in order to provide the King at the time with funds to rebuild its Navy and fight a war with France, underscoring the constant link between money/debt and war/violence.

However it was only in 1946 when this institution was nationalised, and now it is an arm of the government, although ‘independent’ from direct government control (the government used to set interest rates themselves up to 1997) although almost controlled by proxy; the Chancellor assigns the Governor, perhaps the most powerful unelected position in this country. A number of other central banks throughout the world may still be in private hands however, the US Federal Reserve being a known example, so too perhaps (I haven’t been able to verify yet) is the so called, central bank of central banks, the Bank for International Settlements

The Bank functions not only as the governments official banker but as the regulator of the UK financial services industry too. It stored the many nations’ gold reserves, issues all banknotes and creates money for the economy through debt, also known as Quantitive Easing. On a side note however, it was the Goldsmiths, which we visited first that issued the first form of bank notes, or promisory notes in this country. These were the receipts to redeem the gold stored with them.

It should be appreciated though that commercial banks also have the ability to in turn create further money which is also pumped into the economy through their debt and loans issued to industry and the public, therefore it is a fallacy that only the central bank creates money in the economy…although one which is not a hidden fact, explore the BoE’s own website for confirmation of fractional reserve banking and how money is created. The history of this blog gives plenty of further evidence of this from various sources.

Further information on the bank can be retrived from these interesting websites;

British History Online

Intriguing History

Furthermore, along the side of the Bank on Bartholomew Lane is the Bank of England Museum, well worth a quick visit to see how they wish to explain the mainstream version of the Banks function

Stop 4: Coffee House

Continue eastwards only for a few yards until you come to St Michael’s Alley on the opposite side of the road, venture down this alleyway and stop outside the Jamaica Wine House

St Michael’s Alley, Cornhill, EC3V 9DS

This place is currently named Jamaica Wine House, and was the very first coffee house established in this city in order to indulge in a drink brought over from Turkey and also popular in the Middle East – Coffee!

The origins of two of the most common financial institutions began in old coffee houses in the City of London; Stock Exchanges and Insurance markets. This location is very close to where the London Stock Exchange used to be based, initially in the Royal Exchange building for most of its time, and later in the 20th Century on what is now 125 Old Broad Street, and also not far from where the modern Lloyds of London market and the City’s Insurance quarter is, along Leadenhall Street. A number of other such institutions can also be traced back to these establishments where people from various walks would meet for specific purposes and discuss pertinent affairs.

Further historical connotations can be deduced from its name which relates to British colonies in the West Indies, merchants involved in the sugar plantations would meet here to discuss business, and also to the slave trade where those opposed to abolishing slavery would also meet here to plot ways to disrupt the abolition movement.

This area is also a great example of another well known aspect of this City, the small winding alleys which help you get from A to B avoiding the heavily congested main pathways. An historical feature well preserved amongst the wide and open space demands of modern cities

Stop 5: Lombard Street

Continue straight/south along St Michael’s Alley, and then further along George Yard until you reach Lombard Street

Lombard Street, EC3V 9BS

Historically the home for London’s money lenders, named after ancient financiers from the continent, in Italy, replaced the original Jewish goldsmiths here in the City and where many British banks used to locate, Barclays head quarters being the stand out designed building here.

This history of the mixing of different civilisations and peoples involved in finance also points to the global nature of this practise and also the long legacy it has had throughout the ages, London being only one the latest stops along its journey

A number of distinctive signage can be seen along this street, representing many old firms who would use these as a symbol of their enterprise to help the many who couldn’t read nor write identify the company.

Stop 6: ‘Skyscraper Alley’

From Lombard Street, continue eastwards to the end of the road, then left onto Gracechurch Street, until you reach the junction with Leadenhall Street on your right, find an appropriate place to stop at the start of Leadenhall Street.

Leadenhall Street, EC3V 4QT

Stopping just off Bishopsgate/Gracechurch Street, from this road you can currently view and locate the tallest and largest buildings constructed in the U.K., so much so that I like to call it ‘London’s Skyscraper Alley’…although many will know that what passes as a skyscrapper in London, would be scoffed at elsewhere.

Notice first the 1980s steel structure that is Tower 42, formerly the NatWest Tower, the first modern skyscraper of its kind in the U.K. For many years it took centre stage in the sky with no rivals to see until further east the regeneration of the old trading docks gave rise to four 200m plus office blocks mainly commissioned for the largest U.K. and US banks (Barclays, HSBC, Citi Group and the former Lehman Brothers).

Then near the start of this century, the shape of things changed, in my opinion refreshingly so, with the rise of the Gherkin, or 30 St Mary’s Axe, and so too the tradition of nicknaming all the big projects

With so much money flowing into international real estate, especially into London due to Q/E, low interest rates and the search for higher yields, the capital skyline started taking its current form with the big name projects such as The Shard (Western Europe’s highest roof), The Cheesgrater (the Leadenhall Building), the Walkie Talkie (20 Fenchurch Street) together with the under construction projects of 22 Bishopsgate, the recently opened Scalpel and the plenty of potential future projects, the appetite and financing for high rise office space is not abating at the time of writing. On a side note, London bridge is a good viewing point for both the City’s skyscrapers and those of the docklands, consisting of the Canary Wharf developments which match many of the heights of these City towers.

Stop 7: Insurance Quarter

Walk eastwards along Leadenhall Street for a few yards until you come to face Lloyds of London on your right

1 Lime St, EC3M 7HA

This stop is in front of the Lloyds of London building. This is a 300 year old institution which started life in one of the London’s Coffee houses on Lombard Street, and is a market place in itself – where companies come together to buy/sell insurance, or manage specialist risk.

My interest in this institution for this walk is the connection and facilitation that the insurance trade had with trans-atlantic slavery. Indeed there is plenty of evidence that the slavery traded across the British Empire helped finance the fortunes not only of this wealthy city but of the nation itself, through functions such as the many aspects of shipping, from building to maintaining ports, insuring slave voyages and cargo, banks financing expeditions and slave merchants, through to the establishment of colonised markets for the goods that slaves produced and the industrial revolution that was fired up by these new markets. This gives thought to the manner in which the developed world became so rich in the first place…at the expense of the third world.

Another fascinating connection to this very site, is the previous building that used to occupy this location – the head quarters of the East India Company…the colonial enterprise used to invade India by stealth

Note the Iraq Flag over 7-10 Leadenhall Street, the Iraqi Commercial Attache, with the arabic writing, ‘God is Great’…slight irony given its location

Stop 8: ‘Gilt of Cain’ Slave sculpture

Continue on Leadenhall Street until you reach Lime Street on your right, with ‘The Scalpal’ on the other side of the road, walk along Lime Street until you reach Fenchurch Avenue, follow this road to your left. Shortly afterwards, you will come to Fen Court, a little side street. Stop once you reach the small garden area and the above monument.

Fen Court Garden, EC3M 5BN

On the site of a former church, burnt down in the Great Fire, however remains of its churchyard are still apparent, lies Fen Court. In 2008, a sculpture dedicated to the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was unveiled here.

Placed not too far from the St Mary Woolnoth church where so called abolitionist William Wilberforce heard anti slave preaching, this sculpture represents on one hand a place for a slave auction, on the other a congregation listening to a preacher. This merging of colonial past (note the columns represent stems of sugar canes – an association to the sugar trade, one of the more profitable plantations and one which was a big contributor to the City’s commercial success) with christian practice can also be seen in the wording printed across the sculptures, a poem written for this art work which fuses biblical references of the story of Cain to more modern terms connected to the City’s trading practices.

It is another fascinating association, connecting as it does to religion, much like the statues of Gog and Magog in Guildhall. Some interpreters see Cain as representing evil, greed and violence, elements which are all to pertinent to Europe’s colonial past. I am left wondering whether this commemorates this dark past as an admission of guilt, or subliminally even celebrates it, judge for yourselves

Stop 9: East India Arms

From Fen Court, turn left onto Fenchurch Street. Keep walking east until you reach the above pub on your right.

67 Fenchurch St, EC3M 4BR

An old pub bearing the name of an old joint stock company, a forerunner to the type of limited liability corporations of today. it is worthy of this tour to dwell on the insidious nature of this state apparatus, a back door coloniser, by royal charter, The East India Company. This article from 2015 helps place the enterprise into the corporate context, A plaque outside of the pub gives a brief summary of the corporation, almost paying homage to it. Some sources point to this pub having been located next to a row of buildings which used to house merchants that had trade in the East or with the the East India Company, however there was no direct link between this pub and the corporation, although it still stands as a mark of the colonial legacy

Final Stop: The (Former) Royal Mint

After passing The East India Arms, continue along Fenchurch Street and then turn right along Lloyds Avenue. At the end of this road continue forward and walk onto Coopers Row. Continue south until this street becomes Trinity Square, pass Tower Hill underground station on your left and turn left along the station and pass Tower Hill Garden on your right. Once at the end of the garden area, continue right along the main road of Minories and then Tower Hill. Tower Bridge will be in front of you, passing the Tower of London on your right. Walk forward and come to a safe stopping point near the above Royal Mint Court


This tour started with the Goldsmiths, responsible for paper money and fractional reserve banking, and it now concludes with the institution which is responsible for producing/minting this currency in the form of coinage and minting bullion, interestingly, bank notes are privately produced.

Read more on the history of this institution here,

The Mint was relocated to Cardiff a number of decades ago, and this site has now been bought and is undergoing redevelopment.

I hope you have had an insightful journey and discovered a number of previously unknown facts and sights. London is a gem for history and stories, be they controversial or otherwise, try forgoing the tube, bus or even an uber, and walk to your destination, it will be worth the effort and I hope you uncover your own hidden gems….

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