THE ROYAL EXCHANGE. (Page 306.)
THE Plate represents the inside of the Royal Exchange. The piazza on the left is the south, in which is the principal entrance leading from Cornhill. The piazzas are divided into walks for the various trades in the following manner: The South Piazza contains the Virginia, Jamaica, Spanish, and Jews walks; and the south front in the area the French, Oporto, and Barbadoes walks. The West contains the Norway and East India walks; and in the area the Silkmen, Clothiers, and Turkey walks. The North contains the East Country, the Irish, Scotch, and Jewellers walks; and in front of the area the Clothiers, Silkthrowers, Skinners, Salters, and Dutch walks. The East contains the Armenian and Portuguese walks; and in the area the Italian walk. In the Centre of the area, toward the south, is the Canary walk; to the west the Grocers and Druggists; to the north the Hamburgh; and the east the Stockbrokers. Merchants, however, by no means confine themselves exclusively to their respective walks, but mix together without any regularity. The name of each walk is painted on tablets over the pillars, as represented in the Plate. A seat extends along the four walls of the piazzas. The two figures in the left corner of the Plate represent two persons seated, and in conversation. The piazzas are very broad and extensive, an entire regiment of the City Volunteers having sometimes gone through their usual exercise under their cover. The open area in the centre is a spacious commodious place for transacting business in fine weather.
The whole building stands upon a plot of ground two hundred and three feet in length, and a hundred and seventy-one in breadth, containing an area in the middle of sixty-one square perches. The building is fifty-six feet high, and from the centre in the south front rises a lantern and turret a hundred and seventy-eight feet high, on the top of which is a fane of gilt brass, made in the shape of a grasshopper, the crest of Sir Thomas Gresham's arms. The statue in the area is that of Charles the Second, which was undertaken by Gibbons, but executed by Quillin, of Antwerp. The statues seen in niches of the wall of the quadrangle, in the upper story, are those of kings and queens of England, beginning with Edward the First, on the south side, and ending with his present Majesty on the east. As far as Charles the First they were executed by Gabriel Cibber. The figure in the Plate, under the dial, is the statue of James the First, and the next, on his right, that of Queen Elizabeth. There are twenty-eight niches in the four walls under the piazzas for statues; but two only are occupied: these are on the west side. In one is the statue of Sir Thomas Gresham (by Gabriel Cibber), the original founder of the old Exchange, which was burnt down in 1666, the present one being soon after built, at an expense of 65,9791. 11s. In the other niche is that of Sir John Barnard, which was placed there in his life-time by his fellow-citizens, to express their sense of his great merit; upon which he made a resolution, to which he strictly adhered, never to enter the Exchange more.
The walls within the piazzas, and the pillars, are almost covered with boards, neatly framed and painted, announcing the residence and trades of various dealers, who have obtained permission thus to call the attention of the merchants on 'Change to their shops or warehouses. This, no doubt, is of mutual advantage to them and the merchant.
The rooms in the upper story of the Royal Exchange are applied to various purposes. Lloyd's Coffee-house and Subscription-rooms, so celebrated for the immense business transacted in them in insuring ships, and so endeared to every Englishman by the noble subscriptions made for humane or patriotic purposes, by the merchants who assemble there, are in this part of the Royal Exchange; and also the Merchant Seaman, Russia, and other public offices.
Here are also apartments in which the Gresham lecturers read their lectures, pursuant to the will of Sir Thomas Gresham, who bequeathed to the city and the mercers' company all the profits arising from the Royal Exchange, and other premises in Cornhill, in trust, to pay salaries to four lecturers in divinity, astronomy, music, and geometry, and three readers in civil law, physic, and rhetoric, who were to read lectures daily. The trustees were however prevailed upon to regulate the readings according to the practice of the universities (where they only read in Term-time), although in direct opposition to Sir Thomas Gresham's will. By this management, the professors' places are almost made mere sinecures; for instead of each reading fifty-two lectures annually, they seldom exceed sixteen.