A Tale of Two (or is it Three) Cities.

City of London Skyline

In the past I have written about London, usually meaning the metropolis of Greater London. Occasionally however, I am referring to the ‘City of London’ or ‘Square Mile’ as it is sometimes known. I thought it may be useful to do a quick explanation of the difference between the two, before I publish a blog about the approaches each is taking to reducing the effects of freight transport on the environment. Clicking on the images will link you to further relevant information.


I should take a moment to explain the hiatus there has been in my blogging.  In most part, this was due to a sudden major decline in my eyesight about two years ago and finding it virtually impossible to read a book or to use a computer screen.  It probably also contributed to a rather painful bicycle accident which I have written about. Thanks to the fantastic team at the Moorfields eye clinic, after several visits I may not have 20/20 vision, but what I do have is not far short of that, although there are some on-going problems to be addressed when life returns to normal. It’s like being able to see properly for the first time again, an experience I had as a young child receiving my first prescription glasses. A family member reminded me of how euphoric I had been at that time.

Nasa Satelite Image of London UK

Greater London, or London, is the larger area and for those who like statistics, comprises 607 square miles made up of 32 Boroughs and the ‘City of London’.  It has approximately 8 ½ million people living within its boundaries.  London-wide administrative matters are dealt with by the Greater London Assembly currently under the stewardship of Mayor Sadiq Khan. Both are based in City Hall which is the building, shaped like Darth Vader’s helmet, in the picture below.

City Hall and Shard London UK

Also known as the ‘Square Mile’, the ‘City of London’ is based on the area settled by the Romans a couple of millennia ago on the northern bank of the River Thames. 

Roman Londinium

Being Romans, the settlement included an amphitheatre in which gladiators would strut their stuff for the entertainment of the masses. 

Roman Amphitheatre London

The remains of the amphitheatre were discovered beneath the yard of Guildhall during the course of an archaeological dig in 1988.

Guildhall London

These are now incorporated into the Guildhall Art Gallery and, in normal times, are open to the public (admission free!!!).

Cheesegrater and Walkie Talkie

The City of London is the main financial district and includes many landmark buildings such a as Tower 42, the ‘Cheese-grater’, and ‘Walkie-talkie’; as well as older ones such as the Bank of England and Royal Exchange below.

Bank of England

A further satellite financial district has developed at Canary Wharf, below, which transformed from redundant docks to a mass of high-rise towers.

Canary Wharf and RN College

The City of London has its own Lord Mayor, now known as ‘Lord Mayor of the City of London’ to avoid confusion with the ‘Mayor of London’. The Lord Mayor is head of the City of London and heads up the City of London Corporation which governs it. Elected annually, the current lord mayor isWilliam Russell.   A click on the image below will bring up a short video of his Lord Mayor’s Parade.  

Lord Mayor videolink

He is assisted by Sheriff’s who are also responsible for the running of the Old Bailey which holds trials of national significance.  The City of  London also has its own police force. Being an ancient post, appearances by the Lord Mayor are often accompanied by pomp, pageantry and regalia.

Pikemen and Musketeers

The City of London is the oldest continual municipal democracy in the world.  It was recorded in 1032 and possibly predates that. Located close to the Bank of England, the Mansion House is the official residence of the Lord Mayor. This 1837 engraving of it is by John Woods and based on a picture byHablot Knight Browne which itself drew on a study by the architect and draughtsman Robert Garland.

Mansion House london

The Lord Mayor of the City of London acts as a worldwide ambassador for financial district and the Financial Services industry.  Whilst this is not part of government, the importance of the role is recognised twice a year when, at prestigious dinners, the Chancellor of the Exchequer at one, and the Foreign Secretary at the other, make keynote speeches that usually contain policy announcements and are studied and followed world-wide. 

City of London Dragon

Dotted around the perimeter of the City of London are boundary markers, such as this one on the embankment; whilst bollard around the city also carry its red and white heraldic colours.

The House of Fools

London also has another city; the City of Westminster.  The City of Westminster is now just one of the London boroughs, but retains the titular name. It has no more status or responsibility than the other boroughs.  Within its boundaries, the City of Westminster has the Palace of Westminster home to the Houses of Parliament – the mother of parliaments; not to mention Buckingham Palace and Saint James Palace, home to the court of Saint James. 

Buckingham Palace

Westminster Abbey is where not only royal weddings and funerals take place, but artists poets and Kings are buried. It is of course, the final resting places of the Unknown Warrior. 

Tomb of the Unknown Warrior WestminsterAbbey

 A little way from the Abbey is the catholic Westminster Cathedral.

Westminster Cathedral at night

In the future I hope to do a number of blogs regarding environmental and transport issues within London, and contrast the approaches of the metropolis and the City of London. Along the way I’ll probably refer to ’Westminster’ as well, but usually as shorthand for the government, parliament and administration of the UK.  I hope that you will find this blog useful and it will help avoid confusion in the future.

London UK Skyline at Dusk

2 thoughts on “A Tale of Two (or is it Three) Cities.”

    1. Hi Pascal, You just have to look at the present Lord Mayor and his families history in filling the role to see that this is not democracy in the sense that we perhaps see it today. The anacronism that it is, appeals to me on a romantic level due to the links, through it sheriffs, back to King Alfred of Wessex; how this system was was modified by Magna Carta Libertatum; and, shortly after, the introduction of elected Sheriffs by Eddie Longshanks, or King Edward 1st if you prefer. Its why in the UK we have a legal system based on Justinian, or Roman, law rather than Napoleonic type systems. An 800 year old Charter of Freedoms and an almost 800 year old system of what we might call elected police and crime commissioners may not be what we would today call satisfactory; yet they are the pillars on which much of our current system is built. I personally believe that the concept that we, today, have universal suffrage is a joke and that, in many respects, we have a society that is even more unequal as it was at the time the City of London Corporation was formed. I personally find more hypocracy in the espousal of democracy by many of our current politicians than I do in the claims of the CoLC which doesn’t totally hide its interest in the generation of wealth and respect for privalege. I exclude Marc Francois from the comment above due to his mental capacity, but as for many of the senior politicians…
      Think I’ve the outline of a blog in this. Many thanks for comment about the eye – it deteriates a bit at the end of each day especially if my blood pressure goes up. For the rest of the time it is pretty good and I am so grateful for what the hospital team were able to come up – even if that does inclune a lens in my spectacles that is a cm thick on one edge.
      Hope you and yours all OK.


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