excerpt | stock exchange london

thomas allason 1853
j.j.cole 1882


to feel the city contrast at its sharpest, go from the traffic vortex at mansion house to bartholomew lane, a quiet street at the back of the bank of england. a quiet cul-de-sac opens off it - chapel court. and at the end is a demure stuccoed front, one bay wide, which is the main entrance to the city's most important building, the stock exchange. this is reserve taken to the farthest limit; and it is only half of the story. the public gallery has an unprepossessing entrance in threadneedle street, apparently unrelated, which seems to be just a set of office stairs. work your way through and you come out suddenly high up above what seems to be dark-coated bedlam or piccadilly underground in the rush hour. three thousand five hundred members are rushing around a huge hall the size of a station concourse, and every one of them is dressed between dark blue and black. it looks chaotic but isn't just like nature: an regimented and delicately balanced pattern runs through it, with the jobbers seated round the columns and the brokers moving between them. it has a life of its own, supra-human: the kind of collective vitality that corporations and local authorities try in vain to create by shouting about it. here it comes unasked because everyone has a real stake in things.

the gallery is open from 10.30 to 3.15 - when public business finishes - and you are not hustled. those remote hurrying figures down below can be seen close up in the long victorian probity of the stock exchange grill, across threadneedle street.


nairn, i. (1966) nairn's london.

p.s. sadly, the traders now go unsupervised as the public viewing gallery is no longer opened 

31 Chapel Lane