Thursday, January 3, 2013

Where is the centre of London?

Londoners and tourists have no idea where the centre of London really is. Many believe its Buckingham Palace, others Big Ben, others Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square. However, the truth is that the centre of the British capital is located at a spot, just behind the equestrian statue of Charles I, at the southern edge of Trafalgar Square.  In the roadway there is a precise spot that indicates the precise spot. However, the brass plate is actually not on Trafalgar Square, but in Charring Cross. The Charring Cross found there today, is outside the Charring Cross railway hotel just a few hundred yards away. It was founded in 1865 as a publicity stint in order to attract attention to the new railway terminus. The medieval Charring Cross from which the area gets its name was actually at the top of Whitehall where the brass plaque is now.

Edward the Confessor made a vow to go on a pilgrimage to Rome; however, domestic unrest made this impossible and he sought absolution from his vow by promising to build a huge church. He chose Thorney Island for his church. This area is currently known as Westminster, which already had a small monastery, but Edward enlarged it considerably and added Westminster Abbey.
The merchants of the City had no intention of moving to what was then a windswept and remote location so they stayed put, but when the legislators at Westminster Hall wanted to hear news of the commercial goings on of the City they came to the halfway point, i.e. Charring Cross. The City merchants, wanting to know more of affairs of state also came to this exact spot.

This, therefore, seems to be the best spot, which relates to the bizarre growth of the capital; to the east of the plaque is the City of London and to the south Westminster. The brass plaque marks the exact halfway point between the old city and the new seat of government and is therefore the centre point of both Londons. 
With the growth of London, the location of the brass plaque helped solve a more practical problem too, i.e. where London weighting was paid to public officials there had to be a decision about the area of London within which the extra rate of pay would be calculated. It was decided that anyone working within a six mile radius of the brass plaque at Charing Cross would be entitled to the extra payment.  

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