The History Of Retail In 100 Objects – The Royal Exchange

Royal Exhange

It’s Tuesday so it’s The History Of Retail In 100 Objects post – This weeks object is The Royal Exchange

The Royal Exchange in London was established in 1565 by Thomas Gresham to serve as a centre for financial trading, as well as, commerce. The Royal Exchange was a forerunner to the modern shopping mall as Gresham had the vision to dedicate several floors of the structure to retail uses and collect rent from tenants who occupied the space. Thomas Gresham was a wealthy businessman who set out to change the crude financial trading practices that were common in London during the 16th century. Gresham had served as a royal agent for both King Edward VI and Queen Mary and spent time at the bourse in the Belgian city of Antwerp and wanted to bring a similar concept to London. He invested a large portion of his personal wealth to construct a bourse on land provided by the city of London between Cornhill and Threadneedle Street. Queen Elizabeth I officially opened the Royal Exchange in 1571 and the timing could not have been better for several reasons. London’s population was expanding rapidly and the nation’s ascension as a global power had created newfound wealth among residents who were eager to purchase merchandise from retailers who occupied the upper floors of the Royal Exchange. In addition, the Royal Exchange brought London’s financial trading activities up to the standards of continental Europe at a pivotal moment. The completion of the facility five years prior to the Spanish sacking of Antwerp set London on a course to become the financial capital of Europe.The original structure stood for nearly 100 years before it was destroyed by fire in 1666. A rebuilt structure that opened three years later was again destroyed by fire in 1838. The third Royal Exchange building, which still stands today, was reopened in 1844. The financial firms left the Royal Exchange in 1939 and it became a purely retail establishment.

Contribution to Retail History

The Royal Exchange is considered by many to be the world’s first shopping mall. Founder Thomas Gresham established the principle of combining multiple shopkeepers under a single roof to offer a broad range of merchandise categories to create a compelling retail destination.

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