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1970 Living City Film

Below is a transcript of the Living City film commissioned by the City Corporation in 1970 - available on YouTube. The Summary and chapter notes are AI generated.


The film provides a comprehensive overview of the City of London's redevelopment efforts following the devastation caused by World War II. It details the challenges faced by the Corporation of London in clearing debris, rebuilding infrastructure, and creating a modern environment conducive to business operations while preserving historical monuments and amenities. The film highlights key projects such as the Barbican development, road improvements, pedestrian walkways, and the revitalization of markets and residential areas. It also emphasizes the City's role as a global financial center, housing major institutions like the Bank of England, Stock Exchange, and insurance companies. The film underscores the Corporation's commitment to providing cultural and social amenities for commuters and residents, including education, healthcare, and recreational facilities.


Rebuilding the City after World War II

The film describes the extensive damage suffered by the City of London during World War II, with one-third of the square mile destroyed by aerial bombardment and fires. The Corporation of London faced the daunting task of clearing debris and redeveloping the City to accommodate modern business operations while preserving historical monuments and amenities for residents.

The Port of London and River Thames

The film highlights the importance of the River Thames and the Port of London, which has been the lifeline of the City since Roman times. It discusses the development of the port facilities, controlled by the Port of London Authority, and their vital role in Britain's seaborne trade.

Transportation and Commuter Revolution

The film discusses the commuter revolution in the 19th century, with the establishment of main line and district line stations, leading to a flood of commuters into the City. It mentions the construction of bridges across the Thames, administered by the Bridge House Estates, and the plans for road improvements and multi-story car parks to accommodate the influx of commuters.

Financial and Commercial Centre

The film emphasises the City's role as a global financial and commercial hub, housing major institutions like the Bank of England, Stock Exchange, insurance companies, and commodity markets. It highlights the significance of these institutions to the national economy and their international reputation.

Redevelopment and Urban Planning

The film details the Corporation's ambitious redevelopment plans, including the Barbican development, pedestrian walkways, open spaces, and the revitalisation of markets like Billingsgate and Smithfield. It discusses the efforts to create a suitable environment for modern business operations while providing amenities for commuters and residents.

Cultural and Social Amenities

The film highlights the Corporation's commitment to providing cultural and social amenities, such as education facilities like the City University, healthcare institutions like St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and recreational spaces like parks and playgrounds. It also mentions the Lord Mayor's Day celebration and the City's vibrant cultural life.

Action Items

  1. Clearing up the debris and redeveloping the City in a way that provides an environment for modern business operations while preserving historical monuments and amenities.
  2. Completing a £60 million road improvement scheme within the next 20 years, providing through roads, pedestrian ways, and a ring road.
  3. Building multi-story and underground car parks on the perimeter roads to accommodate commuters.
  4. Continuing the development of the Barbican residential area, which will draw back 6,000 residents to the City and provide amenities for a full cultural and social life.
  5. Constructing a concert hall for the London Symphony Orchestra and a theatre for the Royal Shakespeare Company as part of the Barbican development.
  6. Rehousing the City of London girls' school in the Barbican area.
  7. Expanding the City University's educational programs and facilities.


In August 19, the City of London had its first concentrated aerial bombardment, the first of many which were to continue for the next four and a half years. One third of the City's square mile was destroyed, much of it by fire, which raged through the narrow streets and courts which intersected the City.

Following World War II, the Corporation of London were faced with a tremendous task of clearing up the debris, and following that the redevelopment of the City in such a way as to provide an environment in which modern business could function most efficiently. At the same time, there were homes to be built for the residents, who were simultaneously preserving as far as possible the essential amenities and historical monuments. Those running up to 200 pounds per square foot set the Corporation one of the most complex redevelopment programs in history.

In this one square mile within the vast area of Greater London, their aim was above all to provide for posterity a new and vital City, a living city.

Ever since the Romans established Londinium on the marshy banks of the Thames, the river has been the lifeline of the City, and indeed of the whole of Britain. In two thousand years of history, its docks and warehouses have been developing, and today the Port of London Authority controls the 22 miles of port facilities from the Pool of London to Tilbury.

The Port of London began to take its present form in the 19th century, during the period of colossal trade expansion. The Port of London Authority was established in 1908, and today one third of Britain's seaborne trade uses the facilities offered by the PLA. Tower Bridge, the first of the four great bridges to span the Thames within the city boundaries. All these bridges are administered and maintained by the Bridge House Estates, without any burden on the ratepayers.

During the 19th century, the City was overtaken by the commuter revolution. By the 1860s, when most of the main line and district line stations were established, the trickle had become a flood. And today, nearly half a million commuters pour into the square mile every day. A high proportion of the commuters converge on the bank crossing which is the very heart of the City of London. Its invisible earnings contribute 200 million pounds annually to the national economy, a contribution without which Britain would have been bankrupt a century ago.

A square mile steeped in ancient tradition and history, where exquisite Wren churches rub shoulders with ultra-modern office blocks. In fact, a square mile of contrasts, with a resident population no greater than that of a country market town, but with a commuter population of nearly 500,000.

The main shopping street, Cheapside, running from St Paul's to the bank, a seething confluence of seven major thoroughfares. The Lombards, trading with London in the 16th century, established the first recognisable banking system in Britain.

Until then, city merchants, members of the great Livery companies, acted as national bankers. Lombard Street is still today the centre of many merchant and overseas banks. The head offices of the Big Five banks are mostly in the few hundred yards surrounding the Bank of England.

They're mainly products of 19th and early 20th century ostentation. Their monumental banks of Georgian and Neoclassical facades were intended to impress clients. The Bank of England received its Royal Charter in 1694.

Today, directives from the bank affect the lives of every man, woman and child in the country. Whenever the Chancellor orders a change in bank rate, there's an interesting little ceremony at the main entrance.

On the appointed date, messengers from the banking houses and the Stock Exchange run from the bank to their head offices to deliver the news. The Stock Exchange is a delicate barometer of national and international financial fluctuations, and any change in bank rate has an immediate effect on stock market prices.

The Stock Exchange was built in 1854. It's being rehoused in a new building on the same site. The motto of the exchange is Verbum Meum Pactum. My word is my bond, summarising so much of the business transacted in the city.

Deals totaling millions of pounds are executed verbally every day. The Stock Exchange, together with the Baltic Exchange, the Bullion Market, the British Insurance Association, the Great Commodity Markets, Lloyd's Register of Shipping, and Lloyds of London are household words throughout the world.

Lloyds of London is the greatest insurance organisation in the world. Lloyds, together with the British Insurance Association and the London Insurance Companies, make the city the very heart of international insurance.

One of the commodity markets is the fur sales at Beaver House, London headquarters of the Hudson's Bay Company. The annual turnover in the London fur auctions is between 30 and 40 million pounds. Ivory for making keyboards for musical instruments, chess sets and ornaments is sold at the PLA warehouse in Cutler Street.

A narwhal's tusk from this warehouse was used to make the pastoral staff for the Bishop of Coventry. Also in the PLA warehouse, Persian carpets worth a king's ransom are sold to retailers. The value of many of these carpets is such that they'll eventually be used as mural decorations rather than floor coverings.

The City is not only a great centre of finance, it plays a vital part in the provisioning of Britain. The fish market in Billingsgate will be redeveloped when the ring road following the line of Upper Thames Street is constructed. Another market under the Corporation of London, Spitalfield's, is the fruit, vegetable and flour market. The buildings are fairly recent, they were opened in 1928.

The Meats and Poultry Market in Smithfield was built in the 1860s. These markets represent determination on the part of the City to retain the wholesale provision trade. It has achieved all this in spite of being destroyed three times in 2,000 years. The Roman city, evidence of which is being constantly uncovered on building sites, was first destroyed by Boudica, Queen of the Iceni, in AD 61.

It was destroyed again in 1666 by the Great Fire, and in the summer of 1966, the tercentenary of the fire, there were concerts, exhibitions, and river pageants commemorating the event. Among the plans prepared for reconstruction were those of Evelyn and Wren. The monument, a great column designed by Wren close to the place in Billingsgate where the Great Fire started.

Wren's grand plans for reconstruction were rejected, but his chance came in the rebuilding of the city churches. 87 were destroyed in the fire, and 53 were rebuilt by him. As a result of bombing, the number has now sunk to 27.

Most have now been restored.

Some have been opened up, while others, like St. Alban, Wood Street, have been left naked and ashamed. Sans nave, sans chancel, sans everything. Resurgam (I Shall Arise), the theme adopted by Wren at the laying of the foundation stone of St. Paul's in 1675. St. Paul's was his crowning achievement, and post-war demolitions have opened up new and interesting vistas.

Following the great fire, the City grew up again in very much the same way as before. Some roads were widened, but in the main the overall plan was unchanged. There were many narrow streets intersecting the City, and by the end of the 19th century those had increased to a complex network of lanes.

Today, some are barely wide enough for even the smallest motor car, while others are purely pedestrian ways. In these narrow streets, there are all the small shops, pubs and restaurants necessary for the office workers in the vicinity.

One of the most outstanding achievements of Victorian road improvements was Holborn Viaduct, carrying Holborn across Farringdon Street, making a direct route possible from the meat and poultry market in Smithfield to Blackfriars Bridge.

Now, just a century later, the Blackfriars underpass is being completed, linking Upper Thames Street with Victoria embankment. This forms part of the city's massive road improvement scheme. London Bridge was built in the 18th century, but by 1971 this main artery into the city from the south will have been rebuilt at a cost of £3 million.

Within the next 20 years a £60 million road improvement scheme will have been completed, providing through roads, pedestrian ways and a ring road. On the perimeter roads multi -storey and underground car parks are planned, many of which are already in existence.

Within bow shot of the Tower of London is one of the most up-to-date developments in the city. Richard II decreed that no building should be erected within bow shot of the Tower, and before Tower Place could be built, no less than 23 permits had to be obtained.

With its roots deep in history, Tower Place has been built as a vital link in the great rebuilding programme, maintaining the City's position as a world's first commerce. It will form in the long term part of the overall complex of pedestrian ways and link roads.

Most of the City's daytime population are pedestrian, and the Corporation of London has taken care of this factor when planning the new development areas. Paternoster north of St. Paul's is a case in point.

The area was razed to the ground in The Blitz. Today there are spacious piazzas with seats in the sun. There are shops, pubs and restaurants providing the everyday needs of office workers. The piazzas and walkways are part of the grand plan for providing a network of pedestrian ways throughout the city.

Care has been taken by the architects and planners to keep the scale of Paternoster to that of St Paul's. The corporation's most ambitious and forward-looking scheme, the Barbican. The 70-acre site, including Golden Lane, was the most heavily blitzed area in the city, and it was due to the foresight of the Corporation that it did not revert to its original state of somewhat squalid, congested streets, or become an area of unco-ordinated piecemeal development.

Pedestrian bridges linked the north and south sides of London Wall. The ruins of St Alphage Church have been incorporated into the scheme. Pleasant gardens have been created in the shadow of the Roman Wall, which originally marked the city boundary.

Pedestrians are entirely segregated on the upper levels from the traffic below. The city claimed to be pioneers of total pedestrian traffic segregation in the world. There are banks, shops, and pleasant open-air restaurants.

But this is only the first part of the Barbican saga. The second phase, the residential area, is still under construction. But when complete, it'll draw back to the city some 6,000 residents. They will have every amenity in this city within a city for a full cultural and social life.

There'll be swimming pools, tennis courts, and schools. There'll be a concert hall for the London Symphony Orchestra and a theatre for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Until the new Barbican theatre is built, there's only one theatre in the city, the Mermaid, where a play, The Computer, was being rehearsed. The only really big-scale industry in the city, is newspapers. Fleet Street is traditionally the home of many national, provincial and overseas newspapers. Some of the great newspapers, which are household names throughout the world, have built themselves interesting new offices. Great changes are taking place in the Fetter Lane and Aldgate areas. At first sight these may appear as disjointed, but in fact they form essential parts of the great overall re -planning scheme.

They can be compared to individual pieces in a vast and highly complex jigsaw puzzle, which, when finished, will eventually make up the complete picture. The Golden Lane housing area north of the Barbican was the first large-scale residential scheme to be built since the end of World War II.

It accommodates 1,400 people in flats and maisonettes.

The first phase, the tower block and surrounding maisonettes, was completed in 1957.

Five years later came the second phase with shops, community centre and tennis courts.

Children are completely safe. There are playgrounds specially for them and all the courts are traffic free. This was one of the City's first exercises in pedestrian traffic segregation.

It was also the first housing area to provide a swimming pool.

Trees have always been an essential feature in the City. They're welcome shade in summer and provide foil to the architecture. Some of the small squares with well matured trees form meeting places for lunchtime strollers.

Every Monday in Postman's Park religious meetings are held attended by mixed audiences.

The new open spaces are well planted with bulbs and shrubs. The open spaces in the city form part of the Corporation's determination to retain and improve the amenities, in spite of the colossally high value of land within the Square Mile.

Tower Hill, by an ancient royal decree, is outside the city boundary, but it's a favourite place for City workers to listen to other people airing their views, or to watch someone indulging in seemingly highly dangerous occupations.

The City of London Police Force is one of the oldest in the country, and is still independent of the Metropolitan Police. New premises have been erected close to Guildhall in Wood Street. Historic Guildhall, cradle of all the great redevelopment plans, hopes and aspirations, not only for the present, but for the years to come.

Inside Guildhall, the legendary giants, Gog and Magog, watch benignly over all the corporation activities. Twice a month, the Court of Common Council meet at Guildhall to discuss reports from committees. The Lord Mayor and sheriffs of the city are elected here, and it's used for banquets of medieval splendour.

It's also used of course by some of the finest musicians in the world.

Education has always played a large part in the city's budget. The City of London girls' school is being rehoused in the Barbican. The boys' school remains at Blackfriars for the time being. A notable step forward in the Corporation's educational program was the formation of the City University.

Among the many activities of the University are courses in the theory and practice of ramjet engines, ultrasonics and aerodynamics. The Lord Mayor was installed as First Chancellor in October 1966. The highest possible form of education, healing.

St Bartholomew's Hospital received its royal charter in the 12th century. After the reformation, the charter was renewed by Henry VIII. For 800 years, Barths has been a centre of healing. The murals by Hogarth depict some impressive, if rather primitive, methods of healing. Today, Barts is one of the foremost teaching hospitals in Britain, and students come here from all over the world to study at first hand the very latest developments in surgery. The operation being performed is, in layman's terms, a vein bypass graft.

Finally, Lord Mayor's Day. Since the time of Richard Whittington, legendary figure of childhood romance, Lord Mayor's Day has been traditionally a day on which the city shows some of its splendour to the nation.

It is a spectacle enjoyed by thousands of people of all ages. In 1966, however, there was a vital departure from all previous Lord Mayor's shows. The procession was a window on the city's economic activities, emphasis being laid on the vast contribution to national economy made by the banking organisations, international insurance, investments and commodity markets.

Contributions which have many times rescued Britain from financial crises. The Lord Mayor has two personalities. He is the legendary figure founded on Dick Whittington, but above all, he is a dynamic force in the running of the City Corporation and in City affairs.

The Corporation of London is always looking to the future, and it's the young people of today who benefit most from the changes taking place in the City. The architects and planners are ever mindful of two significant factors.

First, the importance of creating a suitable environment in which the highly complex machinery of modern business can function most efficiently. And second, of providing all the social and cultural amenities essential not only for the hundreds of thousands of commuters, but for those who live within the city boundaries.

The great business concerns make the city a world centre of finance and commerce, but it is the citizens, those who live, work and have their being within the square mile, who bring to it vigour and vitality.

They make it what it is today, the Living City.

dc/livingcityfilm.txt · Last modified: 2024/04/19 16:35 by davidwilcox