The Centre Of London


‘Here we are,’ calls a character in the opening pages of John Wyndham’s ‘Day Of The Triffids’, ‘Piccadilly Circus, hub of the universe!’ What do you think is the centre of London? Eros? St. Paul’s? Leicester Square (God help us). In theory it should be somewhere East because London slowly moved West over the centuries.

But in fact, there is a centre to London, and we know this because it’s clearly marked. The brass plaque in the pavement behind the statue of Charles I in Trafalgar Square is the site of Charing Cross. It’s not that cone-shaped oddity we think of outside the station – which was actually put up as a publicity stunt in 1865 to attract attention to the station.

There used to be a small area of high ground in the Thames marshes called Thorney Island. It’s where Westminster is now, and there was a monastery on it. Edward the Confessor (1003-1066) added Westminster Abbey to it, but the city merchants didn’t want to go all the way over there to the hall to hear commercial news so they agreed to meet at a halfway point.

The plaque marks the exact mid-distance between the old city and the new seat of government – making it the centre of two Londons. Anyone working within six miles of this was entitled to London Weighting pay – and we could take this as a measure of what makes a true Londoner.

6 comments on “The Centre Of London”

  1. jan says:

    And don’t forget Charing cross is the most famous of the Eleonar (however i’ve tried to spell that it don’t look right) Crosses …..

  2. admin says:

    Oh no Matt not the dreaded ‘Midtown’! Thank God they dropped that idea…it was like the horrible Candy brothers attempting to rebrand Fitrovia NoHo. What does that even mean? NOrth of HOxford St?

  3. I.A.M. says:

    Isn’t that in the middle of that traffic island with the National Gallery and the column at “12 o’Clock”, then the South African Embassy and Canada House opposite one another at “2:00” and “10:00” respectively, Admiralty Arch at “9:00”, and the HP in distant “6:00”? Seems a shame to locate the thing in the middle of a bunch of motor cars swirling about one.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    Are there any of the Eleanor crosses extant? I used to think there was this trail of them across the countryside, but I suppose they’re all gone along with the beloved Eleanor herself.

  5. Dan F says:

    Better than NoHo, would perhaps be Noxtry then?

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