Tradition and heritage are pillars of the London landscape. When you walk the streets of the capital, you’re taking part in the culture of a city that has existed for thousands of years. Its iconic buildings have stood for centuries before most of us and will most likely stand for centuries afterwards.
In this historic panorama, commerce has always played a central role. That’s why, this week, we wanted to explore some of the oldest businesses in London. These rare institutions have served the British public for centuries and London simply wouldn’t be the same without them. If you love to discover more about the relationship between Britain’s past and our modern world, then this list is for you.
Let’s explore the oldest businesses in London!
Theatre Royal, 1663
First opened in May 1663, Drury Lane’s Theatre Royal has been a staple of the capital’s dramatic arts scene for centuries. It has gone through several rebuilds and refurbishments but managed to survive, in name if nothing else, through the Great Fire of London, the Plague and the Blitz. The modern theatre is itself over 200 years old.
London Gazette, 1665
The London Gazette claims to be London’s oldest newspaper. First published in 1665, this trend-setting paper gives its name to Gazettes from all over the world, including the Canada Gazette, India Gazette and the South Australian Government Gazette. Today, the paper is owned and operated by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office and functions as a public record of notices, insolvencies, awards and inheritance.
Ye Olde Mitre, 1546
It’s no surprise that one of London’s oldest businesses is a drinking establishment. This grade II listed building was built in 1773, but the original pub goes back as far as 1546 and was a guest house for servants of the Bishop of Ely. It’s extremely famous for its cherry tree, around which Queen Elizabeth was said to have danced with Sir Christopher Hatton, Lord Chancellor of England.
The Royal Mint, 650
Coin minting has been going on in Britain since around the second century BC. However, the first official Royal Mint was established in 650 AD, making it perhaps the oldest business in the UK. Today, the Royal Mint makes its home near to Cardiff, Wales, but you can visit the Royal Mint Museum in London to explore its unique history and legacy. You can even see coins there that are over 2000 years old! Quite a sight…
C.Hoare & Co. , 1672
As the UK’s oldest privately owned Bank, C. Hoare & Co. is one of London’s most recognisable institutions. Founded in 1672 by Sir Richard Hoare, it is the world’s fourth oldest bank and has stood on Fleet Street since 1690. Richard Hoare went on to become the Mayor of London in 1712 whilst the bank prospered under his care. Throughout the 20th century, most private banks were absorbed by larger commercial interests. However, Hoare’s withstood multiple aggressive takeovers to remain private until today.