Speaking at the Redland lunch today at the Gherkin in Searcys beautiful Private Dining Rooms on the 38th floor. As the event is to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Rosemary tile (the creator named it after his daughter) which Redland produce I thought I would start by talking about how London would have looked in 1838. I had enlisted the help of the brilliant City of London tour guide Carolyn Webb and she found out lots of interesting facts for me – the city would have been just as busy but with no cars, tubes or trains (although Euston had opened the year before, Fenchurch street didn’t arrive till 1841). London Bridge was the John Rennie granite one that is now in Arizona, and there were no Southwark, Tower or Millenium bridges. The most striking difference compared with the cityscape viewed from the Gherkin today is that church spires would have been the highest points with the St Paul’s (the fourth on the site but still the one we know today) dominating the skyline. In 1938 a fire within the Lloyds of London offices in the Royal Exchange burnt down the building* and talk of the Royal Exchange brought us smoothly into the history of the 30 St Mary Axe site, once home to the Baltic Exchange. I enjoyed talking about the architectural genius of the Gherkin to such a knowledgeable group and, as not everyone had been to the top of the building before, loved taking them up into the glass dome. Redland Sales Director Andy Dennis had made us all smile during lunch by saying he assumed he was one of only three people (all from Redland) that thought the Gherkin would be improved with a pitched roof – my bet is that now even he and his Redland colleagues could see this was one building top even they couldn’t improve on!
*Queen Victoria built the present one six years later in case you’re wondering