Сity, capital of the United Kingdom
and the centre of the Commonwealth. It lies astride the River Thames in
southeastern England, 50 miles (80 km) from the river's estuary on the North
Sea. The city was once the industrial, commercial, and political hub of a
wealthy and extensive empire; it continues to be the United Kingdom's main
centre of population, commerce, and culture.
A brief treatment of London follows.
For full treatment (including a map), see London.
The chalk basin within which London
is built is filled with younger sediments including solid rock, sands, clays,
terraced pebble gravels, and Thames alluvium. The climate within the basin is
relatively mild, with January to July mean temperatures ranging from 37.4 to
72.5 F (3 to 22.5 C); rainfall amounts to 21 inches (533 mm) a year.
Founded by the Romans as Londinium
in the 1st century AD, the town experienced tremendous growth in trade and
population during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Extensive building
projects were initiated after the Great Fire of 1666, and London became the
dominant centre not only of the nation but of its expanding empire. During the
19th century, the problems caused by rapid industrialization, such as pollution
and disease, were slowly remedied through advances in public health and other
services. Heavy damage from aerial bombings during World War II brought the
greatest setback in the history of modern London. Reconstruction and new
development restored much of the city's grandeur, and relocation of
manufacturing and shipping outside the city shrank its population and hastened
its transition to a centre of international trade and finance. Tourism and
retail trade are other major sectors of the city's economy; and, because London
is the nation's capital, government services are also an important sector.
The City of London, about 1 square
mile (2.7 square km) in area, is the core of an area called Inner, or Central,
London, which contains the City of London and 13 of the 33 boroughs of Greater
London. The central point in the City of London is an open space from which
eight streets radiate. On the southern side is Mansion House, residence of the
lord mayor of London. Lombard Street, the traditional banking street, is
nearby, as are the Bank of England headquarters, the Royal Exchange, and the
Stock Exchange. To the east is the fortress-castle known as the Tower of
London, whose core dates from the late 11th century and is surrounded by
constructions from many periods of English architecture. To the west lie the
Inns of Court, longtime chambers and offices of barristers and
lawyers-in-training, and the Royal Courts of Justice, or Law Courts. The City
of London and the City of Westminster are linked by the Strand, an avenue upon
which are located two of London's oldest churches, St. Clement Dane's and St.
The City of Westminster, which
stretches along the River Thames, is one of the country's wealthiest boroughs
and is famed for its commitment to historic renovation. It includes Westminster
Abbey and Westminster Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, the principal government
offices, important shopping districts, New Scotland Yard, luxury hotels, the
Tate Gallery, and the National Gallery. Retail shopping areas are concentrated
around Oxford Street. Kensington High Street and Knightsbridge are also major
shopping districts. The shops spread west and south toward King's Road in
London's East End, containing
neighbourhoods such as Aldgate and Whitechapel, now constitutes the borough of
Tower Hamlets. The area is historically associated with the Cockney dialect and
became an infamous slum during the 19th century. The East End was the most
heavily bombed area of London during World War II and subsequently benefited
from extensive rehabilitation.
Parks, gardens, and churchyards
abound in Inner London. The most celebrated parklands are the six royal parks
that sweep through London's West End: St. James's Park, oldest of the six
central royal parks, bordered on the north by the half-mile-long Mall that
terminates at the Queen Victoria Memorial; Buckingham Palace Gardens, bordered
on the east by the royal residence; Green Park, plainest of the royal parks but
fringed on the east by lavish, once-private buildings; Hyde Park, with its
famous Speakers' Corner for soapbox orators; the more elegant Kensington
Gardens, with the Victorian Gothic Albert Memorial and an 80-acre (32-hectare)
cultural centre; and Regent's Park, home of the Zoological Gardens and Regent's
(Grand Union) Canal.
Squares and variously shaped commons
are prominent features of London's landscape. Of note are Grosvenor Square,
site of the F.D. Roosevelt Memorial, and Trafalgar Square, which features a
statue of Lord Nelson, hero of the Battle of Trafalgar (1805); the National
Gallery borders the square.
London's other major cultural
institutions include the British Museum, which houses collections of
antiquities, prints, and manuscripts and the national library; the Victoria and
Albert Museum of decorative arts; and the music and arts complex located on the
South Bank of the Thames, begun in 1951 for the Festival of Britain.
The development of the city's
outlying areas was promoted by the opening of the world's first electric
underground railway in 1890. Major roads and rail lines radiate in all
directions. Dock activity and river traffic are controlled by the Port of
London Authority. The London (Heathrow) International Airport is located in the
western reaches of Greater London. Area City, 1 square mile (2.7 square km);
Inner London, 124 square miles (321 square km); Greater London, 610 square
miles (1,579 square km). Pop. (1992 est.) City, 3,900; Inner London,
2,632,100; Greater London, 6,904,600.
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