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A secret history in the heart of the city

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The history of St Paul's reaches back to the Roman period. Two thousand years later, One New Change is redefining the area for a new generation

For 2,000 years or more, people have been shopping, trading, meeting and eating on the streets around St Paul’s. Bankside is full of little-known delights, and One New Change is its beating heart. Here’s the hidden history of iconic St Paul’s. 

In the beginning…

The Roman settlement of Londinium was on the banks of the Thames where Bankside is now, and you can still find the evidence of their presence today. Walbrook (named after a long-lost river) marked the city limits and on a site next to the river, the Romans built a temple to the god Mithras. In 1957, builders uncovered it, finding one of the UK’s most significant archaeological sites. The Mithraeum and its nearby neighbour, a Roman amphitheatre underneath the Guild Hall, are both open for free to the public.

Watling Street

Just around the corner from One New Change is Watling Street, part of an ancient route created by the Britons between Canterbury and St Albans. The Romans paved and extended it to Dover in the South East and up beyond Hadrian’s Wall in the North. When Boudicca, queen of the Iceni, led her people to sack Londinium, she also met her death on Watling Street.

Hidden treasure

Amulets and bangles made with gold and amber were found in the excavations, and though times might have changed, you can still find striking jewellery at boutiques in One New Change like Fraser Hart, Swarovski, Pandora and Links of London. No need to dig, just ask nicely.

St Paul’s Cathedral

A cathedral dedicated to St Paul has overlooked the City of London since 604 AD, and the one that stands there today is the fourth edition. The first was made from wood and was built for Mellitus, Bishop of the East Saxons. It was destroyed by a fire in 675 AD and was rebuilt 10 years later. That one was destroyed by Vikings in 962 AD and rebuilt in stone by the Normans. The Norman cathedral was larger than the current one, but we wouldn’t have the resplendent and iconic sight of the dome of St Paul’s without The Great Fire of London of 1666. Like a phoenix Sir Christopher Wren’s beautiful building rose from the flames and stands there to this day.

Smoke and fire

Thankfully wood-fired ovens are much safer than in the days of the Great Fire, and in evidence at Barbecoa. Watch the flames licking top-quality meat as it’s cooked in an open kitchen, using Texas pit smokers, tandoors, fire pits, robata grills, and yes, old fashioned wood-fired ovens.

Take in the view

If views of St Paul’s are what you want, the rooftop of One New Change offers a panoramic vista across the river and the City of London, as well as a new perspective on the cathedral itself.

Chalet chic

Right now, Madison London, the restaurant and bar on the roof terrace of One New Change, has transformed the space into an alpine-inspired winter wonderland decked out with chalets, twinkling lights, and plenty of faux fur and tartan blankets to stave off the cold.

In plain sight

New buildings and tower blocks might seemingly rise on a weekly basis in this part of town, but four sightlines across London to St Paul’s are legally protected. Stand on King Henry VIII’s Mound in Richmond Park, on the summits of Primrose Hill or Parliament Hill, or look over from Alexandra Palace, and you’ll find nothing in the sky between you and St Paul’s dome except maybe a few birds.

To market, to market

The name Cheapside comes from the Old English word for shop – ceapan – and means marketplace. People have been buying and selling along Cheapside and the streets off it since the Middle Ages. Charles Dickens Jr described it as the busiest and greatest thoroughfare in the world. One New Change continues that tradition as the City’s only shopping centre.

Christmas Market

Though we’re not haggling for poultry on Poultry, or honey on Honey Lane anymore, every Friday there’s an independent traders market in One New Change, and a Christmas market for a week from December 17, keeping the tradition alive.

The Mermaid Tavern

On the corner of Friday Street and Bread Street, opposite where One New Change is today, was The Mermaid Tavern, frequented in the 16th century by literary greats like Ben Jonson, John Donne and William Strachey. They, along with other Elizabethan writers, were part of a drinking club that met there on the first Friday of the month – the Fraternity of Sireniacal Gentlemen.

Bread Street Kitchen

Nowadays, if you want to celebrate late into the night, whether you’re celebrating New Year, or just the fact that’s it’s a Wednesday, look no further than Bread Street Kitchen. Gordon Ramsay’s warehouse style restaurant is known for its fresh seasonal fare and buzzy atmosphere. And with late night hours until 3am Wednesday to Friday, it’s a great place to end the night with top-notch drinks and quality sustenance.

A close shave

If you’re actively seeking out a proper shave with a blade – of the kind including hot towels, face massage and lemon cologne – Ted’s Grooming Room in One New Change will sort you out. The parlour may take its inspiration from Istanbul, rather than the back streets of London’s Bankside, but they make the art of barbering a tradition we’d be happy to adopt as one of our own.

Keep body and soul together

You can also get your back uncricked and your muscles loosened by booking in for a clinic at Pure Sports Medicine. Then hop over to Rush hairdressers for a short, back and sides, and give your skin a once over at Dermalogica. You’ll look like a new man. Next, visit St Paul’s Cathedral for a service – believe it or not, that’s what it was built for. While you’re in there, don’t forget to sneak a peak at William Holman-Hunt’s painting The Light of the World. This sermon in a frame is the most travelled artwork in history. It was bought by industrialist Charles Booth in 1908 and donated to St Paul’s where it now takes its place in the altarpiece of the Middlesex Chapel.

One New Change is three minutes walk from St Paul’s Underground station, onenewchange.com