Unless you work in insurance, it’s highly unlikely you’ve ever stepped foot in the iconic Lloyd’s Building. Although since dwarfed by Heron Tower and the Gherkin since it was first built in the City of London 26 years ago, Lloyd’s is still an important landmark and a striking, original piece of architecture.
This year was my first time (amazingly) at Open House Weekend – two days every September where buildings not usually open to the public throw open their doors for free – and Lloyd’s was top of my to do list. Armed with a camera, comfortable shoes and some patience (there can be a lot of queuing involved), my friend and I started off our Open House day at Lloyd’s. The queue was pretty long, wrapping around two corners of the building, where we ended up joining it in Leadenhall Market. But unlike some other Open House venues which had guided tours, there was a constant flow of people in and out so we ended up waiting for about 40 minutes – not too bad considering how daunting the queue looked at first.
A bit of history to the building – Lloyd’s has been in the insurance business for over three centuries, with merchants meeting at Edward Lloyd’s coffee shop in the City to insure their ships over 300 years ago. While the Lloyd’s Building is a modern masterpiece of architecture, the illustrious history of the company is never far away, thanks to museum pieces, the Lutine Bell, the Loss Book and the Nelson Collection all on show.
Soon after entering the building, thoughts of the long queue quickly evaporated. After riding an escalator up to ‘The Room’, we were in the centre of the building, looking up at the awe-inspiring interior of Lord Richard Rogers’ masterpiece. Bordering the atrium, were rows of desks and PCs where the underwriters and brokers sit every weekday. The main draw of The Room is the Lutine Bell in the Rostrum, which was traditionally rung to mark important announcements.
After checking out The Room, we headed ‘out’ to one of the 12 glass lifts on the exterior of the building. I’m pretty good at heights, but I have to admit to feeling rather dizzy with that lurching feeling in your stomach as we whizzed above Lime Street and the City below. Surrounded by glass walls, the view at the top was amazing. You could see lots of famous landmarks, including Canary Wharf, Battersea Power Station, London Eye and St Paul’s Cathedral.
Towards the top of the building was a surprising piece of the 18th century – the Adam Room. After being surrounded by metal and glass, to suddenly be stepping into a room with classic furniture, coving and chandeliers was a surreal moment. The Adam Room was actually relocated from the previous 1958 Lloyd’s building and is used for meetings, presentations and dining.
- The Lloyd’s Building was one of 750 buildings opening their doors for this year’s Open House Weekend (22-23 September 2012). Some buildings are entry by ticket ballot only, while some aren’t open both Saturday and Sunday. Visit the Open House website for more information.
Here’s some links to Metro Girl’s other blog posts on Open House London…
- Middle Temple Hall: Legal life, Twelfth Night and a rare survivor of Elizabethan architecture.
- Derelict beauty: A visit to Caroline Gardens Chapel with Open House London.
- Neo-classicism, masques and an execution site: The history and beauty of Banqueting House.
- Highlights gallery from Royal Courts of Justice, Foreign Office & City Hall.
- Visit the ruins of an old Roman bath house with Open House London.
- Open House London 2015: Royal residences, Roman baths and more.
- Regency London, John Nash and the Third Reich: Visiting The Royal Society’s Carlton House Terrace with Open House.
For more Metro Girl history blog posts, click here.