Gracechurch Street: New 32-storey building to tower over Leadenhall Market and showcase City’s Roman past

·3-min read
CGI of the Gracechurch Street frontage (Supplied)
CGI of the Gracechurch Street frontage (Supplied)

A new 32-storey office tower is being developed over the historic Leadenhall Market on the site of London’s original Roman forum in the heart of the Square Mile.

The 27,000 square-metre development will sit behind the market on Gracechurch Street - the site of a Roman open-air square that was the heart of the city before it was torn down in AD300 as a punishment for Londoners backing a rival leader.

The project has been approved by the City of London Corporation in a bid to boost the Square Mile’s “tourist appeal”.

It will include a fifth-floor “heritage garden” to house artefacts from the Museum of London’s archives, and a free virtual reality experience showcasing the site where citizens would gather to do business and watch gladiators fight.

Significant Roman remains may be showcased in the basement of the building, after concerns were raised by Historic England.

The development will also include a ground-floor public hall including food, retail and event spaces.

The plans will “retain and restore” the 1930s facade of the existing nine-storey building, the City’s chairman Shravan Joshi said.

The new structure, around three times as high, will be built behind the market.

“Developments such as this are a vote of confidence in the City as a global business hub and will help us meet the continued demand for high-quality office space in the Square Mile,” Mr Joshii said.

“This scheme sets a high bar for others to follow. It will create a major new public hall, a pedestrian route and a cultural space showcasing the rich history of this part of London, supporting our Destination City vision of the Square Mile as a seven-day-a-week visitor destination.”

Concerns have been raised about the tower’s impact on Leadenhall Market and Roman ruins.

An adviser at the Victorian Society Conservation, Guy Newton, said that the “scale and bulk” of the tower would “comically dominate” Leadenhall Market, and “plunge the light filled market space into shadow”.

“What is the purpose of the City’s conservation areas if what is special and important about them is not actively protected? Allowing such towers in conservation areas, will, over time, irreversibly harm the City’s historic character that still makes it stand out from its financial rivals worldwide”

The society objected to the development of the tower over “one of the city’s architectural jewels”.

Leadenhall Market (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
Leadenhall Market (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Leadenhall Market now houses boutique shops, cafes, restaurants and bars, but the site dates back to 1321 and used to be a meat, poultry and game market.

Historic England initially objected, saying the plans “would harm highly significant archaeology at the heart of the Roman City”.

They withdrew their objection after the developers changed their plans and said they would “preserve and/or display the first forum-basilica remains” if any are found.

Historic England also asked councillors to allow “for public access to view in-site remains” in what will be the building’s basement.

London is already home to the Mithraeum - the remains of a Roman temple found under the HQ of news organisation Bloomberg - which is open to the public.

The remains of the forum were only rediscovered during the construction of Leadenhall Market in the 1880s. More recent digs, in 1990 and 2001, revealed remains dating back to around AD60.