Since Broadgate was first developed over 20 years ago the business world has changed dramatically. So Broadgate keeps changing, adapting, refreshing – helping the City to hold its position as a global financial centre.
Broadgate was born through an incredible insight into the changing needs of business. Advances in IT meant that banks and financial houses no longer needed to be near to the Bank of England and the Stock Exchange. What they did need were large trading floors, high performance IT equipment, more power and thousands of miles of cabling. And they wanted all this in the finest buildings, surrounded by fantastic public spaces. So Broadgate was born. We clearly got it right. 460,000 sq ft of leasing were wrapped up before the pilings were even in place.
When the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited Broadgate she described it as the largest single development in the City since the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire of 1666. It was a massive project, which demanded standards of quality, speed and efficiency that pushed the construction industry to raise its performance.
Our success continues today. At the heart of this is Broadgate’s ability to carry on adapting to what businesses want. When we developed 201 Bishopsgate and The Broadgate Tower in 2008, we pre-let 70% of the space in what was the largest speculative office development ever undertaken in the City of London. More recently we secured the largest ever pre-let in the City Corporation area, with UBS signing up to a 700,000 sq ft scheme at 5 Broadgate.
Before the Roman invasion there’s no sign there was any human activity where Broadgate now sits. There was a slow flowing stream, the Walbrook, surrounded by plants with intriguing names like celery-leaved crowfoot, nodding bur marigold, blink and fool’s watercress. During Roman times burial grounds lined either side of Bishopsgate, with funerary urns, coffins and other Roman antiquities unearthed here during the development of Liverpool Street Station in the 1800s.
By the time the Romans left London in 410 AD, the burial grounds had fallen into disuse and the land was uncultivated and uninhabited for several centuries. It became marshland - where crowds of London youngsters used to go skating when the water froze. Some made skates from animal shinbones and carried poles encased in iron. Others simply tied large slabs of ice to their bottoms and slid at great speed. A bit different to today’s experience – but just as fun.
In the early 13th century the digging of Houndsditch helped to drain water from where Broadgate is today, so that the land could be used for gardens. In the 15th century portions of this land were leased to London’s citizens for allotments, and fresh efforts helped to drain it further. Broadgate proved popular for leisure, with its open spaces, streams, summer houses and gardens. It also became well used for laundry, with laundresses laying out linen to dry on the ground. Difficult to imagine amongst today’s soaring buildings and landscaped spaces.
Over the centuries, inhabitants of what was then known as ‘Bishopsgate Without’ began to profit from travellers along the thoroughfare. Inns, tenements, stables, a few shops and an occasional mansion appeared. By the late 16th century the street was lined with buildings. The chief landowners at this time were monasteries and churches. The Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII marked the beginning of the ownership of Broadgate by business people. Perhaps not so very different from the hustle and bustle of today’s professionals.
In Elizabethan times nobleman Sir Paul Pindar, who made his fortune as a merchant adventurer, built a magnificent mansion on the spot where 135 Bishopsgate stands today. After surviving the Great Fire of London in 1666, the timber framed frontage was carefully preserved during the development of Liverpool Street Station. You can see it today in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The development of the railway caused the greatest change to the area. Between 1838 and 1880 the City of London population dropped from 12,000 to 5,000 as the slums were cleared away to make way for Broad Street Station and Liverpool Street Station. Liverpool Street opened in 1874 on the site of the world's oldest psychiatric hospital, widely known as Bedlam but officially called Bethlem Royal Hospital.
From burial grounds to Bedlam, the City of London is built on a rich tapestry of history. If you look closely amongst today’s high rises and open spaces, you’ll catch glimpses of times long gone.