The History of Architecture in London: A Look at 5 of the Oldest Buildings in the City

In After Nyne Magazine touched on London’s future architectural plans. It seems like a perfect time to take a trip down memory lane. London’s architecture has always been colourful, showing travellers a tale of the city’s past, as well as its culture.

Many tourists in London include the city’s amazing structures as reasons for their visit, and these include everything from political and military establishments to churches to business or leisure centres. Today, let’s take a look at some of the oldest buildings and the stories they tell about the capital.

1. Tower of London

(Source: Live Science)

The Tower of London is a castle and fortress built in A.D. 1066 under the rule of William the Conqueror after the Norman conquest. It was completed in A.D. 1078 and was made to exhibit political power and control over London.

The iconic structure had many uses throughout history, such as being a royal residence, a safe house for royal records, and even a prison, to name a few. Live Science notes that it first became an attraction back in the 17th century when the royal exhibitions were put up. A lot of its architectural state still exists, and succeeding monarchs expanded the tower and added more areas as they saw fit. Today, it’s mainly visited because it houses the Crown Jewels, as well as the Royal Armouries.

2. St. Pancras Old Church

(Source: Architectural Digest)

Characterised by Victorian architecture, this church in Central London is believed to be one of the oldest places of worship in the city. It was simply referred to as ‘St. Pancras Church’ before a new parish of the same name was built in 1819. Though there is minimal evidence of the exact time it was constructed, the old parish was said to be established as early as 4th century A.D. Architectural Digest lists its ties to literature, having been mentioned in Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities.

3. Westminster Hall

(source The Times)

Located in Westminster Palace, the Westminster Hall was home to a lot of banquets and celebrations back in the day. Built between A.D. 1097-1099 under the rule of King William II, it was said to be the largest hall in Europe at the time. Like the Tower of London, it was built to impress, and it worked. A lot of nobles marvelled at the expanse of the structure of the hall. The BBC reported that the monarchs used marble to design the seat of the throne and symbolise their house’s power.

While it’s fun to imagine how the royals threw numerous feasts here, it wasn’t just used for that purpose. Westminster Hall was also a venue for legal and courtly transactions. Up to this day, it is sometimes used for joint meetings of the House of Lords and House of Commons.

4. Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre

(source Timeout)

One of the relatively more modern landmarks in this list, the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre still acts as a blast from the past. Its design highlights the popular aesthetic of the 1960s, acting as a trip down memory lane for the people who step foot in it.

With a capacity of 2,000 it has been a venue for many different activities over the years, but perhaps most notably as a bingo hall. Bingo’s popularity over the years has remained constant, and is an indelible part of British culture. Although Elephant & Castle’s bingo nights were at their most popular in the 80s and 90s, the venue still holds regular events and has become one of the most prominent places to play bingo in the whole of London. While it has certainly moved away from the smoke filled rooms of the aforementioned years, the game now comes with a raft of adaptations to keep players engaged.

Bingo’s significant and loyal following is the reason why Elephant & Castle is still a great place to visit. The game has transitioned online, and in the UK it has been helping the bingo community grow exponentially. Foxy Television showcases how accessible bingo has become online through videos with leading companies releasing their games and tutorials on how to play via a variety of mediums, and even enlisting celebrity endorsers to reach new demographics. However, old school venues like Elephant & Castle bring to the fore how the activity was enjoyed back in the day, providing visitors with a dose of nostalgia. In fact, Timeout recommends heading there on Sundays to play bingo.

5. St. Paul’s Cathedral

(Source: The Culture Trip)

Built by Christopher Wren, Britain’s most popular architect, the cathedral is one of the most notable places of worship in London. It possesses English Baroque architecture and is heralded as a true masterpiece. Completed in 1710, it is the biggest church in Northern Europe and second in the world. The Culture Trip estimates that there are almost 2 million people who visit the cathedral every year. It is not surprising as the beauty and historical significance of the place makes it a must-see.