One of the most exciting City developments, Paternoster Square, provides some 70,000m² of office space, retail outlets and cafes.
The Square can trace its origins to medieval Paternoster Row, where the clergy of St Paul’s once walked holding their rosary beads and reciting the ‘Paternoster’, or Lord’s Prayer (Paternoster translates as ‘Our Father’).
Soon, the area was a hub for peddlers of spiritual goods - such as rosaries and psalters (psalm books) – who relied on the passing trade of pilgrims visiting the old St Paul’s Cathedral. Mercers, stationers and lace-makers joined the mix, and the area remained a place of general business until the Great Fire of 1666.
After the fire’s destruction of much of the surrounding property, the stationers returned, the publishers moved in, and the taverns and coffee houses (including the famous Chapter coffee house) that sprung up nearby, played host to many famous authors including Oliver Goldsmith, Thomas Chatterton and Charlotte Brontë.
At the same time, the Square itself – a large open space – became the site of Newgate Meat Market, and remained so until the Central Meat Market at Smithfield opened in 1868.
In the winter of 1940, St Paul’s was bombed and the area was destroyed for a second time (several million books were lost in one night when the booksellers’ shops came under fire).
A modernist retail and office development rose up out of the ashes in the 1960s but soon fell out of popularity, with many of the units left vacant in the 1970s. A number of proposals to rebuild the Square were put forward and rejected. It was not until the Mitsubishi Estate Company commissioned Whitfield Partners in 1995 to create a master plan for a new development, which addressed both the heritage and the commercial requirements of the area, that redevelopment became a reality.
The new development restores the lines of the ancient streets surrounding the Square and reclaims the public open space that is the Square itself.
There are many interesting features about the development – some of the key landmarks and buildings are described here – but most notably, it is the harmony of the Square’s architecture with its iconic neighbour St Paul’s that stands out.
It is worth mentioning the remarkable amount of sunlight that falls across the Square on a fine day (due to the careful modulation of building heights); the superb new views of St Paul’s from the Square (try the ‘slot’ view down Queen’s Head Passage) and the loggia, built on a scale larger than Covent Garden and allowing uninterrupted views of the dome of St Paul’s through each aperture.
Developer: Mitsubishi Estate Company
Master plan: William Whitfield / Whitfield Partners (architects)
Development Manager: Stanhope plc
Construction Managers: Bovis Lend Lease and MACE
The Paternoster Column
Whitfield Partners (architects)
2003, Portland stone, Cornish granite and gilded copper (urn)
Situated at the focal point of the Square, the Paternoster Column stands 23.3m tall and is part of a ventilation system for the traffic gyratory and the car park beneath.
The classic design follows an ancient tradition - stretching back as far as imperial Rome - of marking places of significance with monumental structures.
Comprising a hexagonal stone base, a fluted Corinthian column and a gilded copper urn with flame finial, the column was designed to be the ‘centre of gravity’ for the entire Paternoster development, yet is deliberately not aligned on an axis with other architectural elements so as to create a ‘relaxed’ environment in the Square.
The column itself is a recreation of those designed by Inigo Jones for the west portico of the old St Paul’s. Destroyed during the construction of Wren’s present day cathedral, replica columns of almost identical proportions and design can still be viewed at the west, north and south porticos.
Running through the central service hole of the column are a lightening conductor and fibre optic cables for night-lighting of the urn, which was designed to provide a visual reference to a fire beacon, and thus fulfil the column’s purpose as a marker.
The urn also reflects the finials on the west towers of today’s St Paul’s and commemorates the fact that the site has been destroyed twice by fire - the Great Fire of 1666 and the Blitz of WWII.
Thomas Heatherwick (b. 1970)
2002, stainless steel
Heatherwick’s striking sculpture is a cunning disguise for two air vents. The structures, standing 11m high, extend from an electricity substation and provide cooling for four subterranean electricity transformers. Repeated isosceles triangles create a complex helical form in a design that evolved from experiments with paper folding. Made of hard stainless steel, the structure has been blasted with tiny glass beads to create a satin finish.
Commissioned by Stanhope plc on behalf of Mitsubishi Estate Company
10 Paternoster Square (south-west corner)
Designed and cut by the Lida Cardozo Kindersley Workshop with the diallist Frank King, the noon-mark casts its shadow to reveal what day of the year it is when viewed in strong sunlight at midday.
Commissioned by Eric Parry Architects on behalf of Mitsubishi Estate Company
The Sheep & Shepherd
Elisabeth Frink (1930–1993)
1975, bronze on Portland stone plinth
Originally unveiled by Yehudi Menhuin in 1975, Frink’s sculpture stood at the centre of the north side of Paternoster Square until 1997 when it was moved to the Bastion High Walk (outside of the Museum of London) in advance of demolition work for the new development we see today. The work was reinstated to its present position in 2003.
It is suggested that the sculpture was inspired by Frink’s stay in the mountainous region of Cervennes (France) where sheep and shepherds are a part of the everyday landscape, and by her admiration for Picasso’s 1944 bronze, Man with Sheep. The subject chosen may also have derived from a wilful confusion on Frink’s part between the pater of Paternoster (Our Father) and pastor (shepherd).
Whatever the case, it is probable that Frink was not entirely free to choose and that influence was brought to bear, given the sculpture’s close proximity to St Paul’s. The evidence for this comes, not only from the religious connotations of the piece, but from the ‘androgynous’ looking shepherd and his flock - a characteristic not typical of Frink who was known for her well-endowed subjects.
Originally commissioned by Paternoster Development Ltd; reinstated by Mitsubishi Estate Company in 2003.
Attributed to Sir Christopher Wren, (1632-1723) 1672, Portland stone
When it was completed in 1672, Temple Bar stood at the point where Fleet Street now meets the Strand. Although outside of the City of London boundary, it was one of the eight original City gateways – the others being Aldgate, Aldersgate, Bishopsgate, Cripplegate, Ludgate, Moorgate and Newgate.
Today, Temple Bar is the only survivor; a fact that can be attributed to an unusual series of events culminating in its return to the City.
While the other gateways were demolished before the end of the eighteenth century, Temple Bar remained standing until 1878, when it became too expensive to maintain and it became the cause of traffic congestion.
The Corporation of London dismantled the Bar, labelling each stone and placing them in storage until a suitable site could be found to re-erect the gateway.
In 1880, Sir Henry Meux bought the stones and rebuilt the Bar as a gateway to his park and mansion at Theobalds Park (located between Enfield and Cheshunt). The work was completed in 1889.
In 2001, the Corporation agreed to fund the return of the Bar to the City. At a cost of £3m, borne by the Corporation with donations from several livery companies and the Temple Bar Trust (who also transferred ownership of the Bar to the Corporation), Temple Bar has been re-erected as the pedestrian gateway to Paternoster Square. The re-sited Bar was opened by the Lord Mayor of the City of London, Alderman Robert Finch, on 10 November 2004.
The name Temple Bar derives from the gateway’s original position – near the Temple law courts. It displays its four original statues (Charles I, Charles II, James I and Queen Anne of Denmark) carved by John Bushnell, and new statues depicting the royal beasts, City supporters and associated coats of arms (cartouches) by Tim Crawley from Fairhaven of Anglesey Abbey. These replace the original statues, which were lost after the Bar was removed from Fleet Street in the nineteenth century.
The Bar has an assured place in the history books; it has been a part of many processions and ceremonies and has even been used to display traitors’ heads impaled on spikes. More information is available about these and other aspects of the Bar’s colourful past at:
St Paul’s Cathedral
A cathedral dedicated to St Paul has stood at the top of Ludgate Hill since 604AD. Throughout its history the cathedral has remained a busy, working church where millions come to reflect and find peace.
Step inside and you can enjoy the cathedral's awe-inspiring interior, and uncover fascinating stories about its history.
There is so much to see and discover at St Paul’s. Climb up the dome to the Whispering Gallery and try out its unique acoustics; a whisper on one side can be heard clearly 100 feet away. Climb to the Golden Gallery at the very top of the dome and you can enjoy breathtaking panoramic views across London.
Or make your way underground and explore the cathedral’s foremost burial place. In the crypt lie some of the nation’s heroes including the cathedral’s architect Sir Christopher Wren as well as the magnificent tombs of Admiral Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington.
Visitors can also travel back in time in an immersive film experience. A 270 film exhibition, Oculus; an eye into St Paul's, brings 1400 years of history to life. Oculus takes visitors on a journey through the history and daily life of St Paul's Cathedral. Virtual access films take visitors up to the dome and galleries without ever leaving the ground.