Picture the City: Ludgate Hill

How do you stay connected?

By Bank of England Museum

View of Ludgate Street from Ludgate Hill, with the West Front of St Paul's Cathedral (c. 1760-1813) by William MarlowBank of England Museum

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Ludgate Hill runs from St Paul’s Cathedral to Fleet Street

From the 1500s to the mid-1900s, this area was famous for printing, news and journalism. Shops published all kinds of printed material – from books and art prints, to satirical pamphlets, broadsheets, and newspapers!

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By the time this landscape was painted, Ludgate Hill and Fleet Street were bustling streets flowing with ink and paper. Frequenters of this neighbourhood had their finger on the pulse of current events.  Print became a powerful tool for circulating information.

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Literacy rates were rising, but even those who couldn’t read benefited from printed materials. Cartoons told stories through images, lottery tickets were used by all, printed money changed hands, and broadsheets contained lyrics to poems and songs later recited in the pub.

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Cathedrals such as St Paul’s used imagery in stained glass windows and paintings to share biblical tales with illiterate audiences. 

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Shops were known by their tell-tale signs which protruded into the streets using symbols instead of words to communicate their wares. Sometimes signs were very literal, for example, a teapot-shaped sign might be used for a teashop! 

Political Ravishment, or The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street in Danger (1797) by James GillrayBank of England Museum

Cartoons likewise utilised images over words

 In 1797, cartoonist James Gillray published this image of an old lady being wooed by William Pitt the Younger, Prime Minister at the time. The old lady represents the Bank of England, and if you look closely, you see Pitt is after her money.

The Old Lady in 2019, Peter Fashesin-Souza, July 2019, From the collection of: Bank of England Museum
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Political Ravishment, or The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street in Danger, James Gillray, 1797, From the collection of: Bank of England Museum
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Hundreds of years later, the idea of the Bank as the Old Lady has stuck. This cartoon was made by a member of Bank staff for the 325th anniversary of the Bank. It shows the Old Lady driving a car which resembles the front portico of the Bank of England’s Threadneedle Street building. Behind her, the road she is driving along merges into a graph in reference to the highs and lows of our economy. 

View of Ludgate Street from Ludgate Hill, with the West Front of St Paul's Cathedral (c. 1760-1813) by William MarlowBank of England Museum

Ludgate Hill (2020) by Justin PipergerBank of England Museum

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Today, with the rise of digital communications, print newspapers are no longer our main source of information. Over the course of a generation, a world of information has become available at our fingertips, revolutionising how we stay connected. 

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Digital communications are powerful

They can be shared widely and instantly. They come in many forms, from newspapers to academic publications, and social media! You may turn to these sources when making decisions about money, health, or simply what to do next weekend.

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Its increasing importance in society has highlighted a new kind of literacy – digital literacy. This is defined as an individual’s ability to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information through digital technologies. 

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Approximately 1.5 million homes in the UK do not have internet access, and an even larger number of people do not feel comfortable participating in the online world. This is creating a growing divide, often connected to age or socio-economic circumstance. 

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Which do you trust more, a printed newspaper or information found online? Why?

View of Ludgate Street from Ludgate Hill, with the West Front of St Paul's Cathedral, William Marlow, c. 1760-1813, From the collection of: Bank of England Museum
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Ludgate Hill, Justin Piperger, 2020, From the collection of: Bank of England Museum
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Despite all of the changes in the City, some views have stayed remarkably similar.

Ludgate Hill (2020) by Justin PipergerBank of England Museum

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St Martin’s Church

Like St Paul’s Cathedral, St Martin’s Ludgate was designed by architect Sir Christopher Wren in the 1600s. It is thought that the sharp, spiky roof was meant to contrast with the domed roof of St Paul’s.

View of Ludgate Street from Ludgate Hill, with the West Front of St Paul's Cathedral (c. 1760-1813) by William MarlowBank of England Museum

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As you walk down the street, you see a group of women gathered outside a shop on Ludgate Hill. Are they there for news, or entertainment? 

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You approach them and they share with you the broadsheet they’re reading, protesting against a rise in taxes. You had better go to Somerset House, where taxes are set, to see what this is all about!

Credits: Story

Picture the City is an exhibition produced by the Bank of England Museum.
Ludgate Hill is stop 3 of 8 in this digital exhibition. The next stop is Waterloo Bridge. To go to the start of the exhibition, click here.

All images © Bank of England Museum except where stated.
Explore more and discover the sites in real life on our website!

With thanks to: Thomas.Matthews.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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