London Stock Exchange is a stock exchange in the City of London, England.
As of March 2021, the total market value of all companies trading on the London Stock Exchange was £3.8 trillion. It was founded in 1801, making it one of the oldest exchanges in the world.Its current premises are situated in Paternoster Square close to St Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London. It is part of London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG). London Stock Exchange Group was created in October 2007 when London Stock Exchange merged with Milan Stock Exchange, Borsa Italiana
See also: English coffeehouses in the 17th and 18th centuries
The Royal Exchange had been founded by English financier Thomas Gresham and Sir Richard Clough on the model of the Antwerp Bourse. It was opened by Elizabeth I of England in 1571.
During the 17th century, stockbrokers were not allowed in the Royal Exchange due to their rude manners. They had to operate from other establishments in the vicinity, notably Jonathan’s Coffee-House. At that coffee house, a broker named John Castaing started listing the prices of a few commodities, such as salt, coal, paper, and exchange rates in 1698. Originally, this was not a daily list and was only published a few days of the week.
This list and activity was later moved to Garraway’s coffee house. Public auctions during this period were conducted for the duration that a length of tallow candle could burn; these were known as “by inch of candle” auctions. As stocks grew, with new companies joining to raise capital, the royal court also raised some monies. These are the earliest evidence of organised trading in marketable securities in London.
After Gresham’s Royal Exchange building was destroyed in the Great Fire of London, it was rebuilt and re-established in 1669. This was a move away from coffee houses and a step towards the modern model of stock exchange.
The Royal Exchange housed not only brokers but also merchants and merchandise. This was the birth of a regulated stock market, which had teething problems in the shape of unlicensed brokers. In order to regulate these, Parliament passed an Act in 1697 that levied heavy penalties, both financial and physical, on those brokering without a licence. It also set a fixed number of brokers (at 100), but this was later increased as the size of the trade grew. This limit led to several problems, one of which was that traders began leaving the Royal Exchange, either by their own decision or through expulsion, and started dealing in the streets of London. The street in which they were now dealing was known as ‘Exchange Alley’, or ‘Change Alley’; it was suitably placed close to the Bank of England. Parliament tried to regulate this and ban the unofficial traders from the Change streets.
Traders became weary of “bubbles” when companies rose quickly and fell, so they persuaded Parliament to pass a clause preventing “unchartered” companies from forming.
After the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), trade at Jonathan’s Coffee House boomed again. In 1773, Jonathan, together with 150 other brokers, formed a club and opened a new and more formal “Stock Exchange” in Sweeting’s Alley. This now had a set entrance fee, by which traders could enter the stock room and trade securities. It was, however, not an exclusive location for trading, as trading also occurred in the Rotunda of the Bank of England. Fraud was also rife during these times and in order to deter such dealings, it was suggested that users of the stock room pay an increased fee. This was not met well and ultimately, the solution came in the form of annual fees and turning the Exchange into a Subscription room.
The Subscription room created in 1801 was the first regulated exchange in London, but the transformation was not welcomed by all parties. On the first day of trading, non-members had to be expelled by a constable. In spite of the disorder, a new and bigger building was planned, at Capel Court.
William Hammond laid the first foundation stone for the new building on 18 May. It was finished on 30 December when “The Stock Exchange” was incised on the entrance.