Seeing London’s rare treasures

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Tower of London

The Tower Of London – a symbol of the city for over a thousand years

Opening today is the new City of London Heritage Gallery which is free to visitors and open from 10-5pm on every day except Sunday when it will only be open from midday until 4pm.

It is not unusual for visitors to forget just how important the City of London is as many think of it as just the financial centre.

But the City holds a significant part of our heritage given that was London for centuries until it began its never-ending sprawl. And a lot of the treasures that the City has are rarely on display.

The first highlight of the new exhibition space at the Guildhall Art Gallery will be given over to Magna Carta and its 1297 copy. Next year is, of course, the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and celebrations are planned not just in the UK but in many countries abroad where similar rights from the bases of their constitutions or laws. This version has what is being called the world’s first ‘Post-It’ note – a superimposed memorandum which reads ‘Make it happen’ – this historic document reflects the central role of the City of London in implementing the charter. Furthermore, London is the only city specifically to be named – ‘the City of London shall have all its ancient liberties by land as well as by water’.

Further things that will be available for visitors to see will include Shakespeare’s purchase deed for a house in Blackfriars (1613) which carries his signature – one of only six known examples in the world and the medieval Cartae Antiquae. An essential reference tool for medieval City of London officials, this volume contains transcripts of charters and statutes covering laws enacted from 1327 to 1425.

And if you have time, pop next door because the Gallery also houses the remains of London’s Roman Amphitheatre, which was discovered there only in 1988 and which is also open to the public.

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