The Ward of Tower is well over 850 years old. Originally it was one of the 20 wards in the City (10 each side of the Wallbrook) and has seen more than 30 Lord Mayors. In modern times the City of London has 25 Wards, each with an Alderman from whom the Lord Mayor is elected each year.
The original name, Tower Street Ward, was derived from the principal street leading to the entrance of the Tower of London. Tower Ward is rich in history having enjoyed successful trade aided by the many quays on its southern boundary on the part of the Thames known as the Pool of London. Its market was in Mark Lane; the Corn Exchange was also here. Mincing Lane was very strong in commercial activity, with merchants and brokers trading in a wide diversity of products including tea, sugar, spices, wine, rubber, hemp, jute, rice and shellac. The Tower itself is not within the ward; as a Royal Palace it was obviously considered to be above the jurisdiction of mere commoners. And by a boundary quirk Tower Bridge, perhaps London’s greatest icon, is also outside the ward, in the Borough of Tower Hamlets, although it was funded and is still maintained by the City of London Corporation.
Edward Lloyd’s coffee house was sited in Tower Streete where in the 17th century ships’ captains met ship owners and agents to gear their wealth against losses at sea. This went on to become the world insurance organisation Lloyd’s of London.
The churches in the Ward all have a story to tell. The main two being: St Olave, Hart Street, and All Hallows-by-the-Tower, Byward Street. St Olave’s, named after the Norse saint, is one of the eight city churches which escaped the Great Fire of London in 1666 and its gateway is a plague memorial which abounds with skulls and crossbones and ferocious iron spikes.
A church has stood on the site of All Hallows since Saxon times and was last rebuilt after being bombed in 1940. Each year at Rogationtide, All Hallows hosts a Beating of the Bounds Ceremony rooted in mediaeval times. Like St Olave’s, All Hallows escaped destruction in 1666 and after the fire Samuel Pepys, the diarist and naval administrator and one of the Ward’s most famous inhabitants, climbed its Tower and saw ‘the saddest sight of desolation’,
The Thames, a much more commercially active river in times past, led to Trinity House being established. Today Trinity House is the General Lighthouse Authority providing aids to navigation and runs a charitable organisation for the relief of mariners and their dependents.
The Navy Office was in Seething Lane, off Trinity Square where in 1660 Pepys was appointed Clerk of the Acts of the Navy. A great naval civil servant and diarist he was buried in St Olave's.
The Ward has two Livery Companies within its boundaries. The senior in the order of precedence is The Worshipful Company of Clothworkers, where Pepys was elected Master from 1677-78. Its junior is the Worshipful Company of Bakers in Harp Lane. It contains three modern stained glass windows symbolising the three fires in 1666, 1715 and 1940 which destroyed the previous halls.
The village atmosphere of Tower Ward is still enjoyed by many local people. Although the Ward has few shops, there are plenty of bars and restaurants within the pedestrianised area around the Tower of London. The Ward, like the City, continues to change and evolve.
The Ward Club was founded in 1971 and its President is Sir Paul Judge the Alderman of the Ward. There are regular club events, including an annual carol service that alternates between St Olave’s and All Hallows, visits to historic sites and social events that have included archery in the grounds of the Tower as well as an annual banquet and a lunch at Guildhall.
Its motto ‘Non Praecurrimus Sed Pergimus’, construed colloquially means 'We are not in the van but we lead'.
These words truly encompass the spirit, aims and activities of Tower Ward Club.