Bang in the centre of the Square Mile, the Guildhall has been the City’s seat of government for more than 800 years. The present building dates from the early 15th century, making it the only secular stone structure to have survived the Great Fire of 1666, although it was severely damaged both then and during the Blitz of 1940.
Check in at reception to visit the impressive Great Hall where you can see the banners and shields of London’s 12 principal livery companies, or guilds, which used to wield absolute power throughout the city. The lord mayor and two sheriffs are still elected annually in the vast open hall. Among the monuments to look out for are statues of Winston Churchill, Admiral Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, the two prime ministers Pitt the Elder and Younger and William Beckford, father of the similarly named author and a former lord mayor. In the upper gallery at the western end are statues of the biblical giants Gog and Magog, traditionally considered to be guardians of the city; today’s figures replaced similar 18th-century statues destroyed in the Blitz. The Guildhall’s stained glass was also blown out during the Blitz but a modern window in the southwestern corner depicts the city’s history; look out for a picture of London’s most famous lord mayor, Richard ‘Dick’ Whittington, with his famous cat, a scene of the Great Fire and even the Lloyd's of London building.
The modern buildings to the west house Corporation of London offices and the Guildhall Library , founded in 1425 under the terms of Dick Whittington’s will. It specialises in the history of London and contains a large collection of cookery books by Elizabeth David. Also here is the Clockmakers’ Museum , which has a collection of more than 700 clocks and watches dating back some 500 years.