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Paternoster Square

Medieval origins, business area for years, Great Fire survivor.

One of the most exciting City developments, Paternoster Square, provides some 70,000m² of office space, retail outlets and cafes.

The Square can trace its origins to medieval Paternoster Row, where the clergy of St Paul’s once walked holding their rosary beads and reciting the ‘Paternoster’, or Lord’s Prayer (Paternoster translates as ‘Our Father’).

Soon, the area was a hub for peddlers of spiritual goods – such as rosaries and psalters (psalm books) – who relied on the passing trade of pilgrims visiting the old St Paul’s Cathedral.

Mercers, stationers and lace-makers joined the mix, and the area remained a place of general business until the Great Fire of 1666.

After the fire’s destruction of much of the surrounding property, the stationers returned, the publishers moved in,

and the taverns and coffee houses (including the famous Chapter coffee house) that sprung up nearby, played host to famous authors including Oliver Goldsmith, Thomas Chatterton and Charlotte Brontë.

At the same time, the Square itself – a large open space – became the site of Newgate Meat Market, and remained so until the Central Meat Market at Smithfield opened in 1868. In the winter of 1940, St Paul’s was bombed and the area was destroyed for a second time (several million books were lost in one night when the booksellers’ shops came under fire).

A modernist retail and office development rose up out of the ashes in the 1960s but soon fell out of popularity, with many of the units left vacant in the 1970s.

A number of proposals to rebuild the Square were put forward and rejected. It was not until the Mitsubishi Estate Company commissioned Whitfield Partners in 1995 to create a master plan for a new development, which addressed both the heritage and the commercial requirements of the area, that redevelopment became a reality. The new development restores the lines of the ancient streets surrounding the Square and reclaims the public open space that is the Square itself.

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