The East India Company’s influence within Britain can be seen not only in its effect on British culture but also in the landmarks it left behind. Today, these landmarks lie at the heart of London’s modern foundations.
NO 5 PHILPOT LANE
The East India Company operated out of several sites in The City of London, the first in Philpot Lane, then it took a lease on Lord Northampton’s mansion, Crosby Hall, Bishopsgate and lastly in 1658 it leased Lord Craven’s House in Leadenhall Street.
LLOYDS BUILDING, THE SITE OF EAST INDIA HOUSE FROM 1658 TO 1858
The East India Company’s final headquarters were on the site of the Current Lloyds building, Leadenhall Street. The Company’s headquarters for more than two centuries, the plot is currently occupied by the steel and glass of the Lloyds of London Insurance building.
Originally this was the ‘great mansion house’ of Sir William Craven, who had been Lord Mayor of London in 1610. This structure was rebuilt in 1726 and then replaced in 1799-1800 by a much larger building designed by the architect Richard Jupp. Built in 1799, where Lloyds now sits, there is no memorial to the 200 foot long ‘Monster of Leadenhall’, the once Head Quarters of The East India Company. Classically columned it had sculptures of Britannia on a Lion, Europa on a horse and Asia on a Camel. It was torn down in 1861. Three years after, Queen Victoria’s government had absorbed The Company’s territories and ordered its holdings dispersed.
Close by heading south of Leadenhall Street sits Mincing Lane, once the centre of Britain’s tea trade.
THE EAST INDIA DOCKS
The East India Docks was a group of docks in Blackwall, East London. They were built following the success of the West India Docks and used by The East India Company to facilitate their trade of tea, spices, textiles and more. Today, there is a station on the Docklands Light Railway named ‘East India’ in Leamouth, east London. The station was given its name due to its proximity of the former East India Docks, where EIC merchant ships used to trade.
BRITISH LIBRARY, ST PANCRAS
The British library holds the records of The East India Company (1600-1858). The focus of The India Office Records department is the territories which now include India, Pakistan, Burma and Bangladesh and their administration before 1947. The Records also include source materials for neighbouring or connected areas at different times, covering not only South Asia, but also Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. The official archives of The India Office Records are complemented by over 300 collections and over 3000 smaller deposits of Private Papers relating to the British experience in India.
The India Office Records are administered by The British Library as part of the Public Records of the United Kingdom, and are open for public consultation.
VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM, CROMWELL ROAD
The East India Company once had its own museum. On the dissolution of The Company, its properties were transferred to the Crown, and the contents of the museum eventually dispersed to appropriate institutions. The V&A holds a vast collection of East India Company artefacts as well as the infamous ‘Tipu’s Tiger’. Tipu’s Tiger was commissioned in the 1790s by Tipu Sultan, ruler of Mysore in South India 1782-1799. It is a musical semi-automaton of carved and painted wood, seen in the act of devouring a prostrate figure in European clothes. The tiger was among items allotted to the Indian Section of the South Kensington Museum, now called the V&A. It has cast a spell over generations of admirers since 1808, when it was first ever displayed.
THE NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM, GREENWICH
The National Maritime Museum holds a large collection of East India Company artefacts and has a permanent gallery display called ‘Traders: The East India Company and Asia’. The display focusses on the trade between Britain and Asia, and features a huge range of objects from swords, ship models, navigational instruments, medals, journals and portraits.
It explores the items that were traded, the individuals involved and the impact The Company had on our world.
MUSEUM OF LONDON DOCKLANDS
The Museum of London Docklands has several items relating to The East India Company and a permanent display: ‘Trade Expansion 1600-1800’. The gallery explores the ships that sailed from London to India and China, bringing back goods including spices, tea and silk. Perhaps their most special artefact relating to EIC is the Commemorative Wine Glass that was made for East Indiaman, Lord Clive. It bears an engraving of a ship and the inscription: ‘Success to ye Ld Clive’. It was made in 1761-1770.
THE MUSEUM OF LONDON
The Museum of London holds many objects relating to The East India Company which are easily searchable on their website. One notable object is a wrought iron padlock bearing the East India Company chop mark. Padlocks like these would have been used to secure cargo hatches on lighters and hoys. It is dated: 1775-1850.