The Guildhall building in London is the headquarters of the City of London Corporation, and in many ways is the spiritual home and centre of the Square Mile. It is from here that the City is governed, and here where the Lord Mayor of London presides over the Court of Aldermen and the Court of Common Council. Here is where power emanates across the City, and across the globe.
Inside the Guildhall the two statues of Gog and Magog look down on proceedings. But alongside these idols, there are six statues and memorials to various statesmen from the past 250 years. Who are these Guildhall heroes? And what do they tell us about what the City of London most values?
William Pitt the Elder: Also known as Lord Chatham, Pitt the Elder was a Prime Minister during the middle of the eighteenth century. He is commemorated for leading Britain to victory during the Seven Years War against the French, and for after the way investing heavily in the British navy, allowing Britain to later develop an empire and become the superpower of the seas.
William Beckford: An eighteenth century politician and colleague of Pitt the Elder, but whose greatest legacy to the nation was to stand up to King George III, and remind the King of the sovereignty of parliament in national affairs.
William Pitt the Younger: Like his father, Pitt the Younger was Prime Minister, but for a much longer period of nineteen years in total. He led Britain for much of the Napoleonic wars against France. He was also a financially astute politician who created a system for paying off the national debt.
Lord Nelson: British naval commander, and hero of the Battle of the Nile and the Battle of Trafalgar, both of which decisively beat Napoleon’s naval fleet and helped establish British supremacy of the seas.
Duke of Wellington: Another former Prime Minister, but better remembered for his victory over Napoleon in the Spanish Peninsular Wars, and then the climactic Battle of Waterloo, which finally defeated the French Emperor, and ended the 22 years of previous warfare.
Winston Churchill: The only twentieth century Guildhall memorial, dedicated to the great wartime Prime Minister who led Britain during World War Two and helped defeat Adolf Hitler.
Why these six? Clearly the City venerates people who successfully defended Britain from European threats, who laid the foundations for wealth creation and future empire, and who stood up to any who sought to erode their power.
Defence and overseas empire expansion, to promote overseas trade, and with minimum interference from the royal family. These are the things the City has valued. Land and empire, that produces trade and money, with as little outside interference as possible.
How should we pray for such a city? Let’s pray for those who work in Guildhall to exhibit humility and care for other nations, for a desire for overseas development rather than simply profit coming back to London, and an openness to scrutiny and accountability from outside.
And let’s pray for a new generation of Guildhall heroes who exemplify these things.
Mark Williamson also blogs regularly at One Rock International, a training organisation resourcing missionary leaders across the globe. He’s passionate about good films, good food, getting into deep conversations, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna.