#122: London’s weather vanes

Look up into the sky and I bet you’ve never really noticed how many weather vanes there are in London. So what’s the point of a weather vane anyway? The […]


rooster weather vaneLook up into the sky and I bet you’ve never really noticed how many weather vanes there are in London.

So what’s the point of a weather vane anyway? The word “vane” comes from the Old English word “fana” meaning “flag”, and is an instrument for showing the direction of the wind. Although they were created to be functional, they’re generally decorative these days. All over London you’ll see the traditional “cockerel” design (that would mean the big ass rooster) with letters indicating the points of the compass. Or with London’s nautical history, ship shaped vanes. Other common designs include arrows and horses. But if you head to East London you’ll see the best and most unusual ones.

Gresham’s grasshopper (Royal Exchange)
This one officially started my love of weather vanes and the game of trying to spot them. This gilded bronze bug has sat on the Royal Exchange since before the Great Fire. The grasshopper was the symbol of Thomas Gresham, who founded the Royal Exchange and Gresham College. The story goes that abandoned as a baby in a field, Gresham was discovered by a lady who discovered him by the chirping of the grasshoppers.
Greshams grasshopper

Flying fish (Old Billingsgate Market)
Since Roman times, this riverside area has been an international center for fish tradings. The current building was designed in the 1870s and its maritime theme includes a fishy gilded weather vane. Walk to the river and you’ll see matching fish street lamps.
fish weather vane

The Beaufort Beaver (60-64 Bishopsgate)
The Beaver sits atop this tower on Bishopsgate as a reminder of the Hudson Bay Company who were the purveyors of furs since 1668.
beaver weather vane

St Mary-le-Bow (Cheapside)
This nine foot-long winged dragon was built by Robert Bird in 1674 and sits high above Cheapside.
dragon weather vane

weather vane arrow

boat weather vane 2

boat weather vane

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