Thomas Gresham: The first City boy

Thomas Gresham was a major figure in politics, economics and business in the Tudor period. He worked for three monarchs, Edward IV, Mary I and Elizabeth I. Among his many achievements, Gresham founded the Royal Exchange and gave his name to Gresham's Law, an economic principle where bad money drives out good.


Gresham largely acted as a financial advisor to the crown, helping to negotiate loans, protecting the pound and consolidating assets. Occasionally he found himself in other roles, such as the gaoler of Lady Mary Grey, sister of Lady Jane, after she incurred the Queen's displeasure by marrying without royal permission.


Today Gresham's family crest, a grasshopper, can be found in several places around London's financial district. It sits atop a weathervane on the Royal Exchange, on an old shop sign in Lombard Street and on Gresham's tomb, which can be seen in St. Helen's on Bishopsgate. The crest was adopted according to Gresham family legend. It's said that the founding father Robert De Gresham was abandoned in long grass as a baby. The infant had been left to die and was only rescued when a chirruping grasshopper drew attention to him.


Gresham's will bequeathed money to found Gresham's College, the first higher education institution in London. Unusually, it enrols no students, but has eight professors who deliver a series of free public lectures on a regular basis. Previous professors have included architect Christopher Wren and scientist Robert Hooke, the designers of the Monument to the Great Fire of London.