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May 7, 2008
Book a Limo Tour of London and view a Modern Metropolis.

London's history is filled with economic recessions, aerial bombing, urban blight and much more and yet London has survived it all and despite what the 20th century had to throw at it, London has emerged stronger than ever.

Few nations are proud of the vistas their entry points present to visitors and arrival at Heathrow airport is no exception. From here the M4 motorway, often congested, passes through the broken dreams of 20th-century planners.

The move out of the city began with such Utopias as Hampstead Garden Suburb before World War I, and suburbia, the promise of a semi-detached home with a garage and garden, caused ribbon building and expanded outlying towns such as Staines and Slough.

Traditionally the prevailing westerly wind has dictated that the foulest, grimiest industries, such as tanning, were set up in the east end of London, so their unpleasant smells might not blow over the richer residents who lived in the west.

In the 20th century, when cleaner industries such as electronics arrived, factories were set up on the west side of the city, where they could promise workers the prospect of decent new housing, and throughout the 1930s suburban homes mushroomed, the best of them in Art Deco style, painted white with curved windows looking like ships' bridges.

The factories, too, had some style, spreading out down such arteries as the Great West Road and the A30, the alternative road to London when the M4 is blocked.

But there was also a depressing sameness about much of this building, and during the Blitz of World War II Sir John Betjeman, subsequently the Poet Laureate, felt obliged to urge: "Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough."

THE BUSINESS CORRIDOR

In more recent times, American and Japanese companies have set up business at the head of the "M4 Corridor", their glass gleaming alongside the road into town.

The sophisticated Stockley Park, a 100-acre (40-hectare) architects' showpiece, is five minutes from the airport. As the city-bound traffic slows to a crawl over Hammersmith flyover, the eye is drawn by the startling irregularity of the London Ark; this glass creation, rented to Seagrams, laid claim to being Britain's first ecologically sound office block, but it has set up wind and sound tunnels that have enraged local residents.

Britain's capital has evolved piecemeal over centuries, without any great overall plans. Twice in its history, however, it has had to be rebuilt.

On the first occasion, in 1666, it was a moment of carelessness in Thomas Farrinor's bakery which led to the Great Fire. On the second, 275 years later, it was the bombs and rockets of the Third Reich which killed 29,000 civilian Londoners and changed the face of the City.

St Paul's Cathedral straddles the two eras. Perhaps the most famous home-front photograph of World War II shows Sir Christopher Wren's great dome looming indomitably out of a swirl of smoke and ash. In more recent years, St Paul's has become a symbol of a rather different sort, a bulwark rather than a phoenix. All around it, on the sites that were blazing in the famous wartime photograph, have sprung up some of the less happy examples of modern architecture in the capital.

The more conservative of the clerks and clerics who walk through the charmless concrete precincts of Paternoster Square, famously condemned by that amateur architecture critic, Prince Charles, like to say that modern town planners and architects have done more damage than the Luftwaffe did.
About the Author
Ram Singh manages Europe's oldest superstretch Limo Hire company - AA Stretch Limousines and he will be delighted to hear from you if you and your London Guests would like to book London Limousines (call 07956 224 399). http://www.stretchlimos.co.uk
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