The "windowless walls" of the Bank of England on Threadneedle Street, punctuated only by monumental doors and one less than modest statue of its architect (posing in the style of a greek god, no less) are all that's left standing of the original Sir John Soane's purpose built, one floor Bank. This impenetrable perimeter, enclosing a trapezium of 3 1/2 acres, was so well designed to protect the Bank, it has remained unchanged since 1828, despite the actual inner building being demolished.
Two further architectural tributes to Soane remain inside the Bank of England Museum. The first room you step into is a painstaking reconstruction of Soane's Bank Stock Office of 1793. This handome, airy room transports you back to the world before ATMs, online banking and debit cards and embodies the concept of value changing over time. The polished mahogany desks that the bank's patrons were served from took pride of place over the plain oak desks that the clerks were assigned to. These days, we'd probably do it the other way round.
Further on, Herbert Baker's Rotunda, constructed between the wars, proudly boasts Soane's original classical 'caryatids' rescued from the inner dome of the Old Dividend Office before demolition. These grand old ladies now guard a circle of showcases, including one all about the crucial gold standard.
Did you know? The Bank of England's building in Threadneedle Street has more space below ground than is contained in Tower 42.
The Bank of England and Museum will be open to visitors as part of the City of London Festival. Thirty-minute guided tours of the Bank will include the Front Hall, Garden Court, the Monetary Policy Committee’s meeting room and the Court Room. No booking required. 26 June and 3 July. Times: 9.30am-5pm. They will also be open on Open House Weekend, 18-19 September, same deal (but get there early, they're always busy!).
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