Bank of England Museum: The Bank & Sir John Soane

Lindsey
By Lindsey Last edited 95 months ago
Bank of England Museum: The Bank & Sir John Soane
The Court Room: The Bank of England's governing body, the Court of Directors meets in this room.  The original design is by Sir Robert Taylor and dates from 1774.  During the rebuilding of the Bank (1925-1939), by the architect Sir Herbert Baker, this room was moved from the ground floor to its present location.
The Court Room: The Bank of England's governing body, the Court of Directors meets in this room. The original design is by Sir Robert Taylor and dates from 1774. During the rebuilding of the Bank (1925-1939), by the architect Sir Herbert Baker, this room was moved from the ground floor to its present location.
Garden Court has its origins in the churchyard of St Christopher-le-Stocks, which was demolished in 1782 to make way for the expansion of the Bank.  One of the conditions of the Act of Parliament permitting the demolition of the church was that the graveyard remain undisturbed; and so it was until the re-building of the Bank by Sir Herbert Baker (1925-39), who centralised it behind the new Threadneedle Street entrance to the Bank.
Garden Court has its origins in the churchyard of St Christopher-le-Stocks, which was demolished in 1782 to make way for the expansion of the Bank. One of the conditions of the Act of Parliament permitting the demolition of the church was that the graveyard remain undisturbed; and so it was until the re-building of the Bank by Sir Herbert Baker (1925-39), who centralised it behind the new Threadneedle Street entrance to the Bank.
Soane's original bank
Soane's original bank
View of the Bank from Prince's Street by Jason Webber
View of the Bank from Prince's Street by Jason Webber
The coffin of a former bank clerk, William Daniel Jenkins, was discovered buried beneath the old Garden Court when excavations were carried out between the wars. The story goes that his friends asked permission for him to be buried under the bank to prevent his 6ft 71/2 inch corpse being stolen by bodysnatchers. The 'Bank Giant' is now resting in the Nunhead catacombs.
The coffin of a former bank clerk, William Daniel Jenkins, was discovered buried beneath the old Garden Court when excavations were carried out between the wars. The story goes that his friends asked permission for him to be buried under the bank to prevent his 6ft 71/2 inch corpse being stolen by bodysnatchers. The 'Bank Giant' is now resting in the Nunhead catacombs.
The gilded-bronze figure set high above the dome between Princes Street and Lothbury and known as Ariel after the Spirit of the Air in Shakespeare's 'TheTempest', is the symbol of the dynamic spirit of the Bank carrying credit and trust over the world. By Brron - for a close up of the skylight see James Guppy's shot.
The gilded-bronze figure set high above the dome between Princes Street and Lothbury and known as Ariel after the Spirit of the Air in Shakespeare's 'TheTempest', is the symbol of the dynamic spirit of the Bank carrying credit and trust over the world. By Brron - for a close up of the skylight see James Guppy's shot.
Soane's fortress like walls by dartar
Soane's fortress like walls by dartar

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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Last Updated 28 March 2010