26.03.2015
13:22

Bank of England Museum

Address:

Bartholomew Lane, London EC2R 8AH

Phone:

020-7601 5545

Website:

www.bankofengland.co.uk/education

Opening times:

Mon–Fri 10:00–17:00

How to get there:

Tube: Monument, Cannon Street, Mansion House

Entry fee:

Free

Additional information:

Shop

The museum charts the rise of the Bank of England from its private, 17th-century origins (founded in 1694 with a staff of 19) to the powerful institution it is today. Nationalised in 1946, it is the central bank of the United Kingdom, is banker to the Government, manages the country’s foreign exchange and gold reserves and sets the country’s interest rate. The Bank was established on its present site in 1734 but the building was expanded and largely rebuilt by Sir John Soane, its appointed architect and surveyor from 1788–1833. Soane’s building, which reflected the Bank’s growing size and increasingly pivotal position in the City, was his masterpiece. Foreign dignitaries were brought to view its magnificence, and in 1805 Soane conducted Queen Charlotte and her children on what must have been an exhausting two-hour tour. Its demolition and reconstruction by Sir Herbert Baker in 1921–39, albeit along Soane’s principles, resulted in a major architectural loss.

Soane wrapped the Bank in a sheer, blind curtain wall, with columns and pilasters at its corners and entrances, and a good sense of this has been retained. The entrance to the museum is on Bartholomew Lane. Off the entrance hall is a reconstruction, by Higgins Gardner 1986–88, of Soane’s famous Stock Office, with its flattened dome and top lighting through yellow glazing. It was in this room that the ownership of Bank of England Stock was transferred. Behind the mahogany counter and its waxwork clerks are displays outlining the architectural history of the building. The statue of William III, by Henry Cheere, was commissioned by the Bank in 1732 to mark the opening of its new Threadneedle Street site. Off this room are displays explaining the Bank’s early history. Its original 1694 Charter is on view, as is the Minute Book of the first Court of Directors, and correspondence with early shareholders (e.g. Washington and Nelson). In the centre of Baker’s impressive 1930s Soane-inspired Rotunda, with caryatids and columns saved from the old building, are imitation gold bars, with one (very heavy) real one, which visitors are invited to handle. Beyond this is a display of the Bank’s unique collection of banknotes, along with original designs, issued from the late 17th century onwards, a development from the 17th-century handwritten receipt. The final room explains the work of the Bank today.

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MUSEUMS & GALLERIES OF LONDON

Details below are taken from our Blue Guide Museums and Galleries of London.  This is a 2005 title, here generally updated for website address and opening times, with useful comments from some of the museums themselves.  More recent information is given in Emily Barber's magisterial new Blue Guide London, "Exceptional update to a classic and useful guide to this amazing city" (Amazon reader review).

FULL LISTING of CURRENT EXHIBITIONS in London from Apollo Magazine »

Emily Barber recommends five major London museums »

Please do share your comments and updates with us via the form below the entry for each museum.

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