Bank of England :: Visitors' Map of London :: A-Z Maps

Bank of England

The 'Old Lady of Threadneedle Street' is the Government's Bank. Acting as the central reserve bank, it holds the Nation's gold reserves, administers exchange control and National Debt. The Bank was granted operational independence in 1997, and its governing body, The Court of Directors, as it's known, is now made up of the Bank's Governor and 2 Deputy Governors, and 16 Non-Executive Directors.

Established in 1694 by Royal Charter to find £1,200,000 for the Government's war with Louis XIV's France, it remained a private company until 1946 when it became nationalized. Land in Threadneedle Street was first purchased in 1724, the bank having previously operated in Grocers Hall, by the end of the 18th century the whole of the present island site had been acquired.

Soanes' designs of 1788-1833 for the bank were strikingly original, although they are only preserved in drawings to be seen at Sir John Soane's Museum, his massive fortress-like perimeter wall alone being retained in the 1925-39 rebuilding designed by Sir H. Baker. Liveried messengers and gate keepers can be seen in the entrance hall which leads to Garden Court, once the churchyard of St Christopher-le-Stocks (a Wren church demolished 1781) and a restored Roman mosaic. Until the 1970s a military guard protected the bank at night, a measure instigated during the Gordon Riots 1780 and origin of the saying, 'Safe as the Bank of England'.

See Also: Bank of England Museum

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