The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 28 Bank of England, Royal Exchange, Mansion House

The Bank of England

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28. THE BANK OF ENGLAND. THE ROYAL EXCHANGE. THE MANSION HOUSE. STATIONS Bank, Moorgate Stations, Mansion House, Cannon Street, and Liverpool Street on the Metropolitan and District Railway. OMNIBUSES from all parts (Nos. 6, 7, 9, 11, 15, 22, 23, 25, 26, 96, 107, 184, etc.). The triangular space enclosed by the Bank, the Exchange, and the Mansion House may fairly claim to be the heart of the City. From it radiate eight important streets, and it is calculated that 400-500 omnibuses pass the Bank every hour during the business day. The dangerous task of threading the bewildering traffic on foot may be avoided by using the subways connecting the Bank Stations of the Tube Railways. The Bank of England covers an irregular quadrilateral, four acres in area, bounded by Lothbury (north), Bartholomew Lane (east), Threadneedle St. (south), and Princes St. (west). The massive building, one-storied in appearance only, owes its present aspect mainly to Sir John Soane, architect to the bank from 1788 to 1833, though the central part was erected by George Sampson in 1732-34. The north-east corner is copied from the Temple of the Sibyl at Tivoli, and the arch leading into Bullion Court is a copy of the Arch of Constantine. Security demanded that the Bank should be lighted solely from interior courts. The external walls are therefore windowless, but Soane evaded the strict conditions of design by masking the solid walls with blank windows and Corinthian columns. The garden court, with its fountain, was once the churchyard of St. Christopher-le-Stocks. The business offices of the Bank are open daily, from 9 to 3.30 (Saturday 9-12). A special permit (seldom granted) from the Governor or Deputy Governor is required to see the weighing office or the bullion office. The interior of the Bank is being reconstructed, and the outer wall in Princes St. is to be set back. The Bank of England, the most important in the world, was projected by William Paterson (whose connection with it was, however, brief) and incorporated in 1694. For a short time the business was carried on in Mercers' Chapel, but it soon removed to Grocers' Hall, where it remained till Sampson's building was completed (1734). It was the first joint-stock association in England; and its original capital was �1,200,000 (now �14,553,000, with a 'rest' of �3,542,000), lent to the Government at 8 per cent interest. Though thus always specially connected with Government, the Bank is a private corporation. It was the only joint-stock bank in London till 1834, when the London & Westminster Bank was established. By the charter of the Bank (last renewed in 1844) it is divided into the two departments of Issue and Banking. It is the only bank in London with the power of issuing paper money, and it is entitled to issue notes to the value of �16,200,000 without a gold reserve behind them. In its banking department the Bank of England differs from other banks mainly in having the management of the National Debt (in 1925, �7,665,880,145), and paying the dividends on it, in holding the deposits belonging to Government, in helping in the collection of the public revenue, and in being the bankers' bank. The Bank is bound to buy all standard gold bullion offered to it, at the rate of �3 17/9 per oz. The Bank is governed by a Governor, a Deputy Governor, and 24 Directors. It has branches in Burlington Gardens, near the Law Courts, and in eight provincial cities, besides other premises for different departments; and it employs circa 6000 persons (2000 women). Besides English bank-notes (value from �5 to �1000) the Bank prints postal orders, Indian bank-notes, etc. All notes paid into the Bank used to be cancelled (even if paid in on the same day as issued), but the cancelled notes were preserved in the Old Note Office for 5 years, lest they might be needed as legal evidence. At the end of that period they were burned. This cancellation is suspended for the present. At night the Bank is protected by a small detachment of Foot Guards, besides clerks and watchmen; the officer in command receives 21/ and may invite two friends to dinner (who must quit the Bank before 11 p.m)., non-commissioned officers receive 5/, and privates 1/.