27 members and guests were given rare access to the Bank of England in Threadneedle Street on the evening of 9th November. Gathering in the foyer of Sir Herbert Baker’s fine building, we were taken into the care of our guide for what proved to a fascinating and enjoyable tour of one of the city’s greatest institutions.
Established in 1694, thereby making it the second oldest central bank – only the Bank of Sweden is older – it was originally based in rented accommodation in Walbrook, moving to the corner of its present location in 1734. It gradually acquired neighbouring land to result in the 3.5 acre site we see today, including a garden over the remains of the church that was demolished along the way. A magnificent model of Sir John Soane’s first building, regarded as one of the City’s architectural gems, can still be seen in the reception area.
The present building, designed by Sir Herbert Baker, was built between 1925 and 1939 rising 7 stories above the ground and 3 stories below it to accommodate the growing numbers of staff required to handle the Bank’s increasing responsibilities. Our informative guide took us along echoing marble corridors containing magnificent mosaics and identified numerous points of interest, the architecture, paintings and a fine Roman mosaic discovered during excavations of the lowest floor. On the second floor we were shown a series of meeting rooms, including the Committee Room (in which monetary policy has been set since 1997) and the Court Room with its magnificent circular table. Beautiful furnishings, ceilings and paintings make these rooms warm and sumptuous, and entirely fitting to the nature of the discussions held within them.
The Governor, Lord King, was spotted working late by some members of the group but, as far as we could tell, there was no new crisis for him to be attending to! Following the tour, the Old Doctor Butlers Head in Mason’s Avenue once again provided an excellent supper for those who could stay. Our room at the top of this ancient pub was a welcome oasis from the Friday night crowds below.
A J Sindall