Soane's London

The Bank Of England

Collections | Soane's London | The Bank Of England

Soane was Surveyor to the Bank of England from 1788 to 1833. He rebuilt nearly every part of the building and more than doubled its area. The complex arrangement of corridors, courts, top-lit banking halls, storage and offices lay concealed behind the fortified screen wall.

The instability in Europe after the French Revolution, Britain's continuing wars with France, and the palpable threat of riots on London's streets meant the Bank needed to be both secure and fireproof. Wars also increased business and led to expansion, as the Bank managed the increasing National Debt. In the middle of Soane's career, nearly 1000 clerks were employed at the Bank. Some even had residences on site.

A block of offices were dedicated to manufacturing banknotes. Long and circuitous corridors connected the many administrative offices and directors' rooms. The large banking halls were accessible to the public, who came to trade stocks and collect dividends.

Today, only the curtain wall remains of Soane's 45 year-long creation. The interior was demolished in the 1920s and replaced with a building by Herbert Baker.

Bank Of England Archives

Section and plan of the Rotunda, presented to the Bank building committee for their approval, 1794

Section and half-plan of the Rotunda, presented to the Bank building committee for their approval, 1794

Soane Office, annotated in Soane's hand
26 May 1794
Pen and coloured washes on paper
Vol. 75/98 (Bank drawing 11 in 2:3)

The original Rotunda was built by Robert Taylor in 1765. As in Taylor's transfer halls, the room's timber and copper roof was not built to last. Soane clad the Rotunda's walls in an extra layer of stone, strengthening them so that they could support a new, heavy fire-proof dome.

Inside, Taylor's coffered and columned 'Pantheon' was replaced with a stripped down interior that showcased the building's impressive structure. The designs were approved by the Bank's directors almost immediately; they were eager to rebuild the Rotunda as quickly as possible so that business could resume in the public banking hall.