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

Interior perspective of the Bank Stock Office

Interior perspective of the Bank Stock Office

Joseph Michael Gandy
7 June 1798
Pen and coloured washes on paper
11/4/1 (Bank drawing 56 in 2:1)

For its own security, the Bank could not have any windows facing the streets. Light could only enter rooms either from overhead or from windows facing internal courtyards. The Bank Stock Office relied on a large circular lantern in the centre of the room.

This drawing by J.M. Gandy, Soane's draughtsman, exaggerates the light and shadow cast against the starkly ornamented interior. It shows the room's unique composition of vaults. A stove is in the centre and counters lined the edges of the room.

The Stock Office was where brokers and traders registered trades in Bank of England stock and other government funds. Soane reused the basic design of the Bank Stock Office for four more transfer offices. Today, a reconstructed interior of the Stock Office is part of the Bank of England Museum.