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

Elevation and plan of the entrance to the Barracks

Elevation and wall plan of the entrance to the Barracks

Soane Office
18 May 1805
Pen and coloured washes on paper
1/7/8 (Bank drawing 5 in 3:11)

The Barracks were built in 1788, and rebuilt in a different part of the Bank in 1805. The building housed the Bank Guard, a group of thirty soldiers and two officers from the King's Guard who marched to the Bank each evening to keep a night watch.

The cannon balls on the front wall, as well as the stern Doric columns and rough stonework ('rustication'), evoked the building's purpose. The Guard was first instituted in 1780 after the Bank was directly attacked by an angry mob during the Gordon Riots.