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

General plan of the Bank of England

General plan of the Bank of England

Soane Office
Pen and coloured washes on paper
9/2/7 (Bank drawing 17 in 3:9)

The Bank covered over three acres, filling out an irregularly-shaped block in the City of London. It grew in many stages, resulting in a somewhat incoherent arrangement of corridors, rooms and courts. The building expanded as the Bank's needs changed and increased.

The Bank of England was founded to finance the nation's wars, beginning with William III in 1694 and continuing through Soane's career. During Soane's surveyorship, war with France continued for twenty-two years, straining the nation's finances and creating increasingly more business for the Bank. War also threatened the Bank's security, for which a solid curtain wall was built around the entire perimeter. Without windows facing the streets, the rooms were either lit from above or built facing courts and light-wells. The blue areas of the drawing show the courtyards, which include a piece of consecrated ground on which building was not permitted.