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

An imagined view of the Bank of England in ruins

An imagined view of the Bank of England in ruins

Joseph Michael Gandy
Pen and coloured washes on paper
P267 (Bank drawing 1 in 5:5)

Drawn by Soane's skilled draughtsman, Joseph Michael Gandy, this aerial perspective adeptly reveals the building's interlocking maze of top-lit offices, corridors and courtyards. Showing the Bank as a ruin also has symbolic significance, positioning Soane's work as among the revered ruins of Antiquity.

The drawing was displayed at the Royal Academy in 1830. Little did the artist know that his view would become reality, as the Bank's interiors were demolished in the 1920s.