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

View of the front of the Bank on Threadneedle Street

Perspective of the front of the Bank on Threadneedle Street

Joseph Michael Gandy
Pen and coloured washes on paper
12/1/8 (Bank drawing 47 in 5:2)

The main entrance to the Bank was on Threadneedle Street, as shown in this drawing by Soane's draughtsman, Joseph Michael Gandy. Soane's last building campaign was the rebuilding of the Bank's facades. For three decades he had rebuilt, repaired and added on to the Bank, but all of his work was hidden behind the disjointed facades of the old Bank.

He applied for permission to rebuild the street fronts in 1815 but the Bank refused. In 1823 the Bank followed his advice, finally allowing him to clad the Bank with a uniform, and identifiably Soanean, facade. For security purposes, the external walls of the Bank could not have any windows.