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Bank of England

Originally by George Sampson, Robert Taylor and John Soane, rebuilt by Herbert Baker in imperial classical style. Soanian remnants: screen walls and reconstruction of 1793 Stock Office in Museum.

Architect

Baker, Sir Herbert

Date

1925-39.

Threadneedle Street EC2R 8AH

Sat/Sun 10am-5pm. Guided tours ending in the museum. Duration 30mins. Pre-book ONLY, NOW FULLY BOOKED. No priority for Open House volunteers. High security: bag and body scans. Last tour 3.30pm.

DLR/Bank

Liverpool Street

8, 11, 26, 43, 76, 133, 242

  • Toilets available

BANK OF ENGLAND The Bank of England is currently two buildings in one. What one sees from the street is a large, block-filling and almost entirely blank perimeter wall that Sir John Soane designed with an elegance that belies the underlying defensive intent. Poking above that wall is the ‘grand manner’ work of Herbert Baker, completed in the 1920s. The work originally behind the screen wall was celebrated as Soane’s masterpiece _ a complex of courtyards, domes and lanterns reaching out to the daylight and drawing it down into the depths of this very deep building. But this is exactly what Baker replaced. By the 1920s the clerk’s work was assisted by the flick of a switch, not lamps, and a totally different kind of architecture was possible. The outcome is nevertheless fascinating and makes a visit to the older parts of this ‘grand old lady of Threadneedle Street’ well worth it. Baker attempted to give a Greek character to the designs as evidenced by Sir Charles Wheeler’s sculptures. Other noteworthy classical features inside the Bank are the Nollekins busts of Pitt The Younger and Charles James Fox, finished in 1808. The block-filling design, incidentally, became the concept of the ‘ground-scraper’ rather than the ‘skyscraper’ in the 1980s, although this has latterly been superseded by a fashion for tall, gestural statements again. But take a walk around the perimeter wall and admire Soane’s detailing and how he could provide us with such an urbane work from such unpromising demands.