15 July 2014

Bank of England museum

"The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street" is one of the sobriquets for the Bank of England. Designed by Sir John Soane in 1788 as a one-storey building, it had to be enlarged (1925-39) and is now seven storeys. A very few bits of Soane's design remain, the secure exterior especially - the wall is 12 feet thick in places -
In the entrance to the museum is a mosaic - perhaps by Boris Anrep (his mosaics installed in 1955 have now been moved to a different building) -
At the foot of a 7-storey staircase - elsewhere in the building - is a Roman mosaic, found when the basement was excavated during the 20th century rebuilding. Another Roman mosaic found on the site was acquired by the British Museum in 1806.

An enthusiastic school group of 14 year old boys in blazers and striped ties were also visiting - wonder how many of them will be the bankers of tomorrow?
Displays cover the history of the building and its important people, and the history of British currency.
The 1994 £50 note showed a Bank Gatekeeper [a job done by women in WWI) and the house on Threadneedle Street owned by the bank's first governor.

Among the "curiosities from the vaults", a small temporary display, were these gold bars, one a Coronation tradition, the other minted in the Roman empire -
On the opposite end of the bling spectrum, a bundle of one-rupee notes, bound together to be used for larger transactions; they (it?) were washed ashore from a WWI shipwreck -
Also curious was a selection from the exams that prospective bankers (or rather, clerks) took in 1906 as part of their recruitment - the £.s.d. arithmetic seemed fiendish, and the geography would flummox many a student today - wonder how those lads would fare -
"Divide £739 11s. 11d. by 556." 
"A bankrupt pays 13s. 6d in the £, and his assets amount to £1,458; what is the amount of his debts?"
"A man sold £7000 3 per cent. stock at 90 and invested the proceeds in a 4 per cent. stock at 108. What was the change in his income?"

"Name in order the seas and straits which a vessel would traverse in sailing from Dover to Sebastopol."
"Trace the course of the following rivers: - The Loire, the Mississippi, the Rhine, the Seine and the Vistula."

Pix of the bank itself can be seen here (and elsewhere) - including the gold vaults!

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