On two Saturdays in July and again over a weekend in September, the Bank of England will invite visitors behind the scenes and into the historic working rooms and elaborate parlours within Sir Herbert Baker’s Threadneedle Street building.
The free Open Door and Open House events are annual opportunities to see the architectural treasures normally hidden from public view and to spend time in the rooms in which some of the UK’s key monetary decisions are discussed and made. The events also include a visit to the Bank of England Museum, newly re-opened with redesigned galleries and new exhibitions.
Among the architectural and historical highlights of the tours are a Roman mosaic in the front hall; the Garden Court, whose mulberry trees are a nod to the earliest days of paper money, issued in 10th-century China on mulberry pulp; the office of the Governor, Mark Carney; the Committee Room, where the official interest rate is set; and the grand Court Room, which includes a wind-dial, originally installed so that the Bank’s Directors could forecast the arrival of merchant shipping into London.
Open Door - Thirty-minute tours. No booking required. Part of the City of London Festival.
Dates: Saturdays 5 & 12 July. Times: 9.30am–5pm (last entry 4pm).
Open House London Weekend - Thirty-minute tours. No booking required (although it is worth arriving early to avoid the queue). Dates: 20 & 21 September. Times: 9.30am–5pm (last entry 4pm).
The Bank has occupied a building in Threadneedle Street since 1734. In 1788, Sir John Soane was appointed as 'Architect and Surveyor' to the Bank and worked until 1828 to extend its original building until it covered the whole 3.5 acres of the present site. The Bank was Soane’s main pre-occupation for 45 years, a situation he described as 'the pride and boast of my life'. His structure remained, more or less untouched, until it was demolished in favour of Sir Herbert Baker’s larger building, which rises seven storeys above ground (and reaches three below), and was built between 1925 and 1939. The windowless ‘curtain’ wall on Threadneedle Street is the only part of Soane’s original building standing today (although several lattice-backed chairs, made to his design, can be found in the Parlours and seen on the tours).
Among the Museum’s new displays, inside a full-size reconstruction of Sir John Soane’s 1793 Bank Stock Office, is a large boat construction, containing a whole range of interactives tackling banknote security features, financial crises, inflation, and interest rates.