This July, the Bank of England will throw light upon the workings of its historic headquarters and the hidden rooms within as it launches its first app. The Bank of England Virtual Tour will invite people to tour the Threadneedle Street building through a series of captivating and previously unseen 360° panoramic images, including the very rarely-viewed gold vaults deep within the building. The app will be available to smartphone and tablet users on Apple and Google platforms, as well as via the Bank website at www.bankofengland.co.uk/virtualtourapp
The tour begins with a 3D model of the building, which can be rotated to select a series of individual rooms - a captivating combination of historic parlours and working rooms - and unlock the facts and high-resolution images within.
Perhaps the most arresting views will be of a room filled with over 400,000 gold bars, one of the largest stores of gold in the world. Each bar weighs around 13kg, or 2 stone, and is worth around £350,000. Visiting the gold stores will reveal many facts, including the story of a sewer worker who found his way into the vaults through an old drain that he was replacing. In 1836, he wrote to the Bank’s Directors to alert them, before backing up his claim by meeting them in the vaults. His honesty was rewarded with a gift of £800 from the Bank.
Elsewhere, the Cash Vault, where the Bank holds some of its stock of banknotes, incorporates a ‘Know Your Banknotes’ feature to guide people through the numerous security features on each of its notes. Among the other highlights is the Bank’s front hall, whose floor mosaics and bronze uplights are decorated with symbols reflecting money.
It also contains a mosaic from a 2nd-century Roman villa, uncovered by excavation during the building of the Bank in the 1920s and ‘30s. Elsewhere, the app draws attention to fascinating little details such as the mulberry trees in the Garden Court at the heart of the building, an enduring nod to the earliest days of paper money, which was issued in 10th-century China on the pulp of mulberry trees.
The Garden Court was also the resting place of the man known as the ‘Bank Giant’, a former clerk, who was 6 feet 7 ½ inches tall. The Directors had allowed his body to be buried in the Garden Court when he died in 1798, to protect it from body snatchers.
The current role of the Bank of England is illustrated by several parts of the tour; it visits the room in which the Monetary Policy Committee meets to set its interest rate. The importance of these meetings is symbolised by the double doors leading to the room - originally installed to prevent eavesdropping. The app also visits the dealing room and the Banking counter.