Free London Museums: The Bank of England

The queue at the Bank of England (2.5Hrs) for Open House 2006
The queue at the Bank of England (2.5Hrs) for Open House 2006 (c) Paul Roberts

The Museum is housed within the Bank of England, at the heart of the City of London. It traces the history of the Bank from its foundation by Royal Charter in 1694, to its role today as the nation’s central bank. Displays include: gold, bank notes and a reconstruction of the 18th century office. In addition, inter-active systems allow visitors to look behind the doors of the central bank or to examine the intricacies of bank note design and production, and a computer-driven simulation gives visitors an idea of what it is like to deal on the US Dollar/Sterling spot market.

The museum is open Monday to Friday, 10.00 – 17.00 and admission is free. See the Bank of England web site for details.

Historical Bank of England Trivia

  • The Bank of England was founded in 1694 by a Scotsman, William Paterson, and the Bank of Scotland in 1695 by an Englishman, John Holland.
  • The monarch’s portrait didnot appear on Bank of England notes until 1960.
  • The highest value bank note issued by the Bank of England was the £1000 denomination. It was last issued in 1943.
  • The fiver (£5) is the longest running denomination of Bank of England note: it was first issued in 1793 and the new polymer/plastic fiver issued in 2016 was the first non paper note issued, (£10 and £20 are to follow,) and the new polymer notes last up to 2.5 times longer than paper.
  • Bank of England notes were not wholly printed until 1853. Until that year they were still signed by one of the Bank’s cashiers.
  • Kenneth Grahame, the author of children’s book, The wind in the Willows, was the Secretary of the Bank of England 1898 – 1908. The book was published in 1908, the year in which he retired from the Bank. It is possible that some of the characters in the book were based on those people he knew and worked with.

This article was first bublished in September 2002 by The Beetle but the details have been updated.

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