Giant coffins and Gas Contamination Rooms: Nine pictures from the Bank of England's photographic vault

By Culture24 Reporter | 24 February 2016

The rediscovered coffin of giant 18th century bank clerk William Jenkins and a view of VE Day from the roof are among the photos in the Bank of England's four-century collection

A black and white photo of banking staff at the Bank of England presented as part of a museum exhibition
The Dealing Room at the Bank of England - as seen in 1965© BoE Museum
Until it was demolished to make way for Sir Herbert Baker’s larger version, Sir John Soane’s Bank of England building – a project he described as “the pride and boast of my life” – covered the whole three-and-a-quarter acres of the current bank site, having been extended in 1828.

A black and white photo of second world war bombing at the Bank of England presented as part of a museum exhibition
The demolition of the north-east corner, site of offices and Bartholomew Lane Vestibule during the 1920s© BoE Museum
Baker’s building, stretching seven storeys above ground and three below, took shape between 1925 and 1939, leaving only a windowless “curtain” wall on Threadneedle Street from Soane’s original.

A black and white photo of the domed roof of the Bank of England presented as part of a museum exhibition
Men working on top of lunettes on the Rotunda Inner Wall during the demolition of the south-east corner© BoE Museum
Soane’s vestibules, Bullion Yard, Court Room suites and courtyards are all part of the photographic collection, which is part of a new exhibition at the bank’s museum including views of a hidden operating theatre.

A black and white photo of the domed roof of the Bank of England presented as part of a museum exhibition
The view of St Paul's Dome from an 8th Floor Window in 1958© BoE Museum
There’s also the rediscovery, during the rebuilding in 1933, of former clerk William Jenkins, known as the Bank Giant thanks to his height of just over 6ft 7. Directors allowed his body to be buried in the Garden Court to protect it from bodysnatchers following his death in 1798.

A black and white photo of a city of London street outside the Bank of England presented as part of a museum exhibition
Princes Street from King William Street during the 1890s© BoE Museum
More than a century later, large numbers of staff were evacuated to Hampshire’s Hurstbourne Camp during the Second World War, where they harvested crops, took up beekeeping and watched films. At Threadneedle Street, a two-year preparation plans, named Zero, allowed the bank to continue with “minimal disruption”.

A black and white photo of staff at the Bank of England in gas masks during the second world war presented as part of a museum exhibition
Gas decontamination unit in the vaults at Threadneedle Street during World War Two© BoE Museum
The operating theatre, in the Sub-Vault, witnessed surgical operations. The staff also wore gas masks while hiding in the Gas Contamination Room.

A black and white photo of people watching a royal coronation from the roof of the Bank of England presented as part of a museum exhibition
VE Day at the Bank© BoE Museum
VE Day celebrations were viewed from the roof. Scenes also show the Coronations of George V and Queen Mary, George VI and Edward VII, staff packing gold bars and the Victorian printing office.

A black and white photo of the domed roof of the Bank of England presented as part of a museum exhibition
Soane's Caryatid statue being lowered from the Consols Office lantern© BoE Museum
“We are in the lovely position of holding a photography collection that spans the whole history of the medium, from the earliest salt prints and cyanotypes,” says Anna Spender, the museum’s Curator.

A black and white photo of the domed roof of the Bank of England presented as part of a museum exhibition
The View of St Paul's Dome as seen by David Pollard in 2015© BoE Museum
“The Bank of England has enjoyed an enviable vantage point of the city for nearly 300 years...a rarely seen, alternative view of an enthralling period of London history.”

  • Capturing the City: Photography at the Bank of England is open now. Share your images of London with the Bank on Twitter using the hashtag #CitySnapsBoE. Each month one image will be chosen to join the exhibition displays and become part of the Bank’s history.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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British Library of Political and Economic Science, London
The working Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science and one of the largest libraries in the world devoted to the economic and social sciences.
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