The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 3Allen, Thomas
The Bank of England.
It occupies an area of an irregular form, bounded on the south side by Threadneedle-street, on the west by , on the north by , and on the east by .
The concerns of this establishment were originally commenced at Grocer's hall, and they continued to be carried on there during years; but the company's lease being nearly expired, and the increase of their business requiring larger premises, it was determined at a general court of proprietors, held on the , that a hall and offices should be built in . In the following month the directors made a contract for the erection of the new building with Messrs. Dunn and Townsend, who were then employed at Greenwich hospital, and who agreed to complete the work by Michaelmas, . The designs were made by Mr. George Sampson, and the fabric was raised under his direction; the front being of stone, and the major part of the offices of wood. The new Bank was occupied on the ; and on the following, a marble statue of William the was put up in the great hall with much ceremony. The ground which had been previously covered by the house and garden of sir John Houblon, the governor of the company, was destined to become the site of the new structure.
In the and years of king Geo. III. acts of parliament were obtained to enable the bank directors to purchase premises which adjoined to their buildings, in order to enlarge them; and by another act, passed in the intermediate year, the glebe land, the parsonage, &c. belonging to the rector of St. Christopher le Stocks, were vested in the governor and company. Other houses and ground had been purchased at different periods; yet the directors, still finding themselves in want of room, and perceiving by the riotous transactions which occurred in , that St. Christopher's church might become a dangerous fortress in case of a determined attack upon the bank, they entered into an agreement with the patron and rector, and under the sanction of parliament, became in the following year, possessed of the entire parish of St. Christopher, with the exception of a portion of the , and the habitations of parishioners on the west side of . Since that time the church has been taken down, and the spot on which it stood is now a part of the site of the bank itself. Another act to enable the company to purchase contiguous houses and ground, was passed in the year ; and in , ( and Geo. III. chap. ), they were further empowered to purchase houses, &c. and to improve the surrounding avenues. Under the successive operation of these statutes, the bank has been completely
|insulated; and the buildings progressively extended as the greatly increased, and still accumulating business made it necessary.|
The names of the architects under whom, in succession, the bank buildings have been erected, are Mr. George Sampson, sir Robert Taylor, and John Soane, esq. R. A. and professor of architecture. From the designs of the latter gentleman, the whole of the present exterior walls have been built. The former centre of the principal or south front, with some of the apartments on the same side, were by Sampson; the lateral wings, and the returns on the east and west sides, with the several offices immediately attached, were built by sir Robert Taylor, between the years and ; all the other and far more extensive buildings, have been designed and erected by Mr. Soane, between the year , and the present time.
The exterior walls of this edifice measure feet on the south side, on the west side, on the north side, and on the east side. Within this circuit, are open courts, a spacious rotunda, court, and committee rooms, numerous public offices, an armoury, a printing office, library, &c. besides various private apartments for the chief officers and servants. The marshy soil on which a part of the buildings is raised, (the ancient stream of having taken its course in this direction) rendered it necessary to pile the foundations, and to construct counter arches beneath the walls. When the foundations of the principal front were laid in , oyster shells were dug up in a moorish soil at the depth of feet below the surface of the ground.
The old design of the principal front, which extends about feet, was of the Ionic order; it consisted of stories on a rusticated basement. In this design, simplicity and grandeur were combined into a dignified elevation of character that perfectly accorded with the intention of the building, but was singularly foiled by the wings attached by sir Robert Taylor; who, instead of making his work harmonize with the original and admirable plan of Mr. Sampson, in which external propriety was united to internal convenience, deviated into a more sumptuous yet meretricious style, whose prevailing characteristic was gaiety and flutter. In the facade of the wings, (which he copied from a small ornamental building by Bramante, in the Belvidere gardens, at Rome,) Corinthian columns, fluted and gutherooned, were arranged in pairs along the whole front, supporting a pediment at each extremity, and a ballustraded entablature between; the intercolumniations having arched recesses: in the tympanum of each pediment was a bust within a circular niche: the returns at each end were in the same style.
The whole of this front has been rebuilt or rather covered with a new facade from the designs of Mr. Soane during the last years: much has been said by way of criticism upon this work, but all must allow it to possess at least the merit of uniformity; the several
|discordant portions of the old front have given way to an entire design, upon the merits or demerits of which our plan will not allow us to enter at large. In pulling down a portion of the old western wing the wall appeared to have been built with the materials of the church; the old work of sir Robert Taylor in part exists behind the new facade, the prominent parts only having been removed. The present design like the former consists of a centre and wings. The former portion is made in height into stories; the walls are marked with horizontal lines in the stucco work resembling rustics; the basement story has a large arched entrance in the centre between smaller ones, the rest is occupied by semicircular niches: in die mezzanine story are windows nearly square. This portion of the elevation is fronted by Corinthian columns imitated from the temple of the sybils at Tivoli, the columns rest upon a continued plinth broken before the entrances and they sustain an entablature; the shafts are fluted and the capitals are uncommon but by no means handsome specimens of the order: they approach more nearly to the composite, for which they would be mistaken by any unpractised eye; the frieze is embellished with the Grecian fret which almost characterizes the works of the architect, and upon so large a scale as the present, has any thing but an elegant appearance; the cymatium is enriched with the heads of lions at intervals.|
The cornice is surmounted by a blocking course broken by square acroteria, situated over the columns, crowned with spherical caps and enriched with honeysuckles on the sides: upon the crowns of the central ones, are anomalous ornaments resembling decanter stopples. The story is an attic, and is made by antae corresponding in number and situation with the columns, into divisions containing windows lintelled and covered with cornices resting on consoles: the antae are surmounted by a cornice and blocking course which differs from the lower example, in being crowned with a subcornice, broken between the acroteria, which in lieu of the caps are terminated with abaci sustaining amphoras in the centre and angular caps at the ends; between the central acroteria is a blocking course which bears the inexhaustible fret. The returns of the attic story have each a window corresponding with those described ; the chimneys are more ornamental than such subjects are usually found: each group consists of twisted columns formed after the Greek Doric; the capitals sustain an architrave, above which are seen the ends of the flues. Chimney-pots are certainly unsightly objects, but it is questionable whether such Boeotian compositions as the columns which are here substituted for them are not equally so. The wings correspond in their general features with the centre. The elevation rests upon a continued plinth, which varies in its height, owing to the irregular line of the street: they are each subdivided into a centre and lateral divisions, the central is recessed; the wall is ornamented with blank windows of the same description as in the attic of the centre with square pannels over
|them; the recess is occupied by columns. The side divisions are again partitioned by antae into portions. The centre is occupied by a large lintelled niche, having the appearance of a blank entrance; in the lateral divisions are smaller niches with square pannels above. The entablature is continued, as well as the blocking course, with its accompaniments along the whole line of the wings, it is surmounted by a low attic wall, finished by a subcornice above the centre, and fantastic turret looking groups over the antae of the side divisions: each of these appendages is square in plan, and consist of tall pedestals, crowned with the angular caps before described, and united by a continuation of the attic wall, pierced with arches to keep up the communication along the parapet, which would otherwise be interrupted by these turrets. The exterior angles of the building are rounded off, and the wall formed into a recess, flanked with antae, and occupied by columns; the attic wall is discontinued, and in its place is an acroterium sustaining scrolls and an escallop shell; the other fronts of the building, owing to the irregularity of the site, could not possibly be uniform with each other, they will, therefore, be taken separately.|
The eastern front in alone corresponds with the southern or principal , already described; assimilating in its main features with of the wings. The centre is recessed, and contains columns, having a lintelled entrance on side, and a niche to correspond on the other; the walls are then continued in length, and are ornamented with blank windows and pannels, the attic and minor embellishments as before, the northern angle is also rounded and recessed, and contains columns. The northern front is older than the portions described; it consists of an ornamented wall sustained on a stylobate: the face of the wall is marked with rustics. In the centre is a projection beyond the face of the wall, decorated with pilasters and antae, the intervals between which are embellished with a niche, hounded by an architrave, and surmounted by a cornice and pannels. The continued entablature which predominates throughout the building, is here surmounted with a blocking course, broken by acroteria, the central ones sustaining amphorae, and the others spherical caps, as before described; the elevation is heightened by an attic, in the breadth equal only to the central division of the substructure, this is surmounted by a cornice and pediment, enriched with acroteria; the side walls recede and have niches on each side of the central projection; the blocking course is broken by the acroteria as before; to these portions succeed entrances; the eastern leading into the court, and the western into the more private portion of the structure. They are uniform, each consisting of a lofty arched gateway, surmounted by a pediment; on each side of both the entrances is a recess, flanked by antae, and containing columns; above which the blocking course is broken, to make way for cubical turrets surmounted by volutes, and connected by an attic
|wall, the continuation of the main wall beyond the entrances at both extremities contains niches, and the blocking course and acroteria are applied as a finish to the elevation. The western angle has always been regarded, and with great justice, as a splendid architectural composition. It consists of a stylobate, semicircular in plan, and sustaining columns, of which in front are disposed in the same form as the stylobate, and sustain the main entablature, which is here brought out into a bow, and the frieze splendidly enriched with the skulls of oxen, connected by festoons of foliage suspended from the horns; other columns are situated in the rear, which in due subordination to the principal range have plain shafts, and in the wall at the back is a false entrance. The whole composition is flanked by pair of insulated columns, over which the entablature breaks, the finish is an attic wall and turrets corresponding with the portions already described, but in a richer style of detail.|
The western front in its general features assimulates with the last described, but is in a plainer style; the design has only been completed with the close of the year . It has no centre, and is not uniform in itself. The face of the wall is broken by niches as before, and it has a lofty lintelled entrance covered with a cornice resting on consoles; after an interval in the wall on each side is a recess containing columns, and similarly decorated with those in the northern front; the entablature is continued along this front, but instead of the blocking course, is a ballustrade broken by turrets above the recesses, corresponding in that respect with the northern front, and by an attic wall pierced by arched windows, and surmounted by a pediment above the entrance.
It would be very difficult, and perhaps impossible, to give a complete idea of the interior of the Bank, without the aid of a ground plan. The principal entrance from opens by a large arched gateway (having a smaller entrance on each side,) into a quadrangular paved court, with which all the leading communications are connected.
Before the late improvements, many of the offices which should have been approximate to each other, were widely separated, and the approaches to them irregular and difficult to be found, so that the public business was very materially delayed. To remedy this great defect, which had resulted from the buildings having been erected at various periods, and with different degrees of accommodation, the governors and directors consulted Mr. Soane, who recommended that the whole should be simplified in accordance with general plan, and every future addition and alteration made subservient to the same grand system: by which means the inconveniences complained of would be gradually diminished: under this arrangement main line of connection has been opened through the interior from south to north; namely, from through the paved court, pay hall and bullion-court into ,
|and affording easy communications with the court and committee-rooms, the governor's, deputy governor's and waiting-rooms, the discount-office, the treasury, the bullion-office, the general cash-book office, the chief cashier's office, the chancery-office, the secretary's office, &c. At the entrance to the secretary's office the main passage turns westward, and leads to the land-tax-redemption-office, the loan or property-office, the bank-note-office, and the stamping office, the drawing office in the accomptant's department, the accountant's office for the new specie and various other offices dependent upon them. Between the land-tax-redemption and the loan or property-offices, is a passage leading to the accomptant's office for the old Specie. On the west side of the paved court is the dividend pay-office; adjoining to which is the green court, (formerly St. Christopher's church-yard,) which gives communication to the cheque-office, the reduced annuity-office, the armoury, the barracks, and the bank-note printing-office.|
The east side of the paved court leads to the rotunda, the per cent office, the per cent office, the bank stock-office, the per cent. consols dividend-office, the per cent. consol and unclaimed dividend-office; and through the latter, communicates with the new entrance from . Through this disposition of the avenues, the inconveniences that formerly arose to persons who had business to transact in the per cent consol-office, and were therefore obliged to pass through the crowded rotunda have been entirely obviated.
The principal suite of apartments is on the ground floor, and there are no rooms over the chief offices. Beneath this floor however, and even below the surface of the ground, there is more building, and a greater number of rooms than in the entire superstructure.
Our survey of the interior will be commenced with the paved court, which is composed of the back front of the pile of building which forms the centre of the principal facade before described, on the south side, the pay hall on the north, and by facade walls on the east and west; the former are parts of the original building by Sampson, the others of that of sir Robert Taylor. The south side is in stories faced with Portland stone; it consists of a principal story upon a rusticated basement, pierced with arches, of which are entrances and the others windows; the upper story is partitioned into divisions by Ionic pilasters, the intervals containing windows; the whole is finished with an entablature with heavy vases on the cornice; the front of the hall, which forms the north side of the court, is also faced with stone, and consists of a centre and side divisions, the former is ornamented with -quarter Corinthian columns sustaining an entablature and pediment: the latter is continued over the side divisions and is crowned with a ballustrade; the tympanum of the pediment has an alto relievo of Britannia holding a cornucopiae, from which guineas appear to be falling. The intercolumniations and side divisions are occupied by
|windows and an entrance between the central pair of columns; the east and west walls have each entrances, accompanied by Corinthian columns, sustaining an entablature and pediment; in the west wall is a entrance which leads into the dividend warrant-office, which is bounded by the wall of the western wing of the principal front; this office is the work of sir Robert Taylor; it is a plain room, feet by , covered by a coved ceiling, with an oval lantern in the centre; the cheque-office which adjoins to it is feet by . The other entrance, on the same side, leads into a court having an iron railing surrounding a square grass plot and plantation, which was the burying ground belonging to St. Christopher's Church. This is bounded on the north, west, and south sides by a colonnade, being a portion of sir Robert building, differing from the wings only in having the arches pierced for windows; and on the east side, in part by the hall, and in the remainder by the facade wall: an entrance at the south eastern angle of this court leads into a large and handsomely fitted up office, for the new per cents, the plan is a parallelogram, and is made into divisions by a screen of Roman Doric columns coupled, sustaining an entablature, the residue is covered with a domed ceiling sustained on pendentives springing from an entablature, over groups of Doric columns in the angles. In the centre of the ceiling is a lantern light, the offices just described occupy the site of the church. There are others on the west side of the quadrangle, of no particular interest, and above the ballustrade has recently been raised an unsightly attic. Returning to the paved court, and crossing to the entrance, opposite to that through which we have just passed, we are led by a tortuous passage into the rotunda, the light is artificially and not inelegantly let into this passage by its roof, through a domed lantern, tastefully decorated with bustos and caduceus; on the south side of this passage is a recently constructed office, for the business of the branch banks departments. It is perfectly plain, with the exception of a frieze of foliage on the walls, and the light is admitted by a lantern.|
The rotunda is a spacious circular hall, the walls being surrounded by a series of arched recesses, surmounted by a cornice, above which are semicircular windows, and the whole is covered with a hemispherical dome and lantern light. The original rotunda by sir Robert Taylor, having been roofed with timber, was, on a survey in , found to be in such a decayed state, that it was judged effectual to take the whole down, and in the following year the present fabric was erected from the designs and under the direction of Mr. Soane. It measures feet in diameter, and about the same in height, to the lower part of the lantern; the divisions between the lights are formed by caryatidae, which support the soffit of the lantern, and have not an unpleasing
|though singular effect; a want of light, or some defect in the original construction, has been remedied by an unsightly skylight in the centre of the roof, having the effect of shewing the statues, which were before hid in gloom, to greater perfection. The large iron stoves which formerly stood in this apartment have been removed, and open fire-places introduced, as being more favourable to ventilation. Here also large desks, with pens, ink, &c., are placed for public convenience.|
Various other offices communicate with the rotunda, the main features of which are the same, although each office varies in its ornaments. The plan is parallelogrammatic, the arrangement of the structure cruciform, with a dome and lantern in the centre. They are all constructed of incombustible materials, a circumstance, which when it is recollected that much timber entered into the construction of sir Robert buildings, will account for the rebuilding of the bank so soon after its completion. The various stock offices originally built by sir Robert Taylor, have been taken down and replaced by those which we now proceed to describe.
In each office under the several letters of the alphabet, are arranged the books on which the names of all persons having property in the funds are registered, as well as the particulars of their respective interests.
On the north side of the rotunda, in of the arches, is a doorway leading into the per cent consol dividend office, which is in length feet, and in breadth feet inches: the dome over the lantern light is supported by fluted done columns. Adjoining to this, and built in the same style, is the per cent consol office, which was erected by Mr. Soane on the site of the old bank stock office, and an adjoining apartment: it is feet inches in length, and in breadth. This noble apartment was designed from models of the ancient Roman
|baths. It has ornamented piers sustaining a vaulted ceiling, in the centre of which rises an elegant dome, with lantern lights supported by caryatides. The soffits of the arches are decorated after the antique, with sunk pannels, roses, and other classical enrichments. In this office is an entrance from the court. On the east side of the rotunda is another entrance communicating by a circular vestibule with the eastern entrance in St. . This vestibule is the last relic of sir Robert work in the eastern wing, and the neglected state of its repairs betoken its speedy destruction. On the north side of this vestibule is an office for the Bank and other stocks; the arrangement resembles the other offices, the roof of the lantern light being supported by iron trusses in place of columns. On the south side of the vestibule is the per cent. reduced office, the lantern of which is more lofty than the others, and ornamented with Ionic columns and stained glass. Our space will not allow us to notice these various offices more minutely, but architectural connoisseurs will be greatly pleased on going through the Bank, and noticing the improvement which the architect has attained in the design of each office as the work proceeded, until the erection of the office which is now appropriated to the and a half per cent. reduced and other stocks; it is situated in the south side of the rotunda, the entrance is in of the arches in a corresponding style with the consol office, it is the most beautiful office erected by Mr. Soane; and is built on the site of another erected by sir Robert Taylor, which was singularly enough a copy of the interior of the church of St. Martin in the fields. The present is more classically and profusely embellished than any of the others, and displays the climax of improvement, which the architect was enabled to attain in consequence of the progressive building of the edifice. The pendentives are enriched with carving in basso relievo, in circles, of allegorical subjects with the caduceus, and the ceiling of the lantern is sustained upon cariatidal female statues in pairs, the size of life, imitated from the Pandroseum at Athens, and better known in the metropolis by the copies introduced in the design of ' church. The light is admitted as well above the heads of the statues as behind them; in consequence, that desirable cheerfulness is attained, which is wanting in many of the other lanterns, and the absence of which occasioned the formation of the unsightly skylight above the great rotunda.|
The pay hall, which fronts the main entrance, is a part of the original building, by Sampson. The front has been already described. The interior measures feet in length, by in width. Here bank-notes convertible into cash and the banking business, is transacted. At the east end of the hall is a statue of king William by Cheere; below which, on the pedestal, is the following inscription:--
For restoring efficacy to the laws-Authority to the courts of justice-Dignity to the parliament--to all his subjects their religion and liberties, and confirming them to posterity, by the succession of the illustrious House of Hanover to the British throne-To the best of princes, William the , founder of the Bank, this corporation from a sense of gratitude, has erected this statue, and dedicated it to his memory, the year of our Lord , and the year of this building.
The clock, which is contained in a building erected for the purpose directly over the hall, is a very ingenious piece of mechanism; and is intended, as much as possible, to obviate the inconvenience frequently experienced in the various offices most immediately connected with the stock business, by the clocks differing from each other several minutes in time. This, with the present clock, can never be the case; for as the hands are all moved by machine, whether that be right as to time, or faster or slower than the true time, the hands must all shew the same as the regulating hand which is attached to the clock. The whole of the communication is carried on by means of brass rods, properly arranged within the roof of the hall, and from thence continued externally, along the top or roof of the different offices in which the time is to be shewn. From the external rods, smaller ones are carried into the building to the hands of the respective dial-plates, which are numerous. The aggregate length of the various rods employed to communicate the motion, is about feet; and the weight of them is between and cwt. The number of wheels in constant action is about ; yet notwithstanding the length of the communication, the weight of the rods, and the quantity of wheels, the entire power requisite to keep the machine in play does not exceed the weight of on the periphery of the wheel that communicates the motion, and which wheel is inches in diameter. The clock is wound up twice a week; the principal weight is between and cwt. Besides shewing the time on the dial-plates as already stated, this clock
|strikes the hours and quarters on very large bells, so as to denote the same to those offices which have not dial-plates from it.|
The court-room was designed by sir Robert Taylor, and is unquestionably of the best compositions that he ever made. It is a very superb apartment of the composite order, feet long and feet inches wide, with large and well-proportioned Venetian windows on the south side; these overlook the church-yard of St. Christopher, which now forms a pleasant area planted with trees and shrubs. On the north side are fire-places, having sumptuous chimney-pieces ornamented with statuary marble; the central is particularly grand. At the east and west ends are coupled columns, detached from the walls, supporting enriched arches, which sustain an horizontal ceiling, highly decorated with stuccoed ornaments of varied character. The west end communicates by folding doors, with an elegant octagonal committee-room, where also is a rich marble chimney-piece; and over it a clever half-length painting of William the , who is represented in armour. The governor's-room, which is square, has an intersected ceiling, with semi-circular windows near the top, the chimney-piece is of statuary marble, and above it is a very large mirror; against the opposite wall is a fine painting by Morland, of the Bank, Bank-buildings, , and , from an interesting point of view near the Mansion--house. The anteroom contains a good half-length portrait of Abraham Newland, esq. who was chief cashier to the Bank, from till ; and a whole length by Hickey, of Mr. Daniel Race, who also was a chief cashier, and is represented as a diminutive man, habited in black. These paintings were executed by order of the directors, in grateful and honourable testimony of their approbation of the faithful services of the persons thus commemorated. In the adjoining waiting-room on brackets, are fine busts, in statuary marble, by Nollekens, of the celebrated statesmen, Charles James Fox, and William Pitt. The whole of this suite of apartments is elegantly fitted up, and appropriately furnished.
The chief cashier's office is a spacious apartment, (measuring feet by ) built in imitation of the temple of the sun and moon at Rome; with large and lofty windows, but perfectly simple in decoration. Connected with it is a room for the chief cashier, aswell as a smaller interior office for conducting the more confidential concerns of this department. The accomptant's office for and notes is feet long, feet inches broad, and feet high. The ceiling, which is waggon-headed, and ornamented with sunk pannels, is sustained by Ionic columns standing upon pedestals. This apartment formerly presented a most curious scene during office hours, from the number of clerks who are employed here, and who are mostly young men; a due gradation being observed in the
|management of the concerns of the Bank company, and the servants being regularly promoted according to merit and seniority.|
The ante-room to the discount-office, which has been built of late years for the public use, should be noticed as having been designed after a portion of the remains of Adrian's villa. The accomptant's office for notes and upwards, is feet in length, in breadth, and about in height. Over this is the bank note printing-office, which is of similar dimensions as to length and breadth, but considerably higher: about printers are regularly employed here. The offices in this part have a communication through the bullion court, with the entrance from : the buildings surrounding the former display a neat entablature, supported by pilasters and columns of the Corinthian order.
The new entrance on this side opens by a spacious and lofty archway into court, which exhibits a very singular yet interesting display of architectural designs after some of the best specimens of Grecian and Roman art.
From the passage connected with the new entrance in are direct communications with many of the principal offices, but this entrance has not yet been opened to the public. The vestibule or entrance hall, is designed in a very singular taste, and from the massiveness of the columns, which are of the Doric order, without bases, and posited on different planes, of various heights, in imitation of the Propylaea, at Athens, it assumes the impressive and solemn character of a mausoleum. The columns next the door seem intended to exemplify a passage in Vitruvius, in which he is supposed to direct the construction of columns larger in the middle than at the base; and of which a few examples may be found in
|Sicily. In the center is a small dome, classically ornamented: the vaultings, and other parts, are also decorated after the antique. The effect of the light and shade is broad and strongly defined.|
The , and library, are also on this side. The armoury is a large square apartment, containing the arms and accoutrements of the Bank volunteers. The arms are kept in the most complete order; and in adjoining departments are depositaries for the regimentals, an orderly room, and every other appropriate convenience. The barracks are conveniently fitted up the accommodation of the regular guard which is nightly posted here to ensure the safety of the building, and which consists of privates, drummer, serjeants, and a superior officer. The vaults, in which the bullion, coin, bank-books, &c. are deposited, are of vast strength, and wholly incombustible.
Besides the offices above described, there are many others in this edifice; yet capacious and numerous as they be, they are still insufficient for the convenient management of the immensely accumulated business which the extraordinary events of the last years have entailed on this corporation. So extensive are its present concerns, that upwards of a persons are constantly employed in the various departments and offices within the building.
At what period the knowledge of banking was introduced into this country is unknown; though it may reasonably be conjectured to have been within a short time after the Conquest. There can be little doubt of its having been practised here by the Italian merchants; all of whom, who were engaged in money transactions, were distinguished both in France and England, by the name of Lombards or Tuscans. These merchants being dispersed throughout Europe,
We learn more from the same historian, that some of the English nobles availed themselves of the same agency, and
Henry the , in his year, forbad his subjects to borrow money from any foreign merchants. was on account of the great exactions which they are said to have committed; for the , as the money-lenders were about this time denominated,
| are accused of taking the most merciless advantage of the necessities of those who applied to them for pecuniary aid. Previously to this, in , when the king and most of the prelates of England were indebted to them, the bishop of London attempted to expel the Caursini from the city, but the superior influence of the pope, who supported |
against the bishop, prevailed, and they were still suffered to remain. In , they were accused by the king's command, of heresy, schism, and treason; on this occasion, some were imprisoned, and others fled, or concealed themselves: a bull was soon afterwards obtained from the pope, enjoining the king to treat them favourably. In the reign of Henry the , the customs were mortgaged to the Lombard merchants as security for money lent to that sovereign.
After the credit of the foreign merchants had declined in England, or rather, after the spirit and enterprise of our own merchants had obtained for themselves an enlarged proportion of those advantages that had previously been enjoyed by foreigners, the goldsmiths became the principal bankers of London ; and so continued till the period of the revolution of . Several schemes, however, had in the intermediate time, been promulgated for the general good, but it was not till the year , that the public mind was sufficiently awakened to the utility of such an establishment, that legal provision was made to carry it into effect.
The most strenuous and persevering of those was Mr. William Paterson, an experienced merchant of London, and a native of Scotland.
This gentleman had observed the difficulties with which the government raised the supplies for the year, and had seen an English minister under the necessity of applying to the common council for a loan of a few on the payments of the land-tax-and even taking it in sums so low as He therefore proposed the establishment of a national bank, but met with great opposition; at length, all difficulties were obviated, and in , an act of parliament was passed, authorising the subscribers to raise the sum of by loan, and to incorporate the lenders into a body, under the title of
No person was to subscribe more than ; and the company was not only prohibited from raising more than unless authorized by act of parliament, but they were not allowed to trade either by themselves or by the means of any agent in any sort of goods or merchandize; their business being confined to dealing in gold, silver, bullion, or bills of exchange. The company had another privilege which has been rarely acted upon, that of lending money
and selling them, if not redeemed within months after the time fixed for their redemption had expired.
It was at intended that the government should give only live per cent for the loan of this money, and an office was opened to receive deposits, but with the exception of subscribed by the lords of the treasury, the subscriptions did not amount to more than ; this was owing to the interest offered by government, being per cent lower than the usual rate. When, however, it was agreed to secure to the company a year out of the receipts of the exchequer, the subscription list was filled in days, and the deposit of per cent. paid.
The years of the were by no means prosperous, owing to its having agreed to take the clipped and deteriorated coin at par in exchange for its own notes, which in consequence were at a discount of or per cent.
Whilst the Bank was in this embarrassed state, various pasquinades and lampoons issued from the press in derision of the plan whereon it was founded. In of these, intituled
a whimsical will is read, in which the bank company, after devising its
and making various other bequests, is made to say,
The epitaph which follows, and which states the Bank to have died , in the year of its age, says farther, that the company had
In another satirical effusion that appeared at the same period with the title of
is this verse
The assistance of parliament now became necessary, and a new act was passed, authorizing the corporation to increase its capital to and other privileges being granted to the company, its credit was completely restored; so much so that the bank stock, which had been given in exchange for exchequer tallies, then at a discount of from to per cent. rose per cent. above par. The exchequer tallies were afterwards paid off by the bank at par, by which means many persons, who had bought them when at a great discount, amassed large fortunes.
The bank had hitherto been a corporation, assisting, but not connected with the state further than in the relation of a lender to a borrower, but in the year , it became the direct and immediate agent of government by undertaking to issue exchequer bills to the amount of a million and a half sterling, which paid as in later times an interest of per diem for every
A most important statute to the welfare and credit of the Bank was made in , ( queen Anne, chap. .) when it was enacted that during the continuance of the corporation, no body politic whatever, erected, or to be erected, nor company, nor partnership, exceeding the number of persons in England, should borrow, owe, or take up, any sums of money, on their own bills or notes, payable on demand, or in any less time than months from the borrowing thereof. This provision is stated to have been more particularly aimed at the Mine Adventure Company, which had recently set up banking, and issued cash notes. In the same year another considerable run (as it is technically phrased) was made upon the bank, in consequence of an apprehended invasion from France, in favour of the Pretender; and the demands were so great that an additional call for per cent. was made upon the capital: by this means, and through the proffered advance of large sums of money from the lord treasurer Godolphin, the dukes of Marlborough, Newcastle, and Somerset, and other noblemen, and by the government undertaking to allow per cent on bank sealed bills, for months, the directors were enabled to surmount the danger, and to maintain the rising credit of the institution.
The permission to augment the stock was granted in consequence of the Bank having proposed to circulate Exchequer bills for the services of the year to the amount of millions and a half sterling, (at . per cent. per annum) and also, to advance the sum of for the public use, without interest. This advance was regarded as a premium for the continuation of the exclusive privileges of the corporation till the ; and till all the Exchequer bills should be called in and discharged, and the sums advanced by the Bank entirely repaid. The company also on this occasion, agreed to pay the outstanding Exchequer bills, which amounted to The interest of the aggregate sum of , (viz., the original and the present ) was now fixed at per cent. to commence from . In the latter year, it was enacted that no person whatever should be
On a further circulation of Exchequer bills in , ( queen Anne, chap. ii.) the Bank was allowed to create
by a call from the proprietors; and was to continue a corporation till the . In the of
George the , the Bank was again allowed to increase its capital; and again, in the year of the same king, when the company consented to lake . per cent. upon all the sums advanced to Government, excepting upon their original capital, the interest on which was to continue at per cent., till . Through these successive additions the capital stock was increased to
The affairs of the bank were highly prosperous, and its capital stock more than millions when the rebellion of threatened to paralyse its operations. In the moment of alarm, persons became anxious to obtain cash for their notes, and crowded to the bank for that purpose. Unfortunately, the bank was not at that time very well supplied with the precious metals, and certainly not in any thing like the quantity necessary to exchange the notes issued. But although the demands on the bank were numerous they were not very heavy, and the merchants and bankers of London felt so assured of its stability, that of the most respectable signed a declaration, expressive of their confidence in the safety of the bank, and their determination to support its credit by receiving the notes in all payments, and circulating them on all occasions.
A more imminent danger threatened the bank, which had been steadily increasing in prosperity and consequently in capital, during the fanatical riots of . Fortunately, this great establishment was not the object of attack at the commencement of those daring outrages; for, unprepared as it then was, it is almost certain that it would have been entirely despoiled. Dr. Johnson, in his letters to Mrs. Thrale, when giving what he calls a journal of
unhesitatingly states that if the mob had attacked the bank
on Tuesday instead of the Wednesday night,
Ald. Wilkes headed the party who drove the rioters away, and this was die effectual resistance they encountered. Since this period, a guard of soldiers has been regularly sent every evening from St. James' or the Tower, and lodged in the bank for its protection.
The punctuality with which the dividends on government securities were paid, and the facility with which the principal is obtained, soon pointed out the funds as the most convenient, and often the most advantageous modes of investing capital, and to such extent was this done, that in the year , when government called for a return of the unclaimed dividends which had accumulated in the bank, they were found to amount to of which half a million was advanced to government without interest.
The year will he ever distinguished in the annals of the Bank ; nor will it be less memorable in the general history of the country.
The immense sums which had been drawn from the Bank for the public service, induced the court of directors, even as early as , to express their uneasiness to the chancellor of the exchequer on account of the magnitude of the debt, and anxiously to request a repayment, of at least, some part of what had been advanced. In the following month, (,) after resolving to limit their advances upon treasury-bills to the sum of they informed the minister that it was their wish
In April and June, they again found it necessary to remonstrate with Mr. Pitt; and on the , they acquainted him, that they were determined to
pressing solicitations' of the chancellor of the exchequer, enforced by
led the directors to depart from their resolution, and to make additional advances.
says Mr. Brayley,
yet contrary to their better judgment, they suffered their remonstrances and their advances to go hand in hand, till at length, on the , they felt it requisite to send a deputation to the minister, to represent to him the vast drain that had been made upon their specie,
In consequence of this application, a privy council was held at St. James's, on Sunday, , the result of which, and of another meeting held directly afterwards at the residence of the chancellor of the exchequer, in , was the following requisition, or order, addressed to the Bank directors:--
By the Lords of his Majesty's Most Hon. Privy Council. Present :--The lord chancellor, (Thurlow), lord president, duke of Portland, marquis Cornwallis, earl Spencer, earl of Liverpool, lord Grenville, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Early on the next day, Monday, the above order was generally promulgated, annexed to the following notice from the Bank directors;
On the same day, the principal merchants and bankers assembled at the Mansion-house, and drew up a resolution, that they would not refuse to receive bank-notes in payment of any sum of money to be paid to them; and would use their utmost endeavours to make all payments in the same manner.
The apprehensions and alarm, which on the stoppage of bank payments in specie, quickly spread through every quarter of the kingdom, were partly counteracted by the above resolution, but the more effectual remedy was found in the proceedings of parliament; which being sitting at this time, immediately proceeded to investigate the affairs of the Bank, and in each house, a secret committee was appointed for that purpose.
In the course of the investigations a variety of accounts were produced, and many witnesses were examined, to illustrate the manner in which the bank business was carried on, (as well in respect to the relation in which it stood to the public, as to its connection with the government,) and also to explain the causes by which its
|embarrassments had been produced, and its solvency rendered questionable.|
Whilst the examinations were in progress, the attention of every class of society was strongly excited by numerous extravagant conjectures as to the probable results. Under these circumstances, when the committee of the made their report, (,) it was not without great surprise that the public were informed that the
The particular items on which this report was founded will be seen by the following
Among the papers laid before parliament, during the investigation, was a table professing to shew the scale of cash and bullion in the bank during every quarter, for several successive years prior to the stoppage. In this account round numbers only were used; and a mysterious kind of notation was employed in the statement, which for a time, prevented the exact sums from being known to the public; yet it was at length discovered that the mean number , denoted millions, and by pursuing the calculations, and comparing the different accounts, the totals were found to be as follows:--
In the last sum of this table, viz. there is an apparent error of when compared with the total of the more particular advances made to government, and outstanding on the ; but this was occasioned through the amount of the interest due not being annexed to the latter statement. The account of the advances stood thus:
On the stoppage of cash payments at the Bank, means were concerted to fill up the void in the circulation which it was easily foreseen would be produced from such a measure; and on the , Mr. Pitt introduced a bill into parliament for empowering the directors to issue notes for sums lower than to which amount they had hitherto been restricted. The preamble to the act, (which was passed into a law with such celerity as to receive the royal assent on the day afterwards), set forth, that such issue was
Bank notes for and each, were in consequence immediately issued; and within a few days after, (), in order to supply coin for small payments, Spanish dollars, stamped with a miniature head of his Britannic majesty, were also circulated by the Bank at the rate of -and-ninepence per dollar, which was about threepence more than their then value.
Whilst the alarm was at its height, the Bank was repeatedly crowded day after day, by persons who wished to secure some value for the paper which it was apprehended was now falling into complete discredit; and the dollars could scarcely, at , be supplied fast enough to meet the increasing demands. The reports made by the committees of parliament, however, and the agreement entered into by the bankers and merchants, to receive and to pay bank notes as usual, very soon elicited a returning confidence on the part of the public; and within a few days, so great is the versatility of the human mind,
In , the directors of the Bank gave notice, that they would thenceforth pay all odd sums, not exceeding . in cash; and that all notes for and which had been issued previously to the month of , should also be paid in cash, or exchanged for new notes, at the option of the holders: this was on account of an extensive forgery of small notes having been then recently discovered. The profits of the Bank were found to have so much increased by the several suspensions of payments in specie, and other circumstances connected with national affairs, that the directors were in March, this year, enabled to make a bonus to the proprietors of bank stock, at the rate of per cent. upon their capitals, in addition to their customary dividends of per cent. This was done by making transfers to that amount in the loyalty per cent. stock, to .
In , the Bank proposed to advance for the public service, millions on Exchequer bills, without interest, for years from the , on condition of their charter being extended, with all its exclusive privileges, till year's notice after ; and till the repayment of all debts that might be then due to them by government. This proposal, which is said to have had its origin from an apprehension entertained by the directors that a rival company might be incorporated, was agreed to by parliament, and an act, ( Geo. III. chap. .) was passed on the to give it effect. It appears, however, from subsequent proceedings in parliament that
In , another bonus, of . per cent. in the Navy per cents. was made to the proprietors of bank stock.
In the year , an extraordinary instance of embezzlement and fraud was discovered at the bank, on the part of Mr. Robert Astlett, a principal cashier, and of the most confidential servants in the company's employ. The detection arose from circumstances communicated to the directors by Mr. Bish, the Stock-broker and Lottery-office keeper, in , who had been engaged by Astlett to dispose of some Exchequer bills, which on examination, Mr. Bish had found to have previously passed through his own hands, and been delivered in to the Bank. It appeared in evidence, that Astlett had the custody of all Exchequer bills brought into the Bank, till a sufficient quantity was collected to arrange in bundles, and deliver to the directors, in the parlour, where the bundles are counted, and a voucher for the delivery of them given to the cashier. In conformity to this practice bundles to the supposed amount of had on the , been transferred to the parlour, and the proper entry made under the signatures of directors; yet on counting the bills, it was seen that the vouchers had been given for more than the bundles contained. For the felonious embezzlement of of those bills, of each, Astlett was put on his trial at the , on the , when it was proved by his counsel, that the purloined bills were not valid; inasmuch as they had not been signed by a proper officer, as required by an act of parliament. The prisoner was therefore acquitted; but he was detained in custody by order of the court, in consequence of it being stated that the bank directors intended to issue a civil process against him for
|and upwards, money paid for bills, which he had converted to his own use.|
On the Thursday following, , at a half yearly general court of proprietors, (which was held at the Bank for the purpose of declaring a dividend,) the chairman entered into a detailed and satisfactory explanation of the manner in which Astlett had imposed upon the directors, and been enabled by interlining sums, and other artful contrivances, to carry on his frauds without suspicion. He also stated that the actual loss was about a sum nearly amounting to the entire dividends of the half year; but that the affairs of the company were in so prosperous a state that they should be able to divide as usual: about likewise, of the above sum, he expected the Bank would be able to recover.
Previously to the return of the sessions, the directors departed from their declared intention of issuing a civil process, and Astlett, on the , was again tried for a criminal offence. The indictment was founded on the act of the of George the , chap. , and he was charged with the felonious embezzlement of property and effects of the . The same ground of objection was taken as on the former trial, against the validity of the bills, from their want of a proper official signature; but this was over-ruled by Mr.justice Le Blanc, and the jury having brought in a verdict of guilty as to the facts, the point of law was reserved for the decision of the judges. That decision was pronounced at the , on the , by Mr. baron Hotham, who stated that
This sentence, however, was not executed, and Mr. Astlett remained a prisoner in Newgate for many years, having but lately been discharged by means of a pardon.
The restriction on cash payments, authorized by the privy council in , and confirmed by an act of parliament, though intended as a temporary measure, was continued by various legislative acts until the month of , when the bank issued a notice, that cash would be given for all their notes of l and value, dated previous to the : so great, however, was the demand for cash, that in the course of years, from the , to the , the gold coin issued amounted to l, in guineas and half guineas, and in sovereigns. Had this sum been withdrawn merely for the purpose of superseding paper money in internal circulation, it would have occasioned no uneasiness; but it was found that it was
|exported to France at a premium, and that in such quantities, that out of a new coinage of made by the French government, nearly millions of it was from the coin of this country. In order, therefore, to prevent such a drain of the precious metals, it was determined once more to interdict cash payments. After this measure was adopted, parliamentary committees were appointed to investigate the affairs of the Bank. In the report of the secret committee of the , dated May , we have a clear and decisive proof of the fully justifying that ample confidence which the public have reposed in the stability of its resources. It appears by this parliamentary document, that the Bank was liable to be called on to pay, in fulfilment of its engagements, on the , and that it was then in possession of government securities to the amount of , leaving a surplus in favour of the , of exclusive of the permanent debt due from government to the company, of repayable at the expiration of the charter. Thus the total capital of the bank exceeds millions sterling.|
The proposal again to restrict the Bank from payments in cash, met with considerable opposition in both houses of parliament, though the usual orders of the house were suspended, that the bill might pass through all its stages in day; and it passed through the commons on the , and through the lords on the following day. This act, which is known by the name of Mr. Peel's bill, limited the restriction to the , on which day cash payments were resumed, and have continued uninterrupted and unlimited to the present time.
It will readily be perceived that the principal business of the is as the agent of government in the management of the public debt; and, in addition to the allowance it has for transacting this business, considerable profit is derived from the balances which it holds belonging to the government, which have sometimes amounted to millions. Although there can be no doubt that the profits of the Bank, for transacting the business of the government, are great, yet it is but justice to this body, the in wealth and character that ever existed, to say that the directors, on all occasions, manifest a corresponding liberality, that their treasury has always been open when the necessities of the government required a loan, and that when, in , voluntary contributions were solicited for carrying on the war, the Bank commenced the subscription by a donation of
In nothing is the resumption of cash payments by the more gratifying, than the service it has done to the cause of humanity, by putting a stop to that system of forgery which every year sent numerous victims to an untimely death. The forgeries were generally in notes of the lowest value, and these being entirely withdrawn, the crime has almost ceased.
 Anciently Three-needle-street.
 Malt. Lond p 623, ed. 1739
 Brayley's Hist. of London, II. p. 563.
 The following regulations for conducting the business of the transfer offices were made by the bank directors. after the conviction of Francis Fenton, one of their clerks, for forgery, in September, 1790. No transfer to be entered without a ticket. No stock to be allowed to be transferred till it has been accepted. No transfer to be entered nor witnessed in any of the offices but by the clerks belonging to each division in their respective offices. Although a clerk in one office may not witness a transfer in another, yet he may be allowed to vouch for the identity of the party transferring, but must sign his name at length to such voucher. All other persons who shall vouch for the identity of the party transferring, must sign their names at length. All clerks in the transfer offices when they shall see a person about to sign a transfer, or an acceptance, must notify to each person what he or she are about to do, more particularly when the party appears to be unacquainted with the business. The supervisors are requested to sign the transfers, adding the letter S at the end of their names. They are likewise required whenever they meet with any irregularity or omission in a transfer, to report it immediately to the head of the office. The hours of acceptance are from nine o'clock till eleven; and from half past one till three o'clock.
 The ingenious makers of this curious machine were Messrs. Thwaites and Reed, Rosomond-street, Clerkenwell.-Brayley, ii. p. 560.
 Brayley, Hist. Lon. ii, p. 566.
 This name is commonly derived from the Corsini, a noble family of Florence, who were engaged in trade; yet Muratori (Antiq. Vol. I Diss. 16.) strenuously denies that they had any connection with the money lenders called Caursini. This latter appellation, he states, was acquired from the city of Cahors, in France, which was the general rendezvous of these traders, whether French or Italians; and through which they were called Caorsini, Caturcini, &c. His authorities are Benevenuto, of Imola, who wrote in the year 1380; and Du Cange the learned French glossarist.
 Rym. Foed. Vol i. p. 467.
 Sir Gilbert Heathcote is said to have gained by the rise of price, above 60,000l.
 Brayley's Hist. ii. p. 511.
 Some expedient was necessary, and in order to gain time, the directors paid the notes in silver, and wherever they could, in sixpences, which rendered the process slow and tedious.
 Ann. of Com. vol. iv. p. 410.
 Brayley's Hist. of London, ii. 537.