St Christopher and the Bank of England

Discover why St Christopher is closely associated with the Bank of England
Published on 11 June 2021

Blog

Miranda Garrett, Collections and Exhibitions Manager

Museum reference number 1775

This statuette depicts St Christopher carrying the infant Christ. It was modelled on the war memorial that lives in our garden - or ‘Garden Court’ as we call it. The war memorial was designed by sculptor Richard Reginald Goulden (1876–1932) in memory of the employees who died in the First World War.

An inscription around the base of the statuette reads:

‘To the comrades who, at duty’s call, crossed the dark waters to the further shore 1914–1919’.

After the Second World War, another inscription was added to the full-scale statue:

‘To the memory of those who crossed the same waters 1939–1945’.

So why did Goulden choose St Christopher as the subject of our war memorial?

Firstly, as he noted, “the ground upon which the bank now stands has been, since very early time, dedicated to the saint”.

What does that mean?

Well, our current Threadneedle Street building was built on the site of a church - St Christopher-le-Stocks. St Christopher-le-Stocks was a parish church on the south side of Threadneedle Street in the City of London. There had been a church on that site since at least 1282. The famous architect, Christopher Wren, had even rebuilt the church after it was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666.

In 1724, the Bank of England bought land to the east of the church and commissioned architect George Sampson to build the new premises. This engraving shows the church next to the Bank of England at the time.

Museum reference number 0878

In the 1780s, as the company was growing we needed space to expand. Following some turbulent times (more on that in our blog on architecture if you’re interested!) St Christopher-le-Stocks was deconsecrated and demolished. This made way for a new west wing to be built, thanks to the designs of architect Robert Taylor (1714–1788). 

St Christopher-le-Stocks had a graveyard which stayed put for some time - this became our garden court. Later, in the 1930s, the graves were transferred to Nunhead Cemetery in Peckham when the Bank of England was rebuilt.

This plan from the 1930s shows where the church used to stand.

Archive reference number [13A84/2/35/15]

Secondly, Goulden argued that St Christopher (who was the patron saint of travellers), was a fitting subject ”for a memorial to those who proved themselves to be inspired by … self-sacrifice and love to nobly serve the highest cause”.

According to legend, St Christopher was an early Christian who dedicated his life to Jesus by helping travellers cross a dangerous river. One day, a child asked St Christopher to carry him across the river. The child seemed to grow heavier and heavier with every step. When the pair arrived on the opposite shore, the child identified himself as Christ and told St Christopher that he had just carried the weight of the world.

The war memorial was unveiled in 1921 and was funded by our Bank of England staff. 

The money raised has also helped to fund a few more things – such as a  memorial service at Southwark Cathedral, a hospital bed at St. Guy's Hospital and perhaps most notably, it led to the start of the Bank of England foundation -  the St Christopher Health Fund, which still operates today.

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