The museum is:
The Stock Office is a reconstruction of one of our eighteenth-century offices built by Sir John Soane, who was the Bank's architect from 1788 to 1833.
As the United Kingdom’s central bank, we have a unique role in the economy. We work to keep inflation steady and low and we make sure that the wider financial system is stable and protected from economic shocks. This gallery explains how we do this.
The Bank of England operates monetary policy by setting Bank Rate (the interest we charge when we lend to commercial banks). The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) makes decisions on monetary policy.
The Bank is responsible for making sure the financial system is safe and sound. The Financial Policy Committee (FPC) identifies and monitors risks in the financial system. When necessary, it takes action to reduce or remove them.
The Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) supervises around 1,700 banks, building societies, credit unions, insurers and major investment firms. It sets policies that these firms are expected to follow and supervises their activities.
One of our most well-known responsibilities is to design, print and issue new banknotes.
Sir John Soane is probably the Bank of England's most famous architect. But during the 1920s, Sir Herbert Baker rebuilt and expanded the whole Bank. Soane’s bank was almost completely demolished. The only part left today is the curtain wall around the outside of the building. Today’s Bank is a blend of both architects’ styles. In this gallery, you can find out about our architectural history and see images of the Bank through the years.
The current bank building has seven floors above ground and three floors below.
This section of the museum explores the first 100 or so years of the Bank of England, starting from when it was founded in 1694.
The Bank of England was founded to raise money during a time of war against France. Money raised from private investors was lent to the Government, and the Bank was established by Royal Charter in 1694.
The Bank was located in rented buildings for its first 40 years, but we moved to our own building on Threadneedle Street in 1734. During the eighteenth century the Bank grew steadily in size and importance. By the 1790s it was firmly established as a government bank, managing the national debt.
The Napoleonic Wars had a serious effect on the economy. In 1797, we were forced to put limits on swapping our notes for gold to make sure we still had sufficient gold reserves. This was a very controversial move at the time.
The Bank of England's famous nickname, ‘The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street’, comes from a 1797 cartoon by the satirist James Gillray.
During the 1800s, the Bank of England continued to grow, and we consolidated our position as the nation’s bank. This became even more important during the First World War, when the national debt surged dramatically. Our old buildings became much too small for our increased number of staff. So between 1925 and 1939 the bank was completely rebuilt and expanded by the architect Sir Herbert Baker. The statues around the Rotunda, called caryatids, were original features of Sir John Soane’s bank. They were salvaged for use in the new building.
We took on the role of a modern central bank during the interwar years, managing the country’s gold and foreign exchange reserves and operating monetary policy. This role was formalised when we were taken into public ownership in 1946.
In this part of the museum you can get hands-on with a genuine bar of gold. Careful, though – at 13kg (28lb) it’s very heavy!
In this area you can also see our current temporary exhibition (link to current exhibition page)
The Bank of England stores around 400,000 gold bars in its vaults. The gold stored in the vaults doesn’t actually belong to the Bank of England. Instead, the Bank stores gold on behalf of the UK Treasury, other governments and central banks around the world, and many other financial institutions.
The Bank has issued banknotes since it was founded in 1694 - first handwritten, then printed. But it wasn’t until the twentieth century that the designs really started to change, from simple calligraphic designs to the intricate, colourful notes we use today.
The ‘Promise to pay’ has been a feature on the Bank of England’s notes since 1694.
The Bank has one of the world’s largest gold vaults. We store the gold bars on behalf of HM Treasury, foreign governments and other central banks. In this part of the museum you can learn all about our collection of historical gold bars, some of which survive from Roman times. You can also discover the incredible properties of gold that have made it so prized.
You can even take a #GoldVaultSelfie!
There are currently four different values of banknote in circulation: £5, £10, £20 and £50. Their hi-tech security features make them extremely hard to counterfeit, so that you can trust the value of the notes in your pocket.
The new fiver, which entered circulation in September 2016, was the first of the Bank of England’s new polymer notes. The new £10 note featuring Jane Austen will enter circulation in September 2017 . This will be followed by a polymer £20 note featuring artist JMW Turner by 2020.
Polymer notes last up to 2.5 times longer than paper banknotes.