Cartoons and caricatures

Explore cartoons and caricatures of the Bank of England, including artwork made by employees.

Some of the cartoons and caricatures in our collection are by famous artists. They were published in popular satirical magazines like Punch.

Others were created by Bank of England employees and reflect their daily working life. 


The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street

The Bank of England is sometimes called the ‘Old Lady of Threadneedle Street’. The name stems from this caricature by James Gillray (1756–1815).

Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger (1759–1806) appears to be seducing an elderly woman, who represents the Bank of England. His real intention is to get his hands on the gold in her money-chest… 


Mismanagement woes

The Bank of England is again represented by an elderly woman. 

This time, she is crossing a muddy road marked ‘mismanagement’.

The mismanagement was by Chief Cashier Frank May. He had recently left his job in disgrace after a series of financial irregularities came to light. 

This is a drawing for cartoon published in Punch magazine in 1894.


The Old Lady avoids the guillotine

This cartoon was published in Punch magazine in 1935. It refers to Labour leader Clement Attlee’s desire to nationalise the Bank of England.

Attlee offers the reluctant Old Lady a lift to the guillotine in a carriage labelled ‘nationalisation of banks’.

The Bank of England was eventually nationalised in 1946. 


Rowdy stockbrokers banned

Not all cartoons about the Bank of England feature the Old Lady.

This watercolour sketch by Thomas Rowlandson shows a throng of badly-behaved stockbrokers.

Stockbrokers and their clients used the Bank of England’s rotunda (a round room with a dome) as a place to buy and sell stocks. They were so noisy and disruptive they were banned from the building in 1838.


Uproar over fake notes

Here’s a man accused of having a forged banknote being dragged before a committee at the Bank of England. 

The cartoon criticises the poor quality of banknotes.

Even the committee cannot decide if the note is real or not! 


Daily life at the Bank of England

Some of the cartoons in our collection were made by people who worked at the Bank of England. 

Robert Browning, the father of the famous poet, worked as a senior clerk at the Bank from 1799 to 1849. 

This drawing by Browning shows a reluctant clerk giving visitors a tour of the building. 


Humour at the Bank of England

Basil Hone worked at the Bank of England  from 1943 to 1980.

He started as a clerk, eventually becoming editor of the Bank’s internal news summary.

He drew many humorous sketches like this one for the staff magazine, The Old Lady. 

Under the name Ben Shailo, he also used cartoons to comment on the political, financial and economic news for the Daily Telegraph. 


An artistic gatekeeper

Another artistic Bank of England employee was Danny Denahy.

He worked at the Bank from 1952 to 1992. 

Like Basil Hone, he drew cartoons for the Old Lady Magazine. This one shows scenes from his work as a gatekeeper. 

He also produced designs for Bank of England Christmas cards.

This page was last updated 06 July 2023