Victorian London - Finance - Banks - Bank of England

see also The Great Metropolis, Chapter V, The Bank of England 

Bank, The ... The public, during the hours of business, viz. from 9 to 4, are permitted to walk through the offices where the public business is transacted.

source: Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844 


ON Wednesday afternoon, a handsome reading-room, which has just been formed for the Bank of England Library and Literary Association, instituted by the directors for the use of the clerks, was opened by Thomson Hankey, Jun., Esq., Deputy-Govertsor of the Bank. There was a very numerous meeting of the members; when the Chief Cashier, as President, and the Chief Accountant, the Treasurer of the institution, moved and seconded a vote of thanks to the Court of Directors for the handsome manner in which they had fitted up the Library, and for the liberal support which bad been accorded the Association.
    The Court of Directors collectively have voted £500 for the purchase of books, and several of the Directors have made handsome donations. Thomas Baring, Esq., presented the committee with £100, to be expended by them in books; while others, including K. D. Hodgson, Esq., J. B. Heath, Esq., &c., have contributed largely to the Association. W. H. Mullens, Esq., sent a cheque for £25, and many of the clerks have presented valuable works; in short, the Bank of England Library and Literary Association, aided by the exertions of the committee, and their hon. secretary, Mr. J. R. Durrant, of the Three-and-a-Quarter per Cent. Office, bids fair to become one of the most remarkable institutions in the metropolis.

source: Illustrated London News, MAy 18th 1850

    WE have already, on a former occasion, looked at two of the city temples --- the Mansion-house and the Exchange. We now return to the Capitoline mart of the city, to inspect the third of its temples --- the Bank of England.
    Its outward appearance is mysterious. Half wall and half house, it is neither the one nor the other; and yet either at one and the same time. For a wall there are too many niches, blind windows, columns, and finery; for a building it wants presence; it is too low, and has not even window openings. But it appears from the architect's plan that this strange facade is meant for a wall, and, having the artist's word for it, we believe, though see we do not, and sit down satisfied.
    Standing free on all sides as the Exchange, the Bank is divided from the latter by a thoroughfare called Threadneedle-street. Its western limit is Princes-street ; in the north intervenes Lothbury, and in the south Bartholomew-lane, between the Bank and the neighbouring houses. It forms a square; and yet people say it demonstrates the squaring of the circle, the grand problem of modern philosophy.
    We enter. The gate does not strike one as solemn and imposing as might be expected in a gate leading to the laboratory of a great wizard. No Druid's foot on the threshold; no spectral bats such as abound in nursery tales of treasure-seeking. No not even a couple of grenadiers, who, in our dear fatherland are a necessary appendage to every public building really everything looks worldly, business-like, and civil. A red-coated porter answers our questions, and tells us which way to go. He is an elderly man, and certainly not strong enough to arrest a mere lad of a communist, if such a one would attempt to divide the property of the British nation. A shocking idea, that!
    We cross a small court-yard, and mount a few steps (why should'nt we?) and, all of a sudden, we are in a large saloon. This saloon is an office --- it matters very little what particular office it is --- but it makes not a disagreeable impression as our German offices do where everything is official and officious, oppressive, and calculated to put people down. On the contrary, there's a vast deal of good society in this office : at least a hundred officials and members of the public. The officials have no official appearance whatever; they are simple mortals, and do their business and serve their customers as if they were mere shopboys in a grocery shop. There is in them not a trace of dignity ! not an atom of bureaucratic pride! It is exactly as if to serve the public were the sole business of their lives. And the public too! Was such a thing ever heard of in a public office? Men, women, and boys, with their hats on! walking arm in arm as if they were in the park. They change money, or bring it or fetch it, as if they had looked into a neighbour's shop for the purpose. Some of them have no business at all to transact. They actually talk to one another --- stand by the fire in the centre of the room, and warm their backs! The impertinent fellows! Why, they have no respect whatever! They forget that they are in a public office. How dare you stand there you dolt? How dare you scratch your head, and hold your pipe in your hand? I should'nt wonder if it was lighted --- it would be like your impertinence! Get out as fast as you can; if you dont the police will make you! Really not a trace of respect! It is no wonder they say we are near doomsday.*  (* The readers of passages like the above will net be astonished to learn that Dr. Schlesinger's book has the honour of being prohibited in some of the best-governed states of Germany, but more especially in Austria. --- [ED].) 
    Ranged in long rows along the walls, the Bank clerks sit writing, casting-up accounts, weighing gold, and paying it away over the counter. In front of each is a bar of dark mahogany, a little table, a pair of scales, and a small fraction of the public each waiting for his fare. The business is well-conducted, and none of them are kept waiting for any length of time.
    The saloon just by is more crowded. We are in the middle of the year, and the interest on the three per cents. is being paid. What crowding and sweeping to and fro. At least fifty clerks are sitting in a circle in a high vaulted saloon, well provided with a cupola and lanterns. They do nothing whatever but pay and weigh, and weigh and pay. On all sides, the rattling of gold, as they push it with little brass shovels across the tables. People elbowing and pushing in order to get a locus standi near the clerks; the doors are continually opening and shutting. What crowds of people there must be in this country who have their money in the three per cent. Consols!
    Strange figures may be seen in this place. An old man with a wooden-leg sits in a corner waiting, and Heaven knows how long he has been waiting already. Of course, a wooden leg is rather an encumbrance than otherwise in a crowd. The old man seems to be fully aware of the fact. He looks at his large silver watch --- it is just twelve --- puts his hand to the pocket of his coat, and pulls out a large parcel, something wrapped up in a stale copy of the Herald. What can the parcel contain? Sandwiches ! He spreads them out, and begins to eat. He likes them too. He takes his ease, and makes himself perfectly at home. I dare say it is not the first time he has waited for his dividends.
    That young lady on our left is getting impatient. She has made several attempts to fight her way to one of the clerks; she tried to push in first on the right, and then on the left, but all in vain. John Bull is by no means gallant in business, or at the theatre, or in the streets: he pushes, and kicks, and elbows in all directions. Poor pretty young lady, you'll have a long time to wait! It's no use standing on your toes, and looking over people's shoulders. You'd better come again to-morrow.
    The little boy down there gets much better on. A pretty fair-haired fellow that, with a little basket in his hand. Perhaps he is the son of a widow, who cannot come herself to get her small allowance. The boy looks as if about to cry, for he is on all sides surrounded by tall men. But one of them seizes him, lifts him up, and presents him to one of the clerks. "Pray pay this little creditor of the public; he'll be pressed to death in the crowd !" And they all laugh, and everybody makes room for the boy; for it ought to be said to John Bull's credit, he is kind and gentle with children at all times. "Well done, my little fellow! Now be careful that they dont rob you of your money on the way. How can they ever think of sending such a baby for their dividends!"
    In this wing of the house, office follows after office ; they are all on the ground-floor, and receive their light through the ceiling; they are all constructed in a grand style, and many of them are fit for a king's banqueting-room. In them money is exchanged for notes, and notes for money; the interest on the public debt is paid; the names of the creditors are booked and transferred. It is here that the banking business is carried on in its relations with the bulk of the public.
    These offices are, consequently open to every one ; they are the central hall of the English money market, the great exchange office of London. Every Englishman is here sentinel and constable, for every Englishman has, or at least he wishes to have, some share in the Bank. But those who would enter the more secret recesses of the sanctuary, must have an order from one of the Bank Directors. We are fortunate enough to have such an order, which we show to one of the servants. He takes us. shows us into a little room, and asks us to wait a few moments.
    The room in which we are is a waiting-room. There are many such in the house. A round table, a couple of chairs, and --- and nothing else! that's all the furniture. Really nothing else ! And yet the room is so snug and comfortable. It is altogether mysterious, how the English manage to give their rooms an air of comfort, which with us is too frequently wanting, even in the houses of wealthy persons, who furnish, as the phrase goes, "regardless of expense." Every German who comes to England must be struck with the fact. Whether the apartments he hires be splendid or humble --- no matter, he is at once alive to the influence of this charmed something, and he will sadly miss it when he returns to Germany. Yes ! it must be --- the charm must be in the carpets and the fire-place. Surely witchery does not enter into the household arrangements of sober and orthodox Englishmen!
    It's a pity they did not make us wait a little longer, the room was so comfortable. Another servant has brought our order back, and told us that he is to be our guide. Passing through open yards and covered passages, we come to a clean and well-paved hall, in which the steam-engine of the house lives. Large cylinders, powerful wheels, rods shining as silver, the balls of the whirling governor heavy as four-and-twenty pounders, and the space under the boiler a hell en miniature. Everything powerful and gigantic, and yet clean, harmonious, and tasteful.
    Yes ! tasteful is the word. The English are frequently, and in many instances justly, taunted with their want of taste. They have an awkward manner of wearing their clothes; they are bad hands at designing and manufacturing those charming nippes, for which the French are so famous; their grand dinners and festivals, their fancy patterns and articles of luxury, their fashions and social habits, are frequently at war with the laws of refined taste. But there are also matters in which, in point of taste, they are superior to all other nations, Such, for instance, in the cultivation of the soil, the manufacture of iron and leather, etc., etc.
    Give a French, German, Spanish, or Belgian artisan a piece of iron, and ask him to make a screw for a steam-engine. Give just such a piece of iron to an Englishman, with the same request. The odds are a thousand to one that the Englishman's screw will be more neat, useful and handsome, than the screw produced by the artisans of the other nations. The Englishman gives his iron and steel goods a sort of characteristic expression, a sort of solid beauty, which cannot fail at once to strike every beholder. The Germans saw thus much in the Great Exhibition and they may see it in every English house, if they will but take the trouble of examining the commonest kitchen utensils, or the tongs, shovel, and poker in the most ordinary English parlour. They are all massive, solid, weighty, and tasteful.
    It's a splendid sight, this steam-engine at the Bank! It is complete, and in keeping in all its details. It is the mind which moves all the wheels and machines in the house. Its power is exerted in the furthest parts of the establishment; it moves a thousand wheels, and rollers, and rods; it stands all lonely in its case, working on and on, without control or assistance from man. With us, too, the steam-engines have emancipated themselves, and do not want the support of their masters; but the furnace is still a mere infant, and wants stokers to put its food into its mouth. But here the furnace, too, is independent: it procures its victuals, and feeds itself according to its wants. The large round grate is moveable; it turns in a circle on its horizontal plane, and pushes each point of its circumference at regular intervals, under an opening from which the coals fall down upon it. The keeper of the engine has nothing whatever to do but to fill the coal-box and light the fire in the morning. Steam is generated, it enters the cylinders, moves the pistons and the wheels, and the grate commences its rotary movement. From that moment forward, the engine works on without assistance.
    As we proceed we shall be able to judge of the multiplied usefulness of this remarkable engine. We have followed our guide up a narrow flight of stone steps, and are now in robins which form a striking contrast to the saloons which we examined in the first instance. They are dark and dusky workshops, in which the materials for the use of the Bank are being prepared. Here, for instance, is a man in a small room preparing the steel-plates on which the notes are to be engraved. His is a difficult task, even though the engine moves the sharp hard wedge which scrapes and polishes the plates. It produces a shrill screaming noise, one which it is by no means agreeable to listen to for any length of time; and besides the labour is most wearisome and monotonous. But it is one of the dark sides of this age of machinery, perhaps it is the darkest, that the sameness of his mechanical labour tends to stupify the workman; that he ceases being an artizan or artist, and comes to be a mere help to his machine, which requires no talents or abilities in its servant, but merely exactitude and promptness. All he has to do is to put the plate or the spindle on the exact spot, where the machine can seize, handle it, and finish it.
    Another room is devoted to the preparation of printer's ink, for the printing of the notes. A quantity of black matter is being ground. A simple operation this; even dogs might be trained to perform it, and give satisfaction. But here, too, the machine does the work, and does it, too, with astonishing accuracy. All the workman has to do, is to put the black mixture between the rollers; they take it, crush it, grind it, and drop it ready for use. If a single grain of sand be found in the mixture, the machine has neglected its duty --- that's all. But you wont find a grain of sand even if you were to search for it in many tons of the ink.
    The workman explains the process.
    "The ink," says he, "must pass between these two large rollers to be ground. The rollers are of strong steel ; they are very hard and heavy. But small particles of sand or stone would soon take away their polish. That's what this side-cutting is for. Look here. I hold the point of my knife exactly at the point where the rollers touch one another. Did you see how at the slightest touch they separated h This happens whenever any hard body, however small, finds its way between them. They dont take it, but drop it, and in this manner they keep their polish."
    It is marvellous ! This machine is most simple, and yet we could stand for hours to see it work. What is a sensitive plant to these heavy steel rollers, which are so sensitive that they recede at the touch even of a grain of sand! And it is all done by means of the cutting and the weight. It is no use attempting to describe these things without a diagram. And even that is unsatisfactory to those who never saw the machine in motion. But we revoke the pert remark we made just now. A dog cannot be trained to do this work; even the labour of man could not supply the labour of this machine. Enough for man that he made it.
    Through the various work-rooms, each of them devoted to some part of the manufactory of notes, we come to the large work-shops of the printers and binders. In either of them steam is at work, and so are human beings. The Bank of England, which in the first year of its existence wanted only one ledger, requires now at least three hundred ledgers to register its accounts; they are all lined, paged, and bound in the house. It is one of the most interesting features of the Bank, that all its requirements, with the sole exception of the paper, are manufactured on the premises.
    Exactly as in the stone-paved hall of the lower story, where we watched the great central steam-engine feeding itself, so we find in other rooms large machine monsters moving up and down, and to and fro, rattling, hissing, and thumping, and frequently not doing anything that we can see, although our guide tells us, that the results of their labours will become apparent to us in other parts of the building. And they stand, moreover, alone, completely left to themselves; in the rooms in which they work, in the corridors leading to those rooms, not a human creature is to be seen, not a human step to be heard, nor is there a trace of human influence that we are aware of. And then this measured rotation of the large wheels; the busy movement of the straps ; the never tiring restlessness of the pistons, which seem to move faster the longer we look at them. There is some-thing grand in these rooms, void of the presence of man, where the mind of man invisibly hovers over the world of machines, as the Spirit of God over the face of the waters in the hour of creation. It is grand, but it is also awful.

    We feel quite relieved when we get down into the paved courtyard, where a living two-legged labourer walks by; and yet neither the place nor the man is very agreeable to look at. The yard has a neglected appearance, and the iron shutters which cover the place where the windows are supposed to be make it still more gloomy.
"That is the library of the Bank," remarks our guide.  
    We are not likely to be astonished by anything. We just saw workshops without men; why should there not be a library without books? Let us have patience and wait. Perhaps some very clever machine will open the iron shutter from the inside, thrust forth its arm, and hand us a catalogue. No ? Well, for a wonder, our guide, who is very polite, though by no means over-communicative opens a small door, and motions us to enter.  
    A low, narrow, vaulted passage, which reminds us of the casemates or bomb-proof galleries of fortresses; a few rays of light straggling in through some grating somewhere; at the end of the passage a heavy iron door which opens into a small windowless room lighted up by the most consumptive-looking gas-jet imaginable. Our eyes are quite unused to the light; but, gradually as we get accustomed .to it, we can see the objects around us. We stand in front of a railing, and behind it stands a little man in a black dress coat, and with a white cravat.  
    "This gentleman is the librarian of the Bank ;" says our guide. Still no trace of books.  
    The man in the black dress-coat opens a door in the railing, bids us enter, and shows us an enormous number of parcels and bundles of notes, ranged along the walls up to the very ceiling. They call this the library of the Bank ; but, in truth, it is its lumber room. It is an asylum for the notes which have been paid in at the Bank. They are valueless; for the Bank never issues the same note twice. They are kept and locked up in the library, I forget how many years, in order to be produced in the case of a theft or forgery, or any other matter of the kind. Afterwards they are burnt.  
    Every now and then clerks come in with fresh bundles. A few minutes ago these small papers were worth --- Heaven knows how much money. "They are now mere waste paper. They have had their day. Many a note leads a long and honourable life; goes to the Continent, to India, or Port Adelaide ; and returns to the Bank much the worse for wear after all its journeys. Other notes have scarcely a day's roving license in the world; to-day they are issued, and to-morrow they are paid in. It's accident, or fate, or Providence." Saying which the librarian makes his bow, turns round, and returns to his desk.  
    We leave the library. The way is frequently very short from the old bookshop where good books and bad books are alike given up to dust and moths, to the printing-office, from whence they are launched forth into the world. Thus it is in the Bank.  
    We have scarcely left the library, and we are already in the department where they print the notes.  
    The printing from the plates is simple enough. The wonders of the machinery consist chiefly in the spontaneous advance of the numbers (each note has its own number, and a double set too), and in the control which the machine exercises over the workmen. There is no inspector to watch the printer. The machine, which he compels to print, compels him to be honest. 'The machine registers the exact numbers that are being printed, and registers them too in a distant part of the establishment. That the machine can do this with astonishing accuracy; that it masters the intricacies of our system of numbers; and that it produces the numbers at the same moment in different places is a triumph of human invention which almost startles us. It is also the result of the various systems of wheels which we saw working all alone in other parts of the building. 
    A great deal more might be said of the astonishing results of this most perfect system of machinery. But, since description is out of the question, we should only reproduce our own impression. Still we must tell the fairer portion of our readers that at the Bank even the washing is done by machinery, and that the establishment manages to get on without female labour.  
    The dirty linen of the Bank --- that is to say the cloths which are used in the printing process --- are sent to the washhouse, where they are compelled to perform a pilgrimage through a number of large pails full of hot and cold water. They are then washed by wheels; then dragged into hot water and next into cold water, wrung out and hung up in a drying room. And all by steam --- all by machinery! No busy housewife --- no able-tongued laundresses --- no disturbance of the house --- and no washing-days! There is no saying how shocking a want of respect of the whole female sex is implied by this process! But then the poor mechanics are quite as badly treated. You must put up with it, Madame. The Bank can and will do without you.  
    Our guide leads the way to other regions. We enter the inception and meeting-rooms of the Governor and the Directors.  
    Charming open places, with lawns and shrubberies, and here and there a shady tree --- clean, well-sanded paths --- it is quite evident that we have left the manufacturing districts, and are in the midst of the parks and homesteads of Old England. And these buildings, rising up from the lawns, are palaces, with columns, large stone steps, and carved ornaments. Their interior excels in splendour the wildest anticipations we might have formed. Saloons, high and lofty as cathedrals, splendid cupolas everywhere, and an overwhelming profusion of panelling, architectural ornaments, rich carpets and furniture, fit for a king's palace. We would gladly remain here and see nothing else; but our guide is determined on our admiring all the sights of the house.  
    We follow him to the guard-room, where a detachment of soldiers from the Tower enter every evening and pass the night, to protect the Bank "in case of an emergency." We follow him to the Bullion Office, a subterranean vault, where they keep the gold and silver bars from Australia, California, Russia, Peru, and Mexico; where they weigh them, sell them, and from whence they send them to the Mint. These vaults are very interesting to the admirers of precious metals.  
    But is this all? No! nothing of the kind. Our guide --- a real guide --- has reserved the most interesting part of the exhibition to the last. He has taken us through several yards and passages. He knocks at a large door, which is opened from the inside. Two gentlemen, in black dress coats and white cravats, stand in a large room, which receives its light through a lantern in the top. In the centre of the room is a heavy bureau. The walls are covered with iron lock-ups and safes. This is the Treasury of the Bank, where they keep the new notes and Coins.  
    One of the gentlemen looks at our order, and, with that unpretending dignity which characterises the English, he turns mound and opens some of the iron safes. They are filled with bags, containing 500 or 1000 sovereigns each. He takes some of them and puts them into our hands, to convince us, as though we ever doubted of the fact, of the bags being filled with good sterling money.  
    The other gentleman --- they are both dressed as if they were going to a levee --- takes a bunch of keys, and opens a large closet filled with notes. The most valuable and smallest bundle is again put into our hands. "You have there," says he, "two thousand notes of one thousand pounds each." Two millions pounds sterling! Surely an enormous sum to hold in ones hand. An army in paper, containing the power of much evil and much good, especially since the paper is not mere paper, and since, at a few yards' distance, you may change it into "red, red gold," as the poets say. But as we are not in a position to perform that alchymistic process, we return the notes to their keeper. "Good bye, Sir." "Good morning, gentlemen." We have left the Treasury, without being either wiser or richer men. Of course, because we were not allowed to carry off its contents.  
    We enter another large room, with the neatest, prettiest steam-engine in it, and with a variety of other small machines whose complicated wheels are kept in motion by the said engine. The bulkiest object in the room is a large table, literally covered with mountains of sovereigns. A few officials, with shovels in their hands, are stirring the immense glittering mass.  
    "It is here that they weigh the sovereigns," whispers our guide. We stand and watch the process. Ignorant as we are of the exact principles of the machines, we are altogether startled by their fabulous activity.  
    Besides the mysterious system of wheels within wheels, each of these marvels displays an open square box, and in this box, slanting in an angle of 300, two segments of cylinders, with the open part turned upwards. A roll of sovereigns, placed into one of these tubes, passes slowly down, and one gold piece after the other drops into a large box on the floor.  
    All the clerks have to do is to fill the tubes. The sovereigns slide down, but just at the lower end of the tube the miracle is accomplished. Whenever a sovereign of less than full weight touches that ticklish point, a small brass plate jumps up from some hidden corner, and pushes the defaulter into the left-hand compartment of the box, while all the good pieces go to the right. This little brass plate, hiding where it does, and popping out at intervals to note a bad sovereign, is an impertinent, ironical, malicious thing. There is an air of republicanism about it. As to the sharpness of its criticism, we actually do not believe that any republican would attempt to compete with it. For who would estimate the virtues of his fellow-men by grains, especially in the law of crowned heads!  
    We cannot see enough of these active machines. The small plates of brass show themselves pretty often as old and worn out sovereigns glide down. Not one of them is allowed to pass and withal these small plates act with so much quiet promptitude and calm energy, and altogether without noise or pretension.     
    One of the clerks is kind enough to explain the purpose of this process.  
    "The Bank selects the full weighted sovereigns from the light ones, because all the money we pay out must have its full weight."  
    "And what do you do with the light ones?"  
    "We send them to the Mint after we have taken the liberty of marking them. Shall I show you how we do it?"
    He takes a handful of the condemned ones, and puts them into a box, which has the appearance of a small barrel-organ. He turns a screw, or touches a spring --- it is clearly impossible to note each movement of the man's hand --- and there is a sounding and rushing noise in the interior of the box, and all the sovereigns fall out from a slit at the bottom. But mercy on us! how dreadfully disfigured they are! Cut through in the middle. The Victorias, and Williams, and Georges, all cut through their necks, ; in fact, beheaded! And that's what the English call "marking a bad sovereign." It makes us shudder. We are positively afraid. We cant stay one minute longer. "Good morning, sir." "Good morning, gentlemen."  
    What with our confusion and distress, we quite forgot to thank our kind guide. We are again in the street: to our left is the Exchange, to our right the Mansion-house, and ,before us the Iron Duke on horseback, and all around the furious, rattling, ceaseless crowd of vehicles; the moving and pushing of the foot-passengers ; women hunted over the crossings; walking advertisements; street-sellers; red Post-office carts ; the dusky streets, and the heavy leaden sky --- the City in its working dress!  

source: Max Schlesinger, Saunterings in and about London, 1853

Bank of England, Threadneedle-street (Founded 1694), is divided into the following departments: The Accountant's, the Cashier's, and the Secretary's, all of which have a vast number of smaller subdivisions, which are rendered necessary by the great and intricate business transacted by the Bank. The office hours are 9 to 4, and the Bank has a branch at Burlington-gardens, Bond-street.
DIVIDENDS are now payable at the Bank the day after they fall due, and need no longer be received personally or by power of attorney, and are paid in one of the following modes:
I. To the Stockholders personally, or to their authorised representatives at the Bank of England. (Stockholders may arrange far the receipt of their dividends, free of charge, at any of the country branches, on application to the agent.)
II. By transmission of dividend-warrants by post at the risk of the stockholder, under the following regulations:
    1 .Any stockholder residing within the United Kingdom who desires to have his dividend-warrant sent to his address by post, must fill up a form of application to be obtained at the Bank, or at any of its country branches.
    2. In the case of joint accounts the application must be signed by all the members of the account, directing the warrant to be sent to one of them at a given address.
    3. Post dividend-warrants will be crossed "& Co.," and will only be payable through a banker. They will be drawn to the order of the stockholder, and must be endorsed.
    The following are the dividend days:       

                                Stock.      Dividends due.
Three per Cent. Consols   -. Jan. 5 & July 
New 3 per Cent.              ,,                    ,,
New 2 per Cent.             ,,                    ,,
India 5 per Cent. Stock      ,,                    ,,
Bank Stock .                         April 5 & Oct.5
Annuities for 30 years
India 4 per Cent. Stock        ,,                    ,,
3 per Cent. Reduced . - .. April 5 & Oct. 5
New 3 per Cent India Bonds .. April 1 & Oct. 1
India 4 per Cent. Transfer Loan Stock -  Apr 25 & Oct.25
Red Sea & India Telegraph Annuities -  Feb.4 & Aug. 4

TRANSFER DAYS, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, from 11 to half-past 2; for buying and selling, 10 to 1; for accepting and payment of dividends, 9 to 3. Transfer-banks are closed at one o'clock on Saturdays. Dividends on India Bonds payable 9 to 3. Private transfers may be made at other times, the books not being shut, by paying an extra fee of 2s. 6d.
HOLIDAYS  - Good Friday, Easter Monday, Whit-Monday, First Monday in August, Christmas Day and following day; and in the Stock-offices, 1st May and 1st November.
The business of the Bank was originally carried on in the Mercers' Hall. Thence it was removed to the Grocers' Hall, and thence again to the buildings at the back of the p resent court towards Threadneedle-street; the existing not very satisfactory pile being the work of Sir John Sauce half a century later.  There is much to be seen in the Bank of England of interest to the visitor. The bullion office the printing department, and other of the more private offices, may be seen by an order to be obtained through a director. 

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879

    But we must turn our backs upon the Exchange and look at that sombre building on our right hand. It is the BANK OF ENGLAND, the greatest bank in the world. The original building was first opened for business on June 5th, 1734. Since that date, large additions have been made to it, some parts of it have been rebuilt, and it now covers an irregular space of four acres. The design of the present building, which we do not admire, is due to Sir John Soane, who was appointed architect in 1788. The interior is far more lightsome and pleasant than one might suppose from the heavy outside. It consists of nine open courts, a Rotunda, comnmittee rooms, apartments for officers and servants, and rooms appropriated to business. The principal rooms are on the ground floor, and, having no apartments over them, get light from above by lantern windows and domes. Below the surface are a still larger number of rooms, and here are the vaults in which the Bank treasure is kept secure.
    This national Bank was originated by a hard-headed Scotchnman, Mr. William Paterson, who saw the need which existed for such an apphiasmce, and did not rest till he got an Act passed for the incorporation of the Governor and Company of the Bank of England.
    Let us walk into this famous Bank, and watch the cashiers shovelling out gold coins as if they were so many brass buttons. The amount of silver and gold brought to the Bank, in coims and in bars, is something marvellous. It is stored away in the bullion room, until sent to the Mint to be coined. A single bar of gold weighs about sixteen pounds, and is worth about eight hundred pounds. In the weighing-room there is a wonderful little machine for weighing the sovereigns. It does not require any one to hold it, but seems of its own accord, and always without a mistake, to detect the light coins. It sends the correct ones down one tube, to be passed into the Bank; and the light ones down another, to be slit across in the clipping machine. These are then sent to the hot furnaces of the Mint to be recoined. Thus within one minute thirty-three sovereigns are weighed in the balances and pronounced good or bad. And never a light one will that sensible machine pass with the good, nor a good one within the bad. What a lesson it teaches us! We too shall be ' weighed in the balances' at that last great day. There will be no possibility of mistake in that just judgment, and we shall be either passed or rejected, rewarded or punished, according to our lives. Let us seek by God's grace so to live that we shall not be ' found wanting.'
    Amongst othmer curiosities are the remarkable bank-notes signed by illustrious persons ; and a bank-note for tweny-five pounds that has been out in circulation for 111 years. When a note is cashed at the Bank, a corner is torn off, and, after its number is entered in a book, it is put away in the bank-note library, amongst millions of others, until at the end of ten years it is brought out with all those that were shut up with it in the same month, and all are burned in a large furnace kept for that purpose. In our peaceful days it is only necessary to have a small body of foot soldiers to guard the Bank at night time. But there have been times in its history, times of riotous discontent, when both foot and horse soldiers have had to mass in large numbers, and have even found it necessary to charge and fire upon the excited mob to protect it from their violence.

Uncle Jonathan, Walks in and Around London, 1895 (3 ed.)

    BANK OF ENGLAND, THREADNEEDLE STREET ... This world -renowned establishment was founded in 1691. The present buildings were erected mostly from the designs of Sir John Soane, 1795-1829. The principal offices are open daily, from nine to three. The bank-note machinery, bullion vaults, &c., can be seen only be special permission.

Reynolds' Shilling Coloured Map of London, 1895


The Bank of England - the chief institution of the kind in the world - is appropriately located in the very heart of the City. Its main entrance is in Threadneedle Street, and the buildings, which are, of course, isolated, cover about four acres. The Bank is mainly a one-storey structure, and it was from Sir John Soane's designs that most of it was built, in 1788. For the sake of security, there are no windows in the outside walls. The institution was founded in 1691, and in these days employs some nine hundred persons. More than two millions sterling are daily negotiated here, and every day fifteen thousand new bank-notes are printed, what time some twenty million pounds of cash lies in the vaults below. The portico of which the end appears in our view to the right will be recognised as that of the Royal Exchange.

source: The Queen's London : a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896