The Bank of England celebrates its 325th anniversary, with a new exhibition at the Bank of England Museum entitled 325 years, 325 objects which tells the fascinating story of the bank through items selected from the vast collections amassed since the Bank was founded in 1694.
The small exhibition spans art, design, archaeology, architecture, ceremony, politics, wartime, the monarchy, security, fraud and forgery, crises, riots and technology and features a number of objects that tell a remarkable story of how the Bank Of England became the United Kingdom’s central bank and how it survived and prospered in a ever changing world.
Some of the highlights of the exhibition include The first banknotes, including an early note, dated 26th June 1702, issued to Elizabeth Head, an early investor in the Bank.
Artwork sketches and test plates for banknote designs, including Jacobite design proofs from 1745 and a woodblock design for the first postal order from 1880.
A still-wax-sealed packet containing a duplicate key to the door of the Bullion Office from 1784
19th and 20th century forged banknotes and printing plates
Roman relics found during archaeological digs on the Threadneedle Street site.
Handmade terracotta bricks taken from Sir John Soane’s Rotunda in his original Bank building and early 20th-century hand-painted wall tiles from the Bank’s parlours, featuring Britannia, Minerva, Pythagoras and more
Manual dexterity tests given to Bank staff in the 1980s
Cold War Calculator. A radiation fallout calculator, 1959/60, used to estimate the effects of a nuclear attack.
Early views of the Bank building and its location in the City of London
Depictions of a dozen monarchs across successive gold coins
This is also a drawing of the ‘Bank nun’, Sarah Whitehead, who, from 1812 to 1837, visited the Bank of England each day, dressed in mourning clothes. She was the sister of a former Bank Clerk who had been sentenced to death for forging an acceptance to a bill. Each day she came to the Bank, awaiting her brother, under the delusion that he was still employed there.
Specially commissioned for the exhibition is a stunning botanical sculpture, created by artist Justine Smith. The sculpture is an arrangement of wild British flowers, all made from a combination of previously circulated £50 notes and uncirculated £50 test notes. The arrangement is presented in a silver water jug, dating from 1694, the year of the Bank’s foundation.
The exhibition takes place in the centre of The Bank of England Museum which has a full-size reconstruction of Sir John Soane’s 18th-century Stock Office, a large boat construction is full of interactive displays explaining how the Bank works, banknote design and security and how the Bank works within the financial system. There is also a large solid gold bar that you can pick up and touch.
The Bank of England is one of the best known institutions in the world but its inner workings are often shrouded in mystery. This fascinating free exhibition provides an opportunity to discover some of the bank’s secrets and its remarkable history. Each object tells a story from the past 325 years and offers plenty of insights into how banking transformed the world economies and helped to create the ‘modern world.’
325 years, 325 objects at the Bank of England Museum, Bartholomew Lane (off Threadneedle Street),
London EC2R 8AH. Dates: 22 July 2019 – 15 May 2020. Admission: Free.
Opening hours: Monday-Friday: 10am-5pm (last entry 4:30pm). Closed Public and Bank Holidays and
weekends, except for special events taking place on those days.
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
If you would like further information about the exhibition, visit the Bank of England website here
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