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Lothbury Court and surrounding offices, 1797-1801 (109)

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The north-east extension was Soane's most ambitious proposal yet. Covering a large parcel of newly acquired land, the new Bank buildings would include a Consols Transfer Office, Library, Bullion Court, Interiors Office and new offices for the Secretary, the Chief Cashier and the Accountant General. The entrance court from Lothbury was the centre-piece of this new extension.

Soane presented his design for the north-east extension in September 1797. It was approved in October, after some discussion and compromise. The Court was completed at various stages between 1798 and 1803. The east side of Lothbury Court must have been built in 1798, as working drawings for the door and mouldings were executed in August 1798. In January 1800 Soane reported that the offices north of the Bullion Yard were about to be pulled down (Acres). The offices were probably finished in 1802, when the Chief Cashier's Office was decorated. Construction was delayed because the Directors realized that more expansions would be necessary as the National Debt continued to increase and efforts were made to secure properties to the north-west (see phase 3). A contemporary news article reports that the Bullion Arch was incomplete in July 1803 (European Magazine), although the Coade Stone sculptures for the Arch were intalled in August 1801.

The entrance court from Lothbury, Lothbury Court, was a grandiose composition resembling an imperial Roman forum. The north side of the Court was not embellished, having been built as part of the screen wall in 1796. The west and east sides had grand Corinthian colonnades surmounted by entablatures and Coade stone urns. The centrepiece was the Bullion Arch, a triumphal arch on the south side fronted by four Corinthian columns modelled on the orders at the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli. The attic of the Bullion Arch was decorated with caryatids and statues (also in Coade stone) representing the four Continents. Between the columns were two bas-relief medallions entitled 'Night' and 'Morning', allegories of the rising and setting of the sun and moon sculpted by Thomas Banks and copied from the Arch of Constantine.

Soane skilly fully arranged the offices within the irregular plot. The axes of the existing buildings did not correspond with the angle of Lothbury Street, resulting in odd angled rooms and corridors at the junctions between old and new. To mask these irregular shapes, Soane rounded the corners of his offices. The resulting oddly shaped 'left over' spaces were used for stairs and small courts.

In 1817 Soane lectured on the ‘indiscriminate imitation or copying of Roman triumphal arches’ and, in a passage crossed out and probably never delivered, he criticised his own misuse of the motif at Lothbury because it was ‘not for heroes to pass under but for waggons loaded with gold and silver’ (SM AL Soane Case 155, Lecture 1, 1817, fols. 22-23). The triumphal arch motif was copied at Pitzhanger Manor (1800-1801), Soane's private home built from 1801.

Lothbury Court was demolished in the 1920s and 30s, for the new Bank by Sir Herbert Baker. The statues of the Continents were moved to the roof.

There is one drawing for Lothbury Court at the Victoria and Albert Museum, showing a view of the Court largely as built.

Literature. European Magazine, 1803 (part 2), p. 416; W. Marston Acres, The Bank of England from within, 1931. p.394-399; P. du Prey, Sir John Soane, 1985, in series of 'Catalogues of architectural drawings in the Victoria and Albert Museum', catalogue 164; A. Kelly, Mrs Coade's Stone, 1990, p. 86; D. Watkin, Sir John Soane: englightenment thought and the Royal Academy lectures, 1996, p. 299; D. Abramson, Money's architecture: the building of the Bank of England, 1731-1833, Doctoral thesis for the Department of Fine Arts, Harvard University, 1993. pp. 353-370; D. Abramson, Building the Bank of England, 2005.

Madeleine Helmer, 2010



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Contents of Lothbury Court and surrounding offices, 1797-1801 (109)