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Accountants Office, 1803 - 1804 (53)

The Accountants Office was used for the processing of low-denomination bank notes. It was the largest space in the new north-west wing, measuring 96 by 40 feet. Just as in the Accountants Office built by George Sampson (1731-34), the room was a long open space oriented east-west to maximize the indirect northern light best for clerical work. The new office was much larger, with enough space for more than fifty clerks. The clerks worked at rows of desks signing bank notes and making entries in ledgers. An alcove on the west end was occupied by the Chief Clerk, allowing him to supervise the workers from behind. The Bank Bill books record the east end of the Accountants Office constructed in Autumn 1804; it was occupied in 1805.

The Accountants Office (later the £5 Note Office) was located between the Waiting Room Court and the Printing Office Court. Each side of the room consisted of seven bays of tall semicircular-headed windows spaced between raised Ionic half-columns. The southern range of windows overlooked the loggia beside the Waiting Room Court. Both ends of the room were decorated with a portico-like feature, consisting of twin Ionic half-columns between Ionic pilasters. A segmental coffered ceiling was suspended from the roof by queen-post roof trusses.

The Accountants Office was fitted up in June 1806. It was later known as the £5 Note Office, and finally the Public Drawing Office. Vaults below the Accountants Office were used as a library for the storage of old bank notes. The bank notes were value-less but were kept incase they should be used as evidence for a forgery. The notes were kept for ten years and then destroyed (Francis).

A drawing for the Accountants Office is among a collection of Soane's drawings at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The drawing is an interior view of the office and is dated 13 August 1803 on its verso.

Literature: J. Francis, History of the Bank of England: its times and traditions, vol. 2, 1847, p. 230H. Rooksby Steele and F.R. Yerbury, The Old Bank of England, London, 1930, pp. 20-23; P. du Prey, Sir John Soane, 1985, in series of 'Catalogues of architectural drawings in the Victoria and Albert Museum', catalogue 171; D. Abramson, Building the Bank of England, 2005, pp. 166-7.

Madeleine Helmer, 2011
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