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Discount Office and Long Passage, 1805-1806 (31)

The Discount Office and Long Passage were located just west of the Bullion Court and north of the Lobby to the directors' parlours. The Long Passage provided easy communication between the front of the Bank and the offices in the new north-west extension. The Discount Office was located adjacent to the corridor and with a lobby for visitors. Designs for the Discount Office's plan were presented in October 1805. On the 6th of February in the following year, Soane's presentation drawings for the Discount Office's interior were approved, and it was decided that the room over the Discount Office should be for the Bank's Inspector. Construction of the buildings was completed in June 1806 (Acres, p. 399).

The Discount Office was built because the Bank's discounting business was increasing and it had outgrown its location in the Pay Hall. A discount is an allowance paid on account of the immediate advance of a sum of money not due until some future period. The clerks at the Discount Office calculated the simple interest for the time the bill had to run, called the discount, and subtracted the amount from the amount paid to the presenter of the bill.

The initial design for the Discount Office was a square room with an aisle. Ground floor plans show that an office with a similar layout was built by Soane in 1793 (see SM 9/3/3) but was demolished for the north-west expansion, suggesting that Soane modelled this new Office on a previous (possibly Discount) office. This simple design was approved by the Directors in October 1805 but Soane continued altering the design to fit a cruciform plan, with two barrel-vaulted end bays. The entrance aisle, however, was retained, as it was the area for the public to pass through. A lobby was located to the north of the Office, apparently modelled on 'a portion of the remains of [H]Adrian's Villa'(Britton), with two pairs of Ionic columns at both ends of a top-lit centre bay, forming two screens of columns through which the visitor passed.

The west side of the Bullion Court was demolished to build a wider north-south corridor, called the Long Passage. The passage appears to have consisted of a succession of semicircular-headed arches. Three windows on the east side overlooked the Bullion Court. It ran north to the Secretary’s Office and turned west towards the Accountant’s Office. The Long Passage was completed in June 1806.

See SM 9/2/7, drawing 18 in 3:9, for a general plan of the Bank that shows the Discount Office, Long Passage, and adjacent offices as built in 1808. See SM 9/4/37, drawing 11 in 3:9, for a preliminary design of the Discount Office and Long Passage. Soane presented a proposal for various alterations to the bank in December 1805, including the design for the Long Passge and Discount Office (see SM 9/4/32, drawing 6 in 3:1).

Literature: J. Britton, The Beauties of England and Wales: or, Delineations, topographical, historical, and descriptive, of each county, Volume X, Part 1, 1814, p. 565; J.R. McCulloch, A Dictionary, practical, theoretical, and historical, of commerce and commercial navigation, London, 1850, p. 489; W. Marston Acres, The Bank of England from within, Oxford, 1931, pp. 399-401.

Madeleine Helmer, 2011
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