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Front Court and Pay Hall, 1799-1801 and 1806-1810 (24)

The Pay Hall, Front Court and entrance building were part of the original Bank, built by George Sampson in the 1730s. The Pay Hall, just north of the Front Court, always served as the Bank's central public banking hall. It remained largely unchanged during both Taylor and Soane's surveyorships. Soane's proposals were often met with an unusual reluctance as the Directors conservatively chose to preserve the Bank's symbolic centre.

Soane proposed to alter the Front Court in January 1801 and then later again in January 1807. The latter was a less intrusive design but was also turned down. His 1801 design was a vestibule with some seating around the edges, allowing the public to congregate before entering the various parts of the Bank. In 1807 he proposed a simple corridor passing through the Front Court, combined with drastic alterations to the Bank's Rotunda, south transfer office and Rotunda vestibule. In 1806 the vaults beneath the Bank were altered as the Bullion Office was rebuilt (see Bullion Office scheme 3:12).

Soane managed the layout of the busy Pay Hall. In 1806 the offices directly north were partly integrated with the Pay Hall to provide more public banking space. In 1810, 1829 and 1831 Soane arranged and rearranged the Pay Hall desks, providing separate areas for the tellers, public drawing office clerks, bill office clerks, as well as the space for the necessary ledgers. An inspector and cashier took a prominent surveillance position in the centre of the Hall. In 1831 a gallery floor was built over half the Pay Hall, further extending the working space. The Pay Hall was in many ways the symbolic centre of the Bank. A German tourist recounted his visit there in 1853: '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 importance whatever; they are simple mortals, and do their business and serve their customers as if they were mere shopboys in a grocery shop. [...] 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.'(Schlessinger)

Madeleine Helmer, 2011

Literature: M. Schlessinger, Saunterings in and about London, London, 1853, p. 218.
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