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1791-1801 Rebuilding of offices in the east wing and north-east extension (430)

In the 1790s, Soane reconstructed part of Robert Taylor’s east wing and built an entirely new extension in the north-east.

Acquiring the properties to the north-east was primarily a security precaution that was expanded to cover the entire block and thereby isolate the Bank from fires or riots. But as the National Debt increased during wartime, so did the Bank’s business and the need for more space. Between 1792 and 1797, the Bank’s staff of 300 more than doubled (Darley). Larger expansion would occur at the turn of the century but the north-east extension met the need for larger and improved offices (1797-1801): a larger new Consols Transfer Office, new offices and strong rooms for the Secretary and Accountant, a Cashier’s Office and an Interior Office. Residences for the Accountant and Deputy Accountant were built within the walls (1796-97) and the old library was slightly altered and moved to accomodate the new offices (1797-99). A colonnaded central courtyard (Lothbury Court) was sited just inside the Lothbury Street gate, with an impressive triumphal arch (Bullion Arch) leading to a barrel-vaulted passage opening onto the Bullion Court.

As well as the purchasing of property and construction in the north-east, Soane replaced part of Robert Taylor's east wing. Soane found Taylor’s buildings in a poor state, as water had percolated through the timber roofs. The Bank Stock Office was the first to be rebuilt, followed by a similar building in the Four Per Cent Office (1793-97) and the speedy reconstruction of the Rotunda (1794-95). Soane built the new halls of fire-proof, durable materials. He made use of an ancient method of hollow cones for the construction of vaults and domes. The walls of the Rotunda were reinforced with a stone casing. Working upon the foundations of the old buildings, Soane was able to exercise a unique and identifiable architectural style.

Literature: A. T. Bolton, The Works of Sir John Soane, 1924, pp. 28-68; H. Rooksby Steele and F.R. Yerbury, The Old Bank of England, London, 1930, pp. 13-19; W. Marston Acres, The Bank of England from within, 1931, pp. 394-396; 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. 354-370; G. Darley, John Soane: an accidental romantic, 1999, p. 135.

Madeleine Helmer, 2010

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