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1814-1816 Rebuilding of existing offices and proposals for rebuilding street fronts (118)

The Napoleonic Wars came to an end in 1815, concluding twenty-two years of almost constant war with France. The nation suffered an economic depression afterwards, which was furthered by bad harvests, unemployment, inflation and, consequently, social unrest. The Bank's profits suffered as well, with the 'volume of commercial discounts dropp[ing] precipitously, from £13 million in 1816 to £5 million in 1817' (Abramson). The Bank of England's restriction of cash payments, instituted in 1797 with the intention of a cessation at the end of the wars, was prolonged until 1819, prompting scrutiny and attack from both Parliament and the public. There was little building activity during this time, with Soane's work focusing on the east and west wings built by Robert Taylor.

In 1814, the vestibule leading from the Front Court to the Rotunda was altered. The previous vestibule, built in 1791 (see 1:5) was sealed off in its south bay, with the north portion of the room kept as a Treasury (with the lantern, richly ornamented spandrels and Ionic columns intact) and the south end of the room used for the entrance to the new passage. This passage led more directly from the Court to the Rotunda, entering the banking hall at its south-west alcove.

Also in 1814, Soane reported the poor condition of the screen walls and made proposals for rebuilding those walls built by Robert Taylor (1764-88) around the east and west wings and fronting Threadneedle Street, Princes Street and Bartholomew Lane. The Bank's directors appointed a firm of surveyors to confirm Soane's report but they did not take further action. Soane eventually rebuilt the walls in 1823-28 (see scheme 5:2).

In the south-west wing, built by Taylor during the 1780s, Soane expanded the Reduced Annuities Office to the north, retaining the wide glazed lantern that was part of Taylor's original room. Just to the north of the office, an upper storey was built with access via a stair in the director's parlours.

Literature:
D. Abramson, Building the Bank of England: money, architecture, society 1694-1942, 2005, p. 177.

Madeleine Helmer, 2011

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