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Façades proposals, 1814-1816 (14)

In December 1814, Soane urged the Building Committee to rebuild Robert Taylor's screen walls. His letter to them stated that 'having carefully watched the progress of the dilapidated state of parts of the outside of the Bank buildings [...] and having repaired the said parts of the Bank buildings from time to time, to the best of my abilities in a temporary manner, [I] must now bring the attention of the Committee to the subject' (Committee of Building minutes, December 1814, Bank of England Archives M5/262-6). He reported the poor condition of Taylor's eastern screen wall, which reached from the entrance building to the middle of the Bartholomew Lane façade. This wall had been constructed in 1765 (by Taylor) to enclose his extension of public banking halls (consisting of the Rotunda and four transfer halls). The screen wall to the west of the Entrance Building was not in such a bad state, having been constructed by Taylor in the 1780s. Soane proposed rebuilding the south-east corner on its old foundations, 'which spread sufficiently to receive an additional thickness of superstructure more correspondent with the original center building' (Committee of Building minutes, op cit). As for the west side, Soane stated that it would be necessary to take down and rebuild the entire balustrade and entablature over the columns. Accompanying his proposals, Soane presented some drawings to the Committee.

Upon hearing Soane's proposals, and probably to verify his claims, the Committee resolved to call in an independent firm of surveyors, by the name of Alexander and Sanders. The surveyors examined the condition of the east, south and west fronts and reported that, generally, the façade was in a poor state but did not demand a complete reconstruction. The ornament needed replacement, the balustrades and cornices were mostly decayed, but the columns and stone work were in a good state and no failures were found in the foundation. The surveyors' main concern was the wall thickness within the external recesses between the columns. Those niches in Robert Taylor's façades were found to be only 5 to 8 inches thick, 'insufficient, to our opinion, for the security of such a fabric' (Committee minutes, op. cit.).

On 8 March 1815, the Building Committee did not reach a conclusion: 'on account of the purpose of other business, the consideration of the Report [...] was postponed'. Although the Committee lost interest, Soane continued to work on designs for the new walls, as designs dated 1816 exist. Soane reported on the exterior again in May 1823, finally receiving the Bank's approval.

Madeleine Helmer, 2011