August 22, 2019
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"The Old Lady" celebrates 325 years on Threadneedle Street

 An image provided by the Bank of England shows a hand-scale from 1749. EFE/Bank of England

An image provided by the Bank of England shows a hand-scale from 1749. EFE/Bank of England

By Judith Mora

London, Jul 17 (efe-epa).- The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street, perhaps more commonly known simply as the Bank of England, will at the end of the month celebrate its 325th anniversary in its current location, a period in which it has bankrolled wars, propped up governments and regulated the UK's financial system.

To mark the occasion, the BoE's museum has brought together 325 items for a curated trip down memory lane for a building that has become a quintessential part of London's urban landscape, immortalized in films like "Mary Poppins" and, more recently, in English rapper Stormzy's music video for his hit "Vossi Bop."

"325 years, 325 objects" previewed for the press on Wednesday and will open its doors to the general public with free admissions from July 22 - May 15, 2020.

Its current building was designed by architect Sir Herbert Baker, who destroyed and rebuilt on the site where his predecessor, Sir John Soane, had designed the original headquarters when it relocated to Threadneedle Street in 1734.

Originally founded as a private entity to finance England's war with France, the Bank of England was nationalized between 1946-98, when it became an independent public entity under the then-Labour government.

The history of the BoE is on display at the bank's permanent exhibition but the temporary offering "325 years, 325 objects" looks at its working life and social history, curator Miranda Garrett said.

"We’re making a real effort to try and collect objects that represent stories today as well as looking back, representing stories of diversity," she added.

Some of the articles on display at the exhibition relate to the bank's first involvement in London Pride back in 2015, its efforts to push for scholarships and to be more inclusive in its hiring process.

Also on display at the exhibit is the satirical cartoon that gave the BoE its nickname. Created by James Gillray in 1797 in protest of the introduction of paper bills, it shows the then prime minister, William Pitt the Younger, trying to take money from an older woman sat on the bank's coffers.

"This is a stereotype that wouldn't happen today," Garrett said with a chuckle. She added that the event tried to highlight the role of women in the bank's history, such as by showing one of the first banknotes, which was signed and released by a female cashier, Elizabeth Head, back in 1702.

Other highlights include counterfeit money, gold coins, a calculator from the Cold War and Roman artifacts.

The bank was first founded in 1964 in Walbrook, the City of London. It later transpired the site was located on top of a ruined Roman temple.

Visitors also have the chance to touch a gold ingot, which foreign nations keep in reserves in the BoE's chamber.

Another interesting detail is a letter from former Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling urging the bank to take on quantitative easing following the 2008 global financial crisis.

The BoE's decisions are perhaps more important than ever now, too, as the United Kingdom faces its imminent withdrawal from the European Union. EFE-EPA


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