The history of the Bank of England

So just what is the Bank of England and what does it do?

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History of the Bank of England – The Old Lady

The Bank of England was founded in 1694 to raise funds for the government during a time of war with France. From then on the Bank became nation’s central bank!

In 1734 The Bank moved to Threadneedle Street. It’s famous nickname comes from a James Gillray cartoon published in 1797. Over two centuries later, the Bank is still known as The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street!

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Banknotes and the promise to pay

The Bank of England has been issuing banknotes for over 300 years. Banknotes were originally IOUs for gold deposited at the Bank. People used these notes to pay for things, knowing they were backed by ‘The Promise’ to pay the same value in gold.

That’s no longer possible. So what gives modern banknotes their face value, when they cost only a few pence to make? In a word, TRUST.

We trust that banknotes can be exchanged for the things we want to buy. We trust ‘The Promise’ that they will be accepted by others for their face value.

This trust gives banknotes their value!

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Banknotes and security features

There are four kinds of Bank of England note: £5, £10, £20 and £50. Each has its own design, and larger value notes are bigger in size.

Her Majesty The Queen features on the front of Bank of England notes. The reverse side has images of important British people.

There are almost three billion Bank of England notes in use.

Fake notes are very rare! They are also completely worthless. Fake notes are illegal, so it’s the Bank’s job to make life difficult for people who try to make fakes.

Genuine banknotes are very difficult to copy. They have a range of security features including holograms, watermarks, metallic threads and raised print. Bank of England notes are printed on special materials that are hard wearing with a unique feel.

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Storing gold

The Bank of England has more gold than almost anywhere else in the world, with around 400,000 gold bars stored in its vaults. It provides safe keeping for the country’s gold reserves and overseas central banks.

The average gold bar weighs 400 fine ounces. That’s around 13 kilos or 28 pounds!

When gold bars are delivered to the Bank they are weighed and checked before being taken for safe keeping in one of the Bank’s gold vaults. No gold has ever been stolen from the Bank!

Gold is stacked on pallets four high in the Bank’s vaults. A fully-loaded pallet can hold up to 80 bars and weighs one tonne!

Click here to find out more about the brand new fiver!

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> Visit the Bank of England homepage

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