Bank of England Museum review
I don't suppose many tourists bother to visit the Bank of England Museum (or even the locals) but I've always had a soft spot for this place. But not because of the money. I don't really care about the history of the bank -- I like it because there's lots of architectural history on display inside here. They have cabinets full of old photos and paintings and drawings of the city stretching back 250 years, and I'm a sucker for those old street scenes -- I like seeing how the city has changed over the centuries.
Obviously the chief focus of the museum is the Bank of England itself, and they provide a very thorough history going all the way back to the 17th-century.
They explain how paper money came into being, what stocks and shares are all about, and how the South Sea Bubble burst and bust the money men. Much of it is a lot more interesting than you'd expect, with faded old papers and cash books signed by the likes of Nelson and Marlborough. They've even got the paper accounts of Handel on show, and some old dividends signed by George Washington and his missus. They've got statues and stone busts, oil paintings of the earliest governors, and historic old charters which are practically work of arts.
The central room has got a few scantily clad stone statues of classical ladies, and a bit about how they defended the bank with muskets and guns, and locked up the boxes with chunky metal keys that probably weigh more than me. There's also a totally incongruous display case about The Wind In The Willows, because Kenneth Grahame used to work at the bank. So that's what he did all day when he was supposed to be counting out the money: daydreaming about Ratty, Mole and Toad.
Forget about doing the lottery every week. Forget about buying some Premium Bonds and going down the bingo with your gran, because in here is your chance to steal a genuine gold bar. I am standing in front of it right now, and it is gleaming at me like the polished teeth of a supermodel. They are certainly very trusting with it, considering that there are so many shifty-looking tourists around -- they even let you touch it.
The placard above the cabinet suggests that it weighs 28 pounds, which apparently is the same weight as a 2-year-old kid -- but I'm guessing that it's the kind of kid who eats chips for tea every day. There is no way that a kid weighs ten tonnes.
The final section is like a Who's Who of British coins. You can have a walk down memory lane and see the shillings and sixpences from your youth, and the guineas and groats (you'll have to be pretty old to remember those). I can just about remember the halfpennies from the 1980s, but only because that was my week's wages at Sainsburys.
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