U.S. Taxes and the Bank of England

I’m thinking about money today, because I’m getting ready to file my income tax return for 2018 (the deadline for filing is tomorrow here in the U.S.).

The Bank of England on Threadneedle Street, London. A 1788 engraving by Daniel Havell.

As I bid farewell to an admittedly small amount of money that I have to pay with my return, I was reminded (by my “On This Date” calendar) that today is the birthday of Charles Montague, first Earl of Halifax and founder of the Bank of England. He was born on this day in 1661.

The Bank of England rotunda, when it was used as a stock exchange; from a 1792 etching by Thomas Rowlandson.

My small neighborhood bank (which temporarily holds the money I’ll be paying to the IRS) is all steel and glass. It simply doesn’t have the imposing presence the Bank of England had in Regency London.

Lothbury Court, one of the Bank of England’s interior courtyards, 1801.

The images in this post show how the Bank appeared in Jane Austen’s time, although Jane was never a customer of the Bank of England. Instead, she deposited her hard-earned money at Hoare’s Bank in Fleet Street.

The rear facade of the Bank of England, known as Tivoli Corner. In 1807 the wall niches contained figurative statues.

Whenever I decide to visit my money in person, I go to my local branch, where the first thing I see on entering is wide open area, containing neat rows of desks and a line of teller windows. By contrast, here’s the Bank of England’s Doric Vestibule, as it appeared in 1803.

Interior of the Doric Vestibule, 1803.

My poor little neighborhood bank simply cannot compete with the Bank of England. The Bank’s magnificent exterior, the Great Hall, the vast Rotunda—they were all designed by architect John Sloan to portray wealth and elegance. It was an imposing building, meant to inspire trust and awe.

The Northwest corner of the Bank of England, as it appeared in 1808.

I think Mr. Sloan accomplished his purpose. Here’s a bird’s-eye-view drawing of the Bank of England after it underwent an expansion in 1810, under Mr. Sloan’s direction. After the expansion, the Bank of England covered over three acres of prime London real estate. In the drawing you can see the various courts and interior buildings contained within the Bank’s impressive outer walls.

A bird’s-eye-view drawing, showing the interior courtyards and buildings after the 1810 expansion.

It would be a treat to tour the Bank of England as John Sloan designed it. Unfortunately, the magnificent Bank of England was remodeled in 1933 by architect Sir Herbert Baker. In the remodel process, much of the original building was demolished, which, according to architectural writer Nikolaus Pevsner, was “the greatest architectural crime in the City of London, of the twentieth century.”

Despite that, I’d still like to see the Bank of England, and I hope to do so one day. Whatever it looks like now, I have a feeling its design is more inspiring than the dreary but efficient steel and glass  design of my little neighborhood bank.

My Garage Sale Find

It’s true what they say about one man’s trash.

I should know. I’ve found a few treasures of my own while browsing through jumbles of used items other people have for sale. I never know what I’m going to find in a booth at my local swap meet or on a table of items at a neighborhood garage sale.

box-pimpernel-place-mats

Just last week I found a set of Pimpernel British Heritage place mats at a garage sale. Each cork-backed mat in the set of six measures about 8″ x 8-1/2″ in size; and though the original box is a little beat up, the place mats themselves are in great condition.

westminster-abbey

But I didn’t spend $2 of my hard-earned money to take them home and put hot plates on them; I bought them solely because of the images they depict of old London landmarks. And when I scanned each image and cropped off the red and gold borders on my digital copies, they were nice images, indeed.

westminster-abbey-cropped

Unfortunately, there’s nothing on the box to indicate where the original images came from.

st-pauls-cropped

Nor do they name an artist (although the box did assure me these mats would add “interest and elegance” to my table).

st-james-palace-cropped

So I turned to Google Image Search and found a couple of matches, but I couldn’t be certain how reliable the background info was that I found.

ludgate-hill-cropped

The above image of Ludgate Hill viewed from Fleet Street returned several matches, one of which indicated the original was by Jones & Co. from 1830.

Detail of the Ludgate Hill mat

Detail of the Ludgate Hill mat

Based on the style of dress of the people depicted in each scene, I’d agree the setting for each image is about 1830.

The other nice thing about these illustrations is the amount of detail they contain. Take the Ludgate Hill image, for instance. In the shadowed corner of the building on the far right of the illustration you can see the marker for Fleet Street.

And on the face of the four-story white building you can just make out the name “Albion Fire and Life,” an insurance company founded in 1805.

piccadilly-cropped

The illustration of the intersection of Piccadilly and Coventry has similar details, from the business names on the buildings to the style of coach and dress at the time:

piccadilly-detail

The other thing I like is the scale each image provides, showing the monumental size of the buildings and landmarks.

horse-guards-cropped

So these place mats, once planned for a purely utilitarian purpose, will now be added to my collection of items related to the Regency era.  The next time I’m writing about the era and find myself stumped describing a London landmark, I’ll have these images to refer to. All in all, I think this set is one of my better $2 investments.