The Bank of England on Threadneedle Street, at the very heart of the City of London, has many tales associated with it.
Stories of ghosts and bodysnatchers, not to mention mysterious goings on and nefarious doings are associated with the building. I have already covered one story about a miser and his money in a previous blog.
One very intriguing story began to circulated in the newspapers in the early years of the 20th Century.
The following account of what was by then an old tradition appeared in The Banffshire Reporter on Wednesday the 10th of May 1899:-
IN THE BULLION ROOM
“The Bank of England possesses some singular traditions and experiences.
Here is an anecdote front an authentic source, although it relates to something that happened many years ago – before the lifetime of the present generation.
The directors received an anonymous letter stating that the writer had the means of access to their bullion room.
They treated the matter as a hoax, and took no notice of the letter.
ANOTHER LETTER RECEIVED
Another more urgent and specific letter failed to rouse.
At length the writer offered to meet them in the bullion room at any hour they pleased to name.
THEY WAITED IN THE VAULT
They then communicated with their correspondent through the channel he had indicated, appointing some “dark and midnight hour” for the rendezvous.
A deputation from the board, lantern in hand, repaired to the bullion room, locked themselves in and awaited the arrival of the mysterious correspondent.
THE MYSTERIOUS CORRESPONDENT APPEARS
Punctual to the hour a noise was heard below.
Some boards in the floor were without much trouble displaced, and in a few minutes the Guy Fawkes of the Bank of England stood in the midst of the astonished directors.
HE HAD FOUND AN OLD DRAIN
His story was very simple and straightforward.
An old drain ran under the bullion room, the existence of which had become known to him, and by means of which he might have carried away enormous sums.
HE WAS REWARDED
Inquiry was made.
Nothing had been abstracted, and the directors rewarded the honesty and ingenuity of their anonymous correspondent -a working man, who had been employed in repairing the sewers – by a gift of £800.”
DANGER FROM THE SEWERS
In February 1839, the Bank architect C. R. Cockerell wrote to the Building Committee to alert them that:-
“In May 1836, having had reason to apprehend danger from our sewers, it was discovered that an open and unobstructed sewer le directly from the gold vaults down to Dowgate.”
A LETTER TO THE COMMISSIONERS
Concerns had already been raised about the danger to the gold reserves from below, as, on the 21st of April 1836 the Secretary of the Bank had written to the Commissioners of Sewers asking for plans of all the sewers and drains that surrounded the Bank building, “and as far as can be within the Bank premises also.”
Evidently there was some concern that there might be other sewers and drains, other than the one revealed by the mysterious correspondent, through which ne’er do wells might gain access to the building.