The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street

Contributed by Bank of England Museum

The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street

James Gillray, Coloured etching on paper. Published 22 May 1797.

William Pitt, the Prime Minister, is picking the coin-filled pockets of an old lady, personifying the Bank, whose dress is made of £1 notes. She is sitting on a locked money chest marked Bank of England.

During the Revolutionary Wars against France the Pitt Government had made repeated demands upon the Bank for gold to pay for the war. Eventually, in February 1797, this drain on the Bank's reserves forced it to suspend payment of its notes in gold, and low denomination notes for £1 and £2 were issued for the first time.

This cartoon by Gillray was the first appearance in print - so far as is known - of the Bank's Old Lady nickname, The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street.

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