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Photos from the Bank of England's vaults

Bank of England Dealing Room, 1965 Image copyright Bank of England Archive

From an extraordinary expansion, to the preparations for World War Two gas attacks, a new exhibition offers a fascinating look back at life at the Bank of England.

Capturing the City - at the Bank of England Museum - takes a dip into the 40,000 photographs amassed by the bank since the 1840s.

Gas decontamination unit in the vaults of the Bank of England during WW2 Image copyright Bank of England Archive

"The archives feature things you might not expect to see," says museum curator Anna Spender. "They are atmospheric, rich in their diversity, and largely unseen by the public until now."

Bank of England messengers - St Christopher's Sports Club - winners of Forbank's Tug of War Cup 1921 Image copyright Bank of England Archive

From the tug of war champions of the 1920s - to a bullion vault used as the staff canteen during WW2 - the exhibition covers all aspects of life at the bank.

Bullion vault in use as staff canteen at the Bank of England, during WW2 Image copyright Bank of England Archive
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The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street
THE OLD LADY OF THREADNEEDLE STREET
Bank of England and the Royal Exchange, London, 1912 Image copyright Bank of England Archive

The bank - nicknamed the Old Lady - has been on its current site in the City of London since 1734.

In the late 18th Century the bank's architect, Sir John Soane, extended the building - constructing the austere curtain wall which is still there today.

The 1912 view above looks east up Threadneedle Street with the bank on the left - while the one below from the 1890s was taken only a few steps away, but instead looks north along Princes Street.

Princes Street, London - with Bank of England on the right, 1890s Image copyright Bank of England Archive

By the early 20th Century, the bank needed to extend again.

Architect Herbert Baker was tasked with updating the "Old Bank" - seen here in 1922 - and increasing the floor space significantly.

The old Bank of England in 1922 Image copyright Bank of England Archive

Between 1925 and 1939, much of what had stood on the 3.25 acre site behind Soane's exterior wall was demolished.

A dozen caryatids - sculpted female figures which had helped support one of the building's domed roofs - were carefully lowered.

Bank of England rebuilding, 1920s/30s - Caryatid being lowered from Consols Office lantern/demolition of north east corner Image copyright Bank of England Archive

This next image shows one of the original domes being demolished - and the apparent absence of health and safety regulations.

Demolition of the "old bank", Bank of England, London, 1920s/30s Image copyright Bank of England Archive

Baker's design saw new floors created - and by 1939 there were 10. Three were below ground, and seven above.

Bank of England rebuilding, 1934 Image copyright Bank of England Archive
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Aerial view of the Bank of England during rebuilding, 1930s Image copyright Bank of England Archive
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The bank at war
THE BANK AT WAR
Bomb damage outside the Bank of England, January 1941 Image copyright Bank of England Archive

In January 1941 - at the height of the Blitz in London - 111 people were killed in the bomb blast that made this giant crater outside the Bank of England.

The bomb struck the ticket hall of London Underground's Bank Station.

Women fire guards practising at the Bank of England, 1942 Image copyright Bank of England Archive

Bank staff had to be prepared.

Many female employees signed up to be volunteer fire guards - while the Auxiliary Fire Brigade used the roof for hose drills.

Auxiliary Fire Brigade hose drill on the roof of the Bank of England, WW2 Image copyright Bank of England Archive

In the sub-vault a temporary hospital was set up - in collaboration with nearby St Bartholomew's Hospital.

Hospital in vaults of the Bank of England during WW2 Image copyright Bank of England Archive

But many staff members were also evacuated to the country for the entire duration of WW2.

A plan - codenamed "Zero" - saw the bank take over a country mansion at Hurstbourne Priors, near Whitchurch in Hampshire.

Bank of England staff at Foxdown Camp, Hampshire, 1942 Image copyright Bank of England Archive

Some women were billeted to the mansion house, while others stayed in temporary camps - like the one above, at Foxdown.

The men stayed in basic dormitories.

Men's sleeping hut at Hurstbourne Camp, Hampshire, during the Bank of England WW2 evacuation Image copyright Bank of England Archive

That part of Hampshire was chosen as a base because it was close to the village of Overton - where banknote paper was produced by Portals Ltd.

Typing office during the Bank of England's evacuation to Hampshire during WW2 Image copyright Bank of England Archive

They may not have had the comforts of home, but museum curator Anna Spender says many staff embraced country life.

Allotments were made available to grow vegetables - and chickens and bees were kept.

At harvest time, they queued to buy surplus fruit.

Bank of England staff buying fruit at Hurstbourne Camp, Hampshire, 1942 Image copyright Bank of England Archive

Some would also help local farmers in the fields.

Bank of England staff harvesting near Whitchurch, Hampshire, during WW2 evacuation Image copyright Bank of England Archive

And back in London at the end of the war, the roof of Threadneedle St was a great place to watch the VE Day celebrations outside Mansion House,

VE Day celebrations seen from the Bank of England, 1945 Image copyright Bank of England Archive
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Faces from the vaults
FACES FROM THE VAULTS
Consols Office at the Bank of England, 1894 Image copyright Bank of England Archive

The snapshot above - taken in the middle of a business day in 1894 - shows staff and customers in the Consols Office at Threadneedle Street.

While below, during World War One, there were royal visitors.

King George V and Queen Mary witnessed the printing of the first nomination war bond.

King George V and Queen Mary printing the first nomination war bond at the Bank of England, 1917 Image copyright Bank of England Archive

"Our photo archive has records from almost every area of the bank," says Spender.

"From sports teams to gatekeepers on the door."

These men made up the 1906-07 swimming team at the bank's Liverpool office.

Bank of England Liverpool Swimming Team, 1906-1907 Image copyright Bank of England Archive

The man in the suit on the left of the next photo - sitting among members of the 1923-24 1st XI football team - is Montagu Norman, the bank's longest-serving governor from 1920-44.

Bank of England Association Football Club 1st XI, 1923-24 Image copyright Bank of England Archive

On the left below is believed to be the earliest photo in the bank's collection.

It is a salt paper print - where paper has been soaked in a salt solution - of William Cotton, governor for three years from 1842.

Another governor from the 1870s - George Lyall - is on the right.

"His portrait, his eyes in particular, has likely been retouched," says Spender. "It was common with photos printed from glass negatives, which were susceptible to dust and marks."

Bank of England governrs - salt paper print of William Cotton, 1842-1845 - print of George Lyall, 1871-1873 Image copyright Bank of England Archive

Next - an image from 1903 showing the Court of Directors, a committee which sets the bank's strategy and budget, and takes key decisions on resourcing and appointments.

Bank of England Court of Directors, 1903 Image copyright Bank of England Archive

Same room, but fewer beards and moustaches, for the Court of Directors in 1983.

Bank of England Court of Directors, 1983 Image copyright Bank of England Archive

The bank's gatekeepers look after the main building at Threadneedle St - on duty during business hours each day.

Since the 18th Century they have worn a uniform known as "pinks" - the livery worn by the servants of the bank's first governor - Sir John Houblon.

Back in 1892, when the image on the right was taken, the head gatekeeper wore longer scarlet robes, and a bicorn hat made of beaver fur.

Bank of England gatekeepers (present day and 1892) Image copyright Bank of England Archive

To end, three images which reveal 50 years of technological change in the bank's Dealing Room.

Firstly, returning to our top image from 1965 - next, the early 1990s - and then finally, present day.

Bank of England Dealing Room, 1965 Image copyright Bank of England Archive
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Bank of England Dealing Room, 1990s Image copyright Bank of England Archive
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Bank of England Dealing Room Image copyright Bank of England Archive

All images subject to copyright.