A Fine Low-Relief Roundel From The Bank Of England
The present roundel, circa 1930, symbolic of the Bank of England, was formerly located above the main entrance to the Soane Hall, Bank of England, Threadneedle Street, London (figure 1) installed during its renovation and remodeling in the by the eminent British architect Sir Herbert Baker (1862-1946).
Baker had studied architecture in London before embarking on a journey to South Africa in 1892, where he was so taken with the city that he decided to establish an architectural practice there. In 1893 he was commissioned to refurbish Groote Schuur, the estate of businessman and diamond magnate Cecil Rhodes, which today serves as the residence of the South African president. Other important projects in South Africa include St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town (1901) and, most notably, the Union Buildings of Pretoria (1910).
In 1912 Baker departed South Africa for India, where he worked with Sir Edwin Lutyens in planning the capital city of New Delhi. He was responsible for designing the Secretariat Building and the Parliament House (1912 onward). In 1913 he began a practice back in London with the architect Alexander Scott, and was given the Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1927.
In the 1930’s, the Bank of England’s headquarters were renovated by Baker, who controversially demolished much of the building’s original 18th century interiors designed by Sir John Soane. “Everywhere the building was lavishly embellished with allegorical sculptures, marble mosaics of historic coins, Greek inscriptions and wall paintings depicting contemporary bank staff at work,” in collaboration with sculptor Charles Wheeler and artist D. Y. Cameron.
One of the principal rooms of the rebuilt bank was the Soane Hall, a double-volume banking hall based on the design style of Sir John Soane. The hall was accessed through double doors from the main lobby, above which was hung the present plaque. It depicts two lions flanking a pillar which rises from a pile of coins. A similar design is repeated on the left hand overdoor to the entrance of the bank.
The Soane Hall interior was demolished in 1986 to make way for the Bank of England Museum at which time the roundel was rescued by the museum designers for display in their London offices.