Picture the City: St James's Park

Why was the Bank of England founded?

By Bank of England Museum

Whitehall and St James's Park (17th century) by Thomas WyckBank of England Museum

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Whitehall Palace

Whitehall Palace was the centre of royal power for 168 years. It was also the official home of the Government. 

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In the late 1600s, the Government urgently needed to raise money to fund what would later be known as the Nine Years’ War (1689 to 1697). 

After discussions between William III, the government, noblemen and merchants, it was suggested the money should come from the public.

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This led to the founding of the Bank of England in 1694

£1.2 million was raised when members of the public signed up as shareholders. That’s £230 million in today’s money. They received benefits for contributing to the Bank, including 8% interest on their stocks!

Tally Stick (1694)Bank of England Museum

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Tally Stick

This tally stick was worth £25,000, nearly £5 million today. It represents part of the original loan from the Bank of England to the Government in 1694. Tallies were a record of a debt: the notches in the stick represent the value of the loan.

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How do you keep track of your spending?

Whitehall and St James's Park (17th century) by Thomas WyckBank of England Museum

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Horse Guards

Since 1660, a Guard House and a Royal Guard have been here. It was originally built for the Palace of Whitehall, but today it is better known as the ceremonial entrance for St James’s and Buckingham Palace. 

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It also serves as the headquarters of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment. 

The Horse Guards building you can see in London today was built in 1753. The original burnt down with the rest of the Palace of Whitehall in 1698, when a servant aired linen too close to a fire.

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Banqueting House

Banqueting House is the only part of the Palace of Whitehall which survived the 1698 fire. It was built by Inigo Jones and was completed in 1622. The exterior had alternating honey-coloured and pinkish-brown stone, with decorative features picked out in white Portland stone.

St James's Park (2020) by Justin PipergerBank of England Museum

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Today the Government sets the Bank of England’s responsibilities. For example, to maintain monetary and financial stability and to regulate some financial institutions, such as banks. 

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But the Bank has operational independence from the Government, which means it can decide how best to achieve these aims, such as by moving interest rates up or down.

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Horse Guards Parade

The Horse Guards Parade is a ceremonial parade ground used for royal parades and ceremonies. The Changing of the Guard takes place here every day, and each year the Trooping of the Colour is performed to celebrate the Queen’s ceremonial birthday.

Whitehall and St James's Park (17th century) by Thomas WyckBank of England Museum

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With all that travelling around London you’ve done so far, you deserve a break! Luckily you’re near St James’s Park. 

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People visit partly for leisure but also because it’s popular with members of the royal court who attend the King. It’s the perfect place for spotting wealthy courtiers wearing the extravagant fashions of the day.

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Now you’ve paid a visit to one of London’s Royal Parks, you decide to venture a bit further afield for more fresh air  to Hampstead Heath.

Credits: Story

Picture the City is an exhibition produced by the Bank of England Museum.
St James's Park is stop 6 of 8 in this digital exhibition. The next stop is Hampstead Heath. To go to the start of the exhibition, click here.

All images © Bank of England Museum except where stated.
Explore more and discover the sites in real life on our website!

With thanks to: Thomas.Matthews.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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