The Bank of England, formally the Governor and Company of the Bank of England, is the central bank of the United Kingdom and the model on which most modern central banks have been based. Established in 1694, it is the second oldest central bank in the world, after the Sveriges Riksbank, and the world's 8th oldest bank. It was established to act as the English Government's banker, and is still the banker for the Government of the United Kingdom. The Bank was privately owned by stockholders from its foundation in 1694 until nationalised in 1946
The Bank vault is custodian to the official gold reserves of the United Kingdom and many other countries. The vault, beneath the City of London, covers a floor space greater than that of the third-tallest building in the City, Tower 42, and needs keys that are three feet long to open.
The Bank is the 15th-largest custodian of gold reserves, holding around 4600 tonnes. These gold deposits were estimated to have a current market value of £156,000,000,000
A valuable metal, gold is what traders invest in to shore-up their money when markets are volatile as its price tends to remain steady – mostly because it is one of the lowest risk assets available. It is also traded, providing a means to exchange funds in a hard and universal currency.
Despite the fact that the UK owns less gold than some other countries (for example, Switzerland) the London market is disproportionately important compared to the amount of gold owned. One reason is because of something called the London Good Delivery. This is a benchmark standard for large gold (or silver) bars and ensures little or no variation between one bar and the next — allowing easy trading and market liquidity.
But when you buy or sell gold, you don't necessarily have to lug a wheelbarrow full of bullion around. In fact, for many transactions, the gold doesn't even move from the shelf. Each bar has a unique serial number etched on it. In most cases, when you buy or sell gold you are transferring the registration of that bar, rather than the metal itself.
In all, some £73 billion of gold is stored in concrete-lined vaults beneath the busy streets of central London. It never oxidises or tarnishes (so it doesn't need to be covered), although it does need the odd dust - by a cleaner who has been carefully vetted, no doubt.
The vaults are huge and include three disused wells. In fact, the floorspace is actually larger than that of the City's tallest building, Tower 42. Keys three-feet long are needed to open the gigantic vault doors.
They look ceremonial, like something used for a state occasion, but these keys are in fact entirely functional.
As they are inserted into the locks, the person attempting entry also has to speak a password into a microphone before the vaults are opened.
The Bank is, understandably, rather secretive about the precise details of the vaults. But the walls must be literally bombproof as they were used by bank staff as air raid shelters during World War II. The posters on the wall, depicting sunny climes, luxury cruises and happier times, have been preserved from that era.
As the world loses its faith in most investments, gold provides a primel sense of security.
The vault walls are bombproof and so sturdy that bank staff used them for protection during WWII air raids. And when the vault doors do need to be opened, they can only be accessed by an elaborate system consisting of voice recognition, 3 foot keys and other unpublished security measures.