Planned economy versus free market?  I’m not going to start that discussion in today’s polarised atmosphere.  But the Bank of England has always been a strange beast, a hybrid: part national institution, part private enterprise.

It was set up in 1694 by a grouping of wealthy merchants, somewhat “nouveau riche”, Whigs & Huguenots.  The first bank in England to operate on a Joint Stock basis, accountable to a board, scrupulously recording minutes of its operations, but secretive also, maintaining the highest standards of discretion and confidentiality.

For 40 years, it operated rather humbly, from rented premises.  The Grocer’s Hall was on of the major liveried companies in the City of London, a symbol of respectability and a link to past traditions.  Their core business was raising capital for the government: War Loans essentially.  And the were very successful.  Private money was perfectly willing to subsidise king and country based on the Bank’s guarantee of fixed returns.

So growing…

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