Tuesday 17 February 2015

Exploring the City: The Bank of England Museum & Guildhall

Earlier this month I took a trip to the City of London for a Nice Day Out. It was rather chilly, but lovely and sunny - perfect for a bit of winter sightseeing.

My first stop was the Bank of England, where the huge doors are covered in lots of lions!

There's not much to see when you're right up close to the Bank as the huge exterior wall looms rather large and (aside from the doors) is pretty plain in design ...


... but you can get a better, much more interesting view from over the road:


I'd come to visit the Bank of England Museum, which is free to visit (hurrah!). I have to admit that I'd expected this to be a bit boring but had thought "well, it's free, I can have a quick look round..." - in fact I ended up spending almost two hours in the museum!

As well as introductions to the role of the Bank today (with some interactive games for kids), there was lots of information about the history of the bank, the building and it's staff, with an interesting selection of artifacts on display and lots of interesting stories to discover. I especially enjoyed the virtual tour of the Bank (which is also available as a free app here), the banknote gallery and the current exhibition about the Bank and its staff in the First World War. You can also touch a real gold bar, which was pretty cool.

Next I walked a couple of minutes down the road to Guildhall Yard. This is a lovely open space, surrounded by fascinating buildings, including Guildhall itself which was build in 1411! I took a trip here early last year but decided to pay a return visit to see the newly revamped Art Gallery, and to see a couple of things I'd not had time to last year. First up, Guildhall's Great Hall:

The medieval Great Hall was the venue for lots of famous trials over the years, including that of Lady Jane Grey for High Treason in 1554. When it's not in use for a function, it's free to visit - you enter via the modern wing...


... then walk down that glass corridor and into the hall, which is just as spectacular inside as it is outside.


Next up (and just next door): Guildhall Art Gallery.


The rehang shows off their collection of Victorian paintings really well and they've got more paintings on display than before. There's also a new heritage gallery (petite but interesting) and a temporary exhibition about Tower Bridge which included some fascinating alternative designs that were proposed for the bridge. Oh and you can see the remains of London's Roman ampitheatre in the basement too! Not bad for free.

I was also delighted to spot something I missed on my first visit. Along the front of the gallery are a series of busts of famous London residents (Shakespeare, Christopher Wren, etc) then tucked into a corner there's a lovely statue of Dick Whittington and his cat!


Isn't that cat just adorable?


Finally, I visited St Lawrence Jewry which was re-built by Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London and then re-built again after the Second World War.


This was a nice little church with some lovely stained glass, including a window that features Christopher Wren himself! If you fancy a peek inside the church there's a 360 degree panorama on their website.

After looking round the church I thought about going for a walk to explore a bit more of the City but it was getting even colder. So, I retreated to the nearby Museum of London to warm up in their cafe then headed home, already making plans for my next trip...


Monica said...

I love your visits to historic sites. I hope I can visit the UK some day! Dick Whittington & his cat - nice!

Bugs and Fishes said...

Thanks Monica! I hope you'll manage to make a trip here, there is sooo much to see :)