Lions, mulberries and oak leaves: plants and animals at the Bank of England


    If you look closely you can find various plants, animals and mythical creatures around the Bank of England. Together they tell a story about our history, purpose and values.

    Why do lions guard the Bank of England’s entrance?

    Lions are a symbol of strength, and they are sometimes used in architecture to ward off evil intent.

    One of the first sights to greet visitors to the Bank of England is the lions sculpted on the large bronze doors. They are accompanied by stone lions on the outside of the building. Inside, lions decorate the walls, light fixtures and even the covers of electrical circuit boxes.

    Lion head door knocker

    Lion head door knocker on the entrance doors at Threadneedle Street.

    What other plant and animal symbolism can be found in the Bank of England?

    The Bank of England was rebuilt between 1925 and 1939 in a classical style, rich in symbolism. Besides lions, some gentler animal and plant designs were used to convey other attributes.

    The Court Room, for example, has owls above the doorways to signify wisdom and soundness. The borders of our entrance lobby’s mosaic floor feature laurel, olive and oak leaves. These are ancient symbols of peace, wisdom and solidity, respectively.

    The gallery below lets you take a closer look at some of these characters.

    Plant and animal symbolism found in the Bank of England

    What’s special about mulberry trees?

    The Bank of England’s Garden Court is a green space for real wildlife.

    The site used to be a graveyard. More recently, it has provided a home for nesting pairs of black redstarts – a rare, protected bird species. There are fewer nesting pairs of black redstarts than golden eagles in the UK.

    Four mulberry trees grow in this courtyard. They are a reminder of the origins of paper money: the earliest form of paper currency in seventh-century China was printed on paper made of beaten mulberry bark. The planting is practical as well as symbolic: the roots of mulberry trees grow horizontally rather than vertically into the ground, allowing them to grow safely above the Bank’s gold vaults.

    Black Redstart

    1 comment

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