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The Bank of England’s giant, garden… and graveyard

Chapters

    Why was there a graveyard inside the Bank of England?

    The Bank of England moved to its current site on Threadneedle Street in 1734.  We quickly outgrew our first building so to expand further we bought a church that was situated next-door.

    The church was deconsecrated and demolished, but its graveyard was left in place.  This later became the Bank’s Garden Court:

    garden_court

    The Bank’s Garden Court today

    Who was the giant buried in the graveyard at the Bank?

    The Bank of England’s “giant” was William Jenkins, an employee who worked here for nine years in the late 1700s.

    Jenkins was 6ft 7½ inches tall (202 cm) – much taller than the average man at that time, who would have been 5ft 7 inches  (170cm):

    tall-short

    Jenkins versus a man of average height of the day

    On his death in 1798, Jenkins’ friends asked permission to have his body buried in the Bank’s Garden Court.

    The Bank of England’s Directors granted the request and Jenkins was buried very early one morning, before the start of the working day.

    Why did Jenkins’ friends want to bury him in the Bank’s Garden Court?

    Jenkins was in poor health in the weeks prior to his death.

    He was concerned that because of his height, his corpse would be stolen by body snatchers following his death and sold to surgeons.

    The going rate for a skeleton of this size in 1798 was in the region of 200 guineas. Because of inflation in the period since then, that would be around £25,000 in today’s money.

    Jenkins’ friends argued that the Bank’s Garden Court would be the safest place for him given the risk of being taken by body snatchers – which was something that had made him “considerably disturbed in his mind” before his death.

    Where is the Bank’s giant now?

    The Bank was completely rebuilt in the 1920s and ‘30s, and Jenkins’s coffin was found when the Garden Court was dug up.  Along with the other coffins found, it was moved to Nunhead Cemetery near Peckham, South London.  However, Jenkins’ coffin proved to be too long to fit in the vaults there, so arrangements were made for it to be placed in the catacombs:

    15a13_1_3_2_103

    Jenkins’ Coffin (1933)
    (15A13/1/3/2/103, Bank of England Archive)

    So there are no longer any graves in or under our Garden Court today.  At least, not to our knowledge…

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    1 comment

    1. Arthur Sears
      3rd November 2016

      It it is very interesting story brought together by Halloween.

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