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Who owns the Bank of England?

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    For over 250 years, the Bank of England was a private bank owned by various shareholders. We were nationalised in 1946.  Since then we have been wholly owned by the UK government.

    Who were the original owners of the Bank of England?

    The ‘Governor and Company of the Bank of England’ (better known as the Bank of England) was established by Royal Charter in 1694 to raise money to fund a war with France. Over 1,200 people purchased shares (at the time called ‘Bank stock’) totalling £1.2 million, which was the value of the government loan.

    The first shareholders came from a wide variety of backgrounds, trades and professions – carpenters and grocers, merchants, doctors, knights and royalty.

    In the video below, Mike Anson, our Archive Manager, shows the first ‘Bank stock ledger’ from 1694:

    The opening entry of £10,000 – held by King William and Queen Mary – would be equivalent to approximately £1.25 million today.

    Over the years, we raised more money to increase our capital and the number of shareholders grew. Some of the stock was held by institutions and firms, such as other banks, but the majority of shareholders continued to be private individuals.

    In many ways, we functioned like other private companies. Profits were used to pay annual dividends to our shareholders. These dividends varied year to year, depending on the level of profits.

    Those with more than £500 of Bank of England stock were entitled to vote at annual meetings. Those who served as the Governor were required to hold at least £4,000 of stock; those serving as a Director needed to have £2,000.

    When was the Bank of England nationalised?

    Although we were still privately owned, from the mid-19th  century onwards we started to behave less like other private banks and more like what today would be called a central bank. For example, we had a monopoly on the issuance of banknotes in England and Wales and took responsibility for protecting the financial system.

    We were nationalised by the government in 1946 due to our importance to the economy. Various other central banks across Europe passed from private to public ownership around this time.

    At the time of nationalisation, we had:

    Capital - Black Text on Yellow
    Shareholders - Black Text on Yellow

    Most shareholders held relatively small amounts of Bank Stock. Of the 17,000 shareholders, two thirds held less than £1,000 in their accounts. All of this stock was bought by the government, with shareholders compensated according to the size of their shares at the time of nationalisation.

    Who owns the Bank of England today?

    Today, we are wholly-owned by the UK government. The entire capital of the Bank, around £14.6 million, is held by the Treasury Solicitor on behalf of HM Treasury. A forthcoming guide will set out how we are funded. There are some misconceptions on the internet about the Bank of England today being owned by private families, the Royal Family or run as a private corporation. However, these stories are untrue.

    Crucially, though, while we are owned by HM Treasury, we carry out our responsibilities free from day-to-day political influence. The links below and our main website explain more about how we are governed.

    bankofengland

    Find out more:

    Cover image: Bank of England Archive reference AC27/382

    11 comments

    1. Ismail
      20th April 2017

      Good page

    2. Richard O
      27th April 2017

      Lets See Government owns bank. owns council pays housing benefits to most landlords just it goes round and round wired.

      How much gold is in the bank of England.

      1. Catzy
        23rd August 2017

        None

    3. s.doughty
      21st May 2017

      why are bank notes only a promise of payment?
      would that promise be honoured?
      how would it be fulfilled?
      why does it not say promise to pay on coins?

    4. Jean May
      26th June 2017

      It seems strange that the capital held by the B.O.E is still the same as in 1946. (14.6 Million) Did it not earn any interest? You state that the B.O.E is owned wholly by the Government but my question is:- Who owns the printing presses that print the money? I’m sure that these people must be friends of the ones in the U.S.A – the Federal Reserve, who print money, lend it to the people, charge exorbitant interest and all they have to do is print the notes on THEIR machinery??

    5. jmb
      30th June 2017

      The treasury solicitor? so bank is part of a corporation set up, and has own independence to make policy. Who owns the company of the treasury solicitor. I researched that the treasury solicitor is part of a private company

    6. t bone
      12th July 2017

      so we own the bank of England and loan ourselves billions of pounds and charge ourselves interest that keeps us in perpetual debt. yeah…that makes sense!

    7. madzmovies.com
      16th July 2017

      Until the mid-h century, commercial banks were allowed to issue their own banknotes, and notes issued by provincial banking companies were commonly in circulation.

    8. Marc Adam
      19th August 2017

      Cryptocurrencies are the future. Fiat money is on the way out

    9. Marc Adam
      19th August 2017

      And I wonder who “so we own the bank of England” means by we? The English government?

    10. John Doe
      27th August 2017

      When you realise what money is really opens a can of worms
      Money is backed by sweat equity that’s deposited in our own bonds, your birth certificate being your bond, you are beneficiary of your corporate bond! This can be accessed by your NI number a stamp and a payslip! This is LAW!
      You can use your treasury account to pay any debt including morgage, loans and utility bills
      I think it’s about time we let the cat out the bag!&

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