Who is the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street?
The Bank of England is over 300 years old. And for nearly all of that time, it has been located on Threadneedle Street in the heart of the City of London.
It has had the nickname ‘The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street’ – or simply ‘The Old Lady’.
To find out why, we need to turn the clock back a little over 200 years…
How did the Bank of England get its nickname?
Our nickname dates back to a cartoon published in 1797 by James Gillray:
Wooing the ‘Old Lady’
The cartoon shows the Prime Minister of the day, William Pitt the Younger. He appears to be wooing an old lady – who represents the Bank of England. But his true intention is to get his hands on the Bank of England’s gold reserves: the gold coins in her pocket and the money-chest on which she is firmly seated.
You can see in the image:
- The Old Lady dressed in a gown made of the new £1 and £2 notes issued to replace gold coins in circulation. She sits protectively on a chest, which represents the Bank’s reserves.
- The scene is set in the 'Rotunda', at the time a public office in the Bank’s Threadneedle Street building. You can just see the clerks seated at their desks in the background.
- A document titled ‘Loans’ – which refers to the Pitt government’s continual demands to borrow money from the Bank of England.