The Bank of England Gold Vault, The Sewer, and the Victorian heist that wasn’t

In 1836, the Bank of England was nearly a victim of a Victorian heist of their Gold bullion.

The cartoon from which the Bank of England got its nickname – The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street Source

Bank directors received anonymous letters in which the writer claimed to have access to their Gold Vault. After ignoring the letters a few times (insert “Stuff and Nonsense” here, and the odd “Harrumph”), the writer made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.

Most Valuable Plumber

He invited them to meet him INSIDE the gold vault at an hour of their choosing. On the agreed night, the bank directors heard a noise from below and a man popped up through the floor boards.

The human gopher was a sewerman who, during repair work, had discovered an old drain which ran immediately under the gold vault. Another story goes that he had learned of a plot to rob the gold while repairing the sewers.

A stock take quickly revealed that he hadn’t taken any gold. For his honesty, the Bank rewarded the white-hat plumber with a gift of £800. That;s would be worth approximately £80,000 in today’s English money or About $103,000 in US dollars.

Did the non-Victorian heist actually happen?

The Bank Records reveal:

“In  May 1836, having reason to apprehend danger from our sewers, it was discovered that an open and unobstructed sewer led directly from the gold vaults down to Dowgate”.

It appears that the Bank were worried about other “bugs” in the sewer system. In the following year, the Secretary of the Bank wrote to the Commissioner of Sewers asking for plans of sewers and drains around the bank – and within bank premises too.

The BOE building is today guarded by men in top hats and pink coats with long tails.