The Bank of England is the central bank of the United Kingdom and the model on which most modern central banks have been based. Established in 1694 to act as the English Government’s banker, and still one of the bankers for the Government of the United Kingdom, it is the world’s eighth-oldest bank. It was privately owned by stockholders from its foundation in 1694 until it was nationalised in 1946.
The Bank became an independent public organisation in 1998, wholly owned by the Treasury Solicitor on behalf of the government, but with independence in setting monetary policy.
The Bank is one of eight banks authorised to issue banknotes in the United Kingdom, has a monopoly on the issue of banknotes in England and Wales and regulates the issue of banknotes by commercial banks in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee has a devolved responsibility for managing monetary policy. The Treasury has reserve powers to give orders to the committee “if they are required in the public interest and by extreme economic circumstances”, but such orders must be endorsed by Parliament within 28 days. The Bank’s Financial Policy Committee held its first meeting in June 2011 as a macroprudential regulator to oversee regulation of the UK’s financial sector.
The Bank’s headquarters have been in London’s main financial district, the City of London, on Threadneedle Street, since 1734. It is sometimes known as The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street, a name taken from a satirical cartoon by James Gillray in 1797. The road junction outside is known as Bank junction.
As a regulator and central bank, the Bank of England has not offered consumer banking services for many years, but it still does manage some public-facing services such as exchanging superseded bank notes. Until 2016, the bank provided personal banking services as a privilege for employees.