Sunday, December 6, 2020



George Sampson was a bread & butter sort of chap, a project manager cum architect with just enough flair to impress a group of hard-nosed businessmen.


We don’t really know.  But he was selected from 8 supplicants when the Bank of England decided that 40 years in rented premises was enough.  Two schemes were shortlisted and a couple of weeks later his was chosen, and promptly erected on a site they had purchased some 15 years earlier. 


Sampson designed a double-courtyard block, formal but not overly grandiose.  He adopted the Palladian style, introduced by William Kent a decade or so earlier and now the height of fashion. Symmetry and order on a rusticated base, symbolize the security and integrity of the Bank.  Merchants and gentlemen drive their coaches through the triple archway, make a turn in the Entrance Court and alight on the steps of the Pay Hall, a lofty volume similar in scale and proportion to the space they had used at the Grocer’s Hall for the same purpose.


The plan is clean and rational, divided clearly into public and private zones by the wall between the Pay Hall and the Director’s Parlours.  This executive suite overlooks the Bullion Court, home to the record keeping and access to the vaults below.  On the East side the Bullion office records the coming and going of gold and silver, brought in carts along an alleyway from Bartholomew Lane.  To the North, the large, double height that houses the accounting tables.  This must have been an improvement on the space available at Grocer’s Hall.  Also it is well separated from the Transfer Offices which are accessed almost directly from the street by way of a staircase in the entrance block.  “Stock Jobbers” are seen as rude and noisy people, distasteful to the manners of respectable merchants, but of course their activities are essential to the buoyancy of the market and the financing of government debt, so essential to the success of the bank and the merchant class it represents.


As mentioned previous posts, Sampson’s design was the third home for the Bank of England. Having operated briefly from the Mercers Hall, they rented the Grocers Hall for 40 years, before hiring George Sampson to build them a permanent Headquarters.  Each step in that sequence took them closer to the Royal Exchange and to the speculative trading of "change alley" directly behind.


The context model linked into this file has a long history.  It began as in-place extrusions in the Master file for Project Soane, representing the adjacent streets.  Later on it was fused with a much more extensive 3d map that I created for my studies of Hawksmoors 6 London churches, which has featured recently in my work on St Anne’s Limehouse.  This pieces together old maps downloaded from the web, checking alignments from open street map and similar sources. 



Much of Sampson’s work survived to Soane’s day and is incorporated into the Project Soane master which represents the bank as it was around 1830.  However the modifications executed are complex widespread and difficult to track down. Lots of detective work required.  So a couple of years ago I decided to tackle the Sampson’s design as a stand-alone model.  At that stage it was a fairly crude mapping out of the volumes with generic families, plus some pinched from the Soane model.

Over the past two weeks this has been enhanced and enriched into the work shown here.  So the host model for today’s post is Sampson’s Bank.  Linked to this are the context file, and a model of the Grocers Hall which was also started long ago and recently taken forward.  This will feature in a future post.


One small technical point to note.  When you have two versions of the same project linked together like this you can “copy to clipboard” and “paste aligned to same place” to transfer families from one link to the other.  I often used to get asked why the paste to same place feature existed.  This is one good example.  I also use it for splitting floors or extrusions into two parts.  Sometimes easier to delete portions than to sketch them out again, apply materials & parameters etc.

These models have been uploaded to BIM360 over the past week, but for the moment are almost entirely my own work.  As always, collaborators are welcome.  You can tackle a couple of families, or you could take on a hole area, Taylor’s screen walls perhaps or his Transfer Halls, both of which only exist in the most rudimentary form at present.


I’m not sure what I will tackle next. My day job has woken up from the covid hysteria for a while at least, so this work will take a back seat.  But there will still be weekends, so I may try to tie up loose ends on the main Project Soane model for a while.  Alternatively there is St Annes Limehouse to “finish off” and it would be good to reawaken Notre Dame also (after a lengthy break.)  Wherever my heart may roam the intention will be to weave these models into an interesting story about our past.

Another small detail.  The toilets (I’m calling them privies) seem to be benches with two round holes.  At first I thought this was an indication of a less prudish era when you could sit together while doing the necessary.  But then it struck me that in 1734 they could be earth privies with two chambers, one in use while they other is busy composting.  Then next year you dig the old one out and switch around.  If so it’s an interesting observation, because by Soane’s day they were definitely using septic tanks.


This is a labour of love, so I follow my instincts and work on whatever catches my interest from week to week.  The goal is to deepen my understanding of history: the history of building processes, the history of architectural styles and the history of the human societies behind them.  It’s a kind of “action research” … proximate goal: build a Revit model, deeper goal: uncover the story within, gain some insights into the richness of our past and hopefully put this runaway world of ours into some perspective.

The last image is from the context model with the phasing set to the end of Taylor’s period when the bullion alley had been nudged around a little to allow for his transfer halls.  It’s interesting to compare our 3d model with a survey drawing prepared by Soane’s office prior while the bank was buying up those houses at the back off Lothbury.  BIM action and archival research working together to enhance our understanding.

Thanks for listening.







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