The Bank of England is welcoming people in to wander around its gold vaults
But there's no chance of pocketing a souvenir as access is only through its first app, launched on Thursday.
A panoramic tour on the app shows the stacks of shining gold bars, each weighing around 13kg and valued at about £350,000 – the price of gold fluctuates constantly and is fixed twice a day.
The vaults hold about 400,000 gold bars, almost all of which are owned by other banks. A small percentage belongs to the government and to the bank itself – including two Roman gold bars on display in the bank's museum.
Despite the exploits of the Lavender Hill mob in the classic Ealing comedy, no gold has ever been stolen from the vaults. However, according to a Threadneedle Street legend recounted on the app, in 1836 a lowly sewer worker asked the governors to meet him in the vault because he had identified a breach of security. Incredulously they complied, only to see the man pop up to join them through a hole in the floor by moving a few floorboards.
The worker is said to have been rewarded with £800 for his honesty. There is no official confirmation in the bank's records of the story, but there are accounts for work on the sewers at that date, so perhaps it was too embarrassing to minute.
Apart from money, the bank holds many curiosities including Roman mosaics found when it was being built, a wind dial originally installed in 1805 to predict the progress of ships coming into the Port of London, and several mulberry trees growing in the Garden Court, reminders of the first Chinese banknotes made from mulberry bark paper.
When the bank was rebuilt in the 1930s, largely destroying one of the architect Sir John Soane's masterpieces, the coffin of a huge man was found in the Garden Court. It proved to be the remains of a former clerk, William Jenkins, known as the Bank Giant. He was 6ft 7.5ins tall, and when he died in 1798 the directors allowed him to be buried in the most secure grave in London to protect him from bodysnatchers. That danger having passed, he has since been reburied in Nunhead cemetery on the outskirts of London.
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