July 12, 2013 / 1:14 PM / 6 years ago

Bank of England opens its doors with virtual tour App

The Bank of England is seen behind holly bushes in the City of London March 15, 2013. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

LONDON (Reuters) - The Bank of England has opened the doors of its famous Threadneedle Street headquarters to the world with a free App that gives a virtual tour of the 319 year-old institution including its gold bullion vaults.

The tour takes the viewer inside the vaults that lie heavily locked underneath the central bank’s columned facade, giving a rare view of over 400,000 gold bars worth 210 billion pounds ($317.5 billion).

The App talks users through the Bank’s history, including the story of a man in 1836 who is rumored to have alerted directors of a weakness in the vaults’ security by breaking in through the sewers. He had written in advance to them and told them to meet him there. The man was reportedly rewarded with 800 pounds for his honesty.

“Correspondence concerning the sewers dated around that time suggests the story has some basis in fact,” the text reads.

Virtual visitors can also enter the Bank’s cash vaults and the Garden Court, which is planted with Mulberry trees - the material that was first used to make paper money in 10th century China.

The App follows other efforts to increase public understanding of the Bank’s workings, including a YouTube channel, online films for schools and an Internet game that explains inflation using a hot-air balloon.

The virtual tour is available for download on the Apple Store and Google Play and can be accessed via phone, tablet or online.

The Bank was founded in 1694 and first moved to Threadneedle Street in the City of London 40 years later. Its main roles are to set Britain’s monetary policy and oversee financial stability.

Reporting by Max de Haldevang; editing by Stephen Addison

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