The Bank of England, formally the Governor and Company of the Bank of England, is the central bank of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the model on which most modern central banks have been based. Established in 1694, it is the second oldest central bank in operation today, after the Sveriges Riksbank. The Bank of England is the world's 8th oldest bank. It was established to act as the English Government's banker and is still one of the bankers for the Government of the United Kingdom. The Bank was privately owned by stockholders from its foundation in 1694 until it was nationalised in 1946.
Stable prices and confidence in the currency are the two main criteria for monetary stability. Stable prices are maintained by seeking to ensure that price increases meet the Government's inflation target. The Bank aims to meet this target by adjusting the base interest rate, which is decided by the Monetary Policy Committee, and through its communications strategy, such as publishing yield curves.
The Bank has a monopoly on the issue of banknotes in England and Wales. Scottish and Northern Irish banks retain the right to issue their own banknotes, but they must be backed one for one with deposits at the Bank, excepting a few million pounds representing the value of notes they had in circulation in 1845. The Bank decided to sell its banknote printing operations to De La Rue in December 2002, under the advice of Close Brothers Corporate Finance Ltd.
The Bank has operated, since January 2009, an Asset Purchase Facility (APF) to buy "high-quality assets financed by the issue of Treasury bills and the DMO's cash management operations" and thereby improve liquidity in the credit markets. It has, since March 2009, also provided the mechanism by which the Bank's policy of quantitative easing (QE) is achieved, under the auspices of the MPC. Along with the managing the £200 billion of QE funds, the APF continues to operate its corporate facilities. Both are undertaken by a subsidiary company of the Bank of England, the Bank of England Asset Purchase Facility Fund Limited (BEAPFF).
The Bank has issued banknotes since 1694. Notes were originally hand-written; although they were partially printed from 1725 onwards, cashiers still had to sign each note and make them payable to someone. Notes were fully printed from 1855. Until 1928 all notes were "White Notes", printed in black and with a blank reverse. In the 18th and 19th centuries White Notes were issued in £1 and £2 denominations. During the 20th century White Notes were issued in denominations between £5 and £1000.
The Bank is custodian to the official gold reserves of the United Kingdom and around 30 other countries. The vault, beneath the City of London, covers a floor space greater than that of the third-tallest building in the City, Tower 42, and needs keys that are three feet (91 cm) long to open. As of April 2016, the Bank held around 400,000 bars, which is equivalent to 5,134 tonnes of gold. These gold deposits were estimated in July 2017 to have a current market value of £142,000,000,000. These estimates suggest the vault could hold as much as 3% of the gold mined throughout human history.