Beneath London’s busy streets in 1836 a sewer worker is helming a checklist of routine repairs when he notices something. He spots an old drain and decides to inspect it. Following along the underground corridor, he reaches something he never could have expected. Somehow, he has just accessed a considerable proportion of the city’s riches.
The Bank of England started in the wake of a major defeat of the nation’s navy. In the Battle of Beachy Head – a July 10, 1690, fight in the midst of the Nine Years’ War – France handily defeated both the Dutch and their English allies. The French navy took down ten of its opponents’ ships without losing a single one of its own.
Afterward, England refocused its efforts into rebuilding its navy into a force stronger than the one that had lost the Battle of Beachy Head. There was one big problem, though – the country had no public funds left. And the government – helmed by William III – could not borrow the £1.2 million that it needed.