~James Blakely

Gold is one of those elements that I’ve often wondered about. Sure, gold is wonderful because it is pretty and easy to work with, it’s an excellent conductor of heat and electricity and yet, it doesn’t tarnish, rust or corrode. And purified, its colour is distinctive amongst the elements. But none of these properties are unique.

But gold does have one unique property: of all the elements, gold alone causes humans to behave in inexplicably peculiar ways. For example, rich and powerful people want to possess gold, so they exploit poor people to dig it out of the ground for them. These rich and powerful people then sell this element to other rich and powerful people, who then place it back into the ground in bank vaults, where no one can use it, enjoy it or even see it.

Until now. Videojournalist Brady Haran accompanied University of Nottingham chemistry Professor Martyn Poliakoff on a very rare visit to the Bank of England to tour a vault that is filled with gold bullion. They captured their visit on video and are sharing it with you:

In fact, there are stacks of gold bars worth a whopping £156billion stored in an old canteen deep below the streets of the capital.


 

Treasure trove: The Bank of England’s vault under central London contains 4,600 tons of the precious metal, worth an incredible £156billion

Rich pickings: The rows of simple shelves are stacked high with 28lb 24-carat gold bars

It seems Gordon Brown did not manage to completely strip the country of its assets when he sold off 400 tons of gold at rock-bottom price during his time as Chancellor.

The gold he got rid of when prices were at a 20-year low cost the country up to £11bn, it was estimated last April

He made just £2.3billion on the precious metal he sold between 1999 and 2002.

So the 4,600 tons of the precious metal still stored in these concrete-lined vaults in the heart of London will be a welcome sight for those worried we have little left to fall back on.

The piles of 28lb 24-carat gold bars are stacked on simple blue shelves beneath strip lighting. One image alone shows around 15,000 bars or 210 tonnes of pure gold, with a value of approximately £3billion.

Worth a fortune: In this image alone there are around around 15,000 bars and 210 tonnes of pure gold, with a value of about £3billion

On the walls of one of the vaults, posters from the 1940s are still visible, from when the vast room was used as a canteen.
 

The walls must be literally bombproof as they were used by bank staff as air raid shelters during World War II.

The old-fashioned posters that hang around the room depict sunny climes, luxury cruises and happier times – which may be as welcome a sight as the valuables for many.
 

Three-foot long keys are needed to unlock to the doors that guard the rooms holding the gold – but sadly not all of it belongs to us.

Some is deposited by foreign governments as well as our own. Different shapes and marks distinguish the varying sources of the wealth.

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