Lawrence of Arabia’s saddle bag found in Bank of England vaults

Peter O'Toole plays Lawrence of Arabia in the 1962 film

Peter O’Toole plays Lawrence of Arabia in the 1962 film

At the beginning of the twentieth century, with the British Empire still largely in operation, the Bank of England was a crucial link to many distant lands.

Indeed, a new exhibition opening at the end of March at the bank’s museum highlights the more exotic side of the bank’s history. It includes a saddle bag which the bank says was possibly used by TE Lawrence to transport gold across the desert during the First World War.

According to the Financial Times, the bag was recently found in the vaults with the catalogue entry: “Camel pack, leather with metal lining, for carrying gold over deserts”.

The image painted - of a turbaned Lawrence bounding through the desert with bags of gold strapped to the side of his camels - is a far cry from the issues the bank faces today, such as Foreign Exchange rigging concerns.

The bank admits the likelihood of the bag having belonged to Lawrence of Arabia is slim, but highlights its links to Lawrence who was twice offered positions at the bank.

In 1928, when Lawrence left the RAF, the BoE offered him a position as a nightwatchman – a role which would provide Lawrence with plenty of time to concentrate on his writing.

Then again in 1935, the Governor, Montague Norman wrote to Lawrence saying he wanted someone “with personality within and without the walls of the Bank”.

Lawrence declined both positions.  

The museum says the exhibition, entitled Curiosities from the Vaults: A Bank miscellany, will provide a unique opportunity to see some unusual treasures from the bank’s historical collections.

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