Look but don't touch! Rare glimpse of the gold bullion worth 197BILLION hidden deep under the Bank of England
Cavern hidden deep under London holds gold haul weighing 4,600 tonnesGold bars are displayed 'just like duty-free chocolate at the airport'
Professor given access to nation's extraordinary wealth for documentary
Each shelf is worth 35million but exact location cannot be revealed
22:43 GMT, 12 December 2012
Lying deep beneath the streets of London, hidden in the secret vaults of the Bank of England, is 4,600 tonnes of 'forgotten gold'.
Worth 197billion pounds, the rows of gold bullions – which are kept in a closely guarded location – are rarely seen by outsiders.
But the Bank's precious metal reserves – each shelf worth 35million each – have been filmed by the University of Nottingham for a new series about elements called The Periodic Table of Videos.
Bullion worth billions: Professor Martyn Poliakoff from the University of Nottingham gives a guided tour of gold bars worth 197 billion in the Bank of England vaults
The Bank of England has given permission for the nation's gold bullion reserve of 197billion to be filmed by university professor Martyn Poliakoff
Each shelf of the precious metal, displayed like 'bars of chocolate in a sweet shop' weighs a ton and is worth 35million
Chemistry Professor Martyn Poliakoff, obtained special permission to visit the high security vault, accompanied by video journalist Brady Haran.
Given coveted access he reveals the incredible sight of row upon row of the gold bars displayed like 'chocolates in the duty free at the airport'
He says: 'I've never seen so much gold. In fact, I've never seen so much of any element.'
The Prof sad he and his film team had to go through a host of security checks to access the vault.
All cash must be left as the door, because no one is allowed to bring money into the vault.
He said: 'One's first reaction is that it can't be real because normally you don't see such things. It looks like chocolates in the duty free at the airport.
'But these really are solid gold bars and it is extraordinary. There isn't any smell because metals don't smell and it's very quiet because of the thick walls to keep it secure.
'It's been very cold recently and I was ready to be shivering but it's nice and warm but I suppose gold colour gives you a feeling of warmth so it maybe partly psychological.'
Although Britain owns around 310 tones of gold 'other organisations' use the secure vault to store their bullion.
Prof Poliakoff was allowed to film the vault for the university as part of a series about elements called The Periodic Table of Videos
If all the gold in the world was gathered in one space it would fill the size of just one large house
Even when bars are sold, they are not removed from the cavernous space.
Instead, each bar has its own number and that is simply transferred to the ownership of the buyer.
The oldest bar in the vault has been there since 1916.
He added: 'The beauty of gold is that it is very inactive. It looks just the same now as it did in 1916. It hasn't tarnished, it hasn't got oxide layers on the surface.'
The bank allowed him to show off two individual bars, one originally from Australia and one from Switzerland each weighing round 28 lbs and worth about 435,000 each.
The academic has estimated if all the gold ever mined was made into bricks it would end up in a block 20 metres cubed or around 60ft wide, high and deep. This means if all the gold in the world was gathered in one space it would fill the size of just one large house.
But as he stands between the piles of 28lb 24-carat gold bullion, Prof Poliakoff confesses he is slightly disappointed by the scene.
'Gold is an exciting element, it has interesting chemistry and it's just sitting here doing nothing'
'It's enormously impressive but it's a bit sad, rather like a mausoleum where the dead gold is sitting waiting for people to remember it.'
'It should be doing exciting reactions,' he adds.