The UK banknotes have gone through some big changes since they were first introduced but do you know the story behind them?

In this blog, we guide you through the history of UK banknotes as we take a look at just how far they’ve come…

7th Century – China

The first recorded use of ‘paper’ money was in China back in the seventh century! However, it was until over a thousand years later that paper money made its way to Europe.

16th Century – Goldsmith-Bankers

In the 16th century, the goldsmith-bankers would issue receipts for cash, known as ‘running cash notes’. They were made out in the name of the depositor and also carried the words, ‘or bearer’, after the name of the depositor.

This similar phrase still appears on British banknotes today: “I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of…”

1694 – Bank of England

When the Bank of England was established in 1694 to raise money for King William III’s war effort, they issued notes in exchange for deposits. These were the first recorded bank notes to feature a cashier’s signature!

18th Century – Fixed Denominations

The issuing of fixed denomination notes first started in the 18th century. Notes were printed with the pound sign and the first digit included, but any following digits were then added by hand!

By 1745, notes were issued in denominations ranging from £20 to £1,000 but it wasn’t until 1759, as a result of gold shortages caused by the seven years of war, that a £10 note was issued.

The £5 note followed in 1793 at the start of the war against Revolutionary France and by 1797 the £1 and £2 notes were issued.

1853- Fully Printed

In 1853, the first fully printed banknotes were introduced, meaning hand-written denominations on notes were phased out.

Early 20th Century – 10 Shilling Note

During the First World War, the link between notes and gold was broken. The government needed to preserve bullion stocks and so the Bank stopped paying out gold for its notes.

In 1914 the Treasury printed and issued 10 shilling and £1 notes and in 1931, Britain left the gold standard.

Late 20th Century – Feature of Historical Figures

The late 20th century saw the first introduction of historical figures on the designs of UK banknotes. Since 1970, we’ve seen figures including scientist Isaac Newton, composer Edward Elgar and nurse Florence Nightingale featured on our banknotes.

21st Century – Polymer notes and BAME figures

In the 21st century we have seen the introduction of the polymer £5, £10 and £20 banknote, as a cleaner, safer and stronger alternative to the paper notes.

These notes have become incredibly popular with collectors, with some polymer £20 notes fetching far over their face value on the secondary market!

However, a lack of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) figures being recognised on legal tender led to campaigning for greater inclusivity in 2020.

These campaigns come after Chancellor Rishi Sunak stated he was considering proposals from a campaign group. He has since asked the Royal Mint to come up withnew designs honouring BAME figures who have served the nation – such as military figures and nurses.

Whilst details of these figures and designs remain under consideration, we look forward to hearing more as the story unfolds.


Did you know how far back in history our banknotes date? Let us know in the comments below!


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The withdrawal date for the current paper £10 note is in less than one week’s time on Thursday 1st March.

The paper ‘Series E’ note has been in circulation, in some form, for the past 26 years. So, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at the history of the £10 note and our journey begins 259 years ago in 1759…

 

In a recent poll conducted on our Facebook page, 40% of you said that you still have paper £10 notes. Although you can still exchange them at the Bank of England after the cut-off date, I would suggest exchanging them before the withdrawal date.

Some retailers, banks and building societies may still accept these notes; however this is at their discretion. To save yourself any potential hassle, once you’ve added one to your collection, go and spend or swap your notes at the bank.


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2017 marks 200 years since the death of Jane Austen – one of the best-loved English novelists of all time. And to celebrate such an inspirational female figure, both The Royal Mint and the Bank of England chose to honour her on a brand new coin and banknote.

People power wins

Back in May 2013, a petition to ‘keep a woman on English banknotes’ gained momentum. Over 35,000 people signed the petition after it was announced that Winston Churchill would replace social reformer Elizabeth Fry as the face of the £5 note in 2016. At the time this meant that other than the Queen, there would be no women featuring on English banknotes.

However, people power won as Jane Austen became the new face of the polymer £10 note in 2017, replacing Charles Darwin.

It is thought that Jane Austen was already part of the Bank’s plans for the next new note as in a statement the Bank said it was “never the Bank’s intention” that none of the four characters on banknotes would be a woman.

The Bank of England have featured characters on their banknotes since 1970 to celebrate individuals that have shaped British thought, innovation, leadership, values and society.

Jane Austen is the 17th historical figure to feature on a Bank of England note.

So not only does Jane Austen feature on the new £10 note, The Royal Mint also feature this inspirational author on the new 2017 £2 coin.  Designed by Dominique Evans, the new £2 features a silhouette of Jane Austen with the dates 1817-2017.

The £2 coin issued by The Royal Mint has been struck to mark the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen, one of the best-loved English novelists.

 

bu-jane-austin

This £2 for 2017 was struck to mark the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen.

 

This was the first time ever that someone featured on a circulation coin and banknote at the same time – other than the reigning monarch.

A tiny portrait of Jane Austen also appears on four of the new polymer £5 notes as a microscopic engraving produced by Specialist micro-engraver Graham Short. The collector’s items are said to be worth over £20,000 each!

 


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