British banknotes

From Academic Kids

British banknotes are the banknotes of the United Kingdom and British Islands, denominated in pounds sterling (GBP).


Issuing banks

Pound sterling banknotes are issued by:

Sterling banknotes are also issued by the following British dependencies outside the UK:

Bank of England notes are the only banknotes that are legal tender in England and Wales. Scottish, Northern Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey and Manx banknotes are not legal tender in England and Wales. However, they are not illegal under English law and creditors and traders may accept them if they so choose.

No banknotes are legal tender in Scotland (not even Scottish notes, which are 'promissory notes' - essentially cheques made out from the bank to 'the bearer', as the wording on each note says).

In contrast the coins from British dependancies like Jersey and the Isle of Man, while usually similar and sometimes found in UK change, are neither legal tender nor acceptable to UK traders and banks.


Bank of England notes

In 1921 the Bank of England gained a legal monopoly on the issue of banknotes in England and Wales, a process that started in 1844 when the ability of other banks to issues notes was restricted.

The bank issued its first banknotes in 1694, although until 1745 they were written for irregular amounts, rather than pre-defined multiples of a pound. It tended to be times of war, which put inflationary pressure on the British economy which led to greater note issue. In 1759 during the Seven Years' War, when the lowest value note issued by the Bank was £20, a £10 note was issued for the first time. In 1793, during the war with revolutionary France, the Bank's issued the first £5 note. Four years later, £1 and £2 notes appeared, although not on a permanent basis. Notes did not become entirely machine-printed and payable to the bearer until 1855.

At the start of World War I, the government issued £1 and 10-shilling Treasury notes to supplant the sovereign and half-sovereign gold coins. The first coloured banknotes were issued in 1928, and were also the first notes to be printed on both sides. World War II saw a reversal in the trend of warfare creating more notes when, in order to combat forgery, higher denomination notes (at the time as high as £1,000) were removed from circulation.

As of November 2003 the Bank of England banknotes in circulation, known as Series E, do not exceed £50. Higher notes are used within the banks, particularly those of £100 notes to maintain parity with issued Scottish and Northern Irish notes The notes are as follows:

Issues of banknotes by Scottish and Northern Irish banks have to be backed by Bank of England notes, other than a small amount representing the currency in circulation in 1845, for which purpose special million pound notes are used.[1] (

As of 2004, they are signed by the Chief Cashier, Andrew Bailey.

All the notes issued since Series C in 1960 also depict Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom in full view facing left and as a watermark, hidden, facing right; recent issues have the EURion constellation around.

The Bank of England Series D 1 pound note was discontinued in 1984, being replaced by a pound coin.

Bank of Scotland notes

A £50 Bank of Scotland note.
A £50 Bank of Scotland note.

In circulation:

All the notes also depict Sir Walter Scott who was instrumental in retaining the right of Scottish banks to issue their own notes in the 1840s.

Royal Bank of Scotland notes

Missing image
A £100 Royal Bank of Scotland note.

in circulation are:

All these notes also depict Lord Ilay (1682-1761), first governor of the bank.

Clydesdale Bank notes

A £20 Clydesdale Bank note.
A £20 Clydesdale Bank note.

Bank of Ireland notes

All Bank of Ireland notes feature Queen's University on the obverse. The principle difference between the denominations is their colour and size.

  • 5 pound note, blue
  • 10 pound note, pink
  • 20 pound note, green
  • 50 pound note, blue-green

First Trust Bank notes

A £100 First Trust Bank bill.
A £100 First Trust Bank bill.

First Trust Bank's current notes depict generic people of Northern Ireland on the front, alternately male and female, but with a pair of older people on the £100. The obverse generally features designs associated with the Spanish Armada, or coastal features.

  • 5 pound note featuring Dunluce Castle on the obverse
  • 10 pound note featuring the Girona (galeass) on the obverse
  • 20 pound note featuring the chimney at Lagada Point on the obverse
  • 50 pound note featuring a commemorative medal on the obverse
  • 100 pound note featuring the Armada on the obverse

Northern Bank notes

A £20 Northern Bank note.
A £20 Northern Bank note.

Following the theft of £22 million from its money handling centre in Belfast on 22 December 2004, allegedly by the Provisional IRA, Northern Bank announced on 7 January 2005 that all its notes were to be recalled and reissued in different colours and styles, and using the bank's new logo. The reissue began on 14 March 2005. See Northern Bank robbery.

Ulster Bank notes

A £20 Ulster Bank note.
A £20 Ulster Bank note.

Ulster Bank's current notes all share a rather plain design of a view of Belfast harbour flanked by landscape views; the design of the reverse is dominated by the bank's coats-of-arms. The principle difference between the denominations is their colour and size.

  • 5 pound note, purple.
  • 10 pound note, blue-green.
  • 20 pound note, purple.
  • 50 pound note, blue.

States of Jersey notes

The obverse of a Jersey £20 pound note.
The obverse of a Jersey £20 pound note.
Missing image
The reverse of a Jersey £20 pound note.

The Treasurer of the States of Jersey, Channel Islands, holds £1.10 in Bank of England notes for each £1 issued, making the Jersey Pound a very strong currency. The current notes depict Queen Elizabeth II on the front and various landmarks of Jersey or incidents in Jersey history on the reverse. The watermark is a Jersey cow

States of Guernsey notes

Main article: Guernsey Pound

The Guernsey Pound is legal tender only in Guernsey, but also circulates freely in Jersey. Elsewhere it can be exchanged in banks and bureaux de change. In addition to coins, the following banknotes are also used

  • 1 pound note, green, Daniel De Lisle Brock, Bailiff of Guernsey 1762 - 1842 and Royal Court, St Peter Port 1840 on front and the Market, St Peter Port on back
  • 5 pound note, pink, Queen Elizabeth II and the Town Church, St Peter Port on front, and Fort Grey and Hanois Lighthouse 1862 on the back
  • 10 pound note, blue/orange, Queen Elizabeth II and Elizabeth College, St Peter Port on the front and Saumarez Park, Les Niaux Watermill, Le Trepid Dolmen on the back
  • 20 pound note, pink, Queen Elizabeth II and St James Concert Hall, St Peter Port on the front and Vale Castle and St Sampson's Church on the back

The monarch on bank notes

Queen Elizabeth II was the first British monarch to have her face on UK banknotes. Prior to the issue of its Series C banknotes in 1960, Bank of England banknotes did not depict the monarch. Even today, notes issued by the other note issuing banks do not depict the monarch.

External links

See also


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