We have featured characters on our banknotes since 1970 and they provide a fantastic opportunity to celebrate individuals that have shaped British thought, innovation, leadership, values and society. Given the wealth of amazing achievements, we will continue to commemorate individuals from diverse backgrounds and fields over a rolling programme of banknote launches.
Characters already announced for future notes
Characters featured on current notes
Polymer £5 – Sir Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Churchill was one of the greatest statesmen of all time, and is the only Prime Minister to win the Nobel Prize for literature. The images on the back of the note show a view of Westminster and the Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) from the South Bank looking across Westminster Bridge. Also shown in the background image is the Nobel Prize medal, which he was awarded in 1953 for literature, together with the wording of the prize citation.
Paper £5 - Elizabeth Fry
The images on the back of the note are related to the life and work of this social reformer. The main illustration shows Elizabeth Fry reading to prisoners at Newgate. In recognition of her work she was awarded the key to the prison and this is used in the design of the banknote.
Paper £10 - Charles Darwin
As a young man Darwin was employed as the naturalist on board the ship HMS Beagle an illustration of which is depicted on the back of the note. Also pictured is an illustration of Darwin's own magnifying lens and the flora and fauna that he may have come across on his travels.
Paper £20 - Adam Smith
Smith is one of the fathers of economics. In one of his great works, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Smith famously used the example of workers in a pin factory to describe the benefits created by the division of labour, and, as explained on the note, "the great increase in the quantity of work that results".
Paper £50 - Matthew Boulton and James Watt
Boulton and Watt entered a partnership to develop and market steam engines. Initially these were for use in the mining and textile industries before they extended the innovation to benefit a wider range of industries in the UK and worldwide.
Characters featured on previous notes
The Bank has featured historic figures on banknotes since 1970. The characters depicted on previous notes have been:
- Charles Dickens (writer)
- Sir Edward Elgar (composer)
- Michael Faraday (scientist)
- Sir John Houblon (first Governor of the Bank of England)
- Sir Isaac Newton (scientist)
- Florence Nightingale (nursing)
- William Shakespeare (poet/playwright)
- George Stephenson (engineer)
- 1st Duke of Wellington (general/statesman)
- Sir Christopher Wren (architect)