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Home > Banknotes > Banknote Characters

Banknote Characters

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

J.M.W. Turner to feature on the next £20 banknote
J.M.W. Turner:
​to feature on the next £20 banknote​

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.

Polymer £10 – Jane Austen
Jane Austen’s novels have a universal appeal and speak as powerfully today as they did when they were first published. Her books have been translated into over 40 languages of which there have been countless film and television adaptations. She used wit and satire to provide insights into everyday life among the landed gentry at the end of the 18th century. She rejected the sentimental style of many contemporary writers in favour of irony and cynicism, which she used to highlight the social conventions that constrained women.
Jane began to write when she was just 11 years old, and by the age of 23 she had already drafted early versions of some of her most famous novels, including Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. All of Jane’s work was published anonymously so, despite the fact her work was generally well received and even became fashionable in some circles, she achieved little recognition until after her death.

The note was issued in 2017 which coincides with the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. She is buried at Winchester Cathedral, which appears on the new £10 note.

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)
  • Elizabeth Fry (Philanthropist)