29 May 2009
Matthew Boulton and James Watt announced as the faces of the paper £50 note
2 November 2011
Paper £50 note was issued
A polymer £50 note featuring Alan Turing will be issued
Key security features
Focus on these two key security features to help confirm that your notes are genuine:
Motion thread image change
Tilt the note up and down or side to side. Check the images change between a '£' symbol and the number '50'.
Bright '£50' in the watermark
Hold the note up to the light. Check there is a bright ‘£50’ at the top of the Queen’s portrait.
Other security features
Feel of paper and raised print
The note is printed on special paper that gives it a unique feel. On the front of the note, you can feel raised print. For example, on the words ‘Bank of England’ and in the bottom right corner, around the number '50'.
Under a good quality ultra-violet light, the number '50' appears in bright red and green on the front of the note, against a duller background. You can see bright red and green flecks on both the front and back of the note. The motion thread also appears bright green.
There is a fully embedded metallic thread in the note. It appears as a continuous dark line when you hold the note up to a light.
The printed lines and colours on the note are sharp, clear and free from smudges or blurred edges. If you use a magnifying glass, you will see the value of the note written in small letters and numbers below the Queen's portrait.
Coloured shapes are printed on the front and back of the note, below the signature of the Chief Cashier. These shapes combine to form a '£' symbol when the note is held up to the light.
The higher the value of a note, the larger it is. This note is approximately 156mm x 85mm.
A unique serial number is printed horizontally and vertically on the back of the note. The horizontal number is in the bottom right corner. It is made up of multi-coloured letters and numbers, which increase in height from left to right. The vertical number runs down the left-hand side and the numbers and letters are the same height and colour.
The international copyright symbol is included on the front of the note, to the left of the motion thread and on the back, below the ‘James Watt 1736 – 1819’ text.
Boulton was an entrepreneur, while Watt was an engineer and scientist who made revolutionary changes to the efficiency of the steam engine. In 1775, the two formed a partnership to develop and market steam engines, and the designs were taken up worldwide. The metric unit of power is named after James Watt.
There is an image of the Soho Manufactory in the background - a factory used mainly to build machinery. The design was taken from a drawing produced in 1781. The steam engine design at the front of the note was taken from the Whitbread Engine, built in 1785 by the Boulton & Watt company.
‘I sell here, Sir, what all the world desires to have - POWER' and 'I can think of nothing else but this machine' are quotes provided by the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. They were on display at the Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum.
Download our free education materials to help check your banknotes.
You can also order our free education materials online:
Exchanging old notes
You will still be able to use the paper £50 note until we withdraw it from circulation. We will announce the withdrawal date after we have issued our new polymer £50 note featuring Alan Turing, which we expect to enter circulation by the end of 2021.
Many banks will accept withdrawn notes as deposits from customers. The Post Office may also accept withdrawn notes as a deposit into any bank account you can access at the Post Office. And, you can always exchange withdrawn notes with us.