Paper money goes plastic?

On June 2nd 2016, the Bank of England release the new five pound note featuring Winston Churchill. The Fiver will also be the first Bank of England note printed on polymer…but how much do you know about the money you use every day?

Did you know… there are 8 measures on every British note to increase security from the use of uncommon special paper and metallic thread to areas of raised print, holographic numbers and the all important watermark of the Queen's portrait in the pale oval.

Polymer is a transparent plastic film, specially coated with an ink later that enables it to carry the printed design features of a banknote. Unusually for a plastic, polymer is also more environmentally friendly than paper notes as they last longer so in the long term, fewer resources are used as they need to be reissued less often. They are also cleaner and more durable than paper. The enhanced counterfeit resilience offered by using polymer makes the notes more secure and will increase the quality of the banknotes in circulation.

Did you know… Invented in Australia, polymer notes were first circulated there in 1988 and all Australian bank notes have been polymer since 1996. Polymer notes are in use in Brunei, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Vietnam, Canada, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Nicaragua, Scotland, Trinidad and Tobago and The Maldives.

Don't worry though, the Bank of England notes will retain the traditional, functional design of our existing banknotes; being thin and flexible they fit into wallets and purses as easily as paper banknotes.

From 2017, the £10 note will feature Jane Austin and artist J.M.W. Turner will feature on the future £20 banknote. There has been some controversy about removing Elizabeth Fry from the £5 note as with her removal and Jane Austin's introduction, there will continue to be only one woman represented on the 4 English bank notes. Previous bank note characters have included Charles Dickens, Sir Isaac Newton, Florence Nightingale, William Shakespeare and Sir Christopher Wren.

A who's who guide to the Bank of England bank notes.

£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.

£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.

£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".

£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.



Do your banking wherever you are with secure online banking services.

Download our app



Bank online 24/7 using our Internet Banking website or our mobile app.

Internet Banking



Bank over the phone 24/7 using our automated service - call 03459 758 758.

Telephone Banking



Find your nearest branch or cash machine using our Branch Locator tool.

Find branches