Although the Royal Chartered Bank of England introduced the “Pound Sterling” in 1694, it wasn’t until 1793 that the first £5 notes were adopted. It remained the lowest denomination bank note until 1797 and it soon became known as the “white fiver”. It remained in circulation until February 1957. Below you can see the Bank of England’s £5 note.
As explained on the British Museum website the bank notes “consisted mainly of text, the only ornament being a small vignette of a seated Britannia, based on the Bank’s official seal. Until the middle of the nineteenth century there were many different engravings of Britannia, many of a poor standard which could easily be copied. In 1855 the Bank introduced a new design, with a Britannia in the style of a Saxon princess, engraved by the Irish artist, Daniel Maclise, R.A (1806-70)”. The old “White Fiver” was withdrawn in March 1961.
It was in February 1957 that the first multicolored five pound note first came about. You will see that it features helmeted Britannia on the front. According to Britishnotes.c.uk several designs were rejected before the Lion and Key £5 (see below) design by Stephen Gooden was accepted and printed. Rejected designs included notes featuring Sir John Houblon (the first governor of the Bank of England) for example.
This 1957 note was last issued in 1963 which is when it was replaced by the new one. It was the first five pound note with the portrait of the monarch (Queen Elizabeth II). The design was by Reynolds Stone.
It was last issued in 1971 as on 11th November 1971 a new design came about. The new five pound note was designed Harry Eccleston and it had the Duke of Wellington on the back and Queen Elizabeth II was in court robes and crown on the front.
This note was present until the 90s when it was replaced on 7th June 1990 by Roger Withington’s new design which was multicolored but predominantly turquoise-blue. The design also incorporated design elements to make computer reproduction as well as photocopying of the notes more difficult.
In 1993 another version of the five pound note was introduced. It was different in that the color of the “£5” symbol on the front (in the top-left hand corner) changed to a bolder dark turquoise color. On the back it changed to stronger olive/ drab color. Both this note and the one from 1990 didn’t cease to be legal tender until 2003.
It was in 2003 when that the railway engineer George Stephenson was replaced with Elizabeth Fry, a 19th century prison reformer. If you look at the back of this not you will see that it narrates the life and work of this social reformer. The main illustration is of her reading to prisoners.
In December 2013 it was confirmed that the current £5 note would be changed again in 2016. This time however it will be a polymer £5 note ending the 320 years of paper money. It was Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, who formally announced this and you will see below that Elizabeth Fry will be replaced with Winston Churchill. There are many other changes such as a 15% reduction in size for Churchill notes compared with the current Elizabeth Fry five pound note. This will bring the English notes into line with the sizes used in most other countries. The bank of England has entered into a contract with Innovia Security to supply Guardian® polymer substrate for the next generation £5 and £10 notes.
What do you think of this new design concept for the five pound note?