Bank of England

Discover the banknotes issued between 1778 and 2019

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The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street

Nicknamed after its address in the City of London, the Bank of England is one of the oldest banking institutions in the world. It was founded in 1694 as "The Governor and Company of the Bank of England" and its history is closely linked to England's industrial and financial revolution at the start of the 18th century. Although the Bank of Sweden (Riksbank) was the first bank to issue genuine banknotes, the Bank of England is considered to be the world's first true central bank. It is an unprecedented upheaval in the history of monetary transactions. From its creation, the English bank supported government loans and became a lever for commercial banks by serving as a moneylender.

The Bank of England issues banknotes with its letterhead from its first year of existence. “The first banknotes were nominative, mainly written by hand (the printed part leaving blanks to fill), on one side, authenticated by a dry stamp, and included numbering and control signatures. [...] Banknotes which are legal tender, non-nominative, payable on sight and to bearer, appeared a little later, when the name of the Bank was respected and the public had confidence”(1).

In the middle of the 19th century, the printing of banknotes was completely mechanized. These single-sided banknotes printed in black on white paper are practically identical and differ only in their value and / or the different signatures affixed to them. Very quickly, they will be nicknamed "White Notes" and will circulate all the same until 1956!


Above: 5 pounds type 1860. Single-sided note signed W. P. Gattie. Date: London 28 Dec. 1863. Dimensions: 211 x 133 mm.

The first polychrome banknotes

These appear very late, from 1928 with the first denominations of small values such as the 10 shillings type 1928 and the 1 pound type 1928. These notes, like the previous “White Notes” still have on the front, a crowned medallion with an allegory of Britannia seated on a throne. It was not until 1960 to see the first notes bearing the effigy of the HRH Elizabeth II with the four notes of 10 shillings type 1960, 1 pound type 1960, 5 pounds type 1963 and 10 pounds type 1963. From this issue, all the following banknotes will be systematically illustrated with a portrait of the Queen of England with a notable evolution of the portrait over time ... which stops in 1990!


Did you know?

In 1893, a person came to a bank counter with a note in the amount of £ 25 issued by the Bank of England in 1782 and it was honored. If this note had carried an interest rate of one farthing (2) per day, its holder would have received £ 50,643!

We now invite you to discover the 87 banknotes illustrating a period spanning from 1778 to 2019. Some English banknotes are so rare that this catalog is naturally incomplete. Thank you in advance to the collectors who will help us to consolidate it. England becomes the 80th country to join the Numizon catalog!


(1) Bank of England, Wikipedia.
(2) The farthing was an English then British coin valued at a quarter of a penny, or 1 / 960ᵉ of a pound sterling. These coins were minted in the thirteenth century, first in silver, then in copper from 1613, and until 1956. They were demonetized on December 31, 1960 (Source: Wikipedia).

Our sources

  • "United Kingdom" by Owen W. Linzmeyer.
  • "Great Britain" Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, 1368-1960, 12th edition (pages 589 to 600).
  • "Great Britain" Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, 1961-present, 17th edition (pages 415 to 418).
  • Bank Note Museum: "Great Britain (Bank of England)".
  • "Bank of England" by wikipedia.
  • Photos archives: Banknote Index, and Spink.

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