The design of the UK’s first plastic banknote has been unveiled with the promise it will “stand the test of time”.
The £5 note, which will be released into circulation in September, features former prime minister Sir Winston Churchill. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney paid tribute to the wartime PM’s “bulldog spirit” as he revealed the design at Sir Winston’s birthplace at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.
“This spirit is just one, only one, of his many contributions that the Bank commemorates with the new fiver,” Mr Carney said. The design honours the contribution of Sir Winston Churchill “Our banknotes are testaments to the outstanding achievements of the nation’s greatest individuals. They are repositories of the United Kingdom’s collective memory. That contribution will continue with the new £5, which brings together the future, in the form of polymer and the most advanced security features yet, and Britain’s glorious history, in the achievements of Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill.”
The new banknote marks a shift away from the current paper notes because it is being printed on polymer – a thin, plastic film. Plastic banknotes are tear-resistant and can be wiped clean.
The new design is set to enter circulation in the autumn with a first print-run of 440 million notes. When it was announced in 2013 that Sir Winston’s face would replace that of prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, there was a public outcry because it would have meant that there were no female faces – except for the Queen’s – on any UK banknotes.
However, the Bank of England subsequently announced that novelist Jane Austen would be the face of the new £10 note, which will be printed on polymer from 2017. Australia was the first country to introduce plastic notes almost 30 years ago, and they’re now used in more than 30 countries. Will Ireland be next ?