New £50 banknote in circulation

New £50 note Boulton (left) was key to the emergence of Birmingham as an industrial centre

The new Bank of England £50 banknote featuring Matthew Boulton and James Watt has entered into circulation.

The pair feature on the new note partly because they were instrumental in manufacturing coins that were difficult to counterfeit.

The banknote, which includes a number of new security features, will eventually take over from the note carrying Sir John Houblon's portrait.

But that remains as legal tender until a withdrawal date is set by the Bank.

The Houblon note, marking the contribution of the first governor of the Bank, was introduced in 1994.


There are about 210 million £50 notes in circulation, worth £10.5bn.

The new version of the £50 banknote has a thread woven into the paper, rather than printed on it.

There are images on the thread of a £ symbol and the number 50 which move up and down when the banknote is tilted from side to side.

When the note is tilted up and down, the images move from side to side and the symbols switch.


Raised print Metallic thread Watermark Microlettering Ultra-violet features Motion thread See-through register Interactive 50 pound note

Raised print

The words "Bank of England" and the number 50 in the bottom right-hand corner have been produced in raised print.

Metallic thread

A metallic thread is embedded in the paper in every banknote. If you hold the note up to the light with the front side facing you, the metallic thread appears as a continuous dark line.


When you hold the new-style £50 note up to the light you will see an image of the Queen's portrait together with a bright £50.


A close look under a magnifying glass at the lettering beneath the Queen's portrait on the new-style £50 note shows the value of the note written in small letters and numbers.

Ultra-violet feature

Under a good quality ultra-violet light, the number 50 appears in bright red and green. The five windows of the motion thread also appear in bright green. Randomly spread bright red and green flecks are also visible on both the front and back of the note.

Motion thread

Motion thread woven into the paper has five windows along its length which contain images of the £ symbol and the number 50. When the note is tilted from side to side, the images move up and down. When the note is tilted up and down, the images move from side to side and the number 50 and £ symbol switch.

See-through register

When you hold the new-style £50 note up to the light you will see coloured irregular shapes printed on the front and back that combine to form the £ symbol.

This is the first time that two portraits will appear together on the reverse of a Bank of England banknote.

Boulton and Watt were most celebrated for bringing the steam engine into the textile manufacturing process.

However, staff at Birmingham Central Library, which holds a significant collection of letters, books and other items relating to the duo, explain that Boulton and Watt were also key to dealing with problems with money in late 18th Century Britain.

There was a coin crisis in the 1780s and the economy was being flooded by counterfeit coins.

Market traders say they do not like accepting £50 notes

In 1788, Boulton set up a Mint in Birmingham, powered by the pair's steam engine, which manufactured coins that were difficult to counterfeit.

"Boulton and Watt's steam engines and their many other innovations were essential factors in the nation's industrial revolution," said Bank of England governor Sir Mervyn King.

"The partnership of an innovator and an entrepreneur created exactly the kind of commercial success that we will need in this country as we rebalance our economy over the years ahead."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    As others have said, what a great way to honour two British engineering pioneers.

    I also echo the comments that it is about time the £50 note is not treated like a 'foreign' note. Get more in circulation, make them more widely available and remove the stigma and worry around using them. To spend £50 in one transaction these days is hardly extravagant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Security & fraud concerns are not the only reason that sellers will refuse a £50 note. Most of the time it's simply because they can't give the correct amount of change back, especially if a couple of people have already paid in fifties that day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Birmingham was the heart of the industrial revolution and led this country into greatness. The city has a important part of our history. It's wonderful to see two of it's most famous sons finally get the acknowledgment they deserve. Well done BoE.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    At least the new security measures may make the shopkeepers be a little more shame faced when they say "can't accept that mate. Haven't you got anything smaller?"

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I do, temporarily, have an 'old' £50 note to hand - I keep it as a emergency fund whilst abroad. It's getting rather tatty.
    Why does the BofE persist in ignoring developments in bank note technology elsewhere; Australia and Romania, for example, use laminated notes which are more durable, more hygenic, last longer and are easier to count.


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