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."


More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    With our trust failing in the banking system and the fact that you get virtually no interest when we put our money in the bank anyway.These fifty pound note's will be really handy to put under the mattress or the local drug dealers pockets wont they?

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    With the amount of Quantative Easing (legal counterfeiting) which has taken place perhaps a more appropriate portrait would be Bernard Maydoff and Mickey Mouse.
    I would have thought that with the devaluation of this country's currency the £50 note would be replaced with £500.
    Perhaps Merv should have a chat with Robert Muggabe he know a lot about devaluation of a country's currency.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    What are £50 notes for? When would anyone use a note of that size when they could use a card instead? Surely only when they're a crook or working cash-in-hand. Maybe we'd be better off without them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    The reason shopkeepers aren't keen to accept £50 notes is because there are so few in common circulation, which in turn is because cash machines don't dispense them. I recently withdrew €120 while on holiday in Germany and the machine gave me 1x€50, 2x€20, 2x€10 and 2x€5. Convenient for the customer, but it's hardly rocket science. Why can't the banks manage that here?

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    With inflation the way it is we need more high value notes in circulation. These days when it costs £70 just to fill the car up and nearly £150 to do a week's food shopping £50 is hardly the preserve of the rich. It's common to get €50 or even €100 notes on the continent from cash machines but £50 notes here are almost non-existent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    The only people likely to use these are bankers spending their bonuses in the lap dance clubs in London.

  • 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 7.

    I always get really excited when I see a £50 note, probably because I rarely have the chance to see one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Just in time. They'll need them up in Bonnie Scotland to pay for a bottle of Buckfast.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Ah but schools don't teach anything more than 50 years old now

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I've never had and am unlikely to

  • 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.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    To put it into context though, money ain't what it used to be......when I was kid (not that long ago, I'm not middle aged yet, officially at least!) to recieve a £1 note at Christmas/on birthdays from from distant family felt like a fortune and now a quid doesn't even buy me a newspaper.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    It really is good to see two examples of Britain's industry and innovation being honoured. A pity most of us will either never see one or, if we do, not for very long.

    It was rather shocking that the presenters on "Daybreak" didn't know who they were.


Page 8 of 8


More Business stories



  • The OfficeIn pictures

    Fifty landmark shows from 50 years of BBC Two

  • French luxury Tea House, Mariage Freres display of tea pots Tea for tu

    France falls back in love with tea - but don't expect a British cuppa

  • Worcestershire flagFlying the flag

    Preserving the identities of England's counties

  • Female model's bottom in leopard skin trousers as she walks up the catwalkBum deal

    Why budget buttock ops can be bad for your health

  • Two women in  JohanesburgYour pictures

    Readers' photos on the theme of South Africa

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.