Bank bills new £50 note

The new note will feature industrialists James Watt and Matthew Boulton. Is this an attempt to turn the UK back into the workshop of the world?

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
Well – the Bank of England’s nothing, if not ambitious. The Bank announced today that it’s planning to introduce a brand new £50 note, featuring Great British industrialists James Watt and Matthew Boulton. We can only assume this is in an effort to encourage the nation to become more industrious (producers rather than predators, as Ed Miliband might say) – although to be honest, the chances of many of us getting our hands on a red note at the moment are fairly low…

At the moment, the £50 note sports (as we all know) an image of Sir John Houblon, the first governor of the Bank of England. But in its quest (presumably) to wean Britain off its dependence on financial services and transform it into a nation of manufacturers, the Government has done away with the banker and replaced him with engineering dream team James Watt (the inventor) and Matthew Boulton (the entrepreneur). The pair are best known as having worked together to bring the steam engine into the cotton spinning industry, thus helping to make Britain’s manufacturing industry the envy of the world.

More new £50 note facts: it’s the first time two men have appeared on a bank note, and the first will be signed by the Bank’s new chief cashier – thereby (technically) rendering it illegal. As the Currency and Bank Notes Act 1928 states: ‘If any person prints, or stamps, or by any means impresses, on any bank note any words, letters or figures, he shall… be liable on summary conviction to a penalty not exceeding one pound’. A noble sum indeed.

The notes go into circulation on November 2 – just in time for the Bank to make its decision on whether it’s going to engage in another round of quantitative easing. In which case, it’ll need plenty of those new notes to hand… 

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