Old £20 Notes featuring William Shakespeare


The British love nothing better than a good old bit of speculation on, well being British, and every now and again the Bank of England, in its wisdom, offers the UK an opportunity to engage in a nationwide version of the debate when it announces the issuing of a new bank note.


Since decimalization in 1970, the obverse side of Bank of England issue notes have featured individuals who compose a small but significant group of Brits. Beginning that year with the £20 note and the inevitable appearance of the bard himself, William Shakespeare.


In 2016, the alteration from paper to a polymer note (yes, that means plastic) began with the nation’s number 1 from number 10, Sir Winston Churchill who appears on the £5 denomination.


Winston Churchill on the £5 Note


Following swiftly behind in 2017 was only the 3rd woman to appear in the series, writer Jane Austen on the £10 note, after Florence Nightingale lit the way on the same issue note for nearly 20 years between 1975 and 1994, and Elizabeth Fry reformed the £5 note from 2002 until last year.


Due for release from the current set in 2020 will be artist J.M.W. Turner who will colour the £20 note, no doubt including a version of the nations favourite painting The Fighting Temeraire (1839), leaving the debate to commence as to who will fill, like the fourth plinth in Trafalgar square, the last spot on the £50.


 Turner Fighting Temeraire Cuff Links


Before you reach for your nomination, serious or not, your suggestions must meet with criteria.


  • The individual must not be a living person.
  • Their image must meet a level of common recognition.
  • They must be considered admirable in their contribution to the society and culture of the United Kingdom.
  • They must enjoy the general admiration of the nation.
  • They cannot be a fictional character.


So if you were reaching for Sherlock Holmes up to point 5, you can see the debate isn’t quite so elementary.


As a rule of thumb from past examples, your suggestion ought to find good company with the likes of naturalist Charles Darwin, The Duke of Wellington, scientist Michael Faraday, writer Charles Dickens, composer Sir Edward Elgar, physicist & mathematician Sir Isaac Newton, architect Sir Christopher Wren & engineer George Stephenson.


So if like some contemporary tweeters, you had in mind having your David Brent put under the UV light at the checkout, getting a few Obi-Wan Kenobis out of the cash point, or getting a payout of Gordon Ramsays from the bookies you aren’t likely to see eye to eye with the suits at the Bank of England.


William Morris £50 Note


With honourable mentions for Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and the perhaps not so instantly recognizable, though still wonderful L.S. Lowry, our standout nomination here at Fox & Chave, and we make no excuses for our bias, is the unsurpassable designer, writer, poet, businessman and founder of the arts and crafts movement William Morris.




Addendum: Since this blog was first posted, The Bank of England has cited that the note depict a scientist and has hinted that a woman be preferred this time, and so in both instances has scuppered the Fox & Chave plan to make it Morris!


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