Bank of England issues new £50 noteMatthew Boulton and James Watt on new banknote

02 November 2011

Back of new 50 pound note

The reverse of the new Bank of England £50 note features the entrepreneur Matthew Boulton and the engineer James Watt

The Bank of England releases the new £50 note today, with the new design featuring 18th century entrepreneur Matthew Boulton and engineer James Watt. It replaces the old style Sir John Houblon note.

Who are Matthew Boulton and James Watt?

Matthew Boulton was an English manufacturer, born in Birmingham in 1728. The Scottish engineer James Watt was born eight years later in Greenock, Renfrewshire. Together the pair produced and sold the Boulton & Watt steam engine, which contributed significantly to the mechanisation of factories and mills in the late eighteenth century.

Boulton's appearance on the new £50 is also a nod to his work in revolutionising the coin-minting process and supplying the Royal Mint with modern equipment.

What does the new £50 banknote look like?

The new-style £50 note is the same size and red colour as the note it replaces, but with enhanced security and design features. It is the first new note to be signed by Chris Salmon, who was appointed as the Bank's Executive Director, Banking Services and Chief Cashier in April 2011.

Who decides who appears on banknotes?

The Governor of the Bank of England makes the final decision over who is featured on each banknote. Leading British figures have appeared on the back of bank notes since 1970.

Front of new 50 pound note

The new Bank of England £50 note incorporates new security and design features, but retains its red-coloured theme

Where can I get hold of a new-style £50 note?

The new style £50 note will be made available to all major banks, building societies and the Post Office from today, the date of issue, although they're unlikely to enter wider public circulation before tomorrow at the earliest. It is also possible to obtain the new notes from the Bank of England's public counter in Threadneedle Street, although the Bank warns that these will not bear low serial numbers.

Can I still use the old-style £50 note?

You can continue to use the old-style £50 note, featuring Sir John Houblon, until it is withdrawn from circulation. Both old and new notes usually circulate together for a while, with old notes withdrawn from circulation as they wear out.

The decision will be made at some future point to remove legal-tender status from the old £50 notes. However, they will keep their value as genuine Bank of England banknotes that have been withdrawn from circulation retain their face value for all time. If your local bank is unwilling to accept these notes, they can be exchanged directly with the Bank of England in London.

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