The Lowdown on the New £50 Note

Everything you need to know about the recently announced new £50 note.

January 2, 2019
The Lowdown on the New £50 Note
Matt Crabtree

Written By

Matt Crabtree

 
CompareBanks is reader-supported. When you click through some links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

The Bank of England announced in November that the £50 note is getting a makeover. They also said that the new design will feature a prominent British scientist and that it will be made out of the same plastic polymer as the recently redesigned £5, £10, and £20 notes.

Although some had suggested the Bank of England should abolish the £50, due to its impractical nature and association with criminal transactions, the Bank is asking the public for nominations for the new design.

Scientific Candidates

Currently, the £50 features industrial revolutionaries Matthew Boulton and James Watt. Together, the two business partners installed hundreds of Boulton & Watt steam engines during the final quarter of the 18th century. They would drive forward the mechanisation of Britain’s factories and mills.

The Bank of England is currently accepting nominations for the new £50. They will consider anyone who has progressed the field of science. A panel of experts will then draw up a final shortlist. There are some candidates that have garnered attention. These include Ada Lovelace, Dr Rosalind Franklin, Isaac Newton, and Alan Turing.

There have been some less serious suggestions. Leicester and England footballer Harry Maguire astride an inflatable unicorn was rejected by the government. Similarly, it’s unlikely that former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher will feature.

According to the rules outlined by the Bank, the chosen candidate must be dead and cannot be a fictional character.

Harder to Forge

The new £50 will be made of the same polymer plastic that the current £5 and £10, and upcoming £20 notes are made of. Although there has been some controversy over the use of animal fats in the notes, the Bank of England claims that the use of palm oil as an alternative raises questions over sustainability and cost.

The new notes themselves will be more secure and durable, as well as harder to forge. This is an important point, as some have suggested that high denomination notes should be banned in order to reduce crime.

The claim is that notes such as the £50 aren’t necessary for ordinary people and the functioning of the legitimate economy. Instead, they’re often used in illegal enterprise. Although banning the notes wouldn’t stop crime, it’s suggested that it will make hiding larger illegal transactions more difficult.

When Will it Launch?

There are currently around 330 million £50 notes in circulation, worth roughly £16.5 billion. Transitioning such a high number of notes has obvious difficulties, and, as yet, the Bank of England hasn’t announced a timeline for the introduction of the new note.

With the recent redesign of the £5 and £10, paper notes were gradually withdrawn as the plastic ones entered circulation. Around eight months after this launch, the paper notes lost their status as legal tender. In 2016, the Bank announced that the new £20 would feature economist Adam Smith and that they would launch in 2020.

Related Articles

Will Energy Prices Go Down?
Will Energy Prices Go Down?
Energy prices have been on a wild ride over the last few years, after remaining...
April 12, 2024
What's going on at Metro Bank?
What's going on at Metro Bank?
It launched in 2010 to much fanfare with vibrant bank branches and a “chief canine...
November 30, 2023
How The Latest UK Tax Cuts Impact You
How The Latest UK Tax Cuts Impact You
After weeks of speculation on what the UK chancellor Jeremy Hunt was going to announce...
November 27, 2023
UK bank closures: Who's shutting the most branches?
UK bank closures: Who's shutting the most branches?
Across the UK, once-bustling high streets are pockmarked with closed ba...
November 21, 2023