The new £20 note
Following on from the polymer £5 and £10 notes, the new £20 notes are extremely durable, waterproof, and almost impossible to tear or accidentally damage. To aid identification by blind and partially sighted people, they feature raised dots incorporated into the design and are larger than the £5 and £10 notes (each denomination of the new polymer bank note is sized according to its value).
As the most commonly forged banknote in each of the past 10 years (of the 228,000 counterfeit banknotes the Bank of England discovered in the first half of this year, 201,000 were £20 notes) the new note features a range of security features and is considered harder to forge than any bank note that has come before it. These include:
• Two transparent plastic windows – one large one featuring a picture of The Queen surrounded by the words ‘£20 Bank of England’ twice, and the Margate Lighthouse appearing in gold and blue foil on the front, silver foil on the back. Another smaller window is inspired by the windows at Tintern Abbey
• A hologram showing the words ‘Twenty’ and ‘Pounds’ in turn when tilted at different angles
• The number ‘20’ visible in bright red and green colours only under UV light
• A new purple foil patch with the letter ‘T’ in it
• A silver foil 3D crown
• Multi-coloured, multi-sized serial numbers
• The value of the note minutely incorporated into the printed pattern, visible with a magnifying glass
• Raised print over the words ‘Bank of England’.
Who Is Featured on The New Bank Note?
The new bank note features a self-portrait of English Romantic artist Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) – the first artist ever to appear on a banknote – set against a background of his 1838 oil painting ‘The Fighting Temeraire’. The painting depicts a stately warship, one that had been commended in the Battle of Trafalgar, now on its way to be broken for scrap metal. The painting was voted ‘Britain’s greatest’ in a BBC poll in 2015.
The new note features Margate lighthouse because Turner went to school in Margate and many of his paintings were of the local seascapes. An art gallery, Turner Contemporary, now stands on the site of the lodging house where he stayed on his frequent visits to the town.
Turner is considered one of the most influential artists of all time, known for dramatic land and seascapes, innovative use of light and dark, and his philanthropy both in life and after. The prestigious ‘Turner Prize’ for art is named in his memory, and in reverence to the impact he had on the art world.
The Bank of England accepted public input when choosing the new ‘face of the £20 note’ and received nearly 30,000 nominations. Turner was chosen from a list of 590 appropriate candidates, and the decision to feature a visual artist has been met with praise from all quarters. Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England commented on the decision: ‘Turner’s painting was transformative, his influence spanned lifetimes, and his legacy endures today. The new £20 note celebrates Turner, his art and his legacy in all their radiant, colourful, evocative glory.’
The new £20 note also features a quote from Turner: ‘Light is therefore colour’. This is certainly true of the shiny new £20 notes, with their bright purple design, novel use of blue and yellow two-tone foil, and red and green harlequin print UV security feature.
The Bank of England has announced that the old £20 notes will be fully withdrawn from circulation six months after the introduction of the new design.