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Your Guide to
British Life, Culture and Customs

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Sterling banknotes are the banknotes of the United Kingdom and British Islands, denominated in pounds sterling (GBP).

  • £5 (five pounds)
  • £10 (10 pounds)
  • £20 (twenty pounds)
  • £50 (fifty pounds)
    each denomination has its own size and colour

Queens Head All our bank notes bear HM The Queen's head on one side and a famous historical person on the other side.

Queen Elizabeth ll is the first monarch to have her portrait printed on a bank note. It was first done in 1960 as a way of helping to prevent forgeries.

front of 5 pound note
five pound note

£5 (5 pounds)

The current £5 note features Elizabeth Fry, who made her name fighting for improved living conditions for women in European jails.

(Old £5 note features George Stephenson. Ceased to be legal tender on 21 November 2003)

Actual note size: 135mm x 70mm (approx.)

ten pound note front
ten pound note
£10 (10 pounds)

The current £10 note features Charles Darwin, the Victorian naturalist who developed the theory of evolution. Also pictured is an illustration of Darwin 's own magnifying lens and the flora and fauna that he may have come across on his travels.

Actual note size: 142mm x 75mm (approx.)

twenty pound note front
twenty pound note
£20 (20 pounds)

The current £20 note features Sir Edward Elgar, a British composer whose orchestral works include Enigma Variations (1896) and five Pomp and Circumstance marches (1901–1930).

Actual note size: 149mm x 80mm (approx.)

The Bank of England issued a new-style £20 note on 13 March 2007 . The note features Adam Smith, one of the fathers of modern economics, on the back and incorporates enhanced security features.

The new-style £20 notes will circulate alongside the old-style Elgar note which will be progressively withdrawn from circulation. The date when its legal tender status ends will then be announced, as is usual practice.

£50 (50 pounds)

The current £50 note features Sir John Houblon, the first Governor of the Bank of England.

Actual note size: 156mm x 85mm (approx.)


The slang term for a British Pound is Quid. One pound sterling is referred to as "A QUID", five pound sterling as "Five Quid" and ten pound sterling as "Ten Quid".
Other names for a pound coin include a smacker, or smackeroon.

The two Banknotes with other names are the "Fiver" (£5) or the "Tenner" (£10) .
For example "It only cost me a tenner"

How much is a pound worthnext page

Activities to help you recognise and use our currency next page

back to startBack to money used in England today

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© Copyright Mandy Barrow 2013

Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website. 
The two websites and are the new homes for the Woodlands Resources.

Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consulatant. 
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.

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