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Polymer £20 note comes into circulation

Polymer £20 note comes into circulation

The new polymer £20 note comes into circulation today (20 February).

The note features artist JMW Turner, and will eventually replace the paper £20 note, which features economist Adam Smith. The Bank of England will give six months notice of the old note’s withdrawal date.

The new note incorporates two see-through windows and a two-colour foil to make it more difficult to counterfeit. There is also a metallic hologram, which changes between the word ‘Twenty’ and ‘Pounds’ when the note is tilted.

The design was revealed last year, and as well as JMW Turner’s self-portrait, painted in around 1799 and currently on display in Tate Britain, features Turner’s painting The Fighting Temeraire; a tribute to the ship HMS Temeraire, which played a role in Nelson’s victory at the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar.



Other features include:

  • The large see-through window with a blue and gold foil on the front depicts Margate lighthouse and Turner Contemporary. The foil is silver on the back. The shape of the large window is based on the shape of the fountains in Trafalgar Square
  • The smaller see-through window in the bottom corner of the note is inspired by Tintern Abbey
  • The Queen’s portrait in the see-through window with ‘£20 Bank of England’ printed twice around the edge
  • A silver foil patch with a 3D image of the coronation crown.
  • A purple foil patch containing the letter ‘T’ and based on the staircase at the Tate Britain
  • A quote “Light is therefore colour” from an 1818 lecture by Turner referring to the use of light, shade, colour and tone in his pictures
  • Turner’s signature from his Will, in which he bequeathed many of his paintings to the nation

In addition, the Bank of England has teamed up with Snapchat to add even more interest through AR. Snapchat has created a lens that brings both Turner’s self portrait, and the image of The Fighting Temeraire to life when users open the Snapchat app, and hover their camera over a Snapcode, which is similar to a QR code.

Next year will see the Bank of England issue the final new polymer note: the £50 note featuring Alan Turing.


Melanie May is a journalist and copywriter specialising in writing both for and about the charity and marketing services sectors since 2001. She can be reached via

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