First £1 Note Issued

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History on 26th February


Heroic HMS Birkenhead Sinks

First Grand National

First £1 Note Issued

City, London The 26th of February 1797 AD

Larger denomination bank notes had been in circulation for some time previously, but the Bank of England first issued £1 notes in 1797 faced with a growing need for currency and a lack of gold for coinage. At the same time a £2 note was also introduced (going into circulation on March 2). The notes were part-printed, part hand-written (as they were until 1855): the serial numbers, signatures and payee name – Mr Abraham Newlands, the chief cashier at that period – being carefully penned in beautiful copper-plate. The note indeed gained the nickname (not exactly a zinger but never mind) of ‘a Newlands’ because of that name figuring on the paper.
Printed on one side only, and with just black ink on the white paper, the note is far from spectacular, though a printed seal and differing type-faces made it harder to forge than otherwise. But for the story behind it remains interesting – England faced a very real threat of invasion from France, and Pitt the Younger ’s government had to take action to avoid any grit in the wheels of the economy that lack of coinage might generate.

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