Averil's Blog

Research, musings and finding inspiration.

Elizabeth Fry on the £5 Note

The £5 bank note featuring Elizabeth Fry

Elizabeth Fry has been depicted on our £5 note for 13 years. The main illustration shows the social reformer reading to prisoners at Newgate while watched by various dignitaries.

Although Elizabeth didn’t like an audience while she read, she was aware that the publicity might help the prisoners’ cause. In recognition of her work with prisoners she was awarded a key to Newgate prison and this is also used in the design.

The original painting, by Jerry Barrett 1863, is in the British Museum although not currently on display. A modern take on the painting, by illustrator Adam Fisher, appears on the cover of ‘While it is Yet Day’.

Next summer she will be replaced on the fiver by Winston Churchill. The Bank of England has been issuing bank notes for 300 years and there are currently four notes in circulation of values: £5, £10, £20 and £50.

It is only since 1970 that historic figures have been featured. Elizabeth Fry was the the second woman to be chosen – after Florence Nightingale, the popular nurse who was herself inspired by Elizabeth’s work. Jane Austin will feature on the next £10 note, in 2017, in place of Charles Darwin. It certainly is an honour to be featured on a note even if so few women have made it so far.

The figures on our other two notes at the moment are:

  • Charles Darwin, naturalist and geologist – £10 note
  • Adam Smith, the father of economics – £20 note
  • Matthew Boulton and James Watt, engineers – £50 note

Other past figures have been:

  • Charles Dickens, writer
  • Sir Edward Elgar, composer
  • Michael Faraday, scientist
  • Sir John Houblon, first Governor of the Bank of England
  • Sir Isaac Newton, scientist
  • William Shakespeare, poet/playwright
  • George Stephenson, railway engineer
  • 1st Duke of Wellington, General/Statesman
  • Sir Christopher Wren, architect

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