The ins and outs of the NEW £20 polymer banknotes entering UK circulation today



Today, the new polymer £20 note featuring artist JMW Turner has entered circulation for the first time.


The new note will start appearing in ATMs and tills throughout the country, and it is expected that half of all ATMs across the UK will be dispensing polymer £20s two weeks after issue.

According to the Bank of England, the polymer £20 is the most secure banknote yet. It includes two see-through windows and a two colour foil which make it very difficult to counterfeit. The note will join the Churchill £5 and the Austen £10 in the first series of polymer notes.

A new polymer £50 featuring Alan Turing will be issued next year.


Speaking at Tate Britain, which houses the Turner Bequest, Governor Mark Carney said: “Our banknotes celebrate the UK’s extraordinarily rich and diverse heritage and highlight the contributions of its greatest citizens. Turner’s art was transformative. I am delighted that the work of arguably the single most influential British artist of all time will now appear on another 2 billion works of art – the new £20 notes that people can start using today.”


The new £20 note is the first to feature the signature of Sarah John, the Bank’s current Chief Cashier. She said: “Moving the £20 note to polymer marks a major step forward in our fight against counterfeiting. I am very grateful to everyone across the cash industry who has made this transition possible and I hope the public enjoy using their new Turner £20s.”

There are over 2 billion £20 notes in circulation. Laid end to end, 2 billion polymer £20 notes would stretch around the world almost 7 times and weigh a total of 1,780 tonnes – that’s over 141 double decker buses.


Paper £20 notes can continue to be used as normal and the Bank will give 6 months’ notice ahead of legal tender status being withdrawn.

Features on the new £20 note include:


  • A large see-through window with a blue and gold foil on the front depicting 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. 

  • A smaller see-through window in the bottom corner of the note, inspired by Tintern Abbey. 

  • JMW Turner’s self-portrait, painted c.1799 and currently on display in Tate Britain.

  • One of Turner’s most eminent paintings The Fighting Temeraire; a tribute to the ship HMS Temeraire which played a distinguished role in Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The painting is currently on display in the National Gallery and was voted the nation’s favourite painting in a 2005 poll run by BBC Radio 4.

  • A metallic hologram which changes between the word ‘Twenty’ and ‘Pounds’ when the note is tilted.

  • 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 Tate Britain.

  • A quote “Light is therefore colour” from an 1818 lecture by Turner referring to the innovative use of light, shade, colour and tone in his pictures.

  • Turner’s signature from his Will, the document with which he bequeathed many of his paintings to the nation.

Further details about the new £20 note are available at www.thenew20.co.uk.


Image credits: Bank of England

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