The Bank of England’s first plastic banknote, a £5 note printed on polymer produced by Innovia Group of Wigton, enters circulation today.

By January, more than half of paper £5 notes will have been replaced by polymer, and paper fivers will disappear altogether by May.

A polymer £10 note follows next summer and then a £20 note in 2020.

The notes are printed on Innovia’s Guardian substrate.

The material for the £5 note was manufactured in Australia but the one for the new £10 will be made in Wigton, where MP Rory Stewart opened a new production facility on Friday.

The plant coats clear polymer film and incorporates sophisticated anti-fraud features before the notes are sent for printing in Essex.

For the £5 note, these features include a see-through window with a portrait of the Queen, a foil patch below this window with wording that changes from ‘Five’ to ‘Pounds’ when tilted, a 3D coronation crown above the window, an ultra-violet feature and a circular green foil patch on the back of the note, which contains the word ‘BLENHEIM’.

Staff who handle cash will be trained to recognise and authenticate the new notes.

A hand-held device, the Verus, can identify if a bank note has been printed on Innovia’s polymer, which is made by a unique bubble process.

Counterfeiters would have to print on Innovia’s Guardian substrate to fool the device.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said: “The new fiver commemorates one of the greatest statesmen of all time, Winston Churchill.

“Banknotes are repositories of the United Kingdom’s collective memory, and we will be reminded of Churchill’s enormous contributions as he once again becomes part of our daily lives as the new fiver flows out into tills and pockets.”

He added: “The use of polymer means it can better withstand being repeatedly folded into wallets or scrunched up inside pockets and can also survive a spin in the washing machine.

“We expect polymer notes to last at least two and-a-half times longer than the current generation of fivers and therefore reduce future costs of production.”

Around of 440 million new fivers will enter circulation in the next few months.

The Bank has been working with the cash industry to help get machines ready for the new notes.

It said not all machines will be ready from day one and it will continue to work with businesses to ensure a smooth transition.


  • Some 440 million new plastic fivers have been created and will gradually enter circulation
  • The new polymer note can last around 2.5 times - or five years - longer than paper
  • The new banknote is resistant to dirt and moisture, helping it to stay in better condition for longer
  • Beneath Sir Winston's portrait reads his declaration in his first speech as Prime Minister: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat"
  • Following the introduction of the new plastic fiver, a new polymer note featuring Jane Austen will be issued in summer 2017. A new polymer £20 note, featuring JMW Turner, will be issued by 2020
  • There are 3.4 billion Bank of England banknotes in circulation - and 329 million of them are paper fivers.