Polymer Ten Pound Note

Text by James Willis, Volunteer at Jane Austen’s House

On 24 July 2013 Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England visited Jane Austen’s House to announce that Jane Austen had been chosen to be the great British historical figure featured on the first-ever polymer £10 banknote; the only woman in the series then being designed to replace the last to be made in traditional cotton paper.

The resulting polymer note was issued on 14 September 2017. This example was donated to the Museum by the Bank of England. It was presented in a blue felt folder with a card letter signed by Victoria Cleland, Director of Banknotes and Chief Cashier. The serial number AA01001949 commemorates the date of the opening of the Museum, 1949.

The engraved image of Jane Austen which dominates the reverse of the note was derived from the portrait commissioned by James Edward Austen Leigh in 1870, itself adapted from the well-known sketch by her sister, Cassandra.

The smaller image is adapted from a drawing by Elizabeth Bishop (1902-1988) of Miss Elizabeth Bennet undertaking “The examination of all the letters which Jane had written to her”. (In the source illustration to a scene from Pride and Prejudice, the Jane being depicted was Elizabeth Bennet’s fictional sister.)

Behind it all is a stylised depiction of the eight-sided writing table, which is itself one of the treasures of the Museum, with a pattern of quills to suggest the ones she would have used there.

The composition is completed by an image of Godmersham Park, being approached by a small carriage such as the one Jane might have used on her visits there. Godmersham was, like Chawton House, the home of her brother Edward Austen Knight, and is believed to have been the inspiration for a number of her novels.

The quotation “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!”, is also from Pride and Prejudice. In a possibly unintentional irony Miss Caroline Bingley, who says this in Chapter XI, in fact has no interest in reading and is here merely attempting to impress Mr Darcy!

Details:

The polymer ten pound note was issued in 2017, the year which marked the  200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death.

Dimensions: height 6.4cm x width12.7cm

Related objects: £10 note from Henry Austen’s Alton Bank

Victoria Cleland, Director of Banknotes and Chief Cashier at the Bank of England, presenting the Museum with its banknote in 2017

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The polymer £10 note is the first British banknote to feature a woman