Charles Darwin replaced by Jane Austen

Although you can take your chances at any cash machine, a visit to the Bank of England will get you the new £10 banknote celebrating Jane Austen (1775-1817), which entered circulation a few days ago. Like the £5 note already in use featuring Sir Winston Churchill, the new £10 banknote featuring the author of Pride and Prejudice is made from polymer.

The portrait is taken from a pencil and watercolor drawing by her sister, Cassandra Austen (1773-1845), made around 1810, now owned by the National Portrait Gallery of London. Their wall label describes this portrait as a “frank sketch by her sister and closest confidante Cassandra . . . the only reasonably certain portrait from life”. It is the basis for a late nineteenth-century engraving, commissioned by Austen’s nephew, which is featured on the new ten pound notes.

Cassandra Austen (1773-1845), Jane Austen, 1775-1817, ca. 1810. Pencil and watercolor. National Portrait Gallery PG 3630

Just over one billion polymer £10 notes have been printed ready for issue and an exhibition has been mounted at the Bank of England Museum to celebrate. One feature in the gallery is this geometric lathe by Herbert W. Chapman of Newark, New Jersey, produced in 1905. The machine was used to create the ornamental patterns that were used as security features on early banknotes. Today, the new bills have holograms and many other security features. The video below takes you through all the details.


This is the paper mould designed by William Brewer in the late 1840s to watermark 19th century banknotes. Brewer’s first waved line was the most important change (according to the Bank) to British notes at that period. Brewer continued to develop the watermark throughout the century with several additional copyrighted features.

Over the years, many banknote designs were proposed but never used. One such note was designed by Frederick Leighton for an Alfred Lord Tennyson bill, seen below. Like Tennyson, Charles Darwin is now moving out of circulation and by 2018, the bill will no longer be valid. You can spend it now or exchange it. A new £20 note featuring artist J.M.W. Turner will appear in 2020.

See also: Jane Austen (1775-1817), Pride and Prejudice (London: Printed for T. Egerton, 1817).  Rare Books (Ex) 3612.1.373.1817


Darwin does not look happy.