Older £50 notes to be withdrawn

The £50 banknote carrying the portrait of first governor of the Bank of England Sir John Houblon will be withdrawn from circulation today.

The £50 banknote which is to be withdrawn from circulation
The £50 banknote which is to be withdrawn from circulation

Around 53 million of the notes with a total value of £2.6 billion are still in circulation, despite the Bank of England's announcement in January that they are to be withdrawn.

From the end of today, at midnight, only the £50 note which celebrates the 18th century business partnership of entrepreneur Matthew Boulton and engineer James Watt, who helped forge the Industrial Revolution, will hold legal tender status.

The Bank has previously advised people that if they have any Houblon £50 notes, it is best to spend, deposit or exchange them before today's cut-off point.

From next month, retailers are unlikely to accept the Houblon notes as payment, but most banks and building societies will still allow customers to deposit them into their accounts. A greeing to exchange the notes after today will be at the discretion of individual institutions.

Barclays, NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Ulster Bank and the Post Office have agreed to exchange the older-style £50 notes for anyone who needs it, up to the value of £200, until October 30.

If people do not pay in or exchange the Houblon £50 notes by the withdrawal deadline, this does not mean that they become worthless.

All notes that have been issued by the Bank whose legal tender status has been withdrawn are covered by its ''promise to pay''.

This means that people can, at any time, obtain the face value of a note that has been withdrawn by exchanging it at the Bank of England in London. There is no fee for the service and banknotes of this type can be exchanged by post or in person.

Legally, the Bank is only required to give one month's notice of an intention to withdraw legal tender status. It gave a similar three-month notice period to its latest announcement when a £20 note featuring composer Edward Elgar was withdrawn in 2010.

Sir John Houblon was appointed as the Bank's first governor in 1694 and the £50 banknote celebrating him was first issued in 1994, to coincide with the Bank's 300th anniversary.

The design on the back of the note includes an image of Sir John's house in Threadneedle Street on the site of the Bank's present building.

The withdrawal of the Houblon note is part of the Bank's regular review of notes to make them more secure and crack down on fraud.

The Boulton and Watt note, which was brought into circulation in November 2011, was the first introduced by the Bank to feature a green ''motion thread'', which has five windows featuring the pound symbol and the number 50, which move up and down when the note is tilted from side to side.

In December, the Bank announced that it plans to issue plastic banknotes for the first time from 2016, when a new £5 note featuring Sir Winston Churchill appears.

A £10 note featuring Jane Austen will follow around a year later and will also be made from polymer rather than the cotton paper currently used.

Old-series notes previously issued by the Bank can be exchanged by posting them, at the sender's risk, to Dept NEX, Bank of England, Threadneedle Street, London EC2R 8AH.