I promise to pay the bearer

The £1 note was withdrawn from circulation in 1988 and replaced by the £1 coin, so is no longer legal tender. Like it’s larger numbered counter parts the £5, £10, £20 and £50 notes, we tend to think of the note as money.

However in the top left hand corner of the note you will see the phrase:

I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of

And the note itself bears a facsimile of the signature of the Governor of the Bank of England at the time it was issued.

The note itself is a promise or a promissory note if you like.

Without that promise attached to the note, it literally is only worth the paper, or in the case of the recently released new £5 note the polymer, it is printed upon.

So I suppose the question is, what happens if I turn up to the Bank of England in London with my £1, £5, £10, £20 or £50 note and say to them, “OK, you made the promise, pay up please”? What would they hand me in return?


I was going to put a picture of an old obsolete £1 note on this posting. However, after checking it appears that even though the £1 note is obsolete, I would breach the copyright of the Bank of England on the note design, and also be committing an offence under Section 18(1) of the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 by reproducing it.

So if you do not have any Bank of England notes sorry, you’ll just have to take my word for it or you could look at the official images on Flickr.


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