The British Museum's collections, £16.99
Width: 202.000 mm
Height: 127.000 mm
Coins and Medals
Fox, Fowler & Co. £5 note
Wellington, Somerset, England, AD 1921
One of the last English country banknotes
Today the right to issue money is tightly controlled, and the right to issue paper money is usually restricted to one institution, such as a central bank. However, this has not always been the case. In several countries early banknotes were produced through private enterprise, and legislation only came in slowly to prevent the dangers of over-issue or unsound banks.
In Great Britain, private banks were issuing notes from as early as the seventeenth century. Their heyday was in the first decade of the nineteenth century, when there were many hundreds of banks all over the country, most issuing their own notes for use within their local area. However, after the Bank Charter Act of 1844, the number of country banks gradually declined and the issuing of banknotes in England became the sole right of the Bank of England.
The note shown here is one of the last private notes in England. It was issued in 1921 by the Somerset banking partnership of Fox, Fowler & Co., founded over a century earlier in 1787. The design of the note is very traditional, closely modelled on that of the Bank of England. The Fox family were in the woollen industry, and began banking as a sideline; they stopped issuing notes when they merged with Lloyds Bank in 1921.
R. S. Sayers, Lloyds Bank in the history of (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1957)
V.H. Hewitt and J.M. Keyworth, As good as gold: 300 years of (London, The British Museum Press, 1987)