Two famous British people were brought together in an unusual manner today: Sir Winston Churchill and Lady Godiva.
Lady Godiva’s fame dates back over 900 years. She lived in the 11th century, was the first woman to be mentioned in the Domesday Book and was married to Leofric, the Earl of Mercia and Lord of Coventry. She was highly regarded in her time for her generosity and has since probably been most famous (or infamous) for a naked horse ride (an adventure of which there is no solid proof) around the streets of Coventry. More recently, her name was adopted by Cockney rhyming slang, to mean fiver, a casual name for a five pound note.
Winston Churchill was British Prime Minister twice and is most remembered for leading the country to victory in World War 2. He was deemed an inspirational statesman, writer and orator, is remembered for some great quotes and is named by many people as the most famous Brit.
Today, Churchill has made a stately appearance on a new Lady Godiva. The five pound note has been reissued in a slighter smaller size in tough polymer material: the new notes have extra security on board and should be longer lasting than the old notes. Five pound notes are very popular with consumers and experience a life of very heavy usage so we may well be delighted by these new tougher and younger-looking notes.
I got my first bundle of the new notes this morning and headed off to spend them and see what reaction I got. Most retailers knew it was on its way and were delighted to see the new design. I used it to buy a tasty coffee at one of my favourite coffee shops in Manchester: Grindsmith on Deansgate.
If you’re travelling in Britain from a non sterling country, don’t worry if you still get given old notes. Both types of note will be accepted for the next year, and even if you end up with with some old notes tucked away in drawers after that date, you’ll still be able to exchange them for new ones at a bank.
This change means goodbye to Elizabeth Fry, but we will see another woman feature on our notes next year, when Jane Austen makes her appearance on the new polymer £10 note.
Copyright Debbie Smyth, 13 September 2016