The Bank of England recently broke the news that the £50 note featuring John Houblon will be taken out of circulation by 30th April this year. This has led to some big questions: firstly, do I have a wad of notes hidden away nearing their expiration date? (No.) And secondly, who exactly was John Houblon and why has he been the face of England’s highest bank note denomination for the last 20 years?
Sir John Houblon – a true pioneer
John Houblon was born in 1632 to a strictly Protestant family, and raised into the family business of merchant shipping. Samuel Pepys made frequent references to the Houblon family, most notably when they bailed him out of imprisonment in the Tower of London.
John later married Marie, the daughter of a Flemish refugee and acquired the lease on a house in Threadneedle Street in 1671. As a prominent merchant, he became renowned in London for his fair business dealings and generous public spirit, and his standing in the community grew, resulting in a knighthood in 1689.
Sir John then became Lord Mayor of London in 1695 and was a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty between 1693 and 1699. When the Bill for the foundation of a national Bank was approved in Parliament, Sir John was instrumental in both financial investment and creating the managing structure, taking up his position as the first ever Governor of the Bank of England on Tuesday 10th July 1694.
The home of the Bank of England
After the death of Lady Houblon in 1732 Sir John Houblon’s house and gardens became the site of the Bank of England, and remains so to this day. The design on the back of the Houblon note even features an image of his original house in Threadneedle Street.
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