Harry Ecclestone: Nightingale note test print (detail)

Work / Exhibition

Exhibition: A fascinating show championing the beauty of banknote design

We’ve all got a pile of forgotten junk hidden away somewhere in the depths of our homes – that’s what the empty space is for, right? Well, my fellow hoarders, it seems the Bank of England has the same problem, but where we have attics and locked cupboards they have a museum, so it’s all been put on display in an exhibition called Curiosities from the Vaults. Luckily for us, theirs isn’t so much junk as it is rare artefacts steeped in history, and it’s all been free to see since Monday.

Albums filled with high-value banknotes are on display; each note covered with intricate decoration as well the signature of an illustrious visitor to the Bank, among who are the late President Nelson Mandela as well as the infamous “Choshu Five.” Also on show is the type of art we interact with most often without realising it, banknote design. Visitors can see the bank’s chief designer Harry Ecclestone’s original sketches, printing plates and test prints for 1970s notes like the Florence Nightingale tenner.

Curiosities is the first exhibition curator, Jennifer Adam, has organised. "This exhibition is a chance to show visitors some intriguing objects that haven’t been on display before,” she said. "We also wanted to reveal some new stories about the lives of the staff and customers connected to the bank over more than three centuries…we’re excited to be able to tell these stories and show the breadth of our remarkable collection.”

Curiosities from the Vaults: A Bank Miscellany runs from 31 March to 12 July 2014.


Harry Ecclestone: Nightingale note lithograph


Harry Ecclestone: Nightingale note paste-up


Harry Ecclestone: Nightingale sketch


Harry Ecclestone: Nightingale note test print


Harry Ecclestone: Nightingale note intaglio test


Bank of England: ‘Choshu Five’ signed £1,000 note