English £20 banknotes bearing Elgar’s portrait will no longer be accepted in UK shops from the end of today. The late-19th century British composer has been featured on the notes since 1999, but from today, his notes will be replaced by those bearing an image of 18th-century economist Adam Smith whose notes have been in circulation since the spring of 2007.
Jeremy Dibble, biographer of Stainer, Parry and Stanford – all British composers – has called the move ‘a national disgrace’ and has suggested that ‘dropping Elgar tells us much about the way in which the arts is now viewed in England. Bank notes should applaud the greatest aspects of England and English culture.'
‘The removal of writing and music in the shape of Shakespeare and Elgar on Bank of England notes makes our currency much less colourful; science and economics are important but so too are the arts’, he added.
Elgar’s disappearance means that artistic figures have now disappeared entirely from English bank notes. In 1993, Shakespeare was removed from the £20 note a few months before Charles Darwin replaced Charles Dickens on the £10 notes. Christopher Wren appeared on the £50 notes for 15 years from 1981, before being replaced by John Houblon, the first governor of the Bank of England.