Up until the First World War, gold sovereigns and half sovereigns had circulated as eve- ryday currency for nearly a century. Following the 1833 Bank Charter Act, Bank of Eng- land notes were legal tender in England and Wales only for amounts of £5 and above.
On 5th August 1914 (the day after war was declared), the Currency and Bank Notes Act was passed which allowed the treasury (not the Bank of England!) to issue currency notes of £1 and 10/-. these notes had full legal tender status and were convertible for gold through the Bank of England.
The first notes were produced to a hurried design and, because of the lack of availabil- ity of banknote paper, were printed on paper produced for postage stamps. The £1 note was issued on Friday August 7th and the 10/- a week later. These are known as the first Bradbury issue after the Permanent Secretary to the treasury, Sir John Bradbury. John Bradbury was born in 1872 and entered the Civil Service in 1896, first in the Colonial Office and then the treasury. After serving under Asquith and then Lloyd George, Brad- bury was appointed one of two permanent secretaries to the treasury in 1913. Bradbury remained the governments chief financial advisor during the war and left the treasury on 27 August 1919 to become principal British delegate to the Reparation Commission.
The Debt Free Bradbury Treasury Note – 1929
Within days a new design was being worked on. The design was produced by Mr. George Eve and the notes were printed on banknote paper. The notes were issued on 23rd October (£1) and 21st January 1915 (10/-). These notes are referred to as the sec- ond issue. Some of these second issue notes were overprinted in Arabic, by the treas- ury, for use by British forces in the Mediterranean.
A third design, featuring the King’s head on the obverse (front) was soon under way. These were the first national notes to be printed on both sides. The £1 note had a pic- ture of the Houses of Parliament on the reverse whilst the 10/- note had a simple de- sign featuring the denomination within a fancy pattern. The notes were issued on 22nd January 1917 (£1) and 22nd October 1918 (10/-). The first and second issues ceased to be legal tender on 12th June 1920.