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Tuesday, January 5, 1999 Published at 22:33 GMT

Business: The Economy

Sign of the times

A noteworthy appointment at the Bank of England

Merlyn Lowther, a 44-year-old mother of two, is about to have the best known signature in the country.

From next year all new pound notes will bear her signature following the Bank of England's decision to appoint its first woman chief cashier.

Traditionally a male bastion, the Bank has not had a female chief cashier since the position was first created more than three hundred years ago.

[ image: Merlyn Lowther, the Bank of England's new chief cashier]
Merlyn Lowther, the Bank of England's new chief cashier
Ms Lowther, who currently holds the title of personnel director, will become the Bank's 29th cashier since its foundation in 1694.

The Bank of England issued its first notes to raise money for King William III's war against the French.

The notes were hand-written on Bank paper, signed by a Bank cashier and could be redeemed for gold or coinage by "the bearer."

Last year there were 22bn worth of notes in circulation, including 56m worth of 1 notes which have not been issued since 1984.

Ms Lowther was deputy chief cashier for five years to 1996, but as chief cashier, she heads the division which provides the Bank of England's banking infrastructure.

[ image:  ]
She began working at the Bank of England in 1975 as an analyst, after completing a Maths degree at Manchester university.

Ms Lowther was born in London and now lives in the capital, although she spent her childhood in Manchester.

She said: "I am delighted by my appointment. I am aware that the position of chief cashier is familiar to many people and I am looking forward to taking on such an important role."

Ms Lowther is replacing 58-year-old Graham Kentfield who has signed bank notes since 1991 and is leaving the Bank to pursue other interests.

Her promotion was one of several senior management changes at the Bank.

Deputy Director John Townsend is to become Director for Europe, and is succeeded by Bill Allen, Director for Market Operations.

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