Cheque and Credit Clearing Company marks 350th birthday of the cheque

Source: Cheque and Credit Clearing Company

In 2009 the cheque celebrates its 350th birthday, with of one the earliest cheques known to be in existence in the UK dated 16 February 1659*. To commemorate this event, the Cheque and Credit Clearing Company, the industry body that manages the cheque clearing system in Great Britain, has launched a report, 'The Great British Cheque', that charts the life and times of the cheque.

Early cheques were all handwritten, but in the early 1700s printed cheques were introduced for the first time and by the late 19th century cheques were widely used, being the only real alternative to cash. Cheque usage hit its peak in 1990 when an average of 11 million of them were issued each day. Since then, cheque volumes have increasingly declined as consumers and businesses continue to embrace alternative payment methods, including the debit card, and automated payments such as the Direct Debit and standing order.

Publication of The Great British Cheque Report marks this milestone occasion and looks at the history of the cheque, examines its role in British culture and heritage, details our love of cheques, why we are using them less and less, and includes some lesser-known facts about the cheque:

· One of the earliest cheques known to be in existence in the UK is dated 16 February 1659*. It is made out for £400, signed by Nicholas Vanacker, payable to a Mr Delboe and drawn on Messrs Morris and Clayton.

· If all the cheques that went through the clearing system in 1990 (the peak year for cheque usage) were laid end-to-end, they would stretch 12 times around the world.

· Since 1985 - when the Cheque & Credit Clearing Company was established - it has cleared more than 44.8 billion cheques, with a value of £26,850 billion.

Angela Thomas, Managing Director of the Cheque and Credit Clearing Company, said:

"It is remarkable to think that cheques have been with us for 350 years, arriving in a year when we were a Commonwealth under Richard Cromwell the Lord Protector, and Sir Isaac Newton was still at school. Cheques only reached their peak as recently as 1990 but they are unlikely to be around in even another 50 years' time, as we increasingly move to use other, more modern, more convenient and quicker ways to pay.

"Although cheque clearing volumes are now decreasing at the rate of over 10 per cent every year th there are still around 4 million items cleared every working day. The Cheque and Credit Clearing Company remains committed to making sure the clearings happen on time, reliably and to quality standards."

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