The Bank of England is considering replacing paper banknotes with plastic ones.

Australia, Canada and several other countries have already adopted plastic banknotes.

Britain's central bank said it would ask the public its opinion before taking a decision in December on whether to adopt polymer pounds, which also would be smaller than current notes.

Governor Mark Carney introduced polymer banknotes while head of the Bank of Canada in 2011 and credited the material for a sharp drop in the rate of counterfeiting.

The first fully-printed notes appeared in 1853. Before that notes were handwritten and signed by one of the bank's cashiers.

Polymer banknotes, as well as being hard to fake, are durable and stay cleaner for longer because the material is more resistant to dirt and moisture, the BoE said, adding that feedback so far on the new-look notes had been positive.

Any British polymer notes would carry the same designs and be tiered in size like current notes.

However, they would be smaller to allow larger denominations to fit more easily into purses and wallets, the bank said.

Polymer banknotes would be introduced one denomination at a time, beginning with the new £5 note featuring Winston Churchill in 2016.

"The Bank of England would print notes on polymer only if we were persuaded that the public would continue to have confidence in, and be comfortable with, our notes," said BoE Deputy Governor Charles Bean.