English money system before 1971

My first trip to Britain was in 1974, 3 years after decimalization. I was happy that the money had changed to something close to what I was used to. The down side was that the money was divided up so close to the American system I occasionally thought in US dollars and not English pounds. There is a significant difference in Pounds and Dollars which fortunately I realized before it was too late.

When reading old manuscripts we sometimes come across refereces to monies. Unfortunately today the money has been devalued and no fair representation will give a conversion, since money is now based on a countries economy instead of gold. As the costs of products rise, people clamor for higher wages, when wages are raised the cost of products rises and so the cycle is never ending.

I would try and determine what the cost of bread, the stapel of life was worth then and is now and draw that comparison. Otherwise the larger the sum, the more money it was.

After the Norman Conquest in 1066, the pound was divided into twenty shillings or 240pennies. It remained so until decimalization on 15 February 1971.

Old money was divided into:

•pounds.........(£ or l )
•shillings......(s. or /-)

There were twenty (20) shillings per pound.

The shilling was subdivided into twelve (12) pennies.

The penny was further sub-divided into two halfpennies or four farthings

2 farthings =1 halfpenny
2 halfpence =1 penny (1d)
3 pence = 1 thruppence (3d)
6 pence = 1 sixpence (a 'tanner') (6d)
12 pence = 1 shilling (a bob) (1s)
2 shillings = 1 florin ( a 'two bob bit') (2s)
2 shillings and 6 pence = 1 half crown (2s 6d or simply 2 and 6)
5 shillings = 1 Crown (5s)
1 guinea = £1-1s-0d ( £1/1/- ) = one pound and one shilling = 21 shillings
1 guinea could be written as '1g' or '1gn'.

A guinea was considered a more gentlemanly amount than £1. You paid tradesmen, such as a carpenter, in pounds but gentlemen, such as an artist, in guineas.

A third of a guinea equalled exactly seven shillings.

Why guinea? Because the Guinea coast was fabled for its gold, and its name became attached to other things like guinea fowl, and New Guinea.

So why is the £ sign used? £ represents libra pondo the title for pound weight hence a pound is £. We use a similar system when we use lb for weight.

One last thing, during the reign of Henry VIII, a pin maker (straight pins were a necessity for clothes) wages were 8 pence a day. This wage was set by the king and the work was strickly regulated. 8 pence was the price of a loaf of bread. ...and the price of bread is now...?



Anonymous said...

A very interesting article, thankyou. We had pounds, shillings and pence in NZ too, until 1967. I'm able to compute happily in both that and decimal currency. Half a crown was wealth beyond the dreams of avarice to a child! My grandmother would send me a ten-shilling note on my birthday, and I could buy a porcelain cup,saucer and plate set with it. About $30 - $50 now?

Brantigny said...

I remeber my days in London, I recieved a Shilling with KGIV on it I have never spent it. I have it still.

I never saw a crown or an half crown.