Old Imperial Lengths & Areas, etc

If, like me, you come across a document giving areas in A, R and P and your mind freezes, here are a few conversions to help you.

The World Wide Metric site will calculate some conversions to and from Metric for you

Plus, a short history of British coins

Inch [2.54 cm]
Link = 7.92 inches (see Chain for explanation)
Foot = 12 inches [30.48 cm]
Yard = 3 feet [91.44 cm]
Rod, Pole or Perch = 25 links = 5 yards [about 5 metres]
Chain = 22 yards = 66 feet = 100 Links [length of a cricket wicket, about 20 metres]
Furlong = 10 chains = 220 yards [length of a furrow, about 200 metres]
Mile = 8 furlongs = 1760 yards = 5280 feet [a thousand Roman paces (a Roman 'pace' was actually 2 paces: left, right) – about 1600 metres]

Sq foot = 144 sq inches
Sq yard = 9 sq feet = 1296 sq inches [0.836 sq metre]
Sq Pole = 30 sq yards [often simply referred to as a Pole or Perch in land measurement]
Rood = acre = 1,210 sq yards = 40 sq poles
Acre = 4 roods = 10 sq chains = 4840 sq yards = Statute acre [0.40 hectare] [eg. a good-sized football pitch but note that a Customary (or Saxon) acre was different, and that Scottish and Irish acres were different again]
Virgate = 30 acres [but varied in different districts - also called yardland]
Hide = 4 virgates [but really denoted the amount of land sufficient to support a family, and varied according to the locality or quality of the land]
Sq mile = 640 acres [259 hectares = 2.59 Sq Km]

Capacity [note, equivalents are for British Imperial measures]:
1 pint = 4 gills = 20 fluid ounces [0.568 litre]
1 quart = 2 pints [1.136 litre]
1 gallon = 4 quarts = 8 pints [4.546 litre]
1 peck = 2 gallons
1 bushel = 4 pecks = 8 gallons

1 ounce (oz) = 16 drams
1 pound (lb) = 16 oz [0.454 kg]
1 stone = 14 lb
1 quarter = 28 lb
1 hundredweight (cwt) = 4 quarters = 112 lb
1 ton = 20 cwt = 2240 lb [1.016 tonne]

Money: (pre-Feb 1971)
1 penny (d) = 4 farthings [d = denarius, a Roman coin, translated to 'penny' in the Bible]
1 shilling (s) = 12 pence/pennies [converted in 1971 to 5 new pence]
1 crown = 5 shillings
1 pound () = 4 crowns = 20 shillings
1 guinea = 21 shillings

A short history of coins in Britain:—

The earliest coins found in Britain were made in Gaul, and may date from the 2nd century BC. They are gold 'stater', the name commonly given to the standard Celtic gold coin.

From the middle of the first century AD until the early part of the fifth century, Britannia was a province of the Roman Empire. No local coinage was officially produced in Britain during this period. In the closing years of the third century, mints were established in Britain by usurpers for a while. Roman legions were withdrawn from Britain in AD411.

Silver coins produced in the middle of the 7th century are the first English pennies. This remained virtually the sole denomination of English coinage for almost five centuries. It had a weight of 24 grains (a 'pennyweight') during the reign of Alfred the Great.

Edgar introduced a new coinage in AD973, showing a stylised royal portrait on one face.

A major re-coinage occurred in 1279 which introduced new denominations. In addition to the penny, the halfpenny and farthing were minted, and also a fourpenny piece called a 'groat' (from the French 'gross').

In 1489 radical changes were made to the coinage. A gold pound coin was minted showing the king (Henry VII) enthroned in majesty, and was therefore called a 'sovereign'. The shilling was also minted as a coin for the first time in the opening years of the 16th century, and for the first time a coin showed a fine profile portrait of the king rather than the representational full face image of a monarch which had served on the coinage for the past couple of centuries.

In 1561 the first coins were produced by machinery (known as a 'mill') rather than by hand, but it was a slow process and did not replace hand struck coinage until new machinery was introduced in 1663.

In 1613, a copper farthing was produced as a silver coin would be too small.

In 1797, the first copper pennies were produced ('cartwheels') by application of steam power to the coining press.

In 1816 for the first time British silver coins were produced with an intrinsic value substantially below their face value – the first official 'token' coinage. Coins from 1816 are still legal tender today.

In 1849, a silver florin (one tenth of a pound) was introduced, as a first step towards decimalisation which finally occurred in 1971!

General list of Useful Historical Dates – more about the compiler, John Owen Smith