EXPLAINING OLD ENGLISH MONEY, PRE-DECIMAL.
PRE-1971: POUNDS, SHILLING AND PENCE
Before 15th February 1971, the pound was divided into 240 pennies or 20 shillings. This was referred to as pounds, shillings and pence, or £, S and d (if you're wondering about the 'd', it's because the Romans referred to their penny as a 'denarius').
The system was introduced by King Henry II in 1154 AD and was based on the Troy system of weighing precious metals. The penny was equal to one pennyweight of silver, with 240 pennies making up one Sterling pound.
The following table explains the basic pre-decimal system, prior to 1971:
- 2 Farthings = 1 Half Penny
- 2 Half Pennies = 1 Penny (1d)
- 3 Pennies = 1 Threepence (3d)
- 6 Pence = 1 Sixpence (A Tanner) (6d)
- 12 Pence = 1 Shilling ( A Bob) (1s)
- 2 Shillings = 1 Florin (Two Bob) (2s)
- 2 Shillings = 6 Pence = 1 Half Crown (2s) (6d)
- 5 Shillings = 1 Crown (5s)
Therefore there are: 4 Crowns to the Pound, 8 Half Crowns to the Pound, 20 Shillings to the Pound, 40 Sixpence to the Pound, 80 Threepence to the Pound, and 240 Pennies to the Pound.
NAMES FOR PRE-DECIMAL CURRENCY
The many names used for pre-decimal currency can be confusing. The basic pound that was in use prior to 1971 was nicknamed a 'quid’ and existed as a paper note. The sovereign issued was also a pound in denomination, but the actual gold bullion content was worth far more.
Prior to 1800, gold guineas were in use which was equivalent to £1-1s, i.e. 21 Shillings. A guinea was considered a more gentlemanly amount than a pound. Half-guineas and third-guineas, the latter equal to 7 shillings, were also in use.
In addition, there were also denominations known as groats. A groat was worth fourpence and a half-groat, twopence. Other nicknames for coins abounded: earlier silver threepences were known as ‘Joeys', whereas pennies were referred to as ‘coppers’ - because prior to 1860 these were made entirely from copper.