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Old English Money





Please note: We have mainly written about England, as that is the country within the UK where our students live. We would be very happy for schools and visitors to send us information we can add to our website on Wales and Scotland.

After the Norman Conquest in 1066, the pound was divided into twenty shillings or 240 pennies. It remained so until decimalization on 15 February 1971, when the pound was divided up as it is still done today.

Before 1971 money was divided into:

  • pounds (£ or l )
  • shillings (s. or /-) and
  • pennies (d.)
Convert old money to todays

Old money

"I was born in 1943.  The money used in our village was:- farthing, Ha'penny, penny, thrupenny bit, sixpence, shilling, two bob bit, half crown, ten bob note, pound note and five pound note. The crown coin was limited. I don't think there was a five pound coin. I believe the guinea was, still is, just a value and not a coin or note."
John Curd

Before decimalization on 15 February 1971, there were twenty (20) shillings per pound.

shillingThe shilling was subdivided into twelve (12) pennies.

The penny was further sub-divided into two halfpennies or four farthings (quarter pennies).

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)
5 shillings = 1 Crown (5s)

Did you know
The pre-decimalisation British system of coinage was introduced by King Henry II. It was based on the troy system of weighing precious metals. The penny was literally one pennyweight of silver. A pound sterling thus weighed 240 pennyweights, or a pound of sterling silver.


The symbols 's' for shilling and 'd' for pence derive from the Latin solidus and denarius used in the Middle Ages.

The '£' sign developed from the 'l' for libra.

£ or l in some documents = pound s. or /- = shilling
d = penny (for 'denarius', a Roman silver coin)
g or gn = guinea

Can you work out how much
£4-8-4d (£4/8/4d) was?

Click here for the answer

One pound

A £1 coin was called a Sovereign and was made of gold.

A paper pound often was called a quid.

More than a pound (£)

1 guinea and a £5.0.0 note

1 guinea = £1-1s-0d ( £1/1/- ) = one pound and one shilling = 21 shillings or 21/- (which is £1.05 in todays money)

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.

"A Guinea coin was available as legal tender and they were minted from gold. Therefore ceased to be used as such as they became collectors items, for the gold presumably. I was given 4 gold guinea coins when I was 13."
Manuel, Wilmslow, Cheshire

"I remember the £5.0.0 note. It was larger than other notes, stiff and very white with black lettering. It had to be folded to fit into a wallet and I never possessed more than one at a time and then infrequently. It did not appear to last very long because, I have been given to understand, it was easily forged."
Edwin J Cato

Less than a pound (£)

Shilling and pennies

"Bob" is slang for shilling (which is 5p in todays money)

shilling1 shilling equalled twelve pence (12d).

£1 (one pound) equalled 20 shillings (20s or 20/-)

240 pennies ( 240d ) = £1

There were 240 pennies to a pound because originally 240 silver penny coins weighed 1 pound (1lb).

A sum of £3 12s 6d was normally written as £3-12-6, but a sum of 12s 6d was normally recorded as 12/6.

Amounts less than a pound were also written as:

12/6 meaning 12s-6d

10/- meaning ten shillings.

An amount such as 12/6 would be pronounced 'twelve and six' as a more casual form of 'twelve shillings and sixpence'.

More than a Shilling (s. or /- )

Coins of more than one shilling ( 1/- ) but less than £1 in value were:

a florin (a two shillings or 2 bob or 2 bob bit) 10 x 2/- = £1
a half-crown ( 2/6d) (2 shillings and 6 pence) 8 x 2/6d = £1
a crown (5/-) (five shillings or 5 bob) 4 x 5/- = £1
a half-sovereign (ten shillings or 10 bob) 2 x 10/- = £1
a half-guinea (10/6d) (10 shillings and 6 pence) 2 x 10/6d = £1/1/-
Did you know
A "crown" was originally a gold coin issued during the reign of Henry VIII in 1544. It became a silver coin in 1551under his son Edward VI.

Less than a Shilling (s. or /- )

Other coins of a value less than 1/- were 1/- (shilling) =
a half-groat (2d) 6 x 2d = 1/-
a threepenny bit (threepence) (3d) made of silver 4 x 3d. = 1/-
a groat (4d)
There were four pennies in a groat
3 x 4d = 1/-
a sixpence (silver) often called a 'tanner' 2 x 6d = 1/-
a penny (copper) often called a 'copper' 12 x 1d = 1/-

The word threepence would often be pronounced as though there was only a single middle "e", therefore "thre-pence". The slang name for the coin was Joey.

Penny coins were referred to as 'coppers'

We also used the words couple of coppers, tanner, bob, half-a-dollar, dollar, quid to mean  the value or amount of the money needed, e.g. can you lend me ten bob please? It didn't really matter if in was made up of shillings and pennies, or any other coins.
John Curd

Less than a penny (d)

Pennies were broken down into other coins:

a farthing = ¼ of a penny (1/4d)
a halfpenny
(pronounced 'hay-p'ny')
= ½ of a penny (1/2d)


Diameter : 20.0 mm ; Weight : 2.8 grams

Half Penny
Diameter : 25.0 mm ; Weight : 5.7 grams

Other names for coins

A shilling was often called a 'bob'.
"It cost me four bob."

Five shilling piece or crown was sometimes called a dollar

sixpence (silver) - often called a 'tanner'

A penny was often called a 'copper' after the metal it was minted from.

Old money conversions to money used today

  • Sixpence - 2½p
  • One shilling (or 'bob') - 5p
  • Half a crown (2 shillings and sixpence) - 12½p
  • One guinea - £1.05

More about British Currencynext page

last pageBack to money used in England today





£4-8-4d (£4/8/4d) is

4 pounds, eight shillings and fourpence



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