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Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Money and its value in Georgian and Regency England

With thanks to Mike Rendell for the accounts of Richard Hall on wages, and to the resources of the Old Bailey online  and Jane Austen’s letters for additional information as well as the Pascal Bonenfant list of cant and slang terms for some of the coins.  Also JSTOR Knick-Hardy, JSTOR Clarke, JSTOR Botham and Hunt

The money of the period is in pounds, shillings and pence written in documents as Lsd before the stylised L for the pound sign was widely used.  Guineas, one pound and one shilling, were used as well for the sale of horses and other sundries.  My cynical side suggests to me that this was a sales tactic in persuading the buyer to think of it as approximately the equivalent in pounds and not thinking about how those extra shillings mount up, rather after the fashion that nowadays it is common to have a price ending 99p.  [or 99c Stateside] because people feel that £9.99 is less than £10….. and the reaction is to see the 9 rather than the 10.  Hence 20g which is really £21 looks less…..

One pound is 20 shillings or 240d
One shilling is 12d.
There are ha’pennies and farthings too; and I use the shortening for half penny because that is how it is pronounced – ‘HAYpnee’.  One would never purchase something that was ‘two and three quarter pence’ it would be ‘tuppence three farthing’.

Equally 3d is thuppence or threppence – regional variation, Threppence is a southern and home counties pronunciation but not London [where in the east end and into Essex it is likely to be ‘Fruppence’ and a farthing a ‘farving’ and a ha’penny an ‘apenny’ hence the joke of how much money does a Gorilla have? – only a penny, he only has two Ape Knees]

Now back to Regency era names for certain coins and amounts. In ascending order:

¼d farthing; fadge, grig; jack
½d ha’penny; bawbee, magg
1d  penny;  win; Winchester
2d tuppence; duce
3d thruppence; threps; treswins [early]; Thrums
4d a groat;
6d sixpence; half-borde; sow’s baby; pig; Tanner; Tilbury; tizzie. Half a hog
9d  ninepence; ill fortune
1/- a shilling; bob; twelver; borde, hog
13½d  Thirteen pence ha’penny; loonslate
2/6d half a crown; half-bull
5/- a crown; a bull or bull’s eye; coach wheel
10/6d half a guinea; half a bean
20/- one pound; hearts-ease, quid
21/- guinea; bean; quid [just to be confusing]; yellow-boy
£25 a pony
£500 a monkey

Why a pony and a monkey?  No idea I’m afraid, though £25 would purchase a decent pony.  I’ve heard suggestions that a monkey was shown on a 500 rupee note but I’m dubious about that etymology. 

Why a pig for sixpence and a hog for a shilling?  Well originally a pig [or farrow] was the term for a young hog, piglet was not used until late in the 19th century. Hence ‘pig’ and ‘sow’s baby’ meant the same thing.  I’m guessing this dates to a time when either a hog cost a shilling and the term followed; or, which may be more likely, the time when a piglet cost 6d and the term ‘hog’ added with the usual laconic humour of the British  to the shilling.  At this period a hog would cost something more than a pound. 

Basic wages 
This table shows a simplified and averaged account of the fluctuating wages per annum  but generally demonstrates the inflation and hence inflated wages that was going on over the period.  Board was either paid  to some servants or workers to live out at around 8/- to 15/- per week over the period  or they were given board, lodging and uniform in lieu, a cheaper matter for the employer who could feed a household more cheaply by buying in some bulk.  Note that hand weavers could charge a premium in the early years of the 19th century when hand woven goods were considered more desirable than those woven on power looms before advances made the power looms more effective.

1780’s to 1790’s
£25 to £30
Male servant [excluding board]
£27 to £30
£16 to £27
Female servant [excluding board]
£4/10/- to £8
£10 to £12
Up to £150
Ordinary seaman
Captain of a small warship
Weaver [on piece work]
£15 to £20
Up to £100
Pre 1795:  £35
Post 1795: £70
Foreman of skilled labourers


And now a few prices of common goods; my researches here are not complete however

Item on sale
Cotton printed calico per yard
1/6d to 3/3d
1/6d to 5/-
1/- to 1/7d
2/- to 5/-
1/6d to 10/-
Satin per yard
3/- to 10/8d
5/- to 14/-
5/ to 14/4d

Cheese per pound
Butter per pound
1/2d to 1/6d

Quartern loaf
7¾d to 9d
1/- to 1/9¾d
1/2d to 2/6d
Beef per pound


Silver watch
£1 to £3

£5 to £10
Pianoforte, grand, ordinary quality
Plain pistol

Silver teaspoon


Riding horse, ordinary quality

Top quality horse

70 guineas

Note that cotton drops in price as the use of mechanisation increases and improves.  The complexity of pattern of printed cotton and the fineness of muslin have some determination of the price.


  1. Thanks Nusrat, glad it's useful

  2. Good luck, Anonymous, I don't know why your comment hasn't showed up but I'm glad it was useful

  3. 2s6d, half a crown, was also known as "a half dollar" when I was a kid, Dublin, 1950's. I think the exchange rate after War 2 was £1=$4

  4. many thanks! I hadn't heard that one.

  5. This is very useful, but are the wages per week or month?

    1. Per annum, sorry. I will edit the post to put that in [I thought I had, sorry, my bad]