“Mr. Cole!” bellowed Colonel Fitzwilliam. The farmer had already passed into the public house, but Mr. Cole dutifully came back outside.
“Yes,” he nodded, though he did not look pleased.
The Colonel was fishing through his waistcoat pockets. “Mr. Cole…I will pay you,” he looked down at the assortment of coins in his hands. “I will pay you a crown and a half,” coins clinked, “…two bob, and…” Fitzwilliam attempted to count through the pennies but then shook his head. “…assorted pence to drive us to Netherfield Hall right now.”
“Just to drive you up to the Hall?” Mr. Cole asked in astonishment; his entire demeanor changed.
“To Netherfield, yes!” agreed Colonel Fitzwilliam.
“I will,” answered the farmer, eager now. The Colonel passed over the three half-crown coins, two shillings, and assorted pence in his hands to the astonished Mr. Cole. He and Elizabeth climbed up behind him in the trap and began riding the short distance to Netherfield Hall.
When I wrote the above scene, a snippet from All’s Fair in Love and War and Death, I didn’t anticipate spending half a day researching pre-decimal British money. But I found myself first having to understand the rate of pennies to shillings and shillings to pounds (or guineas) and then learning about the different coins.
But I wanted it to sound authentic as Fitzwilliam was in a hurry and needed to induce Mr. Cole to immediately drop his focus on a tankard and take Elizabeth and him to Netherfield. I also needed to understand what a basic daily wage was for the time (two shillings a day). So the seventeen shillings and assorted pennies offered is a bonus of eight times Mr. Cole’s daily wage. Not bad for merely delaying his drink.
20 shillings to a ‘pound,’ or sovereign
21 shillings in a guinea
12 pennies in a shilling
Shillings and pence are written as s/d (‘d’ comes from the Roman denarius)
Example: 2 shillings, 4 pence would be 2s/4d or 2/4
(Note: not all coins were in circulation together at any given time)
Half-guinea= ten shillings, sixpence
Half-sovereign= ten shillings
Seven shillings= 1/3 of a guinea
Crown= five shillings
Half-crown= two shillings, sixpence
Florin= two shillings (equivalent to 24 pennies)
Sixpence= six pennies
Groat= four pennies
Threepenny/ threepence/thr’pence= three pennies
Half-groat= two pennies
Penny/pence= one penny
Halfpenny/ halfpence/ha’penny= half a penny, i.e. 2 halfpence=1 penny
Farthing= quarter penny, i.e. 4 farthing = 1 penny
penny = “copper”
sixpence = “tanner
shilling = “bob”
paper pound = “quid”
florin = “two bob bit”
“pound” = “A pound sterling thus weighed 240 pennyweights, or a pound of sterling silver.” Old English Money.
Chard, Lawrence. (2019 August 20). A Brief History of Coinage in Britain. Chards. https://www.chards.co.uk/blog/brief-history-of-british-coins/464/713
Old English Money. ProjectBritain. http://projectbritain.com/moneyold.htm