For those who aren't old enough to remember, and have come across weights, measures and the values of items and charges spread around this web site, these pages have been included to give an insight into old money, weight's and measures. See the various pages below for help in converting the specific item, and to read a bit about the history of that subject.
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History of Metrification
The first attempt to make the metric measure compulsory in Britain came with a Parliamentary bill in 1868. This, and successive bills in 1904 and 1907 were all defeated. Between 1873-75 Britain declined to join the International Metric Bureau, though from 1884 it made contributions towards it. Consideration of whether Britain should adopt the metric system continued into the 20th century. By the mid-1950s, Britain's trade was moving increasingly to dealing with countries using the metric system. In 1957 an 'industrial free trade area' was set up in Europe with the creation of the EEC. By the 1960s, Britain's trade with continental Europe had continued to rise whilst that with the Commonwealth, in which many countries were moving to a metric system anyway, declined. In 1971, Britain adopted decimal coinage, which in the 19th century had been seen as one part of metrification.
The greatest change came when Britain joined the EEC in 1973. One of the EEC's goals was to ease the traffic of goods between the member states and clearly having different systems of measurement was going to be an obstacle to this. In the mid-1970s, as packaged food began to be labelled in metric and it began to be taught in schools, the Government's Metrication Board launched campaigns to encourage people to become familiar with the measurements. This included the shift from Fahrenheit to Celsius units for temperatures.
The Metrication Board was set up by the government in 1969 after the Confederation of British Industry and the British Standards Institution announced that industry was in favour of metrication. The Metrication Board's remit was to educate the public and business, and encourage the adoption of SI. A target date of 1975 was set, by which time it was anticipated that the UK would be substantially metric. More than a quarter of a century after that target, we were still not there! By 1975, a lot had been achieved, particularly in industry, but also in a lot of everyday products. Unfortunately, the arrival of Margaret Thatcher's government saw the end of any further persuasion on the part of the government and The Metrication Board was killed off.
However, the government had already signed up to the European Directive to harmonize our units of measurement by requiring SI This resulted in several further Directives which set out transition dates for phasing out most non-metric units. UK legislation was then amended to enact these changes. 1995 saw the removal of the pound (weight) and pint for labelling pre-packed goods.
Perhaps the most significant change took place at the end of 1999; as of 1 January 2000 it has no longer been legal to sell loose products (vegetables, fruit, cheese, meat, nails, ground coffee, etc.) by reference to the ounce, pound, pint or gallon (with the exception of draught beer). It is interesting to note that those who complain about possible prison sentences for traders who don't use metric do not complain that the same penalties currently exist for any publican who dares to sell beer in litres - one particularly ludicrous anomaly (especially given that nearly all pint bottles of beer on sale in supermarkets have been changed to 500 ml bottles). This, in fact, did happen a few years ago, when a publican was fined for selling beer in metric sizes; one wonders how much support that publican received from those who proclaim themselves defenders of freedom to use any chosen units of measurement? Pints of beer are usually spoken about in the same breath as the pint of milk in returnable containers, but there is one significant difference, in that it is now perfectly legal to sell milk in metric sizes.
All systems of weights and measures, metric and non-metric, are linked through a network of international agreements supporting the International System of Units. The International System is called the SI, using the first two initials of its French name Système International d'Unités. At the heart of the SI is a short list of base units defined in an absolute way without referring to any other units. The base units are consistent with the part of the metric system called the MKS (metre, kilogram, second) system.
In all there are seven SI base units:for every second for time,
- the ampere for electric current,
- the Kelvinnfor temperature,for temperature,
- the mole for amount of substance, and
- the candela for intensity of light.
Public Records Office (http://www.pro.gov.uk/inthenews/Metric/Metric1.htm) Website no longer available.Public Records Office (http://www.pro.gov.uk/inthenews/Metric/Metric1.htm) Website no longer available.