The pound was originally based on the value of a
Troy pound weight of high purity silver.
Prior to decimalisation the money used was in pounds, shillings and pence or "Lsd"
The £ sign or "L" stands for the Latin word "Libra" meaning
pound. The "s" stands for the Latin word "solidus", a solidus mark or a scilling
mark was a mark or notch made in a length of metal wire to enable it to be divided
into convenient regular sized pieces. The "d" stands for the Latin word "denarius",
the most common coin in circulation in the early Roman currency system.
Before 1971 there were twenty (20)
shillings per pound, the shilling was subdivided into twelve (12)
There were therefore two hundred and forty (240) pennies per pound. The penny was
further sub-divided into two
halfpennies or four
farthings (quarter pennies).
Amounts of money could be written in several different ways:-
One pound, ten shillings, and six pence could be written £1/10/6,
£1/10/6d, normally if the "£" symbol was used, then the "d" symbol would be omitted.
Seventeen shillings and six pence would be written 17/6, or 17/6d
the "d" being added here to clarify that money was being referred to.
A committee of Inquiry on Decimal Currency, chaired by Lord
Halsbury, was set up in 1961 to examine various proposals for a new decimal system.
The Government announced on 1 March 1966 that the system recommended by the Halsbury
Committee would be introduced in February 1971. A Decimal Currency Board was set up
in December 1966 and legislation was approved July 1967 confirming the coin units.
D-Day Decimalisation day was 15th February 1971 and banks closed 4 days prior to
D-Day to convert accounts, machinery, and clear £. s. d. cheques.
£1, £5 and £10 notes - no change.
shilling note replaced with
50p coin of the same value.
Half crown (2/6d) withdrawn.
(2/-) replaced with 10p coin
of same value.
Shilling (1/-) replaced with
5p coin of same value.
Sixpence remained in use until 1980 with a value of 2½p.
The smaller denomination coins, the
three pence (3d) and the
New coins that were introduced were:-
Two pence (2p) with a value
Penny (1p) value 2.4d
Half Penny (½p) value 1.2d
Decimalisation was blamed for the inflation in the
1970's, an increase of a penny on the price of an item after 1971 was almost 2½
times an increase of penny prior to 1971.
Named after Guinea on the African Gold Coast from where the gold
was obtained to make coins. The price of gold fluctuates and hence the value of the
gold sovereign (one pound coin) fluctuated, at one point to 1½ times its value (30
shillings or £1.50p). In 1717 the value of the Guinea was fixed at 21 shillings or
£1.05p. After the issue of the sovereign in 1817 the guinea was retained as 'money
of account' until very recent times. In other words the term was used without a coin
being in circulation, principally in Auction Rooms and in Horse Racing.
History of Bank Notes
The Bank of England has been issuing bank notes since 1694. Early
bank notes were not what we see today but were hand written. In 1725 the bank
started issuing partly printed notes with the £ sign and first digit printed, the
other numbers and the payee were added by the cashier before signing the note. By
1745 notes were being part printed in denominations from £20 to £1000.
In 1759, gold shortages caused by the Seven Years War, forced the
bank to issue a £10 note for the first time. The first five pound notes followed in
1793 at the start of the war against Revolutionary France.
In 1797 a series of runs on the Bank, caused by the uncertainty
of the war, drained the bullion reserves and forced the Bank to issue £1 and £2
notes. The Restriction Period, as it was known, lasted until 1821 after which gold
sovereigns replaced the £1 and £2 notes.
The first fully printed notes were issued in 1855, an event that
brought delight to the team of cashiers, who no longer had to sign each note
The First World War saw the link with gold broken once again, the
Government needed to preserve its stock of bullion and in 1914 the Treasury printed
10 shilling and £1 notes.
During the Second World War, German counterfeits posed a major
threat, the German Government’s intention being to destabilise Sterling. By 1943 the
German Government were producing 500,000 counterfeit “British” notes a month. To
counter the problem the Bank introduced a metal thread for the first time and
withdrew notes of all denominations above £5.
The “white fiver” above is a counterfeit issued by the German
The 1928 10 shilling
and £1 notes were the first to be
coloured and the first to be printed on both sides. The “white fiver” unchanged for
100 years was replaced in 1957 by a blue £5
£50 denominations were
reintroduced in 1964, 1970 and 1981 respectively.
It was not until 1960 that the portrait of the reigning monarch
became a feature on the bank note; the £1 note was the first in the so called
portrait series which by 1964 had
extended from the 10 shilling to the £10 note.
British historical figures have been depicted on the back of
notes since 1970 with the pictorial
series which was completed in 1981.
Bank of England