Pounds, Shillings and Pence

“The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.” Edward Lear 1812 – 1888, British poet and painter known for his absurd wit.

Front page The Owl and the pussycat

I thought about this subject when writing about shopping when I was growing up.  Mother had a change purse always full of coins.  But that didn’t mean she had plenty of money – just plenty of coins as did all housewives.

White five pound note

Bank of England Note

When I was young and until 1971, the British currency was pounds, shillings and pence – shown as the above image for pound, s for shillings and d for pence.  So if an item cost two pounds, three shillings and sixpence it would be shown as £2.3s.6d.

There were 12 pennies to a shilling and 20 shillings to a pound.  the currency was further divided as two halfpennies (pronounced hapennies) and four farthings to each penny.

Shilling coinThe shilling was known colloquially as a bob.  this was then divided into 2 and we had 2 sixpences and the sixpences were further divided into 2 and we had threepenny pieces – known as threpenny bits.

We also had the half-crown which was worth two shillings and sixpence and the florin that was worth two shillings.  With so many coins no wonder women’s change purses were always full.

Ten bob note

The Bank of England produced bank notes.  There were one pound notes and ten shilling notes, the equivalent of half a pound, five pound notes and very rarely one might see a ten pound note.  The five pound note shown above was on very flimsy paper and quite large – 195mm x 120mm.  Because they were comparatively rare one had to sign on the back of the note when offering it for tender.

Most of the banks in Scotland produced their own notes and this caused further problems as often they weren’t recognized in England.  I remember having to go to my bank to have the Scottish note from the Royal Bank changed into a Bank of England note.  Occasionally, if the Scottish note was accepted one was given only 19/6d (nineteen shillings and 6 pence – pronounced nineteen and six) for it.

Royal Bank of Scotland note

When decimal currency was introduced in 1971 it caused quite a stir.  Some older people and my Father was one of them although at that time he was only 59 but did seem old to me – claimed that they were being swindled by the Government.  There had been two hundred and forty pence to the pound and now there were only two hundred.

No wonder visitors to our shores were confused.  But growing up with this currency made us all very adept with figures.  Any child could tell you almost instantly how many pennies or shillings in a pound and then extrapolate this out into further sums.

Decimal coins

From my collection

I was not in the UK when decimalisation was introduced but my parents purchased a set of coins for each of my children.

The coins have since been changed again.  The two pound coin introduced for use in 1971 was withdrawn and some of the sizes have changed.

I am sure that our British blogging friends can tell us more about this.

And here endeth yet another meandering blog.  Are you still awake out there or have I bored you to tears?

And my Mother always quoted to us the old proverb

“Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.”

Note – Unless otherwise stated photos from Google Images.

















Judith Baxter, EzineArticles.com Platinum Author
MyFreeCopyright.com Registered & Protected


13 responses to “Pounds, Shillings and Pence

  1. I only very dimly remember the changeover, I think I was about three or four at the time, but I do remember the huge fuss and parents and grandparents convinced there was some big con going on! Good thing it happened when it did, numbers have never been my strongest skill – I’d have been in deep trouble trying to divide by 12 all the time!
    I remember getting ten shilling notes from grandparents when they came to visit and feeling incredibly rich. They were a kind of rusty burgundy colour and they were treasure! I also remember asking my mother to inform the Tooth Fairy that with decimalisation the price of a tooth had gone up to 10p from a shilling lol!


    • I remember my sister telling me that Father was convinced there was a con going on and as you say, he wasn’t on his own.
      I do still have some of the coins somewhere and of course the decimal currency coins that were minted to record the changeover but alas all the notes have long gone.


  2. This takes me back!
    Just last week, I looked at my only three pence and the few hapennies I kept. Have been guarding them for what feels like ages!
    Wasn’t there a nursery rhyme to pounds, shillings and pence?


    • i am sure there was a nursery rhyme but I can’t remember it and can’t find it anywhere in any of my books or on Google. But if I do eventually find it I will send it on to you.


  3. ordinarygoodness

    I love “The owl and the pussycat” Judith….nice quote to lead in to money matters.
    Keep warm in this freezing wind.


  4. I’m still awake, and I find this quite interesting. I am very thankful I didn’t have to learn that monetary system! lol It certainly befuddles my mind now!


    • It was just something with which we grew up. Older people found the change to decimal currency quite daunting. NZ changed to decimals the week after we arrived here in 1967 so I wasn’t at all fazed when I went to England shortly after they changed.
      Why are you still up?
      Judith 🙂


  5. The British currency system has always been a mystery to me…this makes things a little clearer! Thanks, Judith!



  6. You haven’t changed a thing… I wasn’t aware of much of the earlier hoopla except that the euro was not coming to take over the pound. 🙂


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