15th February 1971. Decimalisation.

Plantagenet Palliser in Anthony Trollope’s 19th century Palliser Novels was an advocate of decimalisation, but  when Prime Minister, never got his way.(1)

Britain adopted the decimal currency Today in 1971.

The first attempt to introduce some type of decimal coinage in Britain took place in the reign of Charles II when Sir Charles Petty proposed that a penny be split into five farthings, thereby making a pound equal to 1,200 farthings, instead of 960.

The 1937 type farthing designed by Thomas Humphrey Paget.

The 1937 type farthing designed by Thomas Humphrey Paget.

Christopher Wren also suggested an ounce of silver should have hundred divisions. After the French decimalisation of Emperor Napoleon, a Tory MP in 1816, proposed a decimal coinage.

The notion was to come up again in Parliament four more times in the next 40 years.

In 1847 and 1853 the ‘Gothic Crown’ was struck apparently as a proof edition test piece to gauge public reaction to the designing of a ‘Gothic Florin’ which was issued 1851 to 1887.

The florin was in units of ten (decimal) of a pound, so was some attempt at introducing the decimal notion into currency at the time.

In 1848 the half crown was abandoned and the florin, the old two-shilling piece was struck, being minted in 1849 and was originally of silver. Known as the ‘godless florin’ because the words Dei Gratia were not included until 1852.

For three years after 1887, a double florin was also minted. However the idea was finally put to rest in the 1870s when the half crown re-appeared.

The florin (two-shillings), was thus to become the link between the old Pounds, Shillings and Pence (L.s.d), and decimalization in 1971.

The Old Style farthing which ran from 1895-1936.

The Old Style farthing, showing Britannia, which ran from 1895-1936.

(1) ‘The penny with five farthings, the penny of which a hundred would make ten shillings, the halcyon penny , which would make all future pecuniary calculations easy to the meanest British capacity, could never become the law of the land’, said the doubters. (P. 529), Trollope

‘Should he stick by the farthing; or call it a fifthing, a quint, or a semi tenth?’ P 539, Mr Palliser, Trollope.

The farthing was minted 1860-1956, ceasing to be legal tender in 1960.

(2) There were 20 shillings in a pound; a florin was 2 shillings.

Ref: wikipedia.org.Pic of farthings.

Ref: wikipedia.org/decimalisation.

Ref: The Palliser Novels, Anthony Trollope.



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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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