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UK money before decimalisation

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How to write pounds, shillings and pence pre-decimal money

This page is about symbols and writing pre-decimal UK money. If you are interested in how the currency was divided up and equivalents of pre-decimal money, these are on another page. You may like to read it before going on with this one. Yet another page is about how the money was spoken.

Because the old money is probably unfamiliar to you, the symbols here are written in italics to distinguish them from the other text on the page. The symbols were not normally written in italics.

Symbol for the pre-decimal penny and how to write several pennies

The symbol for an old penny was d.

So one penny was written as 1d.

More than one penny was written as the number of pence with d after it, e.g. 4d. The maximum was of course was 11d, as 12d became a shilling.

Symbols for pre-decimal halfpennies and farthings and how to write them

A halfpenny was written as ½d.

A farthing, i.e. a quarter of a penny, was written as ¼d.

Symbol for the shilling and how to write several shillings

The symbol for a shilling was s but whole numbers of shillings were normally written with a slash and a hyphen after the number.

So, for example, one shilling was written as 1/- . Twelve shillings were written as 12/- and occasionally as 12s.

Amounts of shillings and pennies - for example five shillings and three pennies - was written as 5/3.

More complex amounts - for example six shillings, eleven pence and three farthings - was written as 6/11¾.

How to write pounds, shillings and pence

The symbol for the pound did not change when British currency went decimal. In the old pre-decimal money, the pounds, shillings and pence were separated by a slash, dot or dash with a pound sign £ in front.

So,for example ten pounds, seven shillings and six pence was written as £10/7/6 or  £10.7.6 or £10-7-6.

For bills receipts and other formal documents, there were ready-printed columns so each of the pounds, shillings and pence, e.g. | 10 | 7 | 6 |. Rounded pounds had zeros or dashes in the shillings and pence columns, e.g. | 10 | 0 | 0 | or | 10 | - | - | .

Elsewhere on the website there are various examples of how money was written this way, see the second menu beginning 'furniture costs 1930s/40s' where the images of bills and receipts are thumbnails which enlarge to be legible when clicked. Also see my father's accounts.

Another name for UK pre-decimal currency

It won't surprise you that the pre-decimal British currency was widely known as the £sd system.


If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased if you would contact me.



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