Old Measures

Weights and measures have become standardised and controlled over the life of the canal. Some obscure measures such as the Chaldron, Bushell, and Fodder have long disappeared.

From the 1970s decimalisation of the UK currency, and the introduction and teaching of the metric system of weights and measures, has decreased our knowledge of the old systems. I have therefore included some reference tables to aid understanding where needed.

Where my own knowledge, or the Canal’s Act of Parliament, do not give me the answer I have used ‘How Heavy, How Much and How Long?’ by Colin R Chapman, ISBN 1-873686 09 9 as my reference for obscure/lost measures.

Length / Distance / Area

In the 18th century lengths such as feet (ft) and inches (ins) were long-established, and had a widely understood and accepted meaning, however, longer distances such as a mile could vary from area to area.

IMPERIALMade up ofMETRIC
1 Inch2.54 millimetres
1 Foot(12 inches)0.30 metre
1 Yard(3 feet)0.91 metre
1 Furlong(220 yards)201.16 metres
1 Mile(8 Furlongs)1.61 Kilometres

Surveyors had a formalised system of measuring which fitted into the workaday feet and inches system.

SURVEYORS’Made up ofMETRIC
1 Rod/Pole/Perch(16.5 feet)5.02 metres
1 Chain(66 feet / 22 yards)20.11 metres
1 Furlong(10 chains / 220 yards)201.16 metres
1 Mile(80 chains)1.61 Kilometres
AREAMade up ofMETRIC
1 Rood(1 furlong x 1 rod/1210 sq yards)0.10 hectare
1 Acre(1 furlong x 4 rods/4840 sq yards)0.40 hectare

Weights / Volume

Weights and measures differed markedly from area to area. Avoirdupois weights such as pounds (lb), stones (st), hundredweight (cwt), and ton (T) were used but varied regionally in their make-up.

The canal’s Act of Parliament defines that on the waterway “ the Ton of Coals and Lime-stone shall consist of Twenty two Hundreds of One Hundred and Twelve Pounds each to the Ton”. That makes a ‘canal’ ton 2464lbs, that is 10% more than our current standard.

IMPERIALMade up ofMETRIC
Pound (lbs)0.453 grams
Stone(14 lbs)6.35 kilograms
Quarter(28 lbs)12.70 kilograms
Hundredweight (cwt)(112 lbs)50.80 kilograms
Ton(20 cwt / 2240 lbs)2204 kilograms

Lead-ingots were measured in Fodders. At the smelter in Derbyshire a fodder was 2820 pounds, at West Stockwith a fodder was 2408 pounds, at Hull 2340 pounds and in London 2184 pounds!

The conversion of volumes to weights of items such as a ‘barrel of Dry Goods’ also varied along the canal.

Currency, Old and New

When the canal was being planned and built the currency was well established in Pounds, Shillings and Pennies. ( £ s d). UK currency changed to the decimal system on 15 February 1971, so the following table may be helpful in understanding old values.

s.d.£ p.
1d
2d1p
3d1p
4d
5d2p
6d
7d3p
8d3p
9d4p
10d4p
11d
1s(12d)5p
£s.£p.
2s10p
3s15p
4s20p
5s25p
6s30p
7s35p
8s40p
9s45p
10s50p
11s55p
12s60p
13s65p
14s70p
15s75p
16s80p
17s85p
18s90p
19s95p
£1(20s)100p