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Pound, shillings, pennies, and guinea

Before 1971 the pound was divided into twenty shillings (abbreviated as s) and subdivided again in to twelve pennies (d). There were thus 240 pennies to the pound. A guinea was worth 21s.

It is almost impossible to give any idea of what this was worth in modern terms A mid-Victorian labourer might hope to earn between 20s and 30s per week but of course many had to support their families on much less, particularly in times of economic distress. By contrast the minimum wage rate for workers over 22 today is well over £5 an hour. When Mary Higgs and her friend spent a week visiting lodging houses and casual wards in the north of England in the early 1900s, they each took just 2s 6d to last a whole week. It was claimed that a beggar or loafer in London and other big cities might make up to five shillings a day through a combination of begging and doing odd jobs such as holding horses or taking messages.

--Workhouse, by simon fowler


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